Welcome back to another episode, everyone. Today we’re going to talk about what many Christians call “the Rapture,” but before we do that I need to introduce you to a fun word that you’re going to feel smarter for knowing. The word is: Eschatology. Eschatology, put simply, is “the doctrine of the last things.” When we talk about eschatology we’re talking about events believed to occur at the end of the world: Christ’s second coming, the resurrection, the battle of Armageddon, Christ’s Millennial reign, judgment, etc.
Different religions have different eschatologies — different beliefs about the end of the world. And oftentimes those eschatologies rely on different terminologies that outsiders might not be familiar with. The Rapture is one of those terms that most Latter-day Saints aren’t going to be familiar with. It’s not a term we use. So in this episode, we’re going to look at what the Rapture is, and we’ll see how closely (or not-closely) Latter-day Saint eschatology aligns with it. Let’s do it.
Alright, so before we get into this I want you to understand a few things. First, when it comes to the Rapture, different people believe different things. We’re going to touch on some of the more popular beliefs, but understand that there’s lots of variation, and there are also denominations of Christianity that believe parts of the Rapture concept or none of it at all. Second, this video is not an attempt in any way to “debunk” any of the variations of the Rapture that we’re going to talk about. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re going to be disappointed. And third, this is a 6ish minute video, so what we talk about today will be necessarily simplified. If you feel like I’m skipping over some things, it’s because I am. But as always, if you want to dive deeper I’ll leave you resources in the YouTube description below.
So, the Rapture is the belief that Jesus Christ will come again, and believers both living and dead will be taken from the earth to be with Christ. This belief is based largely on an interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17. But among believers in the Rapture, there is oftentimes disagreement on the timing of when it is supposed to happen.
Scriptures like Daniel 12:1 and Matthew 24:21 prophesy of a time of trouble and tribulation that is to occur before Christ’s Second Coming and subsequent 1,000-year Millennial reign. After doing some math based on prophecies from Daniel and the book of Revelation, believers in the Rapture generally affirm that this time of tribulation will last for 7 years. According to GotQuestions.org,
“The tribulation is a future seven-year period of time when God will finish His discipline of Israel and finalize His judgment of the unbelieving world. The church, made up of all who have trusted in the person and work of the Lord Jesus to save them from being punished for sin, will not be present during the tribulation.” The idea is that the righteous will be raptured, or taken from the earth, and thus spared from the devastation the wicked will endure during the tribulation.
This belief that the Rapture will occur before the tribulation is called pre-tribulationism. There are also some who believe the Rapture will occur halfway through the tribulation. The righteous endure some tribulation but are spared the “Great Tribulation” said to occur during the last half of the 7 years. This is called mid-tribulationism. There are also those who hold that the righteous will be around for the entire tribulation and that the Rapture won’t occur until the end of those 7 years. Believers are caught up to meet Christ in the air as he descends for the Second Coming. This is post-tribulationism. There are also a few other variations out there, but these are the main ones.
Now, let’s switch gears. What do Latter-day Saints believe? In Latter-day Saint jargon, you’re not going to hear anything about the “Rapture” specifically. As mentioned previously, it’s not a term we’re accustomed to using. We do not believe in a specific 7-year period of tribulation, but we certainly do believe that as Christ’s Second Coming nears, things are going to get rough. Wars and rumors of wars, plagues, natural disasters, etc.
However, we do believe that when the Second Coming happens, when Christ comes again and makes himself known to the whole world, “…the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven— They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first…”.
If we’re going to point to a “Rapture” for Latter-day Saints, this is it. It’s something that occurs at the Second Coming of Christ. If you want to put it in “Rapture” language, I suppose you could say that Latter-day Saints most closely align with post-tribulationism. Except, again, we don’t believe in the specific 7-year tribulation thing and there are lots of other details that factor into our eschatology that might be foreign to other Christians. But when it comes to being caught up to meet Christ, we just lump this event in as part of the Second Coming of Christ. What does it mean to be “caught up” to Christ? Will people just disappear? Will they be literally taken up into the sky? I don’t know. We’ll find out.
Now, in this episode, I’ve really only presented Latter-day Saint eschatology as it applies to the Rapture question. But, there’s still a lot of stuff that we believe will happen at the end of the world that we didn’t get to, which perhaps we’ll address in a future episode. If you want to learn more about the non-Latter-day Saint version of the Rapture, it’s always a good idea to just go talk to someone who believes in it. I’ve left several non-Latter-day Saint resources in the YouTube description that have helped me understand this concept better, so check those out. Check out some of the other great videos on our channel while you’re here, and have a great day!
- “The Rapture” via the Encyclopedia Britannica: https://bit.ly/2XAo9Vk
- “What is the tribulation?” via GotQuestions.org: https://bit.ly/3nUQwJa
- “Pretribulation? Posttribulation? Seminary panel debates end times” By Michael Foust (Baptist Press): https://bit.ly/39vncAe (This is a good example of believers in the Rapture defending different views of the timing of it.)
- “What is the Tribulation Period in the Book of Revelation all about?” by THE BEAT by Allen Parr (YouTube): https://bit.ly/3Ewuoui
- “Will Christians go Through the Tribulation? | END TIMES SERIES” by THE BEAT by Allen Parr (YouTube): https://bit.ly/3EBHYwD
- “The Seven Years of Tribulations,” by 100huntley (YouTube): https://bit.ly/2XNFxqb
- “Do Catholics believe in the Rapture?” by John Switzer (uscatholic.org): https://bit.ly/3znGuCk
- “The Rapture: A Hope or a Hoax?” via First Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary: https://bit.ly/3EKUolH
- Doctrine and Covenants Central commentary on D&C 88 verses: https://bit.ly/3u5bXYQ
- “Come Follow Me Insights (Doctrine and Covenants 88, Aug. 9-15)” via Book of Mormon Central: https://bit.ly/3lYooSS
- “The Lord’s Second Coming” via a Latter-day Saint Institute manual: https://bit.ly/3zC1Qfp
- “Second Coming of Jesus Christ” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3lUmL8u
- “Mormon Doctrine: The Rapture” via MormonWiki: https://bit.ly/3CBCSyD
- “3 Appearances the Savior Will Make Before the Second Coming” via LDSLiving: https://bit.ly/39yApIB
- “Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders” PewResearchCenter: https://pewrsr.ch/3zCs7dg