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. 1 Thessalonians 4:17

The Rapture

Clouds over the Jezreel Valley seen from Mount Carmel

Clouds over the Jezreel Valley seen from Mount Carmel

"The Rapture" is the name given to the event of Jesus collecting those who are his at his return, or “second coming”, that Jesus referred to in his prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, which is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew (ch 24 & 25), Mark (ch13) and Luke (ch 13)

Matthew 24

For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!' or, `There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. …........"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. …...... "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. …..... "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

In Matthew 25 Jesus likens the Kingdom to "ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. ….... The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut."

Luke adds, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Paul also referred to the gathering of the elect in 1 Thessalonians 4 v13-18, specifically speaking of the followers of Jesus being caught up to join Jesus as he comes down. This is the essence of the concept of “the Rapture.”

Although the word, "rapture" does not appear in these passages in the Bible, the promise that the redeemed will be caught up to meet Jesus when he returns is fairly clear. Rapture is defined in the dictionary as - 1 ecstatic delight - 2 the act of transporting a person from one place to another.

End of the age events

As God's plan for world redemption draws towards its conclusion there will be a great Tribulation, Jerusalem will be besieged by the nations, the Messiah will come and save Israel (Jesus will come again) and Jesus will take His redeemed people to be with him. There will also be Apostasy in the Church. (1 Timothy 4:1)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

Jesus spoke of wickedness and righteousness increasing side by side (Parable of wheat and tares)

Is the tribulation the same event as, or occurring at the same time as the judgments described in Revelation 6 and onwards after the Lamb opens the scroll? The opening of the fifth seal suggests they are.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

It would be interesting to study how far the Tribulation scriptures overlap the judgment scriptures. One might think of them as being separate; that is, Tribulation events stemming from the rise of evil, from man and Satan while Judgment comes from God. But much of the Tribulation appears, from the opening of the seals, to come from events in Heaven; God provoking the final confrontation. (Revelation)

The differences of opinion concern the order of these prophesied events; especially the “Tribulation” and the “Rapture.” Will the Rapture occur before, during or after the "Tribulation"?

Pre Tribulation Rapture

The concept of an unannounced rapture before the Tribulation came to prominence via "Dispensationalism" which holds that Christ's return will be divided into two events; One private - the Rapture when He collects His church and the other, public when He appears as Judge.

(The popularity of this position, particularly in America, owes much the Schofield Bible, that incorporates the views of John Nelson Derby in its footnotes)

Jesus told us that nobody knows the date of his return, and all who have set dates have looked foolish.

However we do have many clues to the approximate time in the signs of the times, and Jesus gave us his  parable of the bridesmaids advising us to watch and be ready.  (see also the page on weddings)   Five were alert enough to be prepared and five were not.   (see also End Times Prophecies ) Also, the prophetic timetable of the Feasts of the Lord ( the moedim) and the proper time of Yeshua's birth suggest strongly (to Jews as well as Christian Zionist) that Messiah will come/return at the Feast of Tabernacles. But we do not know what year! Obviously this scenario will be a total mystery to the unbelievers.

God made 737 prophecies in the Bible and has accurately fulfilled 80% so far, so it seems entirely reasonable to believe God will fulfil the remainder just as precisely. If we are watching world events with scripturally informed eyes it is quite easy to see that events could accelerate very quickly towards fulfilment of the remaining prophecies..

To take one example, Jesus and Paul both referred to "The times of the Gentiles" having to be completed.  It could be said that that was nearly fulfilled in 1967 when Jerusalem was recaptured from the Gentiles, but we were granted a little more time when General Dyan handed Temple Mount back to the Muslims.  

Surely, events should remind us of the words of Jeremiah 8 v20, 

"The harvest is past,  the summer has ended,  and we are not saved."

Where do you stand and where do your loved ones and neighbours stand?

Post Tribulation Rapture

This position places less emphasis on the surprise element of the Rapture and links it more closely with the “Second Coming” as a single event.

The Second Coming of Jesus / Yeshua

Most Christians find the teaching of Jesus' "second coming" much less controversial than "the Rapture" but that could because much teaching on the second coming lacks depth and connection to prophecy and the aspects commonly described as the Rapture. Some confusion stems from incomplete understanding of the doctrine of physical resurrection and Heaven.

Here is a review the pertinent scriptures.

Second Coming - Rapture - Tribulation - Conflict /Judgment - Wedding of the Lamb

Matt 23:39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Matt 24:22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened

Matt 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matt 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Matt 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Separate “people” – not “peoples” (nations – sheep nations and goat nations) All nations will have come against Jerusalem.

Mark 13 v22 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible.   So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.  "But in those days, following that distress,  " `the sun will be darkened,  and the moon will not give its light;   the stars will fall from the sky,  and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.   And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

Luke 17:30 "It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left."

Luke 21 - v 27  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.   When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

John 14:3 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.

Acts 1:9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Collosians 3:4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Thessalonians 1:9 . They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 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.

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

2 Thessalonians 1:6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.

Hebrews 9:28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jude 1:14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."

Revelation 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Joel 3:2 I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.

Zechariah 12:3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness," declares the LORD. "I will keep a watchful eye over the house of Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations.

Zechariah 14:2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

Revelation 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."

Click for an outline of The Book of Revelation

Pulling these together....

Those who are "caught up" in Thessalonians, and the "holy ones" in Zechariah -  ( kedoshim in the Hebrew) appear to be the redeemed believers, who have been caught up with Him.  

If we consider the last two scripture quotes together, they suggest that we will be caught up when Jesus returns, to be His army in the great battle to save Israel when he is under  attack by all the nations. (What David Pawson called, "our first free flight to Israel".) (See Revelation 19 v 21 for the outcome of this battle)   

Notice in Mark 13, that men will see the Son of Man coming as He gathers His elect; men won't suddenly find the elect mysteriously gone.

Notice also the people mentioned in Revelation 7 – “They came out of the Tribulation” – presumably as martyrs.

In Matthew 24 v22 Jesus seems to make it fairly clear that the believers will be around for the Tribulation ....

"Indeed, if the length of this time had not been limited, no one would survive;  but for the sake of those who have been chosen, its length will be limited."     (CJB)

The implications of the 1 Thessalonians 4 v13-18 passage becomes clearer if we have resolved the issue of our resurrection. We know Jesus has been resurrected (raised from death by God) in a new body that is fully physical but in some way different, so that his disciples did not immediately recognise him. We are living after Jesus resurrection but are still awaiting ours. This passage appears to describe the day when Jesus returns to earth and we receive our resurrection bodies. (Those who have died first, followed by those who have not) If our final destination was to be Heaven, we would not need resurrection bodies. ( see Greek or Hebrew )


The problem of being caught up in the clouds is explained by the wording used of the concept of Jesus' return. The Greek word Parousia comes from the picture of a conquering king returning to his city. The people would not sit at home and wait for him but would go out to meet him and accompany him home with rejoicing. That is how we will get to meet Jesus in the clouds - he will be returning in the manner the disciples saw him leave from the Mount of Olives. But notice that he is on his way from Heaven to the earth - not the other way. Dwight Prior's 2007 teachings on resurrection make this topic much clearer - see recommendation on the page "Heaven and Hell".

What about the Jews in all this?

(see also God's Strategy)

We Christians (and Messianic Jews) await the return of Jesus/Yeshua to come for us, while the non-Messianic Jews await the coming of the Messiah to deliver Israel from all the attacking enemies. 

If we believe Jesus / Yeshua is the Messiah, then these two must one and the same glorious occasion - the revelation of Yeshua as God's anointed king and ruler of the world who will defeat all His enemies.  This sounds like the end of the Tribulation !

Zechariah 12 v10

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. ….... Ch 13 "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Does not this sound like, “and thus all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11) -

, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
(Citing Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jer. 31:33,34)

Many Jews in Israel are now better acquainted with Jesus the Jew – rabbi Yeshua from Nazareth- or "Kosher Jesus", as Rabbi Shmuely Boteach described him.

As a Christian Zionist, committed to removing the stumbling blocks placed in the way of Jews recognising their Messiah, I like to think that the Jews will be well able to recognise Yeshua as their Messiah when he shows himself to them alive. Surely they will weep for the lost centuries during which his identity was obscured from them!

I understand the pre-tribulation position to be that the Christians will be taken away while the Jews will be left to evangelise the world during the tribulation. But do not take my word for this; Google for pre-tribulation web sites to get their perspective.


So which is correct, pre-trib, or post,trib or even mid trib?

Ponder these things but do not become obsessed by them. The sequence of the relevant prophecies has not been revealed to us. Just be ready.

If you go along with the post tribulation rapture and are prepared to endure through the tribulation, but you are proved wrong as you are raptured away, it will be a pleasant surprise.

If you subscribe to the pre tribulation rapture and are not prepared to endure during the tribulation, it will be a nasty discovery if you are not raptured away.

Thus it seems wise that the believer should prepare himself to be involved in the Tribulation!

Whether we are to be raptured or involved in the Tribulation, it is clear that the believer should be walking in trust and understanding, ready for opposition and persecution because many of our brothers and sisters are suffering tribulation even now!


If the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation 

The implications of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture for those who have rejected Jesus’ offer are frightening, although not necessarily final.   Suddenly, millions of people will be found to have just have disappeared without trace.  This scenario is the basis for the "Left Behind" series of novels by Tim LeHaye and works by other Dispensationalists.   Imagine the consternation this would cause, the speculation in the media, and the shock for the religious people who find they have not been taken.   Jim Bramlett has thoughtfully provided a web page for use in this circumstance.      If you find yourself in the position of being left behind, do not panic, and do not accept the mark  from any world authority, but go to Beginners guide to the Christian Faith and Becoming a Follower of Jesus, without delay.


If the rapture occurs during or after the Tribulation

It can be argued that much of the book of Revelation deals with events after the start of the Tribulation, and God would not have spent so much of the teaching explaining events in which no Christian would be involved.

Therefore we should be following the Lord closely, watching the signs of the times and toughening up rather than drifting along carelessly.


David Pawson explored these issues in his teaching at the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles, from 2003 to 2006.  He concluded that we will not be raptured before the Tribulation starts.      He also pointed out the shallowness of declaring to Israel that,  "We stand with you" if we expect to be whisked away before the big troubles start.

For a thorough discussion of these issues you are urged to contact I.C.E.J. Or Anchor Recordings for Rev Pawson's tapes / CDs.

Reworked 20/04/12

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