The 2 most popular verses amongst believers concerning the rapture of the church are found in I Thessalonians 4 & I Corinthians 15. Although the term “rapture” is not found in scripture, believers over the years use this term to identify this miraculous moment where believers are instantly translated from earth into the presence of the Lord. This is a real event which is not far away from occur- ring, prophetically.
I Thessalonians 4: 16-18:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, & with the trumpet of God; & the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then, we who are alive & remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, & thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
I Corinthians 15: 51-52:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, & the dead in Christ shall be raised imperishable, & we shall be changed.”
Paul uses the words “caught up” (I Thess.4:17) which are defined in Greek as: “to catch up; to pluck; to be taken by force”. This indicates the idea of suddenly snatching believers “who are alive & remain” out of the way.
In I Corinthians 15‘s account of the rapture, Paul uses the word “raised” which has the Greek definition of: “to awaken; to take up & to rise up”. Paul’s opening words in this verse (above) clearly frame the rapture concept: “We shall not all sleep (die)….” . In fact, the concept of someone “not dying” is the very “mystery” which Paul introduces this whole passage with: “Behold, I tell you a mystery…..” .
In Paul’s 3rd writing in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, he calls the rapture event “our gathering together to Him”. His term “gathering” is defined in (Greek) as: “to assemble; to gather together; a complete collection & a meeting for worship”.
A few verses later (2 Thess.2:7), Paul again refers to believers being “taken out of the way” . The word he used for “taken” is defined as: “to be assembled; to arise; to be fulfilled; to be ordained; to be married; to partake & to be taken”. These verses are powerful descriptions of a “fulfilling, marriage assembly, ordained by God” of the bride of Christ (the body of Christ) being united with Christ (the bridegroom) “in the air”. (I Thess.4:17).
“In the twinkle of an eye” (1 Cor.15:52) a “complete collection & assembly” of all of God’s people “who are alive & remain” will “arise” into the awe- some physical presence of the Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord then will escort His bride (believers) back to the 3rd high heaven for the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Rev.19:7).
Jesus’ words about the rapture…
In Jesus’ own prophetical statements regarding End Time events He also spoke specifically of the rapture. (Math.24:3- 25:46). In reading His elaborate teaching, it’s clear that the Apostle Paul’s own descriptions of the rapture mirrors Jesus’ words.
Jesus said, “Then there shall be 2 men in the field; one will be taken & one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, & one will be left. Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (Math.24:40-32).
His word “taken” is defined as: “to receive near; to assume an office & to come together as an intimate act”. Clearly, Jesus Himself paints the picture of an “intimate, coming together” of a bride & a bridegroom.
His next parable (Math.25:1-13) is even more specific of the bride uniting with the bridegroom. He said, “…..But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom!’ Come out to meet him.’ “. (Math.25:6).
To remove any doubt that He is referring to that moment of the End Time rapture, He states numerous times through His teaching that “no one knows the day or hour”. (Math.24: 36, 42, 44, 50 & Math.25:13).
This was important for Him to differentiate between the rapture event compared to His prophecies about His physical return to earth. Scriptures actually do point to the “day” of Christ’s physical return to the earth. Revelation shows that the last 3 ½ years of the great tribulation will last for exactly 1260 days (Rev.12:6) from the mid-7 year point. So, Christ’s physical return to earth shown in Rev.19:11 can be timed to the day.
This lines up perfectly with the Lord’s own chronology of His physical return. Jesus said, “Immediately after the tribulation……they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power & great glory.” (Math.24:30).
Although “know one knows the day or hour” (Mark 13:32) of the rapture event, the Lord did exhort believers to recognize the nearness of it. He said, “Even so, you too, when you see all these happening (End Time prophecies occurring collectively), recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Mark 13:29; Math.24:33).
The Apostle Paul’s writings of the rapture provide powerful insight which identifies the timing & “nearness” of the rapture. He states a fact in I Thess. 4:16 that right before the rapture, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel…”. The second fact Paul pinpoints is that the rapture will occur “at the last trumpet”. (I Cor.15:52).
Knowing these 2 facts are key when examining the book of Revelation’s chron- ology of the 7 year Tribulation period. Both of Paul’s specifics are clearly found in Revelation within the 1st 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period. Also, knowing that Chapters 6 through Chapter 12 of Revelation represent the 1st 3 ½ years, then locating Paul’s 2 specific keys is a quick study.
The “shout, & the voice of the archangel” noted by Paul are located in Revelation 10:1-3, which are clearly inside the 1st 3 ½ years of the Tribulation.
“And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven…& he cried out with a loud voice…”. (Rev.10:1-3).
This powerful picture shows Michael the archangel descending (Rev.10:1) from heaven before the King, to announce that the Lord Himself is also about to “descend from heaven with a shout” as Paul stated. (I Thess.4:16). Once the Lord Himself actually descends, He humbly waits “in the air” until the “last trumpet” sounds moments later in Rev.11: 15.
The “last trumpet”….. (I Cor.15: 52 & Revelation 11:15)
This “last trumpet” (I Cor.15:52) which literally triggers the moment of the rapture is also found in Revelation just a few verses after the “voice of the arch- angel”. (Rev.10:1-3). Revelation 11:15 denotes this “last trumpet” (as Paul named it) as the “7th trumpet”. Again, this “last” & 7th trumpet clearly pinpoints the rapture as occurring inside the 1st 3 ½ years. [ *See GRAPH below ].
“And the 7th angel sounded (the “last trumpet”) & there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, & of His Christ; & He will reign forever & ever.' " (Rev.11:15). This is the rapture moment. Indeed, this is the "last trumpet" to be sounded in the Bible.
Significantly, Revelation shows the first 6 trumpet blasts occurring in heaven causing earthly things to take place. However, this 7th trumpet (“last trumpet”) is blown from earth (Rev.10:5), causing incredible things to take place in heaven. At this 7th blast, the 24 elders are seen falling on their faces in worship of God. (Rev.11:16, 17). The awesome opening of the temple of God & the appearance of the ark of the covenant also occur in heaven at this time. (Rev.11:19).
For God’s people to be “taken” in the rapture before the great tribulation begins (Rev.13: 1) lines up with Paul’s words: “For God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thess.5:9). [ The great tribulation period is also called the "wrath of God" in Revelation 16:1. ]
How far into the 7 year Tribulation ? [ 5th trumpet is key…]
Revelation also provides powerful insight as to just how far into the 1st 3 ½ years believers might remain on earth until raptured. During the first 3 ½ years, 7 seals & 7 trumpets are what activate the chronological things that occur. In fact, the Tribulation period “starts” officially at the first of the 7 seals being broken. (Rev.6: 1).
Conceivably, all 7 seals together with the 7 trumpets could begin occur- ring in rapid succession starting at the opening moment of the Tribulation. Revelation leaves this possibility open.
If so, then the body of Christ would remain on earth for at least 5 months into the Tribulation. This is because of the fact that when the 5th trumpet sounds (Rev. 9:1) there comes upon unrepentant men a physical torment for “5 months”. (Rev. 9: 5, 10).
This is key information since Rev. 9:12 specifically clarifies that only “after” these “5 months” of torment are fully completed & “past”, can the 6th & 7th trumpet blasts occur, the 7th trumpet itself being the rapture. (Rev.11:15).
“The first woe (the “5 months” of torment caused by the 5th trumpet; Rev. 9:1) is past; behold, two more woes (the 6th & 7th trumpet blasts) are still coming AFTER these things.”
On the other hand, if the 7 seals & trumpets are activated over the length- iest span possible, then believers could remain on earth through most of the first 3 ½ years. This means that the 5th trumpet would have to sound (Rev. 9:1) no later than at about the 3 year point. This would allow the next “5 months” of torment (caused by the 5th trumpet) to fully run its course & to become “past” as Rev. 9:12 shows they must. As a result, the 6th & 7th trumpets (which “are still coming AFTER these things”) would have to take place within the small window of time left just before the mid-7 year point.
*Other significant keys:
*Note: Significantly, the 5th, 6th & 7th trumpets are also named as “3 woes” in Rev. 8:13 since earthly “woes” result from each trumpet. While the 7th trumpet itself is the rapture event (Rev.11:15), it also represents the “3rd woe“ upon earth for those left behind during the ensuing 3 ½ years of great tribulation.
*Note: the occurrence of the rapture inside the first 3½ years lines up with the Lord’s own rapture chronology. He said, “At midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “. (Math.25:6). This mirrors Revelation’s account of this “shout” & the rapture both taking place close to the darkest period (“midnight”) in world history.
*Note: Revelation shows that just before the 7th trumpet is blown to rap- ture the church, then the “mystery of God is finished”. (Rev.10:7).
This “mystery” is the exact same “mystery” which Paul stated about raptured believers of whom he said, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep (die)…”. (I Cor.15: 51-52).
So, once the very last person on earth who is to accept Christ (before the rapture trumpet sounds) has done so, then at that moment this mystery will be “finished“ . (Rev.10:7). As shown, this clearly occurs within the first 3 ½ years of the 7 year Tribulation.
*Note: The mystery is specifically “finished” “in the days of the voice of the 7th angel, when he is about to sound.” (Rev.10:7).
This clearly shows that the 7th angel’s voice (Rev.10: 3) is heard for “days”. (Revelation leaves open the possibility of an audible voice). So, for at least 2 days or more, this 7th angel announces that “….there shall be delay no longer…”. (Rev.10:6). Then, right after those “days“, this same 7th angel blows his rapture trumpet in Rev.11:15.
A prophetic word of wisdom to God's people...
Today in the body of Christ & amongst Bible teachers there exists the belief that believers will be “taken” before the start of the 7 year tribulation. So, handling the scriptures accurately (2 Tim.2:15) on this topic of the rapture of the church is highly important for a number of reasons:
1) It’s God’s Word, the provider of wisdom & insight.
2) The topic itself is of utmost importance to the Lord Himself, the
bridegroom. It should also be to the “bride”, believers.
3) For believers who hold to the “pre” 7 year rapture concept, then
once the 7 year tribulation actually begins, & the body of Christ is
still here, then great fear & confusion could result within the body
of Christ, unnecessarily.
4) Knowing this insight on the timing of the rapture should bring great
strength, wisdom & readiness to the body of Christ, in the face of
what’s coming, and in recogizing that "He is near". (Matthew 24:33).