|The rapture of the Church|
|Written by Chris Perver|
|Saturday, 16 June 2007 12:22|
|This article lists some of the reasons why many Christians believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, which view I share.
I wasn't originally intending to write about the Rapture. On other pages in this website I have simply expressed my belief that the Rapture of the Church will happen before the tribulation period begins, a view less and less commonly held in these last days. But because more and more people have been asking me to explain why I believe this, I decided to put it up here on the internet for you all to read (and to save my fingers!). |
Firstly I would like to say that this is simply my understanding of Scripture. I would not seek to argue with anyone who believes something entirely different. Everyone is entitled to hold to what they believe. Here, I am simply stating my reasons for believing in a pre-tribulation Rapture.
For those who don't know what the Rapture is. The Lord Jesus told the disciples in John 14 that He was going away to prepare a place for those who had trusted in Him as their Saviour. He gave this promise...
A brief description
There are numerous Scriptures which describe the Rapture of the Church. The Lord Jesus, according to the book of 1st Thessalonians, will come to the air. The bodies of all those who have trusted in Christ as their Saviour will immediately be transformed into a new body. This new body will have several characteristics, most notably that it is incapable of sin (and therefore fit to live in heaven), and it will not suffer sickness or death. At this same time, the bodies of all those who have died since trusting Christ will also be resurrected from the dust, and their bodies will be changed into immortal bodies. These bodies will then be reunited with their souls (the real person) which was in heaven. These believers will then be "caught up together with Christ" into heaven, where they will stay until the end of the tribulation period. 1st Corinthians states that these events will happen within "the twinkling of an eye", almost instantaneously.
1st Corinthians 15:51-52
Daniel's seventy weeks
The seventy weeks started with the proclamation to rebuild the Temple after the Babylonian captivity. This is significant, for the Temple is God's dwelling place on Earth. There are never two Temples described as existing simultaneously in Scripture. But that Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and Christ said regarding it, "your house is left unto you desolate", Luke 13:35. The current abode of the Lord is in the "Temple" of the believers' bodies (1st Corinthians 6:19). The 70th week of Daniel will also commence with a peace agreement that will see the restitution of Temple sacrifices, subsequent to the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. But this Temple will be defiled by the Antichrist, and so is not counted as God's dwelling place. This is why you will read in the book of Revelation that the true Temple during the tribulation period will be in heaven.
The prophet Daniel predicted the exact date of the arrival of the Messiah into the city of Jerusalem, and describes how He would be "cut off" after the 69th week. Following the end of that week, there was a 40 year period (40 in Scripture always speaks of judgement) after which the city and sanctuary were destroyed by the armies of Titus in 70 AD.
Daniel's 70th week describes the arrival of the Antichrist, and his peace agreement with many nations which should last for seven years (but only lasts for 3.5 years). But we know the Antichrist has not yet come, neither has any Jewish Temple existed for 2000 years, so there must be an explanation why these events have not happened yet... After the nation of Israel rejected the Messiah, God's prophetic clock stopped. Israel was scattered among the nations, and God turned to the Gentiles. The Church was formed, and now all those who believe in Christ are justified through faith in Him. One day God will again take up the nation of Israel. We can see that happening today. Daniel's 70th week will commence once the Antichrist confirms the covenant with many nations. But what has all this to do with the Rapture?
Daniel's 70 weeks were determined upon "his people" - the Jews, and the "Holy City" - Jerusalem. The seventieth week therefore is not determined upon Christ's Church. Part of the reason why seventy weeks were determined upon Israel were for Israel to finish the transgression and make and end of sins. Christ has already made an end of sins for the Church at Calvary. Christ also made reconciliation for iniquity, has brought in everlasting righteousness, and in the Church's eyes is anointed King. Until Israel recognizes Jesus as Messiah, the prophecy of all these things coming to pass for Israel will not be "sealed up" (or fulfilled).
If the Church was only created after the 69th week, after God had set aside Israel, it makes sense if, when the 70th week of Daniel begins and God once again takes up Israel, that the Church is also removed from the scene.
Israel and the Church
As we saw earlier, the Church really doesn't fit into Old Testament prophecy. In fact, out of the 39 books of the Old Testament the Church is not mentioned once. And yet the return of Christ to Earth is mentioned hundreds of times. Why?
The Church was hidden in Christ. The Church exists in a special period of God's grace in which the Lord would pour out His blessings on the Gentiles. This why it is also important to make a distinction between the Church and Israel. Christ's Second Coming to Earth will fulfill the earthly promises that were given to Israel (Luke 1:32-33). But the Church was never promised an earthly kingdom. Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world, lest would my servants fight", John 18:36. As Christians, we are not specifically looking for Christ's Second Coming to Earth, but for Christ's Coming to the air, where we will be caught up to meet Him. These are two distinct events in Scripture.
1st Thessalonians 4:16
The Rapture in the New Testament
I once believed that the above verses were references to the Rapture of the Church, until someone pointed out to me that the "taking away" here was to do with judgement, not the Rapture. I never really understood why until I read the corresponding passage in Luke.
"Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together". These people that are "taken" are destined for judgement, not the Rapture. From what I understand their bodies will lie unburied for the birds of the air to scavenge. Revelation contains a similar description of this event...
Another passage concerning the Tribulation that is often misunderstood, refers specifically to Israel. The Church isn't mentioned.
The Lord Jesus is speaking specifically of those living in the locality of Judea during the time of the tribulation, he is not speaking of the Church in this passage. These Jews will suffer such terrible persecution, that will come upon them with such speed that they will literally have to drop everything and run for their lives. The prophetic passage Christ is referring to is found in Revelation 12 and in Zechariah 14 (at the end of the Tribulation), concerning the persecution of Israel by Satan through the Antichrist.
No mention of the Church on earth past Revelation 3
Jesus Christ gave specific promises to the 7 churches mentioned in the book of Revelation. It is commonly believed that these 7 churches, although they were literal assemblies of believers that lived during John's day, are generally representative of 7 different periods of Church history. It is believed that we are currently living within the time period of the last of the 7 churches, the Laodicean church age. That can be plainly seen in the following verses.
One of these promises Jesus Christ gave to the Philadelphian church, the only church in Revelation that Christ didn't have a single word of condemnation for.
The Greek word "from" in this verse means "out of". It's the same word used by Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed for the Father to "save Me from this hour", John 12:27. Christ wasn't intending to keep this church through the hour of temptation (trial), which would come upon all the world, He was literally going to remove them from it. But the church of Philadelphia no longer exists, so this promise must be applicable to the Church as a whole today.
1st Thessalonians 5:7-10
Another verse confirms this again in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. We who are of the day are not appointed to be there for the Divine wrath that will be poured out on the whole world, but we shall obtain physical salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Physical salvation, because we have already obtained spiritual salvation when we were saved. And the verses immediately following this passage are concerning the Rapture of the Church.
24 elders cast down their crowns
144,000 killed during the tribulation period?
The fact that these 144,000 are in heaven before Christ's Second Coming, and the resurrection of Old Testament Saints which happens after the tribulation period, is explained in verse four. The 144,000 Jews are called the "firstfruits unto God". The Feast of Firstfruits was when the Israelites offered the food they gathered at the beginning of the harvest for a thank-offering to God. Firstfruits also speaks of resurrection, and Jesus is described as being the "Firstfruits from among the dead", or the first Man to be resurrected in a new body, never to die again. So the 144,000 are the Firstfruits of the salvation of Israel, and of the resurrection of Old Testament Saints.
1st Corinthians 15:20
After the 144,000 are slain, God is still not left without a witness. In the following verses, several angels take up where the 144,000 left off, and preach the gospel to the whole world.
Arrayed in fine linen, white and clean
Marriage of the Lamb
According to the Jewish wedding tradition, the husband goes away to prepare a home for His bride. Once the home is prepared, He will come to the Bride's house at an unexpected hour, and take her to His own house, where they will have the honeymoon.
The Marriage Supper
The attire of the Church is fine linen, white and clean, which reminds us of how Christ's blood has washed away our sin, and made us accepted in God's eyes. The next time we read of fine linen, white and clean is a few verses down the chapter. This chapter describes the Second Coming of Christ to the earth.
If Scripture interprets Scripture, then the armies which were in heaven must be the Church. For it could never be said that angels were arrayed in clean linen, for they have never been redeemed. So if we, the Church, ride out of heaven with Christ at His Second Coming to Earth, the Rapture must have already occurred.
The Last Trump
The Apostle Paul states in 1st Corinthians 15:52, that believers will be translated to be with Christ at the "last trump". There are seven main feasts that the Lord instructed the children of Israel to observe.
The Feast of Passover (Pesach - Exodus 12:1-14)
The first four feasts, the Spring feasts, have already found their fulfilment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Passover was literally fulfilled when Jesus Christ - the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was sacrificed for the sins of the world upon that same day (Matthew 26:2). Immediately following this comes the Feast of Unleavened Bread, during which the Jewish people were to eat bread without yeast, which is symbolic of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ's body was in the tomb during those days, and as the Scriptures state, His body saw no corruption for there was no sin in Him (Psalm 16:10). On the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Jews celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits - the beginning of the barley harvest. Christ arose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, becoming the Firstfruits from among the dead (1st Corinthians 15:20). Pentecost commemorates the date of the giving of the law upon Mount Sinai, and falls fifty days after Firstfruits. This Feast was fulfilled when the Lord sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to indwell His Church (John 16:7, Acts 2:1). God literally wrote His law on our hearts on this date (Jeremiah 31:33).
The Autumn feats are due to be fulfilled at Christ's return. They are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. There are three trumpet blasts that are spoken of in Judaism, the "first trump", the "last trump" and the "great trump". The first trump is sounded during Pentecost, commemorating the giving of the law - during which a trumpet blast was heard which grew louder and louder (Exodus 19:16, 19). The last trump is sounded on Rosh HaShanah (Leviticus 23:24). The great trump is blown on Yom Kippur, signalling the return of the Messiah to Earth.
Rosh HaShanah in Hebrew means "the Head of the Year", as it marks the first day of the civil year. It is also known as "Yom Teruah", or the Day of the Awakening Blast. "Teruah" can also be translated as "shout". Paul states that the rapture will occur at the "last trump", during which the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a "shout" (1st Thessalonians 4:16). Those "asleep" in Christ will awaken (1st Thessalonians 4:14), and be caught up with those who are alive and remain to meet the Lord in the air. According to Jewish teaching, the gates of heaven are opened at Mussaf - the first service of Rosh HaShanah. The gates are closed again at Neilah - the last service of Yom Kippur. Revelation 4:1 gives us a miniature picture of the Rapture of the Church...
John sees a door open in heaven (gates) and hears a trumpet (last trump) talking with him. Immediately he is translated into heaven (Rapture), where He sees the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul states that the Rapture will happen "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye", 1st Corinthians 15:52. This opening and closing of the gates fits in with the Rapture, for the Church will enter into heaven at the beginning of the seven year period and will return out of heaven at the end of it.
Rosh HaShanah is also sometimes referred to as "Yom HaDin" - the Day of Judgement (or the day of the resurrection of the dead), "Yom HaZikkaron" - the day of Remembrance, "Yom HaKesah" - the Day of Concealment (of Christ's Bride in heaven) and "Ha Malech" - the King (or the day of the Coronation of the King). Rosh HaShanah is also known as the "Unknown Day", for it is the only feast which nobody knows the exact day it will occur, due to the fact that it begins on a new moon. The new moon is very difficult to see, and is usually best seen at sunset. Rosh HaShanah begins when two witnesses attest to the appearance of the new moon before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. As Jewish days begin at sunset, it is never known on which day Rosh HaShanah will officially begin, so the feast is celebrated over the two days. The Lord also said of His coming, that no man knows the day nor hour, only His Father in heaven (Mark 13:32). Rosh HaShanah begins a ten day countdown to Yom Kippur, also known as the Days of Awe, in which Jews repent of any sins they have committed over the past year. Between the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur are seven days of Awe, which are symbolic of the seven year tribulation period. The final day is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. In the Scriptures, this was the day the High Priest entered the Holy Place and sprinkled the blood of the sin offering upon the altar, making atonement for the sins of the people. It was the only day in which the Jews were permitted to afflict themselves as a sign of repentance for their sins (Leviticus 16:29). Yom Kippur will be fulfilled at the return of Christ to the earth, when the nation looks upon Him whom they pierced.
The last feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, occurs five days after Yom Kippur and will be fulfilled during the Millennial Reign of Christ, and at the creation of the new heavens and new earth. Revelation 21:3 states, "the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God". By examining the Jewish background to the feasts, many Christians believe that the Rapture of the Church will occur before the tribulation period begins, and could possibly become the fulfilment of the Jewish Feast of Trumpets.
Antichrist only to be revealed after the Rapture
2nd Thessalonians 2:3
2nd Thessalonians 2:6-8
So Paul gives a double assurance. Christ's Second Coming to Earth can't have already occurred because the Antichrist must be revealed before this happens. And the Antichrist can't be revealed until whatever is hindering his appearing is first removed. The Antichrist will be revealed to the world the day he confirms the peace agreement in the Middle East. This will trigger the start of Daniel's 70th week. But something is hindering the Antichrist being revealed (to the world) now. Further study reveals only one logical conclusion on the identity of what that is.
It's not Christ Himself. Jesus said in John 9:5, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world". Jesus Christ is no longer physically in the world, He is in heaven. We know that God is omnipresent (He exists everywhere at all times). So the Spirit of God cannot be the One hindering the revelation of Antichrist, for God cannot be taken from the earth. If He was taken from the earth, nobody during the Tribulation period could be saved. But Jesus did say the Church was the light and salt of the earth, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that the only thing hindering the Antichrist being revealed today is the Holy Spirit's influence in the world through the believers, holding the tide of sin back. The proof we have from Scripture that this Restrainer is indeed the Holy Spirit, can be found in the language used by Paul in 2nd Thessalonians itself.
2nd Thessalonians 2:6-7
Look at the words highlighted in bold in the above verses. No, Paul hasn't made a mistake in his Greek. This doesn't make sense in English, it should really read "now ye know who withholdeth". But Paul doesn't say that, and the reason why is because the only Person that can ever be described as being both neuter gender and masculine at the same time is God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit's influence in this world is directed through Christ's body, the Church. Once the Church is taken out of the way (to heaven), that medium for influence will be temporarily lost, allowing the Antichrist to be revealed.
My friend Dean Haidas has confirmed to me that this is what the actual Greek rendering of these verses mean. The following explanation is in his own words...
In Greek, we need to focus on the word which means "to hold down", "to restrain". This word is κατέχov. When this word first appears in verse 6, it reads To κατέχov... To in Greek means The in English. But in verse 7 it reads O κατέχωv. O in Greek is masculine. Also note that the Omicron has changed to Omega in this word (o has changed to ω). This change is very important when we read and write Greek. This change now means that this is a living being! So now we have someone who is masculine and alive, holding down the evil to come.
This would have to be the Holy Spirit, who is also inside all true believers in Christ. Verse 7 reads "until he is taken out of the way, then the lawless one will come".
This proves that in order for the Antichrist to be revealed, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way. When this happens, all believers who have the Holy Spirit in them will also be taken out of the way (Rapture). Then the tribulation will begin.
Verse 6 - To κατέχov - The one who is holding down...
Well I hope this has helped your understanding of timing of the Rapture of the Church. If you have any questions, just email, and I will try my best to help.