The Rapture

Five Premillennial Views



John Hoole – April 22, 2012





(Note:  click on photos and charts for larger version)




Let me begin our lesson with a question.




It is found in the oldest book of the Bible – the Book of Job.  Job actually lived before Moses (1400BC) and possibly before Abraham (1900 BC).  And Job took up the age-old questions of resurrection, when he said: “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14).  A few chapters later – Chapter 19 – Job answers his own question.


Job 19:25-27 NKJV


25     For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

26     And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,

27     Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!


In making this statement, Job is stating an incredible faith in his own resurrection.  This is an incredible statement because there was no known written revelation from God at this time.  This indicates that from the earliest human existence, the resurrection was known and believed.  And it is no less true today.  But that does not mean that we all agree as to when that resurrection will occur.


The various eschatological views diverge first on one’s view, not of the Rapture, but the Millennium.  Their differences generally center on the nature of such a period of time.  Although some will disagree, I believe the fact of a future millennium is very clearly taught in Revelation 20:1-6But what kind of millennium it will be has been, and continues to be, strongly debated.


The chart I am about to show you, I used in an earlier lesson.  I used it to help in answering a question from a person in this class.  I said at that time that I would use it again, and now is that time.


There are 3 major views concerning the Millennium.


                   •  A- millennial

                   •  Post- millennial

                   •  Pre- millennial




There are actually two distinctions.


         1.      Whether there will be an actual, literal 1000 years, called the Millennium.


         2.      The timing of Christ returns with regard to this period of time.


The difference between each of these views has to do with how each views the relationship between Christ’s Second Coming and the Millennium.  Each also differs as to what happens during that period of time.


It is very obvious that the early Christians expected the speedy return of Christ to establish an actual kingdom on this earth, over which He would reign for 1000 years.  When Christ did not return quickly – that is within 300 years following the apostles, the church’s concept of the millennium changed to a predominantly non-literal one.


Hence:  A-millennialism.


A-millennial means “no millennium.”  This branch of prophetic theology does not believe in a literal tribulation or a literal 1000-year reign of Christ – or a literal antichrist.  They believe the biblical phrase, “one-thousand-years” is just suggesting a long time.  For the A-millennialist, it represents all the time from the first century until Christ returns.  This was the predominant view of the church for over 1,000 years during the dark ages.  Those holding this view do not adhere to a literal interpretation of Scripture.


The only way one can arrive at this view is by using an allegorical or symbolic way of interpreting the Bible.  That means that one assigns to the words of Scripture a meaning other than that which is normally understood and accepted at the time of the writing.  They admit that all Scripture has a literal meaning, but only to the immediate people to whom the letter or prophecy was written, and to that generation only.


They hold that all Scripture has at least a dual meaning.  One, more literal, is for those to whom the letter was written but to all others, there was a somewhat hidden meaning, which always represented a spiritual truth.  It is only this second meaning – the underlying truth – that is relevant for the church today.  In other words, all Scripture is spiritualized.


Many a-millennialists concede that if prophecy is interpreted literally (normally), grammatically and historically, it will produce a pre-millennial view




The Post-Millennial adherents partially subscribe to an allegorical method for interpreting of prophecy.  In a way, they sort of “pick and choose” which parts are allegorical or symbolic, and which are to be taken literally.


They believe in a literal 1,000 years and a literal 2nd Coming of Christ, but believe Christ will be reigning from heaven.  The kingdom, therefore, is mostly a spiritual thing.  They hold the position that Christ will come following the 1000 years.  Hence, Post-millennial.


This view hold that the millennium would be established, not by Christ, but by the Church, through successful Christianizing of the world by believers.  Like the A-millennialist, they also do not believe in a literal Tribulation of 7-years.


The Postmillennial view teaches that the Church will gradually expand throughout the globe until the population of the earth will someday worship Christ.  After the church completes its mission, then Christ will return.


This view flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Because of the hundreds of missionary groups which were established during this time, this was a period of optimism about the Church’s ability to Christianize the world.  But World War I seriously shook this view and World War II all but wiped it out.  The world is not getting better.  But, just as the Scriptures foretold, “evil is waxing worse and worse.”


Today we are going to look more fully at the beliefs of those who call themselves Pre-millennial. I happen to be included in that group of people.  This view holds that Christ will literally return to earth to set up His kingdom for 1,000 years.  As seen on our chart, this view is the only one that accepts a more literal interpretation of Bible Prophecy.  As you have heard me say before, I believe the Scriptures should be interpreted literally, unless the context dictates otherwise.


Nearly all Christians who take the Bible literally expect to be raptured before Christ comes in power to set up His reign on earth.  Yet there are hundreds of books written on this subject from at least five perspectives, all of which I have mentioned briefly in earlier lessons.




                   1.      Pre-Tribulation Rapture

                   2.      Mid-Tribulation Rapture

                   3.      Post-Tribulation Rapture

                   4.      Partial-Rapture

                   5.      Pre-Wrath Rapture


All five of these views teach that Christ will return physically to earth to begin His 1,000 year reign.  All five groups believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, the only means of salvation.




The one major distinctions is this: What is the timing of the Rapture of the Church with regard to the 7-year Tribulation?  And, unfortunately, the position held by the adherents to each premillennial view has generated some excessive heat.


Some Bible doctrines are non-negotiable, including:


                   •  The deity of Christ.

                   •  Salvation by grace through faith.


But, whether Christ comes for His church before the Tribulation, in the middle, or at the end is not a cardinal doctrine.  All five positions believe that Christ is coming with a shout from heaven, and that “the dead in Christ will rise first.”  Believers living at the time of the rapture will be changed and raised with them to meet the Lord in the air.  Various interpretations of the timing of the Rapture do not constitute heresy, and should not cause division among believers.  While personal friends of mine disagree with me on this matter, we do not show disrespect or questions each other’s love for the Lord.


Let’s look at these five major views held by Christians as to when the Rapture will occur.


Post-Tribulation Rapture




1.      The Church will remain on earth and endure, or go through, the entire 7-year Tribulation.


2.      There is no clear distinction between the timing of the Rapture and the Revelation of Christ.  For them, each is a facet of the same event.  The church will rise to meet Christ and then return with Him in one continuous action.  For the Post-Tribulationist, there is no going to Heaven at this time.


3.      The Church and Israel are considered synonymous.


4.      The Rapture is NOT imminent.  That means that the church must expect certain prophesied events prior to the Rapture.


5.      The Post-Tribulationist must take the 7 Seal, 7 Trumpets, and 7 Bowls as concurrent rather than                sequential or staggered, but ending simultaneously.


6.      Of the five pre-millennial positions, this one is the least literal in its interpretive methodology.   They must interpret many prophetic passages in a somewhat figurative manner.  Among them is their taking the promises given to Israel, and applying them to the Church.


There are several problems with the post-tribulation-rapture position.


1.  It ignores multiple scriptural promises that believers will escape the wrath of the Tribulation.


2.  It doesn’t allow enough time between the Rapture and the coming of Christ to set up His kingdom.  For the post-tribulationist, the two events become two parts of the same event.  Believers rise to meet Christ in the air, then immediately return to the earth.  But there are at least two events that must occur in Heaven prior to following Christ to earth to set up his 1,000 year reign.  Those two events are: 


•  Judgment of believers and their rewards [Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10].


•  Marriage Supper of the Lamb  [Revelation 19:7-9].


3.  The Post-Trib. position does not allow enough time for Christ to keep His promise to take believers to be with Himself in the Father’s house [John 14:1-3].


This position obliterates one of the greatest promises of hope Christ gave to believers.


Mid-Tribulation Rapture




1.      This group holds that the Church will be on earth through the first 3½ years of the Tribulation.  After meeting Jesus in the air, we all go to heaven.


2.      For them, the first 3½ years is called the Tribulation.  The last 3½ years is called “The Wrath of God” or “The Great Tribulation.”  They could be called the original “Pre-wrath” people, but that name has now been usurped by a more recently held position.  They do not believe the Church will go through any part of God’s wrath and judgments.


3.      Some hold the 7th Trumpet of Rev. 11:15-19 to be synonymous with the “Last Trumpet” mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:51-52.


4.      For most of them, the Rapture occurs at Revelation 11:11-12.  This is the scriptural passage telling about the Rapture of the two witnesses.  The mid-tribulationist hold that the two witnesses are not two literal persons, but symbolically represent the Church.


Why do they take the two witnesses as representing the Church?  They represent the two groups of Christians in the Rapture:


1.      The Dead in Christ which will rise first.


2.      Those still alive when the Rapture occurs.


They hold that the rapture of the two witnesses occurs at the mid-point of the Tribulation.  Therefore, since they represent the church, that’s when the Rapture occurs.  Personally, I believe these two witnesses are two literal people in human bodies.  But I don’t think they represent the Church.  How could one of the two witnesses symbolize the church that is alive at the Rapture and the other symbolize the church that is asleep (dead)?  In Revelation 11, both witnesses are killed.  How do you kill saints that are already dead?


Identifying the 7th Trumpet of Revelation 11 as synonymous with the “last trump” of 1 Cor. 15:52 and the “trump of God” in 1 Thess 4:16 is actually one of their better arguments.  But, if you look at the text closely, the ascending of the Two Witnesses to Heaven occurs prior to the blowing of the 7th Trumpet.  Their going to heaven occurs 3 verses prior to the blowing of the 7th trumpet judgment.  That, then, means that their ascension into heaven occurs as part of the 6th Trumpet.  In fact, the 7th Trumpet has nothing to do with what is written in Revelation 11.


By limiting the Tribulation to the last 3½ of the seven years, it seems to me they negate the severity of the judgment of the 7 Seals and the first 6 Trumpets.  And yet, the first mention of the outpouring of the “wrath of God” is mentioned in the Seal judgments.  As we showed in an earlier lesson, the wrath of God begins at or near the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation.


Like the Post-Trib. The Mid-Trib. believe Christ and his army of saints come from heaven to earth at the end of the Tribulation.


Partial Rapture




1.      Those holding this view take their cue from Hebrews 9:28, which reads:  “To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a 2nd time apart from sin, for salvation.”


2.      This view does not focus so much on the timing of the Rapture in relationship to the     Tribulation, but focuses of the people who will be raptured.


3.      Like the Pre-tribulation position, they believe a Rapture will occur before the Tribulation.  Those taken meet Christ in the air and are subsequently taken to heaven.


4.      Not all believers will be raptured.  Only those who are “watching” and “waiting” for the Lord’s  return will be found worthy to escape the terror of the Tribulation.  Worthy conduct is the key.


5.      There will also be several subsequent raptures – as groups of people have shown themselves worthy since the previous rapture.


It appears to me that we have here the introduction of a new Protestant Purgatory – The Tribulation – where believers are purged of anything that causes them to be unworthy or unprepared.  Like all other views, Christ returns as King of Kings at the end of the Tribulation.


Pre-Wrath Rapture




1.      Unlike the Post-tribulationist, this group holds that the church will not experience the Wrath of God.  As their name implies, they believe most of the Tribulation does not involve the Wrath of God.  It is the wrath of man or the devil.


2.      This is a more recent version of the Mid-Tribulation Rapture position, but hold a different timing as to when the Wrath of God does begin.


3.      They hold that the Wrath of God begins about 21 months before the end of the Tribulation.  That is at about the ¾ mark of the 7-years.


4.      They make no distinction between the Jews and the Church.


5.      The first approximately 5-years, 3-month of the 7-year tribulation is called “the beginning of sorrows.”


6.      This group vigorously tries to destroy the idea that Christ coming in the air for His church will occur without warning at any moment.  At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus and His saints descend to the earth.


Although I stated a moment ago that this position is a variation of the Mid-Tribulationist position, those who started teaching this position in 1990, originally held the Pre-Tribulationist view.


Pre-Tribulation Rapture




1.      The rapture occurs prior to the 7-year tribulation.  That means, the Church will not go through any of the Tribulation.  Once we meet Christ in the air, we are taken to heaven.


2.      The Church and Israel are distinct from each other.  God has a separate and distinct prophetic future for each of them.  This is the only position that clearly and fully makes that distinction.


3.      The Church is also distinct from the Tribulation saints.  That is, people will become Christians during the Tribulation, but they will not be part of the Church – the Bride of Christ.


4.      Both halves of the Tribulation experience the Wrath of God.


5.      This view, and only this view, holds the Rapture to be imminent --- that it could happen at any moment.


6.      Believers of the Church Age are judged in heaven following the Rapture, but the Nations & Israel will be judged at the Second Coming of Christ to the earth.


7.      This position takes the most literal interpretation of prophetic scriptures.


8.      At The end of the Tribulation, Christ returns with His saints to earth.


Having mentioned the major positions at to when the Rapture will occur, I need to hasten to add another thought.  It should be remembered that although there are differing views among Pre-millennialists there is also a wide range of agreement.


In a few minutes, I am going to tell you some of the people holding each of these views.  Many of you will recognize some of them.


Actually, to my knowledge, each hold to an orthodox, evangelical view of the important central doctrines.  Doctrines like:       


•  The Person and work of Jesus Christ

•  Justification by grace through faith

•  The Divine inspiration of the Bible


And even when it comes to the issues of End Time Prophecy, these people are more alike that they are different.  They all hold to:


•  A literal 7-year Tribulation.

•  Jesus will return visibly, bodily and personally at the end of the Tribulation.

•  Jesus will set up a literal 1000-year earthly kingdom.

•  Mortals will repopulate the earth during the Millennium.

•  All resurrected & raptured saints will reign with Christ on earth.

•  There will be a final judgment at the “Great White Throne.”

•  All unbelievers will be condemned.

•  Time ends and eternity begins after all this.


All the principal scholars of these various position are born-again, love the Lord, believe the Bible is the Word of God, have a desire to teach the truth, and as far as I know live Godly lives.




         Robert Gundry

         George Ladd

         Pat Robertson  (CBN – 700 Club)

         Jim McKeever

         Walter Martin




         Norman B. Harrison

         J. Sidlow Baxter

         Gleason Archer.


Pre-Wrath Rapturists


         Marvin Rosenthal

         Robert Van Kampen




         Charles Ryrie

         C.I. Scofield

         J. Dwight Pentecost

         Hal Lindsey

         John MacArthur

         Tim LaHaye

         Jack Van Impe

         John Hagee

         David Jeremiah

         Grant Jeffrey

         Zola Levitt



If you do any amount of serious Bible study, you will recognize many of these writers.  Many of them, from each view, are very scholarly in their approach to studying Bible prophecy.  As I mentioned earlier, as far as I know, most of these nearly two dozen writers are orthodox evangelicals.  I have a number of friends that hold a different positions than mine.