The Rapture: What is it?
It is Jesus coming to claim His bride, the church, and bring her back to His place in heaven. Why does He do that? Because we are in a period of time called the church age or the age of Grace. It initially began with the resurrection of Christ, but “officially” began at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out and indwelt all believers. From that day until now, all believers are born again with the Holy Spirit residing in them during this church age, which has a beginning at Pentecost and an end when Jesus comes for His bride and takes her back to heaven to be with Him.
Why is the church referred to as the bride of Christ?
A marriage relationship is the strongest, most intimate relationship God has set up. It is when two become one, and it means this in a much stronger context than simply physical union. We often say our spouse is our “soul” partner. We are “two become one” soul partners. Jesus says in John 14:20 that “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
That is Divine God being “two become one” through our bride and marriage relationship with God. This is the most intimate relationship God provides. Not even the angels have this type of relationship with God. AND since the church is called the bride of Christ, it is important to examine the Jewish betrothal customs to see how this betrothal relationship unfolds.
When a Jewish bridegroom proposes to his perspective bride, he offers her a cup of wine. If she drinks from the cup, she has accepted his proposal. Next, the bridegroom goes away to prepare a place for them to live, sometimes back to his father’s house. When he is through preparing a place for He and his bride to live, he comes back for her. She has been waiting, not knowing when he will come back. When he comes back, there is a shout and a blowing of a trumpet or shofar. He gets his bride and takes her back to his place for a wedding and a wedding feast, which lasts seven days.
How does this line up with the church?
Jesus’ proposal to the church occurred at the last supper, when He had wine with His disciples, and told them He would not drink from the wine cup again until they were in His Father’s house. He then went away to prepare a place for He and His bride to live – in heaven. In John 14:2-3 He says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
We, the bride of Christ, are still waiting for Him to return to take us back to His place in heaven. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 it says, “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, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” THAT is the rapture, and THAT is when Christ comes to take us back to His place in heaven.
The wedding feast lasts for a week, but in this case it will be for a week of years; and we shall see why in a moment. Jesus “promised” that He has prepared a place for us and that He will come and get us at some point. The rapture is the fulfillment of that promise.
Is the rapture the same thing as the Second Coming of Jesus?
No. What happens at the rapture is that Jesus comes back in the “air” ONLY for His bride, the church, to take her back to heaven for the wedding feast. It is immediately following the wedding feast at the end of the week-long feast of years in Revelation 19 that Jesus returns to Earth “with His bride, the church;” and THAT is His Second Coming. Matthew 24 says that every eye shall see Him as He comes back to judge the surviving wicked, and to rule over planet Earth.
He will rule from Jerusalem during a period of 1,000 years called the millennial reign of Christ. It will be an unprecedented time in history. His church, who are now immortal beings, will physically and visibly be reigning on Earth with Jesus. Human beings will co-exist alongside visible immortal beings. Only believers who survive the seven-year tribulation will be allowed to enter into the 1,000-year millennial reign of Christ.
What happens between the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ?
It is important to remember that God “still” has a covenant with the Jewish people, in which He told them that there is a time coming when they will receive their long-awaited Messiah. And they, Israel, will be the “predominant” nation on earth and will be held in high esteem. This covenant is spelled out in Daniel chapter 9 in what is called the 70 weeks of Daniel prophecy. This, too, is 70 weeks of years, which begins when the Jews in Israel, who have been in Babylonian captivity, are allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem. And it says from that time until after 69 weeks or 483 years, the Messiah will be cut off or killed. That lines up in time with Jesus being crucified. The 490-year time-period “clock” of years stops due to the crucifixion of Christ, leaving a period of one week of years, the 70th week still remaining.
This 69 weeks of years is a covenant God has with Israel and does not include the church. The church never spent one day inside that first 69 weeks of years. The 69 weeks stopped when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the donkey, and was rejected and crucified. Up until the church age, God used the nation of Israel to bring about revelation of Himself to the rest of the world through His word, written by Jewish authors, and through the Jewish people, since Jesus is from the linage of David – in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
Following the crucifixion of Jesus, God turned from Israel to the “church” to bring about revelation of Himself to the world, and that is where we still are today. One of the main reasons for the rapture is for the Lord to bring the church home so that God can now turn back to Israel and restart the 70 weeks clock again. This is in order to fulfill His promise to the Jewish people, to bring them their Messiah and fulfill His other promises to them. This last 70th week of seven years is also called the seven-year tribulation period, in which God pours out His wrath on Earth and sees to it that Israel will “finally” recognize Jesus as their Messiah (Zechariah 12). They will call on Jesus to save them when they are surrounded by all nations, who want to destroy them at the battle of Armageddon. THIS is when Jesus returns at His Second Coming. He comes back to save Israel and to set up His reign on Earth for the 1,000 years.
Since the church did not spend even one day inside the first 69 weeks of God’s covenant with Israel, there is no reason to think it will spend even one day inside the 70th week, which is the seven-year tribulation period. This also shows why it is necessary that the rapture will be a “pretribulation rapture” versus a mid-trib or post-trib rapture.
What other evidence is there that the rapture will be pretribulation?
There are many, many people who have differing views as to whether the rapture will occur before the seven-year tribulation, during the middle of it, at the end of it, or somewhere in between. Let’s see what the Bible has to say.
Since the seven-year tribulation period is described in great detail in the book of Revelation, let’s begin there. As the book of Genesis tells us how everything began, Revelation tells us how everything ends. In the first three chapters, the church is mentioned around 27 times. There is symbolism in the book of Revelation, but the symbolism is explained as to what it is. In chapter 1, John sees seven lamp stands, and they are described as representing the seven churches. Seven is a number of completion with God, and this is also symbolic as representing all churches for all times.
Chapter 4 begins like this: In verse one John says, “After this I looked and there before me was a ‘door’ standing open in heaven. [Remember this door for later]. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a ‘trumpet’ said, ‘Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.'”
This clearly is a wonderful picture of the rapture: there is a trumpet call, and the bride is called to heaven, and “I will show you what must take place after this,” meaning after the bride is in heaven.
John immediately describes seeing the Throne Room and says he sees the seven lamp stands “again,” which represent the seven churches that were on earth but now all reside in heaven. Following this is when the scrolls are opened and all of the events of the seven-year tribulation are described. The church is not mentioned even one time during this seven-year period from chapter 4 to chapter 19, when finally it mentions the church at the wedding feast with Jesus at the end of the tribulation. Immediately following the wedding feast is when Jesus comes back to Earth with His bride, the church, to save Israel in His Second Coming. This is “strong” evidence in Revelation that shows a pretribulation rapture versus one occurring during the tribulation.
Many people think the church will not be spared the tribulation period, and that we are to be persecuted, but is that what the Bible says?
First, we need to recognize that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins and to also save us from God’s wrath. He took on God’s wrath for us at the cross. And yes, Christians have suffered much persecution and endured “man’s” wrath from its beginning until now. However, the tribulation period is described as a period of God’s wrath on Earth – not man’s wrath on Earth. God has already saved us from His wrath that will be poured out on earth during that time.
Rev. 3:10 describes Jesus speaking to the churches: He says, “Since you have kept My command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”
Twice in the Bible in the Old Testament and New Testament, a day is represented as 1,000 years with God; thus, an hour is represented as clearly a very short period of time. This clearly has to mean the seven-year tribulation period of God’s wrath that He has prophesied will occur before His Second Coming. He is telling the churches that He will keep us “from this hour of trial that is to come upon the whole earth.”
Another strong evidence for a pretribulation rapture occurs in 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2
This chapter talks in detail about a time when the antichrist is ruling the earth and sets himself up to be God; but it says that the antichrist CANNOT be revealed until the Restrainer is removed from the scene. Since the Bible says the antichrist will be a person controlled by Satan, who is it that can restrain Satan? Clearly, the only one who can restrain him is God Himself; and since God the Holy Spirit resides inside all believers, it is necessary to remove all believers in order that the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is removed from the scene. This occurs pretribulation. THEN Satan can bring about his plan to control a one-world leader called the antichrist.
Pre-Fulfillment and Fulfillment
There is a very “interesting” example of a pretribulation rapture in Genesis, Chapter 6. The Bible has quite a few examples of something happening in the Old Testament that is a pre-fulfillment, and then something much bigger called a fulfillment happening later, often in the New Testament. A great example of this is when Jesus said in Matt. 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jonah was the smaller pre-fulfillment, and Jesus the greater fulfillment.
In Genesis,chapter 6, God refers to Noah and his family as the righteous on Earth. He wants them to enter the ark, for in seven days He is going to bring down His wrath and judgment onto the earth. This is a picture of God taking the righteous on Earth, Noah and his family, and putting them in a safe place, the ark, for a period of seven days until His judgment begins upon the earth. This is a pre-fulfillment.
The greater fulfillment is talked about in Matt. 24: 37-41 when Jesus says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”
This is saying that, just as people were unaware in the days of Noah, so will they be unaware in the end of days; and it shows the rapture represented by the man and woman “being taken” during this time and the other two left.
The greater fulfillment is that the church is considered the righteous on earth; and here we have God taking the righteous on earth, the church, and putting her in a safe place–heaven–for a period of seven years before He comes back to judge the earth. Of course, this seven years is the time of the wedding feast already mentioned.
We have another example of this in Genesis 19:12 where God is getting ready to pour out His “wrath” and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He sends His angels to save Lot and his family from His wrath. Indeed, the angel even says he cannot destroy Sodom and Gomorrah “until” Lot and his family are in a safe place. Once they are, then God’s wrath destroys Sodom and Gomorrah.
However, I have saved the best for last.
One of the most powerful, if not “the” most powerful verses in the Bible that talks about the rapture, not only describes the rapture beautifully but describes it point blank as a pretribulation rapture. AND it occurs in the Old Testament. Isaiah 26:19-21 says this: Verse 19 describes the rapture; “But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” This is clearly a beautiful picture of the rapture.
Verse 20 further describes this as a pretribulation rapture: “Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you. [Remember John saying he saw an open door in heaven in Revelation, Chapter 4?]. ‘Hide yourselves for a little while until His wrath has passed by. See, the Lord is coming out of His dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.”
This is a strong picture of the church being called up to heaven. Why? Because the Lord is getting ready to bring down His wrath onto the earth to punish the people for their sins. The church is “behind” the doors, and it even describes the time of God’s wrath on Earth as a “little while,” corresponding to the “hour of trial” that is to come upon the whole world (Rev 3:10).
These are all good examples of a pretribulation rapture. They are by no means exhaustive, but strong enough by themselves to give a pretribulation rapture far greater weight than biblical evidence to support a mid-trib or post-trib rapture. Post-trib is really a non-issue because, if the rapture occurred at the very end of the tribulation, there would be no “believers” to enter into the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ, as they would all have just been raptured. The only ones left would be unbelievers who are not allowed to enter the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ.
I hope this is helpful to those who care about the rapture and “when” in relation to the seven-year tribulation that it occurs.
Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!