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One of the biggest questions people have about end time prophecy is about the rapture of the church at the second coming of Christ. This has been the question on the minds of people since Jesus was raised from the dead. There are so many that believe in a pre-tribulation rapture that we have songs that promote this view.
But just because this view is promoted so well does not mean it is true. We need to know what the Bible says about the rapture of the church if we hope to have a firm grasp on it.
First we need to understand what the rapture is. The word means caught up. You will not find this word in the Bible but that does not mean it isn’t talked about. The Bible does actually speak of the church being caught up or put another way, raptured. The question however is when does that occur?
There are a lot of scriptures that tell us about the second coming of Jesus and the gathering of the church to Him. I should point out that many teach based on assumption rather than scripture though. Since they assume one thing must be true based on their limited view (we all have a limited view) they must make everything in the Bible fit with that view.
This is often not because they mean to teach what is not true. In fact often they teach things like this because they really do believe it to be true. So before we go into what the scripture says I encourage you to remember one thing taken from a verse of scripture.
“…let God be true, but every man a liar…”
If we believe something to be true it does not mean it is. Only the word of God is true. We sometimes try to make scripture fit our belief without knowing it. But if we test our belief with the whole of scripture then we can know the truth and it can set us free. So if something in the Bible does not agree with our belief then we need to change our belief and not try to go beyond what is written in scripture (like Balak in the book of Numbers tried) to change its clear meaning.
So what can we get out of the scriptures?
1 Corinthians 15:51-55
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Our first clue shows us not all Christians will die before the trumpet sounds and the dead are raised. It also shows us that we will be changed at this time to be incorruptible and immortal. Finally it shows us that this all happens at the last trump AND when death is swallowed up in victory (death is defeated).
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.16 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:17 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.18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
This passage of scripture gives us some more clues and offers a little more information on what happens when the church is caught up. First we see that God will bring the dead in Christ with Him. Second we see again that there are those who remain alive and the living will not stop the dead. Third we see that Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout and with the sound of the trumpet. Forth we see this is when the dead rise and after that the living in Christ are gathered together with them all in the clouds (remember also Jesus was said to return in the clouds). Fifth we see that this is when we will forever be with Jesus.
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Here again we have some very strong clues about the gathering of the church and second coming of Christ.
First we see that this event is not a hidden or secret event but rather visible to the ends of the earth.
Second we see that this event is after the tribulation AND after the sun is darkened, the moon goes dark, the stars fall, and the powers of heaven are shaken. Again this is where we see Jesus return in the clouds. It is at this point that we see the sound of the trumpet, and the gathering of the saints from the ends of heaven.
5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
Here is a passage that also talks about the return of Jesus. Here we see Him come with His saints. But we see something else many people miss. We see that when He returns and takes His place as ruler of earth it does not happen all at once. People actually have time to flee. Of course they will not survive but there is time that they have after He returns.
Let me just explain something about the time line of events a little bit before you view some question and answers about this. Many people believe that the seven year period of what the Bible calls tribulation ends with the grand finale. This is not what the Bible says though. Instead the end of the tribulation leads into a time of wrath poured out from God. That is right…I said there is an undisclosed amount of time after the tribulation where God pours out wrath (Remember Zechariah 14:5).
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
After the tribulation a few things happen. The sun is darkened and moon doesn’t give light, the stars also fall. This happens in the sixth seal just before the trumpets. The 144,000 are sealed then as well and protected from the future wrath of the trumpets (Revelation 7:3, Revelation 9:4).
During the trumpets the powers of heaven are shaken. Finally the last trumpet sounds and the day of the second coming happens. A terrible day of wrath in that day bowls of wrath are to be poured out and again we see the heavens shake. THEN in that same day we are gathered at the sound of that trumpet.
Many people have tried to point out problems with the theory of a post-tribulation rapture. Indeed I have found problems with the common teachings on it myself. I do not believe what I have written here to be common though and believe it will stand the scripture test. But before anyone starts pointing things out to me let me go ahead and give answers to some common questions.
Q: The rapture and the second coming of Christ are two different events. Some of these scriptures speak of the rapture while others speak of the second coming.
A: That statement isn’t actually true. You can find out why here: Are The Second Coming And Rapture 2 Different Events?
Q: 2 Thessalonians 2:6-9 states that the Holy Ghost will be removed from earth to allow the Anti-Christ to rule. Since the Holy Ghost will not leave His church He must take us with Him.
A: It is not Biblically sound to believe the Holy Ghost will be removed from earth. The Holy Ghost is God, the third person of the trinity. If He is removed from earth that means God Himself has abandoned the world which is something scripture never teaches. Omnipresent means, everywhere present. Even David said “If I make my bed in hell thou art there.” (Psalm 139:7-9).
In order for someone to become a Christian they must have the work of the Holy Ghost done in them:
1 Corinthians 12:3
3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
We see saints in the time period of the tribulation and so that must mean the Spirit of God is on earth. There are also many other reasons this can not be true. I believe the point is clear though.
Q: After John is called up in chapter 4 with the voice of a trumpet the church is not mentioned again. Instead the church is called the bride. This means the church has been removed from earth.
A: If you read in context John is called up by a voice that only sounds like a trumpet and not a trumpet itself. Also note that in context it is only John being called to heaven to get an image of what is going to happen. In context you would not be able to say this was the church. Also just because the word church is not mentioned does not mean it does not exist in some form. The church is called the body of Christ and that body is made of many members. While a local assembly may not be practical in the tribulation there are still saints on earth who also are part of the body of Christ (which is the church). Just because something is not mentioned does not mean it isn’t there.
Another doctrine that needs to be addressed here is that of the bride, the groom, and the friend of the bridegroom. The belief is that the church (or Israel if it is convenient to hold the doctrine together) is the bride of Christ. Obviously Christ is the groom. But then there is someone known as “the friend of the groom.”
This is used to say that not all Christians are the bride of Christ. Or to put it another way, they are not all part of the body of Christ. This comes from only one set of scriptures that have not been taken in context.
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Some have taken these scriptures and applied meaning to them that is not here. The meaning implied by this doctrine is that there is a group of people apart from the bride (the church, the body of Christ, all those who are filled with the Spirit of Christ) that are somehow invited to be with Christ, but are only guests and not one with Him in Heaven.
Reading the words of John in context however shows that he was NOT saying that he was part of some third party, but rather that he was NOT THE BRIDEGROOM.
26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
This comment, made by those who followed John, is what John is answering to. This gives us the context of John’s answer. He is not speaking of some new doctrine of a third party. He is simply saying he is not the groom because he doesn’t have those God is giving to Jesus. Instead John HIMSELF is a friend of Jesus watching Him build His church (His bride) at this time.
This does not imply that there is a third group of people who are not part of that bride which Jesus calls His own. For more on what the church is please visit our page here: http://onthelineministries.com/we-are-the-body-of-christ/.
Q: How can the 24 elders be in heaven and have crowns if they have not been raptured? We can not have our rewards until we are all home with Jesus.
A: These crowns are crowns of authority…not reward. Many mistake the crowns as being the rewards given to the saints. Instead these are part of the garments of the priests. I encourage you to do a study on what the elders are wearing and what they are doing. You will find them to be priests. This should not be a shocking revelation though since we are called kings and priests by God.
Q: Many other examples of scripture show men being taken out before destruction.
A: This is true. Noah was removed before God destroyed the world. Enoch was taken before the flood. Lot was taken out of Sodom. But did you notice in all of these that it was the wrath of God on man and not the wrath of Satan? The tribulation is a time when God lets Satan war with the saints. AFTER the tribulation you will see the judgments of God.
Q: Who will populate the world during the millennium if Christ did not take His saints out first?
A: There are 144,000 that will not die during the tribulation and will enter into the kingdom of Christ without seeing death. These men are sealed from, or protected out of, the wrath of God. On top of that I am not sure yet as to if we will reproduce in our glorified bodies. I am still looking into that.
Q: The resurrection isn’t mentioned in Revelation 19:11-21 which is an image of the second coming.
A: Omission is not proof of anything. In the same way people deny God exists because they fail to see Him. Besides, this event continues into Revelation 20 where we DO see the first resurrection. So this argument is wrong on both accounts.
Q: If the rapture is after the tribulation we will be able to know when Christ returns which is something the Bible says we will not.
A: This is based on the thought that the second coming of Christ is at the last day of tribulation. There is actually an amount of undisclosed time AFTER the tribulation in which God pours out His wrath.
Q: The Lord comes with his saints in Zech. 14:5. That proves they are already with Him.
A: Think about this… Christ is coming in the clouds and His armies with Him. Where are His armies? They are in the clouds. The last trumpet gathers the saints together into the air with Christ. They were not with Him the whole time… they are gathered… also note that the dead in Christ are in heaven and are now to be resurrected. So this does not prove they are already with Him, only that they WILL BE with Him at that time.
Q: Rev. 3:10 says the church will be kept from the hour of temptation. So the church must not be here during the tribulation.
A: Notice in Revelation two churches are mentioned that Christ has no issue with. One He says will be killed and one He says will be kept from the hour of temptation. It is a misunderstanding to believe the hour of temptation is the tribulation. It is actually the time of judgment from God. That is why the bible records the sealing of the 144,000. This is not a seal of salvation. This seal is one of protection. Notice God will not allow the angels to harm the earth until these are protected. God is about to “tempt” or otherwise worded as bring a trial on the whole world. This happens AFTER the tribulation.
Q: Matthew 13:39-41 says that the angels will gather both the wicked and the righteous. So this is not the resurrection.
A: Note that in the seventh trumpet the bowls are poured out. Then suddenly you have men gathering to do battle with God. At the same time the saints are called to be with Christ at this same place to watch as Christ destroys those evil men. Again other scriptures have already been given to show the resurrection happens at the last trumpet.
Q: Would the Lord bring the elect (from Heaven) and take them (from Earth) at the same time?
A: First the dead in Christ, then we which are alive and remain. So both the dead in Christ and those living on Earth are gathered together at the last trumpet. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Q: If He brings them (from Heaven) where did they come from and how did they get there?
A: They came from the same place the dead in Christ are at now. While their bodies may be in the ground, their spirit is with God. They got there by death. This is seen in the story about the rich man that lifted his eyes in Hell, as well as in Revelation where we see the souls of those under the alter who were killed. (Luke 16:23, Revelation 6:9)
Q: If He is taking them (from earth) why does He say that they are coming with Him?
A: The earth is a large planet. When He calls us to meet Him in the clouds He is gathering us from the ends of the Earth to be where He is. So it is like a gathering together in the clouds to come with Him to one location.
It is sort of like pulling your army out of three locations and then sending the combined force of your troops into one area.
July 13, 2015 at 11:38 pm | | 2 comments