There are basically five positions on the Rapture among Bible prophecy followers, students and teachers:
1. There is no Rapture.
These adherents are in the preterist doctrine, which maintains that the end-time prophecies of Revelation that can be understood all happened in the first century and were completed at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70.
The events that are not fitting into that timeframe, or appear to be symbolic are merely allegorical and not real future events. They claim that we are now in the Millennium, Satan is bound in the bottomless pit, and Jesus is ruling the earth from His throne in heaven. Thus, there is no earthly reign of Christ from the throne of David in Zion or Jerusalem.
This is the Roman Catholic belief from its earliest days, and from that position came the present-day doctrine of “Replacement Theology” that has engulfed much of even Protestant church doctrine.
The current Pope’s declaration and recognition of Palestinian statehood this May, 2015, brought their position of anti-Israel full circle and sets up perhaps as close as it has ever been of worldwide anti-Semitism, as prophesied for the last days.
2. The Rapture comes at the end of the 70th week of Daniel, at Christ’s Second Coming.
These folks have varied reasons of how or why they believe the Rapture occurs then. One current proponent says he was convinced of this when he read about the first resurrection in Revelation 20. (But what about Jesus being the “firstfruits of the resurrection” (1 Corinthians 15:23), which is the beginning, then, of the first resurrection?)
And there are other twists of the Scriptures to make them fit—Jesus comes down, picks up the believers, goes back and then comes back with them at His Second Coming. (Of course, you’d have to fit in the earlier marriage supper of the Bride and Groom, in Revelation 19. Then, what about those promises of keeping the believers from the way of His wrath?) There’s more on this later, in other comparisons.
3. Mid-Tribulation Rapture theory.
This one is justified by its proponents by the statements that call the last half of the seven years the Great Tribulation, as mentioned in Revelation 7 in regard to the multitude of souls that John saw standing before the throne of God, and who came out of the Great Tribulation.
Also, Jesus used that term in the gospels.There are some attempts to tie the Rapture to the last of the seven Trumpet judgments, as this would be the “last trump” that Paul writes of in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Of course, this one has to do with judgment, not redemption or resurrection of the saints.
4. The Pre-Wrath Rapture.
This theory is fairly new to the scene, having been invented in the latter part of the 20th century, and it hinges on the wording in Revelation 6 of the seal judgments in which the wrath of God is not mentioned until we come to the 6th seal. So that originator of doctrine says it comes between the 5th and 6th seal. That is it, simply put.
I had thought it began with the book written by Marvin J. Rosenthal, but then it seems an earlier proponent, in the 1970s, named Robert Van Kampen had written about it. He may have been the originator.
I exchanged emails with one who says he “discovered” the theory about six months before Rosenthal wrote his book. That person, whose name I don’t recall, was quite smug and self-satisfied with his position, and no challenges to his position seemed to move him.
A friend here, who just passed away this spring, had a copy of Van Kampen’s book and I had a chance to look it over. There are several obvious twists and squeezes of the Scriptures to make his theories fit together.
The obvious one is the series of seals before the 6th one, where Jesus is the only one who is qualified to open them, thus indicating that those are also judgments. And of course, the issue of the restrainer, who must be removed—from the earth—before the lawless one can be revealed.
5. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture position.
All of the four preceding positions should be having a problem identifying who is the “restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2, who must be taken out of the way so that lawless one can have full sway over the earth dwellers. Pre-wrath theorists want to assign that identity to Michael, the archangel, but scriptural evidence clearly shows he is not one who restrains evil, but releases that task to God.
This Pre-Tribulation position really has been put through the ringer with claims that it is only a recently promulgated idea that developed from a teenager’s mentally deranged vision in the 1830’s and picked up and made popular by John Darby.
Yet, research by the late Grant Jeffrey has turned up early Church writers and theologians who wrote of a Rapture that would happen at the opening of that 70th week of Daniel, the event that starts the final seven years of the world in chaos.
And, of course, the earliest Church fathers were Paul, Peter, James, John and all the others whose writings we have, which are canonized and affirmed to be the authentic Word of God. (Acts 17:11 should be our first principle to follow.)
Jesus describes it in John 11:25-26; Paul, also, in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, and more fully in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
Paul even writes of when it will happen in that next chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians. The two passages should be read as one context, since Paul did not write in chapters and verses.
Here he indicates, in verse 1, that readers will know that the “times and seasons” are such that this could happen, then he says: “for you, yourselves, know perfectly that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, for when they shall say, ‘Peace and safety,’ then sudden destruction shall come upon them, like a pregnant woman in labor pains, and they shall not escape!”
So, that unknown moment when in the twinkling of an eye believers are changed into immortals will happen when that cry of “peace and safety” is exclaimed.
What would cause anyone to cry out in evident exultation and relief, “Peace and safety,” unless something had happened that would give reason for that cry? Daniel 9:27 is a prophecy that tells of a coming confirmation of a covenant with many for seven years, during which a presently non-existent Temple is rebuilt and the one who is a leader in the confirmation process aborts the agreement in mid-term, enters the Temple and proclaims himself God.
This covenant that allows a peaceful restoration of Jewish Temple sacrifices, with its seven-year term, is prophetically linked to Paul’s writings to the Thessalonians of the end-time events. His 2nd letter says, in chapter 2, the “falling away” of true believers will end up with the “taking away” of the remaining restraining force, the Body of Christ, the Church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
And then, that lawless one, the one who is called the Antichrist, will have no resistance and will begin his ride on the white horse (Revelation 6), ending up becoming the 8th head of the Beast of Revelation in Revelation 17:10, where he takes up his role in the temple of God, declaring himself God, just as he had dreamed of since it was recorded in Isaiah 14 of a time before time began.
The “thief in the night” happening could not occur at the end of the seven years nor anywhere in between. The Day of the Lord is not limited to just one day; it is the beginning of God’s appointed time of judgment, and sudden destruction that happens will be the result of multitudes who are raptured out of the midst of their everyday activities, as Jesus spoke of in Luke 17:26-34—as it was in the days of Noah, and of Lot, they “were buying and selling, etc….”
While Paul identified the incident that triggers these end-time, wrap-up events, he did not tell us “the day or the hour.” He couldn’t. But we can see on the horizon a seemingly frenzied effort to get some kind of “peace agreement” put together soon. Something will have to happen to drive the parties to the negotiation table and overcome their differences—those of Israel versus the Islamic faction.
Will Israel, with the providential work of God, move against Iran and Israel’s Islamic enemies with such force that their opposition will quickly fade and they will confirm a covenant? This could well happen, soon.
The evidence begins to pile up, without any effort needed to squeeze things into place. For example, in Revelation 4, elders appear, with crowns that they lay at the feet of Jesus. Who are these who show up in heaven and receive crowns which are then laid at Jesus’ feet?
Connect that with the clear fact that the Church is not mentioned in Revelation after chapter 5 until the marriage supper in chapter 19, and it looks like God is dealing with Israel, totally, except for those Gentiles who will be fruit of the 144,000 and the two witnesses.
If the Church, the Body of Christ, is still on earth during the seven years, why does God not keep them accountable for the Great Commission? He ordains 144,000 Jewish evangelists for the job! Why?
This issue is really not that complicated or difficult to figure out. As it reads at the end of Revelation, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”