When people mention the Rapture, they often mention the Tribulation but many Christians aren’t clear about its meaning. This period is very confusing as many aren’t sure what events actually take place during this time and how long it really is.
The Rapture is an end times event where Jesus Christ returns for His Church. According to the Bible, the event will be instantaneous, in the “twinkling of an eye”. While the word “Rapture” does not appear in the Bible, the event is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-44. The meaning or definition of Rapture is the idea that the coming of Jesus will take place in two separate stages.
The first will be a secret Rapture – or carrying away of the saved to heaven – at the beginning of a seven-year period of Tribulation. In the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation, the antichrist will appear. You will also see the success of his New World Order. The second phase occurs at the close of the time of Tribulation when Jesus will return to Earth in triumph and glory. At the Rapture, the Lord will descent bodily in the air for his saints, both for the dead and for the living (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) which will be seven years prior to the Revelation of the second stage of His coming. In the first stage of the Rapture, the Lord comes for His church; whereas, at the end of the Tribulation period, He comes back with His church. At this event “every eye shall see Him” although at the Rapture he will come “as a thief” and only believers will see Him.
During the Rapture, there will be signs of deception. There will be many people who will claim to be the Messiah and also claim to have the answers for a troubled world. In Matthew 24, Jesus gave a warning specifically for our generation. In this passage Jesus, speaking to us, warns us that false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even elect. These false prophets are not working with sleight of hand illusions. We must be on guard and ask ourselves who these sinister false prophets and messiahs are. The Bible warns us that these are no ordinary men. In the End Times, people will be crying desperately for leaders to deliver them, and they will seek mystics and religious leaders who claim to have deeper knowledge.
After the Rapture of the church, Christians will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ. During this period, the people will be rewarded for the works they have accomplished. To clarify, this isn’t a judgement to determine their salvation but a reward for labor on Jesus’ behalf. The Rapture also opens up a period known as “the great Tribulation.” This is also referred to as the “great day of His wrath” and the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” During this time, there will be great difficulty that will affect Israel and all nations. The purpose of the great Tribulation is to prepare Israel for Jesus’ Second Coming.
The timing of the Rapture sparks a great debate within Christianity. Many wonder if it occurs before, during or after the Tribulation period. The main debate on the Rapture is not what it is, but when it will occur in relation to the Tribulation. The pre-Tribulation view is that the Rapture will happen before the Tribulation period, the mid-Tribulation view is that the Rapture will occur half-way through the Tribulation period and the post-Tribulation view is that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation period. For believers, the pre-Tribulation Rapture is a wonderful hope. However, whether to live to see pre-Tribulation, mid-Tribulation or post-Tribulation or we die prior to any type of Rapture at all, they key to eternal salvation in all cases is our faith in Jesus Christ alone.
At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Christ will return with the hosts of heaven as well as the Church to establish the Messianic Kingdom on earth. The prophets depicted for us a beautiful future when Jesus returns. He will establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and this will span the entire world.
We are told in Scripture that Jesus’ return will be “with power and great glory.” During Jesus’ first coming, he humbled himself, being born in a stable in Bethlehem and living a life on earth with great humility. However, upon his return, the will come back as pronounced King of Kings and Lord or Lords. On this day, in a triumphant return, the whole world will see and know who Jesus really was. Humility stands out in Jesus’ first coming. Glory stands out in his second. His return will be triumphant, marked with the powerful accompaniment of angels and saints.
Many people have attempted to pinpoint the time of Christ’s return and each has failed. Jesus told his disciples on the Mount of Olives, referenced in Matthew 24:36 that “No one know about the day or the hour,” so it is impossible to pinpoint the exact day or time of Jesus’ return. However, we are told by Jesus that we will know when His return is near. “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” These signs will point to His return. If we believe in the Bible, God’s truth, we ultimately believe in Jesus' final return.