Will Christ return during or after the Tribulation?


Barbara R. Rossing (The Rapture Exposed) says that the 'Tribulation' has its origins in 1830, in Port Glasgow, Scotland, when fifteen-year-old Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service. There, she was said to have seen a vision of a two-stage return of Jesus Christ. The story of her vision was adopted and amplified by John Nelson Darby, a British evangelical preacher and founder of the Plymouth Brethren.


The belief that Jesus will come again was not new, and Christians have always taught that Jesus will return to earth and that believers should live in anticipation of his second coming. Darby's new teaching was that Christ would return twice. The first return would be in secret, to "Rapture" his church out of the world and up to heaven, before the Tribulation. Christ would return a second time after seven years of global tribulation for non-believers, to establish a Jerusalem-based kingdom on earth.


One significant change in recednt times is that, whereas Darby opted of a pre-tribulation Rapture, some more recent proponents have opted to delay the Rapture, with Christ's first arrival occurring mid-tribulation or even after the Tribulation. Either way, there will be no Rapture and no Tribulation, which means that Christ does not return before or after the Tribulation.


While John Nelson Darby has sunk into obscurity, many Christians, few of whom belong to the Plymouth Brethren Church, do believe in his most enduring theological creation, the Rapture.


Premillenialists see a tribulation period immediately before the second coming of Christ. Pretribulationalist see the rapture (from the Latin word rapio-meaning caught up; see 1 Thess. 4:17) occurring prior to the tribulation with the church in heaven during the tribulation on earth. Midtribulationists place the rapture at the midpoint of a seven year tribulation period, the church on earth for only the first half of the tribulation. The views see the second coming of Christ in two phases: a secret coming in clouds to rapture the church and His return with the church to reign on earth. Postribulationists hold the church will remain on the earth during the tribulation period. The church will be protected from divine wrath although experiencing tribulation.