So what does the Bible really say about the rapture? To any open-minded student of scripture, it says followers of Christ will be raptured out of this earth shortly before the “tribulation” period begins that is described in the book of Revelation. We don’t see how a person seeking eschatological truth in the pages of the Bible could come to any other conclusion. However, people do. Believers do. Good Christians hold opposing viewpoints. However, it is not possible to deny the doctrine of the rapture without denying or dismissing important passages of scripture.
Where do we get this from? There is simply no denying that the second coming of Christ is described in the Bible as two distinctly different events which must occur at different times. The Apostle Paul tells us not all Christians will experience death. He describes an event where there is a noise like the shout of an Archangel, and the sound of a trumpet, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then those of us who are still alive on the earth (Christians that is) will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and will then forever be with the Lord. He writes about this in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-55.
That is quite a contrast from the description of Christ’s second coming in the book of Revelation and in the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In those descriptions, he returns riding on a white horse (followed by tens of thousands of his saints also riding on white horses) to end the battle of Armageddon. So we have two different events described here with Christ’s second coming. They both cannot happen at exactly the same time. And if Christ is to be followed by his saints upon his return, we would first need to be with him, wouldn’t we?
We now come to an important crossroads. Either you believe the Bible is true or you don’t . And when I say true, I mean all of it. If you are picking parts that you think are true and are saying that other parts are not, I must inquire as to where you got that authority (to be able to discern which parts are not true). If only part of the Bible is true, who indeed is qualified to tell us which parts are true and which parts are not? People who do this are usually trying to bend the scriptures to support their own preconceived notions and are not looking for truth.
And when I say true, I mean literally true. All of it. Yes there are parables, mysteries, and even riddles in the Bible. But those are all clearly identified as being such. There are those who insist on spiritualizing parts of the text. This again brings up the problem of authority. If you are going to pick out parts of the scripture which are literally true and others which are only spiritually true, you can now support any crazy doctrine you care to invent. This is exactly what cults do. And how is it you are the one person who somehow knows which parts are literally true and which parts are not? You are basically declaring yourself to be a prophet in doing so - and we know the Bible warns against false prophets who teach doctrine contrary to scripture.
Why would God make the one book He wrote for us a mystery book which nobody can understand, or only a few select people can decipher? No, it all has to be true otherwise none of it is credible – for the simple reason that nobody is qualified to tell us which parts are literally true. Especially since there are no issues or contradictions with accepting it as all being literally true, now that Israel is a nation again. If you don’t want to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture or at least a mid-tribulation rapture, it is either because you have a stubborn preconceived notion to the contrary (that cannot even be swayed by clear scriptural evidence), or you simply have not studied the Bible enough.
OK OK, you decided to believe that all of the Bible must be true, and therefore you concede that there are two different second comings of Christ. Now it is just an argument over timing. Some people believe the first event happens like 5 minutes before the second, in other words a post-tribulation rapture viewpoint. They think God will leave his beloved church here to suffer the horrible judgments described in the book of Revelation, despite all the scripture which strongly suggests otherwise. Where is your hope, if this is what you believe? These are the people you see burying food and stocking up on ammunition.
Jesus himself tells us in Luke 21:36 to Pray always that you will be counted worthy to escape the hour of tribulation. Why would he advise this if it is not possible? This rather bleak point of view (the post-tribulation rapture) is usually held by people who just cannot accept the second coming of Jesus being divided into two different events which are separated by any measurable time. Because wouldn’t the last one then be a third coming? And that just doesn’t sound right to them.
Of much more merit is the idea of a mid-tribulation rapture. Many good Christians hold this viewpoint as well. At least they understand the nature of the graceful, merciful God who is revealed throughout the entirety of scripture. No way does he leave his faithful, loving followers here for the tribulation judgments. We have meaningful Old Testament examples of him removing his people before delivering severe judgment. We are promised in the New Testament that we are not appointed to wrath.
However there is a major problem with this viewpoint in that the Anti-Christ would have to come on the scene while the church was still here. This is contradicted in the book of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, where Paul tells us he can only be revealed when that which hinders him is removed. That which hinders him is considered by most Bible scholars to be the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit in this world is mostly manifested in the church. So it is the power of the Holy Spirit through the presence of the church which is restraining that man of sin. At least that is the most plausible explanation, and the most logical conclusion.
Even knowing all this, the real clincher for believing in the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture can actually be found in the Old Testament. If you need further convincing please follow me there.