The Rapture: Where, Why and When

In the previous article, we noted the promise, previews and participants in the Rapture. Next, we consider the place of the Rapture.

Place of the Rapture (Where?)

Jesus said He would come again and receive us to Himself (Joh 14:3). We have argued that He will ultimately take us to the Father’s house. But Paul tells us something additional. He says that the dead in Christ will rise first and be joined together with the living to be “caught up together … in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1Th 4:17 KJV). Why “in the air”? Why not just take us all straight to heaven?

First, this is consistent with what the groom would do when he returned to take his bride back to the Father’s house.[1] Upon returning, the groom would stand outside of her home. The bride would then go out to meet him. So too will the Lord Jesus leave the Father’s house and return just outside of our house, this earth. He will come to the “air” and we will meet Him there. Then the processional from the air to the Father’s house will take place.

But there might be further significance to the fact that we meet specifically in the “air.” Satan is called the prince of the power of the “air” in Ephesians 2:2. We are going to meet in the territory of our enemy’s headquarters without any need to fear, as he will be proven powerless over us. He will be unable to touch any of us there. Thank God! The one who harassed and tempted us here will be incapable of harming us any longer.

Purpose of the Rapture (Why?)

What is the purpose of this great event? Jesus stated two things about the purpose of the Rapture. One is “to receive you unto myself” (this happens in the air) and the other, tied closely to the first, is “that where I am there you may be also” (this happens by taking us to the Father’s house). Paul writes that the purpose is “to meet the Lord in the air.” And as a result, we will forever be with the Lord (1Th 4:17).

What needs to happen, then, for this purpose to be realized? Christ’s Bride is composed of those in heaven without bodies, yet Christ Himself is in a body of glory. They need to be reunited with bodies, but bodies of glory. Another part of the Bride is upon earth, in bodies of corruption. They must be changed, which is exactly what we find in 1 Corinthians 15:51: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (KJV). Thus, believers who have died are raised and changed, and believers who are living are changed. The Lord Jesus “will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body” (Php 3:21 NET). Immediately afterwards, we will be “caught up together … to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1Th 4:17 KJV). So the purpose of the Rapture is for Christ to unite His Bride, the Church, to receive us to Himself forever, and to take us home to be with Him. Perhaps His anticipation of this event is even greater than ours!

Pre-tribulation Rapture (When?)

A number of Scriptures point to a pre-tribulation Rapture. First, consider texts teaching that Christ’s return is imminent. If He were not going to return until after the seven-year tribulation period begins or concludes, the texts emphasizing His return “at any moment” (i.e., imminent) appear senseless. Some argue the tribulation period has either passed or we’re living it now. Jesus described the tribulation as follows: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Mat 24:21 ESV). This language strongly implies the tribulation has not yet occurred.

Consider some of the imminence texts. In Titus 2:13 Paul says we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (ESV). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, “… so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end” (KJV). Also, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 instructs us to “wait for His Son from heaven.” The teaching of these and additional texts (Php 3:20; Heb 9:28) is that we await the “any-moment” appearing of our Savior to take us to be with Him. The imminence texts are consistent with a pre-tribulation Rapture position.

Second, there are texts teaching exemption from wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says that we are to wait for His Son from heaven, even Jesus, who “delivered us from the wrath to come” or, literally, “the coming wrath” (JND, ISV). The coming wrath appears to be a reference to the tribulation period. The nature of the tribulation itself is God’s wrath (Rev 6:17). Paul writes, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Th 5:9 ESV). If some contend that part of the tribulation is not God’s wrath but Satan’s, the argument doesn’t hold, for we are saved from wrath – period. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation [judgment] for those who are in Christ Jesus” (ESV). Revelation 3:10 is also helpful here, where Jesus promises, “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (ESV). He does not say, “I will keep you in” but “I will keep you from.” The next verse (v11) tells us exactly how Christ will accomplish this – “I am coming soon.” We are saved from the coming wrath (i.e., the seven-year tribulation period) because the Rapture will remove us from the place where that wrath will be poured out.

Third, a pre-tribulation Rapture is consistent with the removal of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8. Paul is writing to address the faulty belief among the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord had already arrived (v2). They had received a letter, claiming to be written by Paul, which led them to embrace this false view. Because of this, they were “shaken in mind” and “alarmed” (v2). They believed they had missed the Rapture and were going to endure the horrors of the tribulation period (which is included in the Day of the Lord).

But Paul tells them that the Day of the Lord cannot begin until a number of things happen first. A “falling away” and the revelation of the “man of lawlessness” must first occur (v3). But this “man of lawlessness” won’t be revealed until the “restrainer” is removed (vv6-8). Therefore, the Day of the Lord (including the tribulation period) cannot begin until this restrainer is removed. Who or what is this restrainer?

First, note that the word for restrain (v6) is katecho and means “to hold something back.” Second, both neuter and masculine nouns are used to refer to this restrainer (v6 “what” and v7 “he”). Third, consider that this restrainer must be removable. Fourth, the restrainer must be powerful enough to hold back the outbreak of evil under “the man of lawlessness.” Only God can hold back the outbreak of evil. I believe this refers to the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is spoken of in Scripture as restraining sin and evil in the world (Gen 6:3) and is our restraint as believers. He convicts us of sin and wars against the flesh, thus restraining the full outbreak of evil in our lives.

But how can God be removed, for God is omnipresent? I believe the restrainer is the Holy Spirit at work in and through the Church. This is the only view that adequately explains the use of both neuter and masculine genders. In Greek the word pneuma (Spirit) is neuter. But the Holy Spirit is also referred to consistently in Scripture by the masculine pronoun “he” (esp. in John 14-16). Mark Hitchcock wrote, “The church and its mission of proclaiming and portraying the gospel is the primary instrument the Holy Spirit uses in this age to restrain evil. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mat 5:13-16). We are the temple of the Holy Spirit both individually and corporately.”[2]

But how can the Holy Spirit of God be removed? Is He not omnipresent? This is why I say the restrainer is the Holy Spirit in the Church. The event in 2 Thessalonians 2 seems to be a reversal of the Day of Pentecost. What began the Church Age? The coming of the Holy Spirit. What will end the Church Age? The removal of the Holy Spirit. How can He be removed? By removing from the earth all those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (i.e., all that are part of the Church) at a pre-tribulation Rapture. This must happen before the Day of the Lord begins.


[1] Renald Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 1995), 164-169.

[2] Mark Hitchcock, An Overview of Pretribulational Arguments. Retrieved from