What is the rapture?
In 1 Thessalonians, Jesus tells us that he will only return on the last day. On that day those who have died in Christ will be raised first with those yet alive being caught up with Him in the clouds. Being caught up in the clouds means that believers will be snatched by Jesus and brought up into the clouds quickly. Some think otherwise. They think Revelation describes a timeline of events that must occur before the last day so they can prepare for the last day. Their timeline is that Jesus will come secretly a second time before the last day to take all the Christians out of the world before a 7 year tribulation. Two people will be in the field, one taken the other left behind. Two people will be riding in a train, one taken, the other left behind. This, they say, is the rapture. They believe that after the 7 year tribulation, the millennium (1000 years) begins. Then at the end of the millennium, Satan is released for a short time. They believe that Jesus comes a third time, on the last day for the final judgment.
This is contrary to the true interpretation of Revelation. Chapters 6 – 8 is a series of visionary scenes depicting devastating tribulations during the end times, not the very end of the world. These scenes started when Jesus rose from the dead; the beginning of the end times described in Revelation. Some tribulations will increase as the last day approaches, but they may not be visible. In the book of Luke, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed. Rather, He says that it will be like the days of Noah and Lot. One day seemed like an ordinary day, the next was a day of destruction. Therefore, Jesus tells us to always be ready at any time for his return. Revelation’s figurative language shows us just how severe it is for those who fall away from God and how terrifying it will be for the unbeliever on the last day. It shows us that we should not rely on observing signs for the coming of God’s Kingdom, but rely on God’s Word alone. Revelation gives comfort to believers as it shows that Jesus won the victory over death. He will only come a second time, and bring them home to heaven forever.
-Also see: 1 Thess. 4:17, Luke 17:20-35