The Rapture: What is it and when will it occur?
by Rodrigo Silva
In John chapter 14, Jesus gave His disciples a promise that became the greatest hope of every believer in every age. Let us read it:
"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. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know". (John 14:1- 4)
This is a reference to the rapture given by Jesus himself. Notice that He promised that He would prepare a place for His disciples promising also that they would be with Him wherever He was. Jesus was going to heaven ,so this means that He will be back to take His followers to heaven to be with Him.
But what is the rapture?
In order for the Rapture to be understood, one must first understand the background of the Jewish marriage system which was present in the days of Jesus.
Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Jewish scholar explains:
"First ,the father of the groom made the arrangements for the marriage and paid the bride price. The timing of the arrangement varied. Sometimes it occurred when both children were small, and at other times it was a year before the marriage itself. Often the bride and groom did not even meet until their wedding day.
The second step, which occurred a year or more after the first step, was the fetching of the bride. The bridegroom would go to the home of the bride in order to bring her to his home. In connection with this step, two other things should be noted. FIRST, it was the father of the groom who determined the timing. SECOND, prior to the groom's leaving to fetch the bride, he must already have a place prepared for her as their abode. This was followed by the third step, the wedding ceremony, to which a few would be invited. Prior to the wedding ceremony, the bride underwent a ritual immersion for ritual cleansing.
The fourth step, the marriage feast, would follow and could last for as many as seven days. Many more people would be invited to the feast than were to the marriage ceremony. In the Marriage of the Lamb all four of these steps of the Jewish wedding ceremony are evident. First, God the father made the arrangements for His Son and paid the bride price, which in this case was the blood of the Messiah .Just a long period of time (always at least one year) often transpired between the first and second steps of the Jewish marriage arrangement, this has been the case here. Almost two thousand years have now passed since the first step occurred. But in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18,discussed earlier in this chapter, the second step will occur. The Rapture is the fetching of the Bride. Jesus will come in the air in order to fetch His bride to His home, which is in Heaven. Only God the Father knows the timing of this event (Mat.26:36).Furthermore, it will only happen once the place of residence has been prepared.'' (John 14:1-3)
The Rapture event requires a translation of believers in Christ from earth to heaven. Paul the Apostle expands on this subject in his epistles to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians saying that it is the event in which the Lord will come back for His church. Let us read what he says to the Corinthians:
"Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality".(I Corinthians 15:51-53).
In this passage, Paul exhorts the Corinthians who had lost their hope in the resurrection of the body saying that there was no resurrection. But Paul writes to them saying that if Christ rose from the dead as the first fruits, we also shall raise in His coming. (Verses 22-23.)
In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul writes to the believers in Thessalonica who were concerned thinking that they were already going through the Great Tribulation because of the persecution they were facing and sad because of their relatives that had died before the coming of the Lord. In response, Paul comforts them with these words:
''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. 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: 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.'' (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
In this passage Paul explains that the believers that had died before the coming of the Lord would not be left aside, for they would be risen by the Lord Himself, and we who remained alive would be caught up (RAPTURED) with them in the air ,in other words,Christians will suddenly vanish from planet earth to be with Jesus in heaven.
Some deny the Rapture by saying that the word Rapture does not appear in the Bible.That is because they never read the Latin Bible which translates the Greek word Harpazzo as Rapturo,Raptus and Rapiemur as is the case in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.The Italian Bible translates the word as Rapito.
The doctrine of the rapture has caused more confusion in the body of Christ than any other.The students of eschatology are not in agreement about when this event is going to take place, whether before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation or at the end of the tribulation.The problem is with the distinction between Israel and the Church in the plan of God for the events of the future.
The distinction between Israel and the church is essential to understand the future events that God has prepared to deal with the world. If that distinction is not made as is the case of many Bible commentators, a great confusion arises in the prophetic stage in regards to the Great Tribulation.
In our Great Tribulation study we see that the church was not present in the first 69 weeks of Daniel 9; therefore the church will not be present in the 70th week, for this period concerns the Jewish people. But what about those who prove from the Bible that the church will go through this horrible period of persecution caused by this political leader who will come from the European Union? They are called Post-Tribulationists.The say that the church is the new Israel of God,therefore the Church will go through the Great Tribulation.
We find in the Bible itself people who were Pre-tribulationists.
Enoch,the first Pre-Tribulationist.
In Genesis 5 ,we find a list of people who were born and died before the Flood.But Enoch did not die,in fact he was Raptured before the Great Tribulation of a worldwide flood.(Genesis 5:24).Enoch is a type of the church which will be Raptured before the Great Tribulation of a worldwide judgement from God just like the flood was.
Abraham,the second Pre-Tribulationist.
In Genesis 18,we find that God decides to bring judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.Before God pours out His wrath against these two cities,Abraham asks the Lord if He would destroy the righteous with the wicked and the Lord says that He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked just as He will not judge His church with the wicked during the Great Tribulation.(Genesis 18:20-33).The intercession of Abraham for the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah in this passage shows us that God does not destroy His followers with the wicked when He pours out His wrath.
Lot ,the third Pre-Tribulationist.
In Genesis 19,we read of God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just before He utterly destroys the cities with fire and brimstone, He sends angels to warn Lot and his family and tells them to leave the city so that God can bring His judgement against the wicked people of these cities.(Genesis 19:1-29)
In this passage of scripture, Lot and his family are a type of the church being Raptured before God pours out His wrath on a sinful world. Peter even makes a comment on this passage. He says:
''And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds; The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:'' (2 Peter 2:6-9)
But what about Noah and his family who lived through the worldwide flood? Aren't they a type of the church going through the Great Tribulation that is yet future? No. They are a type of the 144.000 Jews of Revelation chapter 7 who will be protected by God through the worldwide destruction of the Great Tribulation. Post-Tribulationists point to the fact that Jesus said to His disciples that they would have tribulation in this world. They overlook the fact that Jesus is referring to Satanic attacks against Christians, but The Great Tribulation is something totally different, it is God's wrath being poured out upon a Christ rejecting world even though Satan is used as one of God's instruments to pour out His wrath.
Post-Tribulationists spiritualize the prophecies that refer to Israel as if they applied to the church. This doctrine is called Reconstructionism or Replacement Theology.Reconstructionists say that after Israel rejected the Messiah, the Messiah in turn rejected Israel making all the promises made to Israel fall on the church. The problem with this teaching is that it makes God a liar, for when God promised the land of Palestine to Abraham and his descendents, the promise was unconditional. In Ezekiel, we read that God would bring His people back to their land, not because of them, but because of the oath that He had taken saying that Israel would be His people forever and because of His holy name. Let us read what he says:
''Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD.''(Ezekiel 36:16-38)
After a statement like this, I think it is impossible to think that God has forsaken His people.
There are those who say that Israel is no longer the chosen people of God. Let us read what God Himself has to say about this:
''Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.''(Jeremiah 31:31-37)
Here God says that if the sun, the moon and the stars stop shining, Israel will no longer be a nation before Him. Have you ever seen the sun, the moon and the stars stop shining? I believe that the answer is NO. Do not confuse the departing of these ordinances with the cosmic events of Matthew 24:29 that will be a divine judgment from God as we shall see below.
The Post-Tribulationists use the text of Matthew 24 to prove the church will go through the tribulation. It states in Matthew 24:
''Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.'' (Matthew 24:29-31)
In Mark 13 we read the same:
''But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.'' (Mark 13:24-27)
They say that the "ELECT" of Matthew and Mark are the believers who will go through the Great Tribulation and will then be gathered together (raptured) from the four corners of the earth. What they fail to realize is that Jesus is quoting several passages of the Old Testament which refer to the re-gathering of the Jews from the whole world to the land of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation. Let us examine these passages:
''And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:'' (Deuteronomy 30:1- 4)
In this passage, God promises to bring back his people to their land from the uttermost parts of heaven as we see Jesus quoting this verse in Matthew 24:31.
''And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.'' (Isaiah 11:11-12)
Again we see that the elect of Matthew 24 are the Jews who are scattered to the four corners of the earth.
''And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.'' (Ezekiel 37:21-28)
Notice that God said He will gather the Jews from every side as Jesus said in Matthew 24 and He even goes on to say that it is He who sanctifies Israel in verse 28.
''Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness. . .Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.'' (Zechariah 8; 7-8, 22-23)
Notice that in the last verse all the nations will ask a JEW to take them with him for they will know that God is in the midst of the JEWS again.
When we examine the context of Matthew 24,we see that Jesus is referring to the Jews and not the church. In verse 15 He mentions the Abomination of Desolation which will occur in the Jewish temple that will be built in Jerusalem. In verse 16 He mentions those who are in Judea will flee to the mountains, which is a reference to the Jews who will be living in Israel at that time. Verse 20 mentions the Sabbath, a reference to the sabbatical law of the Old Testament that will be observed by the Jews when they return to Palestine.I watched a video entitled 25 Messianic Signs in Israel Today, and the narrator said he had to turn off the camera because the Sabbath was about to begin. The Israeli authorities would not allow the camera to keep recording.
On the other hand, Jesus tells His disciples the following words:
''Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.'' (Luke 21:36)
The prophetic sermon of Luke 21 is basically the same as Matthew 24, but here in Luke, Jesus is speaking to His disciples who had put their faith in Him before the period of the Great Tribulation after having spoken about the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Diaspora of the Jews in 70 A.D.
In verses 20-24, He speaks about the cosmic events and natural disasters of the seven years of the tribulation period. In verse 25-26, He speaks about His second coming. In verse 27-28 He speaks about the parable of the fig tree and in verses 29-33 He exhorts His followers to be watching so they will stand before Him before the events of the tribulation which is a reference to the rapture.
The problem of not knowing the prophetic passages of the Old Testament or to spiritualize them as if they were for the church causes too much confusion in interpreting the prophetic passages of the New Testament. Paul the Apostle gives us some information about this in the book of Romans:''I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew . . .For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:'' (Romans 11;1-2,25-26)
*****************************The Post-Trib view simply cannot see this very
important sign occurring before the Tribulation...Take a look at something
that must occur before the Tribulation can happen, and the Rapture happens before
the Tribulation...The time of Jacob's Trouble !