Dispensationalism and the Pre-Tribulational Rapture
The idea of the pre-trib. rapture is held by many. It is held by theologians in several different camps such as, covenantal, epigenic, and dispensational, but it seems to be a defining trait in dispensationalism. You will rarely find a dispensationalist who would be post-trib. There are a few of course, but they are so few in number it is hardly noticeable.
Why is it that dispensationalism seems to demand a pre-trib. rapture? I understand that the reason most dispensationalist would give for this is because they believe it is Biblical, but why do they all seem to end up there?
The answer seems to be found in the Israel/Church distinction. I’m not sure of progressive dispensationalists on this point, but Lewis Sperry Chafer believed that because of this distinction there was actually more than one Gospel that was, is, or is going to be preached. In fact he believed in four different Gospels. I just want to focus on two. The first one we are familiar with, it is the Gospel of grace. It is being preached now in the church age. The other one is the gospel of the kingdom. Since there are two different people groups to be saved, Israel and the church, there must be at least two gospels. Chafer says this gospel is the proclamation of God setting up the Davidic kingdom. He goes on to say that this Gospel has two preachings. It started with John the Baptist and ended with the Jewish rejection of the king (Jesus). The other preaching of this Gospel is to be preached in the future during the tribulation.
How does this play into the pre-trib rapture? It has to do with the fact that you can’t have two different gospels being preached at the same time, so in order to preach this gospel during the tribulation you must remove the Church. If we had two different preachings going on, one saying just believe and receive Grace, and another that says line up under Israel because their kingdom is going to be established, this would lead to some confusion, because which gospel would the people pledge their allegiance to? In order to avoid this confusion, the rapture is needed to be able to move on to the next stage in God’s work of setting up the earthly kingdom.
I’m not necessarily against the pre-trib. rapture, but Chafer and Scofield’s view seems a bit strange.
P.S. On a personal note I was saved in 1982 after watching the second movie in the Thief in the Night series. In fact I have a copy of all four movies in my library just as a remider. They are hard to sit through by today's movie standards but I owe the people who put those movies together a bit of gratitude because God used them to call me to faith in Him.