The Great Catch: Part II :: By Randy Nettles

The Holy Spirit Promised

On the same day Jesus ascended back to heaven, he met for the last time with his apostles. “He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which, He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'” (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus commissioned his apostles as witnesses to His ministry, resurrection, and coming ascension and to spread the gospel throughout the world. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Jesus Ascends to Heaven

“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

I believe this is a prophecy by two angels in regard to the Rapture and not the Second Coming. There are two reasons for this view.

  1. The angels merely said He will come the second time in a similar manner. They were not saying that the apostles would be gazing up into the sky watching His return, only that He would come again the second time in a like manner (in the clouds) as what they had just witnessed.
  2. Jesus Christ, in all His glory, will return to the earth at the Second Coming riding on a white horse with the armies of heaven. This spectacular event is described in Revelation 19:11-16 and doesn’t sound similar to Acts 1:9-11.

The Upper Room Prayer Meeting

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:12-14).

Matthias Chosen as the 12th Apostle

“And in those days [a day or so before Pentecost] Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry” (Acts 1:15-17). Peter went on to discuss the reason why they should cast lots for a replacement for Judas amongst the 120 disciples. After praying, they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And Matthias became the 12th apostle.

There were two qualifications for being a member of the twelve apostles according to Acts 1:21-22. The first qualification was the man had to have been a witness of Jesus’ ministry from the beginning of John’s baptism of Jesus to the day he was taken up. The second qualification was he had to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.

The 120 disciples mentioned in Acts 1:15 were all men that were followers and believers of Jesus and met the qualifications mentioned above. They were probably a core group of the 500 eyewitnesses whom Jesus appeared to after his resurrection, as mentioned by Paul. Matthias and Joseph (called Barsabbas) were probably among this group. Other disciples might have included the brothers of Jesus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathaea, and some of the 70 disciples mentioned in Luke 70:1.

Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all [12 apostles] with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them [12 apostles]. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).

During the Feast of harvest known as Pentecost, Jews from all over the known world came to Jerusalem, as it was one of the three annual Feasts of the Lord where all adult males were required to attend. Of course, the Jews spoke the language of the nation, kingdom, or tribe where they resided. When these Jewish pilgrims heard the great sound of the Holy Spirit, the multitude came together and was confused because every man heard an apostle speak in his own language. It was like a reverse Babel incident. Instead of separating the people by making them speak different languages, this time, God brought them together by allowing them to speak the same language. This was done so the apostles could better communicate the gospel of Christ with the Jewish pilgrims who had dutifully gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Lord, known as Pentecost.

I was always led to believe that the Holy Spirit filled 120 disciples that day, but after carefully studying and meditating on the book of Acts, I now realize the Holy Spirit filled only the 12 apostles. There are several reasons for this belief.

  1. The word “they” is used three times in verses 1, 2, and 4 in chapter 2 of Acts. The word “them” is used twice in verses 3 and 4. When a pronoun is used, it refers to the preceding noun. The preceding noun is “apostles” and is last found in Acts 1:26. As a matter of fact, all the pronouns in Acts 1 (they, them, these, you, their, us) refer to the apostles.
  2. When the multitude heard the 12 apostles (not 120 disciples) speak in their own language, they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?” (Acts2:7). Eleven of the original twelve disciples/apostles were from Galilee. Judas was from the region of Judea, around Jerusalem. I presume Matthias was also from Galilee.
  3. After amazement came doubt for the multitude, and some said the apostles were full of new wine (as if that explained it!) “But Peter, standing up with the eleven [not the 119] lifted up his voice” (Acts 2:14) and began to preach. Peter compared this act by the Holy Spirit to a future time (the last days) before the 2nd Coming of Jesus when the prophet Joel said of God, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old man shall dream dreams” (Joel 2:28). Peter was not saying that this filling of the Holy Spirit to the twelve was the fulfillment of Joel but was only a foretaste of the great outpouring that would be given to all the righteous Jews at the end of the age.
  4. Peter preached regarding David and some of his prophecies concerning Jesus and ended it with the following: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart. “They said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?'” (Acts 2:37). Notice they did not say unto Peter and the rest of the 119 disciples. Whenever the word apostle is used, it is referring to the twelve. However, later in Acts, Paul and Barnabas are called apostles. They were the first apostles to the Gentiles.

The Church of Jesus Christ is Born

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:38-41).

This was the fulfillment of the great catch of fish (153) caught by Jesus, Peter, and the apostles on that day before the resurrected Jesus ascended back to heaven. Peter cast his net preaching the word of God under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the 3,000 souls caught on that Pentecost day were a great catch indeed. The Church of Jesus Christ was born on this day, almost 1,988 years ago. This is 12 years shy of the benchmark age of 2,000 years (since Jesus was last on the earth). Of course, 12 is one of the perfect numbers of God and signifies governmental perfection and all that has to do with rule. It is especially significant regarding the children of Israel. After the Rapture, God’s focus will shift from the Church to the Jewish people (all 12 tribes) before Daniel’s prophecy of the 70th seven resumes.

The Greatest Catch of All – The Rapture

When the Rapture occurs, it will be the greatest catch of souls ever in the history of mankind. This supernatural event will be the end of the church age as we know it, for Christians who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth. The Holy Spirit’s role upon mankind will change after the Rapture. Here is how the late Bible teacher, Jack Kelley, explains it: “After the Rapture, I think the Holy Spirit will return to earth in a ministry similar to His Old Testament assignment. He’ll convict people of their sins and bring them to the Lord as He always has. He’ll be with believers and come upon them in power when needed, but He won’t be sealed within them to guarantee their salvation. That blessing belongs to the Church alone. Revelation 14:12 and Revelation 16:15 give hints that post-rapture salvation will be contingent upon obedience and faithfulness like it was in Old Testament times.” {1}

Romans 11:25 says that when the “fullness of the Gentiles” (a term for the Rapture) has come in, then Israel’s blindness will be removed. What is the number of this fullness? No human knows, but the number is huge. Consider that the world’s population is currently at approximately 7.8 billion people. It is estimated that there are 2.5 billion Christians in the world. That is 32-33% of the population. I personally believe this percentage is greatly exaggerated as many of these so-called “Christians” are Christians in name only.

Let’s be a little more realistic in our estimation and drop the percentage by 13% (number for rebellion and apostasy). That would place the percentage at 19-20% of the world population or approximately 1,530,000,000. If you break it down into a mathematical format, it looks like this: 153 x 10^7. If you believe this number of Christians to be raptured is still too high, you need to remember that all the young babies/children and those who don’t have the mental capacity to make a qualified decision for Christ will also be included in the Rapture.

This great number of souls only accounts for the living believers being taken up but doesn’t take into consideration the dead in Christ. They will be resurrected with a new heavenly body and will meet the living believers (who are translated also) in the air where Jesus will be. The dead in Christ consists of all those believers who have died since Sivan 7/May 22, AD 33, on the day of Pentecost, and up until the moment of the Rapture.

The living and dead in Christ, who will meet the Lord in the air at the Rapture, will be an astronomical multitude of souls. They will come from every nation, race, color, age, Christian denomination, and ethnicity. This multitude will include males and females, rich and poor, young and old, free and slaves from every age (1st century to 21st century) and background you can imagine. The one thing every one of them has in common is: “they obeyed the Lord their God and believed in the One He sent.” All of the redeemed will have new spiritual bodies made for eternity. Jesus Christ will then take his betrothed bride, the Church, to their new home in heaven, the New Jerusalem, and we will be with the Lord forever.

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Randy Nettles

Endnotes: {1}