"What is the Rapture of the church?"

The word "rapture" does not occur in the Bible. The concept of the Rapture, though, is clearly taught in Scripture. The Rapture of the church is the event in which God removes all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the Tribulation period. The Rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Rapture as God resurrecting all believers who have died, giving them glorified bodies, and then departing the earth with those believers who were still alive, who have also been given glorified bodies. "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

1 Corinthians 15:50-54 focuses on the instantaneous nature of the Rapture and on the glorified bodies we will receive. "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Rapture is the glorious event we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We will be in God's presence forever. There is far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the Rapture. This is not God’s intent. Rather, in regards to the Rapture, God wants us to “encourage each other with these words.”

"When is the Rapture going to occur in relation to the Tribulation?"

The timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation is one of the most controversial issues in the church today. The three primary views are Pretribulational (the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation), Midtribulational (the Rapture occurs at the mid-point of the Tribulation), and Posttribulational (the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation). A 4th view, commonly known as Pre-wrath, is a slight modification of the Midtribulational position.

First, it is important to recognize the purpose of the Tribulation. According to Daniel 9:27, there is a seventieth “week” (7 years) that is still yet to come. Daniel’s entire prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:20-27) is speaking of the nation of Israel. It is a time period in which God focuses His attention especially on Israel. The seventieth week, the Tribulation, must also be a time when God deals specifically with Israel. While this does not necessarily indicate that the church could not also be present, it does bring into question why the church would need to be on the earth during that time.

The primary Scripture passage on the Rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It states that all living believers, along with all believers who have died, will meet the Lord Jesus in the air and will be with Him forever. The Rapture is God removing His people from the earth. A few verses later in 5:9 Paul says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Book of Revelation, which deals primarily with the time period of the Tribulation, is a prophetic message of how God will pour out His wrath upon the earth during the Tribulation. It would seem inconsistent for God to promise believers that they will not suffer wrath and then leave them on the earth during the Tribulation. The fact that God promises to deliver Christians from wrath shortly after promising to remove His people from the earth seems to link those two events together.

Another crucial passage on the timing of the Rapture is Revelation 3:10. There, Christ promises to deliver believers from the “hour of trial” that is going to come upon the earth. This could mean two things: (1) Christ will protect believers in the midst of the trials, or (2) Christ will deliver believers out of the trials. Both are valid meanings of the Greek word translated “from.” However, it is important to recognize what believers are promised to be kept “from.” It is not just the trial, but the “hour” of trial. Christ is promising to keep believers from the very time period that contains the trials, namely the Tribulation. The purpose of the Tribulation, the purpose of the Rapture, the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:9, and the interpretation of Revelation 3:10 all give clear support to the Pretribulational position. If the Bible is interpreted literally and consistently, the Pretribulational position is the most Biblically consistent interpretation.