Purpose of this Session
Consideration will be given to the two subjects that have been the cause of much discussion, the tribulation and the rapture. These events precede the second coming of Christ, but their nature and timing are debatable. Several viewpoints will be presented here for the student’s consideration.
- To consider the different viewpoints presented concerning the rapture, tribulation and second coming with regard to their nature and timing.
- To realise that there is no definitive viewpoint and that one must live in a manner worthy of Christ whatever the future presents.
As noted, several views exist concerning the timing of the event many refer to as the rapture. We will consider in this session the prevailing viewpoints regarding this and some of the reasons they are each held by different schools of Bible scholarship.
Some of the discoveries may be enlightening for students who either held no particular viewpoint, or who hold fast to a particular view of forthcoming events
Definition of terms
First let us define the terms we will be using
The word ‘rapture’ does not appear anywhere in the original Greek Bible. The word comes from the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 which speak of an event in which the Lord will descend from Heaven, the dead will rise to meet Him, and those who are alive and believe, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, thereafter to be with Christ forevermore. It is the Greek word for ‘caught up’, harpazo, that is translated “rapture” to describe being caught up or snatched away (in a positive sense, not as one might be snatched away by a kidnapper or harmful person).
The rapture, or catching away, is an event that will take place in a sudden moment in the last days, immediately removing the believing Church from the earth to be with Christ.
As we will see later, some commentators believe that the rapture and the Second Coming are two very distinct and separate events, whereas others believe them to be both part of one sudden and continuous event, with the saints being caught up and immediately then returning in their glorified bodies together with Christ as He descends to the earth to set up His millennial Kingdom.
The tribulation is an event that is prophesied in many places in the Scriptures as a time of incomprehensible horror that will fall upon the planet. Jesus Himself said that it would be a time of “great tribulation, such as has never been since the beginning of the world” (Matthew 24:21). The Scriptures place this event immediately before the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:29-30).
We will consider some Scriptural descriptions of this awful time in more detail later in this session, but suffice to say it will be a time of unprecedented terror.
Some believe it will be specifically seven years long.
Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice in their book ‘Charting the End Times’ describe it this way:
“Take the horror of every war since time began, throw in every natural disaster in recorded history, and cast off all restraints so that the unspeakable cruelty and hatred and injustice of man towards his fellow man can fully mature, and compress all that into a period of seven years. Even if you could imagine that horror, it wouldn’t approach the mind-boggling terror and turmoil of the tribulation.”
The word “millennium” is the Latin word meaning “a thousand years”. Revelation 20:1-7 says that Christ will set up His kingdom on earth and reign as King for 1000 years after His second coming.
The millennium is the cap of history and the precursor of eternity, and is prophesied as a time of absolute peace and prosperity under the direct rulership of Christ Himself. He will sit visibly upon the throne in Jerusalem, ruling the whole earth with absolute power, justice and glory.
Truly, the millennium is the fruition of our prayers for the Kingdom to come, and the will of God to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
We will now look at these three key events in more detail.