First off, what is the rapture anyway? The basic definition that we can all agree on is the translation of living saints when Christ comes again. When Christ returns, those who are believers in Christ will be "caught up" or raptured to be with Him. They will receive their resurrection bodies at that time without having to experience death. The fact that their will be a rapture is usually not the dispute based on this Bible passage.
I Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The disagreement comes when trying to assign a time for the rapture within the chronology of the end times scheme. Let’s outline some of the basic rapture positions. But before we do, there is a big problem. Since most people believe in a 7 year tribulation, the terminology usually reflects that premise, which I’ve shown to be a false premise. The Great Tribulation begins at the midpoint of a 7 year future period. The Great Tribulation will not be allowed to run its full course to the end of the 7 years; it will be cut short. So the Great Tribulation doesn’t even last 3 1/2 years. But for the sake of the differing rapture positions, I’ll have to borrow their terminology to show you why they are termed what they are termed.
The most popular position in the United States, is the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory, or Pre-Trib. This theory puts the rapture of the church at the beginning of the 7 year period which begins the Great Tribulation, hence the name, Pre-Trib meaning "before tribulation". The idea is that the church will be raptured from the earth and will not see any of the 7 year period during which will happen the events of the Great Tribulation.
The next position, and standing exact opposite of Pre-Trib, is the Post-Tribulational Rapture Theory, or Post-Trib. This theory puts the rapture of the church at the end of the 7 year period. Many Post-Tribbers have studied the scriptures and come to the conclusion that the Great Tribulation does not begin until the midpoint of the 7 year period, but this has no effect on them for the end point of the Great Tribulation. As long as the end point of the Great Tribulation is the end of the 7 years, there is no need for Post-Tribbers to adopt a new name. For Post-Tribbers, whether you believe in a 7 year tribulation or a 3 1/2 year tribulation, they believe the rapture to be at the end of that period in time, or Post-Trib no matter which way you slice it.
The next position becomes slightly difficult. The Mid-Trib position has some various views all under the umbrella of Mid-Trib. Again, it’s a matter of what you believe about the Great Tribulation. The Mid-Trib view originally incorporated all those who believed that the rapture would be at the midpoint of Daniel’s seventieth week (that 7 year period we’ve been discussing). Since many believe that the tribulation is 7 years long, covering the whole of Daniel’s seventieth week, the name "Mid-Trib" is very appropriate because they believe the rapture occurs right in the exact middle of the 7 years. So classic Mid-Trib is actually right in the center of the 7 year period.
However, many have studied and come to the conclusion, as I have, that the Great Tribulation is only 3 1/2 years long. So the name Mid-Trib is actually misleading. So many have adopted the term The Mid-Week Rapture. Those who understand that Daniel’s Seventieth Week is a future 7 years period understand the Mid-Week Rapture to be a clarification on the term Mid-Trib Rapture. The Mid-Week Rapture view places the rapture exactly 3 1/2 years into the 7 year period, but with the Great Tribulation beginning immediately after the rapture. Hence, those who believe in the Mid-Week Rapture, also consider themselves to be a form of Pre-Trib, because the rapture is occurring before the Great Tribulation in this view.
Now that I’ve introduced this particular term, if you go back to Pre-Trib and Post-Trib, it would actually make more sense and be more Biblically correct, to call these positions the Pre-Week Rapture and the Post-Week Rapture. But now that we’ve refined the positions and the terminology, let’s go one step further.
There are those who believe that the rapture happens after the midpoint of the 7 year period, but before the end of the 7 year period. Many of these folks believe that the Great Tribulation begins at the midpoint and runs a full 3 1/2 years. So the term Mid-Trib is a term which they have adopted. This is not to be confused with the Mid-Trib which is actually a Mid-Week Rapture position. This second version of Mid-Trib believe that the church will enter the Great Tribulation, but will not remain here for the entire duration. Hence the term Mid-Trib for these folks means something different than the classic Mid-Trib described above.
For the final position, it is imperative that we understand not only the beginning point of the Great Tribulation, but the ending point as well. The Great Tribulation begins 3 1/2 years into the final 7 years of this age, but it is cut short before being allowed to run its full course. Matthew 24:21-22 gives us this teaching. We have also already seen that the Great Tribulation is followed by the event known in the Bible as The Day of the LORD. Within the Day of the LORD is contained the wrath of God poured out on the ungodly. This time period known as The Day of the LORD carries us to the end of Daniel’s seventieth week. So even though the Great Tribulation is cut short, the remainder of Daniel’s seventieth week after that point in time is filled with God’s wrath being poured out through the trumpets and the bowls.
Here is where I will introduce the term The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. The Pre-Wrath position distinguishes between tribulation and wrath. While conceding that the church must be raptured before God’s wrath, the Pre-Wrath position puts a beginning point on when God’s wrath begins. This sort of sounds like the second Mid-Trib position above, but giving a different name to it. Again, if we refine our view concerning the Great Tribulation, we see where these terms are misleading. If the Great Tribulation is actually brought to a close by the rapture as God’s wrath begins, then Pre-Wrath is not Mid-Trib, but a form of Post-Trib without being Post-Week. You follow?
But, to introduce another confusing thing that happens, many people equate tribulation with wrath. They think just because believers will be persecuted for their faith in Christ, that means they are suffering God’s wrath. Hence, those who are Pre-Trib sometime believe they are following the scriptures which state the church will not suffer God’s wrath. So to state the term Pre-Wrath, we must understand everything that goes with it. Many who are Pre-Trib, or Pre-Week, actually believe they are Pre-Wrath since they think the wrath of God begins at the onset of the 7 year period. Then those who are classic Mid-Trib, or Mid-Week, they believe they are Pre-Wrath since the wrath of God begins at the midpoint of the 7 year period in their view.
So now that you are completely confused by all the rapture positions, I’ll just leave you with, stay tuned because there is hope. The LORD will show us what His Word says, and maybe more importantly, what it doesn’t say. In case you haven’t guessed, I am Pre-Wrath. I believe the church will enter the Great Tribulation, but be spared His wrath when Christ returns visibly and bodily.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
P.S. What confusion from a word that doesn’t even appear in the Bible!