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Section 9B .. The Future/End of The Age

 

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The End Of The Age Part V... The Rapture

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

“Today’s church wants to be raptured from responsibility.” [Leonard Ravenhill]

INDEX TO ALL SIX SECTIONS

PART I... THE 'DAY OF THE LORD This devastating period of time, described as coming suddenly, was foretold by the prophets of old and is described in several different terms in both Old and New Testaments

PART II... THE FIRST SIX SEALS. If one avoids a superficial reading of Matthew 24, then compares what Jesus said in that chapter with the Seals of Revelation 6, it becomes quite clear that the Seals represent the persecution of Christians.

PART III... THE SEVENTH SEAL AND THE FIRST SIX TRUMPETS. This Seventh, and last, Seal does not bring about any disasters in itself but introduces the Seven Trumpets. In the Old Testament, trumpets often announced a coming disaster. And it will be no different at the end of the age, when the sounding of trumpets will herald the plagues that God will send on the earth, which will indeed be of 'Biblical proportions'.

PART IV... THE SEVENTH TRUMPET. This last Trumpet is, in a sense, the most eventful of all them all, since it literally ushers the old age out, and the new one in. In summary, this last and final Trumpet... a) Brings and end to the mystery of God, when the doors to the Kingdom close forever with no possibility of redemption for any that have not yet become a disciple of the Lamb. b) Marks the point when believers are caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air (the rapture). They are physically moved off the earth for a very specific reason. c) Introduces the Seven Bowls that end all things.

YOU ARE HERE 001orange PART V... THE RAPTURE. The reasons we cannot, and should not, trust in the Rapture taking place before the tribulation.

PART VI... THE SEVEN BOWLS. Zephaniah 1:18 says it all... "Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord's wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth"

 

The End Of The Age Part V... The Rapture
It is no wonder that Scripture quotes the people's instructions to the prophets in Isaiah 30... "You must not prophesy to us what is right, Speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions". Now, as then, the illusions abound.

ON THIS PAGE
An Extremely Pertinent Question

Introduction
Origin of the Word 'Rapture'
The Dispute

Does It Matter?

Beliefs of The Early Church

Explicit Teachings of The Bible

Tribulation Martyrs

Proof Texts For a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

A Secret Rapture?

Are The Rapture & The Second Coming Separate Events?

Raptured! But Where Are We Going?

Conclusion


An Extremely Pertinent Question
Regarding the Rapture, I find it extremely curious that the one question that I have never heard asked, much less answered, is why? Why does there have to be a Rapture at all? What is the point of 'meeting the Lord in the air'?

And please do not content yourself with glib answers such as... 'this is the Lord's will'. Of course it is His will that we meet Him in the air, or it wouldn't happen. However, we should know that the Lord doesn't do anything on a whim or fancy... there is always a solid reason behind His every action. In other words, we are not merely being taken on a celestial joy ride.

To answer the unasked question...  Yes, there is an extremely good reason why we will meet the Lord in the air. See previous chapter... That Earth Shattering Seventh Trumpet, which also explains where exactly the Rapture fits into end time events (this page has been confined to the reasons the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is a figment of the imagination or wishful thinking).


Introduction
Origin of the Word 'Rapture'

1 Thessalonians 4:17 says

    Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (Gk. harpazo) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  (1 Thessalonians 4:17 NASB)

The Greek word harpazo means 'seize' or 'carry off', and implies some force. 

    So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force (Gk. harpazo) to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. (John 6:15 NASB)

    When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched (Gk. harpazo) Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39 NASB)

    save others, snatching (Gk. harpazo) them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (Jude 1:23 NASB)

The word "rapture" itself does not exist in the Scriptures, but is derived from the Latin "rapiemur" which, as I understand it, is the word Jerome used for the Greek word harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, in his late fourth-century translation of the New Testament into Latin (the Vulgate). And since the English word "rapture" can mean "the transporting of a person from one place to another, especially to heaven, by supernatural means", I guess it is as good a word as any.


The Dispute
Several explicit and unassailable teachings of the Bible are almost universally agreed on by the church...

     There will be a period of great tribulation just before this age comes to an end.

     Christ will return to this earth one day.

     Depending on whether they have already died, or are still living when Jesus returns, believers will either be resurrected or changed.

     There will be a thousand year reign of Christ, when the world will be at peace.

However, when it comes to the question of when certain momentous events such as the Rapture and the Millenium take place... i.e. before or after the Great Tribulation, there are loud and extremely vocal arguments for both sides.


Does It Matter?
Does what one believes about the timing of the Rapture matter? Yes, as a matter of fact, it does... very greatly

    If the Pre-Tribulation view is correct, then the Great Tribulation is purely of academic interest to the Christian, and the whole issue is of little consequence. If, however, the Post-Tribulation view is correct, then the issue becomes of vital importance, as it means the Church has yet to enter the most extensive period of intense persecution and tribulation in its entire history. If the Church is going to face the onslaught of the Antichrist, and an all-out attempt to utterly destroy true Christianity, then we must be prepared! The Post-Tribulationist can afford to be wrong, but not the Pre-Tribulationist! [1]

The following is a lengthy and very relevant quote from an article by Tim Warner, pastor of Oasis Christian Church in Tampa, Florida.

    "In contemporary western Christianity, post-tribbers are looked upon with pity and suspicion. Some think we have a "martyr complex." Others think we are just troublemakers, wanting to rock the boat. Post-tribulationism just doesn't seem to fit in with the prosperous lifestyles of contemporary western Christianity. The lack of real persecution and hardship has led many to assume that this is the normal Christian life. But, according to Scripture, persecution, tribulation, and hardship, is the real "normal" Christian experience. The comfort western Christians have enjoyed for the last few generations is an anomaly that will soon come to an end. The theological "comfort zones" we have constructed around this anomaly are about to come crashing down.

    For those who are honestly considering the various views of the rapture timing, and are open to God's leading regarding this issue, there is plenty of opposition ahead for you. The "rapture question" has been a hot potato issue in the recent past. In some cases, splitting churches. Christians who have abandoned the pre-trib view and been the least bit vocal about it have often found themselves being offered the "right foot of fellowship." Many pastors who have abandoned pre-trib have lost their churches, and missionaries have been abandoned by their mission boards and supporting churches because of their switch to the post-trib view. So, if you have no tolerance for hardship, you had better stop here. If you've got the guts to face the truth head on no matter what it is, then please continue.

    Some say it really doesn't matter if Jesus is coming before or after the tribulation, as long as we are "ready." They think we should all just agree to disagree, and love one another. But, "ready" is a relative term! It begs the question, "ready for what?" There is a huge difference between being ready to be gently whisked away to heaven on a pillow, and being ready to become a martyr at the hands of Antichrist! Is surface harmony worth the risk of huge numbers of believers being caught totally unprepared spiritually, emotionally, and physically? What about the "many" believers whom Jesus mentioned in Matt. 24:9-13 who would fall away when the deception and persecution of the last days arrives? If Jesus' coming is several decades away, then perhaps the rapture debate is not all that critical. But, if Jesus is coming soon as the signs seem to indicate, one's views on the timing of the rapture are crucial to being prepared to be an overcomer in the difficult days before His coming.

    Knowledge of what lies ahead motivates people to prepare. A rookie soldier, who knows he is about to be shipped to the front lines in a brutal war, will have a much different attitude about basic training than a new recruit who joined up to get a free education and a pension! The soldier who is about to engage the enemy knows his training may mean the difference between life and death. He learns survival techniques; he gets physically fit; he learns his weapons inside and out; he makes sure his weapons are in good working order; through countless hours of practice he becomes a marksman. He also prepares himself mentally for combat and the possibility of being a POW. His objective is clear; he is fully equipped; and he is mentally focused on getting the job done and coming home in one piece! On the other hand, the new peace-time novice, with big ideas of a comfortable career, could have a ho-hum attitude about basic training. If he is unexpectedly thrust into a fierce battle, he will find himself woefully unprepared. While staring down the barrel of the enemy's rifle is not the time to be fumbling around for your weapon's instruction manual. He might just conclude that this is not what he signed up for!

    If it really doesn't matter what we believe about the last days, why did God devote such a large portion of His Word to end-time prophecy? Is it just filler material? Is it for intellectual entertainment? The answer is really quite simple. Prophecy was intended to provide the kind of motivation needed to turn flabby pew-potatoes into Christian soldiers" [2]


Beliefs of The Early Church
Many assume (wrongly as it turns out) that because the early church was not corrupted by centuries of theology, but was closer to the original source of all Christian doctrine (Jesus and the apostles), they were more likely to teach truth.

    Note: Unfortunately John was not even cold in his grave before many church teaching were already being twisted to such an extent that even the original disciples wouldn't have recognized them. Case in point.... The doctrine of the trinity, which has remained virtually unchanged to this very day, was given explicit shape at the Second Ecumenical Council (381 AD), by three ancient theologians from Cappadocia, a province in modern day Turkey. And from what we know about these three men, well trained in Greek philosophy, the fact that we could accept anything they said, is frightening. For example Gregory of Nyssa stated that we would have no content for our thoughts about Father, Son, and Spirit, if we did not find an outline of their nature within ourselves See Footnote I

Therefore, Post-tribulationists, or those that do not believe that the rapture will occur before the trouble starts, often argue that, apart from one obscure, and relatively early, document [3] the vast majority of the early church writers believed that Christians would go through the tribulation.

Certainly it seems curious that the pre-tribulation rapture was not widely believed until about two hundred years ago, when a prophecy by a member of the Plymouth Brethren apparently fired people's imaginations, causing them to go to the Bible and look for Scriptural support for what they had already accepted as the truth. This caused them to make some totally unreasonable, even farfetched, connections. Note: This very dangerous practice was not limited to people who lived two centuries ago, but is extremely widespread in the church even today. When false doctrine becomes deeply ingrained, people no longer allow Biblical passages to tell them what to believe, but interpret the text in accordance with preconceived ideas.

Michael Cordner in The Rapture of the Church, documents the history of this doctrine..

    Pre-Tribulationism was unknown to the early Church; in fact, no one has been able to show that this particular doctrine was held by any of the church Fathers or Biblical scholars before the early nineteenth century. It apparently originated at this time during a great revival of interest in Biblical prophecy. In 1830, a young Scottish woman named Margaret McDonald claimed to have received a "revelation" that Christians would be raptured before the Great Tribulation. Shortly after this, the idea spread to London where it aroused much interest. In further "revelations" during this period, dates for the rapture were variously fixed between 1835 and 1847!

    Pre-Tribulationism was first taught publicly at a series of prophetic meetings in Powerscourt House, Ireland. Here Plymouth Brethren organizer John Darby took hold of the idea and made it an essential element of his teachings, giving rise to what is now known as Darbyism, or Dispensationalism. (For a full account see "The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin" by Dave MacPherson.) However, not all of the Brethren accepted this teaching. It was rejected and opposed by such well known members as George Mueller and Samuel P. Tregelles (both of whom broke with the Brethren movement because of it). Among other men who opposed this "novel two-phased-second coming" teaching as being un-Scriptural was the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. In spite of the opposition of such men, this doctrine crossed denominational lines to spread throughout England. The greatest growth of this teaching, however, has been in the twentieth century mainly through the Modern Dispensational teachings of the Scofield Reference Bible. [4].


Explicit Teachings

So the question that springs to mind is... if the Bible teaches a rapture before the Tribulation, why did most people miss that detail for almost 2000 years? The simple answer is .. because it isn’t there. Let us examine for a moment the verses that explicitly state the church will be raptured before the tribulation. They are

    1)

    2)

    3)

    4)

That's right! None!

Sadly the unwritten, and very sensible, rule that Biblical verses that are unclear are to be interpreted in the light of the ones that are, seems to have been forgotten.

The word "inference" means that conclusions are drawn from what has not been explicitly stated. And, since there isn't a single verse in the Bible that unambiguously states that there is a rapture before the Tribulation, the doctrine has to be inferred. This in spite of the fact that several verses in the New Testament unambiguously state there will be a rapture after the Tribulation. For example...

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus spoke about a single rapture and clearly told us when it would happen ...

    But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30 NASB)

Also see the parallel verse in Mark 13:23-27, which is prefaced with the words "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance". These words make it impossible that Jesus forgot to mention that His entire church would be suddenly removed from the face of the earth. So why do we keep insisting that the rapture will take place before the tribulation when Jesus Himself said it would take place "after the tribulation of those days", and that He has told us everything?

Paul was equally precise...

    But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:23-24 NASB)

    Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 NASB)

    For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 NASB)

All three quotes specifically say the Rapture will occur either at the coming of Christ or the last trumpet, which have led some to believe that the Rapture and the Second Coming are separate events.


Proof Texts For a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?
Pre-tribulationists, totally ignoring the clear teachings of Scripture, have isolated a number of verses which they claim back up their theory.

1) "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep (Gk. tereo) you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth". (Revelation 3:10 NASB)

Note: "all the world" does not necessarily mean the entire planet. Compare Luke 2:1 ... "Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth" (NASB).

    The letters in in the second and third chapter of Revelation, were addressed to specific churches in the first century, as Revelation 1:11 clearly states. The quote above was part of the letter to the church in Philadelphia who were told that they were to be kept from the hour of testing. Since it doesn't make sense that Jesus would promise them protection from something that would happen thousands of years later, the letter probably referred to a bad earthquake that destroyed at least twelve cities in the region in AD 17. Obviously the church was not beamed off the earth before the disaster, but were preserved through it.

    The word translated keep is the Greek tereo, exactly the same word used in John 17:15, when Jesus prayed that God would 'keep' His disciples from evil, specifically mentioning that He was NOT asking for them to be taken out of this world, but to be either protected from evil and/or given grace to be sustained through it.

    I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep (Gk. tereo) them from the evil one.  (John 17:15 NASB)

    Also, if the seven churches are seven consecutive periods of church history, as is commonly believed, then why was the rapture passage written to the church in Philadelphia which would be the sixth period, and not to the church in Laodicea which represented the last period?

    Finally, if we are to apply these words to end time believers, then I have no idea what we are to make of the message to the church in Smyrna that was told that the devil was about to cast some of them into prison so that they would be tested, that they would have tribulation for ten days.

2) "(34) Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; (35) for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. (36) "But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength (Gk. katischuo) to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36 NASB)

    Note how the KJV renders verse 36... Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy (Gk. kataxioo) to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man  (Luke 21:36 KJV). Obviously, the KJV and the NASB have translated this passage from different manuscripts. The King James version ("accounted worthy to escape") is echoed by the Concordant Literal Version and Young's Literal Translation, both of which use the word "prevail".

3) For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NASB)

4) For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB)

While it is true that the whole point of salvation is being saved from the wrath of God, none of the last three quotes above (3, 4 and 5) say that Christians who are 'accounted worthy' will be raptured out of here. The verses can also mean that Christ's followers will not suffer in the terrible time when God bring retributive justice to the earth, but will be protected. The Great Tribulation is, in fact, God's response to the unbelieving and unrepentant on earth who have spilled the blood of His people... the final judgment of God upon the wicked. However, this does not change the fact that Christians will be persecuted and killed (possibly under the antichrist). [For details please see The Seven Seals]

As Jesus told His disciples, "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28 NASB)

Besides which, if Paul knew that Christians were not going to be on earth during the Tribulation, why would he have encouraged them to look forward to the revealing of Christ, which happens at the end of the Tribulation...

    so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:7 NASB)

    looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, (Titus 2:13 NASB)


Are The Rapture & The Second Coming Separate Events?
When specific details in one Biblical passage about the rapture, are not mentioned in another passage that also speaks of the rapture, pre-tribulationists conclude that the passages have to be speaking about two separate events. For example, in Matthew 24, Jesus said that the angels will gather together His elect, a fact that is not mentioned in either of the other two verses.

Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 4 says the rapture occurs when the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God... specific details that the other two passages say nothing about.

Nor do either of the other two passages mention that we will all be physically changed and the dead raised imperishable as 1 Corinthians does..

    Matthew 24:29-31: (29) "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. (31) "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (NASB)

    1 Corinthians 15:50-52: (50) Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (51) Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, (52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (NASB)

    1 Thessalonians 4:14-17: (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (NASB)

If we were to apply this logic to the Gospels, we would be in big trouble, simply because each of the authors not only wrote their accounts from different perspectives and stressed different things, but each of them sometimes included details that some, or all, of the others left out.

Take for example, the flight into Egypt

In the book of Matthew we are told that, at the warning of an angel, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod's murderous plans, and stayed there until his death, ater which, they were given the green light to return to Galilee. (Matthew 2:13-14, 19-20). Luke, however, indicates that after the days of Mary's purification, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord. Luke goes on to say that the family then returned to Nazareth (Luke 2:22, 39)

Are we to take it that since Luke says nothing about Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, and Matthew is silent about their trip to Nazareth soon after Jesus' birth, one of them has their facts wrong, or that they were speaking about two different people called Jesus?

Much to the contrary, we understand that, by focusing on different aspects of Jesus' life and ministry, each of the Gospel writers contributed to an deeper and more rounded portrayal of Jesus. Additionally, ancient historians did not adhere to our modern idea that every single little detail had to be set down in exactly the order it occurred, but often gave the gist of what took place. (See Differences and Discrepancies in the New Testament, which is Part 8 of the article Life or Death... The Choice is Yours)

Similarly, if we combine all the details of the various rapture passages, we get a much more complete picture of what will take place, which in a nutshell is.... The last trumpet sounds, the angels gather together His elect, then with a shout and the voice of the archangel Christ returns with those Christians that have already died, who then are the first to receive their resurrected bodies (the dead shall be raised incorruptible). After which those that are still alive are also changed, then caught up with the previous group to meet the Lord in the air.

In summary, the Rapture and the Second Coming have to be understood as simultaneous simply because...

    1) There are only two comings of Christ the first of which occurred two thousand years ago. Since no one was 'raptured' then, this event has to take place at His second coming which, by the way, isn't very far in the future.

    2) There are only Seven Trumpets... one following the other in sequence, the seventh of which is the last one.

Those Three Greek Words.
It is often claimed that both events had to different since Paul used one Greek words when referring to the rapture (Christ coming FOR His church)...

    For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming (Gk. parousia) of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Thessalonians 4:15 NASB)

.. and two others when speaking of the Second Coming (Christ coming WITH His church), at the end of the Tribulation.

    and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed (Gk. apokalups) from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, (2 Thessalonians 1:7 NASB)

    It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed (Gk. apokalupto).  (Luke 17:30 NASB)

    I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing (Gk. epiphaneia) and His kingdom: (2 Timothy 4:1 NASB)

However, Paul also used parousia, when speaking about the Lord Jesus slaying the lawless one at His coming, an event that obviously takes place at the end of the Tribulation...

    Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming (Gk. parousia) (2 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB)

Apparently the Greek words were used interchangeably... In fact, Jesus used erchomai when He spoke of His second coming...

    But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming (Gk. erchomai) on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30 NASB)


A Secret Rapture?
The 'secret rapture' is the teaching that the Christian Church will be quietly removed from the earth which will cause consternation among unbelievers who will have no idea how vast multitudes could suddenly have disappeared, or where they could have gone. The antichrist will then be revealed, who will initiate seven years of tribulation, during which time the prophecies of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls will be fulfilled.

Unfortunately this doctrine owes more to pop theology and best selling novels, than it does to the pages of Scripture.

This completely un-Biblical teaching has been fuelled to a great extent by the absolutely nonsensical, but wildly popular, Left Behind series. Originally launched as a single novel by that title in 1995, Left Behind has already grown to a series of 16 novels, published by Tyndale House, with spin-offs galore including at least three motion pictures based on the series, and the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces. According to Wikipedia ... The first four books of the series held the top four slots simultaneously in 1998, while total sales for the series have surpassed 65 million copies. Seven titles in the adult series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists for The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.

The first book published in 1998 sets the tone.. The synopsis reads

    "Passengers in an airborne Boeing 747 find out in this riveting novel by renowned Christian speaker Tim LaHaye and master storyteller Jerry Jenkins. Without any warning, passengers mysteriously disappear from their seats. Terror and chaos slowly spread not only through the plane but also worldwide as unusual events continue to unfold. For those who have been left behind, the apocalypse has just begun". [5]

Whatever happened to learning theology from Scripture?

To begin with, there is not even the slightest hint of a secret rapture in Scripture. Much to the contrary, Paul makes it very clear that the 'catching away' of believers occurs at the same time as the Second Coming of Jesus, which will be a highly visible and noisy event. I doubt that even someone who is both blind and stone deaf will miss this one.

    For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NASB)

In Matthew 24:27, Jesus said His coming would be seen as clearly as lightning and, a couple of verse later, added that He would return immediately after large scale celestial phenomena...

    For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:27 NASB)

    But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30 NASB)

Additionally, Jesus warns about believing in a secret coming of Christ:

    Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. [Matthew 24:23]

    If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. [Matthew 24:26]

II Thessalonians 2:1-10, written to assure believers that the Rapture had not yet occurred, informs them that two events have to occur before the coming of Christ...

    let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, [V.3]

So much for the secret Rapture preceding the arrival of the Antichrist.


Luke 17:34-36
is one other passage frequently used to substantiate the "secret" rapture.

    I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. (Luke 17:34-36 NASB)

However, there is absolutely nothing in the passage that even hints at secrecy. The passage does nor say, nor even indicate, that when one woman was taken, the other ran away.. terrified at the mysterious disappearance. Secrecy has to be read into the text. All the passage says is that one person is taken, while another is not. Which actually fits in perfectly with the very visible and rather noisy events that take place at the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet when, as Revelation 14:16 tells us, Jesus casts his sickle upon the earth and reaps the earth. This statement in conjunction with Matthew 24:31 and Matthew 13:49 (below) indicates that He 'cuts' or makes the distinction between the good crop and the weeds, but it is the angels who do the separating. They gather and bind the tares, then collect the elect from the one end of the heaven to the other.

    So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, (Matthew 13:49 NASB)

    And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:31 NASB)


Tribulation Martyrs
As previously discussed, Jesus and John certainly spoke of a lot of trouble for Christians .... (All Emphasis Added)

    Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22 NASB)

    These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. (John 16:1-3 NASB)

While it is true that there has always been isolated and tragic instances of the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world, there has never been anything remotely similar to the universal scale described in the above verses, especially the 'doing God a service' bit.

Unless we are simply glossing over these verses, or have come to the conclusion that Jesus was blowing smoke, we have to face the fact that, at some point, Christians will be "hated by all", made outcasts, and killed in the name of God.

But when?

Matthew 24, has always been considered a very difficult chapter to understand. However, as said in an earlier chapter, it becomes much clearer if the reader bears in mind that Jesus differentiates between the "tribulation" He speaks of in verse 9, and the "great tribulation" of verse 21. Although He used the same Greek word in both verses, He qualifies the second usage by the word "great" (verse 21), translated from the Greek megas (which is where we get the English word 'mega').

    Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13 NASB)

    For then there will be a great (Gk. megas) tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:21-22 NASB)

But what are these two tribulations?

Many believe that they are different and succeeding series of judgments on humanity, which is as far from the truth as it gets.  If we read the chapter carefully, bearing in mind all the while, that it is in chronological order, a pattern emerges. To summarize... There is a "Tribulation" in which Christians will be hated, betrayed and killed, followed by the "Great Tribulation", which will be heralded by the Abomination of Desolation.

In fact, after the opening of the fifth seal, the martyred saints ask God to avenge their deaths on the persecutors "who dwell on the earth" (6: 10). These martyred Christians are told wait "until their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed" (v. 11).

    When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. (Revelation 6:9-11 NASB)

And no these are not a Jewish remnant. See The Fifth Seal in Chapter II.

Moreover Scripture also tells us ...

    And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly. (Revelation 17:6 NASB)

This "woman" which an angel identifies as "the great city" in V. 18... one that aligns itself with the beast, seems to be in a position of authority over the kings of the earth and is responsible for the killing of saints and the 'drunkenness’ of all earth dwellers. [See Two Babylons].

However the next verse should clinch the issue. People that are beheaded for NOT worshipping the beast or receiving his mark on their foreheads can only happen AFTER the rise of the antichrist, DURING the tribulation.

    "... And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4 NASB)

(Please See Chapter II... for Details and for A Comparison of The Seven Seals And Matthew 24:4-9)


A Post Persecution Rapture?

Could the argument then be made that Christians will be 'raptured' after the persecution under the antichrist?

Unfortunately not!

Remember that Jesus warned (in Matthew 24:15) to flee when we "see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place since that event signifies the beginning of the Great Tribulation, "such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will" (Vs. 21).

He then added that if those days were not shortened "no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short" (V. 22). Which makes it very clear that the elect will still be on earth during the "Great Tribulation", and it is for their sakes that those days will be cut short.


Raptured! But Where Are We Going?
We can be reasonably sure that, after meeting the Lord in the air, we do not stay suspended in space, but go somewhere. The question is where? Do we continue on into "heaven" or.... ?

Yes, I know that many believe that Christians will go to heaven after the rapture. For most Christians who seem never to have thought the matter through, much less checked what the Bible has to say on the subject, heaven remains a vague and indescribable place somewhere 'out there'. Even if we do not exactly spend our time floating around on clouds strumming harps, ‘heaven’ will closely resemble one unending church service, with everyone present in a nebulous state of disembodied blessedness.

Sadly, belief in this vague Heaven somewhere out there seems to be based more on endless cartoons of people with wings standing around on white clouds strumming harps, than what Scripture says.

As so rightly said by Anthony Buzzard,

    "Heaven" as a place removed from the earth is, however, never the destination of the believer in the Bible-neither at death nor at the resurrection" [6]

In spite of the fact that the Almighty God promised to give to Abraham an entire country for an everlasting possession, traditional Christian theology has almost no interest in this promise.

    A non-biblical view of the future, divorced from the land and the earth, was promoted by Gentiles unsympathetic to the heritage of Israel, for whom the promise of the land to Abraham was the foundation of the nations deepest aspirations. In direct contradiction of Jesus, Gentilized Christianity has substituted "heaven at death" for the biblical promise of life in the Land. The message of Jesus' famous beatitude, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land" (Matthew 5:5) can no longer be heard above the din of endless funeral sermons announcing that the dead have gone to heaven! [7]

This promise was repeated many times thereafter, not only to Abraham, but also to Isaac and to Jacob.

    The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. (Genesis 13:14-15 NASB)

Certainly none of them took God's words lightly. Isaac repeated it to Jacob who, in turn, repeated it to Joseph. Joseph then reminded his brothers that God would bring them to the land which He had promised on oath to Abraham.

Besides which, the promise of land was the third of three interconnected and inseparable promises God made to Abraham. The Lord also told Abraham that He would make Abraham's descendants into a great nation and, most importantly of all, promised that "in him" all the families of the earth would be blessed, which was the promise of the Messiah. (Genesis 12:1-3 NASB).

Since the promises that Abraham's descendants would be made into a "great nation", and that "in him" all the families of the earth would be blessed, have both been literally fulfilled, why do we understand the promise of the "land" to be a type of a heaven to come, and not be literally fulfilled as well?

Among a zillion other verses that clearly point to the kingdom of God being right here on earth, Revelation 5:9-10 speaks of those who were purchased for God reigning on the earth.

    And they *sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10 NASB)

For Details See What and Where is Heaven?

In short.. we aren't going very far. We meet the Lord in the air then turn around and accompany Him back to the earth...
 

The Greek Word... Apantesis
This is further emphasized by the use of the Greek word apantesis translated meet in I Thessalonians 4:17

    Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet (Gk. apantesis) the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (NASB)

There are only three other instances of apantesis being used in the New Testament, two of which are in the parable of the ten virgins, while the third occurs in Acts 28:15

    (1) Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  (2) "Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. (3)"For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, (4)  but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. (5) "Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. (6) "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet (Gk. apantesis) him.' (Matthew 25:1-6 NASB)

    And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet (Gk. apantesis) us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. (Acts 28:15 NASB)

While the point of the story about the ten virgins is that the Lord could return unexpectedly at any time, and we need to always be prepared. However, in the context of this article, it needs to be noted that when the virgins went out to meet the groom, he did not turn around and go back to his home, taking the five wise virgins along with him. They came out to greet the bridegroom and escort him back to the bride's home, which is where they came from.

We see an identical situation in Acts.

When Paul was being sent, under guard, as a prisoner to Rome, the Roman Christians, who had heard of his imminent arrival, went out on the road to meet Paul, then turned around and accompanied him back to Rome.

Both situations demonstrate that the word apantesis is used in the context of going out to meet someone who is headed your way, then turning around and accompanying that person to their intended destination. Because they are the only two other occurrences of this word in the New Testament, these situations must dictate how we should interpret apantesis in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This means that at the end of the great tribulation, the church of believers will be "caught up" into the air to meet the returning Christ. We shall be changed at that moment, then turn around and accompany Him back to Earth, where He will set up His Kingdom.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 402, (Nelson, 1985) has this to say about the word apantesis:

    "It is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate. "It seems that the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary) (Moulton, Greek Test. Gram. Vol. I, p. 14)"

Except that this particular 'dignitary' arrives with much fanfare, including a celestial upheaval, the voices of archangels, and the sound of the trumpets of God... everything short of a brass band. It is a noisy, glorious, mind boggling sight.


Conclusion...
While there is little question the timing of the rapture is not a test of orthodoxy, the fact is that there will be no rapture before the Tribulation.

Perhaps the downside of being a free people is that we are entitled to hang on to every bit of flotsam and jetsam carried along by dangerous tides. This doctrine that promises to remove us from the scene before the situation gets really bad, certainly has its appeal for those that are more than willing to "accept Jesus" if it isn't going to cost them anything. It has, along with the horrendous doctrine of Once Saved - Always Saved, undoubtedly contributed to the growth of Easy Christianity.. or salvation without cost. [See Section Is Any Living Christian Completely Saved?

Sadly, one can only imagine how much shock, bitterness, confusion, and falling away from faith will result when a church that fondly imagines it will be wafted away to heaven before the going gets rough, finds itself not only face to face with the anti-Christ, but unprepared for the "the great and terrible day of the Lord" [Malachi 4:5], when the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood [Acts 2:20]

When the trouble really begins to get bad... When you are hated by all nations, delivered to tribulation, and killed during the persecution of the church under the antichrist (See The Seven Seals). And, although the wrath of God will not fall on you as a believer...

When

     Various angels sound their trumpets and a third the earth, trees and grass is burned up (Revelation 8:7).

     Something like a great burning mountain falls into the sea and kills a third of all sea creatures and destroys a third of all ships (Revelation 8:8-9).

     Many men die from drinking the waters made bitter by the "star" falling into the rivers and streams (Revelation 8:10-11).

     An army of 'locusts' torment men for five months (Revelation 9:1-11).

     And another third of mankind is killed by the fire and brimstone that comes out of the mouths of the horses that are a part of a unbelievably large large army (Revelation 9:13-19)

     When the kings of the earth, great, rich, and mighty men call to the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6)

You need to remember that it was not the Bible that lied to you, but you yourself that decided to have your ears tickled, and allowed your theology to be shaped by proponents of Easy Christianity, and authors of best selling novels..

Also See Why Christians Are Deceived,
The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make
The Christian and Knowledge: Theology and Doctrine

The events as outlined in Scripture are actually pretty simple... The last Trumpet of the Tribulation will sound [See That Earth Shaking Seventh Trumpet], and at this call significant, and apparently rapid, changes take place. This last Trumpet brings an end to the mystery of God... Jesus appears before the Face of God for us and the atonement complete, He reaps the earth (what we call the Rapture) and the doors to the Kingdom are closed forever. Following which, every one returns to earth with Jesus for the start of The Millenium.

Also See The Judgment Seat of Christ and Rewards in Heaven
Unfortunately many Christians, draw the conclusion that since all our sins have been forgiven, our works cannot possibly be considered at the judgment Seat of Christ.. Not true according to I Corinthians 3:9-13. Apparently there are those that will make it to heaven, but who have earned little or no additional rewards.

Continue On To Chapter VI: The End of The Age.. The Seven Bowls/ The Last Woe.


Footnote I
The three theologians who gave definitive shape to the doctrine of the Trinity were Basil, bishop of Caesarea, his brother Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Basil's close friend Gregory of Nazianzus. So, what do we know about these three men? Several things are certain.

    1) All three of the Cappadocian fathers were well trained in rhetoric, the art of using language effectively and persuasively

    2) At least two, and probably all three, of these men were formally trained in Greek philosophy

    3) They were all greatly influenced by the writings of Origen, known for introducing Greek ideas into Christianity. In fact, Basil, bishop of Caesarea and his close friend Gregory of Nazianzus "edited a collection of his writings, which they called Philokalia. In subsequent centuries, other small works of monastic spirituality also took the same title. [42] Gregory of Nazianzus wrote: "Origen is the stone on which all of us were sharpened."

Here is an example of how Gregory of Nyssa's conception of the Trinity was based on Origen's ideas. Origen stated that, since there are "certain secret analogies or affinities" between the things below and the things above, we must "read within ourselves the reflection of truths" that we could not otherwise know.

    It was Gregory of Nyssa however, who applied Origen's line of reasoning to the trinity. In fact, he said we would have no content for our thoughts about Father, Son, and Spirit, if we did not find an outline of their nature within ourselves. Ouch! In other words, the key to the Trinity is in our triple nature ... our minds or reasoning, our word, and our souls.

    And, Gregory went several steps further, stating that you learn "the secret of God" from the things within yourself... a "testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel"

    4) They were Catholic to the core. In fact, Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus pioneered the rules of monastic life, compiling what became known as "the Rule of St. Basil". These rules heavily drawn on by Benedict, founder of the Benedictines, shaped the monasticism in the Eastern Church for centuries. It is little wonder that Basil is considered the founder of monastic communities. And, if you have been told that Catholicism was not alive and well at this time, you have been misinformed.

    5) All three were mystics.

For more information see The Cappadocian Fathers.. Greek philosophers and Catholic Mystics

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EndNotes
[1] Michael Cordner.The Rapture of the Church. Online Christian Library of Virtual Theological Resources. http://www.ntslibrary.com/Online-Library-The-Rapture-of-the-Church.htm

[2] Why It Matters What You Believe. Pastor Tim Warner

[3] "All the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins". On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, Pseudo-Ephraem (c. 374-627).

[4] Michael Cordner.The Rapture of the Church. Online Christian Library of Virtual Theological Resources. http://www.ntslibrary.com/Online-Library-The-Rapture-of-the-Church.htm

[5] Left Behind Series. http://www.leftbehind.com/01_products/browse.asp?section=LeftBehind

[6] Anthony Buzzard. The Christian Hope: Life in the Land of the Promise Made to Abraham. http://focusonthekingdom.org/articles/christianhope.htm

[7] ibid.

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