The teaching about the Rapture will become more and more relevant as we approach the soon return of Jesus and the end of the age. Since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, many have become more and more aware that we are living in the last days, and the return of Jesus is imminent. The rapture of the church is one of the most comforting truths that will encourage us to stand strong for Jesus and give us hope in the end times. In Titus 2:13 we read, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The teaching about the rapture has been a controversial subject for many years with two main points of view, the pre-tribulation and the post tribulation rapture. The pre-tribulation rapture is the most popular point of view among evangelical Christians today. However, since the time of the early church to the beginning of the 20th century, every bible teacher who taught on the end times, believed that Christians would go through the tribulation and face the Anti-Christ before the second coming of Christ.
The origins of the pre-tribulation rapture teaching:
During the 19th century, there was a woman by the name of Margaret McDonald lived in Port Glasgow in Scotland. She claimed to be a prophetess and taught that Christians would be raptured before the Great Tribulation and would not face the Antichrist. She taught that during the Great Tribulation, Christians will be in heaven, celebrating the marriage supper of the Lamb, while those that missed the Rapture would be on earth experiencing God’s judgments on the earth. Jesus, together with His church would then return to earth after the Great Tribulation to rule on the earth for a thousand years. (I will not elaborate on her reasons for having this point of view in this study.) Her pastor, Henry Irvine took this teaching to a conference in London led by a Dr. Drummond. At this conference, one of the attendees, J Nelson Darby the founder of the Brethren church, accepted this teaching. However, a number of his colleagues were opposed to this, one of them being George Mueller.
Darby then travelled to the USA and met with Dr. C.I Scofield, who put the teachings of Darby into the notes of his popular Scofield Bible. This Bible became the most popular Bible in the USA in the 20th century. Through this Bible, the teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture became popular throughout the English speaking evangelical world. However, in the last number of years, there are many who have been questioning the validity of this point of view.
The seven year tribulation period:
I have already, gone into quite a lot of detail on this subject, in my teaching on the Great Tribulation. To summarize: Right at the end of this age there will be a seven year Tribulation period. This period will be divided into two, three and a half year parts. At the beginning of the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist will broker a covenant between Israel and various Arab or Muslim nations. In the middle of this seven year period, the Antichrist will break this covenant and defile the Temple in Jerusalem. During the second three and a half year period, the Antichrist will be in full control of the earth and will finally lead his armies to fight against Israel. At this point, Jesus returns with His church and the armies of heaven, the Antichrist is defeated at the battle of Armageddon and the Millennial Reign of Christ begins on the Earth.
As mentioned in the previous study, there will be three types of Judgments on the earth, the seals, the trumpets and the bowls of wrath. Three of the “seal judgments” which are found in Revelations chapter 6, will fall into the first three and a half year period, which is called the Beginning of Sorrows, or the initial Birth pains of the Great Tribulation. The final four seal judgments, the seven trumpet judgments and the bowls of wrath judgments will fall into the second three and a half year period.
With regards to the nation of Israel, we read in Revelations 11:2b; “… the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” This refers to the second half of the tribulation where Israel will be invaded and destroyed. In Zechariah 14:3-4 we read, “ForI will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the housesrifled and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations…” The seven year Tribulation will culminate with the battle of Armageddon.
Christians will go through a time of tribulation:
Let us now look at a number of scriptures to verify this:
Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” It says here “after the Tribulation … then the sign of the Son of man will appear ... He will gather His elect…” Jesus appears and gathers His elect is after the Tribulation, implying that believers in Christ will go through the Tribulation!
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
It says here, our gathering together unto Him, which is the rapture, will not happen until the “man of sin” who is the Anti-Christ will first be revealed. This means that rapture will not take place before the Tribulation, because the Antichrist is revealed during the Great Tribulation! So, Christians will be here during the time of the Antichrist and will face persecution and even martyrdom during the time of the Great Tribulation!
Revelations 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,… (Verse 13) Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” (Verse 14) And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Again, it says that these Christians came out of the Great Tribulation. So it is clear from these scriptures that Christians will be on earth during the time of the Great Tribulation!
When will the rapture take place?
Let us read some familiar scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:52, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The “last trumpet” refers to the seventh trumpet in the book of Revelations where we read about seven trumpet judgments. Revelations 11:15 says, “Then the seventh angel sounded (the trumpet): And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
We have the same event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” We have already read about this in Matthew 24:30-31, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect…”
However, if the rapture occurs at the sound of the seventh trumpet, what about the remaining judgments where God pours our His bowls of wrath? To explain this let us read two very important scriptures:
1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “…even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The wrath spoken of here refers to the bowls of wrath that God will pour out on the earth right at the end of the Tribulation. We read about this in Revelations 15:1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” From this we can conclude that the church will not be on earth during these final judgments which will be the most devastating part of the Great Tribulation.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 also confirms this, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be 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; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.)”
The word rest also means reprieve. Jesus will give His Church reprieve from this final period of the Tribulation, when God pours out His wrath on the earth. He does this through the rapture!
Therefore, from these scriptures we conclude that the rapture takes place during the Tribulation just before God pours out His wrath on the earth. There will not be a Pre-tribulation or post tribulation rapture, but a pre-wrath rapture. As Christians, we will be here during the time of the Antichrist and will experience much of the Tribulation, but not be here during the final period known as God’s wrath. During this final period, the church will be in heaven, celebrating the Marriage Supper of the lamb. At the end of the Tribulation, at the battle of Armageddon, Jesus returns to the earth with His church to reign upon the earth for a thousand years.
The first and second resurrection:
The Rapture is the same as the first resurrection, mentioned in Revelations 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” The second resurrection takes place at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ, when the unjust will be judged before the Great White Throne judgment and “anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.“(Revelations 20:15)
There are some that believe that there will be a special rapture for the overcomers sometime before the end of the Tribulation. These will enjoy the Marriages Supper of the Lamb while the rest of the church will go through the Tribulation and only be raptured at the end of the Tribulation. If this is so, then it means that there would be three resurrections. The Bible only speaks of the first and the second resurrection!
If by any chance the Rapture takes place before the Great Tribulation, it would be a win, win situation for all of us. However, it would be wiser to prepare for the worse and be ready to go through the Great Tribulation. I have prepared a study in this series on how the be ready for the coming of Jesus.
The Return of Jesus and the Rapture is our “blessed hope.” It will be a glorious event and we should always be longing for His coming. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:8 about those who long for His appearing. Therefore, this should be the cry of our hearts, “even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelations 22:20) Amen