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The Rapture
© 2004, ® Writers Guild of America, West 2004 by Vojo

Verse links from BibleGateway.com © Best control panel display setting:1024 x 768.

A.  WHAT is the Rapture?

1. The word "Rapture" is not in the Bible. The word comes from the fourth century Latin vulgate "rapere"/"raptum" translation of the Greek word "harpazo" and has been picked up by many as the best single word to express the event it describes. Some translators have rendered the word "caught up" or "snatched." The Lord will return and all those who have died in Christ (accepted Christ prior to their death) and those who are alive in Christ (current believers) will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air in the twinkling of an eye.

2. Rapture is not a unique Biblical concept to the End Times. Neither Enoch nor Elijah died, but underwent something like the Rapture. The Apostle Paul  was also "caught up" (Greek: "harpazo;" Latin: "raptum") into heaven while still alive. The same word (Greek: "harpazo;" Latin: "raptum") was used when Philip was "caught away" from the eunuch by the Spirit of the Lord. The same word also described the ascension of Jesus to heaven at the Mount of Olives, so the same powerful event that transported Jesus will also transport those of us still alive to be instantly in the presence of the Lord.

Genesis 5:24 - Enoch 2 Kings 2:11 – Elijah  2 Corinthians 12:2; 3-4 - Paul Acts 8:39 - Philip Luke 24:51 - Jesus Acts 1:9 - Jesus

B.  WHO participates in it? WHERE is it?
All
believing Christians who have accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their personal Savior are taken bodily from the earth in one instantaneous act, and it is worldwide. All others are left behind. There are three primary verses that teach about the Rapture, when the Lord Himself returns for his Church:

John 14:1-3 - "I will come back and take you to be with me"

1 Corinthians 15:42-58 - "We will all be changed (Greek: "allasso" - to exchange one thing for another, to transform) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye"

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - "caught up" (Greek: "harpazo")

C.  WHEN is the Rapture? Some very different views of the timing are:

1. Pre-Tribulation 2. Mid-Tribulation 3. Post-Tribulation 4. Partial  5. Pre-wrath
Before the 7-year Tribulation period begins. At the midpoint of the Tribulation. At the end of the Tribulation, right before the Second Coming of Christ back to Earth. Believers must suffer the Tribulation as testing, and will be raptured up to meet Christ in the air and then will return immediately with Him back to the Earth.   Faithful, devoted believers will be raptured before the Tribulation; the rest of believers will be left to go through the purging of the Tribulation. (Most all espousing this view believe they are in the first group.)   About three-fourths (five and a half years) of the way through the Tribulation, when the full wrath of God begins to be poured out on the Earth. 

6. The difference of opinions in this one area of WHEN? is considerable. Some online Christian discussion forums have an "Eschatology" board in which the arguments among reasonable people are intense. Those differences of opinion tend to be about whether the prophecies in Daniel and/or Revelation are literal or symbolic; whether the prophecies about the role of Israel in End Times events have already been fulfilled completely or not; whether the Temple destroyed in 70 AD was the second of three Temples or the second of two; and whether the Antichrist has already come or is yet to be revealed. One cannot hold all or even several of these views of WHEN? simultaneously. The author has written this play from a viewpoint of the Rapture occurring Pre-Tribulation, which is a literal, not symbolic, interpretation of prophecies of End Times events; that the role of Israel is pivotal to those prophecies; that the Third Temple will be built; and that the Antichrist is yet to be revealed.

7. One Post-Tribulationist argument is that a Pre-Tribulation Rapture would be a Second Coming, and the Glorious Appearance a Third Coming. A counterpoint to support Pre-Tribulation is that the Rapture and the Second Coming are two very different events. Jesus does not appear on the earth, and He will be invisible to unbelievers. The Rapture will take living Christians and resurrected saints from earth to meet Jesus in the air and be transported to heaven. The Second Coming will be Jesus and His saints moving from heaven to earth, and He will be visible to the entire world.

8. The Rapture happens instantaneously. The Second Coming consists of multiple events over many hours (perhaps several days) - Jesus' Glorious Appearance in the sky (the "sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky" - "every eye will see him"); Jesus' feet striking the Mount of Olives, the chaining of Satan, the execution of judgment upon the Earth and its destruction by fire and the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to be the centerpiece of the Kingdom.

9. The Second Coming must be preceded by a time of horrible conflagration and war. There are no prophecies left to be fulfilled before the Rapture could occur.

D.  Is the timing of WHEN the Rapture will happen hidden somewhere in the Bible?
1. Only God knows, and He has not revealed it to men in any form. There are neither specific dates nor events that are required for the Rapture to occur. There will be no signs prior to its happening. To speculate on a date for the Rapture is a serious error to make; no one knows but the Father. If you hear someone setting a date for the Rapture, you can know two things right away: he's wrong and he's not paying attention to what's written in the Bible. In God’s timetable, “soon” can mean any time He chooses.

2. The Second Coming is specifically seven years (one "seven") after the Antichrist signs a covenant with Israel, which is the event that launches the Tribulation. Midway through, he will drop all pretense of being a friend to Christ and Israel and begin his murders. Those holding a Post-Trib
ulation position could calculate exactly the time of the Rapture to be seven years after that covenant; but there are to be no advance indications of the Rapture. No one knows the hour when Christ will return - not the angels in heaven; not even Jesus Himself - only the Father knows.

Daniel 9:27 Matthew 24:36 Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:44 Matthew 25:13 Mark 13:32-33 Acts 1:7

E.  WHY is the Rapture?

1. Suffering is different from God's wrath. 
Christians are called upon to endure suffering and hardship as discipline from God.

Romans 8:17 2 Timothy 2:12 Philippians 1:29 Hebrews 12:6-7

2. God's wrath is reserved for unbelievers. 
Believers will be spared this Divine retribution by being "snatched away" from the earth in the Rapture. The Bible promises that God's people are exempt from the coming Tribulation (“coming wrath,” “hour of trial”).

Romans 5:9 1 Thessalonians 1:10 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Revelation 3:10 (Written to the Church in Philadelphia. It alone was spared first century persecution, and is a foreshadowing of the Church to be raptured before the Tribulation. The trials then did not come upon the "whole world.")  

3. Are those left behind lost?
Our God is the God of infinite patience and second chances. One purpose of the Tribulation is to cause unbelieving people to change their hardened hearts. The purposes of the Two Witnesses (perhaps Elijah & Enoch), the sealed 144,000 Jews and the three angels are to evangelize and bring people to repentance. These Jews will save millions/billions of people in the Tribulation. The Church is not evangelizing because the Church has departed the Earth during the Rapture.  

Malachi 4:5 - Elijah Revelation 11:3-6 - Two Witnesses    Revelation 7:3-4 - 144,000 Jews Revelation 14:6-7 - Angels witnessing

F.  Key points to support a Pre-Tribulation view:

1. The 7 lampstands, which Jesus said are the Church in Revelation Chapter 1, have been moved in Chapter 4:

Moved from earth -  Revelation 1:12-14 & Revelation 1:20       To heaven - Revelation 4:5  
And thus ends reference to the lampstands, because for eternity thereafter, the Lamb will be our light - Revelation 21:23 & Revelation 22:5


2. Location of the Church in Revelation Chapters 4-18  

None of the chapters that deal with the Tribulation mention the presence of the Church.

3. Removal of the Restrainer  
The age in which we now live is described as the age of restraint. Something or someone is holding back the full blast of evil that is to come when the Antichrist is unleashed. That Someone is the Holy Spirit working through the Church. When the Church is removed, the Holy Spirit, the Restrainer (He), is removed.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-7

4. Twenty-four elders = the raptured Church
In Revelation, there are twelve references to a group of beings called the "twenty four elders."  The fact that they are mentioned twelve times makes them key players in Bible prophecy. Some writers have speculated they are the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, representing the Old Testament and New Testament redeemed. There are clues throughout Revelation that could lead one to believe that they represent the raptured Church, particularly that they are elders and that they have crowns. They are not angels, for angels never grow old and angels do not receive crowns. They are men redeemed from earth.

Revelation 4:4 Revelation 5:6 Revelation 5:14 Revelation 11:16
Revelation 4:10 Revelation 5:8 Revelation 7:11 Revelation 14:3
Revelation 5:5 Revelation 5:11 Revelation 7:13 Revelation 19:4

5. Imminence  
The Rapture is presented in the New Testament as an event that, from man's viewpoint, could occur at any moment. Believers are to be prepared, to wait and to be looking for it all the time. Only the Pre-
Tribulation position allows for an imminent, any moment, sign-less coming of Christ for His own.  

Matthew 25:10-13

Luke 12:35-37

1 Corinthians 1:7

1 Corinthians 16:22

Philippians 3:20

1 Thessalonians 1:10 Hebrews 9:28 Philippians 4:5 Titus 2:13 Jude 1:21

6. Blessed hope
The truth of the Rapture is intended to be a comfort and blessing to the Lord's people. It is our "blessed hope." The blessed hope of the Rapture is that Christ will come for the faithful prior to a time of worldwide devastation. There is no rejoicing if Christians fear and expect to be fugitives and beheaded or worse at the hands of the Antichrist. Those fates do await those Tribulation saints who will come to Christ during the Tribulation, but too late to avoid these seven years.

Titus 2:13  

7. The deceit of the Antichrist
The Antichrist, with Satan's active participation, will deceive an unbelieving world. Lying and deceit will be his native tongue. Christians would not be fooled by a counterfeit and the Christian media, or secular media alerted by Christians, would sound the alarm. But there will be no believers left on Earth and no true Christian media. The Antichrist will most likely seize all media for his own propaganda purposes, as all past dictators have, so the fraud will continue to its full conclusion.

Psalm 52:2 Daniel 8:25 Daniel 11:23 2 Corinthians 11:13-14

8. The Rapture will set off alarm bells worldwide, but the worst is yet to come
"For the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand -" A worldwide, instantaneous, simultaneous disappearance of two billion Christians will have a startling effect on those who are their relatives, friends or acquaintances. Many of those left behind will most likely know instantly what has happened. Those who actually see someone raptured before their very eyes will have no doubt whatsoever. Many will come to Christ immediately as a result. This is the first event, and the one with the least amount of violence, destruction and death, to shake people out of their complacency about Jesus. The violence will increase exponentially, but only after continued rejection of God after each cataclysmic event.

Joel 2:1-2

G.  Differences between Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ 
(sometimes referred to as the Glorious Appearance, when He is seen worldwide)

Pre-Tribulation Rapture   Second Coming  

1. Jesus coming FOR His Church

John 14:1-3  

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17  

1. Jesus coming WITH His Church

Zechariah 14:5 

Colossians 3:4  

Jude 14  

Revelation 19:14 

2. Caught up with Him in the air

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

2. Jesus' feet touch the Earth

Zechariah 14:4 

Acts 1:9-11

3. Christians taken, unbelievers are left behind

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

3. Unbelievers are taken; the righteous Tribulation saints and newly believing Jews are left behind

Matthew 13:28-30

Matthew 24:37-41

Matthew 25:31-33

4. Purpose: To transform saints’ bodies to incorruptible; to present the Church to Himself and to the Father

1 Corinthians 15:53 

Philippians 3:20-21

4. Purpose: To execute judgment on Earth and set up His Kingdom

Zechariah 14:3-4 

Jude 1:14-15

Revelation 19:19  

Revelation 19:21  

5. Marriage of Lamb in heaven after the Rapture.  
Christ is the groom; the Church is the bride, and believers are that Church. Following is the important Wedding Supper celebration (perhaps for the entire 7 years), the one referred to in Jesus' parable of Luke 14:15-24. Then the Church returns to Earth as the white-robed armies of Christ. Logic maintains there is no rushed “yo-yo” up and down Rapture, then immediate return to Earth with Christ, as a post-Tribulation view maintains.

2 Corinthians 11:2

Revelation 19:7-9

5. Marriage is followed by war on earth with the armies of heaven, the saints of the Wedding Supper.

Revelation 19:11-16 

6. Happens in a moment, too fast for eyes to see

1 Corinthians 15:52

6. Measured, deliberate return with great majesty

Matthew 24:30

7. Only Christians will see Him – a private event

1 Corinthians 15:52  

1 John 3:2

7. Every eye will see Him – a public, worldwide event

Matthew 24:27

Revelation 1:7

8. Jesus descends with a loud shout and a trumpet

1 Thessalonians 4:16

8. No shout or trumpet mentioned

Revelation 19:11-21

9. A resurrection takes place

John 11:25  

1 Corinthians 15:21 

1 Corinthians 15:23

1 Corinthians 15:51-54

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 

9. No resurrection mentioned

Zechariah 12:10 

Zechariah 14:4-5  

Revelation 1:7
 
Revelation 19:11-21

10. Can happen at any time

Matthew 25:10-13

Luke 12:35-37

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 

Revelation 3:3

10. Specific date: 7 years after the Antichrist signs a covenant of peace with Israel; after the Tribulation

Daniel 9:24-27   (‘sevens’ / ‘weeks’ = 7 year periods, like our decades, came from keeping the Sabbath of the land every 7th year. Biblical years are based on 360 days, not our 365 days.)

Matthew 24:29-30

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

11. No angels mentioned
Christ doesn’t need angels to help Him resurrect His own creation. He claims the power of resurrection as proof He was and is God in human flesh.

John 5:21

John 5:28-29  

John 11:43-44  

1 Thessalonians 4:16

11. Angels participate in Second Coming

Matthew 13:38-41

Matthew 13:49 

Matthew 24:31

Matthew 25:31

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8

12. Living believers and the spirits of those dead in Christ depart with Jesus to receive their resurrected bodies

1 Thessalonians 4:14-16

12. Christians return with Jesus in already resurrected bodies riding on white horses

Revelation 19:14

13. Jesus does not return on a white horse

1 Thessalonians 4:16

13. Jesus returns on a white horse

Revelation 19:11, 19, 21

14. For the Church only (those in Christ)

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 

14. Israel now the focus - and believing Tribulation saints

Daniel 9:24 (the “70 week,” the final 7 years of 490)

Joel 3:16  

Romans 11:25-27

Matthew 25:31-46 (sheep & the goats)

15. A message of hope and comfort

Matthew 12:20-21

Romans 15:13

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 

1 Timothy 1:1

Titus 2:13 

1 John 3:3

15. A message of judgment

Joel 3:12-15  

Malachi 4:5  

Revelation 19:11-21

16. Anticipation: one of great joy 

John 3:29  

16. Anticipation: one of great mourning 

Zechariah 12:10 

Revelation 18:19 

Research: Search God's Word (Greek Translations); Things To Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology; Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation; Every Prophecy of the Bible; From Daniel to Doomsday; Vanished into Thin Air: The Hope of Every Believer; On Prophecy; Daniel; In the Eye of the Apocalypse; Commentary on Daniel; Christ In Isaiah; Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations; Daniel: God's Control Over Rulers and Nations; Revelation 1-22 CommentariesRevelation 12-22 Commentaries; Prophecy: 14 Essential Keys to Understanding the Final Drama; Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies That Affect You Today;