There is no doubt as to where I stand on the Rapture and I thought you might find interesting the doctrinal position of a major denomination (by size) that holds to the "Pre-Tribulational Rapture". These denominations that have held this view as well are:
++The Evangelical Free Church of America
++The Assemblies of God
++The Christian and Missionary Alliance
I have not noted the Baptists here, because of their diversity, there are so many different theological views among Baptists, and there is no common or consistent belief on the "Pre-Trib Rapture" by Baptists. Some are and some are not.
A friend of mine has a grandson that was recently ordained as a pastor in The Assemblies of God. He recently forwarded to me a copy of the A/G doctrine on the Rapture. I have reproduced it exactly as it appears in my hands below:
Under the section "The Blessed Hope" in the Statement of Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God, is the following statement:
"The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those
who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the
Church -(1st Thessalonians 4:16, 17; Romans 8:23; Titus 2:13; 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52)."
Jesus taught that He will return to earth. He was careful to warn His disciples to be constantly prepared for this -(Matthew 24:42-51; 25:1-13; Mark 13:37; Luke 12:37).
They understood that the present age will end with His coming -(Matthew 24:30). The assurance of His return was one of the truths with which He comforted His followers before His death -(John 14:2, 3).
At the time of Christ's ascension two angels came to the group of watching disciples to repeat the promise that He will return. They declared it would be in the same manner as He went away -(Acts 1:11). This clearly means His second coming will be literal, physical, and visible.
The New Testament Epistles refer often to the Second Coming, and the theme of imminence runs through all the passages of Scripture dealing with this subject. Though there would be a period of time between the first and second comings -(Luke 19:11), the whole body of teaching concerning the return of the Lord emphasizes that it will happen suddenly without warning; that believers should be in a state of continual readiness -(Philippians 4:5; Hebrews 10:37; James 5:8, 9; Revelation 22:10).
Believers in the early days of the Church lived in this state of expectancy -(1st Corinthians 1:7; 1st Thessalonians 1:9, 10). Paul's "we" in 1st Corinthians 15:51 and 1st Thessalonians 4:17 shows that he maintained the hope he would be alive when Jesus comes back.
A comparison of passages of Scripture relating to the Second Coming shows that some speak of a visible event seen by all mankind and involving the judgments of sinners. Others describe a coming known only to believers and resulting in their deliverance from earth.
The latter is referred to among evangelicals as the Rapture. This word is not in the English Bible, but has been used so widely that one of the definitions of "rapture" in 'Webster's Third New International Dictionary Unabridged is "Christ's raising up of His true church and its members to a realm above the earth where the whole company will enjoy celestial bliss with its Lord." The word 'raptured' could well be used to translate the individual being taken from a location while another is left. This indicates a sudden removal of believers from the earth with unbelievers left to face tribulation -(Matthew 24:36-42).
Jesus spoke of His return as a time when the nations of the earth shall mourn as they see Him -(Matthew 24:30). The apostle Paul spoke of the Lord's return as a time of judgment and wrath upon the wicked -(2nd Thessalonians 1:7-10).
In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, he considered a different aspect of the Second Coming. This brief passage is the most direct and clear teaching on the Rapture in the New Testament. It speaks only of believers, living and dead. Nothing is said about the wicked seeing Christ at this time. Paul described Jesus as coming in the air, but nothing is said about His feet touching the earth, as we are told elsewhere they will at His return -(Zechariah 14:4). It is the moment when 1st John 3:2 will be fulfilled, and we shall be like Him.
The same Greek word used in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 for "caught up" is used in Acts 8:39 to describe Philip's being "caught away" after baptizing the Ethiopian. The latter verse states that the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away - identifying the source of the power that will remove believers from earth at the Rapture.
In 2nd Thessalonians 2:1 Paul called the Rapture "our gathering together unto him." The Greek word for "gathering" is the same as the one used for "assembling" in Hebrews 10:25, referring to the assembling of Christians for worship. It is a picture of the saints congregating around Christ at His coming for them.
The supernatural removal of godly individuals from earth is not unknown in Scripture. The outstanding event in the life of Enoch was his miraculous disappearance from earth after years of walking with God -(Genesis 5:21-24). The author of Hebrews called this experience a translation, bypassing death -(Hebrews 11:5).
Although some aspects of Elijah's translation differed from Enoch's, it also involved the sudden removal of a believer from the world without experiencing death -(2nd Kings 2:1-13).
First Corinthians 15:51-54 deals with the same event as 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. Here also Paul spoke of the changes that will take place in both living and dead believers at the Rapture. He called this a mystery -(1st Corinthians 15:51), a truth previously unrevealed but made known to him by the Holy Spirit.
In Philippians 3:21 Paul connected the Lord's coming to the time when "our vile body" will be changed --- another reference to the Rapture.
Passages which pertain to the Rapture describe the coming of our Lord for His people. Passages which refer to the revelation of Christ describe the coming of the Lord and His saints. Colossians 3:4 speaks of believers appearing with Christ at His coming. Jude 14 also foresees the Lord's return with His people to execute the judgment referred to in many other passages relating to His public appearing.
Since Scripture does not contradict itself, it seems reasonable to conclude that the passage describing Christ's coming for the saints and with the saints indicate two phases of His coming. We believe it is Scripturally correct to assume that the intervening period between the time when the world will experience the Great Tribulation, involving the reign of Antichrist and the outpouring of God's wrath on the wicked -(Daniel 12:1, 2, 10-13; Matthew 24:15-31; 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12).
Although God's people may endure severe trials before the Lord comes, the Church will be Raptured before the period called the Great Tribulation.
In 2nd Thessalonians 2 Paul indicated certain things must take place before the Day of the Lord (of which the Great Tribulation is a part) can begin. An individual called the man of sin (Antichrist) will appear. The mystery of iniquity has been at work since Paul's time but is being restrained by the power of the Spirit working through the true church. Only when the Church is removed from earth by the Rapture can this man come forward publicly.
In 1st Thessalonians 5, following the passage on the Rapture in chapter 4, Paul taught about the Day of the Lord. He warned of the destruction it will bring to the wicked (vs. 2, 3). He was quick to assure Christians that those who abide in Christ will not be overtaken by it (v. 4).
Still speaking of the Day of the Lord Paul wrote: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" -(v. 9). It seems clear that he meant the deliverance of believers from the judgments of the Day of the Lord, including the Great Tribulation.
Christians are told repeatedly in the New Testament to be watchful for the Lord's appearing. Never are they taught to watch for the Great Tribulation or the appearance of the Antichrist. To expect such things must happen before the Rapture destroys the teaching of imminence with which the New Testament is replete.
Believers are told to wait "for his Son from heaven," not the Great Tribulation -(1st Thessalonians 1:10). When the signs of the end of the age are evident, they are to look up and lift up their heads in expectation of their redemption, not the Great Tribulation -(Luke 21:28).
The signs of the Lord's coming will be fulfilled before His public appearing, but they do not have to be fulfilled before the Rapture. Any teaching that certain events must transpire before the Rapture is out of harmony with the doctrine of imminence.
It is consistent with God's dealings with His people in the Old Testament to believe that the Church will be removed from the world before the Great Tribulation. God did not send the Flood until Noah and his family were safe in the ark. He did not destroy Sodom until Lot was taken out.
The weight of Scripture supports a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Wherever teaching about the Second Coming occurs in the New Testament, imminence is underscored. To interpose other events before the Rapture does does violence to such teaching.
While Christians are looking forward to the coming of the Lord, it is well to remind themselves of Paul's words to Titus: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" -(Titus 2:11-14).
It is my understanding that The Assemblies of God have 66+ million members worldwide. Most of the denominations (daughter-churches of Rome) try to walk in both camps of the Law and Grace. By that I mean that they have a bifurcated understanding of what Grace means. Our opponents on the issue of the "Pre-Tribulation Truth" have so confused their membership, that it has forced many to simply leave the church, others have turned to denominations such as those named at the beginning of this post. In the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches, where their decline in membership; many have found comfort and clarity to the Bible in the non-denominational arena and Bible-based ministries where you find the Dispensational understanding of the Bible taught.
The problem over a Pre-Tribulation Rapture really centers around the matter of God's Grace. Grace is God's unmerited favor to sinners who do not deserve it. Sound like Good News to those of us who were once lost yet it is so offensive to so many. Why? The answer varies among people, Most Christians do not have a problem with grace yet many others do, Lost people need not have a problem with grace depending upon their circumstances.
Why do people have a problem with grace if it is the gift of God not based on works? Why do some Christians want to hear what they can do for God, I mean what can I do to earn His love and His forgiveness. Here are a few thoughts on this stumbling block issue.
1. People are not in control of their salvation. People want to make their own destiny so they think their salvation is in their hands which, clearly it is not the case.
2. People have a problem with grace because they do not want to take God at His Word. The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith, and not of works, yet people have a hard time because we work hard for that promotion, or to get the house the way we want it, or that academic degree. Simply put, the western world is a meritorious culture, driven to achieve, to perform, to succeed. Taking God at His Word means that we can rest in His grace without worrying about our future meaning and that our eternity is secured.
3. People seek satisfaction, and many, including Christians are not satisfied with grace because it is outside of their hands. Many sermons and messages are about doing more and being morally superior than others. They want the feeling of being saved. Salvation was never backed by feelings although sometimes it can appear that way, but when we walk with Jesus sometimes there is no feelings. That is where faith comes into the bigger picture of life. This is linked to the need for significance in work. When one retires, the biggest adjustment comes in transition from work to leisure, and for men its even worse because men derive their self-worth or value from their work.
4. People, particularly Christians, want to make sure God still loves them. The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God, but that is not enough for many folks. The need to feel important or have purpose plagues society today. Walking by faith can be disconcerting for many folks.
5. People have problems in receiving gifts. This is a major issue for people that are always doing for others, but when it comes time for their own needs, they find it difficult to or cannot accept charity and gifts.
6. Many people have an Old Testament mentality about the Creator. This perception of God poisons their understanding of the Gospel message. Their jaundiced view of the methods by which God dealt with the people of the Old Testament then becomes clouded and restrictive. A case in point is that of the Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther, he experienced the liberating effects of God's Word when he first read the Greek text on "justification by faith" in Romans 1:17. The Latin word for justification ("iustitia") meant "justice" or a legal term for what in Greek meant something entirely different. In Greek the word means "righteousness". Before Luther became an Augustinian friar he was preparing for the field of law and he knew what "justice" meant. In Luther's day, education was only available to those entering the fields of the Law, Medicine, and Religion. Makes one wonder what else the Roman Catholic Institution has deceived its folks by over the centuries.
These are just some of the reasons why many in our world today cannot come to accept and believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Truth. I discuss this in my series on the "Dangers of Mixing Law with Grace".
Keep looking up, and steady as you go as the world falls apart. Be on the alert for the last trump!