THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
As I stated yesterday, the sixth dispensation, the Church Age, takes place within the fifth dispensation, the Law. The Law will again be the focus of God's plan for the seven years following the Church's departure, known as the Rapture. The seven year period completes Daniel's prophecy concerning Israel (Daniel 9:24-27). Because this period, known as Daniel's Seventieth Week, the Tribulation, or the Time of Jacob's Trouble is the final week of years determined specifically as judgment upon Israel, the Church will no longer be living on Earth. This is supported by fact that the Church is not mentioned in any passages dealing with the Tribulation.
The word "Rapture" comes from the English translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in the Latin Vulgate. The original Greek word harpazo was translated into the Latin raptio, which in turn was translated into "caught up" in the English. Why we chose to use the Latin word to describe the event is beyond me. Perhaps it is because the definition of "rapture" is "to be carried away with joy." That actually may be the ideal word for the experience knowledgeable Christians eagerly await.
Jesus spoke of His return to take believers to the place He would go to prepare for them; since He ascended into heaven, the logical assumption is that He was referring to the Rapture (Acts 1:10-11; Jn. 14:1-3. Paul spoke of the event in 1 Th. 1:10 as did John in Rev. 3:10; both taught of the Lord returning to deliver us from the wrath to come (the Tribulation is known as God's wrath). Paul described the event in 1 Th. 4:15-17 and in 2 Th. 2:1 as a gathering us together to meet Christ in the air. The fact that Jesus brings us back with Him at the Second Coming indicates we will already be in heaven before He establishes His Millennial Kingdom (compare 1 Th. 3:13 with Jude 1:14).
Who gets to go? Born again believers in Jesus Christ. When will they go in relation to the Tribulation? They will be gone before the Antichrist makes his seven year covenant with Israel. Otherwise, Christians would know before he commits the abomination of desolation, which is how the Word says he will become known (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; Matt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14; Lk. 16:15).
Does the Church Age have a judgment like the other six dispensations? No. The judgment for the sins committed by Christians was paid in full at Calvary. Believers truly are blessed beyond measure, and this age is truly the Age of Grace.