Studying End Time Events is not without its difficulty or controversy, and perhaps the most controversial issue within such a study is the ‘when’ of the Rapture. By ‘when’ we do not mean the exact day or hour; but when in relationship to the Tribulation Period. In other words, will the Rapture of the church take place: “before” the Tribulation Period begins, “during the Tribulation” or “after the Tribulation”?
It is my belief that the Rapture will take place “before” the Tribulation period begins and here is some of my reasoning:
1. Biblical Examples
a. Noah and his family were taken into the ark before the flood began
b. Lot was rescued from Sodom before the destruction
2. Distinction between the church and Israel
a. The Tribulation Period is the 70th and final week determined for the nation Israel (Daniel 9)
b. It is called “The Time of Jacob’s (Israel) Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) In contrast, scripture indicates that we are living in “The Time of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24)
c. The Church Age which has dealt primarily with the Gentiles was a mystery in OT prophecy. (Eph 3:1-6, 5:32; Col 1:25-27)
d. Therefore it seems likely that God’s work with the church will be complete before He resumes His work with the nation Israel
3. Saint’s Presence in Heaven Before Tribulation Period Begins (Rev 5:6-10)
4. Coming “with” vs Coming “for” 1 Thess 4:13-18 and 1 Cor 15:51-58 seem to indicate that the Lord is coming “for” us, whereas Rev 19:5-21, which refers to the end of the Tribulation, seems to indicate that we are coming “with” Him.
5. There is no mention of any activity of the church or interaction between the church and the Anti-christ during the Tribulation Period.
6. Scripture’s emphasis that the return of Christ can happen at any moment. (Imminent) (Jn 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor 15:51-52; Php 3:20; Col 3:4; 1 Thess 1:10; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13; Rev 3:3; Jas 5:8; 2 Pet 3:3-4)
7. The removal of the Holy Spirit before the appearance of the Anti-christ (2 Thess 2:1-7)
At the beginning of this study, I mentioned that this is perhaps the most controversial of all topics concerning End Time Events. It is controversial for good reason; many of the prophetic passages are difficult to interpret. As with many portions of prophecy, the Lord seems to give many details concerning many time periods all in one portion of scripture. The gospel of Christ and our salvation is not dependent upon whether or not you are “pre”, “mid” or “post” tribulational. With these things in mind, it is my opinion that we should be humble in our interpretation of these difficult portions of scripture and toward those who may differ with us in these non-essential areas.