Revelation: The Rapture
January 25, 2015

The Book of Revelation

The Rapture of the Church

Revelation 4:1

The concept of the Rapture has captivated the minds and heart of the church like few doctrines have, mainly because we believe we are in the last of the last days, and we don’t see our world lasting much longer.

The doctrine of the Rapture has probably done more for evangelism and discipleship than most everything else. Seeing that the time is short, our desire should then be to get ourselves ready, and then tell others the good news to get them right with God now, rather than get left behind later.

And it’s later than it ever has been for the return of the Lord.

As far as being a great theme, consider the theme of the Second Coming of Jesus.

  • It’s estimated there are over 1,845 references to a second coming for the Messiah in the Old Testament, and it’s found in 17 Old Testament books.
  • In the New Testament there are 318 references, or one out of every 30 verses, and it is mentioned in 24 of the 27 books.
  • And for every prophecy concerning the birth of Christ, there are eight looking forward to His return.

Now the Rapture isn’t the Second Coming of Christ, but it is attached to and precedes it. That’s why it’s important to understand it, important for our witness, and important for us to be ready.

Those who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture see this event in the first verse of Revelation chapter four. And while it isn’t my intent to tell you which theory to believe, I will give you my preference at the end of our time together. But let’s take a look at this verse.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’” (Revelation 4:1 NKJV)

The word “Rapture” doesn’t occur in the English Bible. This is one of the reasons why many say it’s a recent doctrine and has no place within Biblical teaching. The word actually comes from the Latin translation, the “Latin Vulgate,” which was written in the early 5th century. The word is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 KNJV)

The Latin word for “caught up,” is “rapio.” In the Greek it’s “harpazo,” which means “To steal, carry off, or snatch away by force with no resistance offered.”

If we were to give the word “rapture,” a definition it would be, “The Rapture is where believers in Jesus Christ are removed from this earth in an instance, whether they are dead or alive, by Jesus Christ before the outpouring of God’s wrath prior to His Second Coming.”

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Paul doesn’t want us to be ignorant, not stupid, but ignorant, which means Paul doesn’t want us to lack the necessary knowledge of this great event. Paul doesn’t want us to miss this vital and important truth concerning those believers who had died prior to this event.

The believers in Thessalonica were expecting Jesus’ return at any time, but many of them were dying and the church thought those who died missed out. Not only were they grieving their deaths, but they were also wondering if they missed out on the Second Coming.

Now Paul doesn’t tell them not to grieve, but when they grieve they weren’t to lose hope, because both the dead and those who are alive will be raised at this special resurrection. With this knowledge they could chill out and comfort those who were missing this truth.

And so this singular event of Jesus coming back for His church prior to the Second Coming is what we are looking at. We see this same event talked about by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 NKJV)

Paul calls this event a mystery. The word means something that cannot be explained through rational means, or human intellect. Therefore it can only be understood through divine revelation, that is, God revealing it too us, explaining it so we can understand.

Paul also explains how this rapture will take place, that is, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. In the time it takes to blink, it will happen. It only takes 1/10th of a second to blink, therefore, in 1/10th of a second every believer, both dead and alive, will be resurrected.

There is an interesting foreshadow of this event found in Genesis. It’s the story of Enoch.

“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24 NKJV)

There is also New Testament commentary on this passage.

“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him;’ for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5 NKJV)

Everyone else in the Genesis genealogy died, but not Enoch. Instead he was raptured, that is, he was alive when God took him to heaven. Therefore Enoch is our first foreshadow of a believer being translated into heaven without dying, but he’s not the last, there’s also Elijah.

“Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:11 NKJV)

Elijah never tasted death. When they searched for his body they couldn’t find it. Elijah ascended into heaven bodily without dying.

Now, when it comes to the Rapture there is several views

  • Pre-Tribulation – The Rapture will occur prior to the Great Tribulation and can happen at any time.
  • Pre-Wrath – The Rapture will occur prior to God’s wrath being poured out. This is seen happening prior to the Trumpet Judgments. The seal judgments, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are humanity’s wrath against itself, not the God’s wrath.
  • Mid-Tribulation – The Rapture will happen halfway through the Great Tribulation. This is seen in how the book Revelation separates the Tribulation into two halves. Further, we see a break in the book of Revelation after the Trumpet Judgments.
  • Post-Tribulation – the Rapture will happen at the very end of the Tribulation time. Here the church is delivered through the Tribulation, not from it.

Each of these views has some aspect of Scripture and reasons backing them. So, it’s not as black and white as some people would like to think. This leads me to one last Rapture theory.

  • Pan-Tribulation – No matter when Jesus comes back for his church, prior to, in the middle of, or at the end, everything is going to pan out in the end.

While I like the Pan-Tribulation theory, I also lean towards the Pre-Tribulation side of the equation. I’d like to take this last part of my message and share with you some of the reasons why. Now, there are those who see it differently, and it’s not like they’re wrong and I’m right. Each has Scriptural support.

Why the Pre-Tribulation theory

The church will not experience the wrath of God

Scriptural Support

  • For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9 NKJV)
  • Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9 NKJV)
  • To the Philadelphia church Jesus said, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10 NKJV)

While we all will go through trials and tribulations, the wrath of God is different and is used for a different purpose, and that is against humanity’s unrighteousness. Divine wrath is then seen in the Great Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the ten plagues of Egypt. The Bible says …

  • For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18 NKJV)
  • Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6 NKJV)
  • 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” (Revelation 15:1 NKJV)

The church has to be gone for the Antichrist to be revealed

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 NKJV)

Paul is referring to the last days, and a great apostasy that will happen, that is, a large number of believers will fall away or renounce their faith. But before the Antichrist can be revealed, the One who is presently retraining the Antichrist is removed.

Many see this as the Holy Spirit, because only God can restrain lawlessness. But the Holy Spirit is still around during the Tribulation leading people to salvation, those known as the Tribulation saints. So the Holy Spirit isn’t removed.

Who then is the restrainer? Paul describes the restrainer as both a “what,” and a “who.” Notice the wording, “you know what is restraining” and “He who now restrains.”

The “who” is the Holy Spirit, and the “what” is the vehicle of grace the Holy Spirit works through, which would be the church. Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 NKJV)

Since the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, and since the Bible says the Antichrist will make war with the saints and overcome them (Revelation 13:7), then the church must be removed for Satan to bring his man, the Antichrist, on the scene.

The church is never mentioned as being in the Great Tribulation.

This is where our verse in Revelation comes into play.

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’” (Revelation 4:1 NKJV)

The question is, “After what things?” The answer is what happened prior in chapters two and three. In these chapters Jesus is addressing the church. So after His dealing with the church, God unleashes the Seal Judgments, which begins with the coming of the Antichrist.

The other interesting thing we see in Revelation is the Greek name for the church, “ekklesia,” is never mentioned again after the third chapter until Jesus’ concluding remarks in Revelation 22:16.

The next reference of the church in Revelation is found in chapter 19 as the wife of Jesus at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and then as the army dressed in the white robes following Jesus upon His return as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Those who come to faith during the Tribulation are called “Tribulation Saints,” and are not referenced as the church.

The language of Jesus

Jesus Himself talked about this happening at a time that no one could predict.

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:42-44 NKJV)

Following Paul’s description of the Rapture Paul says,

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 NKJV)

This is known as the “imminent” return of Jesus. Imminent means this can happen at any time, and there doesn’t have to be anything preceding it. Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour, only the heavenly Father (Matthew 24:36, 44). The only instruction Jesus gives concerning this event is to be ready when He comes.

If the Rapture comes during or at the end of the Tribulation period then we’ll know it because we’ll see the preceding events occur.

The marriage covenant

This is significant because Jesus calls Himself the bridegroom and the church the bride (Revelation 19:7-9; Ephesians 5:21-32)

This evidence must also be considered, because the things that Jesus said were to those of that time period, and the marriage customs and ceremony would have been at the forefront of their thoughts.

In Jesus’ day the Jewish custom concerning marriage was that it was more like a legal agreement. The bridegroom would come to the house of the bride and propose marriage, which would include a price to be paid. It was no small price, but a costly sum. Afterwards they would drink a cup of wine and offer a toast to the bride.

The bridegroom would then go back to his father’s house to build a room for him and his bride. The construction would take some time, and only the father could tell the son when it was ready for occupancy, and when the son could get his bride.

The bride was obligated to wait and be ready at a moment’s notice. The custom was for her and her bridesmaids to have an oil lamp always ready in case he came at night, which usually was the case. At this time she was considered “set apart,” which is the same word as “holy” and “saint,” and was referred to as being bought with a price.

When the big moment arrived, the father sent his son and the son’s friends to go get the bride. This was done in secret, that is, it was to be a surprise, and the bride would be considered as stolen. However, before he got there he would announce his arrival by blowing a horn.

When they got to the house, the bridegroom would take his bride back to his father’s house and into the room he built to consummate the marriage. For the next seven days they would stay in the father’s house. It was during these seven days that a feast would be held, known as the marriage feast.

After the seven days the new couple would go to their own house, one that the bridegroom also built during the waiting period.

Maybe as we went through this you saw the gospel story played out in what Jesus, the Bridegroom, did for us, His bride.

  1. He made a new covenant, one in which he paid for dearly, that is, He paid for us through the blood He shed upon the cross. We were indeed expensive. Further, when he took the cup of the new covenant, that which we know as communion, He gave a toast and sealed the deal
  1. He then went back to the Father’s house. The disciples saw Him ascend into heaven. And Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for all of us, and only the Father knows when Jesus will be returning.
  • In 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3 NKJV)
  • But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33 NKJV)
  1. As the bride of Christ we wait always needing to be ready. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus said that five were ready with extra oil for their lamps, but the other five were not and they were left behind. And when Jesus comes for His bride, the church, it will be announced with the sound of the trumpet, and the dead in Christ will rise, along with those who are alive. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
  1. As the bride we are called to be holy, that is, set apart, which is where we get the word “saint.” (1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Corinthian 6:19-20)
  1. Afterwards we’ll be with Him as He takes us back to the Father’s house, heaven, where for seven years we’ll partake of the Marriage supper of the Lamb. After these seven years we’ll come back to earth with Jesus following Him on white horses (Revelation 19:14), and we’ll be with Him forever.

These are the main reasons why I believe in the pre-tribulation theory. But again, which ever theory you believe, know that in the end it’s up to God, and if we go through the time of tribulation then God will give us the strength and courage to endure.

But the question remains, “Are you ready?”

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