This study begins with the best eschatological question ever asked:
“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" - Matthew 24:3
This study is not meant to look at the entire events of the end times, but only the timing and events of the rapture, so let's skip to verse 21.
Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. - Matthew 24:21-30
Let's look at a similar verse in Revelation 6, look at the similar wording and identical time markers.
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” - Revelation 6:12-17
Look at the similarities, the coming of the Son of Man will be as lightning in the sky in Matthew 24, in Revelation 6 the sky vanishes. This event is directly preceded in both passages by the sun and moon and stars being greatly changed, and the earth quaking. The tribes of the earth will mourn, they will see Jesus, and they will not want to. I hope and trust that you see that these describe the same event. Only Matthew adds one more event, look at verse 31, the rapture verse:
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. - Matthew 24:31
This event is on the Day of Wrath, the day of Christ's return, the visible return of Jesus to the whole world. These angels come and remove Christ's elect, there is no indication in this passage of any sort of disappearing or secrecy. Now let's compare some other verses that give us the timing and events of this rapture and see if they agree.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. - 1 Corinthians 15:51
These passages clearly show the rapture happens at the last trumpet, at the return of Christ. The dead are raised first, the believers are caught up immediately afterwards, to meet Christ as he descends, and be with him forevermore.
And I tell you beloved, this means there is a very good chance you may live through this tribulation, or any number of smaller, though not small, tribulations. There is no room in these passages or any passage for a secret and/or pretribulation rapture. Many of the elect will face the ruler of the world and die terrible deaths for it, being called to have endurance and faith in the Sovereign God who ordained all things (Revelation 13:7-10). Fear not, for Christ endured more for your soul at the hands of his Father, and he promises to never leave you nor forsake you.
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! - Luke 12:4-5
Our Appointment with Death and Christ's Return
Our Appointment with Death and Christ's Return