When will the "rapture" occur in relationship to the tribulation? There are 4 viewpoints on this:
* This event will occur before the tribulation period.
* This event will occur in the middle of this very trying time period.
* This event will occur at the end of this period.
* There is no rapture because it is a myth.
The only viewpoint that harmonizes with all of scripture is that the rapture of the church will occur sometime before the time of trial that will come upon the whole earth begins. All other viewpoints cause too many contradictions in bible study. To better understand why the rapture must occur before the tribulation period begins, it is important to know exactly what what this period is for and what it means.
The tribulation is a time when God begins to purge the world of sin so that He may set up His earthly kingdom with Jesus Christ reigning as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is a time of God's wrath. He is judging sin and sinful mankind who worship the Antichrist but refuse to worship Christ. Even the nation of Israel is purged of unbelievers during this period referred to in scripture as the "time of Jacob's trouble".
Why does the rapture have to occur before the tribulation? The first reason is that Jesus said in Matthew 24:42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. Jesus was saying the He could return for His own at anytime. If Jesus had to return during the middle or the end of the tribulation, then He could not call His church home today because we are not in the tribulation. Instead of looking for Jesus to call us home at anytime, we would be watching anxiously for the beginning of the tribulation period. That is the first reason why believers will "meet the Lord in the air" before the tribulation period begins.
Another reason why the church will not be here during the tribulation period is that the wrath of God does not abide on the church. The tribulation is a time of God's wrath. Note the following verses concerning God's wrath:
John 3: 26 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. The wrath of God only abides on those who reject Jesus Christ. For all those who accept Jesus, then those people have everlasting life abiding on them instead of the wrath of God.
Romans 1:18 & 19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. All unrighteousness and ungodliness will eventually be put down. The tribulation begins the end of ungodliness and unrighteousness.
Colossians 3:1-7 1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. Note the "wrath of God" is coming upon the sons of disobedience. Many people live sinful lifestyles and seem to get away with it but eventually they will have to face God's wrath unless they turn from their sin and turn to God.
Revelation 15:2 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete The twenty one judgments poured out on Earth mentioned in the book of Revelation are a result of God's wrath on a world that has rejected Him but accepted Satan. There will be people who are saved during this time but they won't belong to the church so they will have a different function in eternity than the church will.
Another reason why the church won't be here during the tribulation period is God said in His holy word they wouldn't be. Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. There are seven letters to seven types of churches in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. These letters represent the different types of churches that be found at any time on this planet but they also represent the 7 phases of church history. The 6th letter is to the Philadelphia church which means a church of brotherly love. This church is a missionary church with few in number but reaches out to the whole world taking the gospel everywhere. This represents the true church and God promises to keep it "from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world".
This in direct contrast to last church called Laodicea which means "will of the people". This church is caught up in materialism and using the church as a means to gain more material goods. The people control this church, not God. We see examples of this type of church when homosexuals are ordained as ministers and the pastors sermons center on giving money to the church so God can bestow upon you more material goods. These churches have money because they do what the people want instead of what God wants. This type of church makes God nauseous.
Jude 1: 14 & 15 state Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." Saints are redeemed men not angels. The text says that the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints. He is coming to Earth to put down rebellion and to set up His earthly kingdom. Notice that the church (saints) is with Him. Now in order for God to return with the saints, he must first come for the saints. This will take place at the rapture sometime before the tribulation.A study of Jude shows that there will be people who claim the name of Christian but they have no relationship with Christ. They are actually wolves in sheep's clothing and care only for themselves. These people would belong to the Laodicean church.
Two major events are going to soon occur on this planet. One is that the true church will be called home by God to live forever with Christ. The other is that the a time of great trial called the tribulation is coming to purge this world of evil and to force the fence straddlers to choose either life or death, Jesus or Satan. Where those people spend eternity will be based on their own personal choice. No one has to go through the tribulation or spend an eternity in hell if they will simply believe and trust in God. Only a fool would choose to spend eternity in hell separated from God forever in a place that God doesn't want them to go.
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