by Matt Slick
The rapture (from the Latin 'rapio' to seize, to carry away) is the term used to describe the eschatological event where Christians are caught up into the heavens to meet the Lord Jesus. However, those who are alive and remain on the earth at the time of Christ's return, will not proceed those who have died in Christ. This latter term "died in Christ" refers to those faithful Christians who have already passed away. They will be resurrected and join Christ in the heavens prior to those who are raptured. In other words, at Christ's return those who have died in the faith meet the Lord in the air and then the Christians who are on earth are taken up into the heavens to meet Christ. The scripture used for this teaching is found in the writings of Paul.
- 1 Thess. 4:16:17, "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 will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord."
- John 14:1–3, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
- 1 Corinthians 15:51–52, "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 will be changed."
There's a great deal of disagreement among Christians regarding the timing of the rapture as it relates to the tribulation period which is commonly held to be seven years long (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:15–31; Revelation 7:14). The disagreement is in regard to when the rapture will occur. Will it be before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, or at the end of the tribulation? These basic differences of opinion, each have subdivisions. However, this dispute is primarily held among the premillennialists who are looking forward to a literal, future 1000 year reign of Christ that is preceded by the seven year tribulation.
The Pre-tribulation rapture view essentially proposes two returns of Christ: one at the beginning of the tribulation to gather the saints and another return of Christ at the end of the tribulation in order to set up the millennial kingdom and judge the wicked. Again, this view is primarily held among premillennialists.
The mid-tribulation view also proposes two returns of Christ. Like pre-tribulation theory, it proposes a first, secret return of Christ, in this case at the 3 1/2 year mark of the seven your jubilation. It also proposes a visible return of Christ at the end of the seven-year period.
The Post-tribulation rapture view proposes a single return of Christ where there is, more or less, a simultaneous return of Christ and the rapture of the saints.
Finally, there is partial rapture theory in which Christians who are living a sanctified life will be rapture, but those Christians who are not living a sanctified life, backsliders, will not be raptured. Instead, they will go through the tribulation.