The rapture is the teaching that at or before the return of Christ (Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11) the Christians who are alive on the earth will be transformed into the resurrected bodies and literally be caught up into the clouds to meet Jesus.
There is debate as to the timing of the rapture. The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine says that the rapture will occur at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period, which immediately precedes the return of Jesus. The mid-tribulation rapture doctrine says that the rapture will occur 3 1/2 years before Christ returns, or halfway through the great tribulation period of seven years. The post-tribulation doctrine says that the rapture will occur at the same time as the return of Christ, or at the end of the seven-year tribulation. All of these positions fall within the realm of Christian orthodoxy.
The verses used to support the doctrine of the rapture are as follows:
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
- 1 Cor. 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
Please note that the verses found in Matthew 24 and Luke 17, that deal with two men in the field and one is taken while the other is left, are not dealing with the rapture. This is a common misunderstanding about those verses. Upon close examination of the texts in Matthew 24 and Luke 17, you will find that the ones who were taken are the wicked. In fact, Jesus' disciples ask where they are taken and he gives them an answer: “Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered,” (Luke 17:37).
For an expanded look at this topic of two men in the field and one is taken, please see the article How to interpret the Bible