This is a brief overview and comparison of the pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, pre-wrath, and post-tribulation rapture views. This article will not argue the pros and cons of the different views, but simply gives a very brief summary of each. These four major rapture beliefs have a relatively specific rapture point, during the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), which is unfolded in the events of the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls (Revelation chapters 4-19). We will look at the 70th week timing of each rapture theory to get a better understanding of them.
The pre-tribulation view places the rapture before any of the events of the seals, trumpets, and bowls of Revelation. This view says that the entirety of the seals, trumpets, and bowls (and, therefore, the entire 7 years of Daniel’s 70th week) is the Wrath of God, and that Christians will not be present during any of it, because 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “…God hath not appointed us to wrath…” The pre-trib view looks to Revelation 4:1 where the apostle John, who it says represents the church, is called up to heaven. In chapters 4-18, John (and therefore the church) looks down on earth as the events of the seals, trumpets, and bowls unfold. This view points out that the word “church” does not appear again until chapter 19 where it is pictured as a bride, beautifully adorned for her husband, which then returns to earth to be with the Bridegroom.
The pre-tribulation view is the only one of the four views that says the rapture is imminent- that it could occur at any time. This view says that Jesus coming as a thief (Revelation 3:3, 16:15; Luke 12:39-40; Matthew 24:42-43) confirms that He could return at any time.
The mid-tribulation view divides the 70th week of Daniel into two sections- the Great Tribulation and the Wrath of God (or the wrath of Satan, and the wrath of God). This view places the rapture after the sixth seal, but before the 7 trumpets and 7 bowls. Revelation 6:12-17 speaks of a cosmic chaos, after the opening of the sixth seal, during which time the unbelievers declare, “…the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 7:1-9 then tells of the “sealing” of the servants of God, after which a great multitude is seen in heaven.
The mid-trib view looks to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 which says the rapture will not occur until after the Antichrist is revealed. This event, which Jesus calls the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15), occurs around mid-point of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:27). The mid-tribulation view generally says that the Wrath of God will begin about ½ way through the 7 year period, and that Christians will miss the most intense part of the Great Tribulation.
The mid-tribulation, the pre-wrath, and the post-tribulation views all say that Jesus specifically mentioned the cosmic events of the sixth seal, and said they would occur immediately after the tribulation, and just before the rapture (Matthew 24:29-31). These views, therefore, hold that the rapture cannot occur until sometime after the events of the sixth seal, regardless of the exact timing. (See also- Joel 2:30-31; Haggai 2:6; Isaiah 13:9-13; Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25-28; Acts 2:17-20)
Both the pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation views say that the second coming of Jesus will occur in two phases- a silent rapture of believers, and a triumphant return, separated by the Great Tribulation. The pre-wrath and post-tribulation views say that the second coming of Jesus will only occur once, with believers being raptured at His triumphant return.
The pre-wrath view is often confused with the mid-tribulation view because it also places the rapture after the sixth seal and this view also divides the 70th week of Daniel into two sections- the Great Tribulation and the Wrath of God. They differ, however, in that the mid-tribulation view places the rapture around mid-point of Daniel’s 70th week, but the pre-wrath view places the rapture near the end of the 70th week. Also, the pre-wrath view generally says that Christians will go through the entirety of the Great Tribulation period, but be raptured before the Wrath of God is poured out on unbelievers.
The pre-wrath view is also often confused with the post-tribulation view because both views place the rapture after the end of the tribulation period. They differ, however, in relation to the Wrath of God. The pre-wrath view is often (incorrectly) called the “3/4 view” because it occurs between the mid-point and the end of the 7 year period. The pre-wrath view generally says that the Wrath of God will begin at the second coming of Jesus, and will last as little as 30 days.
The post-tribulation view, like the mid-tribulation and pre-wrath views, also places the rapture after the sixth seal. This view differs, however, in that it generally views the seals, trumpets, and bowls as running simultaneously rather than concurrent. Therefore, the post-trib view places the rapture also after the sixth trumpet, and (usually) after the sixth bowl, and at the end of Daniel’s 70th week. Placing the rapture after the bowls of God’s wrath means that Christians will not be raptured until after the wrath of God is poured out on unbelievers. The post-tribulation view also holds that the rapture and the return of Jesus are one event.