Because so many interpret Matthew 24:37-41 to be a description of the Rapture, I believe now would be a good time to discuss that event. The Rapture of the Church takes place prior to the seven year Tribulation, while the event in this passage occurs at the Second Coming of Christ, at the end of the Tribulation.
The Rapture, or catching up of the Church, is a mystery, and it is described in I Corinthians 15:51-52 and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Also, it is clear that Jesus was speaking of the Rapture in John 14:3. We are told that Christians will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. There are examples of this happening in scripture, with Enoch (before there was an Israel - Gen. 5:22-24), Elijah (before there was a Church - 2 Kgs. 2:11), and the two witnesses (after the Church had been removed - Rev. 11:12). And, there are a few clues in other cases: Phillip (Acts 8:39), Paul (2 Cor. 12:2), and the apostle John (Rev. 4:1). The Lord will be consistent in removing the Church prior to His judgment that takes place below. He did so in the case of Noah, when He had Noah build the Ark which would take him and his family above the destruction below. Also, in the case of Lot, the angels took Lot and his family up into a mountain before God poured out His judgment below (Gen. 19:17). Here are five reasons the Rapture will happen prior to the Tribulation:
1) The Seventy Weeks of Daniel refers to Israel (Dan. 9:24).
2) The Church did not exist during the first sixty-nine weeks, and it is logical to believe that the seventieth week is also “appointed unto (Daniel’s) people.”
3) The Book of Revelation omits mention of the Church during the Tribulation (Rev. Ch. 6-19).
4) The Tribulation is described as God’s wrath, and the Church will be kept from it (1 Thes. 1:9-10; 5:2-11).
5) The messages to the churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea: one (possessors of Christ) will be spared, while the other (professors only) will not (Rev. 3:10, 16).
There is much clear teaching in the scripture that differentiates between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. First, the Rapture is a mystery, but the coming of Christ is longed for by both Jews and Christians. Here are just some of the many differences:
1) While the Rapture is before the Tribulation (1 Thes. 1:9-10), the Second Coming occurs after it (Mt. 24:29-30).
2) Only believers will see Christ at the Rapture (1 Jn. 3:2), but Israel and unbelievers will not see Him until His Second Coming (Rev. 1:7).
3) The Rapture is a meeting with Jesus in the air (1 Thes. 4:17), while His Second Coming will be to the Mount of Olives (Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 14:1-4; Mt. 24:30; Acts 1:12).
4) In the Rapture, believers will be taken up to heaven (1 Thes. 4:13-18), while it is unbelievers that are gathered for judgment at His Second Coming (Mt. 24:37-51).
5) In the Rapture, Christ comes to get His Church (Jn.14:3), and His Second Coming is with His Church (Rev. Ch. 19-20).
6) Those left behind at the Rapture will mourn (Rev. 6:16); those left behind at the Second Coming will rejoice (Matt. 25:14-40).