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The Rapture

Question: What is the Rapture? Does it take place before or after the tribulation? I don't think Catholics believe in the Rapture and if they do I don't think they would believe it would happen before the tribulation. What are the events of the end times and what is the order?

Answer: At the present time, our Lord Jesus Christ is seated on the throne in heaven reigning over all the universe. We who believe in him are already in his kingdom. The Bible clearly teaches that he Father ‘has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love’ (Colossians 1:13). The kingdom is a present reality.

The Bible predicts a period of tribulation before Christ’s second coming. On the great day of his return, all the dead will be raised and all will appear before the judgement seat of Christ. God’s people are rewarded and taken to heaven; the lost will be punished in hell.

What happens to the believers who happen to be alive at Christ’s coming? The apostle Paul teaches that they will be changed in an instant, and together with the resurrected saints, the redeemed will be 'caught up' to meet the Lord in the air (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4, 5). In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ‘caught up’ is rendered ‘rapiemur’ in the Latin Vulgate, from which the term ‘rapture’ is derived.

When will the rapture happen? No one knows but God alone. The Lord will come like a thief in the night. Christians are waiting for him just as the bride eagerly waits for her beloved. We will greatly rejoice to meet him but others who continue to live in sin will have to face his wrath and punishment.

Will the rapture occur before or after the great tribulation? Christians are divided on this question. Influenced by certain theologians over the past two hundred years (notably J. N. Darby and C.I. Scofield), many modern American evangelicals believe that the rapture will happen before a 7-year tribulation period. This idea is novel in church history. It was virtually unknown for 1800 years since the beginning of the Christian church.

I used to believe in the pre-tribulation rapture until I seriously studied the issue and read what non-dispensationalists had to say about it. I am now convinced that the predominant historical interpretation of biblical prophecy is correct. I believe that the rapture will occur immediately after the resurrection at the second coming of Christ after the tribulation of the last days had come to pass. Then the final judgment will take place; the saved will be with Christ in heaven for eternity, the lost will be cast into hell forever.

The subject of prophecy is very interesting and useful, but we should be careful not to become totally preoccupied with this one subject. God's Word covers many other truths needed for our sanctification. If our study of prophecy is not making us more holy, we have missed the point altogether. Moreover, we should not confuse the puerile handling of Scripture and the fanciful speculations about the future so common in evangelicalism with the serious study of biblical prophecy.

Finally, without trying to minimize the differences in our understanding of future events, we should not allow these opinions to divide us, much less to cause strife among the brethren. We should be charitable to other brothers and sisters in Christ who have a different understanding of the last things. The Lord is near. Now is the time to love one another and work together for the salvation and edification of souls.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi