The Pre-Tribulation Rapture

The most controversial of all the end-time prophecies is the Rapture. The controversy lies not in the fact that this event will take place but rather the dispute arises as to when this event will occur.

The New Testament declares that close to the end of the current age we live in, Jesus Christ will appear in the sky and remove His followers from the earth. Christians call this event "the Rapture".

The Christians in the Church of Thessalonica in Greece were concerned that they had missed the second coming of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul tried to assuage their fears by telling them in a letter exactly what would happen toward the end:

"13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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 Thessalonians 4:13-17)

Paul states that Jesus will appear in the sky and that at His command Christians "shall be caught up" to meet Him in the air. We get the term "rapture" from the last two words of this phrase.

The New Testament was originally written in the Greek language of that era. The words "caught up" are the English translation of the Greek word "harpazo". It means to "seize suddenly" or to "snatch away". When the Fourth Century scholar Jerome translated the New Testament into Latin he rendered the Greek word "harpazo" as the Latin word "rapiemur". It is from this Latin word that the event, described by Paul in the passage above, came to be known as the Rapture. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian Church, describes what the Rapture will be like:

"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. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)

Paul writes that God will transform the physical bodies of the believers in Christ Jesus in an instant from a mortal body into an immortal body. At that point Christians will have entered into a new dimension, the eternal dimension.

The theological position that one holds concerning the timing of Rapture determines whether it will be a "mysterious or secret" event or whether the world will recognize it as part of God's end-times plans once it takes place.

If the Rapture takes place at the beginning of the end-times events then it will catch the world by surprise. People's friends, relatives, and acquaintances will suddenly disappear from the earth. A shocked world will be looking for explanations as to what exactly took place. Chaos will ensue after this disappearance of millions of persons because of all the accidents that occur from those who were driving cars, flying airplanes or performing other types of human activities. One would not be amiss in stating such a scenario as bizarre at the least and too fantastic to believe at the most. Yet the Bible records that the Rapture is going to take place in the future.

However, if the Rapture occurs after God begins the end-times events then the world may have a better grasp as to what happened. This would be due to the fact that the people on earth would have already witnessed other supernatural events that had occurred.

When might the Rapture take place? Both the Old and New Testaments speak of a time of trouble coming upon the whole world at the end of this age. The Bible uses different expressions to describe this period but most Christians refer to it as the "Tribulation Period". The timing of the Rapture revolves around this seven-year Tribulation Period.

There are three major theological positions that most Christians adhere to as concerning when the timing of the Rapture will take place. They are that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation Period starts, in the middle of it, or at the end of it. Christian terminology refers to these positions as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, the Mid-Tribulation Rapture, and the Post-Tribulation Rapture

There is a fourth position that an individual suggested in a book but it has not gained a foothold in Christian circles. This theory states that the Rapture will take place between the middle and the end of the Tribulation Period. That author refers to it as the Pre-Wrath Rapture.

This page deals with the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The primary reason for believing in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is that if God is going to judge the world because of its rebellion and opposition toward Him then He would spare His faithful followers this judgment.

The apostle Paul wrote in the same letter to the Thessalonians that they were "to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, Who delivered us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:10)  There are two ways to interpret this verse. Either the wrath to come refers to the Tribulation Period when God pours out His wrath on the earth or it refers to the very end of time when God will judge those opposed to Him by casting them into Hell. Later in this letter, Paul writes, "9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)  This verse seems to associate salvation with being spared from God's wrath that will come upon unbelievers when He casts them into Hell. Those who believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture believe the wrath spoken of in these verses refers to God's wrathful judgments that occur during the Tribulation Period. Consequently, God will remove His people before He begins His judgment of the earth and its inhabitants.

Another reason that Pre-Tribulationists believe that Christians are going to be raptured before the Tribulation stems from a curious statement that Paul wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians, "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. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 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." (1 Thessalonians 2:3-8) Pretribulationism teaches that "he who restrains" refers to the Holy Spirit. Thus, before the wicked Antichrist can be revealed the Holy Spirit has to be removed from the earth. Since the Holy Spirit resides in the followers of Jesus Christ, they too must be removed by the Rapture from the earth. Then the Tribulation Period can start and the Antichrist can come to power.

Pre-Tribulation Christians make a distinction between Jesus' appearance in the sky to rapture His followers and His second coming to earth when He will begin His reign as the King-Messiah.

They believe that there are no more prophetic signs that must be fulfilled before Jesus comes to rapture the Church. They refer to the belief that Jesus could return at any moment like a "thief in the night" as the doctrine of Imminency.

I want to mention one further note concerning the biblical end-time events. Both the Old and New Testaments frequently use the phrase "the Day of the Lord". There is a disagreement among some Christians as to what time frame constitutes "the Day of the Lord". Pre-Tribulation and Mid-Tribulation Christians believe it starts with the Rapture of the Church.


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