For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thes 4: 16-17)
Frankly, I have given up using the term, "rapture" because of the baggage I think the term carries, and refer to it as, "the catching up," which is what the Greek word, "harpazo" literally means. There are numerous views among Christians regarding end times, and for our study, the pastor drew up charts on several views regarding the return of Christ, including premillenial, postmillenial, amillenial and preterist. This was a great help, because many Christians, those who are interested in such things, tend to believe that their view is the only reasonable one and give little thought to any other. But in fact, all these views, and others, have been held by various Christians, at various times, over the past two thousand years, and each view has its proponents and its arguments.
Probably the most popular view these days is the premillenial view, but there is still disagreement regarding the actual timing of our being caught up to meet the Lord, in relation to what has come to be known as the, "Tribulation." We see pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, and pre-wrath positions. The pre-trib seems to be the most popular among many evangelicals and TV and radio preachers and, frankly, I think it is the most dangerous and demonstrably false one. I think it is a dangerous teaching and one terribly misleading to the body of Christ. It is held and promoted by such luminaries as Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, John MacArthur and David Jeremiah, among others, all of whom insist that the church will be taken out of the earth before the one known as the Antichrist comes on to the scene. Why is it so dangerous? Because if, as these men insist, the Antichrist, or man of sin, is not to be revealed until after the rapture, their followers will not be looking for him, expecting themselves to be gone before he does come on the scene and will be unprepared and deceived when he does appear.
Whole books can, and have been, written on this subject, but let me give a couple of passages that, to me, refute this position undeniably. The first is in 2 Thessalonians 2:
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him,... ...for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (2 Thes 2: 1a, 3b)
This passage is quite clear that the rapture will not happen until after a period of apostasy (the rebellion) occurs, and the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) is revealed. In other words, Christians alive on earth during the time of the end will still be here when the Antichrist is revealed.
The second passage is from Matthew 24.
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith...
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Mt 24:9-10a; 21; 29-31)
Read the whole chapter Here...
These passages, used by the pre-trib rapture proponents in their analyses of the end-times, actually refute their case, and reinforce the following sequence; persecution, falling away from the faith, tribulation (unequalled from the beginning of the world and never to be equalled again, so must be the Great Tribulation), then lastly, the gathering of the elect.
In my opinion, much of the speculation regarding end-times events is a rather harmless hobby. As seriously as I once took it, not to belittle the subject now, my main focus now is seeking to live a Godly life every day and to be in His will every minute. When Jesus comes, he will come. I am merely trying to show the faulty logic of the pre-trib proponents within their own system. If the Biblical signs claimed by many who study the subject are correct, then those who have been assured that they will not be here when the Antichrist arises, and who are alive during the generation of his coming, are open for a great deception. The false Christ(s) will come before the real one, and they will not be ready.