The Doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

As we see events taking place in the world that remind us that we are living in the Last Days, many Believers are putting their hopes in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. The doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaches that before the worst aspects of the Last Days begin, the followers of Christ will be caught up (Raptured) to meet the Lord in the air and will not experience the persecution of God’s people known as the Great Tribulation. The actual timing of the Rapture can be found in the following verses that describe how the Rapture will take place after the dead are raised.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thess. 4:13-17

In the above verses, we are told that the living will be caught up when the dead in Christ are raised, which tells us that if we know when the Resurrection of the Dead will take place, we also know when the Rapture will occur.

The Resurrection of the Dead

The timing of the Resurrection of the Dead (and therefore the Rapture) can be found throughout the Scriptures and is something that has always been known by God’s people. This is demonstrated by the conversation that Jesus had with a Jewish woman named Martha. When Jesus told Martha that her brother, who had just died, would rise again, she responded by saying, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (Jhn. 11:24). When Martha spoke of the resurrection that would take place on the last day, she was not speaking of a symbolic last day, or of the last day of the church, as the church did not yet exist. Instead, she was referring to the literal Last Day of events on earth. Accordingly, her statement that the Resurrection of the Dead will take place on the Last Day reflects how it has always been the belief by God’s people that the earth will have a final day, and on that day, the dead will be resurrected.

The answer that Martha gave to the Lord is confirmed to be the right answer by the following verses that also state that the Resurrection of the Dead, and therefore the Rapture, will take place on the Last Day.

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:39

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:40

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44

A description of the Last Day, itself, is given to us in Peter’s account of the Return of Christ, when the heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised…?” But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? …That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Pet. 3:3-4, 10-13

According to the Apostle Peter, when the promised coming of the Lord takes place, a great fire will engulf the earth that will cause the heavens to disappear with a roar and the elements to melt in the heat. Obviously, this will be the Last Day on earth as no other events can take place on an earth that has been melted by fire. On the Last Day, the Lord will return, the dead will be resurrected, and the living will be joined with them in the air. In the same instant that these events take place, the earth itself will be consumed by fire. This tells us that the Resurrection of the Dead and the Rapture will occur after all of the other events on earth have expired, including the Great Tribulation.

The Last Trumpet

In addition to occurring on the Last Day, the Scriptures also tells us that the Resurrection of the Dead/Rapture will take place at the sounding of the Last Trumpet.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Cor. 15:51-52

The above verses are another account of the Resurrection of the Dead and the Rapture, when the living and the dead will be given imperishable bodies the moment they are caught up to be with the Lord. In this description of events, we are given the additional information that the Resurrection of the Dead and the Rapture will be preceded by the sounding of the Last Trumpet. In the Revelation, we read of the Seven Trumpets that will announce seven judgments upon the earth. In order to be the Last Trumpet, the trumpet that will announce the Resurrection of the Dead and the Rapture must come after all of the other Seven Trumpets have sounded and after all of their judgments have taken place. This, again, tells us that the Resurrection of the Dead/Rapture will take place on the Last Day, after all of the other events on earth have passed, including the Great Tribulation. Accordingly, the Rapture should never be thought of as something that will occur before, during, or after the Great Tribulation, as it will have nothing to do with this event. Instead, the Rapture should always be associated with the Resurrection of the Dead, which will take place on the Last Day, before the earth is destroyed by fire.

To read more about the timing of events of the Last Days, see: The Order of Events of the Last Days

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