Summary: This sermon identifies and discusses major STRENGTHS of the PRE-TRIBULATION position in eschatology. The series pursues the question: Will Christians go through the tribulation period. Rather than providing a quick answer the process digs into Scripture.
We are in a study of end-time prophecy trying to answer one question: Will Christians go through the tribulation period? We are now examining the three prominent answers given to the question by futurists:
(1) The Pre-tribulation position is that Christians will be raptured before the seven-year tribulation period.
(2) The Mid-tribulation camp says the rapture will happen in the middle of the tribulation period.
(3) Proponents of the Post-tribulation position believe the rapture will happen at the same time as the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation period.
Last week we examined a variant of the pre-tribulation position known as partial rapture. It is sometimes called the split-rapture theory. We determined that dividing the church (the Body of Christ) into two resurrections is not supported by the weight of the scriptures. Therefore, we concluded that this position is probably not supportable and decided that the whole church will be raptured at the same time as the Bride of Christ. Now we are ready to examine each of the three positions on the timing of the rapture in relationship to the tribulation period.
Today we will consider the PRE-TRIBULATION position. We will only have time to address the major STRENGTHS of this position today. Next week we will balance that out by discussing its weaknesses. Analyzing the other two positions should go faster because we will deal with most of the major issues while evaluating the pre-tribulation position.
The Lord is requiring me to dig much deeper into this study than I initially planned. There must be a reason for that, so I am just going with it. The times we’re in may require it. Most of the time when people preach on this subject, they simply present their position. That is often done with an emphasis on the strengths of their position and very little discussion of the weaknesses. Our approach is to present both strengths and weaknesses of each position as objectively as possible. No one does that perfectly, but we are trying to look at it from more than one perspective.
There are many issues of eschatology that I am absolutely convinced of and unmovable. I believe Jesus is literally and physically returning to the earth in His glorified body to rule and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I believe believers will be literally and physically resurrected with a glorified body like the one Christ has. I could go on and on with doctrines that are so clear in Scripture. There is no debate about them as far as I’m concerned.
But the timing of the Lord’s return is something no one fully knows. Even the angels don’t know the day and hour of Christ’s return. We’re looking at our subject through a glass darkly with a teachable spirit. We’re searching the scriptures like the Bereans did to learn what we can. The final answer that we arrive at is not as important as what we will learn in the process. So I hope you will persevere with me as we seek to understand what we can and trust God with the secret things He has not revealed.
Let’s talk about some of the strengths of the pre-tribulation position. It has a lot of strong points to recommend it. That’s why so many conservative, Bible-believing scholars embrace it. Like the other two positions, it is built on a literal interpretation of Scripture. But in what ways might this approach be preferable over the other two positions.
I. It recognizes the biblical PURPOSE OF THE TRIBULATION PERIOD.
In a previous message we identified two primary purposes for the seven-year tribulation. Do you remember what they are? They are the outpouring of wrath on the ungodly gentile nations and the final preparations for Israel to receive her Messiah. With the church in heaven according to this position, the focus of God’s dealings during the tribulation period is on those two objectives.
It is easy to read Scripture with ourselves at the center of the interpretation. Replacement theology does that in my opinion. Instead of recognizing Israel’s rightful place in God’s plan, everything said to them is about me as a Christian. At a lesser degree, it is possible to put the church at the center of the tribulation period when Israel is really the focus.
The book of Revelation provides the most detail about the tribulation period. It’s content and symbolism are very Jewish. The revelation was given to a Jew knowledgeable of Old Testament Scripture. That should be kept in mind by anyone trying to understand the book. Although it does not directly quote the Old Testament, some estimate nearly 70% of the verses contain Old Testament references.i
In his exposition of Revelation, W. A. Criswell points out some of the Jewish symbolism and writes, “Though he never quotes from the Old Testament directly, John reflects the prophetic language and visions of the books of the Old Testament. When we see the symbols and the signs and the pictures in the Revelation, we can go back to the Old Testament and find their meaning.”ii