When Does the Rapture Occur?
Old Testament references to a Day of the Lord indicate that a Day of the Lord is a day of God’s wrath. There have been Days of the Lord aimed at Egypt, Ethiopia, Babylon, Edom, and Israel. There remains a climatic Day of the Lord against all nations. The mere statement that Church saints are not appointed to wrath (I Thessalonians 5:19) suggests that either (1) the Church is removed prior to the Day of the Lord, (2) or church saints are protected during that Day.
Acts 2: 9-20 reveals that an unprecedented stellar disturbance will occur “before” the “great and notable day of the Lord.”
I Thessalonians. 4:15-17 describes the rapture without indicating when it occurs; however, 5:1 does (it seems to me) concern “the times and the seasons” of the rapture. Verse 2 equates or associates the rapture with the Day of the Lord. The Thessalonians already knew about the “times and seasons” of the rapture/Day of the Lord.
Because unbelievers are “in darkness,” the Day of the Lord will surprise them like a thief in the night. The Day should not catch believers by surprise. The instruction to watch (vs 6) indicates that believers will see that day. Perhaps the breastplate and helmet (vs 8) will protect them from the battle. Somehow they will be protected as the 144,000 will be.
In II Thessalonians 1:7 New Testament believers are promised “rest.” When? “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed …in flaming fire taking vengeance ….” That seems like the Day of the Lord.
II Thessalonians 2:1 is a clear reference to the rapture (“the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him”). The most obvious assumption is that “His coming” in verse 1 is the same as “His coming” in verse 8. That “coming” is when He consumes/destroys the “lawless one,” i.e. at the Day of the Lord. There is no reference in the New Testament to two stages in the second coming of Jesus.
Suppose it is late 1944. Throughout Germany the news is cried out: “the Allies are coming, the Allies are coming.” Is that good news or bad? It depends on which side one is on. Likewise, “The Day of the Lord is soon” is good news to the saints and bad news for the wicked.
Suppose your family is eager for guests to arrive. Perhaps grandparents who live far away are coming or perhaps a friend you have not seen in thirty years. As the predicted arrival time nears, you watch out the window. Then a car pulls into your driveway. Where do the hugs take place? At the door or on the driveway? Probably you run out to the driveway to greet them, then escort them into the house. This picture may be like I Thessalonians 4: 14-17.
Verse 14 God will bring believers up from the grave, even as He did Jesus. Thus, (verses 14-17) I take it that both believers “who are alive” and “those who are asleep” will meet Jesus, in the air, and escort Him to the earth. The Day of the Lord arrives when the Lord arrives. Will we participate in the war of wrath or will we be front row spectators as Jesus suddenly destroys His enemies and establishes His kingdom? Of this I am confident: we will be wherever Jesus is (4:17, John 14:3). The analogy of Malachi 4:1-3 may suggest that we will join the battle.
A sequence of events indicated by Matthew 24.
Beginning of sorrows, then tribulation 24:8- 9
Abomination of Desolation, then Great Tribulation 24:15,21
Tribulation (most likely a continuation of “great” tribulation vs.21,29), then immediately the cosmic chaos (24:29), followed by the sign of the Son of Man. (24:30)
(During tribulation and until the “end” [the 2nd coming] the gospel of the kingdom is preached.)
It is unclear whether there is tribulation less than “great” tribulation.
Integrating the Book of Revelation
It is unclear when the first seal begins relative to tribulation.
The sixth seal brings the reader to the threshold of the Day of the Lord. So it seems the seventh seal is the Day of the Lord. The seventh trumpet (including the seven bowls) delivers the reader to the same time as the seventh seal. So the seven trumpets and the seven bowls must elaborate on the seventh seal.
Integrating the Book of Daniel
Daniel chapter 9 introduces seventy “weeks” “determined” for [Daniel’s] people and their holy city. I stand convinced that the passage means seventy sets of seven years (483) and that the crucifixion of Jesus marked the completion of sixty-nine weeks. So I look for a remaining, distinguished seven years. It is plausible that “he” (“the lawless one,” the one foreshadowed by Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C. and foreshadowed again in A.D 70 by Roman soldiers in the Jewish temple offering worship to their god, Caesar) will promise a seven year commitment. Then three and a half years later, perform some kind of religious “abomination of desolation.” (Matt. 24:15, Dan. 9:27,11:31) The Book of Revelation never mentions a seven year period, but repeatedly refers to three and one-half years. Proposing a link of any two of those to yield seven is easy. Discerning the first half from the second half is less obvious.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.