This post continues my series on why I’m still pretrib. Despite the fact that pretribulationism is often ridiculed as a manmade grid forced on the Scriptures, in reality it is simply letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. One of the areas where it has a lot to say is the distinction between the rapture and the day of the Lord. They are unique events in God’s prophetic puzzle.
Now this distinction is denied almost across the board by those who reject the pretribulation rapture. They typically claim that the rapture (the gathering of the church) and the day of the Lord happen on the same day. According to this view, the church meets the Lord in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:15-18) and then descends with him (Rev. 19) on the same day, hours apart at the most. Those who hold this position point to the gathering of saints after the tribulation in Matthew 24 and insist that it is the gathering of the church.
But several arguments from Scripture indicate that the gathering in Matthew 24 is the gathering of Israel promised in the Old Testament, not the gathering of the church. The most obvious is the contextual clues in the chapter which indicate that the prophecy concerns Israel not the church. Another is the many indications in Scripture that the seventieth week is Mosaic, not Christian. But we won’t delve into either of these at this time. Instead we’ll take up the arguments which indicate that the gathering of the church and the day of the Lord are distinct events with a significant amount of time passing between them.
Let’s start with the church’s gathering in John 14:1-3. Here we read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” This makes it clear that at the time of the church’s gathering, she is taken to heaven to be with the Lord Jesus. She does not meet the Lord in the clouds and then do an immediate U-turn. She goes to heaven with him and stays there for a while. This requires a significant amount of time between the gathering of the church and her return with the Lord in Revelation 19 when she joins him in trampling the armies of the nations at Armageddon.
A second point to consider is the distinction between the morning star and the rising sun. As these do not happen at the same time in our reality, so they do not happen at the same time in prophetic typology. The morning star is the type of the gathering of the church (2 Pet. 1:19, Rev. 2:28, Rev. 22:16). The rising sun is the type of the day of the Lord (Mal. 4:1-2, James 1:11) when the church returns with the Lord. The time between the morning star and the rising sun is the ever increasing light of the approaching day as the visitations increase in intensity and degree during the course of the seventieth week.
A third point is the distinction between the gathering of the bride of Christ and the gathering of the guests for the wedding. Those who are saved in the present age are the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-9, Eph. 5:25-27, 2 Cor. 11:2). Those who are saved during the tribulation after the church is taken to heaven are guests at the church’s wedding (Matt. 22:1-14, Matt. 25:1-13). They will be accompanied by the OT saints (John 3:29, Matt. 8:11). To not make a clear distinction between the bride and the guests is the same mistake as not making a clear distinction between the church and Israel.
A fourth point is the distinction between the parousia (Matt. 24:27, Matt. 24:29-39, 1 Thess. 3:13, 2 Thess. 2:8) and the apantesis (meeting) of the parousia (1 Thess. 4:15-17). In Koine Greek, parousia bore a technical sense when used of the arrival of the king (see BDAG and Deismann’s Light From the Ancient East). And apantesis was not meeting someone in the sense we normally use it, at an agreed upon time and place. It was, rather, going out to meet someone and accompanying them back. So the apantesis of a parousia in Koine usage was the loyal subjects going out to meet the approaching king and accompanying him in his royal entrance. This is the exact usage we have in Bible prophecy. The parousia is the Lord’s royal entrance to this planet in power and glory, and the apantesis of the parousia is the church going out to meet him prior to his entrance so they can accompany him in his glorious entrance in the day of the Lord.
A fifth and final point is OT typology. Enoch, for example, was taken up to heaven prior to the flood while Noah went through the flood. This is a type of the church going up to heaven prior to the tribulation while Israel will pass through it. And Abraham was in the uplands of Mamre, fellowshipping with Jehovah and the angels, while judgment fell on the cities of the plains. Both of these types picture the church removed from the world before judgement falls on the world.
So you can see that there are a number of arguments for distinguishing the rapture (the gathering of the church) and the day of the Lord. Such arguments are why careful Bible students often speak of these two events as the Lord coming for the church and the Lord coming with the church. This is one of the reasons why I’m still pretrib.
Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.
Lee W. Brainard