What is the Rapture?

Michelangelo's The Last Judgement, Vatican City

Image by Eustaquio Santimano via Flickr

Question: There are different opinions on the Rapture. Some wait in anticipation of it and others say that it is not going to happen. Some also say that the bad or evil are the ones to be taken out of this world and others say it will be those in Christ. There is also belief that a lot of what is mentioned in Revelation has in fact already taken place. Example would be the “abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place. Some believe this was fulfilled when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. What are your views?

Answer: The Bible clearly says in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 that there will be a catching up (v.17) of living believers to meet the Lord in the clouds at his return. This will be immediately following the resurrection of deceased believers and the rejoining of their bodies and spirits, the latter being brought by Jesus when he comes (v.14). Though there are good arguments that this return of Jesus is the one at the end of the time of “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21 KJV), it seems more likely to me that this is a return only to the air above the earth that occurs before the time of tribulation. This time of tribulation is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 that the ruler (in my view, the antichrist) will break covenant with Israel and invade her land and desolate the sanctuary, which Jesus (Mt. 24:15-22) and the Revelation (Rev. 6-19) depicts as the beginning of the outpouring of God’s wrath on the unbelieving of earth.

Jesus does talk about a “taking” of people in Mt. 24:36-41, but this is at his coming to earth (not the clouds only) and, in parallel with the “taking” that occurred in Noah’s day, is a taking in judgment of unbelievers.

There is a sense in which the Roman conquest of Jerusalem was a foreshadowing of the tribulation but it was not the fulfillment of all that Jesus predicted. The abomination of desolation that Daniel described has not happened yet and cannot happen, of course, until the temple is rebuilt. The judgments of Revelation 6-19 have not occurred yet, but when they do they will be immediately followed by the second coming of Christ to earth to establish his kingdom.

Randall Johnson

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