THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE
The Rapture describes a supernatural event that will take place sometime in the near future. Messiah Yeshua will come in the air, catch up His Church from the Earth, and then return to His dwelling place somewhere in heaven with the Church. Saint Paul gave a clear description of the Rapture event in his letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. The most controversial aspect of the Rapture event is its timing. Some Biblical eschatology experts place the Rapture at the end of the Seven Year Tribulation, thus making it one and the same event as the Second Coming. Other Biblical scholars place it in the middle of the Tribulation. Still other prophecy teachers believe that it will occur sometime before the Seven Year Tribulation.
The reason for these differing perspectives is that the precise time of the Rapture is not clearly revealed in God’s Holy Scriptures. The timing of the Rapture is only inferred. There is, therefore, room for honest debate and differences in eschatological interpretations. However, lines of fellowship should never be drawn over differences regarding various Rapture viewpoints, even though the Rapture is an extremely important issue in Biblical prophecy.
THE POST-TRIBULATION RAPTURE THEORY
The Biblical eschatology experts who place the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation usually base their arguments on two parables in Matthew 13 and on Messiah Yeshua’s Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. In Matthew 24 Yeshua portrays His gathering of the saints as an event that will take place “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:29). This passage certainly sounds like a post-Tribulation Rapture. However, we must remember that Matthew’s Gospel was written to the first century Jewish community living in Israel; therefore, the recording of Yeshua’s speech by Matthew has a distinctive Jewish perspective to it when compared with Luke’s record of the same speech.
We notice that Matthew’s references to Judea and to Jewish law regarding travel on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:15-20 NKJV) are all omitted in Luke’s account. Rather, Luke mentions the saints looking up for deliverance “to escape all these things” when the end time signs “begin to take place” (Luke 21:28-36 NKJV). The saints in Matthew are instructed to flee from Judea and hide. The saints in Luke are told to look up for deliverance.
Matthew and Luke are speaking of two different groups of saints. The saints in Matthew’s account are the Jews who receive Yeshua as their Messiah during the Tribulation. However, the saints in Luke are those who receive Messiah Yeshua before the Tribulation begins. Many people who accept Yeshua during the Tribulation will be martyred, according to Revelation 7:9-14 NKJV. The believers who are alive at the end of the Tribulation will be gathered by angels of the Lord, according to Matthew 24:31 NKJV.
The parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30 NKJV) and the parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50) should be explained in the same manner. They refer to a separation of saints and sinners that will take place during the end of the Tribulations years. The saints are believers who embrace Messiah Yeshua as their Lord and Savior during the Tribulation (Both Jew and Gentile) and who live to the end of that awful period.
MID-TRIBULATION RAPTURE THEORY
There are variations of the mid-Tribulation Rapture arguments. The most common argument is that the Church will be taken out in the exact middle of the Tribulation at the point in time when the Anti-Messiah is revealed worldwide. This Rapture argument is based upon a statement in I Corinthians 15:52, which says that the Rapture will occur during the blowing of “the last trumpet.” This trumpet is then identified with the seventh trumpet of the trumpet judgments mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Because the blowing of the seventh trumpet is recorded in Revelation 11, the mid-point of the Tribulation, the conclusion is that the Rapture must occur in middle of the Tribulation.
However, there are two problems with this interpretation. The first is that the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15 is blown for believers only whereas the seven trumpets of Revelation chapters 8, 9, and 11 are sounded for unbelievers. The trumpets mentioned in Revelation have no relevance for the Church. The last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15 is a trumpet for the righteous. The trumpet of Revelation 11:15 will sound for the unrighteous Earth dwellers.
Revelation 11:15 is really a flash forward vision describing the end of the Tribulation. Flash forward visions are very common in the Book of Revelation. They often occur when something terrible is mentioned to assure the reader that everything will eventually be OK when Yeshua returns at the end of the Tribulation. Therefore, the eighth and ninth chapters of Revelation, which describe the apocalyptic horrors of the trumpet judgments, are all followed by a flash forward vision in chapter 10 that pictures the return of Yeshua in victory at the end of the Tribulation. The mid-tribulation events resume in chapter 11 with the description of the killing of the two prophets of God (Moses and Elijah) by the Anti-Messiah. Following this crime, readers are presented with another flash forward vision, which begins in verse 15. The seventh trumpet is sounded and we find ourselves propelled forward to end of the Tribulation when the “Kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord.”
The point is that the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15 relates to the end of the Tribulation and not the middle. It is the same trumpet that is referred to in Matthew 24:31, which is the trumpet that will be blown to announce the Second Coming of Messiah Yeshua. Thus, the seventh trumpet mentioned in Revelation 11:15 and Matthew 24:31 is simply not the same trumpet describe in 1 Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 4:1, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
THE PRE-WRATH RAPTURE THEORY
A variation of the mid-Tribulation Rapture theory is the pre-wrath Rapture concept that places the rapture at the beginning of the last quarter of the Tribulation, about five and a half years into the Tribulation. The argument for this view is that the Church is promised protection only from the wrath of God and not from the wrath of Satan. It is argued that only the bowl judgments in the last quarter of the Tribulation (Revelation 16) represent the wrath of God. However, this argument collapse quickly when we consider two facts. First, it is Yeshua Himself who breaks the seals that launch each of the seal judgments recorded in Revelation chapter 6. Second, the seven angels who blow the trumpets that initiate each of the trumpet judgments are given their trumpets in the throne room of God, according to Revelation 8:2 NKJV.
All 21 judgments described in the Book of Revelation are clearly superintended by God. That is the reason why we are told in Revelations 15:1 that the bowl judgments at the end of the Tribulation will finish the wrath of God, not begin His wrath.
PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE THEORY
Some prophecy teachers believe the best inference of Scripture is that the Rapture will occur sometime before the beginning of the Tribulation. The most significant explanation for why they believe this theory has to do with the issue of imminence. Within God’s Holy Scriptures, we are told to watch for the appearing of the Lord. We are warned by Messiah Yeshua “to be ready” (Matthew 24: 44 NKJV), “to be on alert” (Matthew 24:42 NKJV), “to be dressed in readiness” (Luke 12:35 NKJV). Yeshua warns believers against date setting when He said “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36 NKJV). He warns believers again when He said “watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). Thus, the clear reason for these persistent warnings is that Messiah Yeshua can appear at any moment. This means that only the pre-Tribulation Rapture theory allows for the imminence of the Lord’s majestic appearing for His Church. When the Rapture is placed at any other point in time, the imminence of the Lord’s appearing is destro
Bible Mysteries; Donald P. Ryan, PhD; 2000. The Complete Guide to Bible Prophecy; Stephen M. Miller; 2010. The Last Days; Richard H. Perry; 2006. The Book of Revelation; Larry R. Helyer, PhD and Richard Wagner; 2008. Article by Dr. Thomas Ice. Bible Prophecy Revealed by Dr. Grant Jeffrey. Article by Dr. David Reagan. Learn the by in 24 Hours by Dr. Chuck Missler. Comments by Dr. Gary Stearman.