The Rapture

Posted on January 9, 2010

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1 Thessalonians 4:15–18 (NKJV)
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

I’ve been seeing more and more confusion about the rapture lately. While there is little doubt in the church as to the truth of the rapture, there seems to be some confusion about the timing of it, and whether or not the church will enter into the tribulation period. There are some totally unscriptural ideas being floated around.

Before I delve into the matter, there are certain things that we need to remember. First among these is the fact that Israel and the church are separate. The church does NOT replace Israel in God’s plan. God still has unfulfilled plans for Israel, which are simply on hold during this present age (the church age). Secondly, we need to remember that the church did not exist on earth prior to this church age (Old Testament times), nor will it exist on earth after the church age (post-rapture and during the tribulation). The church will not return until the millennial reign of Christ.
Now, no one knows the hour in which the rapture will take place.

Matthew 24:42 (NKJV)
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
Revelation 3:3 (NKJV)
3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

There is no single event that has to take place prior to the rapture. It can happen at any moment. The warning signs that are recorded in scripture deal with the tribulation events that will take place prior to the return of Christ to destroy the heathen nations. That happens at the conclusion of the tribulation period. The tribulation period is a time of God’s dealing with Israel and of His wrath upon the Godless nations, and none will be able to stand against God.

Revelation 6:15–17 (NKJV)
15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

We do know; however, that the church will not have to endure God’s wrath. The Bible calls this a time of Jacob’s trouble. Jacob, of course, being Israel.

Jeremiah 30:5–7 (NKJV)
5 “For thus says the LORD: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace.
6 Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale?
7 Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, But he shall be saved out of it.

Israel, by the way, will be saved out of (or through) the tribulation. God will keep and protect them until their eventual acceptance of Christ. That scripture tells us that the time of tribulation is not designated for the church. The church has not been appointed to wrath.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NKJV)
9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The church will suffer many trials, but not the “great day of His wrath” that is mentioned in Revelation 6:17. Persecution from the world is not the same as God’s wrath, in fact, it pales in comparison. The Lord has promised the faithful that they will be kept from the hour of wrath.

Revelation 3:10 (NKJV)
10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
2 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)
9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

You see, the Lord knows how to deliver the Godly, and He WILL do it. In fact, Jesus tells us to watch and pray that we may be counted worthy to escape these tings. He wouldn’t tell us to pray for it, if He wasn’t willing to do it!

Luke 21:34–36 (NKJV)
34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The great tribulation is simply not part of the church age. Daniel 9:24-27 detail Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks, which is a time of His dealing with Israel and His wrath upon the Godless nations.
Daniel 9:24–27 (NKJV)

24 “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.
25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

Each week represents 7 years for a total of 490 years. This 490 year period is divided into three parts. There is an undetermined gap of time between parts 2 and 3.

1. 7 weeks (49 years) marks the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah.
2. 62 weeks (434 years) from that time to the cutting off of the Messiah. This total of 483 years is a perfect fit from the beginning of Nehemiah’s construction to the crucifixion of Christ.
3. 1 week (7 years) marks the tribulation period that is yet to come.

All 490 years deal specifically with Israel. The church age is the present time, which ends when the tribulation begins. There is NO scripture that necessitates placing the church into that period of time.
We know from scripture that the church will be removed BEFORE the antichrist is revealed.

2 Thessalonians 2:7–8 (NKJV)
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

The restrainer that is spoken of here is none other than the Holy Spirit, and the believer can never be separated from the Holy Spirit. Christ actually prayed that the Spirit would abide with believers forever.

John 14:16 (NKJV)
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

This prayer of Christ cannot go unanswered. Therefore, when the restrainer is taken out of the way, the church must be removed with Him. It’s impossible for it to be otherwise. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us that the appearance of the antichrist will FOLLOW the removal of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the appearance of the antichrist will mark the beginning of the 7 year tribulation period (Daniel 9:27).
It must be understood; therefore, that the rapture will occur prior to the 7 year tribulation period.
There are several arguments against this viewpoint, but they are all based on poor exegesis. They simply do not take the totality and unity of Scripture into account. They are based on a haphazard approach to the Bible, which ultimately leads to errors in other areas, as well. Some of the arguments are as follows:

1. Some will point to the trumpets in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and Revelation 11:15, asserting that both refer to the trumpet call of the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The argument is that since the trumpet in Revelation 11:15 is sounded midway through the tribulation, that is proof the the church will be raptured at mid-tribulation.
These trumpets; however, are not the same trumpets. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is the trumpet call of the rapture, but the trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is not, The trumpet in Revelation 11:15 is the seventh in a series of judgments. It has nothing to do with the rapture.
Instead, we have seen that scripture clearly establishes that the church will not have to endure the wrath of the tribulation. And, since Revelation chapter 6 tells us that God’s wrath is poured out in the first half of the tribulation as well as the second half, the church cannot enter the tribulation.
Both mid and post tribulation views of the rapture remove the “any-moment” expectation. By being able to measure the events of the tribulation as prior to the rapture, the timing of the rapture could then be calculated. Yet, scripture says that this is impossible.
Both opposing views require us to look for the antichrist’s coming prior to Christ’s coming. But, scripture tells us to watch for the coming of Christ (Matthew 24:42; 25:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, etc.).

2. People may refer to Matthew 24:4-44, but this course of scripture deals with the tribulation period, and those who will be left behind. Beginning in verse 36 some believe that Jesus is talking about the rapture. If so, Jesus is simply detailing the escape of the believers that will be living just prior to the tribulation, and that they will not have to endure the things that He was just talking about. Others see it as a post tribulational judgment, and that the ones who remained righteous during the tribulation will be spared and the wicked are taken away. This interpretation seems most likely, and does not diminish the truth of the pre-tribulation rapture.

3. Some may say the Revelation shows us that there will be Christians living through the tribulation. People will be saved during the tribulation, but they will not enter the tribulation as Christians.
Some may ask how people will be saved if the Holy Spirit has been removed. I would say “the same way that they were saved in the Old Testament,” which, consequently, is the same way people are saved in the New Testament, by faith. Hebrews 11 tells us of many Old Testament people who were saved by faith. Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 14:16? Until that time, the Holy Spirit didn’t didn’t abide with believers the way He does now, Jesus had to ask for it. Yet, there were still believers. We have always been saved by grace trough faith.

Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

How do we get faith?

Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The Word of God will continue to be here.

Matthew 24:35 (NKJV)
35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
The saved, who are clothed in the righteousness of God, justified forever, and completely rescued from this world, cannot possibly be thrust into those last judgments, which are reserved for a Christ-rejecting, satan-ruled world!

In fact, that is the very reason that we should find comfort in those words.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 (NKJV)
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The study of this doctrine, as fascinating as it is, should ultimately inspire us to be more evangelistic. If we are going to be effective in spreading the Gospel, we need to be sure that what we teach is Biblically sound.

We should want everyone to escape the wrath, both of the tribulation and of hell. The truth of the matter is, we don’t know how much longer we have to spread the Gospel, we need to get busy. Our desire should be the same as God’s.

Ezekiel 33:11 (NKJV)
11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

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Posted in: Eschatology