Updated: Feb 28, 2022
There are three major views about the rapture:
Pre-Tribulation – the rapture occurs before the start of the seven-year Tribulation period.
Mid-Tribulation – the rapture occurs in the middle of the seven-year Tribulation period.
Post-Tribulation – the rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation period during the second coming of Christ.
What is the Rapture?
The rapture is a moment in time when all those in Christ, asleep in their graves or alive, will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” and “caught up together” in the clouds “to meet the Lord in the air.”
1st Corinthians 15:51-52 – “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 – “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
The word ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin word ‘rapio’ which means “to seize or snatch, in relation to an ecstasy of spirit, or the actual removal from one place to another.” In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body.” The phrase “caught up” is the Greek word ‘harpazo.’ The Latin translation of this word is ‘rapturo’ from which we derive the word ‘rapture.’ This same phrase is used twice in 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4. Paul tells of a man (himself) who “was caught up to the third heaven” and “caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”
The Post-Tribulation Rapture View
Here is the biggest problem with the Post-Tribulation Rapture view: the church will go through the entire Tribulation period thus enduring the outpouring of God’s wrath for seven years! This should end debate. However, I will address some of the problems with this view.
The rapture of the church and the physical and glorious return of Christ are not the same event. The second coming of Christ is preceded by specific events that occur during the Tribulation period. There are no specific events that warn the believer that the rapture is about to happen. The rapture could occur at any moment. In 1st Corinthians 15:58 Paul urges his beloved brethren to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” In other words, continue serving the Lord while you wait for the moment when you are changed, “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1st Corinthians 15:52).
Paul ends 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 with “comfort one another with these words.” What comfort is it to those in Christ knowing that they will not have to go through the horrors of the seven-year Tribulation period, particularly the second half of this period, before meeting "the Lord in the air” and being with Him forever?
In 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-4 Paul appeals to his brethren to not be “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.” He distinctly separates the “coming of our Lord Jesus and our gathering together to Him” from “the day of the Lord.” In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul tells them that the Lord will “descend from heaven” and we will “meet the Lord in the air” (1st Thessalonians 4:13-18). He then describes the “day of the Lord.” It will not come “unless the apostacy occurs first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed."
2nd Thessalonians 2:6-7 – “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”
Many students of the Bible would argue that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit or the influence of the Holy Spirit working through the church. I cannot make a good case for either of these. The apostle Paul does not tell us what or who the restrainer is. Apparently, the Thessalonians knew what Paul was talking about since this was previously discussed with them (2nd Thessalonians 2:4-5) but, unfortunately for us, they were probably the only ones who understood what Paul wrote at that time. The Holy Spirit will convict “the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) during the Tribulation period as He does in this present age. Many will come to faith in Christ and be martyred “because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Revelation 6:9). The presence of the church on earth today is delaying the coming wrath of God. Lot was not a dedicated man, but his presence in Sodom held back the wrath of God from completely destroying this city until he, his wife, and his two daughters were rescued by two angels (Genesis 19:1-29).
Problem Passages in Matthew 24
It is pretty easy to make the case from Matthew Chapter 24 that the second coming of Christ and the rapture of the church are concurrent events. The overall context of Matthew 24 has nothing to do with the church and everything to do with the nation of Israel.
Abomination of the Holy Place
In Matthew 24:1-2 the disciples of Jesus pointed “out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.’” In Matthew 24:3 the disciples asked, “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 24:15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand.)”
The “holy place” is in reference to a future temple of God in Jerusalem. Jesus referenced the second half of the prophecy recorded in Daniel 9:27 which occurs at the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation period - “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Paul tells us in 2nd Thessalonians 2:4 that the man of lawlessness (v3) will oppose and exalt 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." John states in Revelation 13:5-8 "There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." Note the reference to "forty-two months" - this is three and a half years, the second half of the seven-year Tribulation period.
Gathering Together of the Elect
Matthew 24:29-31 seems to indicate that the rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation following the second coming of Christ - “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. “And then 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 last part of this scripture is in reference to a remnant of believers who will come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation period. They will be gathered together from all “the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (i.e., from all over the world) and returned to the land of Israel.” This is in fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies including:
Deuteronomy 30:1-4 – “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. “If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back.”
Isaiah 27:12-13 – “In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”
Taken or Left Behind
Matthew 24:37-41 also appears to be teaching that the rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation period – “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”
The first two verses are in reference to the days of Noah and the flood (Genesis Chapters 6 and 7). Those who did not enter the ark perished – “the flood came and took them all away.” The coming flood upon the world during the “days of Noah” is analogous to “the coming of the Son of Man.” The last two verses state that “one will be taken, and one will be left.” The phrase “will be taken” is analogous to “took them all away.” Thus they “will be taken” into judgment. The others will be left to enter into the kingdom.
A parallel account in Luke 17:34-37 states - “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. “There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.” And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” When asked where they will be taken, Jesus responds “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” This is definitely not in reference to meeting the Lord in the air and being with Him forever (1st Thessalonians 4:17).
The Mid-Tribulation Rapture View
Those that hold to the Mid-Tribulation rapture believe that only the second half of the Tribulation period is a time of great wrath, but the church will still go through some of the wrath during the first half of the Tribulation period. Some theologians will argue that the main problem with this view is that “God has not destined us for wrath” (1st Thessalonians 5:9). This is true but it does not exempt Christians from going through trials and tribulations. God’s outpouring of wrath will occur throughout the entire Tribulation period, but the worse of it will occur during the second half of the Tribulation period.
They also argue that “the last trumpet” (1st Corinthians 15:52) and the “trumpet of God” (1st Thessalonians 4:16) is the trumpet that “the seventh angel sounded” (Revelation 11:15). This is not the last trumpet. When Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation period, “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” (Matthew 24:31). The purpose of the trumpet in 1st Corinthians 15:52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:16 is to announce that God is taking away His church to be with Him forever.
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture View
You probably have figured out that I lean toward a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, but I cannot be dogmatic about this view because the scriptures do not reveal exactly when this event will take place.
The purpose of the Tribulation period is for God to pour out His wrath on His people, the nation of Israel, in order to bring them to repentance and faith in the Son of God, who they rejected when He came in the flesh in the person of Christ Jesus. God did not destine His church, the Bride and Body of Christ, to wrath (1st Thessalonians 5:9). But this does not imply the church will not endure part or all of the first half of the Tribulation period.
The “man of lawlessness” (2nd Thessalonians 2:3) will not be revealed until the restrainer is “taken out of the way” (2nd Thessalonians 2:7). This man will make a covenant with the nation of Israel at the start of the Tribulation period (Daniel 9:27). Will the church be removed from the earth before this happens? My theological answer: I don't know, but I sure hope so!
Here is what I know for sure - there will be a rapture. Paul tells us in 1st Thessalonians 4:18 to “comfort one another with these words” – the words he wrote in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17. Meanwhile we must be about the business of sharing the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world while we wait in earnest "to meet the Lord in the air" and be with Him forever!
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
2nd Timothy 2:15
All scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.