Scriptural Quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version
The Rapture is a subject that I have not written a lot about before, but it is nevertheless an important topic because it can play a significant role in the way that people look at their own lives and the world around them. The books of the Bible with the clearest writing on the Rapture are 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. The Rapture is an event associated with Christ’s return as described in 1 Thess. 4:16-17:
“For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air.”
I agree with the majority of Evangelicals that the Rapture is a physical, future event, in which all believers are given immortal bodies and caught up into the air to meet the Lord. However, Evangelicals have differing views on whether the Rapture will happen before, during, or after a seven-year crisis period known as the Tribulation. My view is different in that I do not believe the Bible necessarily prophesies a future, seven-year tribulation. I understand why many believe in a future seven-year period, given that there is a seven-year period prophesied in Daniel. However, I think that period has already had a fulfillment. Although it is possible that those prophecies could have a dual-fulfillment in the future, I do not think the whole world would be necessarily impacted (I intend to write more on that subject this summer).
However, both Thessalonian epistles depict a period of cataclysmic events associated with the Rapture. Immediately after the depiction of the Rapture, Paul writes,
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!”
Considering the context, I think it is reasonable to assume that the phrase “day of the Lord” refers to the time of the Rapture. Notice that Paul says the day of the Lord will come when people are saying “peace and security.” This leads me to believe that the Rapture will occur at a seemingly ordinary time, for most of the world.
The passage goes on to depict disasters on earth in connection with the Rapture. I believe these disasters occur immediately after the Rapture takes place, and I think 2nd Thessalonians indicates this:
2 Thess. 1:6-10 – “For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints.”
Notice that the punishment of the unrighteous is depicted to occur simultaneously with Christ coming for His saints. This leads me to believe that cataclysmic events will begin on the earth right after the Rapture happens.
I believe the purpose of these disasters is to destroy the systems of government that have existed throughout the current age, which began after the flood in Genesis. This is to clear the way for Christ to rule the Earth through Israel in the coming age, as many prophecies from the Old Testament and the Four Gospels describe.
The events to take place right after the Rapture will be extremely severe. Natural disasters could erupt and destroy entire cities. But I think that all of this will take place very quickly (possibly just a few days, but that is only speculation), and afterwards, Christ will arrive on earth.
The reason I think the destruction period will be very short period is that, the Bible never depicts the Rapture of believers, and the return of Christ to the earth, as being separated by a period of time. Thus, I believe the Rapture and Christ’s return to the earth will occur in such close proximity that they are described as the same event. Matthew 24:31 – 25:33 also describes a Rapture-like event in the same context of Christ’s return to the earth.
After the post-Rapture destruction takes place, I believe that Christ will return to the earth and judge the nations based on how they treated believers in the years leading up to His return. Nations that treated believers favorably will be granted access to Christ’s new kingdom, and they will experience the blessings associated with it (Matthew 25). Nations that persecuted believers will face adverse conditions in the early phases of the new age. However, many Old Testament writings prophecy that eventually, all nations of the earth will worship Christ and become part of His kingdom (Psalm 86:9, 22:27, Isaiah 2:2).
Believers who were part of the Rapture will have immortal bodies, and should be able to quickly travel between Earth and the celestial realms. There is not a lot said in the Bible about exactly what we will be doing during the new Kingdom age, but Paul mentions judging angels (1 Cor. 6:3). I also expect that we may be assisting with the kingdom’s administration, and evangelizing to nations outside the kingdom.
So, to summarize my views on the Rapture, I believe that the Rapture is an event that could happen any time. Believers (both alive and deceased) will be caught up in the air to meet the Lord, and all believers will be converted to immortality. After the Rapture, there will be a brief period of widespread disasters on the earth, after which Christ will return to the earth to establish the new kingdom age.