To answer this controversial question, we must realize an important fact about the arrangement of the last Book in the Bible: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Revelation begins in chronological order, but the sequence changes and repeats some of what has already been written. For example, in chapter 6, six of the seven seals reveal to us the things which must be hereafter. These seals give us a preview of what will take place in heaven and on earth. But when the seventh seal is opened in chapter 8, then the things spoken of before begin to happen.
In comparing the chronological order of the Rapture to the seven-year Tribulation, we must maintain the context while searching the Scriptures. To begin with, keeping in mind that the first 7 chapters of Revelation are kept mostly in chronological order, we see in chapters 2 and 3 that the Lord Jesus is quoted both in rebuking and in commending the seven churches. It needs to be noted that the word churches is the last word used in chapter 3 and will not appear again until the sixth to last verse in the Book. The reason for this is that the Church will not be present on earth until they return with the Lord Jesus’ Second Coming (when He has His feet on earth for the second time) at the end of the seven-year Tribulation.
After that last mention of the churches in chapter 3, the next verse, Revelation 4:1, reveals to John, the writer, that the Lord is calling him up. Comparing Scriptures below the context maintains that it’s not only John, but the universal Church of believers who will be instantaneously called up. The word rapture comes from the Latin term rapio, which means to “snatch away” or “carry off”. Revelation 4:1 reads as follows:
After these things [The Lord’s words He’d given to the churches] I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
This voice…like a trumpet coincides with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
This also coincides with 1 Corinthians 15:52:
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [last trumpet of the church age is in the Bible over 90 times]. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Now, keeping in mind the chronological order in the first 7 chapters of Revelation, we see after the church is raptured in 4:1, the church is in heaven praising the Lord in 5:9-11:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures [each and every believer is a living created being], and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,
We find that the antichrist will not be revealed until the Spirit indwelled Church is taken out of the way in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8a:
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work [1 John 2:18]; only He [the Holy Spirit] who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, …
Revelation 5 describes the raptured Church praising the Lord Jesus Christ for being worthy to open the seven seals of the scroll and for redeeming us to God by His blood.
The order of events has been
1) Revelation 2-3: The churches on earth;
2) Revelation 4: The Rapture of the Church; and
3) Revelation 5: The Church praising the Lord.
Revelation 6 then reveals the antichrist coming in to conquer, and eventually to take peace, kill, cause famine, and death. The end result of the antichrist’s feats will bring God’s wrath in the Great Tribulation.
Before we progress to Revelation Chapter 7 which will show the 144,000 Jews being on earth during the seven-year Tribulation period, we must look to Romans 11:25-26 to see the reasoning for this order of events:
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part [in part, because no all Jews are blinded; some are Christian Jews] has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. [After the last Gentile person has accepted Christ, then the Church will be called up into heaven, and then verse 26a of Romans 11:] And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written…[God’s covenant to save Israel after the Gentiles is in Isaiah 59:20-21.]
Maintaining context and keeping within chronological order, Revelation 7 will show that Israel is still on earth after the church has been raptured, but the wrath of God is held back from them until they can be sealed with the living God. Revelation 7:1-4:
After these things [after the things spoken of in chapter 6 which reveals the coming of the Antichrist] I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
Then the next 4 verses name the twelve tribes of which were twelve thousand from each. Now we will see a “jump” in the chronological order here in chapter 7 since John will get a glimpse of these 144,000 Jews plus some Gentiles who hear the Gospel are in heaven after the Great Tribulation: Revelation 7:9-14:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in White robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Based on these Scriptures we believe the Rapture will happen before the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation.
Do the above mentioned Scriptures speak to you in the same way? Let us know what you think. We welcome your comments and discussion.
We are looking forward to continuous learning and getting to know our God better.
All Scripture quoted from the NKJV.