In the discussion about the timing of the Lord's return, I find myself agreeing with the other side about 90% of the time. To those on the other side, I say, you've taught me a lot. What would I do without you?
I am most thankful for the common ground of the Bible itself. Along with that comes a way of interpreting the Bible, understanding that the Bible says what it means and means what it says. This literal hermeneutic means that we have a common basis for discussion.
A primary point of agreement is the timing of the day of God's wrath. Although I agree with pre-tribs about the timing of the Lord's return, I agree with post-tribs on the timing of the day of the Lord. This does come after the tribulation.
I also agree that the distinction between Israel and the church is not sufficient proof for the timing of the rapture. The distinction between Israel and the church may provide a rationale for a pre-trib rapture. But some accept that distinction while still believing in a post-trib rapture. Therefore, that distinction alone is not sufficient proof. It may be a reason why we believe in a pre-trib rapture, but it alone does not prove it. I would rather find arguments that attract the attention even of those who do not believe in the distinction between Israel and the church.
Passages indicating an imminent expectation are not sufficient proof for the timing of the rapture. Some imminent expectation passages occur in a context during the tribulation and leading up to the second coming of Christ after the tribulation. Therefore, such passages alone do not prove our point. They certainly focus our faith, so that we diligently look for Him. But to show the order of events, we need passages that show the order.
The sheep-goats judgment is not sufficient proof for the timing of the rapture. Does this judgment mean that no unbelievers survive the tribulation, thereby raising the question, who will populate the millennium in natural bodies? It may mean that. And the question of who will populate the millennium is certainly a valid question. But I would rather use clearer passages to prove that point.
The wedding feast celebrated by Christ and His bride comes after the tribulation. Some think the wedding feast happens during the tribulation. But I disagree. Therefore, with those who place the rapture after the tribulation, at least we agree on the timing of the wedding feast.
The context of Matthew 24 is "after the tribulation of those days." We agree on that context. But did you know that the context also indicates double reference? And did you know that the context points to Isaiah to frame the meaning of "gather together" and of "this generation"? Context, context, context.
The Thessalonian epistles do not prove a pre-trib rapture. By the way, they don't prove a post-trib rapture either. Let's save ourselves from fruitless debate. I think making fewer assumptions leads to a safer conclusion.
The book of Revelation, in the middle chapters, do not follow a straight sequential order. They follow a cyclical pattern. The seals, trumpets, and vials overlap somewhat, just like Genesis two overlaps Genesis one. Knowing this may prevent us from coming to false conclusions about the timing of the day of the Lord. And it may save us from more fruitless debate.
Our final hope is His coming after the tribulation, because that is when Christ is glorified. Of course we look for Him at any moment. But once that moment comes, we instantly find ourselves, like the twenty-four elders in Revelation, praying over and over again for that bigger moment when He reveals His glory to the whole world.
The Holy Spirit is not taken out of the world at the rapture. He still has a lot to do on earth. For starters, He has to restrain the man of sin for three-and-one-half more years. He does that all by Himself well after the church is long gone.
Finally, I agree that pre-tribulationists have the burden of proof. That's fair. And we can accept that burden of proof, can we not?
You see, we agree more than you thought. Or, if you're a pre-trib, then maybe we disagree more than you thought. Anyway, if I'm right at all, it's only because I was willing to admit I was wrong.