Various Views of the Rapture
The second coming of Jesus for His church is often referred to as the Rapture. All true Christians believe Jesus will return for us one day as He promised (John 14:1-3). This is referred to as the “blessed hope” of the believer (Titus 2:13). When the Lord returns for us is not nearly as important as that He will return for us. Our view of when He will return is in the area of peripheral theology whereas our believing in His return for us is of a fundamental essence.
The tribulation period is a seven year period when the earth will go through an intense time of trouble. It is referred to as a time of trouble such as never was – Daniel 12:1; the time of Jacob’s trouble – Jeremiah 30:7; great tribulation such as was not since the beginning – Matthew 24:21; the hour of trial – Revelation 3:10; the great tribulation – Revelation 7:14. The views of the rapture differ as to when they take place in relation to this seven year period of trouble that is to come upon the earth. I will proceed to share with you the few of the major views of the rapture.
Pre-tribulation. This is what most believe in today and I frankly hope they are right. This is the belief that all true born again believers will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air prior to the beginning of the seven year tribulation period (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Much of this is based on the fact that God has not appointed us to wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). This view believes that when the voice says “come up hither” to the Apostle John in Revelation 4:1 is when the church is raptured out of this world into the presence of the Lord. Revelation 2-3 deals with the seven churches and the church age and chapter 4 on deals with the seven year tribulation period and beyond.
Mid-tribulation. This view believes that the church will be taken out somewhere near the middle of the tribulation period. The best scripture for this is probably Revelation 7:13-14 where it says, “These are the ones who have come up out of the great tribulation.” “The great tribulation” refers to the second half of the tribulation where it is the most intense. In this belief believers would go through the first half of the tribulation when it is the mildest and be taken out by the rapture just prior to the worst part. Most who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture say that Revelation 7 is dealing with those who were martyred but that was in Revelation 6:9-11. Chapter 7 is an entirely different group which “came up out of the great tribulation.”
Post-tribulation. This refers to the church being taken out or raptured at or near the end of the seven year tribulation period. Please study the scriptures I give here diligently with an open mind. Let the Holy Spirit show what you are to believe. Remember, this is peripheral theology. We don’t have to agree on this. We only have to agree that Jesus will come back for us not when He will.
Let’s begin with a bit of history. For your reference, much of this is taken from a lecture the late Dr. Walter Martin (who wrote the Kingdom of the Cults) gave on this subject in the early eighties. I have also verified it through other sources as well.
The post-tribulation view is nothing new. The church throughout history believed in a post-tribulation rapture. It wasn’t until 1830 when a young 15 year old Scottish girl had a dream, vision or trance that the church would be taken out (raptured) prior to the beginning of the tribulation that this view was even conceived of. It was at this time that J. M. Darby, founder the Plymouth Brethern, grabbed onto the pre-tribulation view (doctrine) and ran with it. As a result, much of the church believes this today.
Lets face it, most would rather be taken out of this world before the beginning of the tribulation than to go through it. I for one would prefer not to go through any time of trouble. All the church fathers and reformers (John Calvin, Martin Luther, etc) until 1830 believed we would see the Antichrist and be delivered from him and the tribulation at the return of Jesus. The reformers believed the papacy was the Antichrist and that they were in the tribulation. If they believed they were in it they couldn’t have thought they would be taken out before the tribulation.
Let’s look at the Word of God, which must be the foundation for all that we believe. I’m not going to write out all the the passages but merely make some observations. You will need to read and study the scriptures for yourself. Let me challenge you to read the surrounding context of each passage to get the entire picture of what is being said.
First let’s look at Matthew 24. These are the words of Jesus and the entire chapter deals with His return. In verse 15 Jesus speaks of one of the signs prior to His return being “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place.” (Read also Daniel 9:24-27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) Verse 29 says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days… the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
The key here is, “after the tribulation of those days.” Compare carefully this passage with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 which nearly everyone uses to describe the pre-tribulation rapture. They are almost identical. The only difference is that Matthew 24:29-31 specifies, “after the tribulation of those days.” The only argument that is used to differentiate between the two is that Matthew 24:29 refers to Israel and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 refers to the church. You would think that if that was true somewhere Paul or one of the other writers would have spelled that out but nowhere in the word do they differentiate between the two. The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that they are speaking of the same event, that is if we let the Word of God stand on it’s own.
Let me comment on two more passages in 2 Thessalonians. Read these passages thoroughly for yourself. I will simply make a few observations which pertain to “our gathering together to Him” (1 Thessalonians 2:1).
Look at chapter 1:5-10. A couple of things stand out here: 1. Paul is talking to believers who are going through a time of trouble and/or affliction. 2. God is going to brings relief to those going through trouble or tribulation and simultaneously judge those who are causing the trouble. This happens in one simultaneous event “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” (1:7).
Look at chapter 2:1-5. Paul makes it clear he is talking about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him” (2:1). He says, “let no one in anyway deceive you” (2:3). Paul says two things must happen before “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him”. 1. Apostasy or falling away (2:3). We see this happening at least in part today. Much of the church is drifting away from the fundamentals of the faith. 2. The man of sin or lawlessness must be revealed (2:3-5). He will oppose God to the place of sitting in the temple of God displaying himself as being God. Read also Daniel 9:24-27 and Matthew 24:15. Both of these things must take place before Jesus returns for His church. This makes it abundantly clear that Jesus’ return for us cannot happen until some time after the Antichrist sits in the temple demanding worship and claiming to be God.
In John 16:1-4 Jesus told the disciples of some of the things they would go through. He declares His reasoning for warning them of the difficulties they would face in the future in verse 1. “These things I have spoken to you that you should be kept from stumbling”. Let’s say I told you dogmatically that you would be raptured out of this world before the tribulation period. Then all of the sudden you found yourself in the midst of the tribulation period. You would be devastated. You would also think that either myself or God let you down. I would rather prepare you for the worst. If I am wrong and you are raptured out before the tribulation period you could shout, “Praise God he was wrong!” I would prefer that you be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. In this way you may be kept from stumbling if you find yourself facing overwhelming difficulties (John 16:1). Let’s hope for a pre-tribulation rapture but be prepared for a post-tribulation rapture. I hope I’m wrong.
In closing, let me share with you one final theory, pan-tribulation – it will all pan out in the end. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). If Jesus doesn’t know the time of His return how can we think we have it all figured out. What we do know is He promised us He would return for us and receive us unto Himself (John 14:1-3). Only the Father knows for sure the hour of Jesus’ return. What we do know is that it will all pan out in the end as the Father has planned it.
Let’s just make sure we are ready for Him when He returns! “For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matthew 24:44). The key in waiting for His return and our gathering together unto Him is that we are ready to meet Him. Are you ready? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior? If not you can do so right now by trust Him and all He did for you as your only hope of salvation. The bible says, “whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Will you call on Him today, let Him cleanse you of your sins, and come into your heart?
Maybe you have trusted Jesus as your savior but things are not right between you and Him. He is not number one in your life. There may be things you have done and are involved in that you have not made right with Him. There may be those you have offended or those who have offended you that you have not let go of. Will you make it right with Him today and be assured you are ready for Him whenever He returns?
It’s interesting that in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said He stands at the door of our heart and knocks that He was talking to the church. It was a church that was going through all the motions without any emotion. They had shut Him out. He was no longer number one in their life. Will you open the door of your heart right now, let Him in (or back in), and take His rightful place as the Lord of your life?
Prayer: “Lord Jesus forgive me of all my sins, let your blood wash them all away, come into my heart, and be my Lord. I confess you as Lord of my Life. I choose right now to forgive all who have let me down or offended me. Help me to live for you all the days of my life.”