Rapture of the Saints

Concise Bible Dictionary:

A term often applied to the “catching up” in the clouds of the saints, including both those raised from among the dead, and those who will be alive on the earth at that time, to meet the Lord in the air at His coming, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-1716For 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: 17Then 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. (1 Thessalonians 4:16‑17). This preliminary detail in the coming of the Lord is of great interest to the church, which is set to wait for Him. See ADVENT, SECOND.

From Anstey’s Doctrinal Definitions:

The Bible indicates that the second coming of Christ has two parts or phases. They have been called, “the Rapture” and “the Appearing of Christ.” It is important to understand the distinction between the two, because they have been thoroughly confused in the minds of Christian expositors universally for well over fifteen hundred years! When the truth was recovered in the 1800s, this confusion was set straight.
Although the Lord comes out of heaven on both occasions, the Rapture and the Appearing of Christ occur at different times. Some of the differences are:
As mentioned, the main error in Christendom concerning the Lord’s coming is supposing that the Rapture and the Appearing are one event. This idea does not take into consideration the fact that there are a number of things which Scripture indicates that take place between the two events that make this unfeasible. It is clear, therefore, that these two phases of the Lord’s coming do not happen at the same time. When the Lord comes and calls us away from the earth, He takes us into “the Father’s house and formally introduces us to that heavenly scene (John 14:2-32In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2‑3)). Then, the “judgment seat” review will take place (2 Cor. 5:1010For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)). After that, there will be a time of worship and adoration “round about the throne in heaven (Rev. 4-5). Then, after that, there will be “the marriage of the Lamb and “the supperthat ensues it (Rev. 19:6-106And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. 10And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:6‑10)). It is only after these things occur that the heavens open and the Lord comes at His Appearing (Rev. 19:11-2111And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11‑21)). To say that these things all happen in a moment of time is problematic and unfeasible.
Another common mistake that Christians have concerning the Lord’s coming is that they think that He comes as a "Thief in the night" at the Rapture. However, a careful look at the Scriptures will show that it is in connection with His Appearing (Matt. 24:43-4443But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:43‑44); Luke 12:39-4039And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. (Luke 12:39‑40); 1 Thess. 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2); 2 Peter 3:1010But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10); Rev. 3:5; 16:155He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)
15Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)
). At the Rapture, the Lord comes to call away the Church, which is His bride (1 Thess. 4:15-1815For 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. 16For 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: 17Then 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15‑18), etc.). He comes at that time as "the Bridegroom" (Matt. 25:6-106And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:6‑10))—not as a “Thief.” (Coming as a Thief is no way to take one's bride!) Moreover, most of the passages having to do with the Lord’s coming as a Thief speak of Him executing judgment on the world at that time. This happens at the Appearing, but there is no judgment executed on the world at the Rapture; it is a silent snatching away of believers from the earth.
For instance, Matthew 24:43-4443But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:43‑44) correlates the Lord’s coming as a Thief with Him coming as “the Son of Man”—which is the way He is presented in Scripture when He acts in judgment (Dan. 7:1313I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. (Daniel 7:13); John 5:2727And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. (John 5:27); Rev. 1:13-1613And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (Revelation 1:13‑16)). He is never spoken of as the Son of Man in connection with the Church. That title is not even used in the epistles where the Church is addressed and instructed. (Hebrews 2:66But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Hebrews 2:6) is a quote from the Old Testament.) 1 Thessalonians 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2) states that Christ’s coming as a Thief is when He will bring “sudden destruction upon the world of unbelievers. 2 Peter 3:7-107But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:7‑10) connects His coming as a Thief with “the day of judgment.” Revelation 16:15-1615Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. (Revelation 16:15‑16) says that when the Lord comes as a Thief, it will be to judge the armies that will gather at Armageddon to fight against Him. The parable in Luke 12:36-3936And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. (Luke 12:36‑39) indicates that the Lord's coming as a Thief is after "the wedding" has taken place.
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There are at least five wonderful things that happen for the believer as a result of the Rapture:
•  We will be forever delivered from spiritual dangers and physical troubles, sickness, sorrow, etc. (Jude 2121Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 21)).
•  We will receive the rewards of our labours here (Matt. 25:19-2319After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:19‑23); Luke 19:15-1915And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. (Luke 19:15‑19); Heb. 10:35-3735Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. (Hebrews 10:35‑37)).
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The Lord clearly stated that no man knows when He will come at the Rapture (Matt. 25:1313Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 25:13) – J. N. Darby Trans.) nor when He will Appear to judge the world in righteousness (Matt. 24:3636But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)). It is, therefore, futile to be trying to set dates for either of these events.