When Will the Rapture Happen?
The rapture is called the “blessed hope” of the believer (Titus 2:13) and is when Jesus returns for us as He promised in John 14:1-3. When Jesus returns for us is not nearly as important as the fact He will return. Our personal view of the rapture is peripheral theology – we don’t have to agree, but believing He will return is fundamental to the Christian faith.
The tribulation is a seven year period that is referred to as a “time of trouble” in Daniel 12:1, the “time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30:7, the “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21, the “hour of trial” in Revelation 3:10, and “the great tribulation” in Revelation 7:13-14.
Major Views of the Rapture
Pre-tribulation. This is the belief that all true born again believers will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord 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 when the voice says “come up hither” to the Apostle John in Revelation 4:1, the church will be raptured into the presence of the Lord. Revelation 2-3 deals with the seven churches and the church age. Chapter 4 and following deals with the seven year tribulation period and beyond.
Mid-tribulation. This view believes the church will be raptured somewhere near the middle of the tribulation period. The best scripture for this is probably Revelation 7:13-14, “These are the ones who have come up out of the great tribulation.” The great tribulation refers to the second half of the seven year period when it is most intense. In this view believers will go through the first half of the tribulation, then be raptured 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 near the end of the seven year tribulation period. The post-tribulation view is nothing new. Throughout history the church believed in a post-tribulation rapture. It wasn’t until 1830 when a 15 year old Scottish girl had a dream that the church would be raptured prior to the tribulation that the pre-tribulation rapture view was even considered. It was at this time that J. M. Darby, founder the Plymouth Brethern, grabbed onto the pre-tribulation view and ran with it. As a result, many Christians believe this today.
Lets face it, all of us would rather be taken out of this world before the beginning of the tribulation. Until 1830, all of the church fathers and reformers (John Calvin, Martin Luther, etc.) 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 the tribulation, they obviously didn’t think they would be taken out before it.
In Matthew 24:15, Jesus refers to one of the signs prior to His return as “The abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Daniel 9:24-27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). Matthew 24:29 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 this passage with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which most use to describe the pre-tribulation rapture. Both of these passages are identical. The only difference is Matthew 24:29-31 specifies, “After the tribulation of those days.” The only argument used to differentiate between the two is that Matthew 24:29 refers to Israel and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 refers to the church. If that was true, Paul or one of the other writers would have clarified the difference, but nowhere in the Word do they differentiate between the two. The only logical conclusion is that they are speaking of the same event. Therefore, the rapture would be at the end of the tribulation period.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Paul is talking of believers who were going through a time of trouble and/or affliction. God promises to bring relief/rest to them while simultaneously judging those who are causing the trouble. This happens in one simultaneous event “to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Paul goes on in chapter two:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).
Here, Paul makes it clear he is talking about “The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him.” He says, “Let no one in anyway deceive you.” Paul says two things must happen before Jesus returns for us:
- Apostasy or falling away. We see this happening more and more today. The church is drifting away from the fundamentals of the faith like at no other time. We see people walking away from the Lord that we once thought never would.
- The man of sin or lawlessness must be revealed. He will oppose God by sitting in the temple and claiming to be God (Daniel 9:24-27, Matthew 24:15). Both of these things must take place before Jesus returns for his church. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus’ return for us cannot happen until after the antichrist sits in the temple demanding worship and claiming to be God. In John 16:1-4 Jesus told the disciples some of the things they would go through and declares His reasoning for warning them about the difficulties they would face. “These things I have spoken to you that you should be kept from stumbling.
“What if I said you would be raptured before the tribulation period then you found yourself in the midst of the tribulation. Not only would you be devastated, you would also think that either myself or God let you down. I would rather prepare you for the worst and hope for the best. In this way you might 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.
Pan-tribulation. The final theory is a simple one – 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 that He promised to return for us and receive us unto Himself (John 14:1-3). Only the Father knows for sure the hour of His return. We can, by observing the signs of the time, know Jesus’ return is near. We do know it will all work out in the end.
“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 most important thing is, are we ready for His return (1 John 3:2)? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If not, you can right now by trusting Him as your only hope of salvation. “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Call on him today. Let him cleanse you of your sins and come into your heart.
Maybe you’ve already trusted Jesus as your Savior, but at present things are not right between you and Him. He is not first in your life. There may be things you’ve done or are currently involved in that you know are wrong. There may be people you have offended or people who have offended you that you haven’t forgiven. Make it right today and be assured you are ready whenever Jesus returns (Revelation 3:20).
Prayer: “Lord Jesus forgive me of all my sins, let your blood wash them away. Come into my heart and be my Lord. I confess you as Lord of my Life. I choose to forgive all who have let me down or offended me. Help me to live for you all the days of my life.”