A Quick Look at the Rapture

Posted on May 16, 2019

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Divisive Topic
The topic of the Rapture – specifically, the question of its timing – has sometimes proved divisive. This is a shame, as the purpose of studying the Rapture should be encouragement. Following his enlightening instruction on the Rapture, Paul writes: “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Paul’s point is that the fact of the Rapture should be a great consolation to believers knowing that no matter what comes our way, Christ will one day return to earth and take us home to be with Him. Still, it is important to consider the timing of the Rapture.

Defining a Few Terms
First, let’s look at the word “rapture” in a biblical sense. The actual word is not in the Bible, but is derived from 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” This “catching up” is the Latin rapio (“rapture” in English), which means “‘to seize or snatch in relation to an ecstasy of spirit or the actual removal from one place to another.’ In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body.”[1]

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Next is the term, “tribulation,” as in the “tribulation period.” This phrase wrongly refers to the final seven years of this era of human history, though the term “tribulation” is never used in this way. We know about the final seven years from Daniel 9:24-27. (Seventy “sevens” were proclaimed for Israel; 69 of them have passed. We are still awaiting the final “seven.”) Though the term “tribulation” does not fit this period, we do have the phrase “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21. The Great Tribulation begins at the halfway point of the final seven years, and will be a time of unmatched terror.

One more term we need to look at is “seven seals,” found in Revelation Chapter 6. In John’s vision, we see Jesus (“the Lamb”), holding a scroll secured by seven seals. As Jesus opens each seal, another calamity afflicts the earth.

Pre-Tribulation Rapture
For years, the prevalent view of the Rapture’s timing has been the Pre-Tribulational. This view asserts that just before the seven seals are opened – before the final seven years begin – Christ will remove His Church from the earth and spare believers from the horrors to come. However, more and more Christians are rejecting this viewpoint, I among them.

Return of Christ

One tenet of Pre-Trib rapturism is that the Church, the focus of Revelation 1-3, is never mentioned after this, therefore, the Church must be removed following Chapter 3. The problem with this reasoning is that it derives from silence, and truth should never be based on silence. I believe there is a simple explanation for the Church’s “absence” in Chapters 4-22. Picture a coach addressing his football team before the game. His purpose is to prepare them for what they will face on the field. The first three chapters of Revelation do the same. God is encouraging the Church to persevere no matter what comes her way. The remainder of the book is what she should prepare for. In other words, Chapters 4-22 represent the team on the field actually playing the game they have been prepared for by the coach’s speech in the locker room (Chapters 1-3).

Another tenet of Pre-Tribulation rapturism is 1 Thessalonians 5:9: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The question, however, is: When does God’s wrath begin? Pre-Tribulation rapturists say it begins with the seven seals of Revelation 6, which start at the beginning of the final seven years.

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The Timing of God’s Wrath
The problem with the Pre-Trib view is that Chapter 6 says nothing about God’s wrath in relation to the seven seals. Yet, God’s wrath is mentioned in this chapter, but following the first six seals (the seventh seal opens the “trumpet” judgments, Revelation 8:1). It is not until AFTER the sixth seal do we read (italics added): “and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

There it is – God’s wrath. It is found nowhere in Revelation until this point. It comes following the first six seals, which I believe will last four to five years. The seals, therefore, are man-initiated, not God initiated.

Three major events precede the unleashing of God’s wrath. First, 144,000 believers are commissioned to stand for God once the Church is raptured (Revelation 7:1-8). Second is the Rapture (Revelation 7:9-17). Verse 9 reads: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.” This is the raptured Church. Third, there is a silence in heaven for 30 minutes in preparation for the cataclysmic onslaught of God’s wrath (Revelation 8:1).[2]

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What it All Means
We are quickly nearing the end of the age ­– the final seven years – which will include the rise of the Antichrist, the abandonment of Israel, and the Rapture of the Church at Christ’s return. Those who believe in Pre-Tribulation rapturism will not be prepared for the calamities that will afflict the earth at that time. Please remember that at this barbarous time Christians will be killed (see Daniel 7:21; Revelation 13:7).

However, if you believe the Church will be here for part (four to five years) of the Antichrist’s reign, you will be prepared to face what is coming upon God’s people. It will be a hellish time, but God assures believers that we are His and cannot be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28-29). Though we could die, our eternal destiny is secure.

Until then, believers in Christ must be prepared for the persecution that is coming our way. Let these words of Jesus be your guide: “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’” (Mark 13:37).

[1] https://bible.org/question/where-did-term-8216rapture%E2%80%99-come

[2] For a full treatment of the Rapture, see The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marv Rosenthal. You may find fairly inexpensive used copies at Amazon.com.

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