The main positions on the rapture place it sometime around the beginning, the middle, or the end of the Tribulation of the End Days. I will argue that the rapture will take place just before the combustion of the world at the end of time. There are problems with each of the mainstream positions on the rapture, and there are even reasonable arguments against the rapture theory I want to advance. However, my theory seems the most logical for at least two reasons: the others are in contradiction with the account of the First Resurrection in Revelation, and also, the arguments against my theory do not preclude it. There is also significant positive evidence for a rapture after the age of peace and some may find that it amounts to proof.
First of all, let’s just establish that the rapture does occur. Paul describes it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15, particularly in the first verse when he says, “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” The only way that is possible in the context there is if we are transfigured before death.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Paul also gives a clear description of the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. Here Paul emphasizes that all Christians have a place with Jesus: the dead will be resurrected and then the living will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (v.17)
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel,and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.
So from these two passages in Paul we must notice a few things.
1) in a twinkling of the eye God will transfigure the living (this is what we call the rapture)
2) the order is first that Christ will return (accompanied by certain signs) (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
3) and then the dead will be resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
4) and after the resurrection, then those alive will be transfigured (1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Corinthians 15:51-53)
One more significant scripture on the rapture, though we will not analyze it yet, is Matthew 24 in which Jesus speaks somewhat cryptically. That is one of the places we hear of two people together, ‘one taken, another left’.
So what is the controversy? Paul has explained clearly that there will be a rapture for believers. The main issue is the timing. Revelation’s detailed treatment of the End Times does not give much clear information on the rapture. If the rapture came before tribulation or during tribulation, why does the passage above in 1 Thessalonians 4 tie the resurrection and rapture to the coming of Christ? We read He comes first, and with a trumpet, a shout and the voice of an archangel. Would one say that such a coming is either before the tribulation or during the tribulation? Matthew 24:27 says that “like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.” Then can we say He comes publicly in glory before the tribulation to resurrect and rapture, or in the middle of the tribulation in that way, and then He returns again to win the battle of Armageddon? I don’t think so. But let’s look more at Matthew 24, because it is so valuable. In it, Jesus addresses His disciples for one of the last times.
Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time. So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him. For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heave unto the other.
We see here
1) The elect will be there at the end. Why else would the days need to be cut short? (v. 22)
2) Jesus’ anticipated return is “immediately after the suffering of those days” when the “sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” (vv.29,30) In other words, the one whom many will be waiting for, wishing He were even in the wilderness or the inner room, will not come until at the end, with those signs.
We are many times told to wait on the Lord. We are told to wait on Him and expect Him for a coming at the end of Tribulation. Read how Luke 21 has the matter.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
So the pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation theories are very hard to support when 1 Thessalonians 4 places the rapture with the return of Christ, and the return of Christ according to Matthew 24 and Luke 21 is at the end of the Tribulation period. However I don’t believe in a rapture at the end of the tribulation period either, despite the seemingly strong indications we have seen to expect it then. The following passage is crucial and proves all three popular theories of the rapture wrong.
I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection…[they] shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired…And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
1) For a thousand years only martyrs of the Tribulation will live and reign with Christ. (v. 20:4) This selective resurrection is called the First Resurrection. (v. 20:5)
2) After a thousand years is the general resurrection. Then we are judged for life or death. (vv. 20:7,11,12)
As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15,16, the “dead in Christ shall rise first,” and “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.” That means that the rapture must take place at the end of the Millenial Reign just after the general resurrection.
The option for the time of the rapture left is that when “rest of the dead” are raised, after the thousand years, there will be a rapture of the living at that time. And there is actually very strong evidence that this interpretation is correct. The following verses show that the resurrection of the dead is at Christ’s Coming and that this is at the end of creation. That essentially decisively settles the issue of when the rapture takes place because it must take place at the time of the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:23-26
in Christ shall all be made alive.But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
So we see above that Christ comes at the end, turns the kingdom over to His Father, and His rule in power is different then. Perhaps the role of our Lord is as High Priest more than ruler. At the end, seemingly when death is to be destroyed, and this will be verified below, we read that all will be resurrected and made alive. (The resurre1 Corinthians 15:21,22) The rapture cannot occur until then.
The vivid picture of the rapture as occurring in a “twinkling of an eye” is found in this same 15th chapter in verses 51 and 52. Then Paul says this,
1 Corinthians 15:53-57
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This passage concerns the exchange of a corruptible body for a body of spirit. It occurs when “death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54) But as Paul has said in the 26th verse of this 15th chapter, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Paul is giving clear testimony that the rapture occurs when death has come to an end. Death begins when our immortality begins. That is the end, after the thousand years are finished, after the combustion of the universe, when we are all judged. This conclusion is further verified by the fact that in Revelation 20:13,14 describe how death and Hades give up the dead in them and are then thrown into the Lake of Fire. This takes places after the thousand years at the Last Judgment of all mankind.
There are intuitive reasons this makes sense.
1) The other plan would remove all believers from Earth just when He begins the founding of the glorious Peaceable Kingdom. Instead, the world, which will be rallying to God in righteousness, will benefit from the leadership of those who believe.
2) People will call on the Lord in mourning just before He arrives. But not all who call on the Lord will be saved, but those who do His will. (Matthew 7:21) To remain on Earth gives them a chance to prove their fidelity, thereby giving more meaning to that verse.
3) The glory of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters cover the sea. People will know Christ and be filled with the Spirit. For a thousand years the wicked Powers that Be, including the Devil, will be thrown down, and the world will live much closer to the way God has always desired. Then Christ will want to show His triumph and favor to His worshipers in Spirit and Truth. Facing the worst and overcoming it by relying on Him, Christians (not everyone) will be spared the final combustion of the world at the end because they do not deserve that destruction. God will show the difference in how he treats the righteous compared to the rebels.
While this theory makes sense intuitively for those 3 reasons, and while it appears to be a necessary view for those who believe scripture, there are certain objections that are reasonable.
Rapture just prior to the total combustion of the world seems objectionable because
1) Matthew 24 and other places in the Gospels sound as though the rapture is at the Second Coming
2) Shouldn’t scripture indicate this theory more clearly if it is right? When does it speak of a Third Coming, since He must after all, come back for the rapture to take place?
There may be more objections but I will try to address both of these. The first objection, that Christ seems to say He will “gather His elect” at the time of His return seems the strongest objection. Matthew 24:30,31 says,
30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heave unto the other.
On my theory, the Second Coming of Christ, when He defeats the Anti-Christ, is simply not distinguished here from a later Third Coming at the end of this creation with its resurrection and rapture. That sounds strange and like it makes Matthew 24 very cryptic in communication. That is true to an extent, however, it is completely typical of prophetic statements, and Christ is “the Prophet”.
Prophecy sometimes condenses two or more events, to make them sound one. I want to establish this in scriptures by a number of examples. Probably read at least the first one, but if you accept it, feel free to skip below to the discussion on the second objection. So the first example is,
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD
Jesus taught that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of this prophecy, but while that does happen prior to the great and dreadful day of the Lord, a reader of Malachi might have expected it to be immediately preceding that great and dreadful Day. In fact the gap is at least about 2000 years. Remember that many of Christ’s disciples expected that reign with an iron scepter to come immediately and condensation of scripture like this is a major reason Jewish people held that expectation. The gap between Matthew 24:30 and 24:31, which is the time I propose is collapsed in prophecy, is only 1000 years, thus also reasonable. Now various scriptures lend intertextual support to the idea that “the” Coming of Christ will be the Second Coming. However, first of all, Malachi also strengthens the condensed view of that Dreadful Day in chapters 2:17-3:2. And secondly we will show that there is more intertextual support for a Third Coming.
In Acts 2:17 Peter condensed a great deal it seems in describing these as the Last Days. In Peter’s second epistle, the Apostle explained that what seems delay to us can be swift in the Lord’s time,
Daniel 9:24-27 is another example of condensation. The prophecy is that there will be seventy weeks and many people find this to be an incredibly solid prophecy of Christ’s birth and death. The final week almost all interpreters understand as the Tribulation but there is no clear indication of a gap in time in the text. We are presuming, probably rightfully so in my opinion, that the prophecy has condensed time, (between Jesus’ death and the Tribulation).
The end of Isaiah, below, is another example. Verse 23 speaks of the world worshiping God in Zion during the Peaceable Kingdom on Earth. Verse 24 portrays the witness of the defeated and slain enemies of God as an eternal act of witness. However this eternal witness only takes place after the end of this creation (see Revelation excerpt beneath the one from Isaiah).
23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he [any man who received the mark] shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
A reader could get the idea that people on Earth will always be looking at these tormented dead. (Though admittedly this is not what it says.) In reality, Isaiah has condensed time; he has condensed this creation with the next so that the viewing of the slain Anti-Christ worshipers in eternity seems a more palpable reality.
The prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning Babylon may also be a condensation. Those two prophets may be predicting the fall of the historical Babylon in a number of places, but this seems to blend into the distant perspective of a prophecy of the End Times. For we read in Revelation 18:21,
“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.”
Furthermore the typical way for Christ and the New Testament writers to characterize His return is a great condensation. One would tend to get the impression it would happen very soon. This is not failed prophecy. Christ explains in Matthew 24 that many things must happen first, and Paul explains in 2 Thessalonians that the “Son of Perdition” must be revealed first, and Peter explains in his second epistle that God has His own sense of time and thousands of years may be imminent to Him. But in many other places the Coming is given as very urgent. The actual time of prophetic fulfillment is much more distant than it naturally seems. Therefore a gap in the fulfillment of a prophecy between one verse and the next, as between Matthew 24 verse 30 and 31 is natural.
In Matthew 24 Jesus also condenses time in other places. In verse 20, speaking only to His disciples about the End Times, he says, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.” This makes it sound as though they will be in those times. And reading Paul especially it sounds as though he was constantly expecting the end. Jesus also tells the Sanhedrin in Matthew 26:64 that they will see Him coming on the clouds of Heaven. The Sanhedrin must see Jesus once they are resurrected to see Him in His Coming despite the way the prophecy sounds it will happen before they die. It sounds very soon, but reason demands that the prophecy was intended for some time much later (around resurrection). The same is true of Matthew 24:30,31. The narrative sounds straightforward, but we know it cannot be because the general resurrection must occur before verse 31.
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
It sounds as though Jesus is saying “I will do A, then I will do B straightaway.” But what He really says is, “I will do A, and I will do B, and in one generation all those things will be fulfilled.” To understand the time period Jesus was indicating we might want to know how long a generation is. By the Second Century had Jesus’ prophecy failed? The Greek word for “generation” is more complex than ours, but Christ seems to use it of people of a certain era or epoch, or of a certain type. (Luke 16:8) If a thousand years is as a day, how long is a generation?
We could complain that this is obscure and that we should take it more plain. But there may be no more plain interpretation if we take the various scriptures seriously and Jesus sometimes speaks in ways that are easier to misunderstand than to understand. For instance,
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
So I have given 5 examples of condensation in prophecy:
2 Peter and the Combustion of All
Daniel’s 70 weeks
The End of Isaiah
The Fall of Babylon
The Coming of Christ in the Gospels
I supplied these examples as evidence that scripture often portrays something relatively near in time and something far off as though they are one. Lacking outside information one could be unlikely to find the seam in the scripture to indicate there are two different narratives there. In Matthew 24, it is the Disciples who conflate these times in their response to Jesus when He says that the stones of the Temple will be thrown down. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3) They are asking three questions as though they are equivalent. Jesus gives them the essential information. Because prophetic condensation is typical in the scriptures it is reasonable, given strong supporting evidence, to allow that Matthew 24:31 could take place much later than Matthew 24:30.
The key argument that the verses are separated in time is that the general resurrection is not until “after the thousand years” (Revelation 20:5) and this event is the sine qua non of the rapture (2 Thessalonians 4:16,17). Paul’s writings also demand a rapture at the time of the end of creation as we see in 1 Corinthians 23,24,51-57.
Let’s move on to the second objection.
Objection #2) If true, shouldn’t scripture indicate the theory of a post Millenial rapture more clearly? When does scripture speak of a Third Coming, since after all, He must return for a rapture?
I would argue that the New Testament does strongly hint at a final return of the Lord before the final combustion of the universe.
The first piece of evidence is when Peter refers to the end of this creation as the Day of the Lord – to come as a thief in the night. Remember that in Matthew 24:43 Jesus describes Himself as a thief who will return at an hour unknown when there will be a rapture and unexpected destruction.
2 Peter 3:10
“But 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.”
This is a strong indication that the Lord will be present before the destruction of the world. If the Lord appears, and described with the rapture language of Matthew 24, then we have more reason to think this may be when the Church is raptured.
Below, Paul also makes it clear that Jesus will return to judge the world.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
Here Paul writes that in “that day” “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed” will be the end of unbelievers, and they will be sent into everlasting destruction away from God’s majesty. This separation occurs on “that day” Jesus comes, not after a wait of 1000 years. At that time He will also be glorified before His saints and admired by them. But a final judgment such as this cannot take place until the end. Therefore we know that Paul speaks of Jesus’ Coming as not just a time of eternal judgment for some, but the time of eternal judgment of Revelation 20. This Day is also Peter’s Day of the Lord, the combustion.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:7 above, believers rest together. Paul had already written to that church, in 1 Thessalonians, a vital prophecy about this issue.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Like Peter, Paul describes a “Day of the Lord” which means a “sudden destruction” to the world. Can such an appearance and rapture take place at the Second Coming? We know from 2 Peter 3:10, the passage above in 2 Thessalonians, and 2 Timothy 4:1, quoted below, that the appearing of Christ means the time of judgment. Moreover, would the end of Tribulation be similar to the normative conditions of the days of Noah and Sodom? Revelation shows the world in catastrophe and full of terror before Christ’s return. (Revelation 6)
2 Timothy 4:1
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.
Reading that verse alone we may think the judgment is to prolong life or end life at Armageddon, but other passages, such as 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, do not allow that interpretation. How could there be an eternal separation, spoken of in Revelation 20 and above, when more souls would still be born? Is it really possible for the rapture to be followed by the redemption of more Christians? Paul addresses all the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, saying that living or dead, at the resurrection and rapture, “we will be with the Lord forever.” (v.17) Then would only some be gathered? That is certainly not the portrayal in Revelation 20. If you say more souls would yet be born, when would the people born after the rapture be resurrected or raptured? As Revelation teaches, aside from the martyrs, there is one day for resurrection, when death and Hades give up their dead and are then thrown into the lake of fire. On that day, all believers in Christ will comer together in joy.
2 Corinthians 1:14
“As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
In order to show that scriptures are not silent about a Third Coming we have quoted scripture to show that Christ comes at the time of the combustion of the world, that His appearing will be a time of eternal judgment, and that His appearing will be a time when all believers are gathered together to admire Him. We also remember that in Revelation 20 we are taught that when the world flees away from God, then all are resurrected and judged according to what they had done.
Let’s move on to examining other ways in which a Third Coming is indicated by scriptures.
In Matthew 24:42-25:46 gives four parables for the return of Christ. All four show His return to be a time of judgment. Then Christ will return again at the end of the Peaceable Kingdom, since that is the time of judgment. Moreover, the context of that passage (Matthew 24:40-42) seems to be the rapture at the end of the Age.
Matthew 13:37-42 draws a strong linguistic parallel between the gathering of the wheat and tares and the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 by the use of similar verbs for “gather”. Both passages also depict the angels as those who gather. The harvest of souls then, must be at the end of the world, the saints are gathered and separated then, and not before.
Another objection is probably very important to some Christians: that the Coming of Jesus at the Rapture is with the last trumpet blast. (Given at our three major texts: 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, Matthew 24, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.) Readers may tie the sign of the trumpet to texts that definitely sound like the battle of the End Times for instance in Isaiah 27:13, and Zechariah 9:14. Furthermore the trumpet and the “cry of command” in some translations of 1 Thessalonians 4:16, sound like preparations for war, and the Battle of Armageddon is the ultimate war. Readers are right to point this out, however there is also a war at the end of time, so it too has a military context. The nations have at that time gathered against Israel and the universe is about to be utterly destroyed, so a commanding shout is in order. What God created with a word, he rolls up with a shout.
If my argument about the timing of the rapture is right, we will all sleep before taking on an incorruptible body. (We won’t be immediately transplanted to Heaven on our death. To this point see 1 Peter 5:4 and 1 John 3:2.)
Because this article is long I will just review the argument quickly.
People will be waiting on Earth for Jesus during the Tribulation. We know that because Christ warns us against believing in a secret coming since He will come like lightning visible to the whole world (Matthew 24:26,27). Luke 21:28 says, “when these things [dismay] begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” That redemption I propose is His military intervention to save the world and usher in a Peaceable Kingdom.
The snag on the theory of rapture around the time of the Armageddon, or any tribulation theory, comes out prominently in Revelation 20 where we learn that the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah occurs for a thousand years during which time none are resurrected except 144,000 saints of the End Times. Since the rapture is inseparable from the resurrection, the rapture must wait until the end of the Peaceable Kingdom.
There are two major objections to this view. First is that Matthew 24:30,31 sounds as though the rapture occurs as soon as Jesus returns to defeat the Anti-Christ. My response was to show how prophets commonly condense time, foreshortening things in the distant future the way that clouds on the Western horizon can give the appearance of lighting up as one mass.
The second objection is the notable silence in the Bible on a late rapture or Third Coming. My response is that the Bible does do things to indicate, though somewhat subtly, that Jesus will come back a third time, and that the rapture must occur then.
Examples of these hints include that Matthew 24:40-25:46 portrays the rapture as a piece of the final judgment, which we also independently know happens at the very end of the world. There is at that time a separation of the righteous and wicked in four different parables demonstrating eternal judgment. The Bible thereby indicates that Christ will come at the time of the final judgment, also pointing out that it is the time of the rapture. Matthew 13:37-42 creates a parallel with Matthew 24:31, implying that the rapture is a gathering by the angels at the final harvest. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 and 2 Timothy 4:1 also point to a Third Coming since the return of Christ there is simultaneous with the judgment of the wicked.
The Peaceable Kingdom is a time of untold righteousness on Earth when the glory of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters cover the sea. The world will have been worshiping God and Jesus and bringing Him great pleasure and delight. His longsuffering to see His vision for peace and righteousness on Earth will reap a harvest of glory for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is His vision from the beginning, see Genesis 1:28-30. Israel will be holy and its territory will be enlarged. For these reasons it seems natural that God would prefer to translate the entire Church into spirit, giving them honor rather than the humiliation of destruction, as though God had failed. At the end, God will be resurrecting all, should He then destroy His Church before resurrecting them too?