The Rapture !!!
The word 'rapture'
has been used to describe the event of Jesus returning to earth and gathering
up his saints, both the living and the dead, and taking them back with him to
heaven, at the time of the end. But there has been a great debate among many
Christians and Christian organizations as to whether there is such a thing as a rapture. And if there is, just exactly when will it occur?
Some Christians believe that the elect will only be gathered into the immediately visible heaven to greet the returning Jesus Christ. They will then instantly return to the earth with him to conquer the nations. Afterwards, they will live and reign with him here on the earth. Therefore, since they do not believe they are actually going to go to heaven, they do not see a necessity for such a thing as a rapture. Thus they do not believe in the doctrine of a rapture.
Most fundamentalists do believe that the elect will be raptured to heaven. Their debate is mostly centered on the timing of this great event. Many of these believers time the event of the rapture around the final seven year period of what is known as the seventy 'sevens' prophecy revealed in Dan. 9:25-27. Some of these believe that they will be raptured to heaven at the beginning of this final seven-year period of time. Some others think this event will occur in the middle of the seven years. And some believe they won't be raptured to heaven until after the final seven years have passed.
Many of the Christians who look forward to the rapture of the saints believe that this great event will spare them the trials and tribulations that will afflict those who remain on the earth. But this is a false hope. And the disappointment and disillusion many might suffer when this does not happen may be so great as to cause these people to lose hope in their salvation.
But will there really be a rapture? And if so, when will it occur? Some biblical evidence strongly suggests that the elect will go to heaven for at least a short period of time, perhaps as much as a year. This evidence suggests that the saints will be raptured to heaven after the final seven-year period of time has passed and at the outbreak of the war infamously renowned as Armageddon. After they arrive in heaven, they will participate in the festal celebration of the wedding of Jesus Christ to his bride, dressed in fine white linen. After the wedding and the 'honeymoon' are celebrated, Jesus Christ and his elected saints will return to earth together to conquer the nations and establish the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, Lord of lords and King of kings. There the saints will reign with their Savior as kings and priests in his millennial kingdom.
. As we study the verses relating to the doctrine of the rapture, we must remember not to take away from or add to exactly what is said in the Bible. Also, we should recognize that when God speaks of heavenly things, he means heavenly and not earthly and vice versa. And we must be careful with prepositions. 'To' means 'to' and 'from' means 'from.'
The Seventh Trumpet
Perhaps the best place to begin to study about the rapture is in those verses that prophesy the fulfillment of this glorious event. Notice in these verses that God does not use the word ‘rapture’ that is really a name that mankind has applied to the event of the elect being taken to heaven. Instead, God uses the word 'gather.' In the Greek, gather means to collect upon the same place.
Three stupendous events are destined to occur at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet. First, Christ will claim his long awaited kingdom. Second, the elect will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and gathered to Christ. Third and last, the so-called war of Armageddon will erupt on the face of the earth.
1. The seventh angel sounded his trumpet..."The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,... . Rev. 11:15
2. ...at the last trumpet (the seventh trumpet). For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Cor. 15;52
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect... . Matt. 24:31
.....we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the
Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord
himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice
of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God (the seventh trumpet), and
the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and
are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thess. 4:16,17.3.
"Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts
about to be sounded by the other three angels!"
(The fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets.) Rev. 8:13.
Three worldwide wars of horrendous intensity are destined to be waged on earth sometime during the next thirty years. They are the wars of the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets. The fifth trumpet symbolizes chemical warfare that will inflict excruciating pain on mankind. After this war is over, the war of the sixth trumpet will erupt on earth, and in this war, two hundred million troops will kill a third of mankind. Rev. 9.
The war of the seventh trumpet is not described in this chapter. But we can assume that this seventh trumpet also warns of a future war because it is linked in the same context as the woes of the fifth and sixth trumpets that do describe wars though of different natures.
After the wars of the fifth and sixth trumpets have been waged, the next sequence of events in the book of Revelation reveals that the two witnesses will testify for God in
It is after the 42-month rule of this European king and the 42-month testimony of the two witnesses that the kings of the earth are gathered together for the so-called battle of Armageddon. This is the battle or the woe of the seventh trumpet. We can know that it is the battle of the seventh trumpet because it is in this scene that we see God warning his people to be ready to be gathered. And we can know from other verses that they are to be gathered at the sound of the seventh trumpet. Therefore the gathering of his saints to heaven and the gathered kings erupting into worldwide war must both occur at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
When these kings gather for battle, God is warning his people to be ready to go. He tells them to be awake and dressed. In other words, to be watching and working for his kingdom. For it is at this point when the battle is ready to explode that God will send his angels to gather his elect.
Rev. 16:14 They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and
they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the
battle on the great day of God Almighty.
Rev. 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake
and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked
and be shamefully exposed. NIV
It has always been commonly believed that it was the kings who were being called into battle who were to be awake, dressed and gathered to Armageddon. Certainly the kings of the earth will be gathered to wage a worldwide war. But it is not they to whom God is speaking at this point. God has made clear in Joel 3 that He is going to gather all nations to the
Joel 3:2 I will gather all nations and bring them down to the
Translators of the verses picturing the gathering of kings for battle on the great day of God Almighty obviously believed that God was still talking about the kings when they translated the verses to mean that it was the kings who were to be gathered to Armageddon. They evidently didn't realize that God had changed the subject matter on them. One group was being gathered to Jehoshaphat for battle while another group was going to be gathered to Armageddon.
So if the kings of the earth are being gathered for battle in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, then who is being gathered to Armageddon? Unfortunately, the word Armageddon has come to symbolize a horrendous end time battle. In reality, it should symbolize the heavenly city of
The Academic American Encyclopedia gives two definitions for Armageddon. The first is the usual one referring to a supposed future battle of Armageddon. But as we have seen, the nations are not being gathered to Armageddon. So who is being gathered there?
The second definition for Armageddon given by this encyclopedia is the "mount of assembly" or "his fruitful mountain." God speaks of the "mount of assembly" in Isaiah 14:13 in reference to Satan's desire to sit enthroned on the sacred mountain. In other words, Satan desired to sit on the very throne of God. If Armageddon means the 'mount of assembly' where God's sacred throne is situated, it obviously cannot possibly be the kings of the world that are being gathered to the "mount of assembly" and the throne of God for battle. Besides, God has revealed the kings are being gathered to the
Armageddon - Armageddon is the place named in the Book of Revelation (16:16
where the kings of the Earth, the forces of good and evil, were to
assemble for battle on the day of divine judgment. The biblical writer notes
that Armageddon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word. The term
may mean "the 'mountain' of
overlooking the plain of Megiddo, where many Old Testament battles were
fought. Different readings of the underlying Hebrew or Aramaic produce
mountain," which may refer to
Look at these verses again and notice that the language being used is the kind God generally employs in speaking to his elect in warning them how to be prepared for his coming. In these types of verses , God warns that at the time of his gathering of the kings for battle, he will come as a thief, that his people should be dressed and ready to go, both in watching for him and in their works. For it will be at that very time that God will gather up his watchful and spiritually dressed people to Armageddon, the 'mount of assembly.'
Rev. 16:14-16...they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the
battle on the great day of God Almighty.
"Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes
with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed. Then they
gathered them together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
In the above verses, God warns his elect that the kings of the world will be gathered for battle. It is then that he will be coming as a thief for his people. They should be watchful and ready to go. Now look at the following verses and note how God continually speaks to his people, telling them he will come for them like a thief, to be watchful and working.
Rev. 3:1 "To the angel of the church in
up, I will come like a thief, ...
Rev. 3:14 "To the angel of the church in
nakedness; ... .
1 Thess. 5:1 .....the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 6 So then, let us
not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-
controlled....putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of
salvation as a helmet.
Matt. 24:42-44 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your
Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known
at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and
would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready,
because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect him.
As can be seen in this set of verses, it is not the kings for whom Christ will come as a thief to gather to Armageddon. For they are being gathered to the
Not much ever seems to be written or spoken about the betrothal and wedding of Jesus Christ to his bride, the church of saints. Few probably have heard how very much a traditional Jewish betrothal and wedding ceremony exemplify Christ's betrothal and wedding.
In the historic wedding traditions during the time of Christ, the father chose the bride for his son. He then negotiated the bride price with the bride's father that would be paid to purchase the bride. Then the bride and groom would agree to the covenant by supping a cup of wine together. Afterwards, the groom would return to his father's house to prepare a place for his bride. Meanwhile, the bride would also prepare herself for her marriage. While she was awaiting her groom's return, she would remain veiled so that no one would know who the bride was. When the father decided that the preparations were complete, he would send his son to fetch his bride. The son would go secretly to his bride's home, and he would steal her away like a 'thief' in the night. Then the groom would take his bride back to his father's house where they would wed and consummate their vows.
In the same way God the Father, is choosing a bride for his son, Jesus Christ. The purchase price that Christ was to pay to purchase his bride was the flesh and blood of his own life. Now he has gone to prepare a place for his bride in his Father's house. Soon his Father will send his Son to fetch his bride. Then Christ will come as a thief in the night to fetch his veiled bride, and he will gather her to his Father's heavenly home. At long last, the long awaited wedding of Jesus Christ to his bride will be celebrated. Then he and his bride will 'honeymoon' for a while in his Father's mansion. Afterwards, Jesus and his bride will return to earth where they will live and reign for a thousand years.
The point of recounting the symbolism of these betrothal and wedding scenes is to exemplify once again that it is Christ who will be coming as a thief to gather his watching and waiting bride to Armageddon, the mount of assembly, for his wedding and the celebratory feast. And he will be gathering her up at the very same time that the gathered kings in the
The book of Revelation continues its relation of the sequence of events by showing that it is after the time of the two witnesses' testimony and work in
Note that in the above sequence of verses, the
wars of the fifth and sixth trumpets precede the 42 months of the two
witnesses' testimony during the 42-month worldwide rule of the European king.
It is after this 42-month period of time has passed that the seventh trumpet
sounds. When this last trumpet sounds, Christ claims his kingdom, and comes as
a thief to gather his saints up to Armageddon while the gathered kings and
their nations explode into battle in the
Many evangelicals warn of a sudden disappearance of the elect when Christ 'raptures' his saints to heaven. They believe this may cause a great deal of chaos when the disappearance of the saints results in driverless cars and empty airplane seats etc. But if the saints are gathered to heaven at the very instant when worldwide nuclear warfare erupts on the earth, the chaos will be so great with dead bodies lying everywhere that the disappearance of the elect may barely be noticed
God may permit this war to last a year. The first half of Isaiah 34 is one of the many places that describe this future war. God says, "For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution,... ." Though the elect will not escape the trials and tribulations that will precede Armageddon, it does appear that they might escape the horror of this final great battle. For they will be gathered up when the trumpet sounds at its eruption. And they will return with Christ, perhaps as much as a whole year later, to conclude it.
The Two Harvests
God plans two harvests of the earth. He seems to place them in the same context and time frame. The first harvest is that which we have been studying -- the harvest of his saints into his heavenly kingdom. The second is his wrathful harvest of the sinners who rebel against his laws. These are the ones who will be destroyed in the great worldwide battle that will erupt when the kings are gathered to Jehoshaphat.
In the following verses, the first angel, who is described in Christ-like terminology, symbolically uses his sickle to gather the harvest for the
Harvest of the Saints
Mark 4:26 -29 He also said, "This is what the
scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up,
the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the
soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the
head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the
harvest has come." Rev. 14:14 ...and seated on the cloud was one "like a son
of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
..."Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the
harvest is ripe."
Harvest of the Sinner
Rev. 14:17-20 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a
sharp sickle. ..."Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes
from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe."
The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the
great winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress
outside the city, and blood of the press, rising as high as the horse’s bridles'
for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
Joel 3:12-16 "Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the
the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the
winepress is full and the vats overflow--so great is their wickedness!"
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is
near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the
stars no longer shine. ...the earth and the sky will tremble.
The wicked will be harvested in the winepress of the
Matt.24:29-31 "Immediately after the distress of those days "'the sun will be
darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the
sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' "At that time the sign of the
Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will
mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with
power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,
and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the
heavens to the other.
When the nations are harvested in the winepress of the
The next set of scenes provides even more proof that the saints are harvested and gathered to heavenly
Note that the following verse speaks of heavenly
Heb. 12:22,23 But you have come to
city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of
angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are
written in heaven.
For any of us to contend that God is speaking of an earthly
The Heavenly Sounds
Following is another passage that portrays the elect in heaven. The apostle, John, hears a sound coming from heaven. The sound he hears is a song that only the redeemed from the earth could learn. These are the firstfruits purchased by Christ who had been harvested and gathered from the earth. The event of the beast and his number precedes this heavenly event.
Rev. 14:1-4Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount
written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar
of rushing waters and like a peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like
that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the
throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could
learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
...They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God
and the Lamb.
This third heavenly scene pictures the elect standing by a sea like glass. This heavenly scene is also sequenced after the event of the image of the beast and his number. The image which is also the abomination that causes desolation will not be set up in the temple until 1290 days after the sacrifices are abolished which is after the whole last seven years are over. It will not be until after the elect have suffered through this horrible event before they will be gathered to heaven. This proves that there will be no rapture before the last seven years begins nor mid-way either.
Notice also that no one will be permitted to enter the temple until after the plagues are finished. Though the elect will be on earth during the affliction of the first six trumpets and the first six plagues, they will probably escape the afflictions of the seventh trumpet and the seventh plague as they will be gathered to heaven when the last trumpet sounds. That they are not permitted to enter the temple until these afflictions were completed shows that they must have been taken to heaven before the plagues were finished.
Rev. 15:1-3 I saw in heaven ...And I saw what looked like a sea of glass
mixed with fire and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious
over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held
harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God
and the song of the Lamb. ...8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the
glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until
the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
In this scene the elect, dressed in white linen, are portrayed as heavenly armies. They follow Christ out of heaven and return to earth with him to conquer the nations.
Rev. 19:11,14,15 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white
horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. ... The armies of heaven
were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white
and clean. Out of his mouth come a sharp sword with which to strike down
the nations. ...He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
The first three scenes portray the elect in heaven, singing and praising God, as they were awaiting the completion of the plagues so that they could enter into the temple. The fourth scene shows them coming out of heaven and returning with Christ to defeat the nations. It will be a most unique day.
Recall the chaos when Christ sent his angels to gather up his saints. Then the heavenly bodies were shaken and darkened as the winepress of God's wrath was filled in the
A Unique Day
Zech. 14:5-9 ...Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime--a day known to the Lord. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from
These various scenes portray the harvesting and the gathering or rather the 'rapture' of the saints to heavenly
This set of scenarios suggest that the saints will be harvested to Armageddon at the beginning of the outbreak of warring nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and that they might remain in heaven for a possibly year long duration of the war. Then they will return with Christ to conquer the nations and to reign with him as kings and priests for a thousand years.
It will probably be very difficult for those who have always believed that the word Armageddon means a horrendous end time war to change their minds and be convinced that Armageddon is not about a war at all. And that it instead means the long awaited and glorious event of the saints being gathered to the heavenly city to be with their Savior forever and ever. But hopefully they will give this prophecy some serious review and some deep consideration.
It will also be very difficult for those who have always been taught and believed that there was no such thing as a rapture, and that they were never going to be raptured to heavenly Jerusalem to accept the view that there might indeed be such a thing as a rapture. Just hearing the word 'rapture' is enough to set off alarm bells and shut down their thought processes.
If the word 'rapture' gets in the way of our understanding of these verses, then let's by all means set it aside or eliminate it entirely. It is certainly not necessary for our understanding of these biblical scenes. Since God himself uses the Hebrew word meaning gather or gathered, then let's by all means use that one instead. But, let's not let our hang-ups on these words hinder our understanding of God's plans for us. What is extremely important is that we believe absolutely and completely in God's promise to his saints. And that is that they will celebrate their wedding vows and their wedding feast with him in heavenly
But, the rest should respect whatever decision each of us reaches. After all, haven't we had enough of those who have not always been right telling us what to believe? We cannot stand before God and blame someone else for our decisions and choices. God requires that each one of us be accountable for our own decisions. He will hold each one of us responsible for the choices we make. Furthermore, time is growing short. We should not let ourselves become stagnant, satisfied that we already know all that there is to learn about the Bible. We should set aside our squabbles that hinder our growth and take advantage of learning while we still can.
Before concluding this article about the question
of the rapture, one final major point needs to be made. In the parable of the
wedding banquet in Matt. 22:1-4, God likens the kingdom of heaven to a king who
has prepared a wedding banquet for his son. Many of those invited refused to
come for some trivial reason or another. When they refused to go to the
banquet, the invitation was withdrawn from these undeserving people, and others
were invited to attend in their place.
This parable prompts the following question: Will those who refuse to
believe that the wedding banquet will be held in heavenly
One final heavenly scene needs to be quoted. A
great multitude of heavenly voices are shouting joyously, proclaiming that the
wedding is about to begin. The Lord God Almighty reigns. And his bride is
ready, dressed in fine linen, bright and clean. Rev. 19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great
multitude in heaven shouting:
(6-8) ..."Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us
rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself
ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."
...'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'"