When Will the Rapture Take Place?
While most (but not all) believers agree that there will be a rapture, believers differ about the timing of the rapture. At least five answers have been given. Some say the rapture will take place before the Tribulation, thus this view is called Pretribulationism. Others hold the view that the rapture will occur in the middle of the Tribulation (Midtribulationism), at the end of the Tribulation (Posttribulationism), before God’s wrath is poured out (Pre-wrath view) or that only some believers will be worthy to escape the Tribulation and be raptured (the Partial rapture view). As is evident from these different views, it is important to be clear about some definitions and terms.
Definitions and Terms
How can the ‘day of Christ’, the Tribulation and the ‘day of the LORD’ be defined?
First, it appears that the ‘day of Christ’ (Philippians 1:10; 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:2) can be connected to the rapture and bema-seat judgement of Church age believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-10; 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Second, the Tribulation Period is understood to be a seven-year period immediately preceding the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) or Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27). The whole Tribulation Period will be characterised by terror (Isaiah 2:19-21), by wrath, trouble, distress, devastation, gloominess and darkness (Zephaniah 1:14-18). Its effects will be global, affecting the whole earth (Isaiah 2:10-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). Jesus refers to the last 3,5 years of this 7-year period as the Great Tribulation (thlipsis megala – Matthew 24:21; cf. Daniel 12:1).
When will the Tribulation Period start?
According to Daniel 9:27, the Antichrist will enter into a covenant with Israel for ‘one week’, the 70th week of that prophecy, which must be understood as a week of years, thus seven years. When this agreement is signed, the seven-year Tribulation period will begin. Since Daniel 9:24-27 is about ‘your people and for your holy city’ (Daniel 9:24a), this not only implies that some Jews must be back in their land, but that Israel must be a nation again. Since 1948, such a covenant with the Antichrist can be signed; since 1967, Israel has more control over their capital city but such control over Jerusalem will not be total until such time as the Messiah returns (cf. Luke 21:24).
When Israel signs this covenant with the Antichrist, “mega distress” will start. The apostle Paul likely referred to this event when he wrote that the Day of the Lord will come ‘as a thief in the night. For when they say “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them’ (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). This should not come as a surprise to believers (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6), but unbelievers will be caught off guard (1 Thessalonians 5:7). Even today international pressure is put on Israel to sign agreements (for example ‘land for peace’; cf. Joel 3:2b) that purportedly will bring ‘peace and safety’ but there will be neither peace nor safety until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth.
According to Fruchtenbaum (1996:87-88; cf. also Scholtz 2015:2), when the Scriptures refer to the actual phrase the Day of Jehovah or the Day of the LORD, it always refers to the seven-year Tribulation Period, but other non-negative references to that day or in that day may be used for both the Tribulation Period and the millennium. The Tribulation Period thus transitions this age into the age to come.
Third, how then should the ‘day of the LORD’ be defined? The day of the LORD includes the Tribulation (judgement) and continues into the millennium (blessing). But Blaising (2012:260) also points out that ‘the coming of the Lord and the coming of the day of the Lord are related concepts in a numbers of texts’ (Zechariah 14:1-5; Malachi 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 1:7-8; 2 Peter 3:4-10). He (ibid:259-270) convincingly argues that Paul in his correspondence to the Thessalonians related the rapture to the day of the Lord (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11): ‘Paul was teaching a pre- or onset day-of-the-Lord rapture, with the day of the Lord being an extended event, as seen in Daniel’s seventieth week’ (Blaising 2012:264-265).
FaithEquip follows a premillennial understanding of what might be called the ‘long day of the Lord’ view. According to this view, the day of the LORD includes the rapture of the Church, the Tribulation Period, the millennium, judgement at the Great White Throne and perhaps also the re-creation of heaven and earth (cf. Pentecost 1958:229-232). If so, how does this help in the question regarding the timing of the rapture?
God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness against all human beings who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). This is already happening today. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 states that Jesus will deliver believers ‘from the wrath to come’ and, a bit later in the same book, it says that God has not appointed believers unto wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Further, in the letter to the church at Philadelphia, the Lord says He will keep these Church age believers from the hour of trial which is to come upon the whole earth (Revelation 3:10). But what wrath is still to come in the future? What hour of trial is being referred to?
This wrath is not the wrath of hell or the lake of fire, because Jesus has already saved believers from this judgement (cf. Romans 8:1). The wrath to come is the wrath of the Tribulation Period. Some say that the first 3,5 years of the Tribulation Period is the wrath of man, not the wrath of God. But consider just one example: when Jesus opens the fourth seal, a fourth of all the inhabitants of the earth will die (Revelation 6:8). This does not appear to be the wrath of man. Instead, as intimated above, the full seven years of the Tribulation will be the wrath of God to come.
The Timing of the Rapture
In the first article about the rapture, we concluded that Church age saints will be raptured. If Jesus is going to deliver Church age believers from the wrath to come, the hour of trial, and if this wrath of God refers to the seven-year Tribulation Period, then the rapture must be Pretribulational.
If you would like to find out more about the rapture, we suggest you read the following sources:
Blaising, C.A., 2012, ‘The Day of the LORD and the Rapture’, Bibliotheca Sacra 169(675), 259-270.
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 1996, ‘Day of the LORD’, in M. Couch (ed.), Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, pp. 87-88, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids.
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2005, ‘The Rapture of the Church’, Ariel Ministries.
Pentecost, J.D., 1958, Things to come: A study of Biblical eschatology, Zondervan, Grand Rapids.
Scholtz, J.J., 2015, ‘Behold the glory of the King: The chiastic structures of Matthew 21-25’, In die Skriflig 49(1), Art #1856, 8 pages. Available at: http://indieskriflig.org.za/index.php/skriflig/article/viewPDFInterstitial/1856/2979
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