This article is not about arguing my position or trying to disprove your position. It’s about the often overlooked common ground between the pre-trib and post-trib positions of the return of the Lord.
Pre-trib is the eschatological position that believes the saved will be in Heaven before the reign of the Anti-Christ and a tribulation period of seven-years. See the article Pre-Trib Rapture: Sequence of Events to learn more.
Post-trib is the eschatological position that believes that Jesus returns for the saved after a period of tribulation. See the article Post-Trib Rapture: Sequence of Events to learn more.
Below, I will share three things that are common ground in the bigger picture of the pre-trib vs post-trib debate.
The Blessed Hope
First, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 is common ground for Bible believing Christians, and it even says “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” What words? These words: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Post-trib views call this the second coming and pre-trib views call this the rapture. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 uses the word “harpazō” which means “catch up” or “pluck” or “take away by force.” The word “rapture” comes from the Latin for this, but don’t be quick to oppose using the Latin to describe a biblical truth written in Greek.
A similar example is found in Ephesians 4:11 where the word “poimēn” means shepherd, but the King James Version took that Greek word and translated it with the Latin “pastor” instead. Today, we all use the term “pastor” to refer to the shepherding gift for the church, just like we use the term “rapture” to refer to the saints being caught-up to meet their Lord in the air on the day He returns.
Whatever term you choose to use, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 is common ground for followers of Christ regardless of which eschatological position is held. Besides, it specifically tells us to encourage one-another with this Blessed Hope of our Lord’s return! This is the one aspect we should all find encouragement from, that the dead in Christ will rise and we will meet the Lord in the air — away from the world that has brought us so much sorrow.
Being with Jesus
Second, once we get beyond 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, regardless of its timing according to our pre-trib or post-trib position, we will have the common ground of being with the Lord Jesus Christ throughout all eternity.
Do you really think that I or you or anyone for that matter is going to be concerned about which eschatological position turned out to be correct? We probably won’t even notice if we are in Heaven or on Earth or in the Millennium or wherever because of the light of God’s glory.
We may think to go ask Jesus, but I have a feeling that as we turn to go find Him a myriad of Angels could fly by shouting greetings to us by name, leaving us an awe. A loved one who came up in the resurrection from distance shores may run up to us for a long awaiting embrace.
I don’t think any of us, pre-trib or post-trib, will even be conscience of such positions when we are face-to-face with our Creator, our Savior, our Lord. I’m not saying we won’t be conscience of the glory and magnificence of it all, but I just think that our earthly theological positions will fall into that category of “former things” as mentioned in Isaiah 43:18 and Revelation 21:4.
Protection from Wrath
Third, even if pre-trib is wrong and post-trib is right, and we are alive through the terrible tribulation, we still have common ground in the assurance that the wrath of God and its outpouring as depicted in Revelation is not for believers but for unbelievers.
Before I go further with this point, let me explain something that I have found not to be well understood by some who argue against the pre-trib view. That is, a belief that the pre-trib view claims escape from persecution.
Students of the Bible, whether pre-trib or post-trib, understand that persecution is promised to followers of Christ. We know that in these last days there will be an increase of persecution and a building up to a general time of tribulation on earth for all committed Bible believers.
Persecution is different than wrath, because when we get to Revelation we read about God’s judgement wrath is against unrepentant unbelievers who have been persecuting His saints. Persecution is Satan’s judgement against the followers of God, while wrath is God’s judgement against the followers of Satan.
When we read the terms “persecution” or “tribulation” or “trials” or “troubles” we understand that these are our lot in bearing the cross for Christ as a witness in a world that increasingly rejects our Savior. When we hear the mention of “tribulation” in connection with a theological discussion on pre-trib and post-trib the reference refers to a seven year period identified from Daniel 9:25-27 or more generally as the “great tribulation” spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:21.
Back to my point…there is protection from the wrath of God for the followers of God.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 reminds us that we are waiting for Jesus “which delivered us from the wrath to come” and 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 reminds us that “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Revelation 9:4 we read as the fifth seal is opened and the locust are loosed from the Abyss that they are only allowed to harm “those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”
When we read in Revelation 16 about the seven last plagues we read that they will only fall upon “the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:2).
Which should not be a surprise because when the plagues fell upon Egypt, God spared His people by not allowing the plagues to fall on them. You can read that in Exodus 8:22, Exodus 9:4, Exodus 9:26, Exodus 10:23, and Exodus 11:7 God says He did this “that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” or we could say between the believer and unbeliever.
Let’s not forget that just because God has given us a promise of protection elsewhere in the Bible, doesn’t mean that they are not applicable in the midst of the end-time tribulation. For instance, 1 Corinthians 10:13 which promises that the trial or temptation we face can not overpower us and Psalms 91:7-8 promises “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.”
On a final note, generally speaking, I have found those who hold a post-trib view tend to emphasize preparation for the tribulation while those who hold a pre-trib view tend to emphasize hope in the Lord’s soon return.
I prefer to emphasize the Blessed Hope, but if you have a post-trib view please don’t fret about the pre-trib position. With the way events are rapidly unfolding across this globe, we are about to find out who’s right.