Is a Posttribulational Rapture Revealed in Matthew 24? -- By: John F. Walvoord
GTJ 6:2 (Fall 85) p. 257
Is a Posttribulational Rapture
Revealed in Matthew 24?
Matthew 24 is a crucial passage in the debate between pre- and posttribulationists. The context of Matthew 24 and especially vv 40–41 argues that a posttribulational rapture is not being taught. Rather Christ, on the analogy of Noah’s flood, spoke of some being taken in judgment. Thus it can be concluded that no biblical text places the rapture after the tribulation.
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Among premillenarians, the question as to whether the rapture of the church occurs before or after the end time tribulation continues to be a live subject for debate. Among other eschatological points of view such as postmillennialism and amillennialism, it is assumed that the rapture is a part of the second coming of Christ and therefore is posttribulational. Postmillenarians and amillenarians accept almost without question a posttribulational rapture because they interpret prophecies of the events leading up to the second coming nonliterally. By contrast premillenialism depends upon a literal interpretation of prophecy.
Among premillenarians, however, the issue of pretribulationism continues to be discussed, and books continue to be published on the issues involved. The differences of opinion stem largely from the question as to whether end time prophecies are to be interpreted literally, especially as they distinguish Israel’s future from that of the church, the body of Christ.
Both pretribulationists and posttribulationists are confronted with the fact that the Scripture does not expressly state either view. Pretribulationists find what approximates a direct teaching of their view in 2 Thessalonians 2 where the lawless one is said to be revealed only after the restrainer is removed. The traditional interpretation
GTJ 6:2 (Fall 85) p. 258
among pretribulationists is that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit who indwells the church. Thus, it is the Holy Spirit (and by implication the church) who must be removed before the lawless one can be revealed.1 If the lawless one is the end time ruler, he would be revealed at least seven years before the second coming of Christ. According to this interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2, then, the rapture occurs prior to the tribulation. Posttribulationists, of course, dispute this interpretation and interpret the passage in a manner that does not yield a pretribulationa...
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