Q: #166. Can you explain the 3 views of the Rapture?
A: The 3 views of the rapture are called: pre-tribulational, mid-tribulational, and post-tribulational. Each of these views generally agree that at some future time, there will be a 7 year period called the “Tribulation” which will be marked by great suffering upon the Earth. This 7 year period is divided in half, with the second 3 and a half years being called the “Great Tribulation” (See: Mt 24:21). Following the “Tribulation,” Christ will return at His Second Coming. When believers will be “raptured,” in relation to the “Tribulation” is a matter of great contention amongst many Christians. I will define the 3 views in the next paragraph.
First, however, it should be noted that the word “rapture” occurs nowhere in the Bible. Nevertheless, the concept of a rapture appears possible based primarily on such verses as (1 Th 4:13-18) and (1 Cor 15:51-54). The word “rapture” that we use today comes from the word “raptus” which is found in the Latin Vulgate. It is used in (1 Th 4:17) “then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up (“raptus“) together with them in the clouds…” The Greek word which is used for “caught up” is “harpazo” which according to Strong’s means “to catch up or snatch away.” This is generally defined as being done by the power of God (see: Acts 8:39 for a parallel).
Let’s look at the 3 views now.
Pre-Tribulational: This is the most common view today, although it was not generally taught until the 19th century. Those who hold this view believe that the Bible does not prophesy that the “church” will be a part of the Tribulation (the “church” is no longer mentioned after Revelation chapter 3), therefore, Christ will return prior to the Tribulation to rapture all believers to Heaven.
Mid-Tribulational: This is the least commonly held position today. It teaches that the “church” will go through the first 3 and a half years of the Tribulation, but will be raptured prior to the Great Tribulation of the last 3 and a half years.
Post-Tribulational: This has been the longest held position. It teaches that the “church” will go through the entire 7 years of the Tribulation, after which believers will be raptured and then immediately return at Christ’s Second Coming. In other words, the rapture and Second Coming are almost simultaneous events.
A fourth view, which has become popular in recent times is called the Pre-Wrath Rapture. It teaches that the rapture will occur in the last half of the Tribulation, before the 7 bowl judgments of God’s wrath are poured out on the Earth.
It should also be noted that a number of Christians do not believe that there will be any rapture at all, nor a literal 7 year Tribulation upon the Earth.