A photo of a worn-out Bible lying open on a table, illuminated by a ray of sunlight, symbolizing the anticipation and uncertainty surrounding the timing of the rapture.

When Will The Rapture Happen According To The Bible

The question of when the rapture will occur has intrigued Christians for centuries. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: while the Bible doesn’t give an exact date, it does provide some clues about the timing of this prophesied event.

In this comprehensive article, we will analyze relevant Bible passages to determine what scripture says about when followers of Christ can expect to be gathered to meet him in the air.

Defining the Rapture

What is the Rapture

The Rapture is a future biblical event when Jesus Christ will return to remove the Church (all true Christians worldwide) out of the earth. The word “rapture” comes from Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where he says that when Jesus returns, living believers will be “caught up” in the clouds to meet Him in the air.

The Rapture is often confused with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While the two events are similar and possibly happen in rapid succession, they are separate events.

At the Rapture, Jesus comes for His saints (his true followers). At the Second Coming, Jesus returns with His saints. The Rapture will occur suddenly and without warning. At the Second Coming, Jesus will defeat all the forces of evil in the world, including the Antichrist.

While no one knows the timing of the Rapture, many Christians believe it will take place before the Tribulation period described in Revelation chapters 6–19.

There are differing views on the timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation. The three main views are: 1) Pretribulation – the Rapture happens before the 7-year Tribulation period. 2) Midtribulation – the Rapture occurs at the halfway point of the Tribulation.

3) Posttribulation – the Rapture happens at the end of the 7-year Tribulation period.

Pre-Tribulation vs Post-Tribulation Views

Pre-Tribulation View Post-Tribulation View
  • Jesus will rapture true believers before the start of the 7-year tribulation period described in Revelation.
  • This view holds that God will protect the Church from undergoing His wrath poured out during the tribulation.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9 and Revelation 3:10 suggest the Church will be kept from the “hour of trial” coming on the earth.
  • This was the view of early premillennial teachers like John Nelson Darby in the 1800s.
  • The Rapture will occur after the tribulation period at the visible return of Christ.
  • Scriptures like Matthew 24:29-31 indicate Jesus returns and gathers believers immediately after the tribulation.
  • God will protect Christians during the tribulation as promised in Revelation 3:10.
  • This view has been common throughout church history, such as with early church father Irenaeus.

Scholars note strengths and weaknesses to both the pre-trib and post-trib views. Ultimately, the exact timing of the Rapture is unclear in Scripture. But all Christians hold to the glorious truth that Christ will return to gather His people to Himself.

Believers in every generation have clung to the promise and blessed hope of Revelation 22:20: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Clues About the Rapture Timing in Scripture

No One Knows the Day or Hour

Jesus explicitly states that no one knows the day or hour of His return to rapture the church (Matthew 24:36). However, He does give us signs to look for that will indicate the season of His return. We cannot set dates, but we can see the day approaching through tracking world events and comparing them to biblical prophecy.

Will Occur After the Gospel is Preached to All Nations

Jesus said the end will come after the gospel of the kingdom has been preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14). Technology today allows the message of Christ to reach even the most remote areas in ways not possible historically.

According to Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Bible has now been translated into over 3,000 languages, covering over 90% of the world’s population.

Will Precede the Rise of the Antichrist

The rapture must take place before the Antichrist is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7-8). The Antichrist will rise to power, enforcing a peace plan in the Middle East and ultimately setting himself up as God to be worshipped (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

Followers of Christ will not face the persecution of the Antichrist because they will be caught up to meet the Lord before he is on the global scene.

Other Prophetic Events That Must Precede It

Jesus emphasized the importance of tracking world events and the signs of His coming so we will not be caught unaware (Matthew 24:42-44). Other prophetic events and signs that the Bible says will increase in prevalence leading up to the rapture include:

  • False messiahs and false prophets will arise (Matthew 24:4-5, 11)
  • Wars and rumors of wars will increase (Matthew 24:6)
  • Nations will rise against nations (Matthew 24:7)
  • Famines, earthquakes, and pestilences will intensify (Matthew 24:7)
  • Increased persecution of believers (Matthew 24:9-10)
  • Many falling away from the faith (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
  • Increased wickedness, lawlessness, immorality, and depravity in society (Matthew 24:12)

While we cannot know the exact day or hour, we can see the signs of the times indicating we are in the season of the Lord’s return. The rapture is imminent and can happen at any moment. We all need to live in constant readiness for our blessed hope – the glorious catching away of the church into the very presence of our Lord (Titus 2:13)!


Interpreting Relevant Bible Passages

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

This passage in 1 Thessalonians describes what is often referred to as the rapture of the church. The Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonian believers not to grieve like those who have no hope, because Jesus died and rose again, and so God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

Paul explains that the Lord himself will descend from heaven with the sound of the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then believers who are alive will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.

Paul emphasizes that believers will be with the Lord forever after this. So this passage clearly teaches that Christ will return for believers, both those who have died and those still living, and gather them to himself to be with him eternally.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54

The passage in 1 Corinthians similarly describes the return of Christ and the gathering of believers to Him. Paul tells the Corinthian church that he is revealing a mystery to them – that not all believers will die, but those who are alive at Christ’s coming will be transformed.

This will happen suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet blast. The dead will be raised imperishable and the living will be changed to have imperishable, immortal bodies. Then, as Paul writes, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

So this passage also points to Christ returning and believers being gathered to Him and changed to immortal bodies.

Matthew 24:36-44

In Matthew 24, Jesus is responding to questions from His disciples about His return and the end times. In verses 36-44, He tells them that no one knows the day or hour when the Son of Man will come again, except the Father.

Jesus emphasizes that His return will be sudden and unexpected, like a thief in the night. He urges believers to be ready, alert, and watchful, because they do not know when He will return. Jesus warns that unbelievers will be unprepared when He comes again.

So this passage underscores the unexpected nature of Christ’s return and the need for readiness and vigilance among His followers as they await that day.

Major Rapture Views and Supporting Arguments

Pre-Tribulation View

The pre-tribulation view believes that the rapture will occur before the start of a 7-year tribulation period. According to this view, Jesus will return secretly and suddenly to “snatch away” believers into heaven before the emergence of the Antichrist and onset of God’s judgments in the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Key arguments for the pre-tribulation view include:

  • It maintains a distinction between the rapture and Jesus’ public second coming at the end of the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).
  • It allows for an imminent rapture that could occur at any moment rather than only after certain prophetic signs are fulfilled (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
  • It views the church and Israel as distinct, with God first removing his church at the rapture and later restoring Israel during the tribulation.

Prominent supporters of this view include John Nelson Darby, Tim LaHaye, John MacArthur, Charles C. Ryrie, and Chuck Smith.

Mid-Tribulation View

The mid-tribulation view proposes that the rapture will take place in the middle of the 7-year tribulation period. According to this perspective, the church will face the emergence of the Antichrist but be spared from undergoing the intense judgments of the second half of the tribulation.

Key scriptures cited for this timing of the rapture include:

  • Daniel 7:25 – Saints handed over to Antichrist for “time, times and half a time.”
  • Revelation 13:5 – Antichrist given authority to act for 42 months.
  • Revelation 11:2 – Jerusalem under control of nations for 42 months.

Supporters of this view, such as Norman B. Harrison and Gleason L. Archer, argue that it allows believers to witness the Antichrist while still promising an escape from God’s wrath.

Post-Tribulation View

The post-tribulation view says that the rapture and second coming will be one event occurring after the tribulation period. In this view, Christians will remain on earth through the tribulation to suffer persecution but will be protected by God.

Arguments for this view include:

  • Scriptures seem to place Jesus’ coming after tribulation signs (Matthew 24:29-31).
  • Events in Revelation follow a chronological order pointing to one return of Christ.
  • God has promised to protect rather than remove believers during trials (Revelation 3:10).

This perspective has been promoted by early church fathers Irenaeus and Eusebius as well as modern scholars Robert Gundry and Douglas J. Moo.


While the Bible does not reveal the exact timing, it does provide important clues about events that will precede the rapture. By thoughtfully analyzing scripture, we can understand the sequence of end times events which suggests the rapture happens before the tribulation period begins.

However, interpreting these prophetic passages continues to be a source of debate among Bible scholars. Ultimately, we must live in constant readiness for Christ’s return, whenever that glorious day occurs.

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