Some argue against the pre‑trib view, saying that it is a more recent doctrine. All the church fathers held to something different, they claim. But that is not true. There were many early church writers who held to an imminent, at‑any‑moment rapture. In AD 373, Ephraem the Syrian wrote,
For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.
Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John, wrote in the second century,
But even if no church father had mentioned a pre‑tribulation rapture, that would not concern me because, as we have seen and will now see again, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will come for His bride prior to the wrath of God being poured out on the earth.
Another very popular argument against the pre‑trib view is that the church deserves some suffering. In fact, Jesus said that difficult times are going to come. In John 16:33, He told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” But just like not all antichrists are the antichrist, not all tribulations are the tribulation. The Greek word used here is thlipsis and means “trouble, tribulation, oppression, persecution.” Jesus could not have been telling His disciples that they would endure the great tribulation, because they didn’t. They underwent trouble, oppression, persecution, and, yes, tribulation, but they died long before the seven years of God’s judgment on the earth.
“But, Amir, look how easy the Western church has it,” some say. “The greatest trial most of us have is when the espresso machine is down at the Holy Roaster’s coffee bar in the lobby.” First, watch your tone. A broken coffee machine is no laughing matter, especially for an Israeli. But I do get your point. Realize, though, that Jesus was making a blanket statement. He was not saying that every Christian must have a certain number of holes punched into their tribulation suffering card before they are ready for heaven. His point was that the disciples and the church in general should expect that pain and heartache are going to come their way because of their alignment with Him. We should be ready for trouble. And rather than receiving such with shame, we should accept it with pride, recognizing that we have the joy of enduring some of the anguish that our Savior felt as he died for our salvation.
I want to arm you with the reasons that a pre‑trib rapture best fits both Scripture and logic. The goal is for you to not only know what you believe, but why you believe it.
Pre-Trib Argument 1: God’s Pattern Is to Remove the Righteous Before Wrath
A simple reading through Scripture will reveal that time after time, God has removed His people before unleashing His wrath upon a sinful world. It wasn’t initially that way. After Adam and Eve’s sin, the wicked were removed from the righteous. “[God] drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). The Garden of Eden was a holy place where God had walked, so sinful man got the boot.
But then, time passed, and evil spread over the world. God regretted making mankind and decided to pour out His wrath on sinful humanity. However, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). So, rather than destroying Noah with the unrighteous, God exempted the righteous from the imminent onset of His judgment.
This same godly attribute was displayed toward Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Sodom and Gomorrah were such cesspools of sin that God decided that it was time to let loose His judgment upon the cities. The Lord visited His servant, Abraham, and revealed to the patriarch His plan of destruction. Abraham, knowing that his nephew Lot lived in the region, began to bargain with God in typical Jewish fashion:
Abraham then decreased the number to 45, then to 40. Five times, Abraham sought to renegotiate the deal, bringing the number all the way down to 10. But the numbers are not what is important. Abraham understood that it was not in God’s character to subject the righteous to His intentional wrath against the unrighteous. Ultimately, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, but not before God rescued righteous Lot and his family from His judgment.
Christians are told to separate themselves from the world. John wrote in his first letter, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). But this was a spiritual separation he was speaking of. We cannot physically separate ourselves from the world. Yes, we can buy land in Montana, build a compound, and hide behind electric fences topped with razor wire. However, if God’s judgment comes, all your defenses won’t be able to stop it. Only God has the ability to separate His church from the discipline He is bringing upon Israel and wrath He is pouring out upon the sinful world. What a comfort it is to know that removing His bride from the coming onslaught is exactly what He has promised to do.
Pre-Trib Argument 2: Christ’s Return Is Imminent
As Jesus was closing the canon of Scripture, He emphasized His imminent return. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book…And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:7, 12). Merriam‑Webster defines the word imminent as “ready to take place” and “happening soon.”1 When it comes to Bible prophecy, it is the latter definition that most people seem to focus on. “If Jesus’ return was imminent in the first century, it should have happened soon after He promised to come quickly—or at least at some point in the last 2,000 years!”
But biblical imminence has more to do with the first definition—that it is “ready to take place.” When Jesus said He was coming quickly, He was letting His readers know that all is ready and He could come at any moment. That is why Paul was convinced that Jesus could come in his lifetime. Notice that he used the pronoun we throughout this all‑important passage:
This we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:15‑18).
Paul was ready and waiting. He had been transported once up to heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1‑4), and he was more than ready to take a return flight. In both Jesus’ and Paul’s words, there are no qualifying events that must take place before Christ’s return. There is a window of time that Paul creates with the following words of 2 Thessalonians 2, which firmly sets borders between which the rapture must occur:
The mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming (vv. 7‑8).
The opening of this window is the moment of Paul’s writing. Because of his sense of imminency, the rapture could have happened anytime after those words were written. The closing of the window is the removal of the Restrainer. Paul’s temporal phrase “and then,” which introduces the rise of the antichrist, necessitates that the rapture must have already happened. If the antichrist is on the scene, the church is not.
Even in the Olivet Discourse, the “beginning of sorrows” just tells us what the world will be like in the last days (Matthew 24:8). Any specific events mentioned will pertain to the tribulation, not the rapture. And there is certainly no place in Scripture that says, “Once you see the rise of the antichrist, then begin to count out three‑and‑a‑half years. Then Jesus will come in the clouds to take you.” Or, “When the third temple is built, understand that there will be only seven years of horror and misery before Jesus will come again to take the church to be with Him.”
All is ready. At any moment, Jesus can come to take us to be with Him. In the meantime, keep one eye on the mission field around you and one eye on the clouds above; keep one hand on the plow and one hand lifted in praise to Him.
Pre-Trib Argument 3: The Son’s Work Is Sufficient for the Father
Think back to when our Savior was suffering on the cross. He had been beaten and tortured. He had been mocked and spat upon. Finally, He had been nailed to a wooden crossbar and hung up to slowly suffocate to death. John described the final moments before Jesus died:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit ( John 19:28‑30).
Look again at those final words: “It is finished!” The penalty for our sins was paid. The door was opened for our righteousness. Rec‑ onciliation with our Creator was at hand. We now have the freedom to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). While on the cross, Jesus didn’t cry out, “It is mostly finished!” John included no asterisk leading to a footnote that said, “Author’s note: Jesus meant ‘finished‑ish.’ You’re still going to need a little fire in your life to make you truly righteous.”
The work of our Messiah on the cross was wholly sufficient for our justification. There is no more penalty left to be paid. As the great nineteenth‑century hymn goes:
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
Pre-Trib Argument 4: A Literal Interpretation of Scripture
Any rapture view other than the pre‑trib view must take either part or all of Revelation 4–18 and look for the church somewhere in the events. Unfortunately for them, it will be a futile search. Some will say, “But Amir, you are making an argument from silence. Just because the church is not mentioned doesn’t mean it isn’t there.” That reasoning falls apart, however, with the context. Chapters 1–3 focus exclusively on the church. To say that, as Revelation continues, the church is enduring the suffering of the judgments but John just neglects to mention them is illogical and ridiculous. If the Lamb is responsible for opening the seals that unleash havoc and plagues on His beloved bride, how does He not even acknowledge her? The only way to place the church into the judgments of Revelation is to allegorize the events.
The same holds true for Jesus’ words in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24–25 and Paul’s encouragements to the church in 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5, and 2 Thessalonians 2. The only conclusion derived from a literal interpretation of these chapters is that Jesus can come at any moment to take His church to be with Him. We will look more at the importance of a literal hermeneutic in the next chapter (You can find this in Amir’s book Has the Tribulation Begun?).
Pre-Trib Argument 5: The Twofold Purpose of the Tribulation
The tribulation is the time of Jacob’s trouble and the day of God’s wrath upon the unbelieving world. It is discipline for the rebellious Jew and punishment for the sinful Gentile. As we saw in the last chapter, there is no place for the church in the tribulation. The only purpose one can come up with is that Jesus as the Groom wants a holier, more righteous bride, so He is going to purify her by fire. But if we have been made perfectly clean by the blood of our Messiah, what will suffering do for us? How do you improve on the perfection imputed to us by the act of a perfect Savior?
God has planned the tribulation for a reason. The church is not part of that reason.
Pre-Trib Argument 6: A True Comfort
As we saw in pre‑trib argument 2, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the coming rapture. At the end of that passage, he concluded by saying, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). He then went on in chapter 5 to talk about the suddenness of Christ’s return and the necessity of the church remaining vigilant in carrying out its mission in a darkened world. He wrapped up the section by writing,
God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing (5:9‑11).
My friend, we are not appointed to wrath. As the church, there “is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Yes, we will have tribulations—some more than others. But for those who are in Christ Jesus, we will not have the tribulation. Jesus is coming to remove the church, His bride, before the judgment begins.
No, the tribulation has not begun. If Jesus is your Savior and your Lord, you will be raptured before it starts. I pray that you are comforted with those words.
Excerpted from Amir Tsarfati’s book Has the Tribulation Begun? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2023) pages 117-125.
- “Imminent,” Merriam-Webster
Amir Tsarfati is a native Israeli and former major in the Israeli Defense Forces. He is the founder and president of Behold Israel—a nonprofit ministry that provides Bible teaching through tours, conferences, and social media. It also provides unique access to news and information about Israel from a biblical and prophetic standpoint. Amir is married with four children, and resides in Northern Israel.