When Will the “Rapture” Occur?
Christians have several beliefs about when the Lord will return for the church and catch us away, or “rapture” us. The most widely-held belief in America probably is the pre-Tribulation rapture, based on biblical statements that we won’t receive God’s wrath, which he allegedly will pour out during the Great Tribulation.
If we examine the three gospel descriptions of the end times — Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 — we find only one reference to wrath: “There will be great distress [“tribulation,” KJV] in the land and wrath against this people” (Lk 21:23). This is a generic reference to wrath, not specifically to God’s wrath, and identifies it as happening during “great distress” or “great tribulation” against Israel. It seems more likely the wrath during that period is Satan’s or the world’s. Careful study shows God pours out his wrath during the “Day of the Lord,” which occurs after the “Great Tribulation.”
So when will the “rapture” of the church occur? Matthew 24 shows an important sequence that can be confirmed with other passages. Jesus described events representing worldwide turmoil, then in verse 8 stated, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” He then describes events that relate specifically to Israel, and states in verse 21, “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again.” A few verses later he states, “Immediately after the distress of those days” there will be specific signs in the heavens; that is, those celestial signs occur after the end of the “Great Tribulation.”
Then he makes the statement we’ve been anticipating: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Mt 24:30-31).
Conclusion: Jesus will appear and gather the church after the “Beginning of Birth Pains,” after the “Great Tribulation,” after a cosmic disturbance but before God pours out his wrath on the world. This describes a post-Tribulation, pre-wrath rapture.