The Rapture

COPYRIGHT ©1998 - James M. Frye

Revised 2001, 2012

All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.

 

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Introduction

There is perhaps no subject today that has aroused more curiosity than that of the rapture. What is it? When will it take place? What is God’s purpose for it? In this article, we will seek to answer these questions. But be ready, for what the Bible says on this subject may be quite different from what you have been taught.

 

What is the Rapture?

What is the rapture, and what will happen when it takes place? To answer this question, let’s look at 1 Thess. 4:13-17. We will examine this passage one verse at a time.

1 Thess. 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

This passage begins by talking about those who are asleep. The term "sleep" is often used in the Bible to refer to believers who have died.

John 11:11-14 ... he [Jesus] saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

So, "them which are asleep" is a reference to believers who have died. We must also keep in mind that it is the “body” that sleeps and not the soul (Matt. 27:52). The Bible teaches that there is conscious existence after death (Luke 16:19-31; Luke 23:43 etc.).

1 Thess. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

When a believer dies, his spirit is separated from his body (James 2:26). The body returns to the dust, but the spirit returns to God (Eccl. 12:7). For a believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).

One day Jesus Christ is going to return to earth. When He does, He will bring believers (their spirits) who have died and gone to heaven with Him. But not all believers will die before Jesus returns.

1 Thess. 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

There will be believers still alive on this earth when Jesus Christ returns. So we have two groups of believers: those who have died (whom Christ will bring with him); and those who are still alive (whom Christ is coming for).

1 Thess. 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

As we have said, Jesus will return to earth bringing the spirits of believers who have died with Him, but what about their bodies? This verse tells us that He will raise them from the dead. Jesus will reunite believers’ spirits with their bodies. Their bodies shall be raised immortal, never to die again.

But what about the bodies of believers who are still alive when Jesus returns? They haven’t died yet, so they can’t be resurrected (raised from the dead).

1 Cor. 15:51-53 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

The bodies of believers who are still alive at the second coming of Christ will be changed. Their bodies will be changed from mortal to immortal in a moment.

1 Thess. 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [raptured] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Then both groups (those who have been resurrected and those who have been changed) shall be raptured together to meet the Lord in the air at his coming.

 

When Will the Rapture Take Place?

There is much debate today about the timing of the rapture. Will it take place before the tribulation or after? There really is no need for all the confusion because scripture is actually quite clear on the matter. The Bible clearly teaches that the rapture will take place after the Great tribulation. In this section we will look at a number of reasons why this is true.

 

1. The rapture will take place AFTER the Great Tribulation because -- the rapture takes place at the second coming of Christ.

1 Thess. 4:15-17 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [Raptured] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

From this passage, one thing is clear. The rapture will take place when Jesus comes. So when will Jesus come, before the tribulation or after?

Matt. 24:29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Jesus will come immediately after the tribulation. It couldn’t be any clearer! And when He comes, He will gather believers (the elect) unto Himself. What is it called when Jesus comes to gather His elect unto himself? Why, it’s called the rapture, of course. And there it is right in the text immediately after the tribulation. Notice that He comes in the clouds, with angels, and with the sound of a trumpet. That is almost the exact wording that we found in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.

Some people will object at this point and tell us that the rapture and the second coming are two different events and that Jesus will come twice. They say that He will come once before the tribulation (at the rapture) and a second time after the tribulation. But that would mean that there would be both a second and also a third coming of Christ. Now where does the Bible speak of a third coming of Christ? It doesn’t. There is no such thing! When challenged, they will respond to this by saying that both comings are part of the second coming. Now, unless you are extremely bad at math, you can’t have two second comings. Is that the way we count (1, 2, 2, 3)? No, of course not. The second part would instead be a third coming.

To try and get around this obvious difficulty, those who teach a pre-tribulation rapture speak of the first and second “phases” of the second coming. Again, where does the Bible speak of “phases” of the second coming? It doesn’t.

 

2. The rapture will take place AFTER the Great Tribulation because -- the rapture takes place after the man of sin is revealed.

2 Thess. 2:1-4 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him [THE RAPTURE], That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand [IMMINENT]. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [THE DAY OF THE RAPTURE] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

This passage warns us not to let anyone deceive us by teaching that the rapture “is at hand” (is imminent – could take place at any moment). All who teach a pre-tribulation rapture also teach that the rapture is imminent. It is often said that there is nothing that must take place before the rapture. They tell us that it could happen at any moment. This passage warns us not to be deceived by that teaching. It tells us that two things must happen before the rapture can take place.

1. There will be a falling away (apostasy).

2. The man of sin will be revealed.

If there is anything that must take place before the rapture, the rapture can’t be imminent (take place at any moment). And since the rapture is to take place after the “man of sin” is revealed, it can’t take place before the tribulation. How could the rapture take place before the tribulation, when the Bible says that it will take place after an event that will take place during the tribulation?

Since the rapture takes place after the man of sin is revealed, we know that the rapture takes place after the Great Tribulation, just as we saw in point number 1.

 

3. The rapture will take place AFTER the Great Tribulation because -- when Jesus comes for believers, He will cast unbelievers into hell.

Have you ever seen the end-time movies or read fictional books that are based upon the pre-trib. rapture teaching? We hear of cars suddenly going out of control as the driver disappears in the rapture. We watch as people who missed the rapture spend their lives fleeing and hiding from a person they refer to as “the antichrist”. Is that the picture scripture paints for us?

2 Thess. 1:7-10 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Jesus is coming back for His saints. When He does, He will not only give them rest from their troubles, but He will also be glorified in them and admired by them. But is that all He is going to do? No, read the passage. He will also take vengeance on unbelievers (them that know not God) and cast them into hell punishing them (with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord).

There is no getting around it, unless you just choose to ignore this passage and believe whatever you want regardless of scripture. All of this happens at the one second coming of Christ. Notice that the word when occurs in this passage twice - both times between statements of what Jesus will do to believers and what He will do to unbelievers - inseparably linking the two together. When will He come for believers? When He comes to judge unbelievers and cast them into hell.

When the rapture takes place, unbeliever’s lives will not go on as normal. They will stand before Jesus in judgment, and He will cast them into hell. How could there possibly be a tribulation after that? There can’t. So clearly, the rapture takes place after the tribulation.

 

4. The rapture will take place AFTER the Great Tribulation because -- the rapture will take place on “the day of the Lord” when the heavens and the earth are destroyed by fire.

When studying scripture, it is important to study each passage in its context. The subject of the second coming and the rapture does not stop at the end of 1 Thess. chapter 4. It carries on into chapter 5. So let’s look at that section together in context.

1 Thess. 4:16-5:2 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [raptured] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

From reading this passage in context, one thing is immediately clear. The day in which the rapture takes place is called “the day of the Lord”. Does the day of the Lord take place before the tribulation or after? How can we know when it begins?

Isa. 13:9-10 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

From these passages, we see that the day of the Lord begins with the sun, moon, and stars turning dark. So, when does this take place, before the tribulation or after?

Matt. 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

The sun, moon, and stars will turn dark after the tribulation. So the day of the Lord will take place after the tribulation. And since the rapture takes place on the day of the Lord, we also know that the rapture will take place after the tribulation. And as we saw earlier, it’s right there in the text.

Matt. 24:29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together [Rapture] his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

But is that all that will take place on the day of the Lord? No, it’s not.

 

2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

As we have seen, “the day of the Lord” is the day in which the rapture takes place. When Jesus comes, He will not only rapture believers but will also destroy the heavens and the earth with fire. Therefore, the rapture must take place after the Great Tribulation.

 

5. The rapture will take place AFTER the Great Tribulation because -- the rapture will take place on the last day of human history when believers are resurrected.

Scripture tells us that believers will be resurrected at the time of the rapture.

1 Thess. 4:16-17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [Raptured] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

But the Bible also makes it clear that believers will be resurrected on the last day of human history.

John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.  

Jesus said that He will resurrect every believer on the last day (the last day of human history just prior to eternity). Jesus evidently doesn’t want people to misunderstand this fact - because He states it over and over again 4 times in the same chapter (verses 30, 40, 44, and 54).

Now, let me ask you a question. Since believers are resurrected at the rapture and since that resurrection takes place on the last day of human history – how could the rapture possibly take place before the tribulation?

Those who believe in a pre-trib. rapture generally believe that the tribulation will last for 7 years. But if the rapture takes place on the last day of human history, how could you have a 7 year tribulation after it? You couldn’t. If the rapture takes place on the last day there can’t be any days after it (otherwise it would not have been the last day). So, the rapture must take place after the tribulation and not before.

There are many other reasons why the rapture will take place after the Great Tribulation, but these reasons should be sufficient for any who sincerely desire the truth.

 

 

Why is There a Rapture?

If the purpose of the rapture is not to deliver believers from the tribulation, what, then, is its purpose? Let’s look at a passage that we looked at earlier.

2 Thess. 1:7-10 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Jesus is coming back to give believers (who have been going through the tribulation) rest from their troubles. At the same time, He will also be coming in flaming fire, taking vengeance on unbelievers (them that know not God). The purpose of the rapture is to get believers out of the way of the fire.

Luke 17:28-30 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

Just as God sent angels to deliver Lot out of Sodom before he destroyed it with fire, Jesus will also send his angels to deliver believers from the fire to come.

2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

As we have seen previously, “the day of the Lord” is the day in which the rapture takes place. When Jesus comes, He will not only rapture believers but will also destroy the heavens and the earth with fire. The purpose of the rapture is to get believers out of the way of the fire.

 

Common Objections

There are a number of objections that are often raised against the biblical teaching of a post-trib. rapture which has been set forth in this article. In this section we will look at a few of the more common ones.

1.  Coming “For” –vs– “With” His Saints

People will say: "Some passages say that, at the Second Coming, Jesus will come “with” His saints (believers). Other passages say that, at the Second Coming, Jesus will come “for” His saints. How could He come “with” them unless he first came “for” them? Therefore, there must be two phases of the Second Coming."

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Human reasoning always does (1 Cor. 3:19, Cols. 2:8). There is no discrepancy here. They do err not knowing the Scriptures (Matt. 22:29).

1 Thess. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus [believers who have died] will God bring with him. . . .

Here we have the saints that he is coming “with”.

1 Thess. 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we [believers] which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep

Here we have the saints that he is coming “for”.

We have both groups in the same passage at the same time — the second coming (not comings) of Christ. The saints that He is coming “with” are believers who have died and are coming back with Him from heaven. The saints that He is coming “for” are believers still alive upon the earth. There is no discrepancy! And there is no excuse for trying to create two “phases” of the second coming.

2.  Kept from the hour

People will say: "Jesus promises to keep us "from the hour of temptation (Rev. 3:10). Since the hour of temptation is the tribulation, we must, therefore, be removed from the earth (in the rapture) before the tribulation starts."

Rev. 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

This verse is often used by those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture to "prove" their position. But what does the phrase "keep thee from" mean? They say that it means that believers will not even be here during the temptation. Is that what it means? Let’s look at another verse of scripture that uses this same phase and see.

John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

Jesus is praying for his disciples. He does not pray for God to take them "out of the world" (as a rapture would) but that the Father will "keep them from" evil. Evidently being kept "from" something does not necessitate ones removal from the earth.

"Keep them from" is used here to mean "protect in the midst of". Was there evil in the world during the days of these disciples? Yes there was, and they were protected from it. The term "keep them from" is used in a spiritual, not a physical sense. It doesn’t mean "protected them from any bad thing happening to them". Remember that the majority of those for whom Christ was praying were eventually martyred.

They were not kept from physical harm but from spiritual harm. "Keep from evil" refers to being protected in the midst of spiritual evil. And, during the Tribulation, true Christians shall be "protected from" being deceived.

Matt. 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, "if it were possible", [indicating that it’s not possible] they shall deceive the very elect.

Believers will be "kept from" this temptation (deception). They will not be deceived by the deception of the Great Tribulation. This is not true, however, of unbelievers.

2 Thess. 2:8-12 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 

3.  Not Appointed unto Wrath

People will say: "God has not appointed believers unto wrath, therefore, they must be raptured before the tribulation".

1 Thess. 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

1 Thess. 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

What is wrong with this reasoning? The problem is that the wrath spoken of in both of the above passages is not talking about the tribulation. Let’s look at both passages more closely.

1 Thess. 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Notice that the word "delivered" is in the past tense. This verse isn’t talking about being delivered from something future (as in a future tribulation), it is speaking of a deliverance that took place in the past prior the time that Paul wrote. Now let's look at the other verse.

1 Thess. 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Notice that this wrath is contrasted with salvation. So there is a wrath that believers were delivered from in the past by being saved.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Believers have been delivered from the wrath of God in salvation. But the wrath of God still abides (remains) upon unbelievers. That is the wrath that these passages in Thessalonians are talking about.

Now clearly the deception that God pours out upon unbelievers and false professors during the Great Tribulation is God’s wrath as well. But as we saw in our previous section, God protects true believers in the midst of such deception so that they are not deceived by it. So clearly God can and does pour out His wrath upon some while protecting others from it. So there is no need to remove believers from the earth to escape God’s wrath.

 

4. Is the Rapture a Coming?

People will say: "The rapture and the second coming are two different events. The rapture is never called “a coming” in scripture”. That is totally false.

2 Thess. 2:1-4 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

Our gathering unto Jesus (the rapture) is clearly called a “coming” here. The rapture is also referred to as a “coming” in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 which we looked at earlier. Since there is only one “coming” of Christ (the second coming) and that coming takes place after the tribulation (Matt. 24:29-31), therefore, the rapture will take place after the tribulation.

 

Summary

At the beginning of this booklet, we set out to answer three questions:

1. What is the rapture, and what will happen when it takes place? We have seen that when Jesus returns to earth He will bring with him the spirits of believers who have died. He will then resurrect their bodies, placing their spirits back into their now resurrected, immortal bodies. Believers who have not yet died but are still alive when Christ comes, will have their bodies changed from mortal to immortal in a moment. Then both groups will be caught up (raptured) together to meet the Lord in the air at his coming.

2. When will the rapture take place? We have seen that the rapture will take place immediately after the tribulation, on the day of the Lord when the sun, moon and stars turn dark.

3. Why is there a rapture? We have seen that when Jesus comes for believers He is also coming to destroy, not only unbelievers, but also the heavens and the earth in flaming fire. The purpose of the rapture is to get believers out of the way of the fire.