When does the Bible say the pre-tribulation rapture will happen?
The short answer is in the title, before the tribulation. To be more precise, the New Testament outlines the sequence of end times events, but not the specifics. Jesus teaches that no one knows when these things will happen (Matthew 24:38).
He sequences the events as the signs of the end of the age that are not actually the end (see Matthew 24:3-14). This will be a time of wars and rumors of wars, as well as famines and tribulation in general. It will also bring tribulation and persecution for the church.
Next is the abomination of desolation that Daniel prophesied about first. Paul clarifies this event as he speaks about it in 2 Thessalonians 2, talking about the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, who ultimately fulfills this prophecy (Matthew 24:15-28).
It is this event, the revealing of the Antichrist, or man of lawlessness, that triggers the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:29-31). This is also known as the rapture, where Christ will “catch up” the saints in the air with him, both dead and alive, to be with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
The pre-tribulation rapture is called that because of this sequence of events following the Scriptures. First, the Antichrist will be revealed, and then Christ will come in the clouds to take away the saints.
“Catching up” of the saints is the Greek word used in the text. Rapture is a word used from the Latin equivalent. Then, after the Antichrist is revealed and before he begins the seven years of the Great Tribulation, Christ will come in the clouds. The seven years of the Great Tribulation will be the Antichrist’s rule over the earth.