THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
In our study, we have noted that during the “Last Supper” in John 13:3, The Lord Jesus Christ cycled through His soul three broad-brush strokes of the Plan of God for His first advent. He knew that 1) God had given all things into His hands, 2) He had come forth from the God, and 3) was going back to God. He utilized that information as Problem Solving Device number eight, a Personal Sense of Destiny, to calm His soul in preparation for His final acts of service. Knowing that death would not be the end or have a hold on Him, He knew He would be raised, ascend into heaven, and be seated at the right hand of the God. This was accomplished in Acts 1:9-11.
In verse 11 we have a key phrase, “will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” This is a reference back to verse 9, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.” The reality of our Lord’s resurrection and ascension is a picture of the reality of the imminent resurrection and Rapture of the Church.
In 1 Cor 15:20-23, we have the promise of resurrection for all believers with specific focus on the Church’s resurrection.
In verse 23, we see the TAGMATI – τάγματι, “each in his own order.” The word TAGMATI in the neuter means, “proper order or turn.” It was a military term that meant, “troops passing in review or a battalion passing in review.” We know from Scriptures that it is speaking to the various groups or companies of believers that will be resurrected, “Christ the First Fruits and then those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
Therefore, there are four Companies in the Battalion that will pass in review:
- Alpha Company – The Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:9)
- Bravo Company – Church Age believers at the end of the Church Age (Rapture)
- Charlie Company – Old Testament and Tribulational saints who have died at the end of the Tribulation
- Delta Company – Millennial saints at the end of the Millennium.
That is the order of resurrection.
Going back to the topic we noted under the 9th Unique Factor of the Church Age, which was “This is the only dispensation of no prophecy,” the only prophecy for our dispensation is its termini. Col 3:4, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
We have previously discussed the Terminus A Quo (literally meaning, Latin – “limit from which,” a point of origin), as the giving of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the prophecy and beginning of the Church Age. Now I would like to discuss in more detail the Terminus Ad Quem (literally meaning, “limit to which,” a final limiting point in time), the prophecy for the conclusion of the Church Age, the Rapture of the Church.
As we have noted, the Rapture of the Church is the next prophetic event. This is found in the following scriptures; 1 Cor 15:50-52; Phil 3:11; 1 John 3:2‑3; Titus 2:13; 1 Thes 4:13‑18; 5:9‑10; 2 Thes 2:1-9.
As you will see, the term “Rapture” is not found in any Scripture but is from the Latin Vulgate Bible translation of the Greek word HARPAZO – ἁρπάζω in 1 Thes 4:17. The Latin Vulgate word is RAPIEMUR that means, “we will be caught up,” where the root word is RAPERE which means, “to seize.”
The Greek Verb HARPAZO means, “to seize, catch up, snatch away: carry off, caught, take away by force, and take by force.” It is in the Future, Passive, Indicative, First Person, Plural, which means believers will absolutely receive the action of being snatched away by God at a future point in time.
The Latin translation “Rapture” is the name given to that event in which all believers living on earth are simultaneously transported to the clouds of the air to be with our Lord, preceded by all Church Age believers who have already died. Therefore, the entire body of Christ is resurrected to eternal glory as the Bravo Company of the First Resurrection.
1 Cor 15:50-52, “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep (a metaphor for the dead), but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
Phil 3:11, “If by any means I might arrive with reference to the exit resurrection, the one from the dead.”
1 John 3:2‑3, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and what we will be He has not yet revealed. However, we know that if He should appear, we shall be [exactly] like Him because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who keeps on having this hope [hope 3] in Him purifies himself [inside God’s Power System] even as He is pure [the holy status of the Hypostatic Union in heaven].”
Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope [the hope of blessing, hope 3] and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
1 Thes 4:13‑18, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15For 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. 16For 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. 17Then 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. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thes 5:9‑10, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”
2 Thes 2:1-9 explains the prophecy of the Rapture utilizing three events related to its timing. 1) The Rapture itself, 2) the revelation of the Antichrist, and 3) the removal of the permanent indwelling of God the Holy Spirit as a result of the Rapture.
All of these things will occur at the completion of the Church Age Dispensation, and we begin by noting the first event.
In verse 3, the phrase “it will not come unless the apostasy comes first” is a bad translation. In fact, “it will not come” is not in the original language, and the word “apostasy“ indicating the Rapture or resurrection of the Church is poorly translated.
The word for Resurrection throughout Scripture is ANA-STASIS – ἀνάστασις (an-as’-tas-is), which is a compound word with the prefix ANA – ἀνά (an-ah’), which means, “up or upwards,” and the root word STASIS – στάσις (stas’-is), which means, “a standing;” by implication, “an insurrection;” figuratively, “strife: dissension, riot, or standing, as in taking a stance.” So, by means of the Rapture of the Church, God is setting up and taking a final stance against Satan’s cosmic system, (his demonic and world forces). The Tribulation is their final act.
In Phil 3:11, “In order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead,” the Greek word is EX-ANA-STASIS – ἐξανάστασις (ex-an-as’-tas-is), with two prefixes: EX or EK – ἐκ or ἐξ (ek) meaning, “from or out from;” and ANA – ἀνά (an-ah’), “up or “upwards.”
That is why we translate this verse as, “If by any means I might arrive with reference to the exit resurrection, the one from the dead,” because of the double emphasis of, “out from” EK and “upwards” ANA.
Now back in 2 Thes 2:1-9, the word for “apostasy” or “falling away” in verse 3 is APOSTASIA – ἀποστασία (ap-os-tas-ee’-ah), a late form of APO-STASIS meaning, “a standing away from,” and so, “a defection, revolt,” as used by extra Biblical Greek writes Herodotus and Thucydides. It also means, “departure from,” as used by Euripides and “distance,” or “interval,” as used by Plato.
Like the other Greek words throughout the Bible for resurrection, this too is a compound word. It is made up of APO – ἀπό (apo’), a Greek preposition meaning, “away from,” and the root STASIS. Literally, it means, “away from a standing or insurrection” or “standing away from.” Its root is also found in APHISTEMI – ἀφίστημι (af-is’-tay-mee) that comes from APO and HISTEMI – ἵστημι (his’-tay-mee), which means, “to lead away” or “to depart from.”
The New American Standard Greek Dictionary states: HISTEMI is from a reduplication of the primary root STA – στα; which means, “to make to stand or to stand.”
Strong’s Greek Dictionary states: It is a prolonged form of a primary word stao – σταό (stah’-o) [of the same meaning, and used for it in certain tenses.] The Greek words for resurrection all have the root word STASIS in them, which come from the same genesis HISTEMI that means, “to make to stand” or “to stand.”
The verb APHISTEMI – ἀφίστημι (af-is’-tay-mee), occurs only fifteen times, and almost every time it is correctly translated in the KJV where the NASB has some variations.
For example: (main translation from the KJV, italic NASB)
Luke 2:37, “Departed not (never left) from the temple.”
Luke 4:13, “The devil departed (left) from him.”
Luke 8:13, “In time of temptation fall away” – should have been translated “depart.”
Luke 13:27, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity (all evildoers).”
Acts 5:37, “Drew away much people after him” – should be translated “caused many people to depart after him.”
Acts 5:38, “Refrain (stay away) from these men” – should be “depart from these men.”
Acts 12:10, “The angels departed from him.”
Acts 15:38, “Who departed (deserted) from them.”
2 Cor 12:8, “I besought (implored) the Lord three times that it might depart from (leave) me.”
1 Tim 4:1, “Some shall depart (fall away) from the faith.”
1 Tim 6:5, “from such withdraw thyself,” (this is not in the NASB translation) – should be “from such ones depart.”
2 Tim 2:19, “Depart from iniquity” (abstain from wickedness).
Heb 3:12, “In departing (falls away) from the living God.”
What we have is the root word STASIS combined with various prepositional prefixes that have the understanding of resurrection. This type of interchanging prepositional prefixes is common in Scripture and in relation to the resurrection.
Our Lord’s ascension in (Acts 1:9, 11) is treated similarly, where the root word for “received” (by the cloud) in verses 9 and “taken up” (to heaven) in verse 11 is LAMBANO – λαμβάνω (l-am-ban’-o), which means, “to take or receive.”
In both cases, there is a different prefix HUPO – ὑπό (hoop-o’) [by or under] in verse 9 HUPOLAMBANO – ὑπολαμβάνω (hoop-ol-am-ban’-o) and ANA – ἀνά (an-ah’) = [upwards or up] in verse 11, ANALAMBANO – ἀναλαμβάνω (an-al-am-ban’-o).
They each bring a slightly different connotation but are speaking of the same event. So, in 2 Thes 2:3, we have an interchanged prepositional prefix combined with STASIS – στάσις (stas’-is) to mean, “the Rapture of the Church” as the Bravo Company of the First Resurrection.
The true emphasis is the opposite of what the translators tried to force on this verse about the “apostasy” as a sign for the coming of the Lord. Some have even added the words “from God or faith” to make their point, yet that is not in the original languages.
Now “apostasy” can mean a revolt and is used that way at times extra Biblically. But it is never used that way in the Bible. In fact, APOSTASIA is only used twice in Scripture. Here in our verse and is Acts 21:21, “And they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”
Here the Church in Jerusalem, headed by James, was arguing against the Apostle Paul in what he was teaching as counter to the Old Testament Law (Moses). The word “forsake” in “forsake Moses” is the noun APOSTASIA in the Accusative Case. Here too it should be translated “depart from Moses.” The accusative indicates the direct object.
As we know from Scripture, Paul utilized the Old Testament throughout his writings as a proof of the Grace Plan of God for the Church, as opposed to the Ritual Plan of God for Israel. He was teaching that “Christ was the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” Rom 10:4.
Keeping the Law would not save them nor was it a part of the Grace Plan of God for the Church. Paul used the writings of Moses and other Old Testament passages extensively in his arguments. Therefore, Paul was not in apostasy “against God or Moses,” but he was teaching the Mystery Doctrine of the Church Age, the change in administration from the old to the new Dispensation. He was teaching those that came through the Jewish Dispensation that God had departed from the Age of the Law and ushered in the Age of Grace.
This departure is a temporary one since there are seven years left for the Age of the Law called Daniel’s 70th week. (See Dan 9:24-27 compared with Neh 2:4-8). These seven years will be ushered back in at the completion of the Body of Christ, at the end of the Church Age, at the Rapture of the Church, when the Tribulation begins.
Keep in mind that the Tribulation is also called Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), not the Church’s trouble. This is a direct correlation to Israel and the Age of the Law, the Age of Israel, the Jewish dispensation and its completion. So, with the temporary departure, we also see a return.
The change in Acts 21:21 is a type of the Rapture of the Church. As there was a change from the Jewish Dispensation to the Church Age Dispensation noted by a “departure” (APOSTASIA), there too is a “departure” in the change from the Church Age to Jacob’s Trouble / Daniel’s 70th‘s week / the Tribulation Dispensation.
Now, just to balance the argument, there is a prophecy about “falling away from God,” regarding the Second Coming of the Lord in Mat 24. But that is a reference to those who are already in the Tribulation and following the Antichrist. We will see this later in the discussion of the various viewpoints of the timing of the Rapture.
In 2 Thes 2:3, the translators have crossed the parties involved in the revolt. They have aligned the revolt to the “man of lawlessness” as allies, when in fact, it is the beginning of God’s administration in opposition to him. This is not a revolt of man against God, but is part of God’s stance against Satan and his forces.
There is a departure and the departure is the Rapture. Therefore “apostasy” is a bad translation for APO-STASIS where APO is a similar Greek preposition to EK and ANA meaning, “away from.”
In addition, the definite article also removes any concept of “falling away.” It gives the idea of departure, because the purpose of the definite article is to define the noun. The absence of the definite article gives quality. The removal of the definite article would simply talk about the quality of the Rapture, but when you have the definite article with the noun, it defines the noun. A more accurate translation should be “exit resurrection,” or as some have used “departure,” in regards to the Rapture of the Body of Christ.
Next, we have the phrase, “comes first,” which is ERCHOMAI PROTOS.
“Comes” – ERCHOMAI – ἔρχομαι (er’-khom-ahee) is a Greek Verb in the Aorist, Active, Subjunctive.
The Subjunctive makes this a potential. The Rapture could occur at any time – imminently. In addition, sometimes the Subjunctive acts like a future indicative, stating the fact of a future event.
The word “first” is the ordinal adverb PROTOS – πρῶτος (pro’-tos), which means, “first chronologically.” This is also indicated from the root word PRO – πρό (pro) meaning, “before.”
These two words are actually split around the main verb APOSTASIA to read as such: ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ ἡ ἀποστασία πρῶτον, which transliterated is, “because if not (unless) comes the departure first.”
Therefore, the Rapture must occur before the Tribulation, it comes first then the man of lawless is revealed.
The man of lawlessness belongs to the Tribulation, not to the Church Age. Therefore, the man of lawlessness cannot be manifest until the Rapture has occurred. A better translation of the first half of verse 3 is, “In the same way, accordingly (with reference to verse two), do not let anyone lead you astray, because unless (negating the Day of the Lord) the departure comes first….”
R.B. Thieme Jr. translates this as, “Stop letting anyone deceive you according to their means: for except there come a departure first.”
There must be the Rapture before the man of lawlessness can be revealed. As such, the meaning is that the resurrection of the Church occurs first, and then the man of lawless is revealed.
This is the comfort Paul was trying to portray to the baby Thessalonian believers. They were worried that they had missed the Second Coming of Christ, and Paul was reassuring them that they had not, by giving this two-fold prophecy.
What comfort would there be if you were told you are going through the Tribulation? Compare with verses 13-17.
In fact, the reaction of the Thessalonians to the false information they had received is another good indication that the Rapture occurs prior to the Tribulation. They were worried that they had missed out on the Rapture, and/or that they had lost their salvation.
In both cases, they were concerned that they would have to endure the Tribulation. But Paul reassures them that they had not missed out and gives them three prophecies regarding the Second Advent of Christ, 2 Thes 2:1-7.
Rev 3:11, “I will be coming soon; seize [grasp, become the master of] what you have [Bible doctrine], so that no one may take away your crown.”
This is why the Rapture is always called imminent, because there is no intervening prophecy to be fulfilled.
The Rapture of the Church means that all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who physically died between the day of Pentecost and the day of the Rapture, having received their resurrection bodies, meet Jesus in the clouds of the air, 1 Thes 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58. Then all believers who are alive on the day of the Rapture are transformed in body to a resurrection body and also meet Christ in the clouds, 1 Cor 6:14; 1 John 3:2-3.
1 John 3:2‑3, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and what we will be He has not yet revealed. However, we know that if He should appear, we shall be [exactly] like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. 3And everyone who keeps on having this hope [hope 3] in Him purifies himself [inside God’s Power System] even as He is pure [ultimate sanctification in a resurrection body].”
1 Cor 6:14, “Now God has not only resurrected the Lord, but He will raise us up through his power.”
At that time, the bride (Church Age believers, dead or alive) receives a body like Christ’s. Phil 3:21; 1 Thes 5:23
Phil 3:21, “Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
1 Thes 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will be removed from planet earth at the Rapture and are with Christ in Heaven.
Anticipation of the Rapture must not overwhelm us. We need patience as the Lord prepares us for the event. James 5:7‑8
James 5:7‑8, “Therefore, brethren, have patience until the coming of the Lord [rapture]. The farmer waits with anticipation for the valuable production of the soil, constantly being patient until it has received the early and the latter rains. Have patience! 8You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord [rapture] has approached with the result that it is drawing nearer and nearer.”
Titus 2:13, “Waiting with keen anticipation for that blessed hope [rapture], even the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
The Differences Between the Rapture and Second Advent:
|2.||In the air,
1 Thes 4:17.
|3.||Judgment of believer’s works,
2 Cor 5:10.
|Baptism of fire,
|4.||Church goes to heaven,
|Church returns with Christ,
1 Thes 3:13.
|5.||Holy Spirit is removed,
2 Thes 2:6.
|Removal of Satan,
|6.||Change in believer’s body
|Earth is changed,
Zech 14:10; Rom 8:19-22.
|7.||Christ appears as the Groom.||He appears as the Messiah.|
|8.||End of the Church Age.||End of the Jewish Age.|
|9.||Israel under the fifth cycle of discipline.||Termination of the fifth cycle of discipline.|
|Believers taken from the earth,
1 Thes 4:16‑18.
|Unbelievers taken from the earth,
Mat 24:37‑43; 25:31-46.
|11.||A time of comfort,
1 Thes 4:18.
A time of terror,
Characteristics of the Rapture:
- Cognizance and application of the doctrine of the Rapture provides stability for the Royal Family in Phase Two (Our spiritual walk on earth.) of the Plan of God. 1 Cor 15:58; 1 Thes 4:18; 2 Thes 2:15-17
1 Cor 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
- The Rapture takes the sting out of death. 1 Cor 15:54-57
1 Cor 15:54‑57, “O death where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?”
- The Rapture removes hysteria and the hopelessness of bereavement and is a source of comfort. 1 Thes 4:13‑18; Phil 1:6
Phil 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
- The Rapture is a part of your Ultimate Sanctification (Phase Three, being in heaven with a resurrection body in eternal glory). Eph 5:26‑27.
- The Royal Family of God is purified at the Rapture. Human good and evil are burned and the Old Sin Nature is removed. 1 Cor 3:10-16; 1 Cor 15:50-54; Phil 3:21
Phil 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
The Rapture is the Basis for Confidence:
The metabolization of Bible Doctrine and resultant spiritual growth to maturity results in Occupation with Christ, PSD #11; whereby, the believer waits with keen anticipation for the Rapture, Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
“Looking” is the Greek verb PROSDECHOMAI – προσδέχομαι (pros-dekh’-om-ahee) in the Present, Middle Deponent, First Person, Plural, Participle. As a participle, it is in the Masculine, Nominative case as the subject of the sentence.
The Middle Deponent Voice acts in combination of the passive voice and active tense. Which means action is produced that comes back around to have an impact on the producer of the action. The one producing the action receives a benefit.
It is made up of two words PROS – πρός (pros), which means an advantage plus DECHOMAI – δέχομαι (dekh’-om-ahee), which means, “to accept or receive.”
PROS is a preposition. When the object of the preposition is in the Accusative, as it is here, it means, “face to face with.”
If the preposition takes the Genitive case, it means, “from.”
If it takes the Dative case, it means, “for the benefit of.”
Here it is a combination of: “for the benefit of” and “face to face with,” because of the Middle Deponent linked with Accusative nouns.
DECHOMAI means, “to receive something that is beneficial.”
Together it literally means, “an advantage to accept or receive;” and functionally it means, “to receive to oneself, looking, or to wait anxiously.”
When you put PROS together with the verb DECHOMAI, it means, “to receive for the benefit of something, to wait for something with keen anticipation, to anticipate something that you know is going to make you happy.”
The Present Tense speaks of something occurring now, so the sense of intensity is applied. That is why we say, “waiting with keen anticipation.”
R.B. Thieme Jr. states of PROSDECHOMAI, “It has often been used as a retort in vindictiveness or in bitterness or in a lovers’ quarrel, “every dog has his day” — meaning, I’m down now, but I have something just around the corner. That is the use of this verb PROSDECHOMAI. It means that eventually there is going to be happiness. For every believer who experiences something negative, as far as happiness is concerned, it won’t always be that way, and there is a time coming when every believer in the Church Age will be happy, and all at the same time. There is a big Church party coming, in which all members of the Church Age will be involved and all will be simultaneously happy.”
The keen anticipation of the Rapture is categorized under three kinds of HOPE.
1.) “Living Hope“, (PSD #7, a Personal Sense of Destiny). 1 Peter 1:3
2.) “Blessed Hope“, (Sharing the happiness of God +H). Titus 2:13
3.) “Purifying Hope“, (HAGNIZO – ἁγνίζω (hag-nid’-zo), which means, “purifying/cleansing” = Experiential Sanctification). 1 John 3:3
1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Chronology of the Rapture: (For a better understanding of this process, I will also use common language for a marriage process in italic parenthesis below each event.)
- The Rapture takes place. 1 Cor 15:51‑58; 1 Thes 4:13‑18; 2 Thes 2:3
(The Bridegroom comes and takes His bride.)
- The Judgment Seat of Christ (BEMA Seat). 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Cor 3:10-16; Rev 19:8
(A final inspection of the bride’s purity.)
Rev 19:8, “righteous acts” is plural, referring to the rewardable deeds of the Bride that have already constituted her clothing, “fine linen,” that she adorns at the Second Advent.
- The Wedding ceremony of the Church (Bride) and Jesus Christ (Bridegroom). Rev 19:7-8
(The legal union.)
“The marriage of the Lamb has come” is the Aorist, Indicative of ERCHOMAI – ἔρχομαι (er’-khom-ahee) which is ELTHEN – ἦλθεν meaning, the wedding has already occurred prior to the Second Advent.
- The Bride returns with Christ at the Second Advent. 1 Thes 3:13; Rev 19:14
(The procession [limousine drive] of the married couple after the ceremony to the reception.
- The Bride of Christ is made manifest. Rom 8:19; Col 3:4
(The announcement of the bride as Mrs. Jesus Christ.)
Col 3:4, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
- The Coronation of Christ. Rev 19:6
(The announcement of the head of the new union, Mr. Jesus Christ.)
- The Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Rev 19:7‑9
(The great reception celebrating the new union.)
- Operation footstool begins. Psa 110:1; Zech 13:2; Col 2:15; 1 Cor 15:24‑25; Rev 19:17-20:15
(The beginning of the new program for the married couple.)
The Church is the consort of Christ, not His subjects, as a result of the marriage to the Lamb. We will reign with Him as king-priests forever, Rev 1:6; 20:4. Israel rejected that position, Ex 19:5-6; therefore, it was given to the Church, 1 Peter 2:5-9. One of the purposes of the Rapture is to get the Royal Family of God prepared for the Second Advent and the Wedding Supper.
We now turn to the various theories on the timing of the Rapture. In this discussion, there are two main theological positions in regards to the resurrection, Pre-Millennial and Post-Millennial Resurrection. There is also a third theological viewpoint called Amillennial.
Various Theories on the Timing of the Rapture:
Amillennialism rejects the theology of Christ personally ruling on earth for 1,000 years. Therefore, its name comes from being Anti-Millennial. Those who believe in this theology would prefer to be called nunc-millennialism (that is, now-millennialism) or realized millennialism.
Amillennialism holds the viewpoint that:
- We are currently living in the Millennium, which has been ongoing since the advent of Christ (some believe it ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70).
- The book of Revelation is an unfolding of human history during the Church Age.
- The reign of Christ in Rev 20 is a symbolic or spiritual one, not literal.
- At the end of the Church Age, Christ will return in final Judgment and establish a permanent physical
- Another form holds that the Millennium is yet future but based on man’s righteousness. The Millennium won’t begin until man cleans up the world including man’s heart. Then God will return and accept us and Jesus Christ (who is not believed to be God but God’s created Son) will begin His reign and bring us to eternity. This is included here because this group rejects universal resurrection. Only 144,000 will reside in heaven, the rest will live forever in God’s earthly kingdom.
Post Millennialism is the theology that believes all resurrections will occur after the Millennial reign of Christ.
Premillennialism is the theology we believe that recognizes resurrection prior to the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
Premillennialism has Four Separate Viewpoints on the Resurrection of the Church:
- Pre-Tribulation – Resurrection for Church Age believers only, what we believe. Other saints are to be resurrected at the Second Advent of Christ and the end of the Millennial reign.
- Partial Rapture
- Mid-Tribulation (which includes the pre-wrath resurrection viewpoint).
Partial Rapture Theory:
This theology is not concerned with the timeframe of the Rapture but with its subjects. Partialists’ believes that only those Christians who are “watching” and “waiting” by reaching some degree of spiritual maturity will be Raptured. They must be worthy to be included. They use such passages at Mat 24:41-42; Luke 21:36; 1 Cor 15:23; Phil 3:11, 20; 1 Thes 1:10; 2 Tim 4:8; Titus 2:13; and Hebrews 9:28.
Heb 9:28, “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
The frailty of the Partialists position is the efficacious work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. With this position, they cannot fully acknowledge or understand Propitiation, Reconciliation, and Redemption as it applies to “all that believe.” It minimizes the perfect standing of the child of God in Christ. Therefore, they must stand on their own righteousness and must deny the unity of the body of Christ as taught in 1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 5:30. They must think that the dead in Christ will too be partially Raptured. They view the Rapture as a reward from God, where it is never mentioned as an award but as something for all, 1 Thes 4:13-18.
Like most positions contrary to a Pretribulation Rapture, they confuse the difference between law and grace, Israel and the Church, and therefore create a system of works for Salvation and Rapture qualification.
Dwight Pentecost states, “If the Rapture includes only a portion of those redeemed, then the body, of which Christ is the head, will be a dismembered and disfigured body when it is taken to Him. The building, of which He is the chief cornerstone, will be incomplete. The priesthood, of which He is the High Priest, will be without a portion of its complement. The bride, in relation to whom He is the Bridegroom, will be disfigured. The new creation, of which He is the Head, will be incomplete. Such is impossible to imagine.” (Things to Come, pg. 160)
If this were the case, the Bride would be spotted verse spotless.
The next viewpoint for discussion regarding the timing of the Rapture is:
Mid-Tribulation Rapture Theory:
Mid-Tribulationism is a minority view, with few proponents today. They believe that the Rapture occurs halfway through the seven-year Tribulation. This view is said to be supported by Daniel 7:25, where it states the saints will be given over to Tribulation for a “time, times, and half a time,” which is interpreted to mean 3.5 years. That is, half way through the seven years of the Tribulation. At that time, the Antichrist commits the “abomination of desolation” by desecrating the Jerusalem Temple, (to be built on what is now called The Temple Mount).
- A varied viewpoint of Mid-Tribulationism is the Pre-wrath Rapture theory.
The Pre-wrath Rapture view is that the “Tribulation of the Church” begins towards the latter part of the seven-year period, being Daniel’s 70th week, subsequent to when the Antichrist is revealed in the Temple. The first 3.5 years is called the beginning of Sorrows, not wrath. The great Tribulation, according to this view, is of the Antichrist against the Church at this time. The duration of this Tribulation is unknown, except that it begins and ends during the second half of Daniel’s 70th week. References from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are used as evidence that this tribulation will be cut short by the Second Coming of Christ to deliver the righteous by means of Rapture, which will occur after the sixth seal is opened and the moon is turned to blood. However, by this point, the good majority of Christians will have been slaughtered as martyrs by the Antichrist. After the Rapture, comes God’s seventh-seal wrath of trumpets and bowls (a.k.a. “the Day of the Lord”). The Day of the Lord’s wrath against the ungodly will follow for the remainder of the seven years, approximately 1.75 years or less.
A Book by Marv Rosenthal, “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church: Is It Biblical?” Regular Baptist Press (1991) has fueled this erroneous theory.
Problems with these two views include:
1) The beginning years of the Tribulation are not considered part of God’s wrath.
2) It is a compromise between Pre and Post Tribulation views.
a) Pre-Tribulation commonalties include:
i) The Church is Raptured distinctively from the Second Advent and other saints.
ii) The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit.
iii) The Church is promised deliverance from the Wrath of God.
b) Post Tribulation commonalties include:
i) The Church is promised Tribulation on earth and is in need of purging.
ii) Scripture does not teach the doctrine of imminence.
iii) The Church is seen on earth after Rev 4:1.
3) It must deny or weaken the dispensational interpretation of the Word and the distinctions between Israel and the Church.
4) It breaks the Tribulation into two unrelated parts so that the Church is involved in the first half but not related to the second.
5) It must have some “spiritualizing” interpretation of Scripture, especially the first half of the Tribulation. For example, in Rev 11 the two witnesses are considered a spiritual analogy for the dead and alive to be resurrected, etc.
6) It denies the Church as a mystery and blends the Covenant promises to Israel with the Church.
7) The Seal and (for purist Mid-Tribulationists only) Trumpet Judgments are actually not Judgments from God. The Seal Judgments are the outworking of man’s evil program and the Trumpet Judgments are the out working of Satan’s evil. God is only a permissive agent.
This point is simply refuted by the Greek verb ELTHEN – ἦλθεν in Rev 6:17. “Their wrath has come“ means, it has already taken place. It does not mean it is now arriving or beginning as the Pre-wrath and Mid-Tribulationists believe. This is the same word we noted in Rev 19:7-8 regarding the marriage of the Church to our Lord as having already taken place prior to His advent. See also Rev 7:14, where after the sixth seal it says about those martyred [Fifth Seal] that, “they have come out of the great tribulation.”
8) A denial of the Tribulation being 7 years and that it is truly only ~ 3.5 years.
9) In Rev 15:1, the beginning of the “bowl / vial judgments” is said to be, “the last because in them the wrath of God is finished.” This means that the wrath of God began prior to this point, which includes the Trumpet Judgments that make up the last or seventh of the Seal Judgment series. So clearly, all are part of the “wrath of God.”
10) For the purist Mid-Tribulation belief, the last Trumpet Judgment sounds the Last Trumpet of the Rapture.
“Last” can mean “last in a point in time” or “last in a sequence.” So, we can’t just take the seventh Trumpet Judgment, which is the last in this sequence of Trumpet Judgments and say it is the last trumpet calling home the Church Age saints of 1 Cor 15:52. Likewise, the Last Trumpet at the point of time of the Rapture does not preclude other subsequent trumpets being sounded. The Last Trumpet for the Rapture of the Church means the whole camp of the body of Christ is on the move. Compare with the camp of Israel in Numbers 10:5-6
Nine Comparisons Between the Rapture’s Trumpet and Seventh (last) Trumpet Judgment:
By: J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pg. 189-190
1) The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, even the Mid-tribulationist agrees, sounds before the wrath of God descends, while, as it has been shown, the chronology of Revelation indicates that the trumpet in Revelation 11:15 sounds at the end of the time of wrath, just prior to the second advent.
2) The trumpet that summons the Church is called the trump of God, while the seventh trump is an angel’s trumpet.
3) The trumpet for the Church is singular. No trumpets have preceded it so that it cannot be said to be the last of a series. The trumpet that closes the tribulation period is clearly the last of a series of seven.
4) In 1 Thessalonians 4, the voice associated with the sounding of the trumpet summons the dead and the living, and consequently is heard before the resurrection. In the Revelation, while a resurrection is mentioned (11:12, the two witnesses), the seventh trumpet does not sound until after this resurrection, showing us that two different events must be in view. (Italic mine)
5) The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians issues in blessing, in life, in glory, while the trumpet in Revelation issues in judgment upon the enemies of God.
6) In the Thessalonian passage, the trumpet sounds “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” In Revelation 10:7, the indication is that the seventh trumpet shall sound over a continued period of time, probably for the duration of the judgments that fall under it, for John speaks of the angel that (“is about to sound,” NASB), shall “begin to sound.” The duration gives evidence of the distinction in these two. (Italic mine)
7) The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians is distinctly for the Church. Since God is dealing with Israel in particular, and Gentiles in general in the tribulation, this seventh trumpet, which falls in the period of the tribulation, could not have reference to the Church without losing the distinctions between the Church and Israel.
8) The passage in Revelation depicts a great earthquake in which thousands are slain, and the believing remnant that worships God is stricken with fear. In the Thessalonian passage, there is no earthquake mentioned. There will be no believing remnant left behind at the Rapture to experience the fear of Revelation 11:13. Such a view would only be consistent with a partial rapture position.
9) While the Church will be rewarded at the time of the Rapture, yet the reward given to “thy bond-servants the prophets, and to the saints” cannot be that event. The rewarding mentioned in Revelation 11:18, is seen to take place on the earth after the Second Advent of Christ, following the judgment on His enemies. Since the Church is rewarded in the air, following the Rapture, these must be two distinct events.
Post-Tribulation Rapture Theory:
The other main view is termed the Post-Tribulation Rapture (or “Post-Tribulation”). This view admits the concept of “Rapture” from 1 Thessalonians, and sees the Rapture occurring at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period. It is the belief in a combined Resurrection and Rapture (e.g., Resurrection-Rapture) of all believers coming after the Great Tribulation. This viewpoint holds that Christian believers will be on earth as witnesses to Christ during the entire seven years, until the last day of the Tribulation age.
- They believe that Christians won’t be taken up into (the 3rd) Heaven at the Rapture, but will be gathered by the angels (Mat 13:24-30; 24:29-31) to meet Christ in the air, then return with Him to enter the Millennium on earth.
- Another passage used in this belief is 2 Peter 3:10-13, where the idea of a “thief in the night” speaks of the Rapture. In this passage, Christ’s return is equated with the “elements being melted,” and “the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up.” Because of the dual accounts, they erroneously join the Rapture with the erroneous interpretation that the “elements” speaks to the Second Advent.
In fact, 2 Peter is a reference to the, “Day of the Lord,” that begins with the Rapture and ends with the destruction of the universe, where our Lord will then create a “new heavens and earth,” post Millennium.
A leading proponent of the Post Tribulation Rapture, Alexander Resse, says in his book, “The Approaching Advent of Christ”, p. 18, “The Church of Christ will not be removed from the earth until the Advent of Christ at the very end of the present Age: The Rapture and the Appearing take place at the same crisis; hence Christians of that generation will be exposed to the final affliction under Antichrist.” (as quoted by J. Dwight Pentecost)
Post-Tribulation advocates question the “Yo-Yo Theory” of Pre-Tribulationist, which describes the coming of Christ in the clouds for the Rapture, and then coming back again for the Second Coming. Instead, the Post-Tribulation view represents one all encompassing, grand event.
- They say the Bible describes the Tribulation Period as Satan’s reign and God’s Wrath is described as what comes during the latter half of the seven years, the Battle of Armageddon, similar to the Mid-Tribulation belief.
They then quote Mat 24:29–31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…they shall gather together his elect…,” as support for the Post Tribulation Rapture. This is how the end times are described by Pat Robertson in his 1995 novel. “The End of the Age.”
They also include in this argument, the specific prayer of Jesus in John 17:15 that “the Father not take us from the earth, but that He (the Father) would nevertheless ‘keep them from the evil one’. This precludes a Pre-Tribulation or a Mid-Tribulation Rapture to heaven at any time”. (Robert Gundry, “The Church and The Tribulation”, Zondervan, 1973)
- To a greater extent than the Mid-Tribulation advocates, Post -Tribulation advocates must deny Dispensational theology and the distinction between Israel and the Church, in order to place the Church squarely in what is known as “Jacob’s Trouble” according to Jer 30:7.
Jer 30:7, “Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it.”
- They must also believe that Dan 9:24-27 was fulfilled historically and is not a prophecy regarding the Antichrist, just as some believe it was fulfilled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty in the days of the Maccabees (166 BC). Others believe Daniel’s 70thweek was fulfilled by John the Baptist and our Lord in His early ministry.
Our Lord refuted any and all misinterpretations of Daniel’s prophecy as already being fulfilled in Mat 24:15, where He states it is yet future.
Mat 24:15-16, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”
- Many of the arguments for a Post-Tribulation Rapture theory stem from arguments against a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. A main argument is that there are no writings from the “early Church fathers” that support a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. So, this argument is from a place of silence versus evidence found in Scripture.
James Orr in “The Progress of Dogma,” goes into much detail regarding the establishment of theology over the centuries. In his survey, he rightly notes that different theological points have been brought to light, focused on and predominantly written about at different times. He called the second century the “Age of Apologetics” in a time that needed to refute Paganism and Gnosticism. Next, the Church’s focus was on “Theology Proper,” the study of God and the Trinity. Next came “Anthropology,” the study of man in the fifth century. After that was a long period of discussion and argument regarding “Christology” lasting through the seventh century. Following that “Soteriology,” the study of Salvation, which lead to the time of the Reformation and its controversies regarding the application of redemption and justification. Now that the main theological points had been focused on, it was time for “Eschatology,” the study of end times, which has been explored more so in the last 200 years than ever before.
John F. Walvoord states, “The Second Coming has always been prominent in fundamentalist literature, but the surprising revival of interest on the part of the modern liberal and the neo-orthodox writers is something new. Emil Brunner, for instance, has contributed his book Eternal Hope. H. H. Rowley has written on The Relevance of the Apocalyptic. John Wick Bowman has ventured a new translation of the Book of Revelation entitled The Drama of the Book of Revelation. Even more specifically, Paul A. Minear has published his book on Christian Hope and the Second Coming. These works are not isolated illustrations but signs of a major trend of increasing attention to the Scriptural doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ.” (The Rapture Question.)
- Another argument against Post-Tribulationism is the Doctrine of Imminence. To believe in a Post-Tribulation Rapture, there must be a denial of the Imminence of Christ’s coming for His Bride without signs, as there are many that predict His Second Advent. The Doctrine of Immanency is taught in John 14:2-3; 1 Cor 1:7; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thes 1:9-10; 4: 16-17; 5:5-9; Titus 2:13; James 5:7-9; Rev 3:10-11; 22:7, 12, 17-22.
- Post-Tribulationist believe that the promise of tribulation in Luke 23:27-31; Mat 24:9-11 and Mark 13:9-13 means, the Church will go through the Tribulation period. What they fail to realize is that these passages address Israel not the Church. They also use John 15:18-19; 16:1-2, 33 and Acts 8:1-3; 11:19; 14:22; Rom 12:12 as the promise and evidence of the partial fulfillment of Tribulation for the Church.
Regarding the word Tribulation, Pentecost states, “It must be noticed that the term Tribulation is used in several different ways in Scripture.
It is used in a non-technical, non-eschatological sense in reference to any time of suffering or testing into which one goes. It is so used in Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:17; John 16:33; Romans 5:3; 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Revelation 1:9.
It is used in its technical or eschatological sense in reference to the whole period of the seven years of tribulation, as in Revelation 2:22 or Matthew 24:29. It is also used in reference to the last half of this seven year period, as in Matthew 24:21. When the word tribulation is used in reference to the Church, as in John 16:33, it is used in a non-technical sense, in which the Church is promised an age-long opposition from the god of this age, but it is not teaching that the Church will be brought into the period technically known as the Tribulation. Otherwise one would have to teach that the tribulation has already existed for over nineteen hundred years.” (Things to Come, p. 170)
- They argue from the standpoint of universal resurrection, not distinguishing the prophecies to Israel that differ from those for the Church. 1 Cor 15:23 simply refutes this argument, “But each in his own order.”
Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory:
The third prevalent interpretation regarding the timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation is called Pre-Tribulation Rapture. This interpretation says that the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, will be, in its entirety, resurrected and translated from the earth to meet the Lord in the clouds of the air before the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week. As we have noted previously in our discussions on Mid and Post Tribulation theories, there are several main discussion points, including the distinctions between Israel and the Church and Dispensational theology. These will be discussed regarding a Pre-Tribulation Rapture below, but first of import is the Doctrine of Immanency regarding the Rapture of the Church.
The Imminence of the Rapture of the Church:
Many signs were given to the nation Israel, which would precede the Second Advent of Christ, so that the nation might live in expectancy when the time of His coming should draw near. Although Israel does not know the day or the hour, they can know that their redemption is very close through the fulfillment of those signs. No such signs were ever given to the Church preceding its conclusions, other than the prophecy of the Rapture itself, only historical trends were given.
The Doctrine of Immanency is taught in: 1 Cor 1:7; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thes 1:9-10; 4:16-17; James 5:7-9.
1 Cor 1:7, “So that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thes 1:10, “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.”
For the Church, we are told to live in the light of Christ’s imminent return. John 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor 15:51-52; Col 3:4; 1 Thes 5:5-9; 1 Tim. 6:14
In addition, 1 Thes 5:6; Titus 2:13; and Rev 3:3 all exhort us to be watching for Him, not for signs that would precede His coming.
As stated before, imminence or “at any moment coming,” is not a new doctrine that began with John Darby in the 1870-80’s. To Darby’s credit, he did clarify, systematize, and popularize it. But he did not create it, as will be shown below.
A belief in immanency was part of Premillennialism long before Darby, as shown in the writings of the early Church fathers, as well as the writers of the New Testament. As we saw previously, Paul wrote 1 Thes 4 and 2 Thes 2 to refute false teachings in his day regarding the imminence of Rapture of the Church. There is much evidence, from the early writings, supporting this doctrine. Therefore, we can say that a resurrection and coming of our Lord without signs and wonders was an established Doctrine and belief.
Pentecost Makes the Following Four Quotes:
- Clement wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians in the first century: “Ye see how in a little while the fruit of the trees come to maturity. Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scriptures also bear witness, saying “Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;” and “The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look.” (1 Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, chapter 23.)
- Again, Clement writes: “If therefore we shall do what is just in the sight of God, we shall enter into His kingdom, and shall receive the promises, which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man. Wherefore, let us every hour expect the kingdom of God in love and righteousness, because we know not the day of the Lord’s appearing.”
- In the Didache, “Teachings” or “Doctrine,” an early Christian treatise in the second century containing instructions for Christian communities, stated: “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, VII, 382.)
- Cyprian in the third century wrote: “It were a self-contradictory and incompatible thing for us, who pray that the kingdom of God may quickly come, to be looking for a long life here below…”
Additionally, in the “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles” (Book VII, Sec. ii, xxxi), compiled between the second and fourth centuries: “Observe all things that are commanded you by the Lord. Be watchful for your life. ‘Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye like unto men who wait for their Lord, when He will come, at even, or in the morning, or at cock-crowing, or at midnight. For what hour they think not, the Lord will come; and if they open to Him, blessed are those servants, because they were found watching.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, VII, 471.)
So, we know that many were anticipating the return of our Lord without signs and wonders that lends itself to the Pre-Tribulational belief.
John F. Walvoord states, “While the teachings of the Fathers are not clear on details, some at least seem to have regarded the coming of the Lord as a matter of daily expectancy. It is unwarranted to assume, as the Post-Tribulationists do, that the early Church regarded the imminent coming of the Lord as an impossibility.”
George E. Ladd stated, relative to the historical argument: “Let it be at once emphasized that we are not turning to the Church fathers to find authority for either pre or post Tribulationism. The one authority is the Word of God, and we are not confined in the strait-jacket of tradition.” (The Blessed Hope, p. 19)
Henry C. Thiessen writes: “They held not only the Premillennial view of Christ’s coming, but also regarded that coming as imminent. The Lord had taught them to expect His return at any moment, and so they looked for Him to come in their day. Not only so, but they also taught His personal return as being immediately. Only the Alexandrians opposed this truth; but these fathers also rejected other fundamental doctrines. We may say, therefore, that the early Church lived in the constant expectation of their Lord, and hence was not interested in the possibility of a Tribulation period in the future.” (Will the Church Pass Through the Tribulation? P. 19.)
Although the Eschatology of the early Church may not be clear on all points, the evidence is clear that they believed in the imminent return of Christ. The writings of the Reformers also demonstrated the acceptance of the imminent return of our Lord. Chafer quotes some of the reformers to show that they believed in the imminent return of Christ.
Luther (1483-1546) wrote, “I believe that all the signs which are to precede the last days have already appeared. Let us not think that the Coming of Christ is far off; let us look up with heads lifted up; let us expect our Redeemer’s coming with longing and cheerful mind”
Calvin (1509-1564) also declares, “Scripture uniformly enjoins us to look with expectation for the advent of Christ.”
John Knox a Scottish Reformer (1514–1572) noted, “The Lord Jesus shall return, and that with expedition. What were this else but to reform the face of the whole earth, which never was nor yet shall be, till that righteous King and Judge appear for the restoration of all things.”
Similarly, the words of Hughe Latimer (1485-1555): “All those excellent and learned men whom, without doubt God has sent into the world in these latter days to give the world warning, do gather out of the Scriptures that the last days cannot be far off. Peradventure it may come in my day, old as I am, or in my children’s days.” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, IV, 278f)
Titus 2:13 tells us to wait with keen anticipation for the Lord. How do you do that? You wait through thinking; you wait with patience, which is the application of doctrine. You know the Rapture is coming. It may not occur in your lifetime, but you still know it’s coming. In this way, you apply Bible doctrine, are occupied with the person of Jesus Christ, utilize God’s Happiness (+H), virtue-love, hope 2, and hope 3, so that you have a wonderful life and death.
The phrase “I am coming quickly” in Rev 3:10-11; 22:7, 12, 17-22, is why the Rapture is always called imminent, because there is no intervening prophecy to be fulfilled. Yet, while the Rapture is imminent, the Second Advent is not. Before the Second Advent occurs, there are many prophecies which must occur, e.g., the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl Judgments, the establishment of Antichrist, etc., Rev 6-19.
The immanency of the Rapture is a doctrine for mature believers only. A mature believer is eager for the Rapture to occur. He is so occupied with Christ that he looks for the Rapture, and he does not use the Rapture as escapism from the tribulations of day-to-day life.
Scripture directs Israel regarding the Tribulation to watch for the “day of the Lord,” which will come “as a thief in the night,” Mat 24:32-25:13; 1 Thes 5:1-8; 2 Pet 3:8, 10. This includes the termination of the Tribulation by the glorious return of Christ as their Judge and Deliverer.
“The day of the Lord” includes the Rapture, the last half of the Tribulation, Second Advent, Millennium, the time period for destroying the heavens and earth, and the time period for creating the new heavens and earth, totaling 1007 years. It is also used for any portion of this period, the context dictating how long. Isa 2:12; 13:6; Joel 1:15; 2:1; Zech 14:1; 1 Thes 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10.
Over against this, the Church is instructed to wait and to look for His return for her, 1 Thes 1:9-10; Titus 2:13; Heb 9:28. In both instances, the return of Christ is unannounced, and therefore impending, within the period to which each event belongs. The return of Christ for His Church was not impending in Old Testament days; nor is the glorious appearing impending until the Tribulation, 2 Thes 2:3.
The imminent return of Christ to receive His Church is held before every believer as a “blessed hope.”
John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
The absence of a date in this passage, addressed to the eleven in the upper room, extends that promise to all succeeding generations until He comes.
Titus 2:11-13, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Here, as above, the promise extends to all generations until He comes.
1 Thes 1:9-10, “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, 10and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
God’s Divine plan and purpose for the first generation of Christians was to not be looking for the Tribulation or for death, but for the imminent coming of Christ.
1 John 3:2-3, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. 3And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.”
This purifying hope was as much a reality to those of the earliest days of the Church as it has been to any later generations including our own. The force of this argument is inescapable. The Tribulation is not the hope of the coming of the Lord; it (the Tribulation) is not at hand, but “the Lord is at hand,” Phil. 4:5.
The Apostle Paul, by a five-fold use of the self-including pronoun “we,” placed himself among those who were driven by the hope of Christ’s return, 1 Cor 15:51-52; 1 Thes 4:15-17.
Warren Weirsbe, “Expository Outlines of the New Testament,” states regarding Immanency, “The important thing is not to chart the future but to be ready for His coming at any time. This means paying no attention to the sensationalists and the people who claim to know all the “secrets” (Luke 17:23). Jesus compared the last days to “the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26-27) and “the days of Lot” (vv. 28-33). Both men lived just before great judgments: The Flood (Gen. 6-8) and the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19). Noah warned the world of his day that the flood was coming (2 Peter 2:5), and the angels warned Lot and his family that destruction was coming; but the warnings did no good. Only Noah and his family (eight people) were saved, and only Lot and his two unmarried daughters escaped from Sodom. What will the world be like just before the final judgment and the coming of the Lord? It will be “business as usual” with little concern for the warnings God sends. People will eat and drink, attend weddings, and carry on their vocations; and then the judgment will catch them unprepared. In Noah’s day, there was a great deal of violence (Gen. 6:11, 13); and in Lot’s time, men were given to unnatural lusts (Gen. 19:4-11). We see both of these characteristics in our own day.”
“The doctrine of imminence forbids the participation of the church in any part of the seventieth week. The multitude of signs given to Israel to stir them to expectancy would then also be for the Church, and the Church could not be looking for Christ until these signs had been fulfilled. The fact that no signs are given to the Church, but she, rather, is commanded to watch for Christ, precludes her participation in the seventieth week.” (J. Dwight Pentecost, Ibid p. 204)
Just as important as the Doctrine of Immanency, another pillar for the Pre-Tribulation belief of the Rapture of the Church is the literal interpretation of Scripture. This means that we do not spiritualize passages related to the end times. We read the Bible and understand the literal administration of God’s Plan for man, including the events that will take place in the end times. It is very hazardous and dangerous to interpret Scripture in any other way. If not interpreted literally, there is much room for bias, interjection, and deception.
Interpreting the Bible literally leads to much knowledge and insight, especially when studying the end times. Pure facts such as God’s administration for the various ages called dispensations, the differences between Israel and the Church, and the timing of the Rapture are clearly understood. With this in mind, we understand that the Church is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament. This present Mystery Age called the Church Age was inserted within the program of God for Israel because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah at His First Advent. In addition, this mystery program must be completed before God can resume His program with Israel and bring it to completion. These truths all arise when one applies the correct hermeneutics of the literal method of interpretation of Scripture.
Now to understand this better, let’s note the various viewpoints of the Resurrection.
Amillennialists admit that if the literal method of interpretation of the Scriptures is the right method, Pre-Millennialism is the correct interpretation. (Oswald T. Alit, Prophecy and the Church, p. 17.)
The fact is, that in order to arrive at a Pre-Millennialist view, one must interpret the Bible literally, including the literal fact of the Second Advent of our Lord to establish His Millennial reign.
However, the Post-Tribulationist interprets the book of Revelation historically, which is basically a spiritualizing method, or as being yet future, by spiritualizing away the literalness of the events. How can one spiritualize portions of prophecy regarding the Church and Judgments, yet believe in the literal Second Advent of our Lord? That is illogical and inconsistent thinking. Neither of which can be ascribed to the Mind of Christ.
The Mid-Tribulationist applies literal interpretation to the last half of the Tribulation, God’s wrath, but spiritualizes the events of the first half to include the Church. Again, illogical and inconsistent.
The fact is, there cannot be one method employed to establish Pre-Millennialism and another for the Rapture of the Church. Your hermeneutics must view all either literally or spiritually to gain a consistent and logical interpretation, and literally only to gain the correct understanding of scripture.
“When I do not interpret the Bible literally enough that is when I get into trouble,” (Chuck Missler).
Therefore, the Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulational view is the only one consistent, logical, and valid.
The Main Arguments for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture:
Much of the outline below regards Daniel’s 70th week, the Church, Israel, and the prophecies from the Book of Revelation. To gain insight, let’s begin by understanding Daniel’s 70 weeks as noted in Dan 9:24-27.
Dan 9:24-27, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
Daniel wrote this prophecy in 538 BC, 67 years after Israel was taken into captivity by the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC. He recognized from Jer 25:11-12 that the discipline for Israel would soon be over. Prophesized to be 70 years at first. See also 2 Chron 36:21. We will see more of this below.
At the time of Daniel’s writing the Chaldeans had already been overthrown by the Medo-Persian Empire under King Cyrus who was sympathetic to Israel and freedom of religion. Most likely, Cyrus or a successor was now the ruler, Dan 9:1-2. (Darius is not specifically known and could be one of several people including Cyrus.)
In verse 24, a total of “70 weeks are decreed” for the Jews and Jerusalem. Each week represents 7 years, as first mentioned in Gen 29:26-27, (i.e. 7 days in a week and each day represents a year). Therefore, 70 weeks is 70 times 7 or 490 years.
“To finish the transgression” speaks of God’s Divine Plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ at the Cross. It also includes the culmination of prophecies and to establish the everlasting Tabernacle, our Lord Jesus Christ in Millennial reign and beyond. It would be a total of 490 years from the issuance of the decree to accomplish this.
In verse 25, the “issuing of a decree” is the prophecy fulfilled by King Artaxerxes who ordered the rebuilding of Jerusalem through Nehemiah in 445 BC, in Neh 2:4-8, some 93 years after Daniel’s prophecy.
“From the issuing of the decree” there is given “7 weeks and 62 weeks,” a total of 69 weeks until Messiah the Prince. This includes 7 x 7 = 49 years and 62 x 7 = 434 years, in all 483 years.
Neh 2:4-8 begins the counting for the time of “Messiah to be cutoff” (rejected) and His Second Coming as prophesized in Dan. 9:24-27.
“Even in times of distress” tells us that Israel was not a sovereign nation. They were still under the authority of the Medo-Persian Empire, although favorably.
The first period of 49 years is not specifically described. This could be a reference to the completion of the project of rebuilding Jerusalem in approximately 397, (the walls were completed in 52 days), or it could be from the decree until the book of the last Old Testament was completed, that being the book of Malachi also around that time.
Then in verse 26, the following 62 weeks or 434 years is until Messiah the prince, a reference to Jesus Christ as He rode into Jerusalem as Hosanna in the Highest, in His Triumphal Procession on what we call today Palm Sunday.
The calculation of this time period and years is based on the Jewish calendar of twelve, thirty-day months in a year or 360 days in a year.
483 years x 360 days/year = 173,880 days. From Nisan 1 (March 14), 445 BC to April 6, 32 AD, Palm Sunday, is exactly 173,880 days, the “Cutting off of Messiah.” They celebrated His entry but rejected Him as Messiah.
The next prophecy in verse 26, “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary,” is a prophecy of the Romans under General Titus who in 70 AD destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and scattered Israel among the nations. We’ll see more regarding the prophecy of re-gathering Israel later on in this doctrine.
“The people” refers to the Romans under Titus, and the “prince to come” is yet another prophecy within this passage. It speaks of the Antichrist who will come forth from the revived Roman Empire during the Tribulation period.
This prince is again referenced in verse 27 as “he who will make a firm covenant with the many,” which is a reference to the Antichrist who will broker a peace treaty with the many (Israel) at the beginning of the Tribulation period.
“One week” is the time frame of the treaty which signifies the 7-year Tribulation, half way through which the Antichrist will repeal his covenant with Israel. This is the reference to the last week of Daniel’s 70 weeks, the Tribulation.
So, Israel had 69 weeks from the signing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC, until the Messiah publicly revealed Himself for the last time in AD 32. Because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, the Age of Israel was interrupted and the Age of the Gentiles (Church Age) was inserted.
Upon completion of the Body of Christ, the final or 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy will begin, which will end at the Second Advent of our Lord who ends the reign of Antichrist.
“Even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate”, Dan 9:27.
Christ will then establish His Millennial reign.
Now that we have explained the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, we can begin the Main Arguments for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
(This outline is borrowed from J. Dwight Pentecost’s, Things to Come, pp. 194-218, with additions and enhancements.)
The Nature of the Seventieth Week is Described as:
- Wrath (Rev 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:8, 10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 1 Thes 1:9-10; 5:9; Zeph 1:15, 18);
- Judgment (Rev 14:7; 15:4; 16:5-7; 17:1; 18:10; 19:2);
- Indignation (Isa 26:20-21; 34:1-3);
- Punishment (Isa 24:20-21);
- Hour of Trial (Rev 3:10);
- Hour of Trouble (Jer 30:7);
- Destruction (Joel 1:15);
- Darkness (Joel 2:2; Zeph 1:14-18; Amos 5:18)
It must be noted that these references describe the Tribulation in its entirety, not just a portion of it, so that the whole period bears these characterizations. The Lord Jesus Christ bore the wrath on our behalf so that we “would not come into judgment.” 1 Thes 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Scope of the Seventieth Week:
Rev 3:10; Isa 34:2; 24:1, 4-5, 16-17, 18-21, and many other passages tell us that the “wrath of God” is poured out upon the whole earth during the 70th week. And yet, while the whole earth is in view, this period is particularly in relation to Israel, because Israel is scatted throughout the whole earth. The whole earth is in view, but Jer 30:7 calls this period, “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” which tells us that it is particularly related to Israel.
The events of the seventieth week are events of the “Day of the Lord” or “Day of Jehovah.” This title emphasizes Deity and God’s specific relationship to the nation of Israel. In the prophecy of Daniel 9:24, God says, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people (Israel) and your holy city (Jerusalem)”. This whole period then has special reference to Daniel’s people, Israel, and Daniel’s holy city, Jerusalem. Rom 16:25-26; Eph 3:1-6 and Col 1:25-27, along with others, make it clear that the Church is a “mystery.” It also indicates that its body is composed of Jew and Gentile, which was not revealed in the Old Testament.
Remember that the Church did not exist until after the death (Eph. 5:25-26), resurrection (Rom. 4:25; Col.3: 1-3), and ascension (Eph. 1: 19-20) of Christ, plus the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2). Therefore, in Daniel’s prophecy, of which the first sixty-nine weeks were fulfilled prior to the Crucifixion, the Church had no part. Since the Church had no part in the first 69 weeks, which are related only to God’s program for Israel, why would it have a part in the 70th week? The answer; it would not.
Now that the Church is established and open to both Jew and Gentile, that does not usurp prior prophecies given to Israel; it interrupts them, but it does not nullify them. Remember this is “Jacob’s Trouble” not the “Church’s Trouble” or “Peter’s Trouble” or “Paul’s Trouble” or “Christ’s Trouble.” Therefore, since every passage dealing with the Tribulation relates it to God’s program for Israel, the scope of the Tribulation prevents the Church from participating in it.
The Purpose of the Seventieth Week:
There are two main purposes to be accomplished in the Seventieth Week.
- The First is Found in the Message to the Church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:10.
Rev 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep 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.”
The first thing to note is that the “hour” is to come not upon the Church, but upon the “whole world” and “those who dwell on the earth.” The last expression is also used in Rev 6:10; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6 and 17:8.
This phrase isn’t just giving us a geographical understanding of the earth as opposed to let’s say, Mars! It is identifying a people, group, and corporation. It is those who have rejected God’s plan of salvation, and instead embraced this earthly abode. The phrase “vine of the earth” in Rev 14:18-20 also identifies the earthly versus heavenly citizen.
“Now, the word “dwell” used here [KATOIKEO – κατοικέω (kat-oy-keh’-o)] is a strong word. It is used to describe the fullness of the Godhead that dwelt in Christ (Col. 2:9); it is used of Christ’s taking up a permanent abode in the believer’s heart (Eph. 3:17), and of demons returning to take absolute possession of a man (Mat. 12:45; Luke 11:26). It is to be distinguished from the word OIKEO – οἰκέω (oy-keh’-o), which is the general term for “dwell,” and PAROIKEO – παροἰκέω (par-oy-keh’-o), which has the idea of transitoriness, “to sojourn.”
Thayer remarks that the term KATOIKEO has the idea of permanence in it. Thus, the judgment referred to in Rev. 3:10 is directed against the earth-dwellers of that day, against those who have settled down in the earth as their real home, who have identified themselves with the earth’s commerce and religion.” (Henry C. Thiessen, Will the Church Pass Through the Tribulation? pp. 28-29)
The second note of importance is the Greek word for “to test.” It is PEIRASAI – πειράσαι (pi-rah’-sahee), which is the Aorist, Active, Infinitive of PEIRAZO – πειράζω (pi-rad’-zo). It means, “test, put to the test, to make proof of, tempt, try, attempt.” It’s root word is PEIRA – πεῖρα (pi’-rah), which means, “a trial.” The use of the infinitive for PEIRASAI is to express purpose. God has a plan and purpose for the time of testing.
Thayer defines this word, when God is its subject, “To inflict evils upon one in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith.”
As you know, God does not cause the evil, but allows evil agents as part of His plan.
“Since the Father never sees the Church except in Christ, perfected in Him, this period can have no reference to the church, for the true Church does not need to be tested to see if her faith is genuine.” (J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pg. 197)
God uses this time period as a means to bring the unbelieving world to salvation under “crisis evangelism.” Therefore, any mention of the Church, which is already evangelized, being a focal point of the “hour of testing” would mean salvation is by works and not by grace, which is in direct contrast to Eph 2:8-9 and many other passages.
- The Seventieth Week is in Relation to Israel and its King.
Malachi 4:5-6 states, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
Elijah’s ministry was to prepare the nation of Israel for her King. As we know, John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that prophecy in Luke 1:17.
Our Lord also stated in Mark 9:12-13 and Mat 11:14 that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy.
Mark 9:12-13, “And He said to them, ‘Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13“But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.'”
Mat 11:14, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”
In the Malachi prophecy, Elijah comes before the “great and terrible day of the Lord” to “restore the hearts of the fathers.” This is speaking of Israel in regards to the “Day of the Lord.” So, the ministry of Elijah is to prepare Israel not the Church. The Church is already “in Christ” and does not need preparing. Israel is lost and needs preparing for the return of the King.
“These two purposes, the testing of the “earth dwellers,” and the preparation of Israel for the King, have no relation to the Church whatsoever. This is supporting evidence that the Church will not be in the Seventieth Week.” (J. Dwight Pentecost, ibid)
The Unity of the Seventieth Week:
As we have noted previously, especially in the study of Daniel 9:24-27, the 70th Week is a complete and consistent unit from start to finish. Remember that Daniel’s prophecy is broken into three portions; 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week, each being a complete unit as parts of the whole 70 Weeks that is related to “Daniel’s people and their city.” Even though the last week is divided into two parts, (Dan 9:27; Mat 24:15; and Rev 13), the nature and character of the entire week is consistent and makes up a complete unit of the overall prophecy. Therefore, to place the Church in any portion or entirely into the last week is impossible, illogical, and unscriptural. The Seventieth Week has a harmony within its two portions, and harmony with the other two portions of the overall 70 Week prophecy.
The Nature of the Church:
We must always carefully discern what Scripture is saying and to whom, especially in the distinctions between the Church and Israel, which the Bible clearly sets forth. Being a member of national Israel is based on physical birth, Gen 22:15-18; Gal; 3:16-18. However, prior to the Day of Pentecost, anyone who believed in the Messiah was a part of Spiritual Israel.
There is a similar distinction in the Church. Many think they are part of the Church, because they profess Christ. But in actuality, they have denied His grace plan of salvation; therefore, they are not born again and are not part of the True Church. The professing Church is described in Mat 7:15-23 and Rev 2:20-23. Being a member of the True Church is based on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that is accompanied by a spiritual birth, being born again, John 3:3-8. This is based on faith alone in Christ alone according to Eph 2:8-9 and many other scriptures.
The professing church will have tribulation while the True Church will be glorified in Christ, Rev 2:24-29. Only the True Church (made up of Jew and Gentile who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior) will be Raptured. All others, unbelievers, both Jew and Gentile, will not be Raptured and will go through the Tribulation.
After the day of Pentecost and until the Rapture, we find the Church, which is His body but no Spiritual Israel. After the Rapture, we find no Church but a true or spiritual Israel again. These distinctions must be kept clearly in mind to accurately understand Scripture and Prophecy.
“Since the Church is the body, of which Christ is the Head (Eph 1:22; 5:23; Col 1:18), the bride, of which He is the Bridegroom (1 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:23), the object of His love (Eph 5:25), the branch of which He is the Root and Stem (John 15:5), the building, of which He is the Foundation and Cornerstone (1 Cor 3:9; Eph 2:19-22), there exists between the believer and the Lord a union and a unity.” (J. Dwight Pentecost)
If believers were to be judged in the Tribulation, then Christ would also suffer that Judgment. As we know, He has already suffered once and for all time, Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18.
Rom 6:10, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.”
Likewise, the believer is promised that through faith in Christ, all judgment is removed.
John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Rom 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Clearly the judgments of the Tribulation are meant not for the believer, but for the unbelieving world.
2 Thes 2:12, “In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
“The nature of the testing in the Seventieth Week, as stated in Rev 3:10, is not to bring the individual to cleansing, but to reveal the degradation and need of the unregenerate heart. The nature of the Church prevents such a testing.” (J. Dwight Pentecost)
As a last note, Rev 13:7 is clear that all who are in the 70th Week will be placed in subjection to the Beast, and therefore to Satan himself, who gives the Beast His power.
Rev 13:7, “It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.”
Again, if the Church were a part of this time period, it would be subjected to Satan, and therefore Christ too would be subjected to Satan’s authority. If this were so, at minimum, Jesus would lose His place as Head of the Body, which is a blasphemous statement. So, we must conclude that the Nature of the Church and the completeness of her salvation prevent her from being in the Seventieth Week.
The Concept of the Church as a Mystery:
The next proof of, “why the Church will not be in the Tribulation,” is closely related to the previous point. The next point of proof is the revelation of the “Mystery Church.” The Mystery Church, a.k.a. the Body of Christ, has now been revealed during this Dispensation of Grace, which too is a part of the mystery.
The Mystery Church has been revealed through the Apostles and Prophets of the early church and documented within the New Testament. One thing that was never a mystery was that God would provide salvation for the Jews, or that Gentiles would be blessed in salvation. But the fact that God was going to form one body made up of both Jews and Gentiles was never revealed in the Old Testament. This is the mystery Paul speaks of in Rom 16:25-27; Col 1:26-29; Eph 3:1-7.
“The mystery. A mystery was not something mysterious (in the modern sense) but something unknown until revealed to the initiated (cf. Rom. 16:25). The mystery spoken of here is not that Gentiles would be blessed (for that was predicted in the Old Testament) but that Jews and Gentiles would be equal heirs in the one body of Christ (v. 6). This was unknown in Old Testament prophecy but was revealed by the New Testament apostles and prophets (v. 5).” (Charles Ryrie, Notes on Eph 3:3)
It was not until after the rejection of Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, by Israel that this whole mystery program was revealed. In fact, it was after the rejection, noted in Mat 12:23-24, that the Lord first made a prophecy of the coming Church in Mat 16:18.
Mat 12:23-24, “All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” 24But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.””
Mat 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter (a little rock), and upon this rock (the mountain that is Jesus Christ) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
Not only this, but it was after the rejection of the Cross that the Church had its inception in Acts 2. Also, it was not until after the final rejection by Israel that God called out Paul to be the Apostle of the Gentiles through whom this mystery of the nature of the Church is revealed. Clearly, the Church is an interruption of God’s program for Israel, which was not brought into being until after Israel’s rejection of the offer of the Kingdom. Therefore, Scripture, as well as logic, dictates that this “Mystery Program” must be brought to a finite conclusion before God can resume His dealings with the nation Israel. Rom 11:25-31
Rom 11:25, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
The “Mystery Program” which was so distinct in its inauguration, will certainly be just as distinct in its sanctifying conclusion. It must be concluded before God can resume and culminate His program for Israel. This “Mystery Program” of the Church makes a Pretribulation Rapture a necessity.
The Distinctions Between Israel and the Church:
Lewis Sperry Chafer has documented 24 contrasts between Israel and the Church, (Systematic Theology, IV, 47-53). They show that the two groups cannot be united into one. They also show that God is dealing with each separately in special and distinctive programs.
1) The extent of Biblical revelation: Israel—nearly four-fifths of the Bible; Church—about one-fifth.
2) The Divine purpose: Israel—the earthly promises in the Covenants; Church—the heavenly promises in the Gospel.
3) The seed of Abraham: Israel—the physical seed, of whom some become a spiritual seed; Church—a spiritual seed.
4) Birth: Israel—physical birth that produces a relationship; Church—spiritual birth that brings relationship.
5) Headship: Israel—Abraham; Church—Christ.
6) Covenants: Israel— Abrahamic and all the following Covenants; Church—indirectly related to the Abrahamic and New Covenants.
7) Nationality: Israel—one nation; Church—from all nations.
8) Divine dealing: Israel—national and individual; Church—individual only.
9) Dispensations: Israel—seen in all ages from Abraham; Church—seen only in this present age.
10) Ministry: Israel— no missionary activity and no gospel to preach; Church—a commission to fulfill.
11) The death of Christ: Israel—guilty nationally, to be saved by it; Church—perfectly saved by it now.
12) The Father: Israel—by a peculiar relationship God was Father to the nation; Church—we are related individually to God as Father.
13) Christ: Israel—Messiah, Immanuel, King; Church—Savior, Lord, Bridegroom, Head.
14) The Holy Spirit: Israel—came upon some temporarily; Church—indwells all.
15) Governing principle: Israel—Mosaic law system; Church— grace system.
16) Divine enablement: Israel—none; Church— the indwelling Holy Spirit.
17) Two farewell discourses: Israel—Olivet Discourse; Church—Upper Room Discourse.
18) The promise of Christ’s return: Israel—in power and glory for judgment; Church—to receive us to Himself.
19) Position: Israel— a servant; Church—members of the family.
20) Christ’s earthly reign: Israel—subjects; Church—co-reigners.
21) Priesthood: Israel—had a priesthood; Church—is a priesthood.
22) Marriage: Israel—unfaithful wife; Church—bride.
23) Judgments: Israel—must face judgment; Church—delivered from all judgments.
24) Positions in eternity: Israel-spirits of just men made perfect in the New Earth; Church—church of the firstborn in the New Heavens.
“In concluding this extended series of contrasts between Israel and the Church, it should be observed that, in certain respects, there are similarities between these two groups of elect people. Each, in turn, has its own peculiar relation to God, to righteousness, to sin, to redemption, to salvation, to human responsibility, and to destiny. They are each witnesses to the Word of God; each may claim the same Shepherd; they have doctrines in common; the death of Christ avails in its own way for each; they are alike loved with an everlasting love; and each, as determined by God, will be glorified.” (ibid. pg.53)
These contrasts make it impossible to identify the two as being in one program, that would have to be the case, if the Church were to go through the Seventieth Week. These distinctions give further support to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
The Work of the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2: (Read 2 Thes 2:1-12)
The believers at Thessalonica thought that they had missed the Rapture and that the Day of the Lord had begun. That is why Paul wrote this letter. To ensure them that they had not missed out and were not in the Day of the Lord. He told them that the Day of the Lord could not take place until first, there was a “departure” [APOSTASIA – ἀποστασία (ap-os-tas-ee’-ah)]. This is another term for the Rapture or Resurrection [ANASTASIA – ἀναστασία (a-na-sta-‘si-a)] of the Body of Christ.
The second thing that must occur is the manifestation of the “Man of Sin / the lawless one,” as also described in Rev. 13. In verse 7, he notes, “the mystery of lawlessness.” This mystery is the fact that Satan is the ruler of this world. His Cosmic System was in force in the early Church as it is today. Nevertheless, there is someone who is restraining Satan’s Cosmic System from unleashing its full evil force onto mankind.
In verse 8, when the “Restrainer” who is God the Holy Spirit, is taken out of the way, “then the lawless one will be revealed” unrestrained. The removal of the “Restrainer” is another depiction of the Rapture of the Church who is the temple / dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:16), as well as the other two members of the Trinity. Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21-22
1 Cor 3:16, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Eph 2:21-22, “In whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
This does not mean that the Holy Spirit ceases His ministries with man at the removal of the Church. Nor does He cease to be omnipresent at that time. What it means is that His restraining ministry of the “lawless one” does cease. Therefore, the Restrainer will continue restraining the “lawless one,” who is the Antichrist, enabled with all the power of Satan, as long as His temple remains on earth.
The Spirit’s restraining will cease upon the APOSTASIA – “departure,” (i.e. the Rapture of the Church), when His temple is taken to heaven. The Holy Spirit’s ministry in the Church and His restraint must cease before the “lawless one” can be revealed, and that requires a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, because Daniel 9:27 tells us that the “lawless one” will be manifested at the beginning of the week.
Dan 9:27, “And he (the lawless one, Antichrist) will make a firm covenant with the many for one week…”
If made manifest at the beginning of the week, that means he is unrestrained. Therefore, Antichrist will not be allowed to broker a deal with Israel prior to the removal of the Church, (i.e. the temple of the Restrainer).
Finally, the contrasting conjunction of 2 Thes 2:13, “but” – DE – δέ (deh), sets apart the passages through to the end of the chapter, and shows that the Church Age believer is not destined for the judgment of the Tribulation (vs. 12), but will be saved from it. Therefore, the Church cannot be in any part of Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
The Necessity of an Interval Between the Rapture and Second Advent:
Some have interpreted the word APANTÊSIS – ἀπάντησις (ap-an’-tay-sis) as, “to meet,” in Acts 28:15 as, “to meet to return with.” This word is also used in Mat 25:6, in relationship to the call to the virgins with the lamps to meet the Bridegroom.
Mat 25:6, “But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”
It is often argued that the same word used in 1 Thes 4:17 has the same idea, and therefore the Church must be Raptured at the end of the Tribulation, in order to return instantly with the Lord to the earth. They use this to deny any interval between the Rapture and the Return. The Greek does not require this interpretation. In addition, the events that occur after the Rapture for the Church make it impossible including:
The BEMA Seat of Christ:
1 Cor 3:11-16; 2 Cor 5:9; Rev 4:4; 19:8, 14 tell us that the Church has been judged for rewards and will have received them by the time of the Second Advent. It is impossible to think that this could take place without some interval of time.
The Presentation of the Church to Christ:
The Church is to be presented as a gift from the Father to the Son, 2 Cor 4:14; Col 1:22. Scofield writes, “This is the moment of our Lord’s supreme joy—the consummation of all His redemptive work.” (C. I. Scofield, Will the Church Pass Through the Great Tribulation? p. 13.)
He quotes the following Scripture in support. Eph 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; 26that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, 27THAT HE MIGHT PRESENT IT UNTO HIMSELF a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Jude 24, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless BEFORE THE PRESENCE OF HIS GLORY with exceeding joy.”
The Marriage of the Lamb, and The Marriage Feast that follows, Rev 19:7-9.
These passages, along with verse 11, clearly point out that the marriage and feast occur prior to the revelation of the King at the Second Advent. In Luke 12:35-40 (vs. 36-37), Mat 22:1-14; and 25:1-13, the King is in the role of Bridegroom at His coming, indicating that the marriage has taken place just as the Greek indicates in Rev 19:7 “has come.” This too requires some time interval between the Rapture and Second Advent and makes a simultaneous event impossible. While the length of time for these events to occur is not indicated, some interval is required. Therefore, the Church must be Raptured well prior to the Second Advent of our Lord.
The Problem Behind 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
The event described here includes:
- A return of Christ in the air.
- A resurrection of the dead in Christ.
- A Rapture of living believers.
- A reunion with those who have died.
The Thessalonians were not ignorant of the fact of resurrection, but they did misunderstand the relationship between the resurrection of believers who had previously died and the Rapture of the living. They also did not understand the application of the promises to rule with Christ after His Second Advent, Rev 2:26-27; 3:21. Therefore, Paul writes this letter and the second to teach the facts regarding the resurrection of the dead, Rapture of the living, and assurance towards the promises of God for the Church.
The interesting point is that if the Thessalonian believers had believed that the Church would be going through the Seventieth Week, as noted in the second epistle, they would have been concerned for themselves and rejoiced in the fact that their deceased loved ones would not. They would have rejoiced in the fact that some of their brethren had missed this period of suffering and were with the Lord without experiencing the outpouring of wrath, (1 Thes 1:10; Rev 3:10), which Paul had to also remind them of in this epistle. If the Church were to go through the Tribulation, it would be better to already be with the Lord through death than to have to endure the events of the Seventieth Week. If they had their doctrine correct, the Thessalonians would be praising the Lord that their brethren were spared these events, instead of feeling sorrow for them.
In comparison to Paul’s second letter, written within the same year, by that time they obviously believed they had missed out on the Rapture and would endure the Tribulation, 2 Thes 2:1-17, yet they mourned for their deceased brethren. Why? Charles Ryrie’s note on this passage is, “The question is this: Does the death of a believer before the Lord comes cause him to lose all hope of sharing in the glorious reign of Christ?”
This appears to be the cause of morning for them. They thought it to be advantageous to live until Christ’s return, and therefore receive the reward of reigning with Him in the Millennium. If they, at the writing of this first epistle, still believed in the Rapture prior to the Tribulation, they too would be sorrowful, thinking their loved ones had missed out on the Rapture’s glorious event. You can see that they were very confused, and therefore the necessity of Paul’s letters to straighten them out, as well as us today. So, Paul writes 1 Thes 4:13-18 to tell them that they would not have an advantage over the dead in Christ.
He also is reassuring them that their brethren had not missed out on some of the Lord’s blessings, including the Rapture of the Church and rulership in the Millennium. As previously noted in 2 Thes 2, Paul had to also correct their misunderstandings because of the “wolves” that came in after him and distorted the truth about the Pre-Tribulation Resurrection and Rapture of the Church and subsequent blessings.
Distinction Between the Rapture and the Second Advent:
There are a number of contrasts to be drawn between the Rapture and the Second Advent, which show that they are not viewed as synonymous in Scripture. We have previously noted 11 comparisons between the Rapture and Second Advent. We will now note 17 other contrast as put forth by W. E. Blackstone, Jesus Is Coming, pp. 75-80.
1) The translation entails the removal of all believers, while the Second Advent entails the appearing or manifestation of the Son.
2) The translation sees the saints caught up into the air, and in the Second Advent He returns to the earth.
3) In the translation Christ comes to claim a bride, but in the Second Advent He returns with the bride.
4) The translation results in the removal of the Church and the inception of the Tribulation, and the Second Advent results in the establishment of the Millennial kingdom.
5) The translation is imminent, while the Second Advent is preceded by a multitude of signs.
6) The translation brings a message of comfort, while the Second Advent is accompanied by a message of judgment.
7) The translation is related to the program for the Church, while the Second Advent is related to the program for Israel and the world.
8) The translation is a mystery, while the Second Advent is predicted in both Testaments.
9) At the translation believers are judged, but at the Second Advent the Gentiles and Israel are judged.
10) The translation leaves creation unchanged, while the Second Advent entails the change in creation.
11) At the translation Gentiles are unaffected, while at the Second Advent Gentiles are judged.
12) At the translation Israel’s covenants are unfulfilled, but at the Second Advent all her covenants are fulfilled.
13) The translation has no particular relation to the program of God in relation to evil, while at the Second Advent evil is judged.
14) The translation is said to take place before the Day of Wrath, but the Second Advent follows it.
15) The translation is for believers only, but the Second Advent has its effect on all men.
16) The expectation of the Church in regard to the translation is “the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5), while the expectation of Israel, in regard to the Second Advent, is “the kingdom is at hand” (Matt. 24:14).
17) The expectation of the Church at the translation is to be taken into the Lord’s presence, while the expectation of Israel at the Second Advent is to be taken into the kingdom.
These contrasts, along with the 11 given previously, support the understanding that these are two different programs in God’s Plan and should not be combined into one event. Therefore, the Rapture of the Church occurs well prior to the Second Advent.
The Twenty-Four Elders:
Next, we have a discussion of what J. Dwight Pentecost believes is another reason why the Rapture occurs prior to the Tribulation. Even though your view of this discussion may differ as to the identity of the Twenty-Four Elders, (as I too question their identity), remember this is but one in the list of 26 points of proof. Nevertheless, I put forth this discussion for our own edification and discernment.
In Rev. 4:4, John is given a vision of twenty-four elders who are seated on thrones, clothed in white raiment, crowned with golden crowns, and in heaven in the presence of God. Several answers are given as to the question of the identity of these twenty-four.
1) Because they are associated with the four living creatures in this book, some insist that they are angels. This seems an attempt to evade the implication of taking the literal identification, because it is contrary to their system.
Pentecost believes that the way John describes the twenty-four elders could not be true of angelic beings. He believes Angels are not crowned with victors’ “crowns” – stephanos – στέφανος (stef’-an-os) received as rewards, nor are they seated on “thrones” – thronos – θρόνος (thron’-os), which thrones speaks of royal dignity and prerogative, nor are angels robed in white, as a result of judgment.
In contrast R.B. Thieme Jr. in fact believes these are rewarded angelic creatures as are the Four Living Creatures.
J. Dwight Pentecost says, “The impossibility of this view argues for another.” (Point Three as seen below)
2) They are representative of both Israel and the Church. The twenty-four elders may represent twelve redeemed men who represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the remaining twelve are redeemed men who are the twelve apostles that represent the Church, Rev 21:10-20. These twenty-four ultimately represent all the redeemed from both Israel and the Church. Also note the promise given to the 12 Apostles in Mat 19:27-30 regarding the thrones that they will occupy.
Matthew 19:27-30, “Then Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’ 28And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.’”
Therefore the 24 being from both Israel and the Church is possible, but unlikely given that rewards for Israel are not garnished prior to the Tribulation, since the Age of Israel is not yet completed. This leaves only one other explanation.
3) They are resurrected redeemed men, who are clothed, crowned, and seated on thrones in connection with royalty in heaven. As noted previously, Church Age believers are members of the Royal Family of God with a Royal Priesthood, 1 Peter 2:9. Redeemed Israel’s status is only that of members of the Family of God.
C. I. Scofield presents evidence to support the view that these are the representatives of the Church. He writes: “Five inerrant marks identify the elders as representing the Church. These are:
Their position. They are enthroned “round about” the rainbow encircled central throne. To the Church and to the Church only, of all groups of the redeemed, is co-enthronement promised (Rev 3:21). Not yet is Christ seated upon His own throne on earth, but these kingly ones having been presented faultless, with the exceeding joy of the Lord, must be with Him (John 17:24; 1 Thess 4:17).
The number of these representative elders, in the book where numbers are so great a part of the symbolism, is significant. For twenty-four is the doubling of twelve, which stands for perfect government. So, 24 is a double emphasis of God’s government in heaven as represented by the 24 Elders. This number was also used regarding the Levitical Priesthood. It stood for the choruses into which the Levitical priesthood was divided (1 Chron 24:1-19). Of all the groups of the redeemed, only the Church is a priesthood (1 Pet 2:5—9; Rev 1:6).
The testimony of the enthroned elders marks them as representing the Church: “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. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev. 5:9, 10). The Church, and the Church only, can thus testify.
Eldership is a representative office, (Acts 15:2; 20:17).
The spiritual intelligence of the elders points them out as sharers of the most intimate Divine counsels (e.g., Rev 5:5; 7:13). And to whom amongst the redeemed should those counsels be made known if not to those to whom our Lord said: “Henceforth I call you not servants; . . . but I have called you friends… (John 15:15). “
The elders are, symbolically, the Church, and they are seen in heaven in the place which the Scriptures assign to the Church before a seal is opened or a woe uttered, and before a vial of the wrath of God is poured out.
And in all that follows, to the twentieth chapter, the Church is never once referred to as on earth.” (C. I. Scofield, Will the Church Pass Through the Great Tribulation? p. 23-24.)
J. Dwight Pentecost says, “Since, according to Revelation 5:8, these twenty-four are associated in a priestly act, which is never said of angels, they must be believer-priests associated with the Great High Priest. Inasmuch as Israel is not resurrected until the end of the seventieth week, nor judged, nor rewarded until the coming of the Lord according to Isaiah 26:19-21 and Daniel 12:1-2, these must be representatives of the saints of this present age. Since they are seen to be resurrected, in heaven, judged, rewarded, enthroned at the beginning of the seventieth week, it is concluded that the Church must have been Raptured before the seventieth week begins. If the Church is not resurrected and translated here, as some insist, and not until Revelation 20:4, how could the Church be in heaven in Revelation 19:7-11? Such considerations give further support to the Pre-Tribulation position.”
The Announcement of Peace and Safety:
In 1 Thes 5:3, Paul tells the Thessalonian Church that the “Day of the Lord” will come after the announcement of “peace and safety.”
1 Thes 5:3, “While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.”
This false security will lull many into a state of lethargy in relation to the “Day of the Lord,” so that the day “comes as a thief.” This announcement that has produced this lethargy precedes the “Day of the Lord.” If the Church were in the Seventieth Week, there would be no possibility that, during the period when believers are being persecuted by the beast to an unprecedented degree, such a message could be preached and find acceptance, so that men would be lulled into complacency.
All the signs would point to the fact that they were not in a time of “peace and safety.” The fact that wrath, judgment, and darkness is preceded by the announcement of such a message indicates that the Church must be Raptured before that period can begin.
The Relation of the Church to Governments:
In the New Testament, the Church is instructed to pray for governmental authorities, since they are God-appointed, so that those in authority may be saved and the saints live in peace as a result, 1 Tim 2:1-4. We are also instructed to be in subjection to such powers, because these governments are ordained by God and His representatives to carry out His will, 1 Peter 2:13-16; Titus 3:1; Rom 13:1-7.
Titus 3:1, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.”
In Rev 13:1-8, the government during the Seventieth Week is controlled by Satan and is carrying out his will and his purpose in the manifestation of lawlessness. During the Seventieth Week, the believer and all on the earth at that time are warned to not receive an important mark of the Antichrist’s government. The mark of the Beast signifies obedience to His authority, Rev 13:16-18; 14:9-10; 20:4. Therefore, if the Church were in the Tribulation and the command to obey every authority were to be applied, the believer would be compelled to receive the Mark of the Beast, or at minimum, the Bible would contradict itself, which is a blasphemous statement.
Because of the relationship of the Church to governments in this age, and because of the Satanic control of government in the Seventieth Week (preordained by God with Jesus Christ controlling history), the Church could not subject herself to such a government. Therefore, the Church must be delivered before this Satanic government manifests itself. On the other hand, Israel, as is seen in the imprecatory Psalms, will, during the Seventieth Week, rightly call down the judgment of God upon such government and cry for God to vindicate Himself. But this is not the command from God for the Church in relationship to governments in this age. The command is to obey all authority. Therefore, the Church cannot be a part of the Seventieth Week.
The Silence Concerning the Tribulation in the Epistles:
Several Epistles including James, 1 Peter, and 2 Thessalonians were written to forewarn the Church that persecutions are coming or are already at hand. Passages such as John 15:18-25; 16:1-4; 2 Thes 1:4-10; 2 Tim 3:10-14; 4:5; James 1:2-4; 5:10-11; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:8-10; 2:19-25; 4:12, give an understanding of the persecutions, the reasons for it, and help and assistance, so the believer might endure it. But all of these are written to speak of common afflictions and persecutions from a restrained Satan, man, and unbelieving world.
However, there are no instructions for the Church in regards to standing firm during the worst period of human history, the outpouring of God’s wrath, and the wrath of Satan as never seen before.
In regards to this, C. I. Scofield writes: “Not only is there no syllable of Scripture which affirms that the Church will enter the great Tribulation, but neither the Upper-Chamber Discourse, the new promise, nor the Epistles which explain that promise, so much as mention the great tribulation. Not once in that great body of inspired writing, written expressly for the Church, is the expression found.” (C. I. Scofield, Will the Church Pass Through the Great Tribulation? P. 11)
If the Church were to go through the Tribulation, the Lord would have richly supplied information for the faithful to endure and glorify. The reverse of the A-Fortiori principle does not apply. We cannot say that if we are prepared for the lesser, persecutions during the Church Age, that we are prepared for the greater, “the wrath to come.” The silence in the Epistles, which would leave the Church unprepared for the Tribulation, argues for her absence from that period altogether.
The Message of the Two Witnesses:
Rev 11:3 is John’s vision of the two witnesses who are special ambassadors of God sent to Israel, with the message of repentance, in anticipation of the King and kingdom. They are God’s official courtroom evidence to show the guilt and just sentencing of the unbelieving world. Compare with Deut 17:6. John’s vision does not reveal their exact message, but we are given some clues that indicate their message in relationship to Israel. They are said to be wearing “sackcloth.”
The first mention of “sackcloth” – saq – שָׂק (sak) in the Bible is Gen 37:34, where Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) put on sackcloth when mourning the presumed death of his son, Joseph. So, the meaning of this adornment is, “mourning.”
Joseph Thayer defines “sackcloth” as, “A coarse cloth, a dark coarse stuff made especially of the hair of animals: a garment of the like material, and clinging to the person like a sack, which was wont to be worn by mourners, penitents, suppliants . . . and also by those, who, like the Hebrew prophets, led an austere life.”
The descriptive clothing of the “Two Witnesses” is similar to two other great prophets of Israel who had a specific message, Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8 and that of John the Baptist in Mat 3:4. Both were sent to the nation of Israel, in a time of great apostasy, to call the nation to repentance in anticipation of the coming King and kingdom, while wearing the sign of mourning, “sackcloth.”
So too will the two witnesses; their good news is “the gospel of the kingdom” of Mat 24:14, based on the work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross, Rev 7:14.
Mat 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Rev 7:14, “I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
These Two Witnesses dressed in sackcloth give a message of Judgment and Repentance in preparation for the King. Their message is distinctive to Israel, as seen by her forerunning prophets. Although the central focal point is the same, Christ crucified, the message to the Church is quite different; a message of grace. Therefore, the message of the Two Witnesses indicate that the Church is no longer present, because their message is distinctive to Israel and one that has not been committed to the Church.
The Destiny of the Church:
The destiny of the Church is a heavenly destiny. All promises and expectations for the Church are heavenly in character, Eph 2:19; Phil 3:20-21; Col 3:1-2; Heb 12:22-24. On the other hand, the destiny of those saved during the Seventieth Week are given the expectation and promise of an earthly Kingdom, not a heavenly one. Mat 25:31-34
Mat 25:34, “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
If the Church remains on the earth for any portion of the Seventieth Week, then those saved during the Seventieth Week would be entered into the Body of Christ as members of the Church, and thereby be promised a heavenly citizenship contrary to Mat 25:34.
The other potential is that there would be two separate programs and promises running simultaneous. The result would be some would go to heaven at the conclusion and some would remain on earth to enter the Millennial Kingdom.
The next question would be, how is it determined who goes where? Who is part of the Church, and who is part of the conclusion of the Age of Israel? If this were the case, then it would be clearly spelled out in the Word of God.
Now just to play it through, if the Rapture of the Church did not take place until the end of the Seventieth Week, and assuming all believers where entered into the Church, then part of the saved would enter into a heavenly destiny and the other would enter into an earthly blessing. This would result in part of the body of Christ being dismembered and the unity destroyed. Such dismemberment is impossible.
Keep in mind that at the end of the Age of Israel, (on the Day of Pentecost), any believer who was still alive became instantaneously members of the Church and received the promises of the Church. Yet this is impossible for the end of the Age of the Church.
If Church Age believers enter the Seventieth Week, then there is no need for the translation of the living to heaven via the Rapture, since all living believers at the end of the Seventieth Week remain on earth and enter the Millennial Kingdom. Such a theory would nullify any promise of Rapture at all. Mat 25:34 is clear that those believers alive at the end of the Seventieth Week remain on earth without Rapture and enter the Millennial reign. The impossibility would be true for Mid / Pre-Wrath Tribulation theories as well.
The only plausible solution is that those saved after the termination of the Church Age, during the Seventieth Week, will go into the Millennium without Rapture. And that there must be a Rapture at the termination of the Church Age to maintain the promises made to the Church / the Body of Christ.
The Waiting Remnant at the Second Advent:
This one uses a similar argument but with a different prophecy. When the Lord returns to the earth, there will be a believing remnant in Israel awaiting His return, Mal 3:16; Ezk 20:33-38; 37:11-28; Zech 13:8-9; Rev 7:1-8. Likewise, there will be a multitude of Gentile believers awaiting His return, Mat 22:1-13; 25:31-40; Luke 14:16-24. This is necessary for the fulfillment of the Abrahamic, Davidic, Palestinic, and New Covenants at His Second Advent. There has to be a believing remnant (both Jew and Gentile) over whom the Lord will reign and to whom the Covenants can be fulfilled. This remnant will enter into the Millennium in their natural bodies, saved, but not having experienced death and resurrection.
If the Church were part of this remnant, they would have a position in the Body of Christ, need to be Resurrected and Raptured at His Coming, and consequently there would not be one saved person left on the earth. There would not be any believers left waiting to meet Christ at His return. Therefore, there would be no believers left to which Christ could literally fulfill the Covenants made with Israel. This too makes a necessity for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, so that God may call out and preserve a remnant, during the Tribulation, in and through whom the promises may be fulfilled.
The Times of the Gentiles:
In Luke 21:24, the Lord indicates that Jerusalem will continue in Gentile dominion until a specified time.
Luke 21:24, “And they (Jews) will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Zech 12:2 and 14:2-5 indicate that this will continue until the Second Advent, when the armies of the Beast are destroyed by the Lord, as seen in Rev 19:17-21.
Then in Rev 11, the parenthesis between the Sixth and Seventh Trumpets, verse 2 refers to the times of the Gentiles as “they will tread under foot the holy city (Jerusalem),” until the end of the Tribulation (42 months – 3.5 years) marked by the Second Advent of our Lord. According to the Mid-Tribulation view, the Trumpet Judgments are events of the first three and one-half years of that Seventieth Week at the conclusion of which is the end of the “times of the Gentiles.” If their view were correct, the times of the Gentiles would end in the middle of the week, before the termination of the Seventieth Week. As a result, the times of the Gentiles would end and Jerusalem would be restored prior to the conclusion of the Seventieth Week. Therefore, Jerusalem would be delivered by some other event or person than the returning Lord. The time element indicated in Rev 11:2 makes that view impossible.
Only the Lord will restore Jerusalem. Therefore, the Mid-Tribulation viewpoint cannot be correct, and the Pre-Tribulation view allows for all of the events of prophecy to be fulfilled.
The Sealed 144,000 from Israel:
As long as the Church remains on earth, no one is saved to a special Jewish relationship, 1 Cor 12:12-13; Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11; Eph 4:4.
Gal 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
All who are saved, while the Church remains on earth, are saved to a position in the body of Christ. Col 1:26-29; 3:11; Eph 2:14-22; 3:1-7
Col 3:11, “A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
Therefore, the Church must be absent during the Seventieth Week, in order for the special assignment and sealing of the 144,000 Jews who are clearly not part of the Church. The 144,000 are comprised as 12,000 from each tribe of Israel, Rev 7:14.
The fact that:
1) God is setting apart a group from Israel (not the state but the people),
2) He is dealing again with Israel in a national relationship,
3) He is utilizing them as His representatives, and
4) He is not utilizing the Church as His witness to the world any longer, indicates that the Church is no longer on the earth.
The Great Object of Satanic Attack:
The object of Satanic attack during the Tribulation is “the woman” who produced the child, Rev 12:1-6, 13-17. This child who is born “to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5), can only refer to our Lord Jesus Christ, the One whose right it is to rule. Psalm 2:9, confirms this Messianic interpretation.
Psa 2:9, “You shall break (rule) them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.”
As you know, Jesus Christ came from the Jewish race. He was not born from Gentiles. Therefore, the “woman” can only represent Israel, (not Mary and/or the Catholic Church, which is made up of predominantly Gentiles, as some have interpreted).
In addition, we also know about the four Unconditional Covenant promises to Israel in regards to Christ’s Millennial reign. Therefore, the attack by Satan noted in Rev 12:4 is in regards to Israel. Satan has and will continue to attack the Jewish race throughout human history. That is the reason for the many holocausts throughout history, including the most recent of World War II by Nazi Germany.
In Rev 12:9, Satan is cast out of heaven and goes forth, “having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time,” Rev 12:12. This attack on the Jewish people will intensify throughout the Tribulation, like never before. Satan has lost the strategic battle of the Angelic Conflict at the Cross of Calvary. Yet, he believes he can still win the “war.” If he is able to wipe out Israel, thereby defeating the establishment of Christ’s earthly Kingdom of the Millennium, as stated in the Covenant promises, he believes he will win the war.
As we noted previously, there is a believing Jewish and Gentile remnant from the Tribulation that will await the Lord’s return and enter into the Kingdom. So, we know from the Word of God that Satan’s attacks ultimately will not be successful, Rev 12:14.
Rev 12:14, “But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”
Given the object of Satan’s attack being focused on Israel, with no mention of the Church whatsoever, the Church must not be present. In addition, since the Church is the “body” and “bride” of Christ and consequently precious to Him, if it were present in the 70th Week, it would continue to be the object of Satanic attack, as it has been throughout the Church Age. Eph. 6:12-19
Eph 6:12, “For our (Church Age believer’s) struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (i.e. Satan and his cosmic system).“
One reason for the focus of Satan to be against the “woman” (Israel) is explained by the absence of the Church from that scene. If the Church (Body and Bride of Christ) were still present, John’s Revelation would have included Satanic attack against it with God’s promise of safe harbor for her too.
The Apostasy of the Period:
During the Tribulation, there will be religious organizations as seen in Rev 2:22 (the Jezebel church) and chapters 17 and 18 (the harlot church). Some will profess the name of Jesus but do not truly believe in His efficacious work on the Cross being the only means for salvation, compare with Mat 7:21-23. These are the apostates called the “professing church.”
Mat 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
The complete apostasy of the “professing church” during the 70th Week prevents the true Church from being in the world. In Rev 18:4, our Lord tells “His people” to come out from the apostasy of that day. He warns the believer to have nothing to do with that religious organization. He does not call out His “bride” or “body” or “Church.” He calls out His “people,” as reference to true Israel and the believers / saints of the Tribulation, which is the last seven years of the Age of Israel.
Furthermore, if the true Church were on earth during that time, since it is not mentioned as separate from the apostate system, it would have to be a part of that apostasy. Such a conclusion is impossible. The believing witnesses converted during the period, (144,000 Jews), are specifically said to have kept themselves from defilement by this apostate system, Rev 14:4. Since the Church is not mentioned as also having kept herself from this system, it must be concluded that the Church is not there.
The Promises to the True Church:
There are certain passages of Scripture that promise the Church a removal before the Seventieth Week.
- Revelation 3:10, “I will keep you from the hour of temptation.”
This verse is primarily directed to the Church Age believer, as a matter of historical trends during the Church Age. It is a promise by God to watch over, guard, or protect [TEREO – τηρέω (tay-reh’-o)] the believer who is living inside God’s Power System (GPS), during times of personal or historical disaster. It is a promise from God that He will put His “wall of fire,” (Zech 2:5), around the positive believer, during difficult times; either personally or nationally.
Some believe, as Pentecost does, that this is also one of the verses that is specifically focused on the times of the Great Tribulation, being God’s promise to deliver the believer “out from” them. He argues this point with the Greek usage of the verb TEREO with the preposition EK – ἐκ (ek).
Thayer says that when TEREO is used with EN, it means, “to cause one to persevere or stand firm in a thing;” while when used with EK, as it is here, it means, “by guarding to cause one to escape in safety out of.”
So, Pentecost believes that since EK is used here, it would indicate that John is promising a removal from the sphere of testing, not a preservation through it. He believes it is further substantiated by the use of the words “the hour,” (TES – τῆς / HORAS – ὥρας).
This is similar language compared to what we just read in Rev 17:12, where the “Beast” – thérion – θηρίον (thay-ree’-on) has authority for “one hour,” [MIAN – μίαν, which comes from EIS – εἷς (hice) = “one” plus “hour” – HORAN – ὥραν (ho’-rah-n)].
So, based on the similar use of language, “hour,” where in Rev 17:12, it is specifically referring to the Tribulation, it is believed to have the same meaning in Rev 3:10. Therefore, Rev 3:10 would say that God is not only guarding the positive believer from the trials and tribulation of life during the Church Age, but He is also promising removal from the very hour, that is the Tribulation.
So, this would indicate removal, via the Rapture of the Church, from the great Tribulation itself, when those trials (Seal, Bowl, Trumpet Judgments, etc.) will come to those earth dwellers of that future time period.
Pentecost quotes Henry Thiessen in this argument, “We want to know what is the meaning of the verb “will keep” (TERESA) and of the preposition “from” (EK). Alford says on the preposition EK, that it means, “out of the midst of: but whether by immunity from, or by being brought safe through, the preposition does not clearly define.” … Thus, he points out that grammatically the two terms can have the same meaning, so that Rev 3:10 may mean, not “passing unscathed through the evil,” but “perfect immunity from it.” … the grammar permits the interpretation of absolute immunity from the period.”
Other scholars say the same thing as to the preposition EK (out of, from). Buttmann Thayer says that EK and APO “often serve to denote one and the same relation,” referring to John 17:16; Acts 15:29; Rev. 3:10 as examples of this usage.
Abbott doubts “if in the LXX and John, EK always implies previous existence in the evils from which one is delivered when used with SOZO – σώζω and TERESA” (i.e. with the verbs, “to save and to keep.”
Westcott says regarding EK SOZO (to save from) that it “does not necessarily imply that that is actually realized out of which deliverance is granted (cf. 2 Cor. 1:10), though it does so commonly (John 12:27). Similarly, we read in 1 Thess. 1:10 that Jesus delivers us “from (EK) the wrath to come.” This can hardly mean protection in it; it must mean exemption from it. It would seem, then, to be perfectly clear that the preposition “from” may be taken to mean complete exemption from that which is predicted. It is clear that the context and other statements in Scriptures require that this be the interpretation. As for the context, note that the promise is not merely to be kept from the temptation, but from the hour of temptation, (i.e. from the period of trial as such, not only from the trial during the period). And, again, why should the Apostle write EK TES HORAS (from the hour), as he did, when he might easily have written EN TE HORA (in the hour), if that is what he meant to say? Surely the Spirit of God guided him in the very language he employed. (Henry C. Thiessen, Will the Church Pass Through the Tribulation? pp. 22-24).
So, from the Greek preposition EK, “out from” and defining “the hour” as being the Tribulation, J. Dwight Pentecost believes this is proof of the Rapture of the Church prior to the Tribulation beginning.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9:
1 Thes 5:9. “God has not appointed (destined) us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Verses 1-11 give us the context for interpretation. As such, the contrast in this passage is between light (salvation) and darkness (eternal condemnation), between “wrath” (the Tribulation) and salvation from that wrath (Rapture of the Church). 1 Thes 5:2 tells us that this wrath and darkness is clearly referring to the “Day of the Lord,” which includes the entire Seventieth Week, the Millennium and the destruction and restoration of the earth and the heavens. See, 2 Peter 3:10. A comparison of 1 Thes 5:9 with Joel 2:1-2; Zeph 1:14-18 and Amos 5:18 will describe the “darkness” mentioned here as the darkness of the Seventieth Week.
Joel 2:1-2, “Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; surely it is near, 2A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
Amos 5:18, “Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light.”
Also in comparison, Rev 6:17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19 describes the wrath of the “Day of the Lord.”
Paul clearly teaches in verse 9 that our expectation and appointment is not to wrath and darkness. Instead, it is to salvation, in which verse 10 indicates the method of, “who (Jesus Christ) died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”
- 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
1 Thes 1:9-10, “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, 10and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
Again, Paul clearly indicates that our expectation is not wrath but the revelation of “His Son from heaven.” This could not be unless the Son were revealed through the Rapture of the Church before the wrath of the Seventieth Week falls on the earth.
The Agreement of Typology:
The next point of proof for a Pre-Tribulation Rapture has to do with the agreement in Scripture of the interpretation of symbolic forms and language called typology. Typology is a form of hermeneutics where the Bible student understands the meaning behind certain figures and symbols found in the Word of God. It is the study of Divinely purposed illustration of some truth, usually illustrating or revealing Jesus Christ. An example of this includes the use of the term “ark.” Moses was found as a babe in an ark, Noah built an ark, and there was the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle. All portray a special and consistent message to the reader regarding God’s safe passage for His chosen ones based on His righteousness and justice. So, the “ark” represents God’s Plan of Salvation which is found at the Cross.
Another example includes the Brazen Serpent found in Numbers 21:4-9. As the stricken Israelites turned and looked at the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses upon God’s instruction, they were saved from death. This too is a type of the Cross of Jesus Christ, which brings salvation and eternal life to all who acknowledge Him, John 3:14-16; 12:32.
Types are highly used and very important instruments of communication throughout the Bible. Nevertheless, proof simply from types and analogy are insufficient in themselves, yet if a teaching is contrary to all typology, it cannot be a true interpretation. In this proof, we note that the Word of God is filled with types which teach that those who walked by faith were delivered from the judgment(s) which were brought on to the unbelieving. Several examples include:
a) The experiences of Noah (Gen 6:7-8, 18; 7:1; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5),
b) Rahab (Joshua 6:17; Heb 11:31), as types of God’s deliverance.
c) In addition, Lot (Gen 19:15-17; Luke 17:28-30; 2 Peter 2:7) is a clear illustration of God’s deliverance in relationship to the Tribulation.
In 2 Peter 2:6-9, Lot is called a righteous man. This Divine commentary sheds light on Gen 19:16 and 22, where the angel sought to hasten the departure of Lot with the words in verse 22, “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there”. The type tells us that if God held back the outpouring of His righteous Judgment for the sake of one righteous man on the city of Sodom, how much more would the presence of the Church on earth prevent the outpouring of Divine wrath until after her removal.
The Last Days:
“Last Day(s)” is another term similar to “Day of the Lord” that encompasses a broad time frame in Scripture, yet it is also used distinctively to represent different times and events.
- Therefore, distinction must be made between the “last days” for Israel, which are the days of her kingdom glory in the earth, Isa 2:1-5, and the “last days” for the Church, which are days of evil and apostasy, 2 Tim 3:1-5.
According to 2 Tim 3:5, there will be a manifestation of characteristics, which belong to unregenerate men, who have “a form of godliness.” The indication is that, having denied the power of the blood of Christ, (2 Tim 3:5; with Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:23-24; 2 Tim 4:2-4), the leaders in these “forms of righteousness” will be unregenerate men from whom nothing more spiritual than this could proceed, 1 Cor. 2:14.
Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
1 Cor 2:14, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
In contrast, the believer is instructed to live in and apply the grace of God towards all things, Heb 12:14-15.
Heb 12:14-15, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
The following are additional passages that tell us what will be the characteristics of the worldly during the last days of the Church: 1 Tim 4:1-3; James 5:1-8; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 3:3-6; Jude 1:1-25.
Chafer states: “A very extensive body of Scripture bears on the last days for the Church. Reference is to a restricted time at the very end of, and yet wholly within, the present age.”
D. H. Prichard, in his book, “The Last Days,” pp. 51-58, points out conditions in the last days as centered on a system of denials that have an effect on the Church.
A denial of God (Luke 17:26; 2 Tim 3:4-5).
A denial of Christ (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7).
A denial of Christ’s return (2 Pet 3:3-4).
A denial of the faith (1 Tim 4:1-2; Jude 3-4).
A denial of sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3-4).
A denial of the separated life (2 Tim 3:1-7).
A denial of Christian liberty (1 Tim 4:3-4).
A denial of morals (2 Tim 3:1-8, 13; Jude 18).
A denial of authority (2 Tim 3:2-4) [“treacherous” – traitors / betrayers]
This brief period, immediately preceding the great Tribulation, in some measure is a preparation for it. But as we have noted, there is a distinction between the two “last days” and subsequent times of apostasy:
1) During the Church Age prior to the Tribulation, and
2) The apostasy during the Tribulation in a world of unbelievers ruled by the Antichrist.
These two-time periods are completely separate from each other.
- Another indication of separate time periods is that “the last days for the Church” gives no consideration to political or world conditions but is addressed to the Church itself; whereas, “the last days of the Tribulation” include the establishment of Christ’s reign, Isa 2:2; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1.
- Likewise, discrimination is called for between the “last day” for Israel and for the Church as a promise of resurrection of those who are or have died in Christ, John 6:39-40, 44, 54.
In John 6:44, “and I will raise him up at the last day,” is a promise to all Dispensations of resurrection.
The word for “raising up” is the Future, Active, Indicative of ANISTEMI – ἀνίστημι [ANA = up; HISTEMI = to stand]. Keep in mind that the word for “resurrection” is ANASTASIS, which is derived from ANISTEMI. So “to stand up” becomes technical for resurrection.
The Future, Active, Indicative indicates that the resurrection is future and that no resurrections have occurred. At the time, Jesus was speaking on the steps in Capernaum and no one in history had been resurrected. That means that people who were brought back to life were resuscitated, Luke 11; 2 Kings 4:18-37, and they died again eventually.
In resurrection, you never die again, you are not subject to death, 1 Cor 15:26; 42; 53-57. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the first fruits, 1 Cor 15:20, and until He is resurrected no one is resurrected.
Therefore, the “last day,” in the singular, refers to the last day in a dispensation. But until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, no one could be raised, because He is the first fruits. Once Jesus Christ was raised, then believers from other dispensations could also be raised in their “last day.”
We have the Age of the Gentiles ending with the giving of the Law of Moses, but no resurrection. Then we have the Age of the Law (Jewish Dispensation) interrupted by the Church, but no resurrection, because the Age is no yet complete. Then there is the Church Age, which will be completed with a resurrection upon its “last day.” Then comes the Tribulation which will end with a resurrection of all who have died in Christ during the Age of the Law (including the Tribulation) and the Age of the Gentiles, resurrecting all Old Testament saints. Then there will be the Millennial saints who will be raise upon completion of the Millennial reign of Christ. At that time, every member of the human race who has believed in Christ will have been raised to eternal glory.
The principle of resurrection is that when the Dispensation is over, you receive a resurrection body, and that is true except in a Dispensation that ended before Christ was resurrected. So, the promise of resurrection on the last day in John 6 is true for all, beginning with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ is the first fruits, 1 Cor 15:23. At the end of the Church Age, 1 Thes 4:16-18. At the end of the Jewish Age, Isaiah 26:19-20.
Isa 26:19-20, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. 20Come, my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until indignation (the Tribulation) runs its course.”
In addition, the Tribulational martyrs at the end of the Jewish Age, (the Tribulation), Rev 20:4. And finally, all Millennial believers at the end of the Millennium.
Once again, we see distinctions in Scripture in the usage of common language. Whether it be “last days” or “last day” or “last hour” or “last times,” we can either understand that God is referencing distinctive time periods using common terms to convey universal truths and promises, or we must say that the Bible contradicts itself, which therefore would disqualify the entire book. As we know the latter is a blasphemous statement, therefore “last day(s)” must be conveying a universal truth with the distinction of Dispensational promises, as we rightly divide the Word of Truth.
In Summary, we have noted 25 points as to why the Church will be Resurrected and Raptured prior to the beginning of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, the Tribulation. In this doctrine, we have noted:
- The Nature of the Seventieth Week; (A description of the horrific time period)
- The Scope of the Seventieth Week; (The entire world as Jacob’s trouble to the exclusion of the Church)
- The Purpose of the Seventieth Week; (Hour of testing for the unbelieving world and preparation for the King)
- The Unity of the Seventieth Week; (In relation to Dan 9:24-27)
- The Nature of the Church; (The body and bride of Christ)
- The Concept of the Church as a Mystery; (Must have a conclusion, because it is an interruption of the Age of Israel)
- The Distinctions between Israel and the Church; (24 points)
- The Work of the Restrainer in 2 Thes 2; (So the Lawless One can be revealed)
- The Necessity of an Interval between the Rapture and Second Advent; (Events of Rev 19 for the Church prior to the 2ndAdvent)
- The Problem Behind 1 Thes 4:13-18; (Why grieve if deceased will be spared from the Tribulation)
- The Distinctions between the Rapture and the Second Advent; (17 additional points)
- The Twenty-Four Elders; (May be representatives of the Church)
- The Announcement of Peace and Safety; (Lethargy when the thief comes in)
- The Relation of the Church to Governments; (Church is to honor government officials)
- The Silence Concerning the Tribulation in the Epistles; (No instructions for the Church to stand firm during this time)
- The Message of the Two Witnesses; (Wearing sackcloth announce the coming King)
- The Destiny of the Church; (Heavenly vs. earthly Kingdom)
- The Waiting Remnant at the Second Advent; (Believing Jews and Gentiles physically enter the Kingdom)
- The Times of the Gentiles; (Jerusalem under Gentile dominion until the Lord’s return)
- The Sealed 144,000 from Israel; (Saved to a special Jewish relationship)
- The Great Object of Satanic Attack; (Israel under attack, not the Church)
- The Apostasy of the Period; (Religious organizations part of the apostasy)
- The Promises to the True Church; (Not appointed to and rescued out from wrath)
- The Agreement of Typology; (Noah, Rahab, and Lot – types of deliverance)
- The Last Days; (Israel-kingdom and glory; Church-apostasy; resurrections)
Conclusion: In this Doctrine, we have presented a number of reasons for belief in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. Some of them are particularly applicable to the Mid-Tribulation Rapture position and others applicable to the Post-Tribulation Rapture position. All of the arguments put forth do not carry the same weight or importance. But collectively there is overwhelming agreement for the understanding of the Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church. This then indicates a clear distinction between the promises to Israel and the promises to the Church and that the Church will be delivered by Rapture before the inception of Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
We conclude this study with:
Scriptural Documentation for the Rapture:
Phil 3:11, “If by any means I might arrive with reference to the exit resurrection, the one from the dead.”
1 John 3:2‑3, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and what we will be he has not yet revealed. However, we know that if he should appear, we shall be [exactly] like Him because we shall see Him as He is. 3And everyone who keeps on having this hope [hope 3] in Him purifies himself [in God’s Power System, GPS, Experiential Sanctification] even as He is pure [Positional Sanctification].”
Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope [the hope of blessing, hope 3] and the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor 6:14, “Now God has not only resurrected the Lord, but He will raise us up through His power.”
2 Thes 2:1-3, “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the departure (Rapture) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”
In comparison to 1 Thes 4:13-18, we see striking similarities in an event noted in Exodus 19:16-17 regarding the Exodus generation. The Rapture of the Church is seen in the first mention of “trumpet” in the Bible in Exodus 19:16.
Ex 19:16-17, “So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.”
This event sounds very similar to the events depicted for the Church at her Rapture in 1 Thes 4:13-18.
1 Thes 4:13-18, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15For 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. 16For 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. 17Then 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. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Anticipation of the Rapture must not overwhelm us. We need patience as the Lord prepares us for the event. James 5:7‑8
James 5:7‑8, “Therefore, brethren, have patience until the coming of the Lord [rapture]. The farmer waits with anticipation for the valuable production of the soil, constantly being patient until it has received the early and the latter rains. Have patience! 8Furthermore, all of you become stabilized in your right lobes because the coming of the Lord [rapture] has approached with the result that it is drawing nearer and nearer.”
Titus 2:13, “Waiting with keen anticipation for that blessed hope [rapture], even the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Remember that the Rapture is used as a technical theological term in the sense for the resurrection of the Royal Family of God at the end of the Church Age. Since the Church or Royal Family of God is the first spiritual building to be completed, it is resurrected after our Lord. It is the second phase (Bravo Company) of the first resurrection following the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was resurrected, ascended, and seated at the right hand of the Father as part of His strategic victory in the Angelic Conflict. This is known as our Lord’s battlefield Royalty, who is now the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is His only Royalty with no family. Therefore, God interrupted the Jewish Age with the Church Age to call out and provide a Royal Family for our Lord’s battlefield Royalty. Eph 1:22‑23; 2:16; 4:4‑5; Col 1:18, 24; 2:19. Once the Royal Family of God is completed, the Church is resurrected as the body of Christ to become the Bride of Christ. When the Royal Family of God is completed, then the Rapture occurs, 1 Thes 4:16‑18; 1 Cor 15:51‑58.
During the conclusion of the Jewish Age, the Bride is prepared in heaven by receiving a resurrection body exactly like that of the Lord. Then comes the coronation and acknowledgment of Christ, Rev 19:1-10, along with the Judgment Seat of Christ, when all Church Age believers are evaluated and rewarded, 2 Cor 5:10. So, we understand that we are living in exciting times, where the Rapture of the Church and return of our Lord could happen at any moment. There is no prophecy to be fulfilled prior to the Rapture, and therefore our Lord’s return is imminent.
Click the Links below to see Doctrines of Prophecies & Probabilities already fulfilled of and by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:
- Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus
- Probability of Jesus Christ Fulfilling Prophecy
- Prophecy of the Christ Child – December 24, 2000