Three Views of Rapture and Return

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The word “rapture” does not appear in most English translations of the New Testament. Still, “rapture” is a thoroughly biblical term.” [1] “Rapture” (the verb rapiemur, from the noun raptus) basically means “being caught up”. [2]

1 Thessalonians 4:17 talks about believers who are still alive during the return of Christ, being “caught up together with them [the dead in Christ] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air …” (NASB). The Greek word used for “caught up” is ἁρπάζω (harpazō). Strong defines it as, “catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).” [3]

It is not disputed whether or not there will be a rapture. Rather, the disagreement stems from the question of when the rapture will take place in light of the return of Jesus. Below are the simplified views of a few schools of thought:

Dispensational Premillennialism  Amillennialism and

Postmillennialism

Historical Premillennialism
 The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus occur at different times. They are separated by 7 years or more. The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus to earth happen together. This event will occur at the end of the millennium. The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus to earth happen together. This event will occur immediately before the millennium.
  •  The return of Jesus to earth will occur some time after the rapture of the church.
  • Most dispensationalists place the rapture before the tribulation and the return at the end of the tribulation, immediately before the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-2); the church will return to earth after the tribulation as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).
  •  The return of Jesus to earth will occur immediately after the rapture of the church
  • The rapture will occur at the end of the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:7-9) and will then return to earth as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).
  • The return of Jesus to earth will occur immediately after the rapture of the church
  • The rapture will occur after the tribulation and before the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:7-9) and will then return to earth as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.304

[2] Ibid.

[3] Strong, James. “Harpazo.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Accessed November 16, 2017. http://biblehub.com/greek/726.htm

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