In biblical bible study we allow the scriptures to talk for themselves just like the Bereans in Acts and not massage them into what we want them to mean. Furthermore, looking at the Greek and Hebrew is normally needed for important technical subjects like the Great Tribulation.
Firstly the word Rapture does not exist in the Bible at all.
Secondly the terms Pre and Post Tribulation do not appear in the bible.
Day of Christ, Day of Jesus Christ, Day of the Lord Jesus, Day of the Lord Jesus Christ, Day of the Lord, parousia (His coming), epiphaneia (His appearing), & apokalupsis (His revelation). pre-tribulationists are forced to abandon all these as technical terms for the supposed pre-tribulation rapture (because they are all used at least once in a clear post-tribulation context).
Instead they use a verb (harpazo – “caught up”) as a noun (rapture) in order to create a non- biblical technical term for their alleged pretribulation coming that is supposed to be distinguished from the second coming (with absolutely no precedent in Biblical usage).
That there is no Biblical term for an alleged pretribulation coming should give pre-tribulationists considerable pause that they may be forcing the Scriptures to fit into their preconceived theory.
“Technical terms” are nouns or descriptive noun phrases that are understood by the intended audience to refer to specific things even without explanation within the context. For example, the word “rapture” in modern prophetic speech is understood to refer to the coming of Christ for His Church. We do not normally need to refer to the context in which the word “rapture” might be found in modern Christian books to find out what “rapture” means. We simply assume the writer was referring to the coming of Christ for His Church.
The word “tribulation” is another word that has taken on a technical meaning in modern Evangelical jargon. However, in the Bible, “tribulation” alone is not a technical term, because it is frequently used of troubles in general and not merely THE “tribulation.” When the Bible means to indicate THE “tribulation,” the words “great tribulation” are used (cf. Revelation 7:14).
In English, we use the definite article (the) sometimes to distinguish between a technical term and a non-technical term. My usage of the word “tribulation” above demonstrates this. By my adding “THE” to tribulation, we understand a distinction between general “tribulation” and a specific “tribulation” known to us. However, this is not always the case in Greek.
What can make a term a technical term is repeated (or frequent) reference to the same thing or event in Scripture. Also, a term that is not clearly explained in the context shows that the writer assumed his readers knew what it meant. There was therefore common knowledge of technical terms between writer and reader. Such terms are not hard to spot and identify. We can discern technical terms from Scripture by their LACK of explanations within the context (the writer ASSUMES that the hearer or reader would understand the term). Secondly, by the EXCLUSIVE (or nearly exclusive) usage of the term in reference to a same event.
We have excluded the word “tribulation” from being a technical term in Scripture because it is often used of tribulations in general, without referring to THE “tribulation.” Therefore, we need to review the CONTEXT where this word is found in order to decide if it is referring to THE “tribulation” or to some other kind of “tribulation.” Because of this, we cannot ASSUME that when “tribulation” alone is used it means THE “tribulation.” We therefore cannot rightly use the following verses to prove that the rapture is post tribulation, as some have mistakenly done.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
However, the overall usage of technical terms in contexts dealing with the second coming weigh heavily in favour of the post-tribulation position (and against all other rapture views including pre-wrath). These terms were understood by the first century believers to refer to a particular coming of the Lord without explanations in the context of being pre- or post-tribulation.
Terms like, The Day of the Lord, The Day of Christ, The Day of Jesus Christ, The Day of the Lord Jesus, The Day of the Lord Jesus Christ, The Day of God, were all understood without any clarification. These terms were used by Paul and others with the full expectation that their readers knew that they referred to a specific single event. For example:
Philippians 1:10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 2:16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Stance
Paul assumed his readers knew what “day” he was speaking about. He did not explain in either verse whether this day was the coming of Christ BEFORE or AFTER the tribulation. He assumed his readers knew that the “Day of Christ” was the day for which they were watching and waiting. Therefore, it is right to associate it with the rapture (but not necessarily a pre-tribulation rapture). However, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, Paul indicated that the Antichrist must come BEFORE the “Day of Christ.” So, IF “Day of Christ” was a technical term, it is a POST-TRIBULATION technical term, and the above verses must therefore refer to a rapture that is post-tribulation.
Paul used other variations on the name of Christ, when referring to His “Day,” as the future time for which believers watch and wait:-
1 Corinthians 1:8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
All these terms are given without explanation. Logically, all refer to the same “day,” because in each case this “day” seems to be the day on which believers had placed their hope, i.e. Christ’s coming for His Church.
Likewise, the term “Day of the Lord” is simply another variation on the name of Christ. It is His day (Luke 17:24). The term is used in several contexts, each time the writer expected his readers to understand the specific day to which he referred without giving any explanation (pre- or post-tribulation). This is very problematic for pre-tribulationists. If the Apostles were pre-tribulationists (expecting two future comings of Christ), they would need to specify to their hearers or readers whether they were referring to a pre- or post-tribulation coming of Christ. Also, the term “Day of the Lord” was used repeatedly in the Old Testament in reference to Christ’s post-tribulation coming to set up His Kingdom (see: Isaiah 13:1-13, Joel 3:9-17, Zechariah 14:1-6).
The Day of the Lord is unquestionably AFTER the tribulation (cf. Matthew 24:29 & Acts 2:20). Yet, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1,2, Paul used the term ‘Day of the Lord’ for the rapture.
The Pretribulation movement in the past (not so much anymore) tried to draw a distinction between the “Day of Christ” (pretribulation rapture) and the “Day of the Lord” (post-tribulation coming). However, as pointed out above, this distinction fails because we find the term “Day of Christ” placed AFTER the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians2:1-3) and the term “Day of the Lord” referring to the day for which Christians watch (1 Thessalonians 5:1,2).
Either the day for which Christians are watching is the post-tribulation event, or else these are not technical terms. But, if they are not, then the passages are utterly confusing, because the writer ASSUMED that his audience KNEW which day he meant. The pre-tribulation movement is forced to the awkward conclusion that Paul sometimes used the terms “Day of Christ” and “Day of the Lord” indiscriminately to refer to BOTH the (alleged) pre-tribulation rapture and post-tribulation coming, and expected his audience to decipher which he meant with no clues whatever in the context!
The Elusive Search for a Biblical pretribulation Rapture Technical Term
There is a conspicuous lack of a single technical term in the Bible for a pre-tribulation rapture (as distinct from the second coming). pre-tribulationists have frantically searched for one, but always come up short. Having failed the “Day of Christ/Day of the Lord” distinction, many have tried to draw a distinction between the “rapture” and “revelation” of Christ. Yet, when we test ANY kind of alleged technical term in Scripture, the Bible fails to produce a single consistent technical term that could be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture that is not clearly applied to the post-tribulation coming. Why? The obvious answer is the rapture is not distinct from the second coming but is part of the same event! And the New Testament writers had no need to distinguish between two separate comings.
The modern word “rapture” is the word most often used as a technical term today by pre-tribulationists. Their uniform use of this term demonstrates the absolute necessity of having some technical term for the alleged pre-tribulation rapture if it is indeed a distinct event. But this word is NOT a technical term in the Bible. The word “rapture” is from the Latin text and is found in the following verse.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [Greek – harpazo, Latin – rapiemur] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
However, this term CANNOT be taken as a technical term for an alleged pre-tribulation rapture because:
- it is a verb and not a noun in Scripture
- it is usually used of other things in Scripture besides the catching up of believers at Christ’s coming (cf. Matthew 11:12, Matthew 12:29, Matthew 13:19, John 6:15, John 10:12,28,29, Acts 8:39, Acts 23:10, 2 Corinthians 12:2,4, Jude 1:23, Revelations 12:5). Only once is it used in connection with Christ’s coming.
Other proposed technical terms also fail to refer exclusively to a supposed pre-tribulation event but are also used in clearly post-tribulation contexts.
As pointed out already, pre-tribulationists have tried to distinguish between “rapture” and “revelation.” The word “rapture” fails the test for the above reasons. But, how does the term “revelation” stack up as being exclusively post-tribulation in order to distinguish the post-tribulation coming from an alleged pre-tribulation coming?
If the pre-tribulation theory were true, we would expect that the term “revelation” would ONLY be used of the post-tribulation event (as opposed to the alleged pre-tribulation rapture), and NEVER of the day Christians anticipate. Yet, this is not the case.
There are three main Greek nouns used in Scripture for the coming of Christ.
- parousia (Strong’s #3952) simply means “coming” or physical “presence.”
- epiphaneia (Strong’s #2015) means “appearing” or “brightness” with emphasis on His glory.
- apokalupsis (Strong’s #602) means “revelation” or “unveiling.”
All of these are nouns used as technical terms in Scripture, while assuming that the reader understands the coming to which the words refer. However, the Scriptures use each of these terms for BOTH the Christians’ hope AND the post-tribulation event. The obvious conclusion is they are the same event.
Jesus’ COMING (Parousia) as our hope: 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, James 5:7,8, 2 Peter 3:4, 1 John 2:28
Jesus’ COMING (Parousia) as the post-tribulation event: Matthew 24:3,27,39, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:8
Jesus’ APPEARING (Epiphaneia) as our hope: 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1,8
Jesus’ APPEARING (Epiphaneia) as the post-tribulation event: 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Titus 2:13
Jesus’ REVELATION (Apokalupsis) as our hope: 1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:7,13, 1 Peter 4:13
Jesus’ REVELATION (Apokalupsis) as the post-tribulation event: 2 Thessalonians 1:7
The bottom line is this: post-tribulationists can rightly claim ALL the following terms as technical terms referring to the one and only future coming of Christ:
Day of Christ, Day of Jesus Christ, Day of the Lord Jesus, Day of the Lord Jesus Christ, Day of the Lord, parousia (His coming), epiphaneia (His appearing), & apokalupsis (His revelation). Pre-tribulationists are forced to abandon all these as technical terms for the supposed pre-tribulation rapture (because they are all used at least once in a clear post-tribulation context). Instead they wrongly use a verb (harpazo – “caught up”) as a noun (rapture) in order to INVENT a non- biblical technical term for their alleged pre-tribulation coming that is supposed to be distinguished from the second coming (with absolutely no precedent in Biblical usage).
That there is no Biblical term for an alleged pre-tribulation coming should give pre-tribulationists considerable pause that they may be forcing the Scriptures to fit into their preconceived theory.
Misuse of the Word “Church” as a Technical Term
A second error of biblical terminology by pre-tribulationists is their false and misleading usage of the word “Church.” Their usage is governed by the dispensational parameters they have erected. To a pre-tribulationists, the “Church” is strictly a technical term referring to Christians saved after Pentecost and prior to the tribulation. Believers prior to Pentecost were not part of the “Church” nor are those saved after the beginning of the tribulation. Hence, the term “Church age” (an utterly non-biblical term) has been coined to delineate the parameters of the pre-tribulationists’ fabricated “Church” on earth. But, once again, the Scriptures transgress the pre-tribulationists’ jargon. Or more accurately, pre-tribulation jargon transgresses the Scriptural precedents and norms of terminology.
Jesus gave instructions in Matthew 18:17 regarding Church discipline, within a book that pre-tribulationists strenuously claim is not related to the “Church,” and was written prior to the Church being established in their dispensational scheme. Stephen, in his defence before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:38, referred to the Jewish believers under Moses as “the Church in the wilderness.” In Hebrews 2:12, Paul quoted Psalm 22:22, which speaks of the Old Testament Jews in worship, as “the Church.”
In most English Bibles, this Psalm is translated “congregation” rather than “Church.” However, the quote was from the Greek version of the Old Testament used by the early Church called the Septuagint (LXX). The New Testament writers frequently quoted this version in their New Testament books, even many times where it reads differently from the Hebrew Text we have today. In the LXX, the Greek word for “Church” (ekklesia) is found repeatedly in the Old Testament, usually referring to the people of God (Israel).
Since the Apostles and the early Christians to whom they wrote used this version, and since this version uses “Church” (ekklesia) for the Old Testament saints repeatedly, it is not likely that the early Christians had the same understanding of this term that modern pre-tribulationists have fabricated. Once again, we find pre-tribulationists forced to use artificial technical terminology that is NOT in agreement with biblical precedent and common usage of the early Church.
We don’t let cults or Catholics get away with such subtle shell games with biblical words, why do we permit it by pre-tribulationists? The simple fact is, the wrong usage of terminology by pre-tribulationists, and artificial distinctions in their jargon, are glaring indicators of a false system that is being forced on the Scriptures.
By Permission Copyright © Tim Warner, Revised September 11, 2007