The teaching about the Rapture will become more and more relevant as we approach the soon return of Jesus. It is one of the most comforting truths that will encourage us to stand strong for Jesus and give us hope in the end times. In Titus 2:13 we read, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” It has been a controversial subject for many years with two main points of view, the pre-tribulation and the post tribulation rapture. The pre-tribulation rapture is the most popular point of view among evangelical Christians today. However, since the time of the early church to the beginning of the 20th century, every bible teacher who taught on the end times, believed that Christians would go through the tribulation and face the Anti-Christ before the second coming of Christ.
The origins of the pre-tribulation rapture teaching:
Around about the year 1900, a woman by the name of Margaret McDonald lived in Port Glasgow in Scotland. She taught that Christians would be raptured before the Great Tribulation and would not face the Antichrist. (I will not elaborate on her reasons for having this point of view in this study.) Her pastor, Henry Irvine took this teaching to a conference in London led by a Dr. Drummond. At this conference, one of the attendees, J Nelson Darby the founder of the Brethren church, accepted this teaching. However, a number of his colleagues was opposed to this, one of them being George Mueller.
Darby then travelled to the USA and met with Dr. C.I Scofield, who put the teachings of Darby into the notes of his popular Scofield Bible. This Bible became the most popular Bible in the USA in the 20th century. Through this Bible, the teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture became popular throughout the English speaking evangelical world. However, in the last number of years, there are many who have been questioning the validity of this point of view.
The seven year tribulation period:
As we read the book of Revelations, we read about the time of the end and the horrific events described that will come upon the earth in the judgment of the seals, trumpets and bowels of wrath. The concept of a seven year tribulation comes from a number of verses, in the book of Daniel. For example we read in Daniel 9:27 “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering and on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” This scripture speaks about “a week before the consummation. The consummation means the end of the age, and many Bible scholars believe that the week speaks about a week of years, or a seven year period. (See also: Daniel 12:7, 11 and 12) This seven year period is divided into two parts of three and a half years.
In the middle of this seven year period, we read that, “He (the Antichrist) shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering and on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate.” Jesus refers to this in Matthew 24:15, “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place.” In other words there will be a temple built in Jerusalem and after three and a half years, a person called the Antichrist, will defile this temple. He will at first seem to be a man of peace, and make a treaty between Israel and other Arab nations, but in the middle of this period he will break this treaty and defile the Jewish temple and be seen for who he really is.
We read in Revelations 11:2b, “… the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” This refers to the second half of the tribulation where Israel will be invaded and destroyed. In Zechariah 14:3-4 we read, “ForI will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the housesrifled and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then theLordwill go forth and fight against those nations…” The seven year Tribulation will culminate with the battle of Armageddon.
Christians will go through a time of tribulation:
(Let us now look at a number of scriptures to verify this.)
Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” It says here “after the Tribulation … then the sign of the Son of man will appear ... He will gather His elect…” Jesus appears and gathers His elect is after the Tribulation, implying that believers in Christ will go through the Tribulation!
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
It says here, our gathering together unto Him, which is the rapture, will not happen until the “man of sin” who is the Anti-Christ will first be revealed. This means that rapture will not take place before the Tribulation, because the Antichrist is revealed during the Great Tribulation! So, Christians will be here during the time of the Antichrist and will face persecution and even martyrdom during the time of the Great Tribulation!
Revelations 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,… (Verse 13) Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” (Verse 14) And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Again, it says that these Christians came out of the Great Tribulation. So it is clear from these scriptures that Christians will be on earth during the time of the Great Tribulation!
When will the rapture take place?
Let us read some familiar scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:52, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The “last trumpet” refers to the seventh trumpet in the book of Revelations where we read about seven trumpet judgments. Revelations 11:15 says, “Then the seventh angel sounded (the trumpet): And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
We have the same event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” We have already read about this in Matthew 24:30-31, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect…”
However, if the rapture occurs at the sound of the seventh trumpet, what about the remaining judgments where God pours our His bowls of wrath? To explain this let us read two very important scriptures:
1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “…even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The wrath spoken of here refers to the bowls of wrath that God will pour out on the earth right at the end of the Tribulation. We read about this in Revelations 15:1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” From this we can conclude that the church will not be on earth during these final judgments which will be the most devastating part of the Great Tribulation.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 also confirms this, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
The word rest also means reprieve. Jesus will give His Church reprieve from this final period of the Tribulation, when God pours out His wrath on the earth. He does this through the rapture!
Therefore, from these scriptures we conclude that the rapture takes place during the Tribulation just before God pours out His wrath on the earth. There will not be a Pre-tribulation or post tribulation rapture, but a pre-wrath rapture. As Christians, we will be here during the time of the Antichrist and will experience much of the Tribulation, but not be here during the final period known as God’s wrath. During this final period, the church will be in heaven, celebrating the Marriage Supper of the lamb. At the end of the Tribulation, at the battle of Armageddon, Jesus returns to the earth with His church to reign upon the earth for a thousand years.
The first and second resurrection:
The Rapture is the same as the first resurrection, mentioned in Revelations 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” The second resurrection takes place at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ, when the unjust will be judged before the Great White Throne judgment and “anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.“(Revelations 20:15)
How can we be ready for the rapture?
(Let us look at the following scriptures.)
Luke 21:34-36, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life and that Day come on you unexpectedly, for it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch, therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.“
1 Peter 4:7-10: “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
2 Peter 3:10-12, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be [a]burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…”
Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
From these scriptures, we find the following priorities:
Firstly, the importance of our personal relationship with God:
One of the most important things we must do is to build a strong personal relationship with God through prayer and reading the Bible. There is so much that we can say about prayer. Prayer will keep us spiritually alert and strong. Those who neglect the discipline of prayer and their personal relationship with God will not be able to stand in the end times, especially as we approach the return of Jesus.
Secondly, the importance of committed relationships in the Body of Christ:
We read in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another…” In order to stand strong in the end times and be ready for the rapture or the second coming of Christ, we need to have strong spiritual connections in the Body of Christ. In Hebrews 10:25 we read, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” We need to be part of a strong local church where we pray together, have fellowship together, work together and worship together. We will not be able to stand alone, we will need our brothers and sisters in Christ!
Thirdly, we need to pay attention to our calling and ministry:
It says in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Jesus also said in Luke 19:13, “Occupy till I come!” He did not say, “sit and do nothing and wait for the Rapture!” It is important that we use the gifting and the talents that God has given us, and more so as we approach the return of Jesus. In fact Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:7, “that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the parable of the talents it is implied that we use the abilities that God has given us to extend the Kingdom of God. This is especially true with regards to the winning of souls and making of disciples. In the end time there will be the final great harvest of souls, and we should all be involved in bringing in this harvest. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Fourthly: The importance of holiness and our commitment to Jesus:
We read in 2 Peter 3:11, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…” We are warned in Luke 21:34, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life…” Therefore we need to remove all areas of compromise and sin and the things that distract us from Christ. We need to be careful what we watch, what we say, what we do and what we think. We need to be spiritually alert and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is coming for a glorious, anointed, faith filled church that is without spot or wrinkle. (Ephesians 5:27)
Fifthly, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit:
In the parable of the ten virgins, the wise virgins had extra oil in their vessels. Oil speaks about the anointing of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they were filled with the Holy Spirit! We read in Matthew 25:10, “…and those (the wise virgins) who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.” The Holy Spirit will enable us to be ready for the return of Jesus. Therefore as we approach the end of the age, it is going to be more and more important to be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will lead us and empower us to be ready for Jesus return.
If by any chance the Rapture takes place before the Great Tribulation, it would be a win, win situation for all of us. However, it would be wiser to prepare for the worse and be ready to go through the Great Tribulation. In the final analysis, God wins and we will spend eternity with Jesus forever. The Return of Jesus or the Rapture is our “blessed hope.” It will be a glorious event and we should always be longing for His coming. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:8 about those who long for His appearing. Therefore, this should be the cry of our hearts, “even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelations 22:20) Amen