One of the greatest divisions within the church is that of the rapture, and when it should occur. There have been church splits, a falling out among friends, anger, violence, sadness, indifference, pride, and arrogance. But what are the main views out there?
2 Thessalonians 2:1 (KJV)
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,.."
The word "Rapture" refers to the "catching away of the saints" which occurs during the "last days". The meaning of the word is - to seize, carry off by force, snatch out or away, and is used in the following manner: catch up or away, take by force or pluck.
There is no question that this will happen, there is only a question of when it will happen...
There are several theories that are out there, with the most common being - Pre-tribulation (pre-trib), middle tribulation (mid-trib) or post tribulation (post-trib). The post tribulation view looks to come from the book of Matthew.
Matthew 24:29-31 (KJV)
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other
If we look closely, we notice that the gathering of the elect occurs in HEAVEN, as the saints look to be there already. The gathering appears to assemble the armies which are in heaven (Rev. 19:14-19) which are with the Lord at His return.
This view also seems unlikely seeing that "it was given unto the beast to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (Rev. 13:7); We also see that "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" in (Mat. 24:22). So the question is, if the rapture is at the end of the tribulation, how many saints would have survived to be raptured?
Those that believe in a pre-tribulation rapture view will remind us that -
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (KJV) -
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ
However, in determining this view, the question remains regarding the wrath. Is this wrath that is spoken of in 1 Thessalonians, pertaining to all of the tribulation period or is it specific wrath pertaining to the bowl or vial judgements found and detailed in chapter 16 in the book of Revelation? Furthermore, the "pre-trib" view has been held as the standard view among most evangelicals throughout the world. Among the proponents of this view are Chuck Smith, the man who started the Calvary Chapel Movement, Tim Lahaye, most known for the "Left Behind" series and Chuck Missler, who has been at the forefront of biblical end-times prophecy for years.
Another view comes from the book of 2 Thessalonians.
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 (KJV)
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming
Unfortunately the scripture does not indicate who "He" is, or where "out of the way" is. Isn't it strange that if this pertained to the rapture, and was written by the apostle Paul, who provides us the definition of the rapture in 1 Th. 4:15-17; why wouldn't he clarify by stating "out of the way" as meeting the Lord in the clouds or in the air?
There is also the question of when and where the "lawless one is revealed"? Assuming that this is the Anti-Christ or Beast and that the Lord has indicated "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many"; how will we know when this particular one is revealed?
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (KJV)
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
The "son of perdition" (meaning - destroying, utter destruction) has a link to Apollyon (the destroyer), who is the Angel who is released from the bottomless pit. This is the Beast and "was given authority to continue for 42 months (3 and 1/2 years) and this occurs (starts) in the middle of the tribulation. There is also Revelation 3:10 -
Revelation 3:10 (KJV)
10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
"Hour of trial or temptation" is not found anywhere else in the bible;
Other References to "hour" in Revelation pertain to judgement that occur in the Great Tribulation (the latter 3 1/2 years) 14:7; 17:12; 18:10, 18:17, 18:19;
In Mat. 24 & 25-hour is mentioned several times but is in reference to when "the Son of Man cometh" or the 2nd coming. Mat.24:36-but of that DAY and that HOUR knows no man (day and hour are two separate distinctions). Hour(g5610-ho'-rah)-can mean a certain definite time or season but is only used as a season 3 times; is however used as an hour 89 times-a 12th part of the day time, or an hour. The "day of the Lord" pertaining to this time of judgement (or great tribulation) is referred to at least 23 times in the bible. The hour of (trial/testing) is not the "day of the Lord" but rather a division of time of an hour within the day. This letter was sent to the church of Philadelphia, and the status of our churches today more likely reflect the church of the Laodiceans.
So when does this event actually occur? The following scriptures pertain to the Rapture:
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (KJV)
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (KJV)
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
If we make a list of what is required within these scriptures, we see the following:
*there must be a resurrection first
*the Lord descending in the clouds with a shout
*the voice of an angel
*and a last trumpet
Is there any scripture that fulfills this list?
Revelation 14:14-16 (KJV)
14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
This chapter opens with what appears to be a resurrection as we see the 144,000 Jews in the presence of the Lamb in heaven which were redeemed from the earth and follow the Lamb wherever He goes. And as we can see, there is a loud voice or shout from an angel, and one who sits on a cloud like the Son of Man. Nowhere in the New Testament does the "Son of Man" refer to an angel. It is always referring to our Lord Jesus Christ. The word harvest means: the act of reaping, the gathering of man into the kingdom of God. Also, This chapter occurs right were we would expect it to be, at the last trumpet (Rev. 10:7) and before the bowls of judgement (Rev 15:1) or "Pre-wrath".
I have believed in a pre-tribulation rapture for most of my christian life, but now I see that this is unlikely. And in fact, if there is no Pre-tribulation rapture, and we do not seek to prepare ourselves, we may be creating a false sense of security with the expectation of escaping the tribulation period. If this is indeed the case, and the rapture does not occur when many expect, many will experience disappointment and despair, which may be may be a contributing factor to "the great falling away" which surely must come. The greatest concern I have for those that hold to the pre-trib view is this: When the church is still here, and the anti-christ is revealed, how many souls might be lost because they were told to believe in a pre-trib rapture and later found out they were misled? We have been taught that Jesus will come at any time, any moment. If the rapture is pre-trib, this teaching helps keep believers in line. Actually, this teaching should keep us all ready regardless of when the rapture may occur. While the scriptures do tell us that no man knows the day or hour, and that He will come like a thief in the night, I fail to see where a specific timing is listed in regards to a pre-trib view. If we were to be raptured before any tribulation, why are we told that "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved"? I also see that those with white robes came out of the great tribulation (Rev. 7:9-17) which seems to indicate that they went through it. I do have this question, if there is a pre-tribulation rapture, at what point does the resurrection actually occur?
I came to the realization that the "blessed hope" should not be an escape from tribulation, but rather the hope of seeing our Savior face to face. For those who love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls, it shouldn't matter when the rapture will occur, for we know that "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (trials), and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished". (2 Peter 2:9) He is perfectly able to protect and provide for his children.
The rapture IS NOT A SALVATION ISSUE. Whether you believe in a pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib view has no bearing on whether your soul is saved and where you will spend eternity. Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and receiving the free gift of salvation is the way by which we are saved. It is through Jesus Christ that we enter into eternity in Heaven and by no other way, regardless of when you may be harvested.
Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.