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Section 9B .. The Future/
The Rapture

 

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The Rapture..

Carol Brooks

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

ON THIS PAGE

Introduction
Does It Matter?
Beliefs of The Early Church
A Short History of Pre-Tribulationism
Explicit Teachings
Proof Texts For a Pre-Tribulation Rapture?
The Rapture Vs. The Second Coming?
Raptured! But Where Are We Going?
The Greek Word… Apantesis
A Secret Rapture?
Those Three Greek Words.
Conclusion


Introduction
While several explicit and unassailable teachings of the Bible are almost universally agreed on by the church…

    At the close of this age, there will be a period of great tribulation...

    Christ will return to this earth one day…

    We believers will be resurrected or changed, depending on if we are still living when He comes. Those that are alive do not suffer physical death, while believers that have already died will have their bodies resurrected.

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

.. disagreements have arisen over the issue of just when certain momentous events such as the Rapture and The Millenium take place… before or after the Great Tribulation.

One Question: Regarding the Rapture, I find it extremely curious that the one question that I have never heard asked or answered, is why? Why does there have to be a Rapture at all? What is the point of ‘meeting the Lord in the air’? Since anyone who gives that matter any thought whatsoever will have a hard time believing that we are merely being taken on a celestial joy ride, there has to be more to it than that. And yes, there is an answer... a very good one.  See That Earth Shattering Seventh Trumpet to see where exactly the Rapture fits into End Time events and why it happens. In the mean time, this page has been confined to the reasons the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is a figment of the imagination.
 

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 pastor Tim Warner…

    “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
Please note that the truth about the timing of the Rapture is to be found only in Scripture, however some very serious concerns arise if, as claimed by the pre-tribulationists, the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture was not believed by anyone in the church until about two hundred years ago. References to what the early church believed is based on the assumption that they were more likely to have the truth since they were closer to the original source of the doctrines (Jesus and the apostles), and certainly not corrupted by centuries of theology.

While at least one early, relatively obscure, document [3] has emerged that states the rapture will take place before the tribulation, certainly it seem undeniable that the vast majority of the early church writers believed exactly the opposite.

So where did this doctrine spring from?

Apparently, the information about the rapture originated with a prophecy by a member of the Plymouth Brethren. The doctrine then spread, causing people to go back to the Bible and look for what they had already accepted as the truth. With that mindset, verses were filtered through a preconceived theological bias, and some totally unwarranted connections made.
 

A Short History of Pre-Tribulationism
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. [1].


Explicit Teachings
So the question that springs to mind is if the Bible teaches a rapture before the Tribulation, why didn't virtually anybody see it for almost 2000 years? The simple answer is .. because it isn’t there. While the Bible unmistakably states there will be a rapture after the Tribulation, there isn’t a single verse in Scripture that unambiguously states that there is a rapture before the Tribulation. All the Scriptural passages used by Pre-Tribulationists to "prove" their case do not positively state that there will be a rapture before the tribulation.. the doctrine has to be inferred.  Quite simply, Pre-Tribulationism is not "an explicit teaching of Scripture.

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. While there are several verses in the New Testament that refer to the Rapture, some explicitly speaking about the timing of this event. [All Emphasis Added]

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus speaks about a single rapture and tells us clearly when this will take place.

    "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.]

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”, which makes it impossible that He omitted any reference whatsoever to such a momentous event as the removal of His entire Church from the face of the earth. So why are we 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’s was equally explicit…

    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]

    Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not 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.” [1Corinthians 15:50-52]

    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 unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 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 that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]

All three quotes make very specific references to timing… At the coming of Christ and at the last trump, which then have to be understood as simultaneous.

    There are only two comings of Christ the first of which ended with the Ascension two thousand years ago, and the second not too far away.

    There are only Seven Trumpets… one following the other in sequence, the seventh of which marks the end of the Tribulation and the Rapture.


Tribulation Martyrs
Why are we also missing the passages from Revelation that speak of Christians that are killed during the persecution of the church/go through the Tribulation, which means that they are very much here on earth during the worst times and will be ‘raptured’ along with all other believers.

In Revelation 6 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).

    And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course. [Revelation 6:9-11]

There is not a shred of evidence to support the idea that those martyred during the tribulation are a Jewish remnant.. the Greek words used in Revelation 6:10-11 not only refer to Christians of various nationalities, but also to angels… The word translated fellow-servants above is the Greek sundoulos, while the word brethren is the Greek adelphos.

Fellow-Servants
The word sundoulos (fellow-servants) is used to describe angels in Revelation 19:10 and 22:9, while Paul uses the same terminology to speak of two different men… Tychicus and Epaphras..

    All my affairs shall Tychicus make known unto you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord: [Colossians 4:7]

    even as ye learned of Epaphras our beloved fellow-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf [Colossians 1:7]

Tychicus, first mentioned in Acts 20:4 ranked highly in Paul’s estimation. He not only shared the Apostle's first Roman captivity, but was sent to Asia as the bearer of letters to the Colossians and Ephesians. Paul called him “a beloved brother, and faithful minister in the Lord” in Ephesians 6:21-22. (also See Colossians 4:7, 8). However the point is that Tychicus is widely believed to be a Christian from Asia.

Epaphras was a Colossian, a fact made evident in Colossians 4:12.. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you”. The church in Colossae was located near Ephesus in Asia Minor.

Brethren
The word translated brethren is used almost 400 times in the New Testament and can not, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to solely refer to Jews. For example

    but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother (adelphos) shall be in danger of the judgment; [Mathew 5:22]

    Finally, brethren (adelphos), whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.[Philippians 4:8]

    Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (adelphos). [1 John 3:16]

    Having therefore, brethren (adelphos), boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, [Hebrews 10:19]

    for indeed ye do it toward all the brethren (adelphos) that are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more; [1Thessalonians 4:10]

    and when I was present with you and was in want, I was not a burden on any man; for the brethren (adelphos), when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my want; and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. [2 Corinthians 11:9]

Note that in 1 Thessalonians 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 11:9, Paul refers to the Macedonians as brethren. In New Testament times, Macedonia was a Roman province north of Greece, governed by a proconsul. It was the first region of Europe to accept Christianity.

Moreover Scripture also tells us ...

    And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." [Revelation 17:6]

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 is the clincher... 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]


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 (tēreo)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]

In the first place the letters in this chapter of Revelation are addressed to specific churches in the first century. If we can take one message to one particular church and apply it to end time believers, what are we to make of the message to the church of Smyrna who were told that ‘the devil was about to cast some of them into prison, so that they would be tested’. And they would “have tribulation ten days” and to “Be faithful unto death” and that they could not be hurt by the “second death” (2:11). Certainly they were not promised protection from the coming tribulation.

Besides which, the messages to the churches were all based on their past deeds, and the Philadelphian church was no exception. The message says (All Emphasis Added)  … “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing”. Additionally, historians would hardly have missed it had an entire church been beamed off the earth when religious persecution did happen a short time later. If they were not physically removed then, one has to wonder why in the world would Jesus promise the church in Philadelphia protection from something that would happen thousands of years later?

Also a question that arises at this point is .. if the seven churches are seven consecutive periods of church history, as is commonly believed, then why is was the rapture passage written to the church in Philadelphia which would be the sixth period, and not to the church in Laodicea representing the last period?

In any case, the word translated keep is the Greek tēreo, which is exactly the same word used in John 17:15, when Jesus prays that God would ‘keep’ His disciples from evil.

    I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep (tēreo) them from the evil one. [John 17:15]

Jesus specifically mentions 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 amid all trials. “The same idea is expressed in the Lord's Prayer when we pray "deliver us from evil" in Matt. 6:13. (The Greek is a little different here, meaning literally "rescue us from evil".) In praying this, we do not ask to be physically removed from evil (as world dwellers we can't be), but we ask for power to live through it!” [1]

    2) "But take heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly as a snare:[34] for so shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of all the earth [35]. But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man [36]. [Luke 21:34-36,]

Verse 36 indicates the escape of the things that come to pass (supposedly the Rapture), while Verses 34 and 35 provide the context, which does not support this meaning. In the words of Jeffrey Mott…

    “In verse 34 we are told to be careful of ourselves, or we might forget to watch for the coming day because we are too busy surfeiting (eating) and drinking, or that we may become depressed with the day to day worries of this life. We should keep watch or the day will surprise us. Verse 35 tells us that "that day" will come upon all who live upon the earth.. ALL!

    Verse 36 says to be watchful and pray, so that we will be aware of the events enough so as to avoid the things that will occur, and be able to stand worthy before Jesus. How do we escape? In a rapture, or like the children of Israel when God sent plagues upon Egypt. They went through the tribulations of the day but were unharmed because they were deemed worthy to escape the judgments brought upon Egypt. We are likewise told many times to comfort and strengthen one another with these words. Why would we need to comfort and strengthen unless we will be here.” [4]

Jesus has told his disciples about perils from false christs, persecution, and temptations to be unfaithful and this verse, like countless other verses in the New Testament, warn about watchfulness and perseverance. In fact, the signs in the sun and moon and stars; and distress of nations on the earth, are actually encouraging to the true believer..  verse 28 says "Now when these things begin to take place, look up and lift your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh".

    3) Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. [I Thessalonians 1:10]

    4) For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
    [I Thessalonians 5:9]

Again, these passages say nothing about a rapture, only that the Church will not be subject to God's wrath, which does not refer to the persecution of the church (possibly under the antichrist). There is a tribulation in which Christians will be hated, betrayed and killed, followed by the Great Tribulation which is heralded by the “abomination of desolation”. The Great Tribulation or The Wrath of God is in fact is His response to the unbelieving and unrepentant on earth who have persecuted the church. It is a final judgment of God upon the wicked. [For details please see The Seven Seals and Matthew 24]
 

The Rapture Vs. The Second Coming?
Those who believe in a Pre-tribulation Rapture insist that it takes place at a separate time from the second coming of Jesus. The following is again quoted from an article by Pastor Tim Warner…

    “Pre-tribulationists pick out a certain detail from a known post-trib passage, like Matthew 24, then compare it to a rapture passage from the Epistles, which may not mention this particular detail, and conclude that they are two separate comings. But just because a certain element is not mentioned in a given rapture passage, does not mean it does not exist. If we used the same logic on the four Gospels, we would have to conclude that there were four separate Jesus Christs, and forty eight disciples, minus, of course, the four Judas Iscariots! Each of the Gospel accounts is different; each adds certain details, while leaving out others, but never in conflict. Only when we combine all four accounts, do we get a complete picture. The same is true of the rapture passages.

    When we test the pre-trib logic, by comparing the two best known rapture passages, we find differences. For example, 1 Thessalonians 4 mentions the Lord descending from heaven, the shout, the voice of the archangel, the "catching up" of the saints, and clouds. None of these things are found in 1 Corinthians 15. On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 15 mentions the dead saints receiving resurrected bodies, while this is not found in 1 Thessalonians 4.

    Using pre-trib logic, we would conclude that there will be two raptures, at one we will be "caught up;" at the other we will receive new bodies! Their logic cannot be sustained consistently. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4 has far more in common with Matthew 24 than it does with 1 Corinthians 15!...

    The entire pre-trib approach is illogical. Instead of trying to isolate passages based upon the absence of a particular detail, we should merge them based upon their common details. If all of the elements of two descriptions of the second coming can be integrated, without conflict, we can conclude that they are the same event. When we use this approach, we find many similarities between Jesus' descriptions of His coming after the tribulation, with Paul's descriptions of the rapture found in the epistles. When these accounts are merged, we have a complete picture of the second coming of Jesus Christ. [5]

Which in a nutshell is…. The last trumpet sounds, 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…
 

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

Yes, I know that many believe that Christians will go to heaven after the rapture, however I am not sure whether these Christians have ever thought the matter through, much less checked what the Bible has to say about it.  Sadly, belief in a 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. The fact is that Heaven as a place removed from the earth is not, and never was the destination of the believer.

The message of Jesus' famous beatitude, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land" can no longer be heard above the din of endless funeral sermons announcing that the dead have gone to heaven. In one of the most solemn declarations of all time the Almighty God promised to give to Abraham an entire country yet traditional Christian theology has almost no interest in the land promised to Abraham. For Details See What and Where is Heaven?

    And Jehovah said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. [Genesis 13:14-15]

A theme that is continued through the Bible…

    I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. [Psalm 2:7-8]

    and made them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon earth. [Revelation 5:10]

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

    "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."

The word translated "meet", in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 above is the Greek apantesis. There are only three other instances of apantesis being used in the NT, two of which are in the parable of the ten virgins, with the third in Acts 28:15

    "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.... But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet 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 us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. [Acts 28:15 NASB]

The story behind the quotes from Matthew 25 is about ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Five of them who were foolish, took their lamps, but no oil, while the wise five took both. Consequently when the groom arrived unexpectedly at midnight, the lamps of the foolish ones had gone out and only the fice wise ones, who were prepared, went in with him to the marriage feast: The door was then shut behind them. However, while the point of the story is that the Lord could return unexpectedly at any time and we need to always be prepared, in the context of this article the salient point is that when the virgins go out to meet the groom, he does not turn around and go back to his home, taking the five wise virgins along with him. The five wise virgins, came out to greet the bridegroom and escort him back to the bride's home, which is where they came from.

It is exactly the same situation in Acts.

Paul is being sent, under guard as a prisoner to Rome. The Roman Christians who hear of his imminent arrival go out on the road to meet him, then turn around and accompany Paul 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. These only two other occurrences of the word 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 Christ back to Earth , to set up His Kingdom, at last.

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 which makes one wonder how so many Christians have latched onto the idea of a …
 

Secret Rapture?
“Evangelical book catalogs promote books such as Planet Earth: The Final Chapter, The Great Escape, and the Left Behind series. Bumper stickers warn us that the vehicle’s occupants may disappear at any moment. It is clear that there is a preoccupation with the idea of a secret rapture….”  [6]

And what exactly is this secret rapture teaching?

    “… It is the teaching that the Christian Church will be secretly removed from the world, and that the unbelievers who are left behind will not be certain where vast multitudes have gone. These unbelievers will be left on the earth to endure seven years of tribulation, which will be initiated by the Antichrist, who will be revealed only after the rapture has taken place. The prophecies of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of the book of Revelation will be fulfilled during this tribulation.” [6]

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 behind, the apocalypse has just begun”. [7]

Whatever happened to learning theology from Scripture?

To begin with, there is simply no hint of a secret rapture in Scripture which, instead, tell us that the catching up of believers occurs at the same time as the Second Coming of Jesus, which Thessalonians 4:16 makes pretty clear will be a highly visible and noisy event. I doubt that even someone who is both blind and stone deaf will miss this one.

    "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."

Matthew 24:27 compares the visibility of the event with lightning, while Matthew 24:29-30 puts the Second Coming and Rapture immediately after large scale celestial phenomena…  

     … “For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man”.

     “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall 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 on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”.

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. But wait a minute, aren’t there three different Greek words used for the different events?
 

Those Three Greek Words.
It is often claimed that since Paul used the Greek word parousia when referring to the Rapture (Christ coming FOR His church), and two other Greek words.. epiphaneia and apokalupsis when speaking of the Second Coming (Christ coming WITH His church), they have to be separate events.

It is true that 1 Thessalonians 4:15 has used parousia to describe the coming of the Lord at the time of the Rapture…

     For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming (parousia) of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.

And, equally true that the words apokalupsis and epiphaneia, were used when speaking of Christ's appearing at the end of the Tribulation.

    and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation (apokalups) of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, [2 Thessalonians 1:7]

    after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed (apokalupto) [Luke 17:30]

    I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing (epiphaneia) and his kingdom: [2Timothy 4:1]

The problem is that 2 Thessalonians 2:8, uses the word 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,

    And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming (parousia) [2 Thessalonians 2:8]

Besides which, if Paul knew that Christians were not going to be here during the Tribulation, why would he have encouraged believers to look forward to the revealing of Christ, which happens at the end of the Tribulation, (He uses the words apokalupsis and epiphaneia)

    “so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation (apokalupsis) of our Lord Jesus Christ; [1 Corinthians 1:7]

    “looking for the blessed hope and appearing (epiphaneia) of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; [Titus 2:13]

Incidentally, the passage in Matthew that speaks of the coming of the Son of Man after the Tribulation uses yet another word... the Greek erchomai used some 600 times in the New Testament.

    "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 (erchomai) on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. [Matthew 24: 29-30.]


Conclusion…
While
there is little question the timing of the rapture is not a test of orthodoxy, the facts remain, and can not be shaken... 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 it’s appeal to 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 imagined it would be wafted away to heaven before the going got rough, finds itself not only face to face with the anti-Christ, but unprepared for the events that take place before “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]

Perhaps, when the trouble really begins to get bad. When various angels pour out the vials on the earth causing grievous sores, turn the sea, rivers and fountains into blood When men are scorched with fire. When unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the beast, dragon and false prophet: and go forth to gather all the kings of the world to battle [Revelation 16]. 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,  allowing your theology to be shaped by proponents of Easy Christianity, and authors of best selling novels..

See Why Christians Are Deceived,
The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make,
and 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 Bema or 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.

 

EndNotes

[1] The Rapture of the Church. by Michael Cordner

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

[3] “Because all saints and Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is about 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, by Ephraem the Syrian, A.D. 373. As quoted in Early Church Teaching On Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Grant Jeffries. http://www.pawcreek.org/articles/endtimes/EarlyTeachingOnPreTrib.htm].

[4] When is Jesus Coming Back? The Rapture.. When. Jeffrey Mott.

[5] Double Talk... How Many Second Comings? Pastor Tim Warner.

[6] The Not So Secret Rapture. By W. Fred Rice

[7] http://www.leftbehind.com/01_products/browse.asp?section=LeftBehind

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