The short answer is, “Nobody knows”. Jesus said that “No man knoweth the day nor the hour.” God wanted the timing of the rapture to be uncertain to people living on the earth. Why? Probably so that no one would get comfortable in his Christian life and think, “I can live however I want, Jesus isn’t coming back for __ years.” etc. Instead, Jesus wants His church to always be ready for His return. Still, many scholars through careful study of the Bible have developed theories about the timing of the rapture.
1. Pre-Tribulational View
This view holds that the rapture of the Church will occur just before the start of the tribulation. People who hold this view believe that the return of Christ is “imminent”, or that it could happen at any time. They say that since the Bible says in I Timothy that “God hath not appointed us to wrath”, that God would not allow Christians to go through the Great Tribulation, since it will be a time un-leashing the wrath of God.
2. Mid-Tribulational View
This view holds that the rapture of the church will occur at the mid-point of the tribulation. The Bible says that the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel three-and-a-half years into the Great Tribulation and it is at this time that the Church will be raptured out. They see the final Bowl Judgments as the wrath of God, and since the judgments will not be carried out until the second half of the tribulation, Christians will still be present on the earth until that time.
3. Post-Tribulational View
Many in the Post-Tribulational line of thought have varying views on the specifics of the Tribulation. Some believe that the Tribulation is figurative, or that it already occurred in the first century. Others, however, believe that Christians will endure the entire tribulation, but that they will experience God’s sheltering and protection.
This view sounds much like the Mid-Tribulational view, but there is a difference. Pre-Wrath subscribers believe the rapture of the Church will take place between the sixth and seventh seals in the Book of Revelation, some time in the second half of the tribulation. They believe that up until the seventh seal, the earth has been enduring Satan’s wrath. With the seventh seal, God reveals His personal wrath.
These are the basic views of those who believe in a rapture of the church.