Does it matter when the rapture happens? Yes, for the Lord tells us in Revelation 2-3 that there are three different scenarios that different groups in the church will face if the rapture is pre-wrath. Those three ways are rapture, martyrdom, and death by the Lord.
The church of Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) is promised escape from the trial they are experiencing. (“Keep you from the hour” means to remove from the midst of, which implies that the church will go through some part of the tribulation. That’s why the Lord commends them for persevering.) The Antichrist figure will institute wholesale persecution against Christians, causing many to lose their love and fall away. However, the Philippian church group of believers will be known for keeping the Lord’s command to persevere in faith. These believers will endure to the end of the period and be saved when the Lord comes for them. For their sake, Jesus promised, the tribulation will be cut short (Matthew 24:22), then the wrath of God will commence.
The church of Smyrna is given no such promise of escape (Rev. 2:8-11). They are told to be “faithful until death.” Perhaps they will be among those who are beheaded, those whom John sees under the altar at the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11). These die in Christ and will rise in the first resurrection, since the dead in Christ rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Christians have been dying for their faith ever since the stoning of Stephen. The Bible never promises that we will completely escape persecution. The Bible actually promises that all who live godly will suffer persecution.
Death by the Lord
The church of Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-26), ruled by the flesh and sin rather than being led by the Spirit, will not repent in time before the tribulation starts. “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death.” God will use the tribulation horrors of war, famine, and killings to take this group away.
Examples abound of Christians dying for their sins, such as that of Annanias and Sapphira. Of course, the OT is full of examples of God chastising His people through war and famine. So it will not be an unusual occurrence for an erring church to undergo such suffering in the upcoming tribulation.
Some may object to placing these three groups during the tribulation period because they represent the church in our time, or over several ages, and not the tribulation time. Actually, these seven groups have been present throughout its history, not just our present day. Besides, one can hardly place the raptured church in our day or earlier, for this event has not occurred. If we can place the Philadelphian church in the latter days, we can place all of them there.
Does it matter when the rapture occurs? Yes; if it occurs after a time of persecution, we will need training beforehand that is designed to help us withstand the trials. This the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer today. Unfortunately, not all are responding to the training in holiness, and will not be ready in that day. If we are complaining about trivial creature comforts now, why do we think we’ll be able to endure the horrors of war in faith? As it is, the Lord tells us that the church’s love will grow cold to one another, and they’ll be delivering up their brethren instead of protecting them or standing for one another (Matt. 24:9-12). Has the Lord been testing you lately, and have you recognized that His training leads to greater faith and obedience?