Question: Dr. Luginbill, As always I thank you for your past help. Your ministry is a great resource for me! Can you help me with any info on the scriptural differences between the pre-, mid-, and post-tribulational rapture approaches? Thanks
Response: There is a lot written on this (much by yours truly as well). Most of what I have said about the rightness of the post-trib position and the wrongness of the pre-trib position can be found in Peter's Epistle's #27, "Tribulational Security" (just click the link). The essence of the argument for post- and against pre- is that 1) there is not a single passage in the Bible that even on the face of it teaches an outright pre-trib rapture; and 2) the thrust of all the NT passages which talk about the resurrection is to connect this with Christ's "return" (Greek parousia) - since there is only ONE return of Christ, namely, the 2nd Advent, there can only be one time for the "rapture", that is, the living resurrection of believers and that time is the 2nd Advent at the end of the Tribulation. In the study linked above, all the pertinent passages are treated. "Pre-trib" people, on the other hand, inevitably focus upon four main passages:
1) 1Thes.4:13-18 - but this passage does not really give any indication that the events discussed are before the Tribulation.
2) 2Thes.2:3 - but the "departure" sometimes wrongly inserted in translations of this passage is really the Greek apostasia = apostasy, and is a reference to the predicted "Great Apostasy", the mass turning away from the Lord which take place in the Tribulation (spoken of by Jesus: Matt.24:10-13).
3) Rev.3:10 - but the "preserving" of the Philadelphian believers from the Tribulation has already occurred, no matter how one interprets this passage (i.e., if one does not take the seven churches as prophetic, then this generation of believers passed on nineteen centuries ago - they did not go through the Tribulation). My own view (contained in the relatively soon to be released Coming Tribulation: Part 2) is that the Philadelphia generation or era of the Church was that of the Reformers (we are in the last era/generation of the Church, Laodicea).
4) Matt.24:36-41 - but notice that in the context (verses 29-31) the 2nd Advent is in view, not the beginning of the Tribulation, so that those "taken" are indeed believers who are resurrected at the Lord's return (2nd Advent).
Not that there aren't other passages people use (again, see the Peter #27 study for details), but these are among the most famous, and none of them can be really be made to convincingly teach a pre-trib rapture (upon close inspection). The pre-trib rapture theory was an important phase in the rediscovery of the truths of eschatology lost in the dogma of the bureaucratic medieval Roman church, but it was constructed before many truths about the Tribulation had been correctly "put together", and is now being defended for tradition's sake in the same way some people defend the priesthood or infant baptism (the pre-trib rapture certainly has no compelling scriptural basis). As to the "mid-trib" rapture, this is a very strange view and one whose basis is most difficult to understand (proponents: J. Buswell and N. Harrison) - not many people at all subscribe to it for the obvious reason that there are no scriptures which even suggest it (i.e., it is entirely inductive).
Hope this helps answer your question. Please also see the following links:
The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.
The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride.
Yours in Christ,