Understanding the Rapture of the Church: 8 Questions and Answers

By Dr. Bob Martin III
Published 2 years ago

I.   Question 1: What is the Rapture of the Church?

The rapture of the Church is an end-time event. Jesus will instantly take his Church (both living and dead believers) out of the world (1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; cf.; Job 19:25-27; Isa. 26:19; John 11:25-26; 14:1-3; Rev. 20:4).

 

WHAT IS THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH?

 

There are several features of the rapture. For example, it:

  • Could occur at any time (imminent) (Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-54)
  • Could occur before or with Jesus’ Second Coming
  • Is likened to a “snatching away” or a “carrying off” to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17)
  • Results in the resurrection and transformation of believers (1 Cor. 15:50–57; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 Thess. 4:13–18 cf., John 14:1–3; Rom. 8:23; Rev. 3:10)
  • Is necessary because our human bodies cannot dwell in heaven eternally (1 Cor. 15:50)

 

THE RAPTURE LIST

 

II.   Question 2: What Happens When Believers are Transformed?

When the rapture of the Church occurs, resurrected and living believers are transformed. Their transformed bodies are:

  • Wholly united with Jesus (Rom. 6:5)
  • Spirit-dominated, meaning the Holy Spirit directs them (1 Cor. 15:44)
  • Imperishable and immortal (1 Cor. 15:42, 51–52)
  • Physical because God created us in his image (Gen. 1:27; 9:6; Heb. 1:3)
  • Glorious being perfect and permanently righteous (Phil. 3:20-21)
  • Able to see God face-to-face (i.e., the “Beatific Vision”) (Matt. 5:8; 1 Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4)

 

TRANSFORMATION OF BELIEVERS

 

III.   Question 3: What are the 3 Millennial Views?

The rapture of the Church is usually associated with premillennialism. To understand premillennialism, I will review all three “millennial” views.

All Christians agree on Jesus’ Second Coming. However, there is debate on when Christ’s return occurs in relation to the 1000 years or millennium (Rev. 20:2-7). And despite disagreement among Bible scholars, all three are considered evangelical.

The three main views of the millennium are:

1.   Premillennialism

Premillennialists believe that Jesus’ Second Coming is before the millennium. The millennium is a literal 1000-year reign over the world from Jerusalem. The rapture of the Church occurs before his second coming.

 

2.   Postmillennialism

Postmillennialists believe Jesus returns to earth after the Church has Christianized the world. A long time (“millennium”) of peace and prosperity follows.

 

3.   Amillennialism

Amillennialists interpret the “millennium” as occurring now. It is the long period between Jesus’ first and Second Coming.

 

For the rest of the blog, I will only be discussing premillennialism. But before I do, I want to warn you it can be easy to confuse the three different premillennial views.

  • Just remember they are all “premillennial” views
  • And the division is based on the timing of the rapture (pre-, mid-, post-) with the millennium

 

IV.   Question 4: What are the 3 “Premillennial” Views of the Rapture of the Church

In premillennialism, the rapture of the Church precedes Jesus’ return. The rapture is:

There are two ways to classify premillennialism:

(a) before (pre-)

(b) during (mid-)

(c) after (post-) the tribulation (Revelation 6-18)

 

3 Premillennial views blog image

 

1.   Dispensational Premillennialism

a.    Pretribulational premillennialists

  • Jesus secretly returns before his Second Coming. He will resurrect dead believers and transform living Christians. He then takes them to heaven before the tribulation (Matt. 24:36, 50; 25:13; Rom. 11:25)
  • Christ raptures the Church before any part of the seven-year tribulation begins (Dan. 9:24–27; Matt. 24:3–28; Rev. 11:2; 12:14)
  • The rapture of the Church removes all believers from the earth before the tribulation (1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 3:10; 6-18)
  • At Jesus’ Second Coming, there is a second post-tribulation resurrection. This is for tribulation martyrs (Rev. 6:9–11; 7:9–17; 13:7, 15–17; 17:6; 19:1–2) and Old Testament believers (Job 19:25–27; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:1–2; Hos. 13:14)
  • Resurrected and transformed believers reign with Jesus during the millennium (Dan. 12:1-2; Rev. 20:4, 6)

 

b.    Midtribulational premillennialists

  • The rapture precedes Christ’s second coming rather than occurring at the same time
  • The rapture of the Church occurs three- and one-half years (mid-way) into the seven-year tribulation (Matt. 24:1-9; 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Tim 3:10)
  • Jesus delivers believers from the last half of the seven years. This period is called the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:15–28; Rev. 16–18)
  • There is a second resurrection after the tribulation. This resurrection is for tribulation martyrs and Old Testament saints (see above)

 

2.   Historical premillennialism

a.    Posttribulational premillennialists

  • The rapture of the Church and Jesus’ second coming coincide after the tribulation
  • The Church remains on earth during “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7)
  • This view believes 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 places the rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-17) after the tribulation. This interpretation is in keeping with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:29–31
  • Believers will go through the tribulation. But they will be protected from the devastating outpouring of God’s wrath and judgment (1 Thess. 5:9)
  • There will only be one resurrection for dead believers and Old Testament saints. This resurrection occurs after the tribulation (Luke 23:27-31; Matt. 24:9-11; Mark 13:9-13)

 

V.   Question 5.   What is the Tribulation and its Relationship to the Rapture?

In premillennialism the rapture and tribulation are intimately related. But you may be wondering, “What is the tribulation?”

Revelation 6–19 describes the events of the Tribulation.

The seven-year tribulation:

  • Entails God sending three sets (seal, trumpet, and bowl) of seven judgments
  • Encompasses the activities of the unholy trinity of Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet
  • Consists unprecedented worldwide natural disasters ( 24:15-22, 29, Rev. 3:10; 6:1-8:1; 8:6-11:18; 16:1-21)

 

The tribulation is necessary to:

  • Discipline of the nation Israel ( 9:21-27)
  • Judge the unbelieving humans who reject God ( 25:30–32; 2 Thes. 2:12; Rev. 6-18).

 

The tribulation is unique in

  • Scope: the three sets of judgments are worldwide
  • Severity: Jesus described the Great Tribulation as a time of trouble unique in the history (Matt. 24:15-22; cf. Dan 12:1; 2:22; 7:14)
  • People knowing the end is near and would rather die than live

 

Overall, there are three parts to the tribulation:

 

1. The first three and one-half years

  • The Antichrist signs a seven-year treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:27)
  • Israel rebuilds the temple and reinstates sacrifices
  • Seven seal judgments (Rev. 6:1-17; 8:1; cf. Matt. 24:4-11, 29)
  • Two witnesses provide potent witness to God until their murder (Rev. 11:3-11:14)
  • 144,000 Jews are sealed and protected (Rev. 7:1-7)
  • An innumerable number of tribulation Christians are martyred ( 6:9–11; cf. Matt. 24:9–11)
  • Gog of Magog wages war against Israel, but God supernaturally intervenes (Rev. 20:7-9; cf. Ezek. 38-39)

 

2. Midway point

Satan is thrown out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9)

The Antichrist

  • Breaks his treaty with Israel.
  • Sets up the abomination that causes desecration in the temple (Dan. 9:17; Matt. 24: 15-16)
  • Demands to be worshipped
  • Receives a mortal wound. He is then either (1) incarnated by Satan or (2) reanimated by a Satanic miracle of the False Prophet ( 13:1-15)

 

3. The last three and one-half years (Great Tribulation)

  • Trumpet and Bowl judgments
  • The battle of Armageddon

 

The Tribulation ends in Christ’s triumphant return at the Battle of Armageddon.

 

VI.   Question 6: When Will the Rapture of the Church Take Place?

In premillennialism, the rapture of the Church (Rev. 20:5–6) is related to the tribulation (Rev. 6-18) and Jesus’ Second Coming.

  • No one knows when Jesus will return except God the Father (Mark 13:32)
  • Therefore we should live our lives in anticipation that the rapture could happen at any moment (Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:13–18; 1 Cor. 15:50–54)

 

VII.   Question 7: Why Did Paul Write About the Rapture of the Church?

Paul’s reason for writing about the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18) was to comfort grieving new believers who had lost loved ones before Jesus’ return. Their concern was their loved ones who had died would miss Jesus’ Second Coming. Or personally, if they died, would they miss out on Christ’s return?

 

 

 

How is the rapture of the Church an encouragement?

  • Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the resurrection of believers (1 Thess. 4:14; cf.; 2 Cor. 4:14) who are with him immediately after their death (Phil. 1:23)
  • And Jesus’ resurrection is based on historical fact
  • Therefore, the occurrence of the rapture is as sure as Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Thess. 4:14)
  • The Second Coming will be dramatic and extraordinary (1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:29-31; 1 Cor. 15:52; Titus 2:13; Rev. 19:11-16)
  • Dead believers are resurrected, and living believers are transformed (1 Cor. 15:50–52) “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17)
  • Once believers are united with Jesus, they will be with him forever (1 Thess. 4:17b)
  • With these assurances, Paul’s readers can comfort one another with the promise of eternal bliss (4:18)

 

VIII.   Question 8: How Does the Rapture of the Church Apply to Us Today?

Paul’s intent in writing about the rapture of the Church to the Thessalonians applies to us today.

We live in an uncertain, divisive world that is often hostile to Christianity. Do you struggle with loneliness or anger? Or does fear or anxiety about your future haunt you?

If you are struggling, I hope that realizing the rapture could happen at any time can give you assurance and peace about your future (1 Thess. 4:18).

You may think that seems easier said than done. It’s not. Especially if you genuinely believe that our God is sovereign. He has a plan, which will all unfold according to His perfect will and timing.

The rapture of the Church comforts believers both then and today. It reminds us that we should look forward to our resurrection and being with Jesus forever! This life is a brief “vapor” compared to our eternal existence with the Lord (James 4:14).

The promise of the rapture can and should be a great encouragement for all Christians! It allows us to face trials in a godly fashion.

But what if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus? Today is a perfect time to guarantee that you will spend eternity with the Lord. In the privacy of this moment, have you decided you want to become a Christian?

  • Firstly, genuinely recognize and repent of your sins.
  • Secondly, place your faith in Jesus, and you will be saved (Rom. 10:9-10)!

 

Check out this blog on how to become a Christian.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus, congratulations! You can look forward to the rapture of the Church and the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

 

References

  1. Akin, Daniel, and Robert B. Sloan. “Revelation, Book of” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Chad Brand, et al., Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.
  2. Cairns, Alan. Dictionary of Theological Terms, Belfast/ Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002.
  3. Constable, T. L. “1 Thessalonians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, v 2, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.
  4. Elwell, W. A., and B. J. Beitzel, “Eschatology,” in Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.
  5. Erickson, M. J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.
  6. Ewert, D. “1-2 Thessalonians,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, 3, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1995.
  7. Geisler, Norman L., and Ron Rhodes. Conviction without Compromise. Eugene OR: Harvest House, 2008.
  8. —. Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005.
  9. Grenz, Stanley, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling. Pocket dictionary of theological terms. InterVarsity Press, 1999.
  10. Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004.
  11. Hill, Charles E. “Rapture,” in Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible, edited by N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, and A. B. Beck. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
  12. Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible themes: the accessible and comprehensive tool for topical studies. Martin Manser, 2009.
  13. Ryrie, Charles, C. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.
  14. —. . Ryrie’s Practical Guide to Communicating Bible Doctrine. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.
  15. Schemm, Peter, R., Jr. “Rapture.” In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Chad Brand, et al., Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Resources

Binmin Podcast E. 12: End | What Questions Should I Ask About My Faith?

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