One of the most frequently asked questions concerning the Last Days is, “When will the Rapture take place?” Since the Bible does not give us times or dates, we must answer this question by describing where the Rapture will fall within the Order of Events of the Last Days. When responding in this way, the answer becomes: “The Rapture will take place after the dead are raised,” as explained in the following passages.
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. I Thess. 4:15-17
From these verses, we learn that after the dead are raised, the living will be caught up (raptured) and together they will meet the Lord in the air. This places the Rapture as occurring after the Resurrection of the Dead in the Order of Events of the Last Days. This same sequence of events is found in the following verses where the Rapture is, again, described as taking place when the dead are raised.
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
In these verses, the death of the Believer is referred to as sleep, and the rapture of God’s people is referred to as being changed. Accordingly, When we read that those who will not sleep will be changed when the dead are raised, it, again, tells us that the Rapture will occur as a function of the Resurrection of the Dead. Based on the correlation between these two events, we can say that if we know when the dead are raised, we also know when the living will be caught up.
When Will the Dead be Raised?
The timing of the Resurrection of the Dead, (and therefore the Rapture), can be found throughout the Scriptures, which tells us that the dead will be raised 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. Jn. 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.” Jn. 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. Jn. 6:44
The last day, itself, is described in the following passages where we read that at the coming of the Lord, the heavens will disappear with a roar 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, 10-1
In the above account, we learn that at the Return of Christ, a great fire will engulf the earth, which will cause the heavens to disappear 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 a world that has been melted by fire. Based on this description, we can say that when the Scriptures tell us that the dead will be raised on the last day, they are speaking of the literal last day of events on earth, Accordingly, the Rapture will take place at the Return of Christ when the dead are raised, the living are caught up, and the world beneath them is melted by fire.
The timing of the Resurrection of the Dead and the last day is confirmed in the following conversation between Jesus and a Jewish woman named Martha, which took place following the death of her brother. In that conversation, when the Lord told Martha that her brother would rise again, she responded by saying that she knew her brother would rise again on the last day.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jn. 11:23-24
As a common person without access to the Scriptures, Martha’s understanding of the Resurrection of the Dead would have come from her time spent in Synagogue. Accordingly, Martha’s statement that the dead would be raised on the last day gives us a glimpse into what was being taught by the priests and the teachers of the Law of her time. This, in turn, corresponds with how it has always been the belief of God’s people that the earth would have a final day, and on that day, the dead would be resurrected. When we combine this historical teaching with the additional New Testament revelation that the living will also be caught up when the dead are raised, our answer to the original question now becomes:
The Rapture will take place after the Resurrection of the Dead, which itself will take place on the last day after all of the earlier events of the Last Days have concluded.
The Rapture and the Great Tribulation
In contrast to the above understanding, modern doctrines often ignore the relationship between the Resurrection of the Dead and the Rapture and, instead, the Rapture is portrayed as an isolated event that will occur before, during, or after the Great Tribulation. Under this new understanding, the connection between the raising of the dead and the catching up of the living is overlooked, and the Rapture becomes a function of the Great Tribulation with some believing that the Rapture could occur at any moment. In response to this change in how we view the Rapture, we must re-establish the connection between the Resurrection of the Dead and the Rapture as it is the key to understanding when this event will take place.
Bryan Coray is the author of Keep Watch: The Order of Events of the Last Days available on Amazon©.