The Rapture of the Church

The next major Biblical prophecy that will be fulfilled is the rapture of the church to heaven. This event is described in the following passage:

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 own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till 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. Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

According to this prophecy, Christ will come down from heaven with a loud voice and trumpet call. The bodies of Christians who have died will be raised, then those Christians will be raised to meet the others in the air, and both groups will meet Christ and remain with him forever.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:1-3

Jesus Christ has gone ahead of us to heaven to prepare dwelling places for us believers in the Church Age. These are temporary apartments where we will live in heaven during the seven years of tribulation on the earth. But how do we know that this is the time period during which we will inhabit these apartments?

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. Revelation 3:10

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:9

These two passages offer the closest thing we have for proof texts of a pre-tribulation rapture. The first passage indicates that Christians (Church Age saints) will not be subjected to "the hour of trial" which we interpret as the tribulation period. The second passage goes on to explain that it is not God's intent for Christians to suffer such consequences. Also, in the preceding passage from 1 Thessalonians 4, we Christians are to "encourage each other with these words" of explanation about the rapture event. In other words, the rapture is a time of great hope and expectation for us, not one we must dread due to the trials and tribulations that must first come.

Note that some believers believe in a mid-tribulation rapture, and some in a post-tribulation rapture.

What will life be like on the earth at this time?

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5:11

This indicates that the end times will surprise most people because they are in the dark about Biblical truths, even though these truths are readily at their disposal. Unbelievers will be comfortable, in a time they believe offers peace and safety. Then the believers will be raptured, and the tribulation period will ensue for the unbelievers on the earth.

First of 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? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 2 Peter 3:3-5

At that time, most people will be doing evil and only scoff at Biblical truths, even making fun of the Lord's coming.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth--men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings-- what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Timothy 3:1-13

Again we see all the evil that will be prevalent on the earth at that time. Indeed, we could argue that the 21st century is an era where these evils prevail as never before. For example:
  • lovers of themselves: Freudian psychology
  • lovers of money: Wall Street materialism
  • boastful: The normal attitude, from school children to professional athletes
  • proud: Again, the norm, self-dependence rather than dependence upon God
  • abusive: Child abuse, spousal abuse, and very common verbal abuse
  • disobedient to their parents: Teenage rebellion and gangs
  • ungrateful: Unwilling to acknowledge help from others
  • unholy: Unspiritual and ignorant of Bible doctrine
  • without love: Concern for self instead of others
  • unforgiving: Impatient with others' shortcomings
  • slanderous: Gossip
  • without self-control: Addictions
Owen Weber 2009