The Rapture

posted Jun 17, 2010, 12:57 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Jun 17, 2010, 2:08 AM ]
At the end of the nineteenth century, a newish concept was introduced into the world of sola scriptura, the 'Rapture'.  The man who made it famous was John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), and Evangelical (=Fundamentalist) churches today are almost invariably 'dispensationalist' in their theology, which means they believe in the Rapture.
The term 'dispensation' itself refers to the distinct eras of history, of which the tribulation is the final and seventh one, the others being edenic, antediluvian, post-diluvian, patriarchal (Abraham to Exodus), legal (Exodus to Christ), and ecclesiastical (Christ until the final days).  In other words, dispensationalists know how the future will 'evolve'.
This is how it works.  They pay careful attention to Daniel 9:24-27, in which a 70-week programme is described: 

וְתֵדַע וְתַשְׂכֵּל מִן-מֹצָא דָבָר לְהָשִׁיב וְלִבְנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַד-מָשִׁיחַ נָגִיד שָׁבֻעִים שִׁבְעָה וְשָׁבֻעִים שִׁשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks [7+60+2 = 69 weeks] 
These first 69 weeks -- on the basis of a day standing for a year -- were understood as referring to a 483-year period between the rebuilding of Jerusalem during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah to the time of Jesus (69x7 = 483 days/years).
Why a day standing for a year?  Ezekiel 4:6 = 'I have appointed thee each day for a year'
         = יוֹם יוֹם לַשָּׁנָה יוֹם לַשָּׁנָה נְתַתִּיו לָךְ׃
The last and 70th week, however, was thought to stand for the final 7-year period before the Second Coming, so that the entire history of Christianity was seen to take place in a suspended era between the 69th week and the last.
The events of this last week will include the appearance of a False Prophet who will lead the apostate churches, and his friend the Beast (a political leader who will rule the ten nations that grew out of the Roman empire, as predicted in the image of the ten toes in Nebuchadnezzar's vision).  This last period will also include the return of the Jews to Palestine, the conversion of some of them to Christianity, the persecution of the Jews, and the return of Christ to defeat the Satan, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the renewed Roman Empire, in a great battle to take place at Armageddon (Megiddo) in the Holy Land.
At this point, the thousand-year rule of Christ on earth will begin = the MILLENNIUM.
Obviously, the last 7 years will not be the people on earth destined for Heaven will be spared the tribulations of the last days by being taken bodily out of the a process called THE RAPTURE.  There are hints of this Rapture in the New Testament:  

For 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:

Then 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]

Graphically, the divine plan would look something like this:
Even more simplified, it comes down to this: