The Rapture

In a previous post I discussed one important factor to God’s revelation of future events (click here). In that post I mentioned that I believe in what’s called the “pre-tribulation rapture” of the church. In this post I wanted to list the reasons I hold this belief. Just for a description of the rapture we have:

rapture clouds1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
“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.”

1 Corinthians 15:51-52
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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.”

Why I believe there will be a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, where “the church” refers not to a building or some ecclesiastical organization, but rather to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. “The church” is everyone who understand and believes that the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for their sins and rose up again from the dead. They believe He will keep His promise of eternal life to them apart from their own efforts. The following points are not intended to be in-depth teaching, but only a reference. For those who understand the context of the Scriptures I refer to, it will make more sense. (Note also that the “tribulation” refers to a seven-year period of world-wide judgment.)

  1. The church is not Israel: There is a clear and distinct difference between the nation of Israel as God’s people on earth and the church. Some believe the church has become a replacement for Israel which is clearly not the case (See Romans 9-11) and this has resulted in a lot of confusion regarding end-times prophecy. This is very important because there are verses in the Gospels where the Lord Jesus is clearly speaking of Israel and not the church. An example is Matthew 24:31 which describes the Lord gathering Israel the people to the physical land of Israel at the end of the tribulation. This bullet point is not so much a “proof” for the pre-tribulation rapture as it is a foundational piece of information which puts many verses in the Bible regarding end-times prophecy into a proper context.
  2. Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9) shows the tribulation to be a continuation of the Old Testament way of things. The Old Testament was a time before the mystery of the church (Eph 3) was revealed. As the church was not a factor on earth during the Old Testament times, it will also not be a factor on earth during the tribulation. One explanation for this is the church will have been raptured before the tribulation begins.
  3. 144,000 Israelite evangelists: During the tribulation God will call a special group of 144,000 individuals out “of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev 7:4) and it appears they will be evangelists to witness to the world of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 7 & 14). In the current age it is the church that God uses as a witness to His Son. If the church were removed at the rapture, the need for these 144,000 becomes apparent.
  4. The church at Philadelphia: Before revealing details of the tribulation, the Lord says to the believers in the church at Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation [or testing], which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev 3:10). This seems like a very clear reference to a pre-tribulation event.
  5. Some restraining force will be removed: 2 Thess 2:6-9 describes something which restrains evil. Whatever that is, it will be removed allowing “that wicked” to be revealed. This restraining force might be the Holy Spirit of God as He indwells the church. If so these verses describe this as happening before the tribulation.
  6. Not appointed unto wrath: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,…” (1 Thess 5:9). The tribulation period is a time where God is pouring out His wrath on the earth (Rev 6:16-17, 14:10, 15:1, 16:1, etc). Considering this with what is later written in 1 Thess 4:16-17, it isn’t a stretch to believe the church will be removed before the wrath of the tribulation begins. Also see 1 Thess 1:10: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
  7. The imminent return of Christ: There are several verses in the New Testament which indicate it is impossible to know when the Lord Jesus will return for His church (the rapture). Since the start of the tribulation can be isolated to a specific event (the signing of a covenant – Daniel 9:27) and the return of the Lord in glory at the end of the tribulation can be known based on this, the Lord’s return for the church must occur before the tribulation begins. The other popular views I’m aware of (mid-trib rapture and post-trib rapture) all violate the “no man knows the hour or the day” statement the Lord Jesus made in Mat 24:36. See also 2 Pet 3:10 and 1 Thess 5:2 and 1 Cor 1:7-8, etc.


The Incidentals:
Then there are those interesting little stories and details throughout the Bible which may illustrate the pre-tribulation rapture. These really shouldn’t be used as “proof,” but if the pre-tribulation rapture is true (which I believe it is), these are nice illustrations of it.

  1. Noah’s flood: Right before the flood we read of Enoch who was taken up with God. In other words, he didn’t die (Gen 5:24). Then we read of Noah and his flood. This can be viewed as an illustration of the church pictured by Enoch being raptured before God’s worldwide judgment of the flood, while Noah (and his family) picture Israel being preserved through God’s judgment. Enoch was saved from the judgment. Noah was saved through it. Just like the church and Israel.
  2. Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah: (Gen 19) Here we have a story of a just man (2 Pet 2:7) forcibly removed from a place before God rained down His judgment against it.
  3. The “Church” in Revelation: The book of Revelation has a lot to say about the churches in the first three chapters. However, at the start of chapter four, John hears a voice which was “as it were a trumpet” (Rev 4:1) and he finds himself “immediately … in the spirit” and in the presence of God (Rev 4:2-3). These are characteristic of the rapture. See 1 Cor 15:51-52. At this point the book of Revelation begins to describe the events of the seven-year tribulation period and the word, “church,” is never mentioned again until the very end in verse 22:16 where the Lord Jesus restates that He has revealed these things to the churches. Given the evidence at hand, I don’t think this is an accident, but rather an illustration.
  4. Elijah: Elijah is taken “by a whirlwind into heaven” (1 Kings 2:11). This is not so much a picture of the timing of the rapture as far as I can tell. It’s just an example of the Lord taking someone in a rapture-like way.
  5. Feasts of Jehovah: These feasts are discussed in various places in the Old Testament (Lev 23, Deut 16, etc). There are seven feasts which follow this order in the Jewish Calendar: Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks (AKA, Pentecost), Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles (AKA Feast of Ingathering). In their order they each seem to answer to specific events in God’s prophetic calendar. e.g.,
      1. Passover illustrates the death of Christ (1 Cor 5:7).
      2. Feast of Unleavened Bread illustrates the removal of sin as a result of Christ’s death (1 John 1:9, 1 Cor 5:8).
      3. Feast of Firstfruits illustrates the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 15:23).
      4. Feast of weeks or Pentecost foreshadows the birth of the church (Acts 2:1).
      5. Feast of Trumpets foreshadows the rapture of the church (1 Cor 15:52). An interesting detail is there was a four month gap between the end of the previous feast and the Feast of Trumpets just as there is a large gap of time between the birth of the church and the rapture. And also interesting is that because this feast fell on the first day of a month, there was uncertainty regarding when it would begin (new moon wasn’t accurately predictable), just as there is uncertainty regarding when the Lord Jesus will return for His church.
      6. The Day of Atonement was the day Israel as a nation had their sins put away. At the end of the tribulation period all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26).
      7. Feast of Tabernacles illustrates redeemed man living in peace with God (Rev 21:3).

I am convinced by this evidence but I still stand by my statements from a previous post about what our focus should be (see here). Just knowing what will happen isn’t the end of the matter. The next questions are why does God reveal it to us? What does this information mean to us? And, what does God expect us to do with this information?

-J. Wilbur

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