As we see the world around us unfold, we hear more and more talk about the Endtimes and in particular “The Rapture”. Some churches talk about it often, others neglect the subject altogether. Is it fact? Is it fiction? We will examine the Scriptures and look at some of the theories. (Disclaimer: this is an overview and not completely exhaustive)
First let’s define the Rapture. It is the Saints on earth meeting Christ in the sky. Some believe this happens before the reign of the Antichrist sparing the Church from the plagues in Revelation. Others believe it is at the end of the Antichrist’s reign just before His defeat. Then there are those that believe it happens midway through, and those that think its pure fiction or a metaphor. Let’s look at Scripture.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (Paul speaks of this a little more vaguely in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
Matthew 24:30-31 (parallel Mark 13:24-27) Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
As you can see here a “rapture” event would certainly seem to fall under Fact. The question now is timing. We are talking relative timing to the timeline of events not exact dates for Scripture states not even Jesus knows His return, only the Father (Matthew 24:36).Let’s start with the pre-tribulation theory.
Pre-tribulation: With this theory it is believed that Jesus returns and collects the Saints before the plagues of Revelation are poured out on the world and possibly before the Antichrist even assumes power. They get this theory from some of the following verses.
Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Matthew 24:40-42 (parallel Luke 17:34-36)Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)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. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
This theory has some problems. It assumes from 1 Thessalonians 2:7 that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the earth and assumes us with Him since we have the Spirit within us (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Timothy1:14). This assumes that the “he” in this verse is the Holy Spirit though not directly identified and that being “taken out of the way” means he’s gone from the earth. That’s a lot of assumption. I have not found any verse to back this theory. The “he” here, while probably God (in at least one of the Person’s of the Trinity) it could also be an angel and being taken out the way does not necessitate removal, but simply no longer restraining. Add to this the fact that Revelation 13:7, the Beast of Sea is given authority “to make war with the saints and to overcome them.” If the saints are raptured how can the Beast make war with them? Some say it is believers who came to faith after the rapture, but there is no evidence in any verse in Scripture that there are saints that exist without the indwelling Holy Spirit.
This brings me to the passages in Matthew 24 and Luke 17. reading these passages with the assumption of a pre trib rapture these seem to add to that theory, but in context of the previous verses, they indicate judgement as Jesus references those that were taken away during the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As for Revelation 3:10, the footnotes point out “keep through the hour”. Whichever way is the more correct word-for-word translation, the indication is not escapist, but simply protection. The plagues in Revelation parallel the plagues upon Egypt before the Exodus. While Egypt was experiencing the plagues the Hebrews were protected in the Land of Goshen. In light of the explanation of the other verses, this seems to be the more accurate meaning, albeit not necessarily in land of protection kind of way, but in a personal protection from the Lord.
Moving on to post-tribulation, this position poses that the Church is here for the duration of the Anti-Christ’s reign. This position comes from connecting 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (as mentioned at the top) with Revelation 19:11-16, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Let’s put them all together.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
Revelation 15:11-19 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.
18 The nations were angry,
and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” 19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.
Revelation 19:11-16 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rideris called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on himthat no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him,we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
So here we have Paul in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians telling the churches there that the saints that are alive will meet Christ in the air. 1 Corinthians says it will happen at the last trumpet. Revelation describes the 7 trumpets that will sound and what accompanies them. Revelation describes the 7th and final trumpet with the symbolism of the establishing the kingdom on Christ on earth. Revelation 19 goes into further detail of His physical return. What is referred to throughout Scripture as the Day of the Lord which not only refers to the return itself but the reigning kingdom and final judgement. Paul goes on to assure the church in Thessalonica that Christ had not returned yet and told them the sign to look out for, the lawless one aka the Antichrist or the (first) Beast, being revealed and proclaiming himself God. Furthermore you have the words from Jesus’ own mouth
Matthew 24:29-31 (parallel Mark13: 24-27 ) 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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This is the a very sound theory as Scripture is helping to interpret other Scripture, instead of ripping apart the text.
Mid-tribulation Rapture: Mid-trib comes with multiple theories. First there are those that believe there are multiple raptures throughout the timeline of Revelation due to the fact there are different numbers of the multitudes of people in heaven. Other than that the theory really doesn’t have much basis as Scripture has no indication of the rapture being a multi-part event. Some place the rapture at the the AntiChrist declaring himself God at the temple as indicated in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (scroll back up for reference). Seeing as John calls for endurance of the saints during the forcing of worship of the first beast (Revelation 13:5-10), this is problematic because, as stated about pre-trib, the beast can’t make war with the saints if they are not there.
Now there’s the seventh trumpet advocates. They believe like Post-trib that rapture occurs after the seventh trumpet, but they we are not here for the seven bowls of wrath. One thing they point to is the changing of the praise of the Lord in Revelation (1:4,8 4:8) from “who is and who was and who is to come” to just “who is and who was” in 11:17. There is also the evidence of the winepress mentioned in Revelation 14. The language there recalls Jesus’ parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13:24-30. They also point to the fact that for the saints God’s wrath was pointed out on Christ for us, therefore we won’t experience His wrath when He pours it out on the earth. It looks like it has the rapture SO close to the end I’m not even sure you can really consider it mid-trib.
Pretty sound theory but still has it’s problems. First, God’s people being present on earth during the bowls doesn’t necessitate they are experiencing God’s wrath. While not explicitly stated it is possible that God provides safe haven for His people like He did the Hebrews during the plagues on Egypt. Also the Winepress of revelation states two angels doing the reaping. This doesn’t necessitate a distinction of a harvest of the saints and a harvest of the wicked. Its possible that is a break between the bowls of wrath or a distinction between the bowls and the battle of Armageddon which 19:15 draws a comparison to the winepress. Furthermore the end of the parable of the weeds it says the wicked (the weeds) will be gathered first before the wheat (the righteous).
In closing, i would like to encourage you. No matter which theory you hold to hold fast to Christ no matter the outcome, Don’t lose faith because the endtime theory you held to fell apart. Hold fast to Him and be watchful and know the signs that His coming does not surprise you.
1 Thessalonians 5:2,4-6 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.