The following is a brief look into, what can seem to be, a contradiction that can lead to confusion regarding the rapture’s relationship to imminence, signs, and the feasts of the Lord.
I believe, though, that we can find a reasonable explanation when taking all of the Scriptures together as a whole, using logic, rationale, and critical thinking skills to resolve any perceived discrepancies. This is our ultimate objective, anyway. Let the reader be the judge if we succeed in this endeavor or not.
Let’s take a look at many of the passages of Scripture alluding to the imminence of the rapture of the church with some short commentary.
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Yes, as verse 4 tells us, we are “not in darkness, that that day should overtake [us] as a thief,” but this doesn’t negate the fact that we won’t know exactly when “the day of the Lord” begins, as the rapture “cometh as a thief in the night.” The rapture is the event that initiates “the day of the Lord.” (Please see An Examination of the ‘Day of the Lord’ for more information on this topic.)
Those who know the Lord and His Word shouldn’t be surprised by the rapture’s occurrence, as they should see the Tribulation coming on the horizon. But I suppose that many, like myself, are somewhat amazed that it seems to be taking longer than we thought because of God’s patience and His “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and put their faith and trust in His Son for salvation!
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
No man knows “that day” and, as we will see later, that “hour” – in a prophetic context – can (and should) be defined as a “figurative finite season; a divinely pre-set time period.”
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).
Again, we see the “hour” – or, better, “a divinely set period in time” – and we will not know exactly when our “Lord doth come.”
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Revelation 16:15).
I love this insertion of Christ to His church – who have been reading the book of Revelation for 2,000 years – toward the end of the prophecies of the Tribulation period. It’s as if the Lord wants to remind His bride to stay focused on their “blessed hope” as they’re reading about what the Lord Himself will save them from; but they must “watcheth and keep [their] garments…”
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).
Even though that “divinely preset period in time” of Christ’s return should not come on us as a thief, He will come “in such an hour as [we] think not the Son of man cometh.” Is this a contradiction? No. There are two aspects we should consider here.
First, the church is made up of individuals, and there will be some that are waiting expectantly, knowing that the time is at hand, and others that will be sleeping and somewhat ignorant that the day of Christ is near. Not to mention those Christians who don’t believe in the pre-Tribulation rapture of the church.
Secondly, there is a very real indication that the church, in general, may experience a kind of “rapture fatigue” and/or will have become somewhat lethargic and apathetic when the rapture actually occurs. This makes sense when one considers “birth pangs.” Right now, there are so many indicators of the soon-approaching Tribulation period, that true rapture expectations are very high – this would be comparable to a woman’s contractions increasing in frequency and intensity. After a contraction, though, comes a short period of relief and rest; or in the case of the last days, a “sense” of relief and remission.
People are funny. It doesn’t take long for us to forget and move on with our lives. This is why we must always be alert and sober, watching and waiting.
“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:35-37).
I love this passage because of its totality in regard to time. We see not only an allusion to imminence but a representation of every hemisphere with its different time zones, signifying that the rapture is an instantaneous, global event.
“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12:40).
The doctrine of imminence couldn’t be stated more emphatically, more clearly, or more often.
In the purest sense of the word, specific “signs” are not required when it comes to the imminence of the rapture of the church. In the freest sense of the word, “signs” should be expected the closer we get to the rapture of the church. This is because we don’t know what specific signs we should truly expect to come before the rapture, as we are never told to expect any certain signs. But, again, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see some of these specific signs fulfilled before we are taken from the earth to meet the Lord in the air. (I’ll be clarifying definitions of specific and general signs in more detail below.)
If signs were required, then imminence ceases. One could say that the rebirth of Israel is a sign that must have been fulfilled before the rapture could occur; but this is faulty logic. The nation of Israel had to be reborn before the Tribulation, but it was not essential for the rapture of the church.
For instance, there has been a presence of Jews in the land of Israel for the past 2,000 years before Israel officially became a nation. If at any time during those 2,000 years, the rapture was to have happened, it doesn’t mean that God couldn’t have rapidly caused events to commence in order to birth the nation of Israel in the time between the rapture and Antichrist’s covenant with Israel and the many (Daniel 9:27). In fact, we know that Israel was to be born in one day (Isaiah 66:8) – and so she was! He’s God, and nothing is impossible or too hard for Him.
In my short article – “They Shall Not Escape” Before the Rapture? – I propose that we may have actually seen 1 Thessalonians 5:3 come to fruition, a prophecy that many would have thought would come to pass after the rapture. But, if this were to be the case, it doesn’t mean that we were to be expecting this prophetic sign to happen before the rapture, because Paul never explicitly said when it would be fulfilled in relation to the timing of the rapture.
And this is my point: Even though we shouldn’t be surprised to see signs coming to pass before the rapture takes place, it doesn’t mean we should have been expecting those signs to be fulfilled – other than the general signs we were commanded to be on the lookout for.
Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. There are many general signs in society that we were told would be prevalent in the last days, including lawlessness, immorality, wars, violence, ethnicity versus ethnicity, a lukewarm church that teaches doctrines of demons, earthquakes, persecution, etc. But all of these signs have always been present. They will just be displayed in the last days in greater frequency and intensity – as in the days of Noah and Lot, to a degree of which we are not told – as we see today. (Please see my series, Societal Characteristics of the Last Days Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4, for more information on the characteristics we are witnessing in society today.)
So, I’m speaking of specific signs that have, as of yet, been unfulfilled. An example of the specific signs I’m speaking of would be the Gog/Magog invasion of Israel. We see the alignment of these nations today – they are even amassed on Israel’s northern border in Syria – yet, are we to expect that invasion to occur before or after the rapture? (For those who follow my writings, in Possibilities: The Ezekiel 38 Invasion, I explain why I believe this prophecy could be fulfilled immediately after the rapture.)
The Lord warned about signs of pestilence in the last days (Luke 21:11), but we didn’t know the church would be present during a worldwide virus outbreak that, because of the globalists’ response, has all of the hallmarks of a prelude to The Mark of The Beast. These are the types of specific signs I’m alluding to.
As we see these general signs increasing in frequency and intensity – as we do today – we should know that we are in the season of the Lord’s return, but we won’t know exactly what specific prophetic signs should and should not be fulfilled before our blessed hope. Thus, imminence is a very real factor when it comes to the timing of the rapture of the church, even with regard to signs. Only the Father knows when to send His Son for His bride, and this would correlate with the Father being ready to send His wrath upon the earth.
Messiah Yeshua perfectly fulfilled the four spring feasts at His First Coming. These are: Pesach (Passover), Chag HaMatzot (Unleavened Bread), Yom Habikkurim (First Fruits), and Shavuot (Pentecost or Feast of Weeks). He not only fulfilled them, He fulfilled them to the day! How that went down is not in the scope of this study, but, rest assured, He fulfilled them to the date!
There are three fall feasts that Jesus will yet fulfill at His Second Coming. They are: Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah (Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booths). These three feasts are generally reckoned as: Trumpets for the rapture, the Day of Atonement for the Second Coming, and Tabernacles for the Millennial Kingdom.
These feasts are known as “God’s feasts,” but they were given specifically to Israel and for her alone to commemorate. Does this mean that the church is forbidden to celebrate and/or honor these feasts? Of course not. If our heart is right with God, and there’s no hint of legalism involved, we are certainly in our rights to celebrate and/or honor these feasts in festive appreciation of the Messiah and what He has done and what He will do, if we so desire.
Many, therefore, because of the significance of these fall feasts, have proposed that the rapture could occur on one of these feasts, specifically the Feast of Trumpets.
Let’s look at the Torah (or Pentateuch – the first five books of Moses) to see what the Feast of Trumpets is all about.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (Leviticus 23:24-25).
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you” (Numbers 29:1).
Numbers 29:2-5 lists the sacrifices to be made during the Feast of Trumpets “in the seventh month, on the first day of the month.” This day began what’s now known as the 10 Days of Awe and culminates in the Day of Atonement. The Feast of Trumpets, tradition has it, was given an extra day by the rabbis, for a total of two days, about 500 years before Christ. This, of course, was done on their own initiative – a tradition of men.
The way in which the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated – in the past or in the present – is also not within the scope of this article. What is in the scope of this article is whether or not we should be expecting the rapture during this feast.
It is because the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated for two days – with most believing it correlates to the rapture of the church – and there are many trumpet blasts, that some find themselves thinking that this is what Paul was pointing to when speaking of the church’s change from mortal to immortal in the following way.
“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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
While this does seem reasonable to me – at least to a certain extent – I do have reservations, and I would like to share them with you now.
The other major Pauline resurrection/rapture verse expands on this trumpet:
“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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Notice that this “last trump” is “the trump of God” and not one that emanates from the earth or man’s breath, but a blast that comes from heaven along with “the Lord Himself” and “a shout, with the voice of the archangel!”
There are also those who feel that Pentecost is a feast that could contain the rapture of the church. While there are some interesting reasons for Pentecost – as there are for Trumpets – we have to remember that imminence is essential to the doctrine of the rapture.
I’ve commented before, saying, “It wouldn’t surprise me if the rapture occurred at the end of the Feast of Trumpets, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it happened right now!” But, at this point in time – after much consideration, prayer, and study on this subject – I am of the opinion that the rapture of the church will probably not occur on any of the feast days for the following reasons.
A Quick Review of Imminence
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man,” is one of the statements that those who believe the rapture will happen on the Feast of Trumpets will point to. They would say that because the Feast of Trumpets covers two days (remember, an extra day was added by the rabbis on their own volition), and that the last trumpet blast of the two-day celebration can’t always be precisely determined, that this could be what Christ meant by His declaration of “that day and that hour.” But the next verse says:
“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33).
For me, “Ye know not when the time is,” is pretty dogmatic and would seem to be at odds with the notion that the rapture should happen on the Feast of Trumpets (or any other feast).
When I read, “But of that day and hour knows no man,” I ascertain something altogether dissimilar to those who see the Feast of Trumpets as a day and hour to look to. For me, I hear this: “No one knows the day. No one knows the divinely pre-set period in time.” And this goes quite well with the other passages of Scripture concerning the rapture.
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).
In all of these verses we have been looking at that speak of the “hour,” we need to note that the Greek word is 5610 ὥρα “hora” and means “a time, or period, or hour. Properly, an hour; (figuratively) a finite ‘season’; limited time or opportunity to reach a goal (fulfill a purpose); a divinely pre-set time period; a limited period to accomplish the Lord’s specific purpose, i.e., ‘the hour’ in which specific characteristics prevail exactly like that for a limited time.” [Definitions Biblehub.com] (emphasis mine)
The context, when it comes to future prophecy, is evident and requires, in my humble opinion, the translation of “a divinely set time period, or period in time.” For, if a man doesn’t know the “day,” then he obviously isn’t going to know the literal “hour.” This is one area in which I disagree with some of the translators. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought that they were using the definition of “a figurative ‘hour,’ denoting a period in time,” and expected that the reader would so interpret it in this way.
So, it has to be a “divinely set time, or period in time” that the Greek word is conveying, and would make total sense within the context of future prophecy.
There Would Be No Yearlong Sense of Urgency
Expecting the rapture to come on the Feast of Trumpets or Pentecost gives the believer a sense of complacency during the intervening months, and they could be caught off-guard when Christ comes back at a time when they least expect. Once the feast came and went, then the Christian would be inclined to dilly-dally around for the next 10 months or so until the next Feast of Trumpets or Pentecost rolled around. I guess then we would have to get serious again, right? No! This is just human nature, and the Lord is quite aware of our tendencies.
“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12:40).
If we are to think that the rapture has to happen on an Israeli feast of God, then how can “the Son of man cometh at an hour (or divinely appointed time) when [we] think not”?
The Church is Comprised of Jew and Gentile and Separate from Israel
Because of this fact, the rapture would be the only event, when it comes to Christ’s First and Second Comings, that shouldn’t have to align perfectly with God’s feasts for Israel. Those feasts were specifically meant for God’s chosen people. Even though the Feast of Trumpets should certainly be viewed as a picture of the rapture, this fact shouldn’t be a determining factor in the rapture having to happen on this, or any other, particular feast.
A deep-dive study of Israel’s calendar is also not in the scope of this article, but a generalization is needed.
We do know for a fact that the Israeli calendar in use today is not accurate. It can’t be, because the unbelieving Jews could never admit that Messiah Yeshua fulfilled Daniel’s 70 7’s prophecy of the coming Messiah in the 69th “week” (Daniel 9:24-26). As a Biblical Christian, and understanding the Bible as it is laid out with generational and historic guidelines (with the help of men much smarter and more patient than I am), we are very close to arriving at the 6,000-year mark since creation. With Israel’s calendar reflecting 5782, we can safely deduce that the religious leaders of Israel, in the course of time, have deducted up to 210 years off of their calendar.
I’m no expert in this particular topic but, from what I know, it appears that the recently discovered Essene Calendar is more accurate. However, how accurate and how it should be extended out to our day is anybody’s guess; but I personally don’t expect anything out of it in regard to prophecy in general, and the rapture in specific.
Suffice it to say, when considering the many passages of Scripture declaring that no man will know the exact timing of the rapture, and absolutely zero references for any man to attempt to predict the timing of the rapture, we should confidently say that the Essene calendar, like all other calendars, will be of little to no use concerning the timing of the rapture.
One thing I do know is that I’ll be very suspicious if anyone comes to the conclusion that they know exactly where we are at, based on any calendar.
It’s my contention that we were providentially and divinely kept back from knowing exactly where we are on God’s prophetic clock – particularly when it comes to the rapture.
I am thoroughly convinced that the only entity that has a true handle on God’s calendar and how the events will play out in these last of the last days is God Himself. And this is the way it should be. We are not given any command or suggestion to be date-setting – ever! We should never be setting any dates that can only frustrate the church and make us look foolish individually and as a collective to the world who is watching us.
After much study and consideration of this matter, I’m under conviction and persuaded that the Lord will not grant any of His creatures – human or angelic – the satisfaction of claiming they knew the date of the rapture.
“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8a).
I do fully expect that Christ will fulfill the other Feasts – Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) at Christ’s Second Coming, and Tabernacles (Sukkot) will begin the Millennial Kingdom – on the exact days. But again, if we don’t have a proper perspective of exactly where we are on God’s calendar now, it will be no different for those who go through the Tribulation. When it comes to the Second Coming, it appears that they will have lost the ability to track even the passing of time, rendering any calendar – no matter how accurate – completely useless. (Please see my study, The Parable of the Fig Tree, for more information on why this may actually be the case.)
Imminence, signs, and feasts, on the surface, seem to imply conflict and contradiction when it comes to the rapture of the church. But I think that we have shown that this is not the case, and all three subject matters seem to play in concert and in harmony with each other when taken together, correctly, as a whole.
I’m so ready for the rapture that, at times, it seems I can’t control myself with eager anticipation! I pray that you feel the same way. With each and every passing day, I feel the pull of the rapture on my spirit gaining strength and intensity.
But until I hear “the Lord… descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), I’ll keep preaching the gospel to a lost and dying world in an effort to bring more into the body of Christ – before it’s too late.
Will you join me?
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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