I have for a long time believed that the Tribulation will begin immediately after the rapture. And it may. However, I have recently been enlightened by the fact that there is no scriptural proof of it. The only thing we know for sure is that the Tribulation will begin when the antichrist signs the 7-year covenant of peace with Israel (Dan. 9:27). Also, logic seems to indicate that after the rapture and before the signing of the covenant there will need to be a period of time. Most scholars estimate that this gap of time would need to be anywhere between a few months to as long as ten years or so. However, since Jesus likened the end times as birth pangs, which normally increases in intensity and frequency toward the end, most scholars think this gap period will be shorter rather than longer. Here are eight reason for this gap of time:
1. Global turmoil after the disappearances caused by the rapture will require time for things to settle down—for explanations, and plans of action.
2. No scripture indicates that the antichrist will confirm the 7-year covenant immediately after the rapture (Dan. 9:27)—which marks the beginning of the Tribulation. The antichrist will be revealed immediately after the rapture, when the restrainer (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way (2 Thess. 2:6-8); however, we don’t know how long it will take for him to sign the peace covenant with Israel.
3. The new global, false religious system will take time to develop. Immediately after the rapture, with all the turmoil, this will probably be when the false religious system (also known as the great harlot, Rev. 17) will come together and will ride the antichrist into power. This global religious system will take time to develop, and the antichrist will probably not want to confirm the peace covenant until the religious system is in place. But once in place, it will serve to assure Israel that he wants peace.
4. Time will be required for the fourth world kingdom to develop. Daniel 7:23-25 tells us that this kingdom, a revived Roman Empire with ten kings, will arise and devour the earth, and then the antichrist will arise and subdue three of the ten kings. Much of this may happen before the Tribulation begins.
5. A gap of time will allow more time for Israel to build her temple, which must be in place by the middle of the Tribulation, where it is prophesied that the antichrist will at that time enter the temple and sit as God in the temple (2 Thess. 2:4).
6. The gap of time will allow time for the antichrist to move the world’s commercial center to Babylon, which will be the world’s new headquarters.
7. Israel will need time before the Tribulation to burn weapons of war. If the Ezekiel 38 invasion of Israel begins after the rapture, some suggest that since at mid-Trib Israel will be forced out of their land (Matt. 24:16), the burning of the weapons will have to begin at least 3 ½ years before the Tribulation begins, since it will take 7 years to burn them (Ezek. 39:9). I think this event could actually happen before the rapture—at any time.
8. The gap will allow for a necessary period of peace. Since the antichrist will need to be known as a peacemaker in order to sign the covenant of peace with Israel (Dan. 9:27), there will need to be a period of time after the rapture to develop that peace on earth. Here are three things that may help to establish that peace (which will really be a false peace):
- The rapture itself may be used by the antichrist and the world to say, now peace can come since all the “trouble makers” are gone.
- The establishment of the new global religion will bring to the world a sign of peace (a false unity and a false peace).
- It is possible that the antichrist will take credit for Israel’s success over the Arab invaders (described in Ezek. 38-39).
Indeed, 1 Thessalonians 5:3 indicates that there will be a period of peace (a false peace) when all will be saying, “peace and safely.” But then destruction will come suddenly. This sudden destruction I think will come shortly after the signing of the covenant, when the Tribulation begins with WWIII, and is indicated (in Rev. 6) by the seven seals.