4 Views of The Christian Rapture
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
(15) For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming c will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.
-1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (HCSB)
Christians tend to be pretty bad at predicting the future. We get things wrong sometimes, so it should be no surprise to anyone that there are four different theories as it relates to the rapture. They are (1) Pre-tribulation Rapture, (2) Mid-tribulation Rapture, (3) Post- Tribulation Rapture, and (4) Pre-Wrath Rapture. Now there are other theories as well, but these are our four most common today.
The Tribulation (A Really Quick Overview)
Most Christians (evangelicals) believe in something called the Tribulation period. This period spans seven years and during this time the entire world becomes united under one leader; this leader is in actuality the anti-Christ. He will consolidate all power and all religion under one banner (Of course some will not agree). During this time to be a Christian means capital punishment. No one will be able to buy or sell with the mark of the beast. Approximately 3 ½ years into this (a little further) this will be the time of the Great Tribulation when God will pour out His wrath on the earth (before that is known as the time of Satan). At the end of the Tribulation period Jesus will return to rule and reign for a thousand years before the earth is destroyed and remade. There is a lot more to this but this is an overview.
In the book “Foundations of Pentecostal Theology” the author writes the following. This is a concise and easy to follow explanation (for the most part).
- The strongest argument for a pre-tribulation Rapture is the fact that throughout the New Testament exhortation is given to look for and wait for the Coming of Jesus (Mt. 24:42, 43; 25:13; Mk. 13:35; 1 Thes. 5:6; Ti. 2:13; 1 Jn. 3:3; Heb. 9:28; Jn. 14:3). Jesus promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:3). Here Jesus’ Coming is for the purpose of receiving the Church unto Himself and taking her to a place in the Father’s house; this Coming cannot be the same as His coming with the Church to earth as the post-tribulationists contend. The blessed hope of an imminent Coming of Jesus is one of the strongest incentives to practical godliness and diligent service (Ti. 2:12–14; 1 Jn. 3:3). If the Tribulation must come first, with the manifestation of the Antichrist, before the Rapture, who will look for a Coming of Jesus until many of the events of the Apocalypse have transpired? The parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants recorded in Matthew chapter twenty-four teaches the tragic result of saying, “My lord delayeth his coming” (24:44–51).
This one kind of gives it away. People who hold to this believe that after the covenant between the anti-Christ and Israel is broken (3 ½ years into the tribulation). Then Jesus will take the Christians from the earth.
The following sequence of events is taken from “The Journal of Ministry and Theology: Volume 3.” This may seem a bit confusing and hard to follow. My hope is that this will spur you on to further research on your own.
- The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th Week see nothing more than general trials and troubles that the world always goes through.
- The Antichrist is revealed with the abomination of desolation half way through the 70th week.
- The two witnesses of Revelation 11 are killed halfway through the 70th week.
- During the 3½ days when the dead bodies of the two witnesses are left in the streets to be seen, Christians will experience tremendous and intense tribulation. This tribulation is not characterized as the wrath of God but as the wrath of man.
- At the end of the 3½ days, the two witnesses are resurrected and raptured (Rev 11:11–12) which is a picture of the rapture of the Church. This is associated with the 7th trumpet in Revelation 11:15 (which in turn is associated with the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52—”at the last trumpet”).
- At this point, the Church is raptured and joins Christ in the air. JMAT 3:1 (Spr 99) p. 86
- Four things could be said about the remaining 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week:
- Christ remains in the air with his saints for the next 3 1/2 years, watching the ensuing developments on earth.
- The millennial reign of Christ begins and, thus, overlaps the judgments of the vials.
- The wrath of God is poured out on the earth.
- Antichrist generally prevails on earth.
- At the end of the 70th week of Daniel, Christ stops his watching and comes down to earth with His saints to destroy Antichrist and to continue his millennial reign on the earth.
In the book “Foundations of Pentecostal Theology.” It states that the post-tribulation position is simply taking scripture less literally and is in actuality different events describing the same thing that will occur at the end of the tribulation. The author states the following:
- The Post-tribulation Rapture Theory. Those who hold this theory believe that the believers will go through the Tribulation and that the Rapture will occur simultaneously with, or immediately before, the Lord’s Coming in Judgment. They hold that the Rapture of the Church and Christ’s Return to Rule are simply different aspects of a single event which will happen at the end of the Great Tribulation, and just before the defeat of the Beast and his followers and the beginning of the Millennium.
This view in its basis holds that we will be raptured before God pours out His wrath on the earth. This view (held by many advocates, including myself) takes passages that the other views ignore and is able to reconcile them. The largest proponent of this view is Dr. Marv Rosenthal. He sums it up in the following way. This excerpt was taken from “The Journal of Ministry and Theology: Volume 3”
- The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week are the beginning of sorrows but do not constitute any wrath of God, only the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, Rosenthal insists that the word “tribulation” is never used for the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week.9
- The term “Great Tribulation” applies to a second period of Daniel’s 70th Week for which there is intense tribulation or persecution of Christians. This period lasts an indeterminate amount of time but less than 3½ years. Most of the diagrams show it ending half way through the last 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th Week.10
- The first six seals cover the time from the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week until the end of the Great Tribulation (roughly 5¼ years). In their entirety they constitute the wrath of man through Antichrist.
- The sixth seal marks the coming of cosmic signs that precede the trumpet judgments.
- The Lord raptures the Church at the end of the Great Tribulation.
- The Day of the Lord is the time of God’s wrath that covers roughly the last half of the second 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th Week. This follows the rapture of the Church. This time of wrath is God’s anger poured out on all mankind including Israel and the nations.
- This time of God’s wrath actually extends for thirty days after the end of Daniel’s 70th Week as God’s bowl judgments are poured out on the nations who persecuted Israel. This thirty-day period is based upon Daniel 12:11.
Please note that I tried to keep the scholarly rhetoric down in this article. I know that I have skipped over A TON OF THINGS on each of these views. My point was to introduce people to these views, not come to a conclusion on each one. I will say (my personal opinion) that the Pre-Wrath Rapture seems to fit best into scripture (speaking of all my studies).
I pray this will spark you on to further study and reflection. May God bless you.