The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Of The Church

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” 2 Timothy 2: 15,16

Introduction To The Rapture – Part 1 in a Series

There is much more information about this subject than could be contained in a single lesson, no matter how inclusive or exhaustive that lesson might be. So consider this the first in a series dealing with the Rapture, and all it’s components, as taught in both the Old and New Testaments. As we go along, I will do my best to include as many topical stories, myths and legends of the past 100 years that have sprung up about this doctrine. Briefly, here are the four known “schools of thought” as it pertains to the Rapture and it’s occurrence:

PreTribulation – The belief that the Rapture of the Church, otherwise known as the Body of Christ, will occur before the 7-year Tribulation period
MidTribulation – The belief that the Rapture of the Church, otherwise known as the Body of Christ, will occur at the hallfway point of the 7-year Tribulation period, 3.5 years after it starts.
PostTribulation – The belief that the Rapture of the Church, otherwise known as the Body of Christ, will occur after the 7-year Tribulation period
No Tribulation – The belief that the Rapture of the Church, otherwise known as the Body of Christ, will not ever occur.

Anyone who has ever taken basic courses in Logic and Probability Outcomes will note that only one of these positions can be correct, as all four of them differ from each other in profound ways. It is also obvious that the NTEB position is that of the Pre-Trib, for reasons that we will expound upon. But we will show, over the course of the series, all four positions, where there are correct and where they lapse into error. At no time will we suggest a date for the Rapture, but will, as the Scripture teaches, show that the general time period can be surmised from current events.

Not all prophecy was meant to be understood by all generations
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that these general signs will be seen and understood by those people who found themselves living in that time period. But just as Daniel did not fully understand the words of his own prophecies (for it was not for his time), the Bible never says that these revelations will be equally understood by all generations. Daniel tells us that the words of his prophecy would be shut until the time of the end. That means that they would be generally unavailable to anyone living outside of the time period they were intended for.

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, [even] to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Daniel 12: 4

This is one major reason why there hasn’t been a great deal written in the last 2,000 years about the subject until about 100 years ago. They were not living in the time of the end, so the prophecies concerning the Rapture, among others, remained shut to them. But the flood gates, as it were, opened in 1948 when God re-established Israel in their homeland as He said He would many years ago. It has been well-said that God’s time clock of Bible prophecy is Israel, and so it is. The Fig Tree Prophecy by Jesus in Matthew 24 is the spark that gets the ball rollling.

It’s a hotly-contested topic, for sure. Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib, No-Trib…from any angle you look at it, there are many differences of opinion on the topic of the Rapture of the Church in the End Days. And the Bible is The Rapture of Believerswritten in such a way that the reader is led to draw their own conclusions as to what the Bible teaches. God knows your heart, as well as your motivation on a given subject. He will either lead you into Truth, or, will keep you from it.  “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.”
This passage from 1 Corinthians 2 shows clearly that unless we are sold out to God, we cannot know what His Word teaches. “But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” It is not brainpower which causes us to understand the Bible, but rather a right spirit and a heart that searches after God, and when we have done that, then God opens our understanding to receive His Truth. And with that, let us begin…

 

Defining the word “rapture”

 

The word “rapture” is not found anywhere in the Bible. In 1 Thessolonians 4, we read where Paul says that “we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”. The key phrase here is when Paul say “caught up together”. The New Testament was largely written in Greek, and the Greek work that Paul uses in that phrase is the word “harpazo”, which means literally “to snatch out”, or “to seize”. A very apt word to describe how the Lord Jesus will soon pull the believers out of here. After Greek, the Bible was translated into Latin, and that same phrase in Latin uses the word “raptus”, or “rapturo”, from which we get our English word “rapture”. This word is a verb, and denotes action, not simply description.

Jesus promises to return for His people, and it’s not a secret

 

You will note that Paul says that Jesus, when He returns to take us out, does not come all the way down to the earth, but rather comes down only as far as the clouds. The world below will not see Jesus at this time, only those believers who are “caught up” in the clouds to be with Him. There will be nothing “secret” about this event as a). it will be apparent to all those raptured what is happening, and b). the impact and devastation that will be felt by those left behind will be obvious and very immediate. Nothing secret about it, but, those left behind on earth will not see Jesus take us, only the aftermath of that event. Does Jesus say anywhere in the Bible that He will return again for His People?

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” John 14: 1-3

Jesus promises us in His Word that there will come a Day when He will personally return and gather the believers and take them to be with Him in Heaven. So at this point in our study we cross off the list those people who say there will be “no rapture”, as Jesus Himself as promised us that He will come from us and take us out. To deny this is to deny the clear, revealed teaching of the Bible. The Bible commands us to wait for His return – “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10

Paul wrote about the Rapture so we would not be ignorant of it

Further along in 1 Thessalonians, Paul addresses a topic that was in much debate even in his day regarding the Rapture. Many people had thought that the Rapture has already happened, and maybe they missed it. They didn’t understand the process by which everything would unfold. What would happen to those who had already died before the Rapture? So Paul sets out in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians to answer all these questions. Let’s break it down bit by bit:

” But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” 1Thessalonians 4: 13,14

God through Paul here is telling us that, as believers, we are not left to wonder or guess about the final outcome of those who had already died. God promises that Jesus will bring those people up to Heaven as well. That death is not a cause for sorrow, because we know who holds our future, and that future is certain and secure. Next, he addresses those who will still be alive on earth when Jesus returns.

When Jesus returns, His Feet land upon the Mount of Olives in JerusalemThen shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which [is] before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, [and there shall be] a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. Zechariah 14:3,4

“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 trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:” 1Thessalonians 4: 15,16

Paul uses the phrase “by the word of the Lord” to let us know that this is not just “feel good” rhetoric he is giving us, but it is the very word of the Lord Himself – a promise that one day these things will come to pass. When the Rapture occurs, the dead in Christ will be the first to go up, and have their souls reunited with their physical, and now glorified bodies. After that the believers who are alive on the earth will be taken up.

“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.” 1Thessalonians 4: 17

Now the living believers are taken up to join those who had died in faith previously, and Jesus triumphantly returns to Heaven with an enormous body of believers, both Jew and gentile, as His Bride. Paul closes by saying “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” This is said not simply to comfort us but because it’s true. A lie is never comforting, and if this Rapture that Paul was laying out was not actually a reality, it would be a deception. And we know that God’s Word is always true, and cannot decieve us.

The Rapture and the Second Coming are two distinct, separate events

 In 1 Thessalonians, we are told that Jesus only returns as far down as the clouds, and pulls His people up to be with Him. Then everyone returns to Heaven. But in the Second Coming, a completely different set of circumstances unfold quite different from that of the Rapture. Revelation 19 tells us that when Jesus returns to the earth in His Second Coming, that it will be an event that everyone worldwide will see all at the same time. There will be be no guessing as to what’s happening.

1 Thessalonians 4:17

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19: 11-15

Now we see Jesus returning to the earth to set up His millenial Kingdom, and who does He return with? It’s the people who were raptured back in 1 Thessalonians 4. As you can clearly see in the above-quoted passage, the events of the Rapture and those of the Second Coming are amazingly and markedly different. In the Rapture, believers are called up to the clouds, in the Second Coming,the clouds break open and everyone watches Jesus return to the earth. Things that are different are not the same. Additionally, speaking of the Rapture, the Bible says “But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” But about His Second Coming everyone cam know that day, for it will be exactly 1,260 days from the moment that the Antichrist declares himself to be God while sitting the rebuilt Jewish Temple.

It’s not mentioned in the Bible…or is it?

 Oftentimes, people who make the argument against the Pre-Trib rapture will say, “the Bible does not say anywhere that the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation.” And that it correct, it does not state that directly. But, the Bible says many things indirectly that need to be inferred. For example, nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are not to commit abortion. But if we read “Thou shall not kill”, we can safely infer that since you would have to kill to abort, that God would be against abortion. But by the same token, no where in the Bible does it say that the Church will go through the Tribulation, either.

The book of Revelation is largely a documentary of the events that will happen during the time of the Tribulation, otherwise known as the Time Of Jacob’s Trouble, leading up to the end of the Millennium. It starts of with an introduction of what you could expect to learn from it:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified [it] by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed [is] he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time [is] at hand.” Revelation 1: 1-3

Chapter 1 consists mostly of introduction and preamble, while chapter two is addressed to the “seven churches” which represent various dispensations from the time of the cross forward. This continues all the way through till the start of chapter four where an amazing thing happens – John gets raptures.

“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 hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne.” Revelation 4: 1,2

Now, how do we know that what happened to John represents the Rapture? For a variety of reasons, and they are:

 

The bible calls John the “disciple that Jesus loved”, and by doing so makes John a type or figure of the body of Christ known as the Church.
The bulk of the first three chapters of Revelation dealt directly with the Church, but after John hears the trumpet and is pulled up to Heaven, no mention of the Church on earth appears anywhere in the rest of the book. The Church is gone and in Heaven.
The place where John was looking when it happened was up in the clouds, exactly where Paul says Jesus will meet us.
The last thing John hears is a voice “as it were of a trumpet”. Paul says exactly the same thing in
1 Thessalonians 4 that was quoted at the start of the lesson.
Chapter 5 tells that judgement is about to fall upon the earth, and chapter 6 starts the Tribulation. You will notice that nowhere will you find any reference to the Church on earth, because the Church is up in Heaven watching events unfold.