I'll start by noting that I am a Dispensationalist
. No surprise there. However, I don't identify with any of the traditional eschatological (end time) views associated with the position. That is, while I see many of the same end time scenarios similarly, I don't hold to any of the "rapture" positions (pre, mid, pre-wrath, post) while still holding to the concept of a future Tribulation and Millennium.
You can find thoughts on these elsewhere on this blog, but I just want to look at one aspect of the Second Coming of Christ; the coming in the clouds with His Saints.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
-1 Thess 4:16-18 (KJV)
The Lord coming in the clouds should be expected. This is consistent with revealed truth.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
-Acts 1:9-11 (KJV)
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
-Dan 7:13-14 (KJV)
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
In 2 Thessalonians, we have commentary and completion of the thoughts from 1 Thessalonians:
since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power... - 2 Thess 1:6-9
The coming of the Lord is associated with the Lord coming in the clouds, with his "saints" (holy ones) at the end of the Tribulation to judge the living and dead in Israel and in the nations. Next time we'll look at this aspect of the Second Coming.
We must remember, however, that the dark days ahead are "the time of Jacob's Trouble." That is, while the whole world will be affected, the focus will be on Israel and her enemies. (See my study on the Parable of the Sheep and Goats to see how the nations will be judged at that time.)
So, the question remains, are Christians living at the start of the Tribulation still here? I do not see 1 Thess 4 as a promise of a pre-Tribulation catching away (rapture), but that does not mean God can not or will not remove believers in some way (or possibly keep them free from harm). The scripture is silent on this matter as far as I can see. This is why Ephesians teaches us in this age to be awake and prepared (Eph 5). There is blessing who love his appearing ("epiphenea").
We must rightly divide the three aspects of the Lord's coming (which we have covered elsewhere):
Parousia - presence of the King (e.g. Matt 24)
Apokálypsi̱ - the revelation
Epiphenae - the manifestation and appearing (e.g. Col 3:4)
We will move on to look at His coming with the saints (holy ones, angels).