Spoiler Alert: If you’re looking for me to set a date for when the Rapture will happen, please go somewhere else. Scripture is very clear that the Rapture will occur when God says it will occur and that no man can know when that hour will be (Matthew 24:36).
According to the Scriptures, there are no prophetic events that need to occur prior to the Rapture. It’s why the Lord’s return for His Church is referred to as imminent. It is the next major event on God’s calendar and it can happen at any time. The Lord did, however, warn that there would be wars and rumors of wars, along with false sightings of the Lord (Mark 13; Matthew 26):
(5) And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
(6) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
(7) And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
There are terrible persecutions against Christians occurring all over the world and they are becoming more brazen. Given such events it would be easy for a believer to think “the Rapture already happened and I missed it!” or to confuse doctrines and assume that they were in the Tribulation. That was the thinking of some of the Thessalonian believers in Paul’s day, and there were many false preachers who capitalized on that fear, but Paul assured his readers that this was not the case. Christians suffering for their faith is the norm because the world is in opposition to God. The Lord warns us not to allow such suffering to lead us into doubt regarding His return.
Two Separate Events
Paul teaches the Thessalonians that there are two separate events that involve the return of the Lord. The first of these is the Rapture where the Lord returns in the air to receive His Church (believers). Star Trek has nothing on the Lord when it comes to beaming people up. God has been doing that since Genesis (5:9-24; See also 2 Kings 2). This meeting in the air is taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and is often referred to as The Day of Christ.
The other event that involves the Lord’s return is taught in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1. Unlike the Day of Christ where the Lord returns in the air for His saints. In this second event, known as the Day of the Lord, Christ returns to the earth with His saints.
The Timing of the Day of Christ
There are several schools of thought as to when the Lord will return for His saints (the Day of Christ). Pre-Tribulationists believe the Lord will return for His church before the Tribulation.
Mid-Tribulationists believe the Lord will return for His church in the middle of the Tribulation at the three-and-a-half year mark when the Antichrist breaks his seven-year covenant with the Jews.
Post-Tribulationists believe that the church will go through the Tribulation and be raptured after it is completed.
My Own Beliefs on the timing of the Rapture
It is my personal belief that the Lord will return before the Tribulation. I have several reasons for this:
- In Revelation the church is seen in the early chapters of the book and not seen again until the very end of the book.
- The Tribulation is also known as the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble,” a time of punishment focused upon the Jews, not the Church.
- Passages like John 3:18 and Roman 8:1 teach us that we are spared God’s condemnation (wrath) because Christ faced all of it for us on the cross. (“It is finished.”)
- Scripture teaches that there are prophetic signs that precede the Tribulation, but none that precede the Rapture.
- There is a clear distinction in Scripture between man’s wrath and God’s wrath
- Man’s wrath (which often manifests itself in persecution)
- Is violent, and unrighteous.
- Generally focused against God and God’s people.
- Intent on destruction of the hated object.
- Rooted in self-righteousness and justified as “God’s will.” (See John 16:2)
- Temporary and fleshly.
- God’s wrath is
- Always focused on man’s unrighteousness.
- Based on God’s righteousness.
- Often supernatural (almost exclusively that way in Revelation).
- Thorough and based on truth.
- Intent on bringing repentance, if possible.
- “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28)
- The Tribulation is clearly taught as God’s wrath upon mankind.
- Man’s wrath (which often manifests itself in persecution)
What We Should Take Away from What the Bible Says About the Rapture
Are there people who disagree with my Pre-Tribulation Rapture beliefs? Absolutely. Could they be right and I be wrong? Maybe. But in the end, as I have said before, the timing of the Rapture is not really the point when God shares this doctrine with us. God intends for this doctrine to be a source of comfort and encouragement, not one of debate.
So what can we all agree on? Let me just repeat what I said yesterday:
What we need to walk away with ultimately is the comfort in knowing that this is not the only life there is, and that as a believer, I have a living Savior Who is strongly intent in coming back for me, and that He is going to give me a permanent home in Heaven one day:
(1) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
(2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
(3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
I love that line: “If it were not so, I would have told you.” It speaks volumes about the Lord’s boldface honesty with His followers.
Now, if the Lord comes back during or after the Tribulation, as long as I get to go, I’m not going to argue with Him about the timing! I’m just going to be praising Him for the opportunity that I get to go!
What About the Naysayers Who Say There is no Rapture?
The apostle Peter addresses that issue in 2 Peter chapter 3:
2 Peter 3:3-6
(3) Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
(4) And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
(5) For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
(6) Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished…
To put it in plainer terms, yes, there are plenty of people who mock the idea of the Lord’s return and say: “It will never be.” There were also people in Noah’s day who said the same thing about the Flood. Look where that got them.