Summary: The Rapture Theory has been adopted by many Christians as being sound doctrine. In this study, we examine the subject by noting that this subject was created by taking texts out of context and ignoring plain statements of Scripture.
The Rapture Theory claims, in short, that the Lord will come secretly to resurrect only faithful Christians before the coming of the “Great Tribulation” on the Earth. After the seven years of Tribulation on the Earth, all people will be resurrected and brought before the Judgment Seat to receive either eternal life with Christ or eternal damnation with Satan.
That so many believe and promote this Rapture Theory, one might think that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture has always been the doctrine held by the Church since its founding. However, this is false.
John Nelson Darby first proposed and popularized the Pre-Tribulation Rapture in 1827. Popular books also contributed to acceptance of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, including William Eugene Blackstone's book Jesus is Coming, published in 1878, which sold more than 1.3 million copies, and the Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909 with periodic up-dated editions.
During the 1970s, belief in the Rapture became popular in wider circles, in part due to the books of Hal Lindsey, including The Late Great Planet Earth, which has reportedly sold between 15 million and 35 million copies, and the movie A Thief in the Night.
In 1995, the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture was further popularized by Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of books, selling tens of millions of copies and many made into several popular movies.
Thus, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture was not taught and believed during the Church's first 17 centuries. On the contrary, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine is a relatively modern doctrine.
Let's examine the Biblical passages that purportedly support the Pre-Tribulation Rapture -
1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-18, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up [Raptured] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Teachers and believers of the Rapture Theory claim that this passage speaks of a secret resurrection of Christians (those who had died and those who are alive) apart from the resurrection and punishment of the wicked. Are these couple of points really taught here? I say no!
A. How can this resurrection or Rapture' be said to be 'secret' when it is preceded and announced “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God”? The fact is, when Christ returns, no one will miss the spectacle.
B. How can it be said that this event will be accomplished apart from the resurrection and punishment of the wicked when the next chapter talks about this whole event being the “Day of the Lord” which also brings doom to the wicked unbelievers?
The message of the Apostle Paul on the resurrection does not conclude in 4:18. Rather, Paul's message continues through Chapter 5:1-6, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
From this passage, we learn (1) that the resurrection of the righteous is part of the “Day of the Lord” in which sinners will be destroyed, (2) We don't know when the “Day of the Lord” will come, but He will come “just like a thief in the night.” Thus, the resurrection of the righteous will happen the same “Day” as the destruction of the wicked; therefore, this passage does not teach there is a time period between the resurrection of Christians and the destruction of the wicked....it occurs on the same Day.
Not only will this all happen on a single “Day”, but Jesus stated that this will all happen in “an hour” (John 5:28-29). Both the resurrection of the righteous and sinners will come during the same “Day” and “hour”.