When we speak about the rapture of the Church, different questions come up: What is it? What does it mean? When will it happen? And of course, there are opposing views. The purpose of this website is to present these views and then let you choose which seems most likely.
TERMINOLOGY If we are going to discuss the rapture, let’s make sure we all understand the definitions and terms.
What is the Church? The church–little c–is a building where believers meet for worship, fellowship and study. The Church–capital C–is the body of people who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, Resurrected One, and Returning in the future–also known as believers. The word Church comes from the Greek word ecclesia. Ecclesia actually means the called out and is usually translated as Church, although sometimes as assembly (Acts 19:32,39,41). Called out refers to the idea presented by Jesus that believers are called out of the world (John 15:18-19): the world represents the opposing view of God and his redemptive work. This is not a new idea: In the Old and New Testaments, believers were told to be holy, which means set apart (Leviticus 11:44, 19:2; 1 Peter 1:13-16; 1 Peter 2:9 ). Our position in Christ as believers, sets us apart from the world. In this respect, at our confession and baptism¹, we become members of the Church worldwide–members of the Body of Christ.
¹ Paul tells us that by the confession of faith we are saved (Romans 10:8-10). We are told by Jesus to go into the world, making disciples and baptizing them (Matthew 28:16-20). But what if a person is incapable of speech or unable to be baptized. Is salvation beyond them? Of course not. Jesus assured the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise with him that day (Luke 23:42-43).
What is the Great Tribulation? In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about the persecution of believers, the Abomination that Causes Desolation [aka the antichrist] spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 9:27), and then says, “For then there will be Great Tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt:24:21). In Revelation 7:14, the angel told John, “These are the ones who came out of the Great Tribulation and washed their robes made white in the blood of the Lamb.”
What is the Rapture? The word rapture refers to an event mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “And after that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” The Greek–caught up–translated into Latin is rapturo. Jesus seems to mention the rapture event in Matthew 24: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” Among many Christians, the debate is not about IF the rapture will happen, but rather WHEN the rapture will take place: before, during or after the seven years of the Great Tribulation. I do not include the Preterist view, which believes the Second Coming happened in 70 AD (2 Thess 2:2), or the Partial-Tribulation view because it lacks significance in this study, elements of which can be gleaned from the other views.
The Second Coming The rapture is NOT the Second Coming of Christ. The First Coming of Jesus was his birth, life, death and resurrection. Speaking of his return, Jesus said people would see him, “…coming on the clouds of heaven,” (Matthew 26:64). John described the Second Coming: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11, 14).
When will the rapture happen? If the Great Tribulation is many years in the future, the whole debate about when the rapture takes place (before, middle, or end of the Great Tribulation) is of little or no importance or relevancy to most people.
But what if the Second Coming happens around 2037? Then this study of the rapture might become important–certainly more personal. Go to When Will Jesus Return? to learn more.