I believe the Bible teaches a pre-tribulation rapture of the New Testament Church, not just because of a couple of verses but, in fact, a systematic understanding of typology stretching from Genesis to Revelation. Let me first point out some verses then go on to show the great picture God paints by the study of typology.
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:1-4, 9)
The context of the verses above is clearly “… the day of the Lord,” and Paul, the apostle, goes on to say, “… God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” One should note that the “us” is aimed at a Christian, or a child of God, or the Church, or body of believers. Does that cover all the bases? Having stated the obvious, also be aware that one could take this verse to simply mean if one accepts Jesus as his/her personal Savior, then that individual is sealed and, therefore, not appointed to wrath or Hell. True! But, also true would be that the believer will not be present when the wrath of God is poured out upon the inhabitants of the world during what the Bible calls the Tribulation Period or the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (who’s trouble? Jacob’s–not the Church’s!) or Daniel’s 70th week. All three terms are synonymous with this time period. These events are covered, in detail, in the book of Revelation. For instance, Revelation 12:12 says, “… for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Again, in Chapter 15:1, “…seven last plagues; for in them is the wrath of God.” So, if God’s wrath is to be poured out at this time, and the body of believers is not appointed to wrath, then one should be able to conclude that the Church will not be present during this awful portion of history yet to happen. Strange “coincidence” has the Apostle Paul say something very similar in Romans 5:9, “… we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Now the typology. While these verses do help shed light on why the body of believers in Jesus Christ will not be present during a time that God has designated as house cleaning for Israel, I believe the typologies best explain it. First, let me start with Enoch. He was the first person God ever raptured or caught up to Heaven without experiencing death! This occurs in Genesis 5:24 which says, “…Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Took him where? The answer lies in Hebrews 11:5 which states, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him.” He was “translated” or raptured from Earth to Heaven just like the promise given to the body of believers by Paul, the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 which tells us it is a “mystery” and, again, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” Now I understand why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting?” He is telling us, at this point, that the body of believers who are alive will be changed or raptured and never see death, just like our example of Enoch! In Genesis 6, God calls Noah. In Chapter 7, there is a flood–a worldwide catastrophe. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:37, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the son of man be.” Jesus himself likens the days of the Tribulation (essence of Matthew 24) to Noah’s time. Well, if we think a little, it becomes pretty clear that just like Enoch goes up BEFORE Noah’s flood, so too does the Church or body of believers go up BEFORE the Tribulation Period starts.
Last, but certainly not least, is the example given to the Church in Revelation 4:1 & 2 by the Apostle John. He writes what he sees during his revelation given to him by Jesus Christ. He defines this time period exhaustively, and tells us that he himself was raptured or caught up into Heaven after a trumpet said, “Come up hither…” But once again, notice the order in which this happens: John goes up in Chapter 4. There is a gathering around God’s throne in Chapter 5 where John sees millions of people. Chapter 6 has a seal being opened which unleashes the Antichrist. Chapters 6 through 19 reveal what takes place during the reign of this false Messiah. Conspicuous, by its absence, is the Church or the body of believers. That’s two times the same typology; one in the Old and one in the New Testament. Do you think God is showing you something? Don’t let pride or previous teachings undermine this clear typology.
One more point is that the Apostle John represents the Church at large. He was leaning on Jesus’ breast at the last supper (just like Eve was taken from the breast bone of Adam, so too does John picture the Bride of Christ or the Church!) and was the only one who goes to Calvary. Jesus commands his own mother to John’s care. He is the first one to understand why Jesus’ body isn’t in the grave, and he is the only apostle to not die a martyr’s death but lives after being persecuted and receives the great revelation that closes the cannon of Scripture! It is also very enlightening to know he is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Ephesians 5:25 says, “… Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
Hopefully this explanation will help impart a greater understanding of a commonly misunderstood Bible doctrine.
Written by Dr. Joseph Costa, Pastor