In part one of this article, we examined the origin of the theory and the main passages used to support the theory of the rapture but a close look at these passages indicates they have been taken out of context and used improperly to support this theory. The theory of the rapture was popularized in 1830 AD by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). He focused on the phrase “caught up” and used a Latin word which speaks of an abduction, not a rapture. The Greek word for this phrase actually speaks of the forceful power of God used at the resurrection of Jesus. We also found that the word rapture is used nowhere in the Scriptures.
We then turned our attention to the 1 Thessalonians 14 passage where Paul is offering encouragement to the church in Thessalonica as they come to terms with Christians “who are asleep,” indicating they have died before the return of the Lord. Paul provides clues as to the context and timing of the event he is describing, the resurrection of the saints. He says this will take place at the last trumpet, referring to the trumpet judgments of Revelation 16, right before the return of Christ. We found that, while resurrection is taught throughout the Scriptures, the word rapture is not mentioned once in Scripture. We also examined the word “meet” in the 1 Thessalonian passage and fond it is used “for the official welcoming of a newly arrived dignitary.”
Finally, we examined the 1 Corinthians 15 passage in which we find further evidence as to the timing of the event, again Paul specifically mentions the last trumpet. We know that Christ will only return once more to the earth and that is to gather His church, thus there can only be ONE final trumpet and that is found in Revelation 16 at His return, not during a rapture of the church. We also looked at Elijah and Enoch, both “types of Christ.” Both men are taken from the earth before they die but not in a rapture but rather as an example or foreshadowing of the ascension of Christ found in Acts 1. With this background in mind, we can turn our attention to the words of Christ Himself in Matthew 24 & Revelation 1-3.
Matthew 24 gives us the clear response of Jesus to the questions of the disciples concerning the end of the age and the signs of His return. The first eight verses give examples of false preachers and teachers coming, and signs in nature and wars among the nations of the world. Many of the things we are seeing take place in our world right now. Verses 9-12 give a clear indication of what the believer can expect as the end of the age draws near.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”
Matthew 24:9-12 (NASB)
These are things that will happen WITHIN the church as well as in the world in general. However, in verses 13-14 we find the hope for all believers.
“But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Matthew 24:13-14 (NASB)
If the church were being removed or raptured from the earth, what would we need to endure? The words of Jesus are clear here…we will face tribulation. Verses 15-21 fill-in the details of the tribulation we will face. Included are the abomination of desolation and a flight that Jesus says to pray it “does not happen in the winter or on the Sabbath” and then comes the Great Tribulation in which Jesus says that if the days were not cut short, all human life would be killed, but “for the sake of the elect the days are cut short.”
It is in verses 29-31 where we see Jesus gathering the elect “from the four winds.” Verse 29 begins by saying “immediately after the great tribulation and giving the signs of the sun and the moon and the appearance of the Son of Man in the sky. Verse 32-39 provide the signs of nature, the fig tree declaring summer is near and the sign of the days of Noah.
Then in verses 40-41 come two verses pointed to as proof of the rapture of the church, the sign of two. First, there are two men in the field; one is taken, and one will remain. The second is two women grinding; one is taken, and one remains. These are typical everyday working activities in the time of Jesus and the disciples. So, we can expect people to be at work doing what they normally do during working hours.
The word taken is the key; it can mean to be rescued, such as Lot in the Old Testament, or it can mean to be taken in death. In the context of what Jesus has just talked with the disciples concerning the end of the age, it is most likely a calamity of sorts came upon people unexpectedly and one was taken in death. In the example of the days of Noah, Jesus very specifically says people were eating, drinking, marring and being given in marriage right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and TOOK THEM AWAY. So being taken away is not necessarily a good thing.
In writing the book of Revelation, John begins by explaining the book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, Jesus Christ, to show His BONDSERVANTS, the things which must soon take place. Notice bondservants is plural, this is being given to ALL believers (v.1). We must keep this in mind as we read through the rest of the book of Revelation because we are directly affected by this book and the events contained within its text.
In verse 7 John writes that Jesus will come in the clouds and EVERY eye will see Him. This is important because the return of Christ will be heralded by the voice of angels and a trumpet blast heard around the world. Finally, in verse 10 John says he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” This is a specific reference to the return of Christ…not Sunday as many try to interpret, for the signs John are given pertain specifically to the return of Christ.
Revelation 2 & 3
The second and third chapters contain letters to actual churches that existed in John’s time but also represent the church age as we have seen throughout human history. Some portion of ALL these churches remain in churches around the world today, thus each is addressed. The first church addressed is the church in Ephesus. They are warned to return to their first love, repent or Jesus will come and remove their lampstand. The letter concludes with an admonition to those who OVERCOME.
The second church is Smyrna and Jesus tells this church He knows their tribulation and poverty. He then encourages them to not FEAR what they are about to SUFFER. Some will be put in prison, and they will have TRIBULATION for ten days. Jesus also encourages the church to remain faithful UNTIL death, not if they die but when death occurs, and He will give them the crown of life. He also, once again, encourages those who remain to OVERCOME.
The church of Pergamum is the third church addressed and it too is told to repent, or Jesus will come and make war against them, and He encouraged them to OVERCOME. The fourth church is Thyatira and Jesus uses strong language in addressing this church. They have tolerated Jezebel and committed adultery with false religion, and they face great TRIBULATION unless they repent. Jesus warns He will kill “her children” if they refuse to repent and the church will know He is the true and living God who rewards according to their deeds. Once again, Jesus encourages the church to OVERCOME.
In chapter 3 Sardis is the first church to be addressed and they are warned they are dead though they appear to be alive. Their deeds are incomplete so the must repent. Again, Jesus encourages the church to OVERCOME. Philadelphia is the second church addressed in this chapter. This church has no condemnation from Jesus, in fact, they receive the promise that He will “keep you from” what is about to come upon them.
Keep is the key word here. It is the Greek word teros meaning to watch over, guard or preserve. This church is also encouraged to OVERCOME. The final church, Laodicea, receives the sternest warnings from Jesus. They are urged to be zealous and repent before Jesus sits them from His mouth. Once again, they are encouraged to OVERCOME.
Notice how many times the words overcome, and tribulation appear in the letters to the churches. I ask you once again, “If the church is to be raptured from the earth what is there to OVERCOME?” Why must the church endure UNTIL death? Why would Jesus give His churches these warnings BEFORE the tribulation period if they were going to be raptured? It continues to be my prayer that this article will encourage you to do your own study with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead you into the truth of God’s Word.