Question: What is your belief concerning the
Response: Where the rapture is concerned, it really isn't so much a question of "what" as of "when". Proceeding from a strong view of inspiration and taking the Bible at face value, it is pretty difficult to deny that the likes of 1Thes.4:13-18 and 1Cor.15:50-53 are talking about a literal and instantaneous transformation of living believers from this mortal body into the immortal "resurrection" body as we meet our Lord at His return. The issue for those who accept the clear teachings of scripture on this count has been more that of when this event occurs, with a large number of evangelicals holding that the event described in the passages above (and elsewhere) is to take place prior to the Tribulation, while others (myself included) believe that the Bible teaches this event will take place at Christ's one and only return, namely, at the Second Advent. The former view is generally known as a "pre-millennial, pre-Tribulation rapture", while the latter is known as a "post-Tribulation [rapture]". I have written rather extensively on this topic (see especially the Peter's Epistles series, lesson #27: "Three [false] Doctrines which Threaten Faith"), and have tried to explain that it does make a very large difference, especially in our day and age, whether one believes that we might potentially find ourselves in the midst of the Tribulation (post-Trib view) or whether on the other hand one believes (wrongly in my view) that the Church is to be spared this possibility by being "raptured" out of the world before the Tribulation begins. Personally, I started with just such a "pre-Trib" position, but abandoned it when I was unable to find a single scripture which supported it (and quite the opposite found many which pretty clearly even on their face taught post-Trib - see the link above). There are many things which could be said on this subject but two of the main points which those who espouse the pre-Trib position should take into account are:
1) the fact that the New Testament consistently looks forward to the return of Jesus Christ, and consistently describes that return (His parousia) in terms of the Second Advent only, when He shall return to rule the world (Matt.24:37-39; 1Cor.15:23; 1Thes.3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2Thes.2:1; Jas.5:7-8; 2Pet.3:12; 1Jn.2:28).
2) the fact that the New Testament stresses the imminency of His return, the idea being that there is no "age-ending event" which would prevent the commencement of the "Day of the Lord", the period of His return, including the Tribulation, and running through the Millennium (cf. 2Thes.2:1-4).
While it may appear at first glance that issue is of little import, in fact, I have found the opposite to be true. For believing that the Tribulation is a possibility (a very real one for us upon whom the end of the ages has genuinely come) inevitably lends itself to a more serious and determined approach to following our Lord, an attitude which not only prepares one better for the event in question but also for personal tribulation which does indeed fall into the lives of all believers. On the other hand, confidence that experiencing the Tribulation is in any case impossible for the believer (because of a coming pre-Trib "rapture") inevitably has the opposite effect: all the warnings of scripture (in nearly every book) are declared inapplicable and the believer is de facto encouraged to put less emphasis on preparation for this greatest of challenges, an eventuality which not only leaves him or her more vulnerable to the Tribulation itself (and hence vulnerable to loss of faith in the Great Apostasy of the Tribulation's first half), but also makes one more susceptible to the personal tribulations which of a certainty will be experienced.
As I say, please have a look at the Peter #27 study for all the particulars on this. The upcoming part 5 of the Coming Tribulation series will treat the resurrection (or "rapture) which occurs at our Lord's Second Advent.
Here are some other links which treat the subject in some detail:
The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.
The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride (in Coming Tribulation part 5)
Hope this is useful to you,
Yours in Christ,