Many people argue about when the rapture will occur- or even if it is a Biblical concept. In my view Scripture is clear about this: the rapture - the taking out of the saints from earth to meet the Lord in the air -could happen at any time and is clearly prior to the Great Tribulation, the worst seven years in the world's history. Here is an extract from an e-mail I wrote to a reader on the subject.
Rapture is the Latin form of the Greek "harpazo," which means to catch up or seize away. This event is described in Ist Thessalonians 4, 13-5: 11- "For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with a voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."
In this passage Jesus comes FOR the saints (IE, the true believers in Jesus) and He meets them in the air. In Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19-20 the Lord comes WITH the saints to the earth for the final "battle" and then for his millennial reign. If the Saints are with Him when he comes, clearly they must have joined him beforehand. Otherwise these two passages make no sense.
Similarly, there are totally different descriptions of the two occasions, one of which is a total surprise, as a thief in the night, the other with the whole world aware of what is happening. Clearly two totally different events. So is the second coming in two stages? Yes, because the rapture preceeds the seven year great tribulation described in Matthew 24: 15-31 and in Revelation 6-19.
In fact, long before John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren there is strong evidence of the understanding of the coming of the Lord in two stages in the early church.The writer Ephraem the Syrian was a major theologian of the early Byzantine church who lived from AD306 to 373. He or one of his disciples authored "On the Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World." This was considered important enough to be translated into several languages. Ephraem's text teaches the premillenian return of Christ and has a clear statement about the Lord returning before the tribulation to take the elect home to be with Him before the coming tribulation.
Here is what he wrote: "For all the saints and elect of God are gathered prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken away to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins." Many scholars through the ages also concluded that there will be a personal Antichrist who will rule the revived Roman Empire during the last days, a rebuilt temple, the two witnesses and a literal Great Tribulation.
Now, turning to the New Testament, the writers of passages too numerous to quote - try James 5:8, 1 Corinthians 1:7. 16:22, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Titus 2:13 and Hebrews 9:28 for starters, clearly state that the coming of the Lord could happen at any time.
If the rule of Antichrist, the Great Tribulation and the beast system- 666 and the mark-had to come first it would be impossible for Christ to come at an unexpected time. Because He could come to rapture the saints before I have finished this e-mail, we are to live our lives in continual readiness.
As John said in his epistle: We know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3. This is a tremendous hope for suffering Christians around the world - our mortal bodies will be transformed to be like His glorious body- see Phillipians 3-20, 4-5.
So we should be ready for the rapture. Far from this doctrine, which is ancient, harming the church, it is the church world improvers who get it all wrong, with their mistaken belief that somehow we can reform the world and present it to Christ in a nicely wrapped up package, all Christianized, for when the Lord returns. This is the exact opposite of what Scripture teaches, that in the last days lawlessness will increase, faith will fall away etc etc. Will there be faith on the earth when Jesus returns? Not a lot!
I will add some other points, for I am rather tired of hearing that the splendid Mr Darby invented this theory in recent times. The people who state this are not the first class Bible scholars, rather those of limited scholarship. In a debate I listened to at the week-end between Dave Hunt, who is a first class Bible scholar, and some man arguing that the rapture was after the tribulation or some such nonsense, the pre-trib rapture position was not only doctrinally correct, it was the ONLY argument that made any sense whatsoever. The counter arguments were just confusing claptrap.
God is not a God of confusion, but of a sound mind. If people argue in riddles they are almost certainly not interpreting the Bible correctly. The church is not referred to after chapter three of Revelation- the believers do not suffer God's wrath. Chapters two and three refer to the church age and the church is raptured at the end of chapter three, never to be referred to again. Chapter four onwards refers to things which take place AFTER the church age.
The tribulation saints are those saved during the tribulation and killed by antichrist. Pat, myself and our daughter Anne have been privileged to know and learn from some great Bible teachers. One of them, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who performed the marriage ceremony for our daughter in January, is probably the world's foremost Bible authority. He - and all the best teachers- believe in a pre-trib rapture.
As for us changing the course of history as prophesied by Daniel and many others, I do not think so! The world is going to Hell in a handcart and Antichrist and the one world system is coming- Scripture tells us so. All we can do is warn those who will listen and perhaps snatch a few off the rocks. There will not be an end time revival, mass salvations, a turning back to God or anything like that. Scripture teaches the opposite. I am afraid there is nothing Britain, America and other countries can do now to avert judgement. It is too late, the die is cast, the collapse is coming soon and the wrath of God will come on an unbelieving God-mocking world. I hope you now understand this better. Alan Franklin