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The Origin and Danger of the Pre-Trib "Rapture" Theory

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Question #1:  Dr. Luginbill, Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. I have emailed you once before and you responded quickly and concisely. For that I appreciate the obvious love you have for our Lord. It seems that my bones are burning over the issue of the pre-tribulational rapture. Your study on this issue remains, in my opinion, the standard bearer. I have found exegesis of this issue by William Arnold III and a study I found on bible.org by Michael J. Svigel, Th.M. quite profitable. However, as I am continually bombarded by folks like Pastor Hagee and my MacArthurs study Bible on the imminence of the P.T.R (Pre-Tribulational Rapture). I find myself fighting off little seeds of doubt. So with this in mind I have made it my point to fully research for myself once and for all not only that there is not a P.T.R. but how this doctrine has crept into mainstream Christianity. As I said, your study is the standard bearer. But my question, for today anyway, is quite simple. More will follow in the future as they are formulated. Here is my question…..It seems that folks like to use the 1Corinthians 15:51-57 passage as a potential rapture passage.

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1st Corinthians 15:51-57

My question is, Can the dead BE raptured or is it only the living who are in Christ, otherwise would it not be considered a resurrection? Also, I am wondering if what I am understanding is, are we to receive our glorified bodies during the 1000 year millennial reign or after? Any help on these questions would be appreciated. Also, if you could recommend any authors for further reading on the refutation of the P.T.R. would be appreciated.

Response #1:  I well understand about pressure to conform on doctrinal issues. I was once a determined supporter of and apologist for the Pre-tribulational rapture theory myself, and came to realize in the process of trying to defend it that it just wasn't present anywhere in the Bible.

To take your questions in reverse order, I have to say that in light of my previous experiences, although I know how to use rhetoric, I have learned that the Bible is the truth even when one knows how to make a position which is not true seem true. Now, I try to teach what I learn from scripture, show how I got it from scripture, and let the chips fall where they may.

That said, I can recommend two things to you: 1) Millard J. Erickson's Contemporary Options in Eschatology (Baker: 1977) is a balanced look at the origins of pre, post, and mid trib teachings of the resurrection; and 2) Dave MacPherson's The Rapture Plot (Millennium III: 2000) – this second book, I confess, I have only seen in snippets which were compilations of Greek and Latin church fathers whose comments clearly seem to exclude any thought of a pre-trib rapture (I am not in a position to comment about the accuracy of his research vis-a-vis the 19th century origin of the idea, though it is pretty clear that the idea has a 19th century origin). As I say, if I thought the theory was biblical, I wouldn't be deterred by its late origin. Erikson attributes the specific development of the theory to John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), but it is also true that the intense interest in prophecy and all things eschatological at the turn of the nineteenth century (encapsulated by “Dispensationalism”) had much to do with popularizing the hypothesis. As often happens, once the idea became popular, it wasn't long before groups which had entertained it began to get very defensive about any suggestion that the Pre-Trib rapture theory might not the ultimate answer and so it was very soon enshrined as “sacred doctrine”.

On the term "rapture", this is of course not a biblical word but a theologically developed term coming from Latin, not Greek or Hebrew. It means literally "a snatching" and, in the context of 1st Thessalonians 4, a "snatching [up]" (e.g., "to meet the Lord in the air"). What 1Thes.4:17 does demonstrate is just what 1Cor.15:50-57 teaches, namely, that at the Lord's return (the 2nd Advent), "those [believers] who are alive" will be resurrected without physical death, while believers who have previously passed on will be resurrected first. To apply the theological construct, we would only call the living resurrection a "rapture" (i.e., a "snatching [up]"), but this is a distinction that the scripture does not dwell upon at all, despite the prevalence of the term in contemporary evangelical Christianity. As far as the Bible is concerned, this whole event is "the resurrection" which occurs at Christ's return.

As far as the Millennium is concerned, while scripture gives few details, it seems clear from Isaiah 65:20 that life-spans during our Lord's 1,000 year reign will be very long (in the Hebrew, 100 will be a young age to die and only explainable by some misconduct). Still, there may very well be deaths of believers during the Millennium. Revelation 20:1-10 covers this period but with few specifics apropos of your question. When we add 1st Corinthians 15:23-24 to the mix, we get the complete picture. The words in verse 24 "then the end" constitute the third echelon of the resurrection, so that we have in that passage the entire sequence, namely 1) Christ (this first echelon of the resurrection has already been completed), 2) "those who are His at His coming" (believers resurrected at the 2nd Advent, both living and dead), and 3) "the end" (i.e., believers, living and dead since the 2nd Advent, resurrected at the end of the 1,000 years just prior to the commencement of the eternal state and the New Heavens and New Earth).

The other passage you ask about, 1st Corinthians 15:50-57, supports this view precisely (there are some textual issues with this verse 51, on which see the translation below). Paul's main point is that "flesh and blood" cannot enter that eternal state (v.50), meaning that there will have to be a final resurrection – and this of course is what all Old Testament believers understood from reading Daniel and Isaiah (e.g., Is.25:8; 26:19; Dan.12:2). But the mystery here (v.51), that is, the previously unrevealed divine truth now made more explicit by Paul under divine revelation, is that this transformation into the new body of eternal life will actually occur in stages, with the next stage taking place at Christ's return "at the last trumpet" (rather than awaiting the end of history in toto).

(50) But I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (i.e., live in eternity with the Lord), nor can corruption inherit incorruption (i.e., we need the resurrection to live forever). (51) Behold, I tell you a mystery: not all of us will fall asleep, but all of us will be changed (52) in [that] moment of time, in the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet blast. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise incorruptible, and we (i.e., believers still alive) too will be changed [at that time (i.e., the Lord's Second Advent return)]. (53) For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortality must put on immortality (i.e., in order to live forever with our Lord). (54) And when this corruptible [body] puts on incorruption and this mortal [body] puts on immortality, then will be fulfilled this prophecy which has been written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. (55) Where is your victory, O death? Where is your stinger, O death?” (56) Now the stinger of death is the sin [nature] (i.e., it produces our sin), and the power of sin is the Law (i.e., it reveals our sin). But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
1st Corinthians 15:50-57

So we find Paul saying exactly the same thing in both books and linking this initial resurrection of dead and living believers in both cases to the return of Christ:

"The shout of command (Jn.5:28; and cf. Jn.11:43), the archangel and his trumpet blast (Matt.24:31; 1Cor.15:52: Rev.11:15 and cf. Rev.19:1-6), are signs of the gathering together of the faithful, both dead and alive, prophesied to occur at the return of the King (Matt.24:31; Mk.13:27; cf. the Feast of Trumpets, which celebrates the predicted regathering of Israel at the 2nd Advent: Lev.23:23-25 & Num.29:1-6)."   [see the link: Peter's Epistles # 27 Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith]

The natural way to read the New Testament is that we are all looking forward to Christ's return, and to receiving our reward and being resurrected at the time of His return. That is our blessed hope, to be with Him and to be like Him forevermore. Any other “twist” requires not only the twisting of scriptures but of common sense about this very basic teaching as well.

See also:

No Rapture

When is the Rapture

Marana Tha! O our Lord, return!

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill, I believe that faith in our Lord saves and not one's theology i.e., belief in pre-trib rapture, but my question to my friends is if they are not raptured and find they are in the Great Tribulation would they also find that their misunderstanding of scripture had done them no harm and even so be spiritually able to get through it? All said yes, but they still believe they will be raptured. And if you and I are wrong, won't that be a nice surprise! Why do you think so many people are so insistent about being right on this point, and how much difference does it make? Again, thanks and God bless.

Response #2:

The list of good and true believers who wrongly believe in a pre-trib rapture is very long indeed. My main complaint is with pastor-teachers who should know better. Anyone who is reasonably prepared in biblical languages, theology, and some basic hermeneutics – and who reads his Bible diligently every day – could not help but to be at the very least beset with doubts and concerns about this issue. Some doctrines of scripture are plainly difficult to develop and honest disagreements on these are understandable. But in my view, the pre-trib rapture does not fall into this category. There simply is not a single passage in scripture which even seems to teach it prima facie (i.e., it is not something that a person would ever come up with on their own by reading the Bible if they had not been taught it first by someone else). And there are only a scant few passages which may superficially seem to agree with it if one doesn't probe too deeply. On the other hand, that our great hope is the resurrection of the Church at the return of Christ, His parousia, is taught throughout the New Testament and was clearly taken for granted in apostolic days.

So I have to ask myself, why it is that so many prepared men have chosen to stick with this what-I-believe-to-be so dangerous false teaching? The answer seems to be that they have embraced tradition over truth, and that is also dangerous in and of itself, because once one lets go of scripture as the guiding light in exchange for any other standard, no matter how well meant, there is no end to the amount of falsehood that can creep in on the one hand, and on the other hand this attitude becomes both a symptom and a cause of degeneration in the teaching of the truth of the Bible.

Inasmuch as we are on the threshold of the greatest deception and greatest apostasy of believers in world history, being wrong on this issue (and on other issues as a result of not caring enough about the Bible to change one's position even though it may be uncomfortable) has the potential of producing egregious harm to self and to all who listen and accept the wrong view. I know your friends mean well, but the problem is, to use a military example, the time to learn military discipline and procedure is not when you find yourself being shot at for the first time. Without these qualities already drilled in, you are likely to panic and run (as in fact very often happens to conscript armies who have never been properly trained).

The Tribulation is going to be very difficult (what an understatement!), and it will at the very least place those who have squandered opportunities to prepare at a tremendous disadvantage. Add to this the fact that true Bible teaching will likely be very difficult to come by in the Tribulation (see the link: “The dearth of Bible teaching in the Tribulation” in CT 3A), and we have a recipe for apostasy among those who have been lackadaisical during the calm before the storm. Failing to understand that they need to prepare contributes to the problem. For if your friends (or any Christian who believes in a pre-Trib rapture) really believed and understood that they were possibly going to have to negotiate the Tribulation, it just stands to reason that on the one hand they would be preparing more aggressively now, and on the other hand that they would be less inclined to have their faith undermined or eroded altogether when it suddenly became clear at that future time that what they had believed was wrong (i.e., thus causing them in the crucible of unprecedented pressure to doubt everything else they have come to believe as well).

Yes it would be wonderful if you and I were wrong. It would be a great relief if, like Enoch, the Lord just took us out of all our trouble. My reading of scripture, however, tells me that we have a very important job to do: to demonstrate to men and angels alike that come what may we are going to remain faithful to Jesus – even in the midst of the Tribulation. For this I am preparing and to this end I am trying to help others get ready as well (see the link: “Coming Tribulation”). But it is hard to motivate people who remain convinced that nothing bad is ever going to happen to them.

In this world you do have tribulation. But be courageous. I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

[They were] strengthening the hearts of the disciples, and encouraging them to remain in the faith, and saying "We must pass through many tribulations to reach the Kingdom of God".
Acts 14:22

And we sent Timothy to you, our brother and co-worker in the gospel of God and of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that none of you might waver in the midst of these tribulations. For you yourselves know [very well] that we have been appointed for this (i.e., to endure pressure in this life). Indeed, when we were with you I was warning you that we [all Christians] were destined to be persecuted (lit., tribulated).
1st Thessalonians 3:2-4

If this is true of Christian life generally (for all those who are truly committed to spiritual growth at any rate), how much more will it not be so during that time of intense pressure to come? Here is the verse which rings in my ears about our likely future job (potentially - none of know exactly what the Lord has in store):

Strengthen the hands that are weak. Steady the knees that are giving way. Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong! Don't be afraid! Look, your God is coming to avenge you. God [will] recompense [both them and us]! He will come! And He will rescue you!
Isaiah 35:3-4

Whether we are taken home before all this, martyred in the cause of Jesus Christ, or destined to endure until the blessed day of our Lord's return, our purpose needs to be to get ready for all of these eventualities and to help others to do so as well. In my experience and observation, the pre-Trib rapture is a tremendous detriment to all of these things (for reasons I have written about in the series linked above). I certainly don't blame your Christian friends. I love and pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, I commend you both for your willingness to share your point of view with others, and for the appropriately diplomatic and loving way in which you are clearly doing it. I too feel that is very important not to break fellowship over this issue. Observation that there are other genuine Christians who do not share the rose-colored pre-Trib view is the best way to get them thinking. And if they start thinking, they will start reading their Bibles. And if they read long and honestly enough, they will be led to the truth.

In our Lord whose return is our blessed hope,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dr. Luginbill, Friends at work who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture argue that since
no man knows the hour or day of our Lords return that then proves their point that Christians will not be here because so many scriptural events need to be met in the 7 year tribulation time line and we would know when Jesus would return, i.e. the 2 witnesses, the rebuilding of the temple, the rise of the antichrist, the mark of the beast to be able to buy and sell, do they have a point? Or is the exact day and hour still unknown , all be it, at the end of the 7 years, give or take a day or two? I thoroughly enjoy your site and learn daily from it. May your ministry continue to be blessed! In His name.

Response #3:

I think that you have "hit the nail on the head" with your observation that "day and hour" is certainly a more confined point of time than "week and month", let alone, "season and year" (which is as far as I see scripture specifying, and even that comes with certain caveats; see the link: "The Date of the Tribulation"). Rather than supporting their argument, the specific information you reference given in the Bible about the timing of the Second Advent certainly seems to me to beg the question, "why is it there, if we are not supposed to get anything out of it at all?" It strikes me that the fact that pre-trib rapture proponents have to resort to convoluted argumentation of this sort to support their case only serves to point out what I and many others have been saying for some time: there is no real biblical evidence for a pre-trib rapture. Quite to the contrary, the Bible is consistent in focusing our hope on the return of our Lord once and for all (not on some vaguely defined prior, partial return).

Here is what I have written about this point and this passage (see the link: Coming Tribulation part 2B under "Fallacies about the start of the Tribulation"):

2. Fallacy #2: The unknowable nature of the time removes the urgency of this issue: It is true that the Bible does not provide us with an explicit calendar of coming events, and that it is therefore impossible to state with dogmatic authority the precise day on which the Tribulation will begin. However, that does not mean that believers are relieved of the responsibility of considering this matter, of watching and waiting, of gleaning what may be known from scripture, and of doing everything within the capabilities they have been given to prepare spiritually for that coming time. The negative aspects of this second fallacy are thus twofold: 1) the idea that seeking to know is wrong-headed, even possibly blasphemous, undermines proper seeking of guidance from the Bible; 2) the idea that since precise knowledge of the exact time is unavailable that therefore no spiritual preparations are necessary undermines proper efforts to prepare spiritually. This combination of misapprehensions creates a "head-in-the-sand" effect which is inimical to scriptural searching and spiritual preparation – exactly the opposite of what scripture enjoins.

For that we should watch carefully is clear (Matt.24:42-52; 25:1-13):

And [Jesus] was saying to the crowds, "When you see clouds coming up at dusk, you immediately say 'A storm is coming', and that is what happens. And when [you notice] the south wind blowing, you say 'There'll be a hot spell', and that is what happens. Hypocrites! You know how to evaluate the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how is it that you don't know how to evaluate this [critical] time?"
Luke 12:54-56

And that we should prepare carefully while we can is equally clear (cf. Matt.7:24-27; 25:14-30):

So Jesus said to them, "For a little while yet, the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so the darkness doesn't overtake you. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, that you may become sons of light.
John 12:35-36

Matthew 24:36 ("No one knows the day or the hour"), this is neither a command nor an excuse for believers to make a virtue out of ignorance and willfully ignore the issue. For one thing, Matthew 24:36 is speaking about the precise timing of the 2nd Advent, not, that is, the timing of the Tribulation's commencement, but of its termination. And even so, the fact is that, just a few verses earlier (Matt.24:22), Jesus had told us that this approximation of the time of the 2nd Advent would be a matter of days, not of weeks or months, and certainly not of years. Secondly, this statement about the unknown day and hour comes in the immediate context of the parable of the fig tree (verses 32-33), whose stated lesson is that one can and indeed should be on the lookout for that particular future event – one cannot know the precise hour, but the faithful believer can and should form a close approximation of that coming time.

Here is a further comment from the link above which deals with another popular passage often used by those of the opposite point of view (link: FN #86):

Acts 1:7 is often mistranslated "It is not for you to know", but should be rendered "It is not for you to decide the times and the seasons". The Greek verb gignosko commonly has this meaning of "decide" especially when it is in the aorist as it is here. The context strongly supports this revised translation since our Lord immediately adds "which the Father has ordained by His authority". That is to say, Jesus' point is that it is the Father who has decided these matters; they are not to be decided by your wishes. For our Lord's disciples had just very clearly expressed the wish through their question in the preceding verse six for Him to establish the Kingdom immediately. Therefore our Lord's reproof in verse seven is not a commendation of complete ignorance about the Father's timetable, but rather a reminder to them that it is His will in these matters that counts, not theirs; they would have to remain patient, even though from their perspective the time seemed ripe for the commencement of the Messiah's kingdom. We must also take into consideration the fact that this statement was given to the apostles prior to the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit is the agent of inspiration, chronology included, who, as Jesus had already made clear, would be the One to relate to them "the things to come" (Jn.16:13; cf. 2Pet.1:16-21). Since they will later come to understand the "things to come", verse seven must also be understood in conjunction with verse eight: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you . . .", a statement that clearly includes the previously promised further revelation of the Spirit (not excluding information about the end times). This is why, a few short years later, Paul can tell the Thessalonians the exact opposite of Acts 1:7 (that is, as it is generally misconstrued): "concerning the times and the seasons, you have no need that anyone write you, for you know very well . . ." (1Thes.5:1-2).

Yours in our Lord Jesus with whom we have been seated in heaven until that time in the ages to come when our Father fully demonstrates to us the surpassing wealth of His grace and goodness in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Brother Bob: My understanding is that the Rapture of the Church terminates the Church Age and usher in the 7 Years Tribulations which will open another era of evangelism to continue the Age of Israel. The Tribulation Period will start with all unbelievers on earth as the Church indwelt with the Holy Spirit were already raptured. Satan will unleash his fury against Israel and all living unbelievers where 144,000 Jews will evangelize including the Two Witnesses and Angels of God who will assist. The Second Coming of Christ will close the Tribulation and immediately the Millennium---1000 years reign of Jesus Christ with all believers will set in. After the 1000 years, Satan will again be released to deceive the nations followed by his defeat and their execution of judgment of all fallen Angels to the lake of fire. Then the Great White Throne Judgment follow for the final execution of judgment of all whose names are not written in the lamb's book of life. Then there! will be a new heaven and a new earth--the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, etc., etc.

Your input to this question of pre-tribulation security will be enlightening as most of the preachers I heard are of the same views.

Yours in His service,

Response #4:

On the issue of Pre-Tribulation rapture, the eschatological synopsis you provide here is one with which I would generally agree except for one small and one large point. The small point is the teaching that somehow the Millennium will begin with only believers. That, however, is not something I find anywhere in scripture. It is true that at the battle of Armageddon the entire army of antichrist will be destroyed, and also true that God will send "fire upon Magog" (Ezek.39:6), a judgment directed at the beast's seven nation European alliance. But neither of these judgments in any way indicates a complete annihilation of the world's unbelieving population. Indeed, since the Church is resurrected to meet our Lord at His second advent return, that would leave no one at all behind on earth to form the basis of the millennial population.

That brings me to my second point. The notion that the Church is removed before the Tribulation is entirely non-biblical. There is, simply put, not a single verse in scripture that can be pointed to that would honestly lead a person to conclude this absent extensive "commentary". The New Testament passages which speak of our Lord's return cannot naturally be subdivided into two categories (i.e., a pre- and post- Tribulation return); this can only be done artificially and, in my view, only by deliberating and systematically ignoring the Greek text (where, for example, the Greek word parousia or "coming return" is used in all cases to describe our Lord's one and only return at the second advent).

(27) And inasmuch as it is ordained for mankind to die once (i.e., the first, "physical" death), and after this [face] judgment (i.e., "the second death"; cf. Rev.2:11; 20:6; 20:14-15), (28) so Christ having been offered up once to bear the sins of many will appear a second time (note: only one "second time") without [any need to bear] sin unto those who are awaiting salvation (i.e., the deliverance of the resurrection at the end of the Tribulation).
Hebrews 9:27-28

Since this is a very important doctrine to get right (because otherwise a believer makes him/herself vulnerable to being unprepared for the Tribulation and potentially surprised and demoralized to find him/herself in the midst of it – a very dangerous situation since one third of believers will fall away during the Tribulation in the Great Apostasy [see the link]), I will not attempt to repeat all of those details here (and I would urge you to consult the links listed below as well). However, since 1st Thessalonians chapter four is often used as a "proof text" for the supposed Pre-Tribulation, it is worth translating it for you here and pointing out that there is actually nothing at all in this passage which links this resurrection of the Church to a period before the Tribulation begins:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose [again from the dead], in this same way also God will lead [back to earth] those [believers] who have fallen asleep through Jesus with Him (i.e., at His second advent return). (15) For we tell you this by the Lord's own Word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming return of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the archangel's blast on the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first (in resurrection), (17) then we who are alive and remain will be snatched up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and in this way we shall always be with the Lord.
1st Thessalonians 4:15-17

The phrase in bold italics above, "until the coming return of the Lord", is in fact a reference to the second advent, not to any hypothetical pre-tribulational appearance. Indeed, since such an appearance is not explicitly discussed anywhere else in the New Testament, would it not be incumbent upon the apostle Paul to clarify here that he is not talking about the second advent as anyone familiar with Old Testament eschatology would naturally otherwise suppose, if he were not in fact talking about the second advent (which of course he is)? Far to the contrary, the Greek word used here, parousia, is a word which is almost always used in the New Testament as a technical term for the second advent:

And when He sat down on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us when these things will be, and what the sign is of your coming return (parousia) and of the end of the age?"
Matthew 24:3

Just as lightning arises in the east and flashes forth to the west, so will the coming return (parousia) of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:27

For just as in the days of Noah, so will the coming return (parousia) of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:37

But each [will be resurrected] in his own echelon. Christ [is the] first-fruits. Next [will be] those belonging to Christ at His coming return (parousia).
1st Corinthians 15:23

So be patient, brethren, until the coming return (parousia) of the Lord.
James 5:7a

These passages are very difficult to construe as referring to a pre-Tribulation rapture because 1) Jesus' answer to Matt.24:3 is a list of tribulational events which are the “signs”; 2) Matt.24:27 is an answer to verse 26 where the problem is accepting antichrist(s) during the Tribulation; 3) Matt.24:37 is followed by the example of Noah who goes through the flood (which symbolizes the Tribulation) and the day and hour are unknown because it is the Tribulation which is shortened “for the sake of the elect” (Mk.13:20); and 4) 1st Cor.15:23 virtually must refer to the second advent since otherwise Christ reigns without returning in that context (i.e., it is not probable that the second advent would be left out in this synopsis). And there are other passages as well where parousia can be made not to refer to the second advent only by contorting scripture (e.g., 2Pet.3:4; 3:12; 1Jn.2:28), and that is true even where parousia is used within this same book, 1st Thessalonians (1Thes.2:19; 5:23). But in the following passage it is nearly impossible to so misconstrue what parousia really means:

For I did not follow concocted tales in making known to you the power and the coming return (parousia) of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but was an eyewitness to His majesty (i.e., His majestic return is being previewed).
2nd Peter 1:16

Here Peter is clearly speaking of the vision he personally saw of the second advent on the Mount of Transfiguration (which, according to our Lord Himself in Matt.16:28, was clearly a foretaste of His return, “coming in His kingdom”; cf. Matt.17:2; Mk.9:2-3; Lk.9:29).

Another passage also addressed to these same Thessalonians who received the first epistle whose fourth chapter is so heavily used to defend the pre-trib rapture theory likewise unquestionably indicates that the rapture occurs at our Lord's return since the two most prominent events of the Tribulation, the Great Apostasy and rise of antichrist, must precede both our Lord's “coming” (parousia) and “our assembling together to Him” (i.e., the rapture or resurrection):

So we ask you, brothers, in regard to the coming our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling together to Him [at His return], that you not be so easily moved from your correct understanding [of these matters], nor disturbed [by doubts about what you should know to be true] - not even if [this "new information" purports to come] through a spirit, or an [inspired] word or a letter supposedly from me, declaring that the Day of the Lord is already upon us. Do not let anyone deceive you in any way. For [the Second Advent cannot come] unless the [Great] Apostasy has first occurred and the man of lawlessness, [antichrist,] has [first] been revealed, that "son of destruction" (cf. Jn.17:12 of Judas), the one who will oppose and exalt himself against every so-called god and object of worship to such a degree that he will [even] take his seat in the temple of God and represent himself as being God.
2nd Thessalonians 2:1-4

Whatever one thinks of this evidence, however, since in the absence of explanations in the text itself to the contrary every single one of these parousia passages must refer to the same exact event (i.e., there can be no dual-categorization as the synonymous technical vocabulary precludes it), that fact alone should give pause to those who wish to maintain the existence of a pre-trib rapture. That is because all the other passages of scripture with an eschatological theme focus upon Christ's return at the second advent, from Daniel to Revelation, and it would be at the very least extremely odd if this single one or at best a very small collection of passages (which to the contrary share many other features in common with the larger group) should uniquely refer to an event otherwise never explicitly explained in the Bible.

There are many other important proofs that our resurrection comes post, not pre-Tribulation, so I ask you to please consult these other links as this issue is critical for your future spiritual safety:

No Rapture.

        Tribulational Security (i.e., why belief in a pre-trib rapture gives a false sense of security; in Peter #27)

        The Resurrection (explains the timing of all of the echelons of the resurrection; in Peter #20)

        Pre-, mid-, or post-Tribulation rapture?

        Faith and the Pre-Tribulational "Rapture".

        Pre- or Post-Tribulation "rapture"?

        What is your view of the rapture?

        More on the Rapture.

        What is the evidence for the "rapture"?

Partial rapture theory

'Genesis rapture'

In our Lord Jesus – Marana Tha! "Return to us, O thou our Lord!"

Bob L.

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