You may have heard that I have “weird ideas” about the end times.  Let me explain some of my “weird ideas”.  Let’s talk about “the rapture”.

If you’re new to evangelicalism, ‘the rapture’ is evangelical jargon describing a future event, an aspect of the second coming of Christ, mentioned explicitly in only one passage.  Jesus and the apostles usually associated the second coming with the resurrection of the dead, but some wondered what would happen to those who are alive when Jesus returns.  Paul answers that in 1 Thessalonians 4.17, saying the living will be “caught up” (the Latin term is “rapio”, from which we get the term “rapture”) – snatched away to be with the Lord and with the dead who are raised.

Christianity always saw the second coming as one ‘united’ event at the end of history.  This event included the resurrection of the dead, the ‘rapture’ of the living, and the wrath of God poured out on the wicked world.  All three things were expected to happen in close proximity to one another.

But in the 1840’s, a few Bible teachers proposed that the rapture was a separate event from the second coming.  The rapture would come first, they taught, then the seven-year reign of the Antichrist on earth (“the tribulation”), and after that Christ would come a second time with armies of believers to destroy the Antichrist’s kingdom and establish God’s kingdom.

No matter what you believe about the rapture, everybody agrees that the second coming of Christ takes place after the tribulation.  The church traditionally saw the rapture as part of that event – hence a ‘post-tribulation rapture’.

The new view after 1840 saw the rapture as a separate event before the tribulation (hence ‘the pre-tribulation rapture’), with the second coming of Christ still happening after the tribulation.  This is view popular in conservative churches today.

Just a few points to ponder.
The only passage that talks explicitly about the rapture says nothing about its timing.  1 Thessalonians 4.17 doesn’t relate the rapture to the tribulation at all.  Therefore, it is difficult to see how that could be a basic doctrine over which we should divide from one another if we differ.

I would also note that (a) as all are agreed that Jesus and the apostles place the second coming after the tribulation and (b) as all are agreed that the rapture is closely connected to the second coming, it seems easiest to conclude that the rapture takes place after the tribulation.

I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but I do think the ancient and traditional view of one second coming makes perfectly good sense of all the biblical passages.

Once I got familiar with history, that ancient view no longer seemed ‘weird’.




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