The concept of the rapture is arrived at by putting together several different passages of scripture and understanding the Bible in its entirety through a considerable effort in studying it.
It helps to first understand the simplicity of the message of the Gospel. Jesus died for the sins of the world; yours, mine, and everybody’s. God raised him from the dead and he ascended into heaven where he now sits on the right hand of God the Father. This opens the gates of heaven for everybody. We all have a standing, open invitation to heaven because the price of admission has been paid for us. All we have to do is repent from our sin and believe in Jesus. Put your trust in him, ask to be forgiven, and you will be saved. Nothing else is required other than believing in and trusting Jesus until you die.
Jesus is coming back. This is affirmed in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. His disciples did not understand this at his first coming. They thought he was going to setup his kingdom then. But after his death and resurrection they did then finally understand that he would be coming back someday to setup his kingdom. He told them this. Just after his ascension, Angels appeared to his disciples in Acts 1:11 and assured them that this same Jesus will return to you in the same manner as you saw him go.
The second coming of Christ is described in several places of scripture. However the descriptions of this event are quite different from each other. The timing of the event has a stark contradiction in the scriptures as well. Jesus told us to always be ready, that he could come at any moment, and that the day and the hour no man knows. He assured us it would be when we did not expect him.
However the books of Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation tell us exactly when he will return. It will be three and a half years after the Ant-Christ stands in the rebuilt temple and commits the abomination of desolation. It will be during (or just after) a great and terribly bloody battle that is fought in the valley of Armageddon in Israel. He arrives riding on a white horse, followed by a great multitude of his saints, and sets up his kingdom at that time. He will then reign as king of the earth for a thousand years.
The other second coming of Christ event described in the Bible involves Jesus returning to the cloud level. A trumpet and a shout from an archangel sounds, and all Christians who are alive on the earth are changed in an instant and pulled up the clouds to meet Jesus. All the other believers who have already died and gone to heaven are there with him. It used to be thought that this was all part of the second coming event. But as the angel Gabriel told Daniel, in the end times knowledge will increase. So we now understand that the second coming is divided into two separate events, the first one being what we call the rapture.
The timing conflict, that is the second coming happening on both a known date and an unknown date, can only be resolved by understanding that the two differently described second coming events are in fact different events – with the first one happening on an unknown date. Once you entertain that concept, a bunch of other scriptures start falling into place as well. It all starts to really make sense. Let us now take a look at some of the more important Bible passages having to do with the concept of the rapture .
Where in the Bible it Talks About the Rapture
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 – these are the descriptions of what we now understand to be the rapture event.
Zechariah 14:1-9 – an Old Testament description of the second coming event. Notice the contrast between this description and the passages mentioned above. The rest of this chapter talks about the thousand year reign of Christ.
Revelation 19:11-21 – a New Testament description of the second coming event. Notice the contrast between this description and the 1 Thess. and 1 Cor. passages above, but notice how it corresponds with the Zech. account above. The next chapter in Revelation talks about the thousand year reign of Christ.
Revelation 16:12-21 – the battle of Armageddon. Notice it happens during the tribulation. It is in fact part of one of God’s judgments, the sixth vial (or bowl) judgment, and happens just before the return of Christ. (The seventh vial judgment is the final one and then Christ returns.)
Matthew 24:30-31 – a description given by Jesus of his second coming. This is where many people have gotten confused, because at first glance one could assume it was corresponding to the event described in the 1 Thess. and 1 Cor. passages above. This is because there are clouds and a trumpet in both events, and he talks about gathering together his elect. However, look closer at this passage. Notice that the elect who are being gathered are specifically from Heaven, not from the earth. Also notice that the entire world will see him in the clouds. In the rapture event that is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 only the raptured believers see him. So this description that Jesus gives in Matthew 24 must be part of the second coming event, just before arriving on the white horses.
Daniel 12:11-13 – the Old Testament prophet Daniel giving the exact date of the second coming. Not that we wouldn’t know anyway, since it happens at the end of the seven year tribulation period after all the judgments are finished, probably ending the battle of Armageddon. The anti-Christ will be in power and most of the world’s population will have died during the tribulation judgments. So we all know when this second coming event will happen anyway.
Matthew 24:36: – Jesus telling us nobody knows the date of his return.
Matthew 24:42 – Jesus again affirming us that we don’t know when he is coming again.
Matthew 24:44 – Jesus again assuring us that his coming will be a surprise, when we do not expect him. We will certainly be expecting him when the Anti-Christ is revealed, when the tribulation judgments start falling upon the earth, and especially when there is a big battle in the valley of Megiddo.
Matthew 24:38-39 – A further illustration by Jesus that he will be coming when nobody expects it. Notice how life is going on as usual in the world in this illustration. This passage would certainly seem to affirm that it will be before the tribulation judgments are happening.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 – Assurance from the Apostle Paul that Christians are not appointed to wrath, so will not be present for the wrath of God that is unleashed during the tribulation judgments.
Genesis 18:25: Abraham telling God that it should be far from him to judge the righteous along with the wicked. God did not dispute this, and in fact forcibly removed his cousin Lot from Sodom before delivering the judgment upon it.
Revelation 19:7-9 – the marriage supper of the lamb, where Christ is joined to his church forever. This event takes place in heaven, just before the second coming event that happens in Revelation 19:11-21. The entire church has to be there for this ceremony. So we must get taken up somehow to be present for it, before the second coming.
John 14:2-3 – a famous verse that we all learned in Sunday School (which is used to assure us that we will be going to heaven when we die if Jesus is our Lord). However, notice that Jesus says he is coming again to receive us into heaven. At the second coming his saints actually come with him and stay on the earth to help him govern it during his thousand year reign. Therefore this passage is now understood to be referring to the rapture.