Bible Truths

Lesson 12 - The Rapture

A great many professing Christians dismiss the doctrine ofthe rapture as a fallacy of fundamentalism because the word rapture is notfound in scripture, but neither is the word Trinity, yet they accept thedoctrine of the Trinity as a valid scriptural teaching without any reservationwhatsoever. It is not crucial to sound Christian doctrine that the worddefining it is not in scripture. What is crucial is that the doctrine itselfstresses its authority in scripture. Both the doctrines of the Trinity and therapture stress their authority in scripture. The doctrine of the Trinityperfectly defines the scriptural fact of the three-in-one Godhead: God theFather, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit ( 1Jn 5:7). The doctrine of therapture perfectly defines the scriptural fact of the event that will take placewhen Jesus comes back to take the Church up to heaven with Him at the end ofthis dispensation ( 1Th 4:17). It is incongruous that the doctrine of theTrinity is so readily accepted but the doctrine of the rapture is not. Therapture signifies the end of the Church age as well as the end of thisdispensation, and every professing Christian needs to know about it.

Most born again believers accept the rapture as a validbiblical teaching but are not sure when it will happen - whether it will bebefore, during or after the Great Tribulation. The purpose of this study is toestablish the fact, the manner and the time frame in which it will occur by thescriptures. They alone are the final authority on all questions of doctrine andthey teach us all things. The word rapture is derived from a Latin word,raptus, which means being caught away or caught up. Its equivalent Greek wordis harpazo, which also means being caught away or caught up. It is found anumber of times in scripture to describe being bodily translated from one placeto another ( Ac 8:39-40). Philip was bodily translated from the waterholebeside the Gaza Road where he had just baptised the Ethiopian eunuch to a towncalled Azotus nearly twenty-five miles away ( 2Cor 12:1-4). Paul was translatedalive to heaven, though whether it was an in-the-body experience orout-of-the-body experience he did not know. Suffice it to say he was translatedalive. He was raptured - caught up to heaven - for a time of learning from theLord ( Ge 5:21-24; He 11:5). Enoch was the first of two Old Testament saintsraptured to heaven. He is still there, which makes him the oldest living humanbeing - well over 5,000 years old. (Enoch was the father of Methuselah, who hasthe longest earthly life on record - 969 years (Ge 5:27) Methuselah was thegrandfather of Noah). The other Old Testament saint raptured to heaven isElijah ( 2Ki 2:1-12). He is also still living in heaven, which proves thatbeing translated from the earth while still living is no new thing with God.Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines rapture as a state of beingcaught up or carried away with joy, love, ecstasy. What other word could betterportray the way the Church will be transported to heaven with Jesus. That iswhy it is called the rapture.

Every born again believer knows something about the rapturebut not too many fully understand it. Generally it is because they confuse thescriptures referring to the rapture with the scriptures referring to Christ'ssecond coming. They are two distinct and separate events in time and we reallyneed to be able to distinguish between the scriptures concerning them ( Isa63:1-6, Dan 2:44-45; 7:13-14, 18, 27; Joel 3:1-21; Zech 14:1-5, 9, 16-21; Mt24:27-44; 25:31; Mk 13:24-27; Lu 21:25-28; 2Th 1:7-10; Jude 14-15; Rev 1:7;19:11-21). All those scriptures concern the second coming of Christ, not therapture. They relate to the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, the battle ofArmageddon, the Judgement of the Nations and the setting up of the millennialkingdom, etc. This is when Christ comes back to earth with His saints. Therapture is when Christ comes in the air, for the saints, to take them toheaven. There will be at least seven years between this event and His secondcoming. We will study all the scriptures concerning the rapture shortly butfirst turn to Lu 21:25-26,36. Jesus alludes to the rapture here in Verse 36. Itis the first reference to the rapture in scripture. Jesus tells His listenersthat there is a way to escape the horrendous events of the Great Tribulation Hewas describing in V25-26, and that is to be accounted worthy to escape them.The only way to escape them though is to be removed from the earth beforehand,because they will affect everyone on earth. This also proves the rapture willprecede the Tribulation ( Jn 14:1-3).

Here we get a clearer picture of how the Church is going tobe taken out of the way of the Great Tribulation, and if there was no otherproof in scripture the promise of Jesus here alone would suffice. We can besecure in the knowledge that as surely as Jesus went to heaven so will Hereturn for His own to take them there too ( Jn 14:19). Jesus said,"Because I live ye shall live also." We live, not in anticipation ofphysical death as unbelievers do, but in anticipation of Jesus coming again forus, and whether we be living or dead at that time we shall rise together withHim in glory. This is assured because Jesus has already risen and ascended toheaven and that is why His resurrection is so important to believers - not onlydoes it guarantee the future resurrection and ascension of those who have diedin Christ and are in the grave, it also guarantees the rapture of those stillliving at that time. The ultimate purpose of the Lord coming back for Hissaints is so they will be with Him in all eternity, and taking them to heavenis simply the first step in His purpose ( 1Cor15:12-23, 32, 42-44, 50-58; 1Th4:13-18). If there is no rapture these scriptures are meaningless, but they arenot meaningless at all. They clearly express God's eternal purpose and plan forHis saints and are unassailable proof of the fact and the manner of the rapturefor those who dismiss the rapture as a fallacy of fundamentalism. We learn fromthese scriptures that the spirits and the souls of all the dead saints will bebrought back from heaven to be united to their resurrected bodies. Theircorruptible bodies will rise up from the grave and put on incorruption whilethe mortal bodies of the saints still living at that time will put onimmortality. Then we will all meet up together in the clouds before going tothe place Jesus has prepared for us in heaven as He promised in Jn 14:1-3. 1Cor15:51-58 is the first clear reference in scripture to the rapture ( Php3:11-12, 20-21).

This is another clear promise of the rapture. The wordconversation in V20 means citizenship. This teaches us that our citizenship isin heaven from whence we look for Jesus to come and take us unto Himself. Paulreaffirms here what he told the Corinthian Church, that when Jesus comes Hewill change our natural bodies to spiritual, from mortal to immortal, fromcorruption to incorruption and from weakness and humiliation to glory andpower. We also learn here that our new transformed bodies will be flesh andbone like Christ's body of glory which He showed to the disciples before Heascended to heaven ( Lu 24:36-43). The Church and all the saints of God will goup to be with Jesus - Old Testament and New Testament saints alike - right backfrom Abel onwards. This even includes Rahab the harlot ( Josh 2:1-3, 6:17-25;He 11:31; Jas 2:25). Christ died to redeem the Old Testament saints too. Theylooked forward to the cross and its salvation benefits in faith, as we lookback to it in faith. We are all one in Christ now ( Ro 3:23-26; He 9:13-15;11:4-5, 7-10, 13-16, 39-40).

The rapture of the Church, the raising of the dead saintsand all the saints that come out of the Tribulation, including God's twowitnesses who were killed in Rev 11, until the second coming of Christ all formpart of what the Bible calls the first resurrection ( Dan 12:2; Lu 14:13-14;20:34-38; Jn 5:28-29; Ac 24:14-15; He 11:35; Rev 11:3-12; 14:9-13; 20:4-6).There will be two resurrections of the dead. The first resurrection is toeternal life for the righteous dead, who will be judged at the Judgement Seatof Christ and the second resurrection - over 1,000 years later - is to eternaldamnation for the wicked dead. They will be judged and consigned to hell at theGreat White Throne Judgement ( 2Cor 5:10; Rev 20:4-6, 11-15). The rapture isthe blessed hope of the Church. The Church has been waiting for it to happensince Paul's day. Paul knew the rapture could have happened in his lifetime,and he communicated that anticipation to the Thessalonian Church ( 1Th4:13-18). We likewise are to be in eager anticipation of it and communicate itto others also ( Ro 13:11-14; 1Cor 10:1-12; 2Cor 5:1-4; Php 4:5; Tit 2:11-15).The rapture is a purifying hope - the source of inspiration and consecrationfor all sincere Christians, and a comfort to those being persecuted for Jesus'sake ( Eph 5:25-27; Col 3:1-6; 1Th 3:12-13; 5:23; 2Th 3:5; Jas 5:7-9; 1Pe 5:4;1Jn 2:28; 3:1-3; Jude 24).

The first intimation we have of the rapture is when Jesusalluded to it in Lu 21:36, and as indirect a reference as it is, nonetheless itteaches us that there is a way to escape the Great Tribulation and that is tobe accounted worthy. The more scriptures we study the more we see the Church asbeing accounted worthy through the Blood of Christ ( Ro 5:8-10). The Church isnot going to go through the Tribulation. The Tribulation is God's wrath pouredout upon sinners, not saints ( Eph 5:1-7). Paul is talking to the ChristianChurch here. This admonition is for us also. It teaches that only those walkingin the light as God is in the light will be taken up in the rapture. Those ofus who do not remain faithful to the salvation benefits wrought out for us byChrist on the Cross of Calvary will have the wrath of God poured out upon themthe same as unbelievers. They will go through the Tribulation with theunbelievers ( 1Th 1:6, 9-10). This makes it clear that truly faithful believersare not appointed to go through the Tribulation, and that they can know they willbe taken out of the way when Jesus returns for His saints. This is also whatJesus promised the Philadelphia Church in Rev 3:7-13 ( 1Th 5:1-11). Thisteaches us that the Day of the Lord, designated by the Tribulation will notovertake us like a thief in the night because we are not the children ofdarkness, who it will overtake, but the children of Light, and we are notappointed to go through the Tribulation. Again we see that God's wrath is to bepoured out upon sinners, not saints. This is further proof for those who arenot sure that the rapture will precede the Great Tribulation, however we mustall comply with the conditions of V6-8 to qualify for the rapture.

We are not to sleep, but watch and be sober. That means weare to be spiritually prepared. We are to live soberly and righteously and notget drunk. We are to live as the children of the day, not as the children ofthe night. The word sober here has two meanings - one is literal and refers toabstaining from strong drink. The other is metaphorical and means alertness,wakefulness, self-control. We are to be alert spiritually and self-controlledjust as someone who does not touch strong drink. Paul used both meanings inthis passage. We are also called to fight the good fight of faith and lay holdof eternal life ( Mt 25:1-13). We cannot be indifferent and careless like thefive virgins in this passage who went to sleep with no oil in their lamps butrather we are to be like the servants who when their lord returned were waitingto open the door to him ( Lu 12:35-48). Verses 45-48 carry a grim warning forprofessing Christians who fail to abstain from evil and are unfaithful toChrist. They will be left behind at the rapture. Once more we learn that onlythose who comply with the conditions will qualify for the rapture ( Rev2:1-3:22).

Of the seven Churches Jesus addressed here He promises tokeep one only from the hour of trial - the Great Tribulation - and that is theChurch of Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13). Jesus confirms here what Paul told the Thessaloniansin 1Th 1:10. They were the only ones who remained faithful to His word and didnot surrender to their circumstances. This also is further proof of apre-Tribulation rapture. Rev 3:11 refers to the rapture but it highlightsanother important teaching too: while those seven Churches were actual Churchesin the cities mentioned at the time of John's revelation, they are alsorepresentative of all Churches in all ages from then until the rapture ends theChurch age.

The letters to the Churches are to be interpreted as notonly applying for that time but as having an ongoing application for allgenerations, including ours. Jesus is talking to us here too both corporatelyand individually and we had best examine ourselves to ensure that we belong tothe Philadelphia Church, otherwise we will not be going up in the rapture.Philadelphia means the love of brethren. Does that apply to us as a body and toeach of us personally? Can we honestly say we love the brethren as Christ lovesus, because God says that it is only our love of brethren that proves our lovefor Him. Brethren means every other Christian - not only those who are easy tolove but those who are hard to love, too - not only those who are in China orIndia, but those who sit with us in Church also ( 1Pe 1:22-23; 3:8-9; 1Jn2:9-11; 3:14-19; 4:7-21). And if we love God then we will keep Hiscommandments. This is the only sure way we know we qualify for the rapture,because we keep God's commandments. There is no other way - we forfeit our placein His kingdom if we do not keep his commandments. God calls us liars if we saywe love Him but are not totally yielded to His word ( 1Jn 2:3-6). The relevanceof Christ's messages to the seven Churches of Revelation for Churches today, iswhat they reveal about the natural trend of Churches to fall into error; toaccept false teaching; to tolerate immorality, idolatry and heresies; to losetheir zeal for God and to adapt to the anti God elements of the world system.They are not hearing what the Spirit saith to them. But Churches are people -individuals formed into a body and God holds us individually responsible forour actions. We must continually examine our beliefs and activities and ensurethat they always conform to what Christ expects of His Church, and to qualifyourselves for the rapture.

Now to find out the time frame for the rapture. Thus far thescriptures have established the fact and the manner of the rapture, and that itwill take place before the Great Tribulation, but what is its time frame inrelation to the emergence of Antichrist, because it is during his reign thatthe Tribulation comes upon the earth ( Dan 7:25; 8:23-25; 9:27; 11:36-39; 12:1;Mt 24:15-22). We learn from these scriptures that the Tribulation will occupythe last 3½ years of Antichrist's seven year reign. Does this mean then thatthe Church will still be on earth during the first 3½ years? Antichrist is abenevolent dictator during this period, not yet the enemy of God which he is tobecome ( Rev 6:1-4).

At the opening of the first seal Antichrist is revealed asthe rider of the white horse. A great many Christians believe that the rider onthe white horse in V2 is Jesus, but that is incorrect because Jesus is openingthe seals. He would not be the contents of the seals and open them as well.Furthermore Jesus is symbolized here by a lamb, not a horseman ( Rev 5:1-9).The opening of the first seal and the revelation of the rider on the whitehorse are synonymous with the first half of Daniel's seventieth week whenAntichrist enters into his seven year peace treaty with Israel ( Dan 7:7-8,24-26; 8:8-10,20-25; 11:35-45). The rider on the white horse in Rev 6:2symbolizes Antichrist, who rises up at the start of Daniel's seventieth week -Antichrist rises to power as the eleventh king among the ten kings through theempowering of Satan, which is what we learned in Dan 8:24-25 and 11:36-39 ( 2Th2:8-9; Rev 13:1-4). Antichrist is the only one prophesied to go forth"conquering and to conquer", not Christ ( Dan 7:23-25; 8:9-14; 11:40-43).The white horse of Rev 6:2 is not to be confused with the white horse of 19:11.The horse in 6:2 is only symbolic, whereas the one in 19:11 is literal. Christis the rider on the white horse in 19:11, but until then He is symbolized by alamb ( Rev 19:11-13). There are no scriptures to corroborate any teaching thatChrist is symbolized by the rider on the white horse in Rev 6:2 who went forth"conquering and to conquer". Antichrist was given a crown because hehad brought peace and prosperity to the earth. He has a bow but no arrows whichdepicts him as a benevolent dictator. We know he brought peace to the earth inV2 because in V4 he is given power to take it away. This power comes from Satan( Dan 7:21-22; 8:9-12, 24; 11:40-45; Rev 12:13-17).

The opening of the second seal in Rev 6:4 signalled theonset of the Tribulation in the middle of Antichrist's reign. The opening ofthe second seal and the revelation of the rider on the red horse and the eventsthat followed in Rev 6:3-4 are synonymous with the second half of Daniel'sseventieth week - the time of the Great Tribulation. But where is the Churchduring the first 3½ years after the first seal is opened? The Church has notbeen mentioned since Rev 3:22 at the conclusion of Jesus' messages to the sevenChurches, and it is not mentioned again in scripture as being on earththereafter. We need to know why ( 2 Th 2:1-12). Who is the restrainer oflawlessness here that has to be taken out of the way for Antichrist to berevealed? The Thessalonians knew who it is as V5-7 prove, so we can know ittoo. It is not the Holy Spirit as so many Christians believe because the HolySpirit will still be on earth during the Great Tribulation ( 1Cor 12:3). Nobodycan call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit, so He will remain on earthconvicting the multitudes of their sins who get saved during the Tribulation.The he of 2 Th 2:7 is the Church. The Church is never again mentioned inscripture as being on earth after Rev 3:22, and Antichrist is not revealeduntil Rev 6:1-2. The Church is raptured in Rev 1 between "the things whichare" and "the things which shall be hereafter" ( Rev 1:19). The"things which are", are the things concerning the Church up until therapture - the things Jesus told John to write in the letters to the sevenChurches - and the "things that shall be hereafter" are the thingsthat occur after the rapture which are the subject of Rev 4-22. (There is noneed to read these chapters here but they do need to be read to learn what theyteach.)

Chapters 4-22 in Revelation address themselves to the eventsthat come to pass after the rapture - the emergence of Antichrist, theTribulation, Christ's second coming, the battle of Armageddon, and Christ'smillennial kingdom, etc. The saints who are saved after Rev 4:1 come out of theGreat Tribulation - they are not the Church as we have previously learned ( Rev7:13-14; 13:7, 15). Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation record the Church, nowrepresented by the four and twenty elders, as being in heaven, which is well beforeAntichrist is revealed in 6:1-2 ( Rev 4:3-4, 10-11; 5:4-5, 8-14; 19:1-4;22:8-9). The four and twenty elders identified themselves in Rev 5:9 as theChurch, redeemed to God from out of every tribe, language, people, and nationin the earth ( Rev 5:9). That is why Paul was able to assure the ThessalonianChurch that the Great Tribulation would not overtake them as a thief in thenight - because they would already be with Jesus in heaven (read again 1Th5:1-11). This is for our edification also. We too can comfort each other in theknowledge that not only will the saints still living when Christ comes back notgo through the Tribulation, but they will be raptured to heaven beforeAntichrist's seven year reign even commences.

This part of our study is now complete. We have establishedfrom scripture the fact ( 1Th 5:1-11), the manner ( 1Th 4:13-18), and the timeframe of the rapture for those who were not sure ( 2Th 2:1-8). Praise God!

But there is a very sobering teaching comes out of thisstudy as well, and we must ever be mindful of it ( 2Th 2:7-13). This teaches usthat after the Church is taken up from the earth, salvation will no longer beavailable to those still living who have already heard the gospel and rejectedit. They will be lost forever if they do not repent and accept Christ while theChurch is still here. This includes members of our immediate family and otherrelatives and friends whom we dearly love, as well as professing Christians nottruly committed to Christ, and others who are backslidden. Show them thisscripture and explain what it means: that once the Church is gone from theearth salvation will only be available to those who never had an adequateopportunity to receive the knowledge of the truth or to hear and understand thegospel ( also Mt 7:21; 12:30). If they will not listen to us we must ferventlypray God to send another labourer in the gospel unto them. We must never giveup on God for their salvation. We can claim Jesus' promise in Jn 15:7 but wemust make sure we meet the conditions first ( Jn 15:7). There is no time tolose - the rapture could happen at any moment in time ( Php 3:20-21; Tit 2:13).This teaches that there are no prophecies yet to be fulfilled for the raptureto take place ( Jn 9:4). That means we still have to preach the gospel to otherlost souls as well in the meantime.


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