Pearl of Great Value - Matt. 13:45-46

Four Fabrications of Pretrib Proponents

By Richard Kirby

The title of this study is a tongue-twister and may be excessively alliterative, but it accurately describes what the study is about. People who believe that the Church will be raptured out before the Tribulation have invented, fabricated out of thin air, four pseudo-facts to support their doctrine. 1) They have fabricated a second Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom, which they distinguish from the Gospel of Grace. 2) They have fabricated a second group of saints, which they call “Tribulation saints,” to distinguish them from the saints who (they say) have been taken out and will not be present during the Tribulation. 3) They have fabricated a second group of “the elect,” who constitute those “redeemed during the Tribulation,” as opposed to the elect, who are the Church. 4) They have fabricated another Second Coming, which is secret, invisible, seen only by those who are supposedly taken out prior to the Tribulation. This first Second Coming is not only invisible to “those who dwell upon the earth”; it is invisible to the honest, unbiased Bible student as well.


These four fabrications have no support in Scripture and serve only to bolster their erroneous doctrine. By pretribulationist prestidigitation they are made to appear, presto, out of nowhere


In the following study I shall refer to the comments and notes found in a popular study Bible, Ryrie Study Bible, which espouses the pretribulation rapture doctrine; and I will answer from Scripture the errors contained in those comments.


I. Fabrication One: Another Gospel. In Ryrie’s note on Matthew 24:14, the editors of the above-mentioned study Bible have the following comment: “This Gospel of the Kingdom. This is the good news that will be preached during the Tribulation days concerning the coming of Messiah and the setting up of His kingdom” (p. 1560).                                                                                                                                   


Matthew 24:14 says:  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”


According to Pretrib proponents this cannot be the “Gospel of Grace” because the Church and the Holy Spirit have already been taken out. So they seek to distinguish the Gospel of the Kingdom from the Gospel of Grace. But this is assuming the very thing that must be proved.


And s uch a distinction has absolutely no support in Scripture; it is a mere invention to support an unscriptural position. Any proclamation of the Gospel must include salvation by grace through faith AND the Second Coming of Christ. In the New Testament both aspects of the Gospel consistently appear together.


Mark 1:14-15: After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 5 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’”


I defy anyone to find two Gospels in this passage. The Gospel, the One and Only Gospel, is the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace of God. The Gospel of the Kingdom begins with the charge to “repent and believe the Good News.” The Gospel of grace includes the preaching of the Kingdom of God. Jesus recognized only one Gospel and so did Paul (Gal. 1:6-9). Paul makes no distinction between the preaching of God’s Kingdom and the preaching of grace through faith.


Acts 20:24-25:  I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.  25 Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.”


Paul accomplished his task of witnessing to the “Gospel of the grace of God” by “preaching the kingdom.” If the Gospel of the Kingdom was some special Gospel reserved for the Tribulation period, why was Paul preaching it to Gentiles in Ephesus?  No, the Gospel of grace culminates in the Kingdom of God, and the Gospel of the Kingdom begins with the preaching of grace.


Acts 28:23, 30-31:  “They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets… 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”


It’s a shame that Christian scholars are deceived into fabricating other gospels to support their darling doctrine.


II. Fabrication Two: Another Group of ‘The Elect.’  According to Ryrie’s note on Matt. 24:22, “the elect” in this passage refer to “those redeemed during the Tribulation.” (p. 1560). Yet throughout the New Testament the term “the elect” clearly refers to the Church of Jesus Christ.


There is only one possible reason to say that “the elect” in Matthew 24 are anyone other than the Church: that is the false assumption that the Church has already been raptured before the Tribulation. Again this is assuming the very thing they need to approve. This logical fallacy is called "Begging the Question," and was recognized as such as far back as Aristotle.

In every other place than this Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36) the New Testament writers mean the redeemed of the Church when they speak of “the elect.” I don’t need to multiply examples; here are a few: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” (Rom. 8:33); “put on as God’s elect…” (Col. 3:12); “Endure all things for the elect’s sake” (II Tim. 2:10); “Shall not God avenge His elect, who cry unto Him day and night”? (Luke 18:7); “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” (I Peter 1:2).


Anyone reading the Olivet discourse without the blinders of this false teaching would assume that the elect mentioned herein also refer to the Church. In that case, Jesus’ words would mean that deception during the Tribulation would be so convincing that it would (if possible) deceive even born-again believers (Mt. 24:24). He would assume that the time of the Tribulation will be cut short for the sake of Christians alive at that time. He would see that “immediately after the Tribulation of those days” Christ will send forth His angels and gather His Church unto Himself, as He promised (John 14:3). But because they must believe that the Church has been raptured before the Tribulation, they invent a new class of “elect.”


III, Fabrication Three: A Second Group of ‘Saints.’  Pretribbers have created a category of saints nowhere hinted at in Scripture. These are people who are not part of the Church, which (they say) has already been raptured. But Christians are called saints throughout the New Testament: around 50 times the expression applies to members of the Body of Christ, the Church. In the Old Testament “saints” are sometimes holy angels and sometimes holy men and women. And in one or two New Testament passages “saints” seems to signify both holy angels and redeemed men.


I Thess. 3:13: “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones [saints, KJV].” 


Since even pretribbers admit that Christ will bring with Him both angels and the Church, “all His holy ones” could refer to angels and redeemed humans. Indeed:


II Thess 1:9-10: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people [saints] and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”


Quite clearly “saints” and “all those who believe” refer to Christians and include the “church of the Thessalonians,” whom Paul is addressing. Yet in the Olivet Discourse and in many parts of Revelation, where the Tribulation is clearly in view, pretribbers arbitrarily insist that “the saints” mentioned are “Tribulation Saints,” that is, people converted during the Tribulation. The term “tribulation saints” was created ad hoc to explain the presence of SAINTS in Revelation chapters 5-22, which are generally recognized as describing event of the Tribulation and afterward. The argument runs like this: Saints are present in the Tribulation. The Church will not be present in the Tribulation. Therefore the Saints in Revelation cannot be the Church. They must be “Tribulation Saints.” This imaginary group are people converted after the Church’s departure, without the Holy Spirit, which presumably was taken out with the Church before the Tribulation began.


IV. Fabrication Four: A Second Second Coming.  Logic and language require that there be only one Second Coming, or Coming of the Lord. The word for Christ’s Return is parousia, which means coming, presence, arrival, advent; it is sometimes a technical term for a royal visit. I have not been able to find any hint of a “secret rapture,” which pretribbers say must occur before the Tribulation period. Nearly everyone agrees that Christ will return in wrath at the end of the Tribulation to destroy His enemies. But pretribbers insist that Christ will first come invisibly, secretly before the Tribulation. The trouble is that the word parousia is used of His visible, extremely visible, coming and His taking of the Church to Himself.


In order to show the error of this doctrine we have only to find passages in which the word parousia refers to the rapture of the Church. This would demonstrate that the one and only Coming of Christ is not a secret, invisible rapture. Let us see.


I Cor. 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes [at His parousia], those who belong to him.”


The time that all Christians will be made alive [i.e. resurrected, raptured] will be at His Coming. But His coming will definitely NOT BE SECRET.


Matt. 24:26-27:  “So if anyone tells you, `There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, `Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” 


I Thess. 4:13-17:  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.


There is nothing secret about the Lord’s Coming; it appears quite noisy and visible, in fact. It is at the Lord’s loud, highly-visible parousia that the “dead in Christ” will be raised and those “who are still alive and are left” will be raptured. The Rapture will occur at His Coming, and His Coming will not be a secret.


Matt. 24:29 “Immediately after the distress of those days [tribulation] the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 30 At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.


Here is what will occur at Christ’s Coming (parousia): 1) All nations will see Him and will mourn; 2) He will then send His angels and Rapture His Church. Those who say that He will come first to Rapture His Church, then after the Tribulation to punish His enemies, do not have any scripture to prove that. In fact, there is only one Second Coming, at the end of the Tribulation, when Christ will Rapture His Church, raise the righteous dead, visit His punishing wrath on those who hate Him, and usher in His everlasting Kingdom.


Not so, say the Pretrib proponents. Like magicians, they create something out of nothing. By sleight of hand first you don’t see it and then you do. Presto, we give you a second coming that is not a Second Coming; Abracadabra, we give you “the saints” who are not the saints; Hocus-pocus, we present to you the elect who are not the elect. The hand is quicker than the eye. First you have one Gospel; now you have two. What ingenious lengths they go to to fabricate support for their fond notions, even if they have to conjure them out of thin air. May God help us to be like the wise Virgins and have oil in our lamps. Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!