Will millions of Christians be “raptured” and spared from a horrific period of time on Earth known as the tribulation? That’s a central theological question and point of debate among the faithful, with various faith leaders taking divergent stands on the eschatological time line.
Christians who subscribe to dispensational premillennialism generally hold a belief in a future rapture event during which Christians will simultaneously leave Earth and ascend to heaven before the chaos of a seven-year tribulation period unfolds; it concludes, adherents claim, with the second coming of Christ.
One thousand Protestant pastors, ministers and priests were surveyed in January of this year based on a random sample of all Protestant churches in the U.S. The faith leaders were each asked the following question: “Which one of the following statements best describes your views on when the biblical rapture will occur?” Their options were as follows:
- The rapture has already occurred (a view associated with Preterism)
- Christians will be taken up before the tribulation period that precedes the Second Coming (often called the pre-Trib view)
- Christians will be taken up in the middle of the tribulation period that precedes the Second Coming (often called the mid-Trib view)
- Christians will be taken up before the great wrath of God is poured out late in the tribulation period that precedes the Second Coming (often called the pre-wrath view)
- The rapture and the Second Coming are describing events that will unfold simultaneously or close together at the end of the tribulation (often called the post-Trib view)
- The concept of the rapture is not to be taken literally
- None of these
- Not sure
Overall, 36 percent of pastors — the largest proportion by far — aligned themselves with the pre-tribulation view, with the second largest proportion (25 percent) saying that “the concept of the rapture is not to be taken literally.” An additional 18 percent aligned themselves with the post-tribulation belief that the rapture and the second coming of Christ are essentially one in the same.