Before we begin, I want to explain that the word “rapture” simply means to be “caught up”. It is not found in the Bible, instead the Bible uses a Latin term that means “caught up”. The rapture is the term we use to refer to the ‘catching up’ or “gathering together” of the believers at the return of the Lord.
While Jesus was with His disciples, He told them that He was going back to the Father, and promised them that He would be back for them:
Jesus taught here, that those who believe in Him, will be raised to life, at the last day.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. (Some try to say Jesus was speaking to Jews here, but it’s clear He was speaking privately to His disciples)
Remember - Jesus had already taught His disciples that He was going back to the Father, but that He would come back for His believers, and that He would raise them up “on the last day.” So, Jesus goes on to speak about the signs of the end - false teachers, wars, famines, earthquakes, and persecution against believers. Jesus warned that because lawlessness would abound in these last days, that the love of many would grow cold, and that the whole world was going to turn against believers:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14
This is what it’s going to be like, right up to the end - when Jesus comes back for us. But then Jesus goes into greater detail, telling us the signs that we should look for-
26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Then, He goes on to say:
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect (believers) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The sister passage in the gospel of Mark shows even more clearly that at this time, Jesus is going to be gathering together all the believers both in heaven, and on the earth:
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. Mark 13:26-27
Jesus goes on in this chapter to warn us that we should be looking for these signs so that we know when the time is near:
32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!
In other words, when you see all these things taking place, the time is near! These are what we should be watching for, so while none of us knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, we can know when the time is near and we should be ready! The apostles taught the same thing:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
Notice how they are also referring to the coming of the Lord & the gathering together of the believers as one day? They are also warning that this day will not come until the signs Jesus told us about in Matthew 24 happened - the falling away, and the man of sin (the abomination which causes desolation).
Jesus goes on to warn us in Matthew 24 that this day - the day that He just spoke of, when He comes and the believers are all gathered together to Him, will come suddenly upon the rest of the world- they will not be watching. No, they will be murdering and betraying believers, but they will not be looking for Jesus’ return.
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Just as in the days of Noah, those who are not watching and waiting, are going to experience sudden destruction. This will be a day of blessed hope for us believers, but for those who don’t know Jesus it will be a day of great wrath in which the Lord pours out His wrath on the earth.
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 1 Thess. 5:1-3
We, who are looking for the signs, will be waiting eagerly for the return of the Lord, to be delivered from this world that hates us because of Him, and when He comes, we will be saved, but the rest of mankind is going to suffer sudden destruction as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.
Going back to Matthew 24, Jesus then goes on to warn about the faithful and the evil servant - teaching us not to grow weary of doing good, but to continue in Jesus, walking with Him in faith, doing His will, until the end, which the apostles also taught:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:7-10
After this, Jesus goes on and gives us the Parable of the Virgins, which speaks of our being ready for the Lord when He comes. Jesus isn’t speaking about a new event here - He’s speaking about being ready for what He just explained was going to happen- His coming, and our gathering together to Him. We must be ready when the time comes. We will know when we see all these things happening, that the time is near, but if we are not ready, it will be too late. (read the parable) We can’t think that we’ll have time to get our act together when we see these things happening.
You can see that all of Matthew 24 is speaking about the same event - the coming of Jesus and our gathering together to Him. There is no indication in these passages that the rapture is a separate event from Christ's second coming as so many believers claim.
Let’s look at a few other rapture passages and see how they tie together. The apostles only expanded on the things Jesus had already taught them:
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
This passage teaches us that when Jesus comes, the dead in Christ are going to rise FIRST - and afterwards, those of us who are still alive, will be caught up (raptured) to the clouds to be with Jesus forever. Do you remember the first few verses we looked at from John? Jesus said that the dead would be raised - on the last day. If we who are alive, are not raptured until after those who have died in Christ, then that would mean that the rapture must also happen at the last day - the time of the end, just as Jesus taught in Matthew 24.
This passage also teaches that we are going to be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Because of this wording, some teach that this is a sort of "partial" coming- that its not the second coming, but a time, some time before the second coming, when Jesus just comes “in the clouds” but doesn’t return, to rapture the church. However, look at how Revelation speaks of His second coming:
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. Rev. 1:7
So, Jesus is indeed coming with the clouds, and we will be caught up together with Him to meet Him in the air - at His second coming, when “every eye will see Him.” Just as He taught in Matthew 24 when He said “all the tribes of the earth will mourn” when He comes. No one is going to wonder where the believers went, Jesus is going to gather them, and this is the time when He is going to pour out His wrath upon the wicked.
Lastly, lets compare all this with the seals in Revelation, which walks us through the signs that precede the day of wrath, and the coming of the Lord.
When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. Revelation 6:9-11
Notice in this passage, that the saints in heaven are asking the Lord how long until He will avenge their blood on the earth - the wrath has not even begun yet! This is the great tribulation period, the one Jesus warned about, when He said that they will deliver you up and kill you because of Me. The whole world is going to turn on believers. Jesus replies to them, that they should rest until the number of their fellow servants to be killed as they were was completed. Remember, Jesus said that He was not coming back to gather the saints until after the tribulation:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29-31
Now, lets compare that passage, with what happens in seal 6 - right after the martyrdom of the great tribulation in seal 5:
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. 13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:12-17
Notice what’s happening? Compare these last two passage - the sun is darkened, the moon becomes like blood, the stars fall to earth, and the people of the earth mourn, and realize that the day of wrath has come! This is exactly what Jesus said would happen immediately after the tribulation period - so this is a marker. The great tribulation is over, and the Day of Wrath has come. If you go on to read, you will see that the tribulation saints are now seen in heaven, and that the Judments of God begin - 7 trumpet judgments, then 7 bowls of wrath.
Isn’t God’s word beautiful, perfect and amazing? Do you see how all these passages show that we believers are waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus, and at that time, which will be immediately after the great tribulation, we will be gathered together to be with the Lord, and He will pour out His wrath upon the earth?