The "Any-Moment" Rapture
The first event on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture, which will include the resurrection of all of the believers who have died since the resurrection of Christ.
When we keep in mind exactly what is involved in the Rapture, it becomes apparent that it must occur before the 7-year tribulation time. At the Rapture the Lord will change the bodies of all believers to spiritual bodies, and instantly remove them from earth to heaven. Therefore the Rapture cannot occur at the end of the tribulation period, because there are believers (“sheep” in Matthew 25:31-40) in natural bodies on the earth who are survivors of the Great Tribulation and who meet the Lord at His return.
Nor can the Rapture take place in the middle of the tribulation period because there are believers on the earth who become the victims of the Antichrist throughout the second half of that time.
The Rapture has to occur before the tribulation because believers are told to “wait for His Son from heaven, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1;10) This can only be an expectation that Christ could come at “any-moment” since the Bible says it is evil to say in ones heart that “my master is not coming for a long time.” (Matthew 24:48) If one were to say that the Rapture cannot come until certain events in the tribulation period occur, then one would in fact have to say that “my master is not coming for a long time!” The next event, then, will be the Rapture of all believers “to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
The Rapture (Latin for “caught up”) of all true believers in Jesus Christ is a “fantastic” FACT taught in such passages as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. All saved individuals who are alive at the time of the Rapture will be changed into immortal beings in the instant they are caught up along with the newly resurrected dead Christians “to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thes. 4:17) But is the Rapture of believers to meet Christ IN THE AIR and the Second Coming of Christ TO THE EARTH the same event?
THE CHRONOLOGY OF PROPHECY IS THE KEY
We do not know exactly when the Second Coming will occur. Nor do we know when the Rapture will occur. We are told, regarding the coming of Christ, that we cannot know the day or the hour. (Mat. 24:36)
However, the Bible lays out a basic chronology, or sequence of events, that will occur in the last days. And from these it is clear that the Second Coming of Christ TO THE EARTH will not occur until after the arrival of the Antichrist, until after the Great Tribulation, and until after the War of Armageddon.
Amazingly, this same sequence of events forces us to place the timing of the Rapture before the Tribulation time. Here’s why.
Believers are commanded to constantly be on the alert (Mat. 24:42) and to await eagerly (expect any-moment ) the appearing of Christ (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20). We are told to be watching because we do not know if He will come:
(1) in the evening
(2) at midnight
(3) at cockcrowing
(4) in the morning
But you can’t say that about the Second Coming, because it can only come after the arrival of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, and Armageddon.
That means the Rapture IN THE AIR is a different event than the Second Coming of Christ TO THE EARTH. Therefore, if we follow our Lord’s command to always be “looking for the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), then this means that Christ could come IN THE AIR at any moment before the arrival of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, Armageddon and His Second Coming TO THE EARTH.
This is called the imminent (any moment), pre-tribulation (before the Tribulation period) Rapture. That is why we are admonished NOT to say “My master will be a long time in coming.” He will come on a day when we do “not expect him.” (Luke 12:45-46)
ASK YOURSELF: ARE YOU LOOKING FOR CHRIST NOW? Think of it this way.
(1) Are you following the Bible’s command to wait and watch for the coming of our Lord, or
(2) are you waiting and watching FIRST for the coming of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, Armageddon, AND ONLY
THEN the coming of our Lord?
If you are doing the latter, then you believe that the Rapture is a post-tribulation event, and you can put your “watching” on hold, and say “Not yet! My master will be a long time in coming.” But if you are watching for Jesus today, then you have acknowledged that Jesus Christ could come at any time, “at an hour when you do not think He will” (Mat. 24:44), and that the Rapture is a pre-tribulation event.