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Biblical Evidence For The Pretribulational Return of Christ

by Gerald B. Stanton



Fourth Edition, 1991
434 pgs.
$12.95 USD (hardcover only)

A mounting wave of interest has swept across America and the United Kingdom on the subject of the return of Christ.  Near the crest of the wave is the turbulent question, being asked with ever increasing intensity: "Will Christ return before the Tribulation, or must the Church pass through that dread hour?"

As one of the most complete defenses of the pretribulational return of Christ yet in print, Kept From The Hour is a timely book upon a momentous theme.  Written in an interesting and swiftly-moving fashion, the book includes a scholarly discussion of all four major views relative to the Rapture.

All the major problems and Scripture passages are considered, but in a manner slanted for the layman as well as for the scholar.  The culmination of years of research, Kept From The Hour includes many quotations and sidelights from men of God who have debated the issue.  It is a clear and concise apologetic for the doctrine of a pretribulational Rapture.

Born in Cambridge, England, and now living in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Dr. Stanton holds the B.S. degree in Chemistry from Wheaton College and the Th.M. and Th.D. degrees in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary.  He has served as Professor of Systematic Theology at the Talbot Theological Seminary and chairman of the Doctrine Department, Biola University, and has taught at Palm Beach Atlantic College, Moody Bible Institute Evening Schools and other Christian institutions.


Section 1: Kept From The Hour

  1. A Theme of Great Significance
  2. Not Appointed Unto Wrath
  3. Is the Church in Matthew Twenty-four?
  4. The Day of the Lord
  5. Who is the Restrainer
  6. The Imminency of the Coming of Christ for the Church
  7. The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation
  8. The Partial-Rapture Theory
  9. The Midtribulation Rapture Theory
  10. The Posttribulation Rapture Theory
  11. The Rapture: Incidental or Fundamental?
  12. His Coming--Our Hope

Section 2: Literal Interpretation, Figurative Language and Prophecy

  1. Three Cardinal Rules of Bible Interpretation
  2. The Problem of Interpreting Figurative Language
  3. Special Rules for the Interpretation of Prophecy
  4. The Symbolism of the Book of Revelation

Section 3: The Literature of the Rapture Debate

Scripture Index
General Index

Excerpt from Chapter Twelve

A major obstacle in the way of greater unanimity on eschatological subjects is the fact that the prophetic field is so vast, the Scriptures involved are so numerous and the issues become so complex.  The problem of the time of the rapture in its relationship to the Tribulation period is no exception.  In fact, it is but part of the larger doctrine of the pre-millennial faith, yet it is in itself an important and determinative issue.  Let those who consider it a mere detail of eschatology ponder the fact that the Christian’s hope, incentive for purity of life and zeal for service, all are involved.  What is decided in respect to the time of the rapture will affect an amazingly large part of the prophetic Scriptures, for prophecy is a strangely interwoven tapestry.

A further obstacle to greater unity in the area of prophetic study is the tendency of some to avoid discussion of subjects thought to be controversial.  The comment of Chafer in respect to an entirely different problem is just as applicable at this point:

It is not easy to disagree with good and great men.  However, as they appear on each side of this question, it is impossible to entertain a conviction and not oppose those who are of a contrary mind.  The disagreement now under discussion is not between orthodox and heterdox men; it is within the fellowship of those who have most in common and who need the support and encouragement of each other’s confidence.

Others avoid private investigation of subjects considered not readily understandable.  The experience of James H. Brookes, noted Bible student of a past generation, is a case in point:

It was Dr. Brookes’ habit to read the Bible through in course, but he stopped habitually at the end of Jude and turned back to Genesis, accounting that The Revelation was not understandable and hence not worth reading.  One day he was convicted that he was not dealing fairly with the Bible since The Revelation is an integral part of it.  He read on into it and through it.  That reading changed the whole course of his life.  Dr. Brookes found himself possessed of a key to Bible truth; using it he became known as one of our greatest Bible scholars and expositors.  More:  he became surpassingly helpful to others.

Even more, through his study he became an ardent believer in the hope of the imminent, pretribulational return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Too few thus search the Scriptures for themselves.  The demands made upon our overly busy lives make it easy, rather, to follow the sometimes undigested opinions of a favorite teacher or author.  While the thinking of men may be a valued guide, if accompanied by a sincere scholarship and godly understanding, final authority must ultimately rest in the Word of God.  May we all be more like the Bereans, who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10, 11).

After all of the facts are in, there may yet be some disagreement as to the time and manner of the rapture – but this should not be permitted to deter evangelical unity on the reality of that blessed hope.  Believers need more emphasis upon their common faith in the great verities of Christianity, that they may be of one mind before an unbelieving world.  Nevertheless, any Bible problem which involves issues as important as the unity of the body of Christ, the doctrine of imminency, and the hope of the believer, has a right to a thorough hearing.  In the very nature of the case, three of the four viewpoints involved cannot be in accord with Bible truth.  While all discussions which shed light on the problem are highly in order, through it all the Bible sustains but one program of prophecy.

It is the firm conclusion of this present investigation that pretribulationalism is highly defensible and has far more to commend it than any of the three alternate viewpoints.  Even Cameron must admit that “it would be a blessed thing if this view could be substantiated,” and Reese himself recognizes that a pretribulational hope is a “brighter and more comforting view” and that if the Scriptures were with it, the case would be convincing.  The writer earnestly believes that his thesis has herein been substantiated, and that it has been clearly demonstrated from the Scriptures that the Church will enter no part of the Tribulation.  All of the major arguments, objections, and Scriptures used by opposing views have been dealt with, together with not a little by way of detail.  The writer is aware of the fact that there are additional Scriptures, some less significant objections, and even some arguments in favor of pretribulationalism which have not been included in this study, but a halt must be called somewhere.  It is believed that any additional inquiry into the details involved will only serve to substantiate further the conclusion of this present investigation that the rapture of the Church is truly imminent and will be pretribulational.

Pastors and teachers, and others in positions of authority over the visible church of Jesus Christ, are in particular exhorted to study these issues for themselves, and being persuaded, to stand upon this ground.  The imminent return of Christ, preached – not argumentatively, but from a heart which loves His appearing – will provoke within the flock of God a quickening interest in spiritual things, a new enthusiasm, a desire to live and serve so as to be unashamed at His coming.

It is not possible to give an adequate summary of all the evidence presented in favor of pretribulationalism in the preceding chapters.  It has been demonstrated that the Tribulation period differs in its fundamental nature from any trials and tribulations which may now be a normal ingredient of Christian experience.  The Church is expressly promised deliverance from the wrath of God and from the hour of trial which shall fall upon the dwellers of the earth.  Proof was offered that the Church is not Israel, and that her eschatology cannot be built upon that which is clearly predicated of Israel in the end time.  Moreover, it was seen that two different redeemed and witnessing bodies in the Tribulation at the same time would involve God in a serious dilemma and make void the cardinal doctrine of the unity of the body of Christ.  It was seen that the Day of the Lord, viewed as a period rather than as a single day, strengthens more than it weakens the pretribulational position.  Evidence was presented to prove that the restrainer of II Thessalonians 2 is none other than the Holy Spirit, to be removed with the Church prior to the manifestation of the Man of Sin.  Arguments against the doctrine of imminency were dealt with, and the doctrine substantiated by the Scriptures, the hope of the Early Church, and the attestation of the Church Fathers.

Other lines of evidence included an identification of the twenty-four elders, and analyses of the seventh and the last trumpets and of the time of the resurrection.  The rapture was distinguished from the revelation of Christ by the presence of intervening events and by a score or more of their leading characteristics.  The ideas and claims of some of the most prominent contenders for the three alternate positions were discussed and objections noted.  Thus pretribulationalism has been defended and substantiated by the cumulative force of positive argument, by analysis of the Scriptures involved, and by a portrayal of the weaknesses of all opposing systems.

It is sincerely hoped that many who read these pages will be confirmed in the truth of the imminent return of Jesus Christ.  There is abundant evidence that the last generation of believers shall be kept from the hour of trouble, not in response to human merit but because of the limitless grace of God.  While Christians stand fast in this assurance, may others who know not this hope come to share the joyful expectation of those at Thessalonica, of whom Paul wrote:

For others are telling of their own accord, concerning me, how gladly you received me, and how you forsook your idols, and turning to the service of God, the living and the true; and that now you wait with eager longing for the return of His Son form the heavens, even Jesus, whom He raised from the dead, our deliverer from the coming vengeance.  (I Thess. 1:9, 10).

There is practical value to such a hope.  If Christ may momentarily appear, how pointed John’s exhortation to godly living:

Abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming (I John 2:28).

Our citizenship is in heaven, and since Christ’s coming may be soon, how vital it is to “look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).  Yet this looking, this waiting for the Redeemer, does not consist of idly “gazing up into heaven” (Acts 1:11).  God would not have us so detached from the world that we lose our vision for service.  The second coming is not the sum total of theology.  There must be balance.  Therefore, Christ prayed not only that we might be with Him and behold His glory (John 17:24), but that while in the world we should be kept from evil, and go forth into the world that through our words men might believe on Him (John 17:15, 18, 20).

To this end have believers been commissioned “ambassadors for Christ.”  Our opportunity and privilege is to acquaint the lost with the good news of His salvation, for it is little gain for an unsaved man to hear of the second advent before he has understood and appropriated the blessings of the first advent.  As ambassadors, we beseech men in Christ’s stead to be reconciled to God (II Cor. 5:20).  May we keep before us the solemn responsibility of this task, knowing full well that it may not be long before Christ begins His work of judging the living and the dead.  For believers, there is the bright prospect of rapture experience before the day of Tribulation wrath.  Ambassadors are called home before war is declared.  Even so shall we be called into His glorious presence.

The promise of Christ is, “Surely, I come quickly.”  May each heart respond fervently, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  In this dark night, let us look toward the morning.  His coming is our hope.  Let us be among the number who “love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:8).

Lift up your heads, Pilgrims aweary,
See day’s approach, now crimson the sky.
Night shadows flee, and your Beloved,
Awaited with longing, at last draweth nigh.

Dark was the night, sin warred against us;
Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er.

O blessed hope!  O blissful promise!
Filling our hearts with rapture divine;
O day of days!  Hail Thy appearing!
Thy transcendent glory, forever shall shine.


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