1 and 2Thessalonians: The Rapture
These series of timelines are intended to provide the reader of the awareness of other views considering the rapture of the church, which there are at least four variants. This site concludes that based on the preponderance of the scripture that are cited throughout this web site's pages, that the best interpretation concerning the rapture of the church, is that it will occur before the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. Other well-learned brothers and sisters in Christ have alternate views, and which should not be the focus of great debates that lead to fissures within the fellowship in Christ. Rather, through respect and love, as the Lord commanded in John 13:31-35, the differences are acknowledged but are not elaborated upon in this site.
Following are the foundation of timelines that are described in this site on interpretation of scriptures using timelines, which the reader is referred for further information. The first timeline below is the basis to describe the period of time of the church age, beginning at Pentecost in Acts 2, and ending with the rapture of the church, Revelation 4:1-4 and Revelation 4:10-11. More details are available on this site concerning each church in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3, and their associated timeline.
The following table helps to provide a quick internal link on this page to jump to a specific subject, rather than scrolling down through the page.
Within the body of scripture, there has always been a distinction made among all mankind, Jews and Gentiles. In today's economy of the church age, there is no distinction made between Jew and Gentiles, we are all one in the body of Christ, Galatians 3:26-29. However, in the Old Testament economy, before the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Israel was given many promises from God through the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms concerning the Lord, as well as the establishment of the kingdom of God through Israel to rule over the world, Isaiah 60, and many other passages. However, before the establishment of this kingdom, the Lord revealed to Daniel through the angel Gabriel, that 70 weeks were determined for Israel. During that seventy weeks, six specific acts were to be accomplished, Daniel 9:24-27, (see Daniel 9 on this website for more information). In the last week of the 70 weeks, equivalent to seven years, is the time of tribulation, Daniel 9:27, (see the Timeline for Daniel 9 on this website for more information). This will be a time that will be the worst in all human history, including the horrors of the concentration camps of Hitler during WWII, Daniel 12:1. This is the time that the Lord repeated the warning about to the house of Israel when he quoted Daniel, Matthew 24:15-28. Immediately afterward will be the establishment of the kingdom of the Lord on this earth, Matthew 24:29-31. Through all of this, nowhere in the Old Testament cannon of scripture can there be found any insinuation of a rapture, as is discussed in the remaining part of this page, and other pages in this website. There are ample passages describing the resurrection of the Old Testament saints, such as in Job 19:25-27 and Daniel 12:2, and that in their resurrected state, they will attain those things which the Lord had promised them concerning the inheritance of the land, to the faith of Israel, Hebrews 11:8-16. However, there is no hint of a promised rapture for the nation of Israel.
The church is that entity in scripture that fulfills the promise of the Lord's return in the clouds to call, or rapture His church unto Himself. A section of this site provides a discussion and timelines of the church age. As the following graphic illustrates, the beginning of the church began on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, and will end with the rapture of the church, (Further information on this website is available concerning the use and interpretation of the timelines).
The rapture of the church is more appropriately termed the snatching away of those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation through His shed blood on the cross. This is a discrete event that is yet to occur, and the time of this event is not tied directly to any other prophetic event in scripture. It is something that can occur at any moment, ever since the ascension of the Lord into the clouds to be on the right side of the Father in heaven, Acts 1:4-11. The rapture describes an event when the Lord will return in the clouds as He had ascended in the presence of the 11 disciples. At that moment, He will shout with the sound of a trumpet and first, all who have died in Christ will be raised in their resurrected bodies. Then, those who are still alive and are in Christ, will be translated and will meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds and forever be with Him, 1Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, (see 1Corinthians 15, the Timeline for 1Corinthians 15, and 1Thessalonians 4 on this website for more information).
The word itself, rapture, is not found in scripture. Instead it is a variant from a Latin word used in the Latin Vulgate. It is a rendering from the Greek word used in 1Thessalonians 4:17 “Harpazo” which in English is “caught up.” In the Blue Letter Bible, harpazo (Blue Letter Bible. "1 Thessalonians 4 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008), has three definitions: 1) To seize, carry off by force, 2)To seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly, or 3) To snatch out or away. All of these definitions imply an event that is quick, not an anticipated event in time, and has permanence in the completion of the action.
The Lord instructed John to write the things that he had seen (his witness of Christ’s first advent), the things that are (the church age), and the things which will be hereafter (the tribulation, millennial reign of Christ, and the future eternity), Revelation 1:19. The reference is to three distinct periods as depicted in the following graphic was given by the Father, Revelation 1:1. The phrase “hereafter” is the same word in Greek to that used in Revelation 4:1 as rendered in the Blue Letter Bible, Meta Tauta, (Blue Letter Bible. "Revelation 4 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008). Meta is defined as either “with, after, or behind”. Tauta is defined as “these.” The following graphic is intended to provide the reader with a broader understanding how these aspects written by the Apostle John relate to the timing of other events in the book of Revelation.
Immediately after the church age was revealed to John, several events took place in rapid succession. Before him was a door standing open in heaven, and he heard a voice speaking to him like a trumpet saying “Come up here … Meta Tauta”. At once, he was in the Spirit Immediately he was before the throne of God. The implication here is that John, as a representative of the church, and being one of the early church fathers, was taken up to be in the presence of the Lord.
A similar event occurred when Moses and the Children of Israel stood before the base of Mount Sinai, Exodus 19. After three days, when Israel was instructed to consecrate themselves for this great event, several events occurred as in Revelation 4:1-2. There was thunder, lightning, a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, Exodus 19:16. The mount was covered with smoke as the Lord descended on it in fire, and the whole mountain trembled violently, Exodus 19:18. The sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him, Exodus 19:19. The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai, and called Moses to the top of the mountain.
The account at Mount Sinai was a singular and defining event in the history of Israel. Moses, having gone up and down the mountain several times as a man, ended up coming down with the “LAW”, and not as a regenerated man. There was no anticipation of the future rapture of the church (which is written in the epistles of Paul as a mystery now revealed to the New Testament saints) in this event, but there are only similarities. Other similarities exist, such as with Enoch being taken by the Lord a good while before the worldwide flood in Noah's day, Genesis 5:21-25, and Elijah being taken up into heaven with Elisha as witness, 2Kings 2:9-13. These mysteries were not revealed until the Apostle Paul's days, and are done in God’s time, Daniel 2:28-30. When the Apostle John heard the words of Christ to “come up”, John was instantly translated in the spirit, and not as a natural or physical man. John saw the evidence of the church before the throne of God as evidenced later in Revelation 4 and Revelation 5, and other chapters in Revelation, where the 24 elders continually worshiping the Lord through various acts, such as casting their crowns before the throne of God, praising, and giving glory to God. From Revelation 4 through Revelation 18, the church is not shown to have any part of the events on earth, but is only seen participating in the heavenly events from this chapter on to the end of the book, as represented by the 24 elders.
There are two parts of the Lord’s return, first is the rapture of the church, and the second is the Lord's return as King of kings. The first part is directly tied to the rapture of the church, to catch up the church to Himself in the clouds, 1Corinthians 15, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Titus 2, and other books in the Bible. The second part of the Lord's return is found in Revelation 19 and Revelation 20, where He returns as the King of kings to establish His millennial kingdom. The events recorded in Matthew 24:42-51, directly concern the Lord’s return to establish His kingdom, when He returns in judgment and power. There may be a dual application in these passages, and may also serve as warnings to the church to watch for the rapture, but the primary application is toward the nation of Israel in preparing for the Lord's return as King of kings. There are no signs or prophetic events given to the church as to when the rapture will occur, only that it will occur suddenly. No one knows the day that the Lord will come, Matthew 24:42. We are told to be as the faithful and wise servant, Matthew 24:45.
The first part of the Lord's return is the rapture of the church is found in 1Thessalonians 4:17. The Greek word used in this verse,“Harpazo” which in English is “caught up” distinguishes the two parts of the Lord's return. In this passage, Paul reveals that this is when the Lord comes down with a shout to call His church unto Himself. In the Blue Letter Bible, (Blue Letter Bible. "1 Thessalonians 4 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008), they provide the meaning of and the usage of the word Harpazo, as discussed above.
The second part of the Lord's return, to establish His kingdom on the earth, is found in 1Thessalonians 3:13 “Parousia” when Christ returns with His saints to the earth. In the Blue Letter Bible, (Blue Letter Bible. "1 Thessalonians 3 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008), they provide the meaning of and usage of the work Parousia. Parousia has two definitions; 1) presence, and 2) the coming, arrival, advent, 2a) the future visible return from heaven of Jesus, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God.
The following illustration shows the two events discussed above. The first, on the left side of the timeline, is the return of the Lord to rapture the His church unto Himself. On the right side of the timeline is shown the return of the Lord as King of kings over this world.
Not to complicate the matter, the scriptures do describe two resurrections. The first resurrection is for the righteous and the second resurrection is for the unrighteous who will appear before the great white throne judgment. The second resurrection is when everyone ever born in this world who did not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, are destined for eternity in the lake of fire, Revelation 20:11-15. More information on this topic is available on this site on the second resurrection.
The intent of this web page is to focus on the first resurrection. More information on the resurrection and the comparison between the righteous and unrighteous is found on this website on 1Thessalonians 5 timeline. For the church, it is directly related to the rapture of the church. There are three parts to the first resurrection of the righteous:
Jesus spoke of the resurrection of the Old Testament saints in John 5:24-30, which is the same as in Daniel 12:1-3. Concerning the resurrection of the church, after Judas left the upper room to betray Jesus, then the Lord stated among the faithful, that he was glorified, John 13:30-32, and that is when he gave the commandment to His church to love one another, John 13:34-35. Later that same evening, the Lord promised His disciples of His return for them, who represent the church as its early elders, John 14:1-7, to take them to a place prepared for them.
The following graphic illustrates the three parts of the first resurrection, by the rose colored ovals, and the timing of the 2nd resurrection, in the black oval.
The strength of the gospel of Jesus Christ, 1Corinthians 15:3-4, is the Lord’s resurrection, 1Corinthians 15:12-20. Our hope as Christians is in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the firstfruits of the resurrection, (more information on the resurrection is provided on 1Corinthians 15 timelines on this website). At the time of His resurrection, He also resurrected other saints who appeared in Jerusalem, a further proof of this mighty act of God, Matthew 27:51-53. This is different than the miracle the Lord performed at the tomb of Lazarus, John 12.1-44. Lazarus, including all others who were also raised from the dead, all died again. The Lord and those whom He resurrected with him, are all alive today in the presence of the Lord, 2Corinthians 5:6-11. After Christ’s resurrection, he appeared to many for 40 days, giving proofs of His being alive, Acts 1:3-5. The ascension of Christ occurred after He told the disciples that it was not for them to know the times or dates set by the Father. He was then taken up and a cloud hid Him from their sight, Acts 1:6-9. The promise given to the disciples by two angels who were suddenly among them, was that Jesus will return in the same way, in the clouds, Acts 1:10-11. The return of the Lord to rapture His church is intimately tied to the resurrection of those who have died in Christ, 1Corinthians 15:51-57. Paul is emphatic in his writing that flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God. That upon the calling of the Lord, that there will be those at that time who are still physically alive. They are the ones who will be translated from their physical bodies to their eternal bodies to be with the Lord. As Paul puts it, we will not all sleep, but be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. The sound of the Lord's voice is described by Paul and others as a sound of the trumpet, Revelation 1:10-11, Exodus 19:16-20. Upon the call of the Lord, the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable, those that are alive will be changed, and we will all be clothed with the imperishable and with immortality. Death will be swallowed up in victory. As a result of all this, the Christians are encouraged to stand firm, and give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, which is not in vain.
In Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians, the subject of the rapture of the church is exactly what he described to the Corinthians. Concerning those who have passed away in Christ, there is hope because of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul reminds the Thessalonians, who were concerned about those who died in Christ, and what their state will be with the rapture, that we believe that God will also bring them with Christ, 1Thessalonians 4:13-14. According to the Lord’s own word (not captured in the Gospels or elsewhere in the epistles), 1Thessalonians 4:15, those who are alive at His return will not proceed those who have fallen. The Lord will come down from heaven, 1Thessalonians 4:16, with a loud command. With the voice of the archangel and with a trumpet call of God, those who are dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds, 1Thessalonians 4:17. We will meet the Lord in the air, and then be with the Lord forever more.
Christians, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are to encourage ourselves with these words of the Lord's return for His church, 1Thessalonians 4:18. The other word of encouragement is that we are not appointed to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through Jesus Christ, 1Thessalonians 5:1-11. Recall the encouragement to the church of Philadelphia, Revelation 3:10-13, and the crown for righteousness to all who long for Christ’s appearing, 2Timothy 4:8. The wrath of God the Son (the Lamb) and of the Father are associated with several events:
This wrath of the Lord is not expressed as a singular event, but rather a series of events that encompass the last half of the seven years of tribulation. Some use this as the reason for a midtribulation rapture of the church, which is arguably an incorrect interpretation of the scriptures. Even in this chapter, Paul, who is not promoting the notion that the Thessalonians were in the tribulation period, an issue that he directly addressed in 2Thessalonians 2:1-12, rather that they were diligently doing the work of the Lord, and keeping themselves for the immanent return of the Lord to rapture His church, 1Thessalonians 1:7-10.
This site concludes that based on the preponderance of the scripture that are cited throughout this web site's pages, that the best interpretation concerning the rapture of the church, is that it will occur before the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. Other well-learned brothers and sisters in Christ have alternate views, and which should not be the focus of great debates that lead to fissures within the fellowship in Christ. Rather, through respect and love, as the Lord commanded in John 13:31-35, the differences are acknowledged but are not elaborated upon in this site. There is more information on three of the views on prophesy.
Another view, the pre-wrath view does not readily map over these timelines, as this view holds an entirely different prospective of how the eschatological events will unfold, and that God's wrath will occur at the very end of the tribulation. In their view, the church will be raptured just before that event occurs. This group of believers in Christ, view that a parallel of the events revealed by the Lord during the Olivet Discourse and the seven seals are what dictate the unfolding of events during the tribulation. The opening of the 5th seal will constitute the beginning of the great tribulation. The 6th seal will, in their view, occur near the end of the second half of the tribulation, the Lord will return, and He will rapture the church then. Upon opening the 7th seal, the great wrath of the Lord will fall upon the world and then conclude the seven years of tribulation.
As mentioned above, the preferred interpretation of the passages in scripture relating to the rapture of the church, is that this event will occur prior to the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. This is also referenced below in the blue colored box labeled "Pretribulation Rapture." There are three other basic interpretations for when the rapture will occur as shown below that can be illustrated with the timelines used in this web site. Another three views of when the rapture of the church will occur are shown on this same timeline for convenience to aid in illustrating the differences in views. However, those who argue in favor of such viewpoints, as do those who endorse the pre-wrath view, would have a different depiction of the timeline for representing the great tribulation and God's wrath. So the differences are much greater than are displayed here, and admittedly, this site is only depicting the most general of views in an attempt to map the differing views onto a single timeline.
One of these views, as shown below, is the midtribulation rapture, second is the post-tribulation rapture, and third, the partial rapture. In just a brief description of each, without elaboration, the midtribulation rapture viewpoint interprets the events in the Olivet Discourse, the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the bowl judgments occurring in parallel. They teach the church will go through the beginning of the tribulation, but will be raptured before the great tribulation commences. The post-tribulation rapture is thought by some who hold this view, that the church will be raptured after the great tribulation, but before the outpouring of God's wrath. Finally, those who believe in a partial rapture, believe that those who are ready before the tribulation begins will be raptured, than the remainder will be raptured at other times during the tribulation. The former descriptions are only anecdotal for brevity, and not intended to reflect on the sincere and in-depth work done by those who have adopted any of these viewpoints.
Again, this site promotes the viewpoint of a pretribulation rapture of the church, for many reasons which are cited throughout this web site. It might be best summed up in one sense, by the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Thessalonians, that they were to comfort on another with the words concerning the imminent rapture of the church, 1Thessalonians 4:18. It would not appear that much comfort would exist if they had to look forward in time through all the horror's of the tribulation, as revealed in Revelation, in order to get to the time of the church's rapture.
For more discussion on three views concerning Biblical prophecy, the reader is referred to the page on this site on three views of prophecy.
Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, J.E. Huntley. All rights reserved.
last edited August 2013