The rapture versus the tribulation has been a very divisive subject for many years because men have bent and twisted the scriptures to support their personal doctrines. I do not want to bend or twist them any way so I am going to quote passages and leave the teaching to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The key is that Jesus Christ will catch the church away at the rapture. We will meet the Lord in the clouds and be with him forever. He will not come to Earth. This is not the second coming.
Then after the tribulation, he will come to Earth in judgment taking vengeance on the wicked. Then he will reign on Earth for a thousand years. This is the second coming.
Here is a classic illustration by Clarence Larkin that demonstrates the difficulty of interpreting future prophecies. From each valley, we only see the next mountain peak. From each mountain peak, we can see a little farther. It is only by faith that we can believe what we cannot see, because faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Heb 11:1)
I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. (1 John 2:26-27)
But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (Jude 1:17-23)
Some will say there is no such thing as a rapture because the word “rapture” is not in the Bible. Strangely, they don’t hold the same opinion on airplane, bike, computer … yacht, x-ray, zipper. You get the idea. However, there is strong support for using the word “rapture”…
The Koine Greek of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 uses the verb form ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha), which means “we shall be caught up” or “taken away”, with the connotation that this is a sudden event. The dictionary form of this Greek verb is harpazō (ἁρπάζω). This use is also seen in such texts as Acts 8:39,2Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 12:5.
The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα as rapiemur, from the verb rapio meaning “to catch up” or “take away”.
“Rapture” is derived from Middle French rapture, via the Medieval Latin raptura (“seizure,kidnapping”), which derives from the Latin raptus (“a carrying off”). –Wikipedia
1) Jesus preparing a place … will come and get you
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)
2) The “rapture” is a secret not revealed in prior ages — but the tribulation is prophesied in the Old Testament
In all history there has never been such a time of terror. It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved! (Jeremiah 30:7)
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2:11)
The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. (Zephaniah 1:14)
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! (1 Corinthians 15:51)
3) The “rapture” is a quantum event — In the twinkling of an eye … we will be changed
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment823, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
- 823 átomos
- (from 1 /A “not” and 5114 /tomṓteros, “to cut”) – properly, not able to cut (divide) because too small to be measured, like a “split second”; an “instant; an indivisible moment of time, too short to measure” (Souter).
- For deeper study: In the twinkling of an eye … we will be changed
Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:26)
“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Mane coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:25-28)
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11)
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
5) The “rapture” is a rescue, but the tribulation is a judgement
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6)
“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. (Revelation 3:10)
Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8)
Jeremiah prophesied the judgment of the second coming…
This is the message the LORD gave concerning Israel and Judah. This is what the LORD says:
“I hear cries of fear;
there is terror and no peace.
Now let me ask you a question:
Do men give birth to babies?
Then why do they stand there, ashen-faced,
hands pressed against their sides
like a woman in labor?
In all history there has never been such a time of terror.
It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel.
Yet in the end they will be saved! For in that day,”
says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies,
“I will break the yoke from their necks
and snap their chains.
Foreigners will no longer be their masters.
For my people will serve the LORD their God
and their king descended from David—
the king I will raise up for them.
Look! The LORD’s anger bursts out like a storm,
a driving wind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked.
The fierce anger of the LORD will not diminish
until it has finished all he has planned.
In the days to come
you will understand all this. (Jeremiah 30)
Daniel prophesied the judgment of the second coming…
I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the LORD my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision.
“A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.
“After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end. The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” (Daniel 9:20-27)
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered. (Daniel 12:1)
Jesus quoted Daniel’s prophecies of judgment at the second coming…
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mark 9:12)
Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26)
“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones. (Matthew 24:15-22)
The judgment of the second coming…
You will flee through this valley, for it will reach across to Azal. Yes, you will flee as you did from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all his holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:5)
Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14-15)
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalm 96:13)
Sound the alarm in Jerusalem!
Raise the battle cry on my holy mountain!
Let everyone tremble in fear
because the day of the LORD is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of thick clouds and deep blackness.
Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains,
a great and mighty army appears.
Nothing like it has been seen before
or will ever be seen again. (Joel 2:1-2)
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. (Matthew 16:27)
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. (Matthew 25:31)
6) The Apostle Paul taught a pre-tribulation “rapture”
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Everything is peaceful before the rapture but not before the second coming
Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. (2 Thessalonians 1:7)
“Gathered to meet Him” is different than “The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones”
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Do not believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.
This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
7) No mention of the church during the tribulation in Revelation 4-22
There is no mention of the church in the prophetic description of the great tribulation period. The church is mentioned 16 times in chapters 1-3. But, it is not mentioned once in chapters 4-22 from the great tribulation through the battle of Armageddon and the 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth.
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Revelation 4:1)
For further study:
- harvest:greg laury — “Ready or Not, Here I Come!“, “Till He Comes“
- Positive Proof of Pre-trib Rapture – Separation Truth
- Why The Church Will Not Go Through The Tribulation
- Great Tribulation –Wikipedia
- Rapture –Wikipedia