A COMPLETE PICTURE
This is the rapture as revealed in the New Testament. Some Christians would argue for a pre-tribulation rapture and others would argue for a post-tribulation rapture. Why do they argue? It is because they each have seen only a part of the whole picture. Those who have seen something related to the pre-tribulation rapture hang on to that, and those who have seen something of the post-tribulation rapture cling to that. We must realize, though, that the matter of the rapture is like so many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We should not cling to one piece, but put all the pieces together until we have a complete picture. Then the picture will make sense and be quite logical.
At harvest time in a field there are surely the firstfruits, the harvest, and the remainder or the gleanings. The rapture of a small number of mature saints will occur before the tribulation. The majority will be raptured during the tribulation because they need the tribulation to cause them to mature. Finally, the last of the crop will be harvested after the tribulation. The harvest of the crop is not in chapters seven or eight of Revelation, but in chapter fourteen. This means it occurs in the midst of the tribulation.
Now let us read Revelation 16:13-15: "And I saw, out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, doing signs, which go forth to the kings of the whole inhabited earth, to gather them to the war of the great day of God the Almighty. (Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments, that he may not walk naked and they see his shame.)" We need to note at which point in time the Lord said, "I come as a thief." It is at the time that the three evil spirits go forth to collect the army of the Antichrist to Armageddon. For the Lord to say, "Behold, I come as a thief," indicates that some believers are still left on the earth even at that time. This means they have not yet been matured and are still on the earth under the bright sun to hasten their maturing. To say that all the believers will be raptured all at one time before the tribulation or after the tribulation is absolutely unscriptural. The warning of the Lord to His people given in chapter sixteen is very close to the end of the tribulation. This indicates that some of His people will be left on the earth during the tribulation.
According to all these verses we can see that the rapture of the believers will not be accomplished all at one time but rather during a period of about seven years. When will you be raptured during that seven-year period? It depends on the degree of your maturity. If in the Lord’s eyes you are mature and ripe, surely He will take you away before the tribulation begins. This is the way the Lord will use to transfer the reality of the kingdom into the manifestation of the kingdom. In other words, we all must be matured. If we desire to be matured we must take Christ in again and again, eating of Him, and allowing Him to saturate us all the time. This is the kingdom life which is described and defined in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, a life that is always taking Christ as its nourishment. It is always being saturated, occupied, and possessed by Christ. This is the reality of the kingdom. This is real maturity. If this is our case, when the Lord Jesus comes back we will be taken as the firstfruit. This means we will be chosen and selected by Him to be in His army (Rev. 17:14; 19:11-15). The fighting army of the Lord Jesus is composed of the overcoming saints who are living in the reality of the kingdom. They are living in the reality of the kingdom; they will become the fighting army, and after the fighting, they will be the manifestation of the kingdom. As His army, they will come with the Lord Jesus to destroy the Antichrist and his army. Then the nations of the earth will become the kingdom of Christ, and the army which was composed of all the overcoming saints will become co-kings with Him to rule over the earth. They will be transferred into the manifestation of the kingdom during the millennium.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 40, by Witness Lee)