Why the Rapture is not Imminent
There is a same day connection between the rapture and the eschatological wrath of God which takes place in the day of the Lord. That means that there are preconditions for the rapture of the church. Let me explain.
First, I want to affirm that the Scriptures are explicit about the fact that God's elect (all those in Christ) are not going to experience His wrath in the day of the Lord (1Thes 5:9). Also, let me affirm that before the Lord's wrath is poured out upon the unbelieving world, He will resurrect the dead in Christ, change those believers who remain alive, and AFTER THAT catch us up to be with Himself in the clouds. This catching up is what we call the rapture. It is the fulfillment of Christ's promise to "come again and receive [us] unto [himself]"(Jn 14:3). There indeed will be a rapture of the church before the wrath of God commences, in the day of the Lord.
Many are correct in thinking that those who are saved in Christ will be rescued before the wrath of God falls unexpectedly upon the unbelieving. However, many fail to understand all the implications of Christ's words, especially those recorded in Luke 17:26-30, where Jesus makes three important points.
Luk 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
Luk 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
Luk 17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
Luk 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Luk 17:30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
First, we see that the lost world, who will be going about their business, as usual, will be caught by surprise by the wrath of God at Christ's revelation. Just as the preaching of the flood was rejected and unexpected by the unbelieving in Noah's day, so shall the wrath of God in the day of the Lord be unexpected by the unbelieving. Just as many in Lot's extended family in Sodom did not believe the warning and were caught unawares, along with all the wicked, by the divine destruction of those evil cities, so shall it be at Christ's coming.
· The first point that Christ makes is that God's wrath comes unexpectedly upon the apathetic, unbelieving world.
The point that Christ makes next is that before God's eschatological wrath falls, the righteous are rescued. Noah and his family are shut up in the ark safe from the flood and Lot and his two daughters are removed from the area of divine wrath. So shall the righteous be, at the revelation of Christ. We shall be resurrected, changed, and raptured to Him in the clouds before the first stroke of His eschatological wrath falls.
· The second point is that we will be rescued before He pours out His wrath.
The final point that Christ brings home is that the very day of our rescue will be the day that His wrath begins to fall. Notice that He said that the unbelieving continued business as usual "until the day" that Noah went into the ark. Again, He said, "the same day" that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone. This is a clear indication that His wrath is connected with our rescue. The very day of our rapture will be the day His wrath begins to fall upon the unbelievers. This beginning of the pouring out of His wrath takes place on the day of Christ's revelation following the catching up of the saints, all on the very same day.
· The third point that Christ makes is that the day of our rescue is the day when His wrath begins. That day, is the beginning day of the eschatological period of time known as "the day of the Lord."
The REVELATION of Christ in the clouds with the mighty angels is the first act of Christ in the day of the Lord (2Thes 1:6-10; Matt 24:30; 1Cor 1:7; Rev 1:7). Upon that day, unexpectedly to the world, Christ is revealed, we are rescued from persecution, and God begins to persecute (tribulate) those who persecuted us (2Thes 1:6-10).
What are some of the implications of these three important truths from Luke 17:26-30?
1) We are removed from the earth first, before God's wrath falls.
2) The lost are caught by surprise by the wrath of God due to their unbelief. They did not heed the warnings.
3) There is a hard, same day, connection between the rapture and the "day of the Lord" wrath of God.
4) This "same day" connection between the rapture and the wrath makes all the prophetic signs associated with the day of the Lord also true concerning the rapture.
5) Since there are many preconditions (Joel 2:10, 31; Matt 24:9-31; Mal 4:5; 2Thes 2:3; etc) which must take place before the day of the Lord can come, the same serve as preconditions for the rapture.
6) If there are preconditions for the rapture, and there are, then the teaching of an imminent (any moment) rapture is inherently unbiblical and false.
7) All these things being true, the only reference to the "catching up" gathering of Christ's own unto Himself, that has explicit language indicating the timing of the rapture in relation to the great tribulation, is Matt 24:31. There we see that it comes AFTER the great tribulation is cut short (vss 22, 29), but before His wrath falls in the day of the Lord.
The rapture takes place at some unknown point in the second half of the week after the unprecedented persecution of the saints (great tribulation), but before God's wrath in the day of the Lord falls upon the unbelieving, beast worshiping, earth-dwellers.
Glory be unto the Lord, Christ Jesus.