In Last weeks article we saw that there are a lot of people out there teaching things they ought not; and they are overthrowing the faith (and hopes) of many. The rapture is a hope…it is not an escape mentality as we will see further on in this teaching. The teaching and the believing of the rapture instills a hope in people. If you hinder or destroy someones hope, you’ve stolen just a little part of their overall salvation experience. Because Romans 8:24 says that “we are saved by hope“. Titus 1:2 says that people are “looking for that blessed hope” (and what exactly is this “blessed hope” that they are looking for?) the rest of the verse says “the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ.” Teaching anything contrary to God’s word causes people’s hopes to go out. And Jesus said that He would not quench (snuff out) the smoking flax (wick of a candle). The bible teaches in 1 John 3:3 that people who have the hope of the rapture living in them, it causes them to purify themselves. The hope of the soon coming of the Lord causes us to make sure we’re purified. So let’s not cause people to become spiritually sick from a lack of hope by teaching them that the rapture is coming mid-trib or post-trib…because there is no hope in that. Proverbs 13:12 teaches us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” The rapture is good news…and the New Testament calls it our hope. I hope you enjoy the final installment of this 3-part series on the rapture. Let’s get right into the teaching…
The word that we use for “rapture” comes from the Greek word (ἁρπάζω – harpazo), which means “to seize, catch up, snatch away.” And this is the word that is used to describe the “caught up together” in 1 Thess. 4:17. It is the same word used in Acts chapter 8 when the Holy Spirit “caught” Philip away and he disappeared in thin air and ended up in a different city. It’s the same word used in Rev. 12:5, when the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are “caught up” into Heaven.
Ok…before we move on to the timeline of the rapture, let me address something that has always irked me a little bit. There are some teaching that the rapture is a new concept and that the early Church Fathers, and the early Christians, did not adhere to it. Don’t laugh…it’s true. I’ve heard (and read) this from people who have degrees in Theology, Divinity, and Church History. I just want to say to these ones that the early church fathers most certainly believed, and taught, a Pre-tribulational rapture: Papias, Clement of Rome, The Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius, Barnabas, The Didache, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, The Epistle of Barnabas, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Lactantius, Victorinus, Ephraem of Nisibis, Brother Dolcino, Joseph Mede, Increase Mather, Peter Jurieu, John Gill, and Morgan Edwards just to name a few. All of these are before and WAY BEFORE the 1800’s.
Read what The Shepherd of Hermas wrote (who was born before John the beloved died): “You have escaped from the great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days of your life serving the Lord blamelessly.” This is written by a first century Christian who had heard the apostles’ teachings first-hand. The book that he wrote was at one time part of the New Testament Codex. It followed the book of Acts. Irenaeus endorsed it and considered it valuable and authoritative. Now, if The Shepherd taught that we were going to escape the tribulation, and his book is one of the earliest books we have (besides the sacred scriptures themselves) and he’s saying the same thing Jesus, Paul, and Jude are saying…I would call that pretty authoritative.
Victorinus (who lived in the 3rd century) wrote: “And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up. For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away. And every mountain and the islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid persecution.”
Ephraem of Nisibis (who lived in the 4th century and was a prolific writer and teacher in the Byzantine church) wrote a sermon entitled “The Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World.” And this is what you will find in that message: “Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that He may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms the world? Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe you me, because it is the very last time. Or do you not believe unless you see it with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!” Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins. And so brothers, most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of this world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their…”
Increase Mather said that “the saints would be caught up into the air beforehand, thereby escaping the final conflagration.” We could quote so many others here, that it would fill a volume up. On and on and on we could go with this. So where these poor deluded folks come up with this teaching that the rapture is quite a new thing is beyond me. If they just studied the word of God and Church history, they would know better. But they read somebody else’s book that teaches contrary to God’s word, and they would rather believe that then research it out for themselves. If you fellowship someplace that teaches something different than that which has been handed down to us by the apostles (and the Lord Jesus Himself), then leave that place at once. They are stealing your hope, and planting seeds of false doctrine in your mind. Seeds always grow if you water them. If seeds are watered by the word of God, then God will give the increase – but if seeds are watered by the words of men, then satan will give the increase. Behind the scenes, the number one thing that false doctrine promotes is the self-life. It appeals to the appetites of loose living. The fear of God falls by the wayside. A dishonest man, and an honest man will abide by the laws…if he knows that they’re being enforced, and that he is being observed. Do not be deceived. The Lord will come as a thief!!
Luke 21:36 says, “Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
One of our brothers teaches that the word “escape” in that verse does not mean escape at all, but “an endurance, to be brought through.” Hmmm…I wonder what Greek dictionary/lexicon he’s using? Because every one of my dictionaries and lexicons all mean “to flee out of, flee away, to escape from, to escape out of,” etc., etc. It is one of five active verb words from the same root word. This particular one is spelled ἐκφεύγω, and it is used seven times in the New Testament (Lk 21:36, Acts 16:27, 19:16, Rom. 2:3, 2 Cor. 11:33, 1 Thess. 5:3, Heb. 2:3)…and I would encourage you to look up each reference and see for yourself what the New Testament writers (the Holy Spirit) had in mind when they used this exact word.
Before we move on to other false-teaching-dispelling verses, let’s look at a few other things in this Luke 21:36 verse. “Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things…” Escape WHAT THINGS I ask? How about all of the things listed in Luke 21? “…and to stand before the Son of man.” So then, based upon this verse, where will the genuine Christian be standing? Before the Son. If you’re standing before the Son, tell me then…how can you be on the earth? Are you occupying two places at the same time? Last time I checked, only God could do that. It doesn’t even make sense, does it? You’ll have to admit…some of it is downright laughable, because of the asininely silliness of it!!
Did you know that Paul expected to be raptured in his lifetime? It’s true. A lot of people overlook the verse. Let’s read it carefully: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:15-17
So we can see from this that Paul was expecting the Lord to come in his lifetime; otherwise he would not have used the phrase “…we which are alive and remain.” He expected himself to be among that group of people that would be alive and remaining when He returned. Another note of interest here is that Paul did not mean “we who are alive physically and remain” That Greek word for “alive” is Zoe, and it means to be alive spiritually. Zoe is the God kind of life; the uncreated life of God.
There are three main words in the Greek for “life” and they are bios, psyche, and zoe. The first one means your physical life, the second one is your soul-life (and when Jesus uses this word in the negative sense, He is referring to a part of your soul that cannot be fixed, healed, redeemed, or restored…the self-life), and the last one is the uncreated eternal life of God.
But take special note of the word “remain” in the above verses. This is the word that conveys the meaning of being alive physically on the earth when He returns. It is the Greek word περιλείπω and it is a present passive participle (and it is a verb). Its meaning is “to leave over, to remain over, to survive.” This is actually the word that means to be alive physically. So then, still, in Paul’s mind he was planning on being alive (alive spiritually and alive physically) when the Lord returned and was not planning on going through a great tribulation.
The great tribulation is also called in the New Testament the “wrath of Almighty God” – and in 16 other places in the New Testament this word is referring to a future tribulation from God. Now, with that knowledge in mind, let’s read some verses together:
- Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. Romans 5:9
- And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. 1 Thess. 1:10
- For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:9
To sum up then this little portion of the teaching; the tribulation is referred to in the New Testament as “the wrath of God” and we see by just these three verses (plus the previous one from Luke 21:36) that we shall be “saved from the wrath of God” and Jesus “rescues us from the wrath to come” and God has not “appointed us to wrath.”
Please take special note of how this last verse ends…”but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” I find it interesting indeed that this word “salvation” is not the regular word for salvation in the New Testament (which is σῴζω (sōzō), and occurs 118 times), but this word is σωτηρία (sōtēria) which means: “deliverance, safety, and for the whole man to be saved.” In other words, this word denotes a man being saved in every way a man can be saved…and Jesus and Paul used the word very carefully. And the Dead Sea Scrolls further substantiate this truth. Please see Gerhard Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament volume 7, pages 965-1003 for over 35 pages of in-depth discussion on this word.
In Revelation chapters two & three, Jesus is dealing with the Churches that are on the earth. In Revelation 4:1 John writes, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.”
Pay very close attention as to how this is worded. “After this” – after WHAT? The Church being dealt with and given a time to repent and come back to her first love. And where do we find John in the very next verse? In heaven, at the very throne of God. What is never referenced one time ever again in the rest of the book of Revelation? The Church!! Remember what the voice said to him? “Come up here”…and what happened to John? Verse 2 says that he was in the spirit and was in Heaven. What begins immediately after his arrival in Heaven? The Great Tribulation. Do you remember how Rev. 4:1 ended? “I will show you things which must be hereafter.” Hereafter WHAT? The Church’s being dealt with in chapters two & three.
A lot of people confuse the word “trumpet” mentioned in 1 Thess. 4:16 with the words “last trumpet” in 1 Cor. 15:52. And some confuse the words “last trumpet” with the words “Then the seventh angel sounded…” It’s actually quite simple. The seventh sounding in the book of Revelation 11 is dealing with the wrath of God being poured out on the earth. Just look at the context. The “last trumpet” mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:52 has nothing to do with the rapture; but it has everything to do with the resurrection of the dead. Verse 35 of 1 Cor. 15 sets up the rest of the chapter with saying “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up.’” Nothing in this chapter is dealing with the rapture. The chapter ends with talking about death being swallowed up in victory. So please don’t pull verses out of context to buttress a position that is just not there.
Let’s deal with this word “trumpet” a bit more. I think you might just be surprised as to what it means. I personally don’t think there will be the sound of a musical instrument before the rapture, and the following are my reasoning’s for saying such: 1 Thess. 4:16 does NOT use the words “with the sound of a trumpet”, it says “WITH the trumpet of God.” So then it would behoove us to ask the question: what is the trumpet of God?
Scripture is not silent on the matter for those who search it out as for hidden treasure. I find it interesting that in Ezekiel 33 and Hosea 8, the prophets’ voices are compared to trumpets. With that in mind, read this verse from Exodus 19 very carefully, “And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.” Did you notice something? Did you notice the words “the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder?” Some translations use the word “sound” instead of the word “voice” here. But the Hebrew word is “voice.” It’s the same word that the same verse ends with when it says “and God answered him by a voice.” It is not the Hebrew word for sound. That word is totally different.
So what can we gather from this? That God’s voice can sound like a trumpet. Let’s carry this over to the New Testament and see if we can find a parallel verse showing the same thing. Oh wait…what have we here in Revelation 1:10? “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, which said…” So then we can see that the “trumpet” is speaking. Whose voice is this? The Lord’s. Notice what Rev. 4:1 says, “…and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said…” So here again we have a voice that sounds like a trumpet…and it’s talking.
Are you starting to see something emerge here? The “trumpet” in 1 Thess. 4:16 is probably not a musical instrument, but God’s voice. His voice takes on many characteristics: a whisper (Isaiah 30:21), a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12), a voice as the sound of many waters (Rev. 14:2), a voice of thunder (Job 40:9), and the voice of a trumpet.
Remember something here…deaf people can’t hear. So if you’re spiritually deaf, then you won’t be able to hear His voice when He does come for us.
Some people use the verse in Matthew 24:37 to teach that because Noah was still on the earth during the great deluge, then we will be also. Several things are askew if you follow this line of thinking. First of all Matthew 24 is speaking to the Jews. Remember the three rules of interpretation: 1) who is doing the talking, 2) who is being spoken to, and 3) what is the context of what is being spoken about? And the stress of the context is that people were marrying, eating, and drinking. And if you want to get real technical, Noah was taken up from the earth. The Hebrew word for earth means, “dry ground.” Noah was above it…looking down on it. The point is, is that Noah being in the ark has nothing to do with being saved from or through the Great Tribulation. That’s not the context.
In my mind (and the scriptures’ mind I believe), it’s so very simple. Why try and complicate something? Why try and read into it what is just not there? Jesus said again and again that He would come as a thief. He said no one would know what day or hour he would come. It will be a total surprise!! Just use simple logic…childlike logic. If Jesus were to come back in the middle of the tribulation, then we would know the exact day of His coming (1,260 days after the false prophet of Israel signs a 7-year peace covenant with the antichrist. Daniel 9:27).
Everyone will know when this peace covenant is signed. So then they will also know when the middle of the tribulation is (3 ½ years into the Great Tribulation). This puts a time-frame on the Lord’s return…it would simply be 1,260 days after the signing. If Jesus were coming back in the middle of the tribulation, then everyone would know and He couldn’t come as a thief in the night. If He returns at the end of the tribulation, then everybody knows when this will be also. The time of Jacob’s trouble starts 3 ½ years into the tribulation, and the antichrist breaks the peace covenant and invades Israel. Just count down another 1,260 days and then Jesus will return (according to the post-tribulational rapture adherents).
Dear readers, the tribulation is for God to wrap up His dealings with Israel, not the Church. There are so many scriptures to substantiate this statement.
I hold out hope to you…the same hope that was the hope of our spiritual fore-fathers beginning with Paul. If you are spiritually alive and waiting and watching for His return; and you are holy before Him; then I have good news for you…you’re going. Seven times the Lord says to be watching. Are you watching? A person can only see if his eyes are open. If you’re asleep spiritually, I’m sorry, but you won’t make it.
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. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep (spiritually), as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 1 Thess. 5:1-6
Many people make the mistake of confusing the rapture with the second advent. They are two totally separate events. Scripture is not silent on it either. There are too many to mention here, but I will list a few of the contrasts. At the rapture “the Lord Himself shall descend” (1 Thess. 4:16) – at the second advent “the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 14-15). At the rapture we “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) – at the second advent His feet shall stand once again upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4). At the rapture He comes without a horse, but at the second advent He comes upon a white horse (Rev. 19:11). At the rapture only the holy ones will see Him (Heb. 9:28, and please take special note of the end of the verse that says “to save those [a certain group of people] who are eagerly waiting for Him.”) – but at the second advent “every eye will behold Him” (Rev. 1:7).
There are many other contrasts to prove this truth, just as there are 20 different contrasts between lucifer’s flood and Noah’s flood. But a person has to study and search God’s word for these truths. I would rather understand the truths of God’s word more than all the other books that men write and have written. They are their opinions…whereas God’s word is His opinion on every matter.
A few more verses on the rapture that may be of help in your studies:
- Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. 2 Thess. 2:1
- When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:4 Hmmm…isn’t it interesting that Heaven is called “glory” in Hebrews 2?
- Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and latter rain. James 5:7 (I personally think this is referring to the rapture [early rain], and to the second advent [latter rain]).
- For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and will bring him to nothing with the brightness of His coming. 2 Thess. 2:7-8 (so the “lawless one” is revealed when? When “he be taken out of the way” – and the word “lets” in the Greek means to “restrain, or hold back, keep at bay”). So the Church is the acting agent in the earth that is keeping the antichirist from coming to power. As soon as we’re gone, it happens. It’s kind of like Methuselah…his name in Hebrew means “when he dies, it will happen.” As soon as Methuselah was “out of the way” the flood happened, and sudden destruction came upon the whole earth. And Jesus said the tribulation would even be worse than the flood!! (Matt. 24:21).
Remember what Revelation 4:1 said, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.” God is plainly speaking here and says that the tribulation “must be hereafter” (or after these things. What things? The Churches). The words “church” and “churches” are found 19 times in Revelation 2-3, and not one single time thereafter; with the exception of Rev. 22:16 where Jesus is warning you one last time to be ready.
A little side-note thought. The scriptures do NOT teach that we will disappear in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. On the contrary, it teaches that we shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. You cannot be raptured unless you have a glorified body. John speaks of this in 1 John. So then all the books and movies are wrong about us just vanishing. Scripture is our final authority on all matters. Did Elisha and 50 sons of the prophets watch Elijah get raptured into Heaven? Yes. Did the 11 apostles see the Lord ascend into Heaven? Yes. Does the whole world watch as the two witnesses in Rev. 11:12 ascend into Heaven? Yes. This is why the greatest fear known to man will grip the earth…because they’re going to watch all of us ascend into Heaven by the multitudes. They’ll probably just have to pass it off as an alien abduction…which I guess would be true, as extraterrestrial beings will be escorting us to outer space, so-to-speak).
I am sorry for the length of this, but I wanted to finish it in one final article and really answer some questions that I have received. I hope you have found this 3-part series a blessing. This last article alone took ten hours of research, much bible reading, meditation, and typing. That should show you that I believe with all my heart that scripture plainly teaches that Jesus is coming back as a thief; and those who are ready will go. And those who are not will have to suffer the full brunt of God’s vengeance and anger on a wicked world…and you will have numbered yourself with the ungodly.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to you through Moses: Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and shouted, “Who is on the LORD’S side?” let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. Exodus 32:26
Where will He find you on that day? On the Lord’s side, or on your own side? Please remember what I taught in an earlier teaching this year…if you are a “Christian” and you’re not living right, you will not be able to be saved in the Great Tribulation. You will have sealed your eternal doom. The New Testament is very clear on this issue…from Jesus, and from Paul. If you want to keep playing around with sin and unrighteousness to see just how close you can get to hell without falling in; then I have news for you…you’ve already got one foot in and the other slipping in. I pray you have really counted the cost and have come to the conclusion that sin and unrighteousness is worth it to you. If you miss the rapture, you will have missed out on the mercy of God. Tribulation and anguish upon every son of disobedience, is what scripture teaches. Mercy in that day for you?? Sorry…fresh out.
“Whosoever will, let him come…”