By Nathan Jones
What is the Pre-Trib Rapture?
To answer this question, we are pleased to have as our special guest the renowned Bible Prophecy teacher, Dr. Tommy Ice. Tommy is the head of the Pre-Trib Research Center and is a prolific writer on all aspects of Bible prophecy.
Pre-Trib Research Center
Dr. Reagan: Tell us about the Pre-Trib Research Center?
Dr. Ice: It's an organization started back in 1992 by Tim LaHaye and myself to research, teach and defend the Pre-Tribulational Rapture and related Bible prophecy doctrines. It revolves primarily around our annual conference where we have people who are experts in biblical areas. We will usually take a topic such as Israel, or last year the Rapture because it was our 20th anniversary, and we carefully in-depth deal with them. People present papers. Sure, it's a little on the academic side, but that's because we think this is what people need to have the biblical ammo as we interact and deal with a lot of people who oppose our views. We also present the truth of what the Scriptures say about the Pre-Tribulational Rapture.
Dr. Reagan: You are the full-time director of this organization, right?
Dr. Ice: Right.
Pre-Trib Rapture Defined
Nathan Jones: I have two questions I would like to open this interview with. One, since some people might not know, what exactly is the Rapture? And, two, what is the Pre-Trib Rapture?
Dr. Ice: The Rapture refers to the people who are alive and are members of the Church of Jesus Christ, meaning those who are saved. They are the ones who will be taken up to Heaven in an instant moment of time. In essence, that's when the Resurrection of the Church will occur, though the Rapture and the Resurrection are two separate events. The Rapture is for living believers in Christ and the Resurrection is for those dead believers in Christ. But, both will end up in their new resurrection bodies as they meet Christ in the clouds and follow Him back to the Father's house, as John 14 says.
The Pre-Tribulational Rapture is the belief that the Rapture is an event separate from the Second Coming. The Rapture will take place before the 70th Week of Daniel, which is the seven year period of the Tribulation.
Nathan Jones: Hence Pre-Trib, meaning "before the Tribulation," right?
Dr. Ice: Yes.
Rapture Word Origins
Dr. Reagan: Tommy, many argue that the Rapture has to be an unbiblical concept because the word isn't even found in the Bible.
Dr. Ice: Well, it depends on what Bible translation you read.
Dr. Reagan: What do you mean by that?
Dr. Ice: The Greek word in the original language is harpazo. From that word we get our word harpoon. It also means "to seize" and "to take suddenly by force." In fact, it's the same word that's used of the soldiers taking Jesus away from the Garden of Gethsemane.
Dr. Reagan: You are talking about 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the passages talks about being "caught up"?
Dr. Ice: Yes, the word is harpazo, meaning "caught up". Translators could have translated the word as rapture. They could have translated it "to snatch up" or even "the great snatch".
Dr. Reagan: In fact, they did translate harpazo as rapture in the Latin version, didn't they?
Nathan Jones: The Latin word for harpazo is rapio.
Dr. Ice: Yes, and in fact, Jerome around 400 AD when he produced the Latin Vulgate was for 1,500 years the main Bible that everybody used. In Europe during the Reformation period, you had people from different countries who spoke different languages, but when they came together they spoke Latin. This is why today we have a lot of Latin terms, like Trinity, that are not words used in the Bible.
Starting in the 1600's, people began in scholarly circles using the word Rapture to refer to the harpazo or catching up. I have probably about 115-120 commentaries on 1 Thessalonians, and virtually every one of those use the word rapture in those commentaries, because it is another term to refer to the catching up.
Since the Rapture is a big event for Christendom, then of course there's got to be a special word that's used to refer to it. That's how the word Rapture came into parlance in our usage. So indeed, the concept of the Rapture is clearly taught in the Bible.
Nathan Jones: It's so much easier to say "Rapture" than "the Great Snatching Up" or "the Great Catching Away" as 1 Thessalonians 4:17 has it.
Pre-Trib Rapture in Scripture
Dr. Reagan: What Scripture is the concept of the Rapture based on?
Dr. Ice: Jesus introduced the Rapture in the Upper Room Discourse less than 24 hours before He died. If you look at the Upper Room Discourse in John 13-16, Christ alludes to the Rapture three times. Jesus says to the Apostles there three times that there's too much for them to understand, but when the spirit of truth comes, meaning the Holy Spirit, He will guide you into understanding all things. I think that is referring to the Apostles. Every doctrine from chapter 14 onward is brand new. It is Church truth, so to speak. So in these chapters we have the seed planted for what is later developed concerning the Rapture in the New Testament.
In John 14, Christ said that He is going to come back and take them to Himself. Some translations say receive, but it is a word that means for Him to take us to Himself and return with us to the Father's house.
The Rapture is, of course, expanded upon by the Apostles as Christ predicted in 1 Thessalonians 4. In fact it's amazing. Look at the structural analysis of what Jesus said in John 14:1-3 and what Paul taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:12-18. We have the same sequence of events. So, it is very clear Jesus and Paul are talking about the same event of the Rapture.
Pre-Trib Rapture Sequence of Events
Dr. Reagan: Talk about the sequence of events in 1 Thessalonians. What does Paul say is going to happen when the Rapture occurs?
Dr. Ice: Christ is going to give a command. It apparently will be passed down like we do in the military through an echelon. There is going to also be a blowing of the trumpet. That's the general command. And, in that moment, we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that the Rapture will occur as fast as the twinkling of an eye. We will be taken up. Snatched up.
Also, the dead in Christ will raise first, because they have six feet further to go, as they say. (Pure speculation, chuckle.)
Then you have believers being caught up together with the resurrected dead in Christ, and all are taken up into the clouds. That's the point when both the dead and alive in Christ will receive their bodily resurrection. Believers in Christ will be translated on the way up, changing from their mortal to immortal bodies.
We will be taken up to Heaven. We know from other passages that those raptured will then experience the Bema Judgment of the Just while those left behind on earth will have to endure the Tribulation period. Those raptured up to Heaven will by the end of the Tribulation return with Christ at His Second Coming back down to earth.
In the second segment of our interview with Dr. Tommy Ice concerning the Pre-Trib Rapture, he'll cover how the Rapture has been taught historically.