<<ecstasy, snatching away>>
Although the word rapture does not appear in the Bible, this term is used for the glorious event when all believers (both living and those who have died) will be taken up into the air to meet and be with Christ forever – for He said, He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us and will come back to take us there (Jn 14:1-3; 1 Cor 15:20-23,50-54; 1 Thes 4:14-17; 1 Pet 1:3-5). The rapture is distinct from, yet often confused with the similar but later event, the Second Coming, when Christ will physically return to earth to defeat the anti-Christ, destroy evil and establish His millennial reign (Rev 1:7, 19:11-16).
are taken to heaven (Mt 24:3ff). The different viewpoints do not affect our salvation and are not non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith.
Alternative perspectives of the relationship between the rapture and the tribulation are:
1/. Pre-tribulation scenario. This, the most widely held view, considers Christ will return to snatch away the Christians before the tribulation of intense hardship that will affect all people living on the earth. Many Bible scholars consider there are no more prophesies to be fulfilled before this momentous event takes place, and so it could happen at any time. It is imminent.
2/. Others believe it will occur in the middle of the seven year tribulation period (hence mid-tribulation), after which life on earth gets increasingly worse.
3/. Still others believe the church will go through the full seven-year tribulation then the rapture will coincide with the return of Christ or second coming (post-tribulation view).
The Bible states, “Keep watch [be prepared], because you do know the day or hour…It is not for you to know the times or the dates…” So, because the timing is unclear, with verses appearing to be supportive of the different opinions, it is futile to endlessly debate the various scenarios (Mt 24:36,46, 25:13; Lk 19:13; Act 1:7; Tit 2:11-14). Instead we must be busy in the Master’s service “Occupying till He comes” by living productive, God-honouring lives and presenting the gospel to others.
Whichever way it eventuates Christ’s return should be the object of our hope and motive for action to share the message of salvation. Remain committed to Christ in all situations, even if it means forfeiting your life because of your faith, for Jesus said, don’t be afraid of those who can only take your life but can’t affect your eternal destiny, while those that stand firm to the end will be saved (Mt 10:28-33,24:13). Any hardships we (as believers) experience on earth will only last for a period, for heaven will be free of pain and suffering, but unbelievers will be doomed to suffering forever.
The most important thing is not thinking we know how or when, in relation to world events, it will occur, but being ready when it does, by knowing Christ as Saviour and living for Him.
The important differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming:
1/. At the rapture, Jesus Christ returns in the air to remove all the true believers from the earth, including the resurrected dead believers (1 Thes 4:17); at the second coming, believers return with the Lord to the earth (Rev 19:14).
2/. The rapture occurs before the tribulation (Rev 3:10); but the second coming after this terrible time (Rev 6:1-18:24).
3/. The rapture as an act of deliverance is the removal of believers from the earth (1 Thes 4:13-17, 5:9); the second coming includes the removal of unbelievers to face the judgement (Rev 20:7-15).
4/. The rapture will be secret and instant (1 Cor 15:50-54); the second coming will be visible to all (Mt 24:29,30).
5/. The rapture is imminent and could take place at any moment; the second coming only after other end time events have taken place.
6/. The rapture relates to the believers, both living and dead; in contrast the second coming relates primarily to the non-believers with the tribulation brought to an end and the defeat of the Antichrist and his evil world empire.
It is important to keep the rapture and the second coming distinct as if they were the same event: believers will have to go through the tribulation (1 Thes 5:9; Rev 3:10); the return of Christ is not imminent – there are many things which must occur before He can return (Mt 24:4-30); in describing the tribulation period, Revelation chapters 6-19 nowhere mentions the church.