Any discussion of what has become known as 'The Rapture' may appear to be out of place in a volume which discusses as many foundational teachings as are contained here. However, for those living in the end times, Christ's command to watch for His return (Mk.13:32-37) takes on foundational, indeed paramount importance. The Israelites who left Egypt were supposed to have gone into the promised land. However, because of fear, doubt, and unbelief they did not get there. Rather, their bodies died in the desert (I Cor.10:5) This does not mean that they went to hell; however, it does mean that they did not receive all that God had for them. While they still came into God's presence (heaven), they had to die to get there. If this is in fact the generation in which Jesus is to return, then anything which gives us a false hope may prove just as deadly for us.
I would like to begin this study of the rapture in a rather unusual place: namely, II Pe.1:13. In that verse Peter refers to his body in an unusual way. "I think that it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body" (emphasis added). The body is the tent which shelters our spirit and soul. In II Cor.5:4, while referring to his body Paul says, "For while we are in this tent we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (emphasis added). Note, Paul is not saying that he wants to die so that he can then go to heaven. He says he wants to be clothed with his heavenly dwelling without first being unclothed. For this to happen we are either translated by faith - as was Enoch (Heb.11:5) - or we are "Raptured", which is a non-Biblical term for "catch away."
While Heb.9:27 reminds us that it is appointed unto all men once to die, II Cor.5:4-5 informs us that we were not created to die. Instead we were created in order to be swallowed up by life, without first having to taste of physical death. Remember, elsewhere in Scripture we are clearly shown that death is our enemy (I Cor.15:26 and Ro.8:21-23). Therefore, our rendezvous with death is one appointment which we may not have to keep.
This is verified for us in I Cor.15:51 wherein we are told:
The first clue to this is found in I Thes.4:16:
If Jesus' return is before the time of the great tribulation spoken of in the book of Revelation then after we meet him in the air, we must return with Him to heaven, for there are still several years of earth history before the Lord begins His earthly reign. On the other hand, if our meeting with Him takes place after this tribulation period, then we would reverse direction and immediately escort Him back to the earth. It is in the Greek text that we find the answer to the question of what occurs at this meeting. In the process, it also provides a strong indication as to the timing of that event.
The Greek word for "meet" used in I Thes.4:16 is apantesis. According to IITim.3:16, every Word of God is inspired and breathed by Him, as such, that particular word is important. This same word is used in only three other places in Scripture. The first time it is used is in Matt.25:6 wherein we read, "... at midnight the cry rang out: here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet (apantesis) him" (parenthesis added). [Note, see also vs.1 in some texts.] The entire story in verses 1-13 reveals that the virgins had been waiting for the bridegroom to appear. When He did, they met him and escorted him to the banquet hall. They did not go back with him to the place from which he came. The bridegroom did not change directions, reverse course after the waiting virgins met him. Rather, he kept on coming in the original direction from which he started! The ones who changed direction were the virgins. What makes this account doubly important to the issue at hand is that this parable is directly related to the coming of the Son of Man as set forth in Matt.24:39.
The second usage is in Acts 28:15 wherein we see the same connotation. "The brothers there heard that we were coming and they traveled as far as the forum of Appius and the Three taverns to meet (apantesis) us" (parenthesis added). Verses 11-16 tell us that the brothers in Rome had heard that Paul was coming and they went out to meet him. After they met him they did not return to Caesarea with Paul (which was his place of beginning for this trip). Paul did not change directions after the waiting brothers met him; rather, he maintained his course to Rome. The ones who changed direction were those who met him.
The third and final time apantesis is used is in John 12:12-13. (Note, some Greek manuscripts show a one letter difference between this word and the one used in I Thes.4:16. The difference is in the first letter which is why it is not shown as being the same word in Strong's Concordance. However, the Nestle text of the Greek shows it as the same word. I am not trying to confuse the issue; rather, I am attempting to be complete in this analysis.) Verses 12-13 in John chapter 12 read as follows: "The next day the great crowd that had come for the feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet (apantesis) him shouting "Hosanna" (parenthesis added).
The same account in Matt.21:1-11; Mk.11:1-11 and Lk.19:28-41 make it clear that those who came out from Jerusalem to meet Him escorted Him back to Jerusalem and not back to Bethany. As they escorted Him they began joyfully to praise Him (Lk.19:37). I believe we will be doing the same thing when we "meet" Him. It has been stated by some Greek scholars that this particular Greek word is used to describe the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary. Those welcoming the official would change direction after the meeting and then escort him back to the town from which they had come, not back to his place of origin (see Moulton, Greek Testament Grammar, Vol.1, p.14).
To describe a different type of meeting the Greeks have different words. An example of this is found in Matt.8:34 which tells us that "the whole town went out to meet Jesus." The Greek word used there is sunatesis. In this instance Jesus had cast a legion of demons into a herd of swine which then ran off a cliff into the sea. The town was upset and went out to meet Jesus. When they met Him they stayed there and discussed the situation with Him. They did not go anywhere with Him.
For an example showing a group of people meeting a single individual, and then returning with that person back to the place from which that person's journey began, see Mk.14:13 and Lk.22:10. Therein Jesus had instructed His disciples to go and prepare for the Passover. "As you enter the city a man carrying a jar of water will meet (apantao) you. Follow him to the house that he enters..." In this instance the group (the disciples) follow the individual (the servant carrying the water jar) back to the place from which the servant started. Apantao describes a meeting between an individual and a group wherein the individual reverses direction and returns to the place from which he came. On the other hand, Apantesis describes a meeting between an individual and a group wherein the individual continues on his journey after the meeting takes place.
Carefully note that our rising to meet the Lord in the air, as described in I Thes.4:16, describes the type of meeting wherein a group of people meets a single entity. At that time, if the group were going to return to Heaven with Jesus after He changed direction, the Greek word for 'meet' used there should have been apantao instead of apantesis. Every other time the word apantesis is used in the Bible, it is used to describe a meeting wherein the group reverses direction and escorts the singular who continues going in the direction from which he began. There is no justification for giving a different meaning to that word when it now appears in I Thes.4:16.
Remember. every word of Scripture is God breathed. All Christians who accept the principle of divine healing depend upon the concept of word importance. They know that Paul's thorn was not a sickness because the Greek word for messenger in II Cor.12: 7 is aggelos which is used 188 other times in the New Testament. 181 times it is translated "angel", and 7 times as "messenger", but never as "sickness." Nor does the word "thorn" have to be a sickness. People are referred to as thorns in Nu.33:35, Joshua 23:13, and II Sam.23:6. The point is, we know that Paul's thorn was not a sickness because we are able to see how the words "thorn" and aggelos are used other places in Scripture.
This concept of the Greek language having several words where in each one expresses a different aspect of something for which the English language has only one word is not unique to the word "meet." After Peter talked about the tent of his body in II Pe. 1:13 he refers back to the time when Jesus told him he would die. This is found in John 21:15-20. In those verses the English translation would have us believe that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times. "Do you love Me?" However, when we realize that the Greeks have several different words for love, each describing a different type of love, and Jesus and Peter used different words in the first two questions, then and only then do we see the full meaning behind Jesus' questions. You see, in the first two questions Jesus was asking Peter if Peter loved Him with a total, complete, all consuming love (agape). What we see from Peter's response is that Peter was only capable of a more brotherly type of love (philo), and not the all consuming love which Jesus desired.
The point of all this is simple. We have one word "meet" which applies to the entire concept of greeting someone whether we return with him to his place of origin, stay with him at the meeting place, or escort him back to our place of origin. The Greek language had several different words, and each one, when used properly, denotes a particular type of meeting. I believe that God knew which word He wanted to use to properly describe the events which are to take place in I Thes.4:16. And the word He used shows us that Jesus does not return to heaven when we meet Him. Rather, we escort Him back to earth.
This event is specifically referred to as the "day of the Lord" (II Thes.2:1-3). I Thes.5:2 tells us that "... the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night..." Because this Scripture uses the term "thief in the night" it is used by pretribulation advocates to show that it will be a return which is both secret and silent. We know that a thief comes in two ways; namely, A) at a time when he is not expected, and B) quietly, so no one hears him. Let us now check every reference in Scripture which refers to the day of the Lord as coming like a thief and see if it mentions either, both, or none of the above two concepts, either 'A' of 'B'. For example, Rev.16:15 says "behold I come like a thief..." In this instance no reference to either 'A' or 'B' is given.
Rev.3:3 tells us that "... I will come like a thief and you will not know at what time I will come to you." That is a clear reference to concept 'A.' Lk.12:39-40 continues to shed light on this by showing us that "... if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not let his house be broken into. You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." Again, the reference is to concept 'A' (time), not concept 'B' (silence). The exact same reference is made in Matt.24:42-44. Again, concept 'A' is indicated.
In another parable, found in Mk.13:32-37 the reference to timing, as opposed to noise level is set forth in vs. 35 as follows: "Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back - whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when, the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone, 'Watch.'"
Not one verse mentions the coming of the day of the Lord or the coming of the Son of Man as a silent coming. Those which mention sound at all clearly say it will be with a "shout" and a trumpet call (I Thes.4:16). There are others which I will cover in just a moment, but first I want to lay to rest any doubt that the time of our being gathered to the Lord in the air is also "the day of the Lord." The reason I wish to do this is that the last verse which I will use to show that our Lord's return is anything but quiet specifically refers to this event as the "day of the Lord." II Thes.2:1-3 draws an irrefutable link between the two events as follows: "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you brothers, not to become unsettled ... by some ... letters supposed to have come from us saying that the day of the Lord has come." (emphasis added)
The day of the Lord and His coming like a thief are joined in II Pe.3:10 wherein we see that there is nothing silent about the Lord's return. It says, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and every thing in it will be laid bare." The KJV says the earth and everything in it will be burned up. This verse requires some careful study. The Greek word translated as "burned up" in the KJV is eurethesetai, which literally means "discovered" or "laid bare." The earth is not burned up in some super catastrophic explosion, and then recreated by God (Ps.148:6; Ps.104:5; Ps.78:69 & Gen.8: 21). What it does do is "pass away," (Greek word parechomai) ie, change from one condition to another.
What is destroyed by fire are the elements. The word for "fire" there is katakaio which means "consumed, or destroyed." However, the word for "elements" is stoicheion and this word is used in only three other places in the New Testament. Every other time it is used it is not referring to something physical; rather, it refers to a rule, and usually to a rule regarding worship (Gal.4:3&9; Heb.5:12; & Col.2:8&20). The rules (elements or stoicheion) which men try to put us under in regards to our relationship with God will be destroyed when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returns. Ps.46:6 tells us that when "He lifts His voice, the earth melts." Ps.29:7 says that the voice of the Lord strikes like lightening. He will use the Word from His mouth as the weapon (see Jer.23:29).
The point is, this changing is with a roar. It is not something silent which only the believers will see, especially when you consider that it is the rules of men which are being destroyed. According to Lk.17:24 the coming of the Son of Man will be like lightening which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. Matt.24:27 tells us that "... as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west so will be the coming of the Son of Man." This day, when the Lord is revealed, will see Him revealed from heaven in blazing fire with powerful angels (II Thes 1:7). I Thes.4:17 says we will be caught up with them (the dead in Christ who rise first) to meet Him in the air. According to Rev.1:7 this meeting will be witnessed by every eye.
As most pre-tribulation rapture advocates are prone to do, we cannot divide the "day of the Lord" and the "coming of the Son of Man" into two separate events. They maintain that "day of the Lord" is the rapture, while the "coming of the Son of Man is the visible second coming. However, Matt.24:43-44 refers to the coming of the Son of Man as being likened unto the coming of a thief. How can pre-tribulation rapture advocates say that now the non-believers will see Him and hear Him when they could not see Him or hear Him when He came in the rapture as a thief on the day of the Lord? That is inconsistent. Both the "day of the Lord" and the "coming of the Son of Man" are likened unto the coming of a thief, and that event is not silent.
The day of the Lord is not silent. He comes with power and majesty. The first part of II Thes.2:1-3 showed the clear relationship between "rapture" and the day of the Lord; yet, many pretribulation advocates say that vs. 1-8 and particularly vs. 7 proves that we, or the Holy Spirit, are taken out prior to the tribulation. Again, let's look at those verses in context. Beginning at vs. 3 we read; "... don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day (the day of the Lord and our being gathered to Him) will not occur until the ... man of lawlessness is revealed" (parenthesis added). Verse 7 continues "... the secret power of lawlessness is already at work but the one who holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed..." (emphasis added)
Sequentially what we have is this:
Furthermore, the Greek words translated "taken out of the way" are ek mesou gentai which are also translated "born out of the midst of," or "revealed in the midst of." As such, nothing needs to be taken off the earth in order for these verses to be fulfilled. Even if "taken out of the way" would be the only possible translation for these words, it is not necessary to remove something from the earth in order to take it out of the way. A chair blocking the aisle in a restaurant is set aside, it is not taken to another building.
Under no circumstances could we seriously consider that the Holy Spirit is taken away. John 14:6 promises that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. While that promise most certainly applies to us, it was made to Jewish disciples. If the Holy Spirit were removed, the Two Witnesses listed in Rev.11:1-4 would have difficulty testifying that Jesus is Lord since I Cor.12:3 clearly says that "no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." Furthermore, is it correct to assume that the "144,000" in Rev. chapter 7 would do a better job of evangelizing the whole world in "7" years without the Holy Spirit, than the entire Church has with the Spirit for the past 1900 years?
It would also seem unlikely that the Church is taken away. Eph.3:6 says that the gentiles and Israel are members of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Eph.1:22-23 says that Christ is the head of that body and that body is the Church. The body is not pulled apart by Christ just prior to the tribulation. I Cor.12:12-26 speaks of the indispensability of each part of the body. Vs. 26 says "if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." Yet the pre-tribulation rapture position holds that part of the body is in heaven enjoying the marriage supper of the Lamb with Jesus for 7 years while the rest of the body (tribulation believers) are suffering under the reign of the Antichrist. Without saying for certain, it is possible that II Thes.2:7 is saying that God is holding back the power of lawlessness until His mature sons are revealed as set forth in Ro.8:19.
Another major part of the sequence question concerns exactly how many times Jesus comes back. Heb.9:28 says Jesus comes a second time. Acts 1:11 says that the same Jesus whom the disciples saw go into heaven would return in like manner. The Scriptures refer to Jesus coming one more time, not one and a half times. In regards to this question it is also fair to ask how many resurrections are spoken of. After all, if the dead in Christ rise at a pretribulation rapture, when do those who turned their lives over to the Lord and during the tribulation arise?
In John 6:39 Jesus said to His followers that they would be raised up on the last day. In John 11:24 Martha knew Lazarus would rise up on the last day. There is no verse which says that there is a second resurrection of believers which occurs "7" years after the last day. In fact, Rev.20:5 clearly says that the first resurrection is of believers and takes place after the great tribulation period spoken of earlier in Revelations. Paul referred to only one resurrection of believers in II Tim.2:18 when he said "They say the resurrection has already taken place." He didn't say the first of two premillenial resurrections, he said "the" resurrection. In I Cor.15:23, after Christ's resurrection is noted, Paul refers to only one resurrection of believers which proceeds Christ's turning the kingdom over to the Father (Acts 24:15). It would therefore appear that there is only one resurrection of believers prior to Christ's return.
Let us now turn our attention to Rev.3:10 which 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 upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth." The pre-tribulation rapture interpretation says, "See, we do get taken away." However, this verse does not demand a physical removal from the earth, although there is no doubt that it promises protection for those who endure The Greek words translated "keep ...from the" or "keep out of" used in Rev.3:10 are tereses ek. These same words are used by Jesus in John 17:15 wherein Jesus says "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world (physically remove them) but that you protect them from the evil one" (parenthesis & emphasis added). In this verse the words tereses ek are translated "protect them from" whereas the Greek word for "take them out" is ares. Needless to say, the Greek word ares is not found in Rev.3:10. It would be wrong to now assume that the words tereses ek in Rev.3:10 speak of physical removal when the same words in John 7:15 definitely refer to a protection which takes place on the earth!
I know that Jesus tells us in Lk.21:36 that we should be on watch and pray that we may be able to escape all that is about to happen. But it doesn't say how we escape the disaster which is to befall the wicked. I firmly believe that we have not been appointed to suffer God's wrath (I Thes 5:9). I am aware of I Thes.1:10 which tells me to wait for Christ's return, the Christ who rescues me from the coming wrath. However, these verses do not say that I escape, or am rescued from the tribulation period by being pulled off the earth. The Greek word translated as "rescued" or "delivered" in I Thes.1:10 is rhuomai. Yet that same word is used in II Tim.3:11 wherein Paul, speaking of the persecutions and hardships he had previously under gone said, the Lord had "rescued me from all of them." Paul however was not rescued by being removed from the earth. That same Greek word is also used for "rescue" in II Pe.2:7 wherein it is noted that Lot was "rescued" from Sodom. He was not removed from the earth.
Needless to say, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were protected and rescued from the flames in Dan.3:19-27, but they were not removed from the earth. Nor was Daniel taken from the earth in Dan.6:13-23. He was protected while in the lion's den. While Noah was in the ark on top of the water, he was not taken into heaven for a year and then returned to dry ground. In fact, Heb.11:7 shows us that Noah's going through the flood was a prerequisite for the actual occurrence of the flood. By faith Noah built that ark and thereby condemned the world. Israel went through the last seven plagues which were visited upon Egypt, but was herself protected (see Ex.8:22-29; Ex.9:4; Ex.9:11; Ex.9:26; Ex.10: 23 & Ex.12:23). The Israelites didn't enter the promised land until after they went through those experiences. Protection from God's wrath while on the earth is also clearly set forth in Isaiah 26:20 (see also Jer.36:26; II Ki.11:21; I Sam.19:2; I Ki.17:3).
We are told in II Pe.2:9 that our God knows how to rescue Godly men from trials, and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment. A close look at what God does to the wicked vis a ve the righteous is warranted at this point. We are told in Prov.25:4-5 that God will "remove the dross from the silver and out comes a vessel for the silversmith; remove the wicked from the king's presence and his throne will be established through righteousness." The thought of removing the wicked is carried forward in Ps.119:119 wherein we read "All the wicked of the earth You discard like dross." The wicked are taken from the king's presence . "When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever" (Prov.10:25). Verse 30 of that same proverb says, "The righteous will never be uprooted but the wicked will not remain in the land."
Like the parable of the weeds it seems that Proverbs is telling us that the good stay and the wicked go. Indeed, Prov.12:3 affirms this by saying that the righteous cannot be uprooted. "For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it" (Prov.2:21-22). Regardless of what is going on around us, God has said of the righteous, "In times of disaster they will not wither, in days of famine they will enjoy plenty" (Ps.37:19).
We are not meant to suffer God's wrath. We are promised that if we dwell in the shelter of the Most High God "... a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked" (Ps.91:7-8). There is not enough room here to go into a discussion of where or what the shelter of the Most High God is. Let me merely note that this shelter is foreshadowed by the Succoth or Tabernacle which God directed each man to dwell in during the Feast of Tabernacles. That relationship will be discussed as we progress through future studies. Isaiah 1:8 shows us again that God protects His righteous sons from His wrath and does so in a shelter / succoth / booth of His design here on the earth. For now, simply take comfort in what God tells us in Ps.37:34: "wait for the Lord and keep His way. He will exalt you to possess the land; when the wicked are cut off you will see it." "The Lord's angels encamp around those who fear Him and He delivers them" (Ps.34:7). We are rescued, we are protected, we escape: BUT WE ARE HERE.
This brings us to the New Testament discussion of who goes first. Matt.24:39-41 is a verse which is used by many pretribulation believers as proof that we will be taken first. In part it reads as follows: "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." Note however that these verses do not tell us who is taken where. That question is cleared up when we examine the same account as recorded in Lk. 17:35. Concerning where the one is taken, Jesus says, "Where there is a dead body there the vultures will gather." As such, the ones taken first do not appear to be taken to a pleasant place.
To see who gets taken first at the end time, examine the parable of the weeds in Matt.13:24-30. Therein we read "... first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." The interpretation of this parable is found in vs.49 wherein Jesus says, "this is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace." Those harvesting angels are seen in Rev.16:14-20.
Once it was pointed out that Lk.17:35 clearly reveals that the ones taken away are not taken to be with the Lord, many pretribulation rapture teachers abandoned there contention that Matt.24:39-41 supported their position. However the first person to ever claim a pre-tribulation rapture revelation in the recorded history of the Church based her revelation in part on that very Scripture. This person was Margaret MacDonald of Gare Lach, Scotland in March of 1830. She did not claim to have a vision of Jesus telling her these things. Rather, she maintained that she received revelation knowledge as to how to interpret the verses which we have already discussed.
She maintained that the Lord is returning in secret and that only Spirit filled believers will be able to see and hear Him. Her support for her position was the parable of the ten virgins. By stating that only Spirit filled believers (ie. those who believe in the present day functioning of the gifts of the Spirit as recorded in I Cor.14) will be raptured out, she adds a requirement to I Thes.4:17 which Paul did not mention. As you will recall, Paul said, "We who are alive and remaining will be caught up ..." Margaret MacDonald would add to that, "we who are alive and remaining and are Spirit filled will be caught up."
According to her teaching the believers and disciples at Ephesus in Acts 19:1-3 would not have been raptured had the day of the Lord come prior to vs 6 even though they were believers and disciples back in verse 1. In checking those verses please note that they did not receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit until verse 6. Margaret MacDonald's recollections of her revelation may be read in several sources. "The Incredible Cover Up" by Dave MacPherson; "Memoirs of James and George Mac Donald of Port Glascaw (1840) by Robert Norton; and "The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Catholic Apostolic Church" (1861) also by Robert Norton.
At this point it seems clear that Christ's return is not silent, nor is it visible only to Spirit filled Christians. It also seems clear that no Scripture, once we look at it in context, and see how the original words are used in other passages of the Bible, ever indicates that we are rescued or escape the tribulation by being taken off the earth. We will definitely not suffer God's wrath, but we will be here. When we meet Him, we return to earth with Him. Furthermore, it seems clear that there are only two resurrections spoken of, not two for believers and one for non-believers.
Concerning other miscellaneous arguments which are advanced to support the pre-tribulation rapture position, allow me to make the following observations. It is said that since the word "Church" is not used in Revelations chapters 4-22 after having been used throughout the first 3 chapters, the Church has been raptured to heaven. However, this theory, if followed through proves absurd. You will find that during the times John is referred to as in heaven while he is reporting what is being shown to him, the word "Church" is also not used. Are we to now assume that the Church has been raptured to some place other than heaven simply because the word 'Church' is not used to describe the believers whom John sees? Are we to assume that the residents of the New Jerusalem described in Rev. 21 are other than members of the "Church" or the "Body of Christ" simply because neither the term "Church" or "Body of Christ is used to describe them?
It has been advanced by some that Rev.4:1 established a precedence for pretribulation rapture when the voice from heaven said to John, "Come up here." If that were so, then John was 'unraptured' in Rev.10:1-2; 11:1-13; 14:1 & 19-20; Cha. 16 and 18:1. Besides, Rev.4:2 and 10:1 clearly say that John was in the spirit. As such it cannot now be said that this is a foreshadow of a physical occurrence.
There is also an idea which holds that during the Rapture Christ comes for His saints, whereas in the real second coming Christ comes with His saints. This is based upon the use of the word "cloud" in Lk.21:27. In that verse we see that the Lord is telling us "... at that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (see also Rev.1:7). This cloud is taken as a symbol for believers, and with that point I would not disagree. Heb.12:1 specifically uses the symbolism of a cloud to refer to believers in heaven at the time of the New Testament. It is also said that all believers are in the cloud mentioned in Lk.21:27, and again, I must agree. However, it cannot be said that there are no clouds (deceased believers accompanying Jesus) when we rise to meet Him in the air along with the bodies of those who died prior to His coming. Remember, as noted earlier, we cannot divide the day of the Lord and the coming of the Son of Man into two separate events.
Finally, it is said that we must be taken out before the tribulation, otherwise the tribulation could not occur. It is reasoned that all two Spirit filled Christians need to do to stop it, is to agree. This assumption ignores several points. First of all, much of what happens in Revelation is God's wrath being poured out upon the unrighteous, and we will not be able to stop that from occurring. Secondly, why isn't all of the evil in the world today simply banished by two of us agreeing that it will be done? Why will it be different then? Born again, Spirit filled Christians do have authority over satan and his forces; however, that doesn't mean that these forces will not continue to come against you. Nor does it mean that we can keep satan from having his way with unbelievers under all conditions (I Thes.2:18).
We get 'raptured' at the last trumpet. The last trumpet sounds in Rev.11:15. In his book "The Late Great Planet Earth" (76th printing, paperback edition), Hal Lindsey attempts to equate "the last trumpet" with a practice he says was used by the Israelites in the wilderness. He says,
If you view the trumpets in Rev.8:6-21 and 11:15 as different from the seven bowls listed in Rev.16:1-21, then we are talking about mid-tribulation rapture. If the trumpets and bowls are seen as two different views of the same series of occurrences, then we are talking about being gathered to Jesus at some point after the tribulation. (Note - in subsequent studies we will discuss the possibility that the bowls and trumpets are one and the same. I do not want to get into a discussion of that now; however, allow me to simply point out that Rev.11:15-17 clearly states that as of the time of the sounding of the seventh trumpet "the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ ... You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign." How can that be unless it is the end of the tribulation?)
The point is, we must be prepared to go through some, if not all of the tribulation. It has been said by at least one pretribulation rapture advocate that pretribulation rapture, ie. being taken off the earth so as to be spared going through the tribulation, is the blessed hope referred to in Titus 2:13. For that to be true, the appearance of Jesus referred to in that verse would have to be secret. The Greek word for appearing in vs. 13 is epiphaneia, which means the "advent of Christ's appearing, brightness." That word is used in 5 other verses in Scripture, and it is never used to denote a "secret" coming of anything. In fact, II Tim.1:10 clearly refers to Christ's life and victory on earth as and "appearing", and uses the identical Greek word found in Titus 2:13. Needless to say, Christ's life, death, and resurrection was not a secret.
This concept of pre-tribulation rapture being the blessed hope to which we are to look is actually the root of the whole problem. The theory of pre tribulation rapture creates a false hope, a false security upon which the believer relies. "I don't have to worry, I am going to be taken out", or "My faith is hardly strong enough for me to make it through this week, how do you expect me to make through the tribulation?" God tells us to have the faith of God (Mk.11:24). We are not to have faith which in effect says, "I have faith that God will take me out because there is no way that He could get me through that?" If your faith is in pre-tribulation rapture it may not be strong enough for you to make it through. You may have the tendency to take your eyes off Jesus and His promise to take you through. You may be like Peter who was walking on the water toward Jesus, until he took his eyes off Jesus and began to pay attention to the physical events around him. At that point he began to sink. For paying attention to the physical circumstances which were contrary to what Jesus had said, Jesus admonished Peter with these words, "You of little faith, ... why did you doubt?"
A word of caution, or perhaps a better term would be "a word of warning" should be given here. When the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been sent into exile, false prophets arose among both the exiles and those who remained in Judah. Those men said that God's wrath would never come to Jerusalem. They said that the exile would be very short, and that nothing bad would happen to Jerusalem. They told the inhabitants of Jerusalem not to worry - that they would not have to endure.
God told the false prophets of Ezekiel's time that they were guilty in His eyes because they had "... not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord" (Ez.13:5). God admonished them further - "By lying to My people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died" (Ez.13:14). For conveying those lies, the false prophets of Ezekiel's day died during their time of tribulation (see vs. 14).
While this is indeed strong language, I believe that the same can be said of today's pre-tribulation rapture teachers. There is every possibility that both these teachers and their followers will be unprepared to stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord. Like their ancient counterparts they may be prevented from physically entering into the Lord's rest without first tasting physical death. My language is pointed, I admit that, but I am more concerned for your life than for your feelings. However, I am not alone in my concern. Corrie Ten Boom maintained that those who teach that "...Christians will be able to escape ... " the tribulation by flying away, are the "...false teachers Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days" (Logos Journal, Nov -Dec,1974)
If a believer's faith is not strong enough to withstand the enemies' persecutions, that person may not be alive and remaining at the coming of the Lord, even if they are in the last generation (Ez.14:12 & Jer.12:5-6). They may not overcome the last enemy. They may die simply because they did not know who they were in Christ Jesus. They may not have spent as much time building their faith by studying the Word as they would have had they known that they were going to have to go through the tribulation. Rather than cause you to go through something which you are not equipped to handle, or cause you to face something which might cause you to fall away, there is a way out, but it is not rapture, it is death. "The righteous perish and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil those who walk uprightly enter into peace, they find rest as they lie in death" (emphasis added, Isaiah 57:1-2).
If you die as a believer during this last time you will go to heaven, but you will fail to receive the totality of everything Jesus has to offer those who are in the last generation (Rev. 3:21 as opposed to Rev.7:9,14-15). I am not afraid of death, but it is my enemy. I will not needlessly accept it. If I need a solid foundation in the Word in order to overcome, then anything which promises a short cut, but cannot stand up to careful Scriptural examination will prove deadly.
Ro.2:7 tells us to seek His glory, honor, and immortality. Mk.13:32-37
commands us to watch for His return. That verse is spoken with the same
authority and intensity as is used in Mk.12: 28-33. However, if you are
watching for something which is unscriptural, ie. PRE-TRIBULATION rapture,
you are watching for the wrong thing, and that could well prove to be a
fatal error. Do not accept at face value what some teacher tells you about
the rapture, and that includes this study. Check it out for yourself (II
Tim.2:15). Do not be guided by fear. Pray and ask God for wisdom concerning
this area (Ja.1:5-8). He will honor His word. His answer to you will not
conflict with what He has said in the whole of His word.