An important doctrine in dispensationalism is the pre-tribulation rapture. When one divides things, we’ll find that events talking about the church contradict events talking about tribulation saints. This means we must split the church and the tribulation.
Now, we have a rapture for the church. But, then, for the people who go through the tribulation, they have a post-tribulation rapture. You can see this in passages like Matthew 24 or Revelation 7.
So there’s a rapture for the church without tribulation and a rapture for Israel with tribulation. That’s the evidence one finds in the Bible.
Now let’s address the passage at hand. The only verse you can use as evidence for the church going through some tribulation is 2 Thessalonians 2. The problem with this is that verse 2 talks about the day of Christ. If one keeps reading, they’re not going to see the day of Christ until the Antichrist is revealed. The key to this passage is in the day of Christ.
This day of Christ cannot happen before two events: falling away and revealing the Antichrist. What is the day of Christ? It is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gathering together, the rapture.
So, both the falling away and the Antichrist must be revealed before the coming of Christ and the gathering together may take place. Paul is not focusing on rapture here, but simply the day of Christ. The focus of this in the Bible is always the apocalypse.
Christians should not be fearful of the rapture happening. They should be comforted according to 1 Thessalonians 5:18. So why would Paul say that the rapture should be a day of comfort there and then imply that it is a day of terror and fear? Verse 1 in 2 Thessalonians 2 discusses two apocalyptic events, not just the rapture. It also includes the coming of the Son of man and the judgment in wrath. This is what Paul is warning about, not the rapture.
This proves pre-tribulation rapture. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.“
In verses 1-4, he talks about how the day of Christ cannot occur before those two events. Then he talks about the tribulation.
2 Thessalonians 2:5-6: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.”
Paul is telling them what is happening at the tribulation. Which group of people is this applied to?
2 Thessalonians 2:12-13: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:”
Look at verses 12 and 13 and the change that takes place. Up to verse 13, he’s talking about the tribulation, but then he switches to talking about the church. When he talks about the tribulation, he uses the words “he” and “they,” but he never says “we” or “us.” He is talking about others, not the church. Then he says “but” and brings about the contrast of the church in the tribulation. Notice in the verses to follow that he then says that we are called to glory with Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:17 confirms this, that the rapture should comfort our hearts. Paul contrasts the church with the other people who go through the tribulation. He makes a clear distinction here. Thus, we can conclude that this passage does not mean that the church is in tribulation, but rather that the church should take comfort in the day of rapture.
There is a doctrine out there that denies a rapture for Christians taking place before the tribulation. We believe that Christians will not go through the tribulation and that we will be raptured before the tribulation. The post-tribulation people believe that there are verses that talk about Christians going through the tribulation and thus, they believe that there must be a post-tribulation rapture. The fatal flaw in this is that they do not use dispensationalism and they do not divide verses to the right people and the right time period.
They often use passages like Matthew 24, Job, Mark 13, or Luke 21. The problem is that whenever you look at these verses, it is impossible to not see the nation of Israel in it. Focus on the word tribulation. When we talk about tribulation here, we’re talking about end times tribulation, not a regular tribulation or hardship. When you look at end times tribulation, you’ll always find that the Jews are connected in all of these verses.
However, when you look at the church and tribulation, it’s never mentioned to prepare for the tribulation. It talks rather about the rapture and how to live in this church age before the tribulation. The only proof text that you can use is 2 Thessalonians 2. However, even in this passage, Paul directed the tribulation to a different group of people than those he was speaking to. He then contrasted it starting in verse 13 by saying “but we”. He said we are called to glory and to be in comfort. He’s talking about the rapture of the church.
There is simply nothing about tribulation that is about the Christian church. Not only that, but if you look at Revelation 1-3, it is all addressed to the church. Then when you look at chapters 4 and 5, we’re up in heaven. Then from chapter 6 onward to the end of the tribulation, the church isn’t even mentioned. In all of this, however, the Jews are mentioned in chapter 7. So going through the tribulation is going to be applied to the nation of Israel, not the church.
If you look at the Old Testament, the tribulation is called Jacob’s trouble or Israel’s trouble. The tribulation is purposed for the people of Israel as their cleansing and judgment. It isn’t for the church. Christians are getting raptured before the tribulation. The post-tribulation rapture is for those who go through the tribulation.