Many Christians have been taught that there will be a “Rapture” before the earth is subjected to a tribulation period, which ultimately leads to the end of the world (i.e. Apocalypse). The word “rapture” is not found in the bible and originates from the expression to “be caught away” found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (KJV)
The roots of the pre-tribulation Rapture concept can be traced back to the early 1800s, where it gained momentum through John Nelson Darby and became mainstream thinking among many Protestant evangelical Christians. Prior to this time, no one had even heard of this pre-tribulation Rapture (or “Secret Rapture”) idea. It’s time to go back to basics in what the Word of God says.
If the reader is willing to objectively review the scriptures, he/she may be surprised that the bible clearly falsifies this doctrine. It’s very important that one studies the scripture not to prove what he/she has been taught, but to evaluate if what he/she has been taught aligns with the truth in the scriptures.
First of all, the return of Christ will be no secret; everyone will see Him.
30“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV)
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul the Apostle provides further detail on this event when believers will be united with Christ at the time of His return.
14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For 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. 16For 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: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (KJV)
First, Christ will arrive with (a) a shout, (b) the voice of the archangel and (c) the trump of God. Second, the dead in Christ shall rise first. Third, [Christians] which are alive will be caught up to meet the Lord.
The shout, voice of the archangel and trumpet are described in Revelation.
1Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven… 2He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion… 5Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven… 6and said, “There will be no more delay! 7But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:1-7 (NIV)
15The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15 (NIV)
At the moment the seventh trumpet is sounded, Christ returns to establish His kingdom on Earth and the dead believers are resurrected.
The resurrection of the “dead in Christ” is described in Revelation.
4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Revelation 20:4-5
The resurrection of the “dead in Christ” occurs at Christ’s return and after the tribulation period. Any Christians that are still alive after the tribulation period will also be united with Christ at this time. Consider that if the “Rapture” occurred before the tribulation period, the “dead in Christ” would rise and, together with the living Christians, be united with Christ. The resurrection of those that become Christians during the tribulation period and are killed (described above) would, therefore, be a second resurrection. A second resurrection at this time contradicts the scriptures.
The scriptures are clear and one must be careful to heed the words of John the Apostle when he says,
18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18
There are many other scriptures in the Old and New Testaments with the theme of enduring tribulation followed by the Lord’s deliverance. All scriptures are synchronized to the same message that we are lost without God, are delivered through Jesus, and must be willing to follow Him unto death.
Then [Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 (NIV)
To fully appreciate the teachings of the scriptures, one must understand that Christians will endure the tribulation period unto death and Christ will return once to reunite with believers and rule the nations thereafter. The question is not “Will the Rapture occur before or after the tribulation?”, but rather “Are we prepared to faithfully and patiently endure the tribulation, even unto death?”