Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Rapture Mystery
The Rapture of the Church
The Next Major Biblical Event in History - by Ron Graff and Lambert Dolphin
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Meaning of "Rapture"
What follows is a summary discussion of a very important event in Bible prophecy. The Appendix goes into more detail for the benefit of the serious student.
"Rapture" comes from the words "caught up" in I Thessalonians 4:17. In the Greek the word is harpazo - "to seize upon by force", "to snatch up." The Latin translators used the word rapturo. Some people claim that "rapture" is not a Biblical term. This is untrue, unless they want to say that "God" and "Jesus" are not Biblical Terms. Almost all words in our English Bible are translations of Greek or Hebrew expressions, and are, therefore, not in the Bible in the form we know them. "God" is a proper and meaningful translation of certain words in the original languages, and "Jesus" is a good translation for us of His name (Yeshua, "Joshua," "The Lord Saves," in Hebrew). In the same way, the English word "rapture" which means "to be caught up" is an excellent translation for the Greek harpazo.
Three Events That Happen at The Rapture
The scriptures of First Thessalonians 4 and 5 are familiar to most Christians as a description of the so-called "rapture of the church." The rapture can be thought of as a point in eternity which will protrude into our historical time frame at some fixed point on God's calendar. However, as we have seen, God has not given us the date.
Three specific events take place at the time Jesus calls his church out of the world:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven
(a) with a cry of command,
(b) with the archangel's call,
(c) and with the sound of the trumpet of God.
The "cry of command" from the lips of Jesus is to awake the dead in Christ and to call them forth from their graves as God called his friend Lazarus forth (John 11:43).
Only one archangel is called by name in Scripture. He is Michael whose specific jurisdiction is over the people of Israel. At the time of the Rapture, the archangel will signal to Israel that God has returned the focus of his attention at last to the final redemption of his chosen nation. This event was spoken of by Daniel:
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered." (Daniel 12:1)
The trumpet call, not to be confused with the last of the seven trumpets in Revelation, is a trumpet call associated with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It will be used to call the living saints at the time of the Rapture to be caught up and transformed together with the just-raised saints of the past. This is described also in 1 Corinthians 15,
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58)
When an individual dies he or she leaves time and enters eternity. Some scholars think that all believers travel through eternity immediately, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," to arrive at the Rapture the next instant in his or her personal experience. If that is the case, all believers arrive in heaven at the same "time." Thus, "to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8) We may have difficulty picturing this if we do not realize that eternity runs according to an entirely different time than the one-dimensional time frame in which we are constrained to live while in our mortal bodies. For more on the issue of Time, see Appendix: The Complexities Of Time, toward the end of the book.
Other Important Terms
As you probably know, there are many different ways of looking at Biblical prophecy. Here are a few other terms you will hear in discussions about the future.
Millennium - 1000 years of history during which Christ will reign as King of Kings (Rev. 20:2-7).
Premillennialism - The belief that Christ returns visibly and bodily at the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. He will rule the nations from Jerusalem.
Postmillennialism - The belief that Christ will return at the end of the present age to take over the earth. Meantime, He is assumed to reign on earth through the church now. Postmillenialists do not necessarily believe in a literal millennial age. Satan was defeated at the cross and is now bound, hence the final triumph of the church in history is assured.
Amillennialism - The belief that there will no literal 1000 year reign of Christ. Thus Revelation 20 is taken symbolically, not literally, by adherents of this view. Amillennialists generally believe that Israel has been permanently set aside for all time and that God's current plan of salvation involves only the church.
(See also: Definition of common terms found in Eschatology, Appendix)
The authors' understanding of future things is firmly premillennial. A literal interpretation of Scripture requires belief in an actual thousand year period of time during which Christ will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The book of Revelation describes these periods of time clearly: The Church Age (chapters 1-3), The Tribulation (chapters 4-19), The Millennium (chapter 20), and then The New Heaven and Earth (chapters 21-22).
Most of the Bible teachers who write and speak about prophecy are also premillennial. Among them there are various viewpoints about the timing of The Rapture. Here is a brief summary of these positions:
Pre-Tribulation Rapture - That Christ will rapture the church before the Tribulation begins
Mid-Tribulation Rapture - That Christ will rapture the church at the Mid-point of The Tribulation
Post Tribulation Rapture - That Christ will rapture the church at the end of the Tribulation
Pre-Wrath Rapture - That Christ will rapture the church just before the Battle of Armageddon
Partial Rapture - That Christ will rapture those who are ready and leave the rest to go through the Tribulation
Multiple Rapture - That there are more than one raptures, during which Christ receives those who are ready
"Pan-Trib" Position - No clue about future events, but think it will "all pan out in the end"
The last term is not really funny. There are too many people who just claim ignorance of this vital subject. When one pastor was asked recently what his views of prophecy were, he said, "I just don't handle it." Can you imagine? A pastor, who has the responsibility of teaching the whole counsel of God's Word, refusing to "handle" nearly one third of Scripture?!
Those who are "in Christ"
Returning to the rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians 4, the last part of verse 16 and first part of verse 17 say,
"...the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall ever be with the Lord."
This event is only for those "in Christ." It does not, therefore, include Old Testament Saints. We will study the time of their resurrection later. The point here is that all believers of the church age, and only believers of this age are included--those who have died "in Christ," and those believers who are alive at the time. It should be added that the Rapture does include all Jewish people during this present time who have placed their faith in Jesus as Messiah. They too are part of the church, though they have not lost their identity as descendants of Israel.
Why the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation
We believe that, by far, the strongest Biblical evidence is in favor of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. There are many reasons for this. Here are some of the most obvious ones.
Any-moment expectation (Imminence)
In every age Christians have been expecting the return of Our Lord. Twice in the last chapter of the Revelation He tells us, "I am coming quickly." (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20)
Paul referred to this ever-present possibility of Christ's return as "the blessed hope." (Titus 2:13)
He also taught that His coming will be like a thief in the night.
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (1Thessalonians 5:1-6)
John also spoke often of Christ's appearing:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
The pre-Tribulation position is the best from this point of view. If the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation, we can truly expect it "any day." If it is delayed to the middle or end of the Tribulation, we could not honestly have that expectation now.
Deliverance of the Saints from wrath
Here are some of the passages which indicate that believers of this Church Age will not be left to suffer the outpouring of God's wrath:
"But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:36)
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1Thessalonians 5:9)
And if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment... (2 Peter 2:6-9)
In the message to the Church of Philadelphia (Missions Period), God said:
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
Please keep in mind that the Bible does not teach that Christians are delivered from persecution, trials and temptations. In fact, the opposite is true. In 2 Timothy 3:12 we are told, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (KJV) The books of James and 1 Peter were written to encourage Christians when they are called upon to go through trials. Paul himself spoke about his "thorn in the flesh" as a trial allowed by God in order that God's strength could be shown through him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Belief in the pre-Tribulation Rapture has nothing to do with a cowardly desire to escape persecution. Scriptural examples and history itself teach us that, when called upon to suffer for the name of Christ, it is actually a privilege to die for Him. In fact, we are being reminded today that more Christians have been persecuted and even put to death in our own generation than in all other periods of church history combined. For two thousand years God has allowed his people to suffer trials and persecution and even martyrdom. Why, however, should He ask only the final generation of the church to endure an unprecedented time of terrible destruction which is not intended for the church, but as a judgment of unbelieving world?
The belief that the church will be delivered from the Tribulation is based in part on the Biblical pattern that when God pours out His wrath He always gives opportunity for the righteous to escape it. This was true of Noah and his family, of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot, and even of the pagan Ninevites to whom Jonah was sent.
The church is the Bride of Christ. God intends that she join her Bridegroom for a great wedding feast and after that share with Him in ruling the nations. Allowing His bride to suffer through the tribulation is inconsistent with the specific purposes for which He has called out the church from the world, why He has rescued her "from the coming wrath." (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Some recent teaching about the Tribulation tries to make a distinction between Satan's wrath, which they say characterizes most of the book of Revelation, and God's wrath which is poured out at the Battle of Armageddon. From their point of view, the church could then be subjected to most of the Tribulation, but delivered from the last part. The problem with this position is that it ascribes to Satan the powers of nature: weather conditions, earthquakes, asteroid collisions, and other "terrors in the heavens." Satan, however, has no power to do anything that has not been appointed for him by God. This theory also fails to notice that the church is missing from the Tribulation, as explained toward the end of this chapter. See Appendix: Pretribulation or Prewrath?
Antichrist not revealed until hindering force removed
In 2 Thessalonians we are told that the "man of sin (or lawlessness)" will not be revealed until "He who now restrains" is taken out of the way.
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; (II Thessalonians 2:1-8)
In John 16:7-8 we are told that it is The Holy Spirit who will "convict the world concerning sin..." God The Holy Spirit can never be removed from the earth, but, in the sense that He is effectively restraining sin through Christians in whom He dwells, the time will come, once those Christians are gone, that wickedness will abound. Today Christians are everywhere: in their occupations, in the market place, in the schools, even in government halls. But during the Tribulation, true believers will be persecuted and either killed or driven underground, so that their godly influence will not be felt in the world. When the church is taken in the Rapture, the world will be ripe for Antichrist to step forth with his ungodly plans. True, multitudes of people will turn to Christ and will become true believers in the tribulation period. They will also be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but they will not be permitted to take the place of the missing Christians in society. They will be outcasts, and therefore the Holy Spirit will not have the same restraining influence on the world that He now has. Most, or even all of them, will be quickly put to death by the man of sin.
The Death of the Believer: Time and Eternity
The Apostle Paul adds further to our understanding of what happens when an individual Christian dies:
Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Now we know that if the earthly tent [skenos, the present body is a temporary tent] we live in is destroyed, we have a building [oikodome, a permanent house] from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 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. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Corinthians 4:14-5:9)
There is no hint here of an intermediate state between dying and going into the presence of the Lord. Indeed the Apostle tells us that our resurrection bodies are already prepared for us, they are waiting for us to "put on" exactly as one would put on a new set of clothes over the old!
Events between The Rapture and Christ's Return
There are certain future events which evidently will take place between the Rapture and Christ's glorious return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Two of them are The Bema Seat Judgment, and The Marriage of the Lamb.
The Bema Seat Judgment
According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, all believers of this age must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Information about this event is also found in Romans 14:10; in 1 Corinthians. 3:10-15; and in 1 Corinthians 4:2-5. This evaluation of every believer is not for the purpose of dealing with sin --which was fully dealt with on the cross by the Lord Jesus. Rather it is a reviewing stand where quality of our Christian performance can be evaluated and rewarded. The motives of the heart will be made known, and most importantly, only the works the believer has undertaken by faith "in the Spirit"--by faith in the indwelling presence of God, will survive. The "works of the flesh" (our self-efforts to serve God) will be taken away and only what God has built into our lives since we came to know Him will go with us into the next life. See Appendix, The Judgment Seat of Christ, for further details.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb - Revelation 19:7-9
During his lifetime on earth, Jesus did not marry. For a man not to marry was very rare in Israel (then as now). Following the typology in the story of Abraham's servant going to a far country to select a bride (Rebekah) for the patriarchs beloved son Isaac, (Genesis 24) we could say that God the Father dispatched the Holy Spirit into the world to call out and prepare a people who would be a suitable bride. The Spirit would also give the church a suitable wedding dowry that she might be a fitting love-gift from the Father to His beloved Son, Jesus. All sorts of people are welcome to be part of Christ's wife, the invitation is open to everyone,
Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'
"Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'
"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'
"The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'
"'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'
"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'" (Luke 14:16-24)
The church can be thought of as the "Second Eve." But whereas the original Eve was one woman, the Bride of Christ consists of millions of men and children! When we are all brought together as a family following the rapture we shall join with our Lord is a great marriage feast.
Christ's Bride is in Heaven before He returns in glory to the earth!
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are true words of God." (Revelation 19:7-9)
Our return with Christ
To understand the events which take place after the Rapture, we need to bear in mind that there is a sequence of events taking place which occurs "in heaven" and there is a parallel sequence of events occurring "on earth." In the book of Revelation note is made of those who "dwell in heaven" and those who dwell on earth" during the tribulation period. The former group "dwelling in heaven" is the church. We who comprise the church will have been given our resurrection bodies and will walk in the company of the Lamb and His holy angels. Those who are (during this same time period) dwelling on earth--include non-believers, but also God's 144,000 Jewish evangelists. (they are regenerated men but do not yet have resurrection bodies), and likewise their converts, who are the saints of the Tribulation period. Many of these saints will become martyrs during the tribulation period, but they will not be given their resurrection bodies until the tribulation ends. (Revelation 20:4)
Appendix L helps to understand better the return of Christ as having two aspects. His silent return for His church at the Rapture is described by the use of the Greek word parousia which means "coming alongside and remaining with" someone. We should think of the Rapture as the first phase of the second coming of Christ. He will come for His church, and He will remain with them forever after. But He will also come to be with the 144,000 and with the Tribulation Saints as well during the final seven years of world evangelism, and of Israel's judgment and restoration. After the seven years of the Tribulation has run its course Jesus will step out of hiding, and appears in the sky, bringing us with Him. This event, described by the Greek word epiphaneia, which means "shining forth," is the open public unveiling of Jesus--the second coming in power and glory.
All this careful reading of scripture this tells us that heaven is not far away. It is in fact merely another dimension of reality. Earthly, material realities occupy only a small localized region of the realm the Bible calls the heavenly places. The material world is embedded in the spiritual. Therefore Jesus is never far away from any of us. The old notion that when Jesus takes us to heaven we are somehow far removed to a golden land beyond the furthest star is not a Biblical view of heaven at all! We need to adjust our thinking to the view that Jesus will be on the earth during the entire tribulation period, invisible, but probably appearing and disappearing in the same mysterious manner He did during the 40 days following his resurrection and His ascension. On earth, but unseen by unbelievers, Jesus will be the Commander and Chief of the armies of the Lord. He will also direct the 144,000 and their strategic work. Jesus will apparently involve Himself personally in the shepherding of His faithful remnant hidden at Petra during the last half of the Tribulation period. When Jesus returns, He will come not from "outer space," but simply step back into our space-time frame once again, bringing His church with Him.
The title of this book is drawn from the model prayer Jesus gave His disciples. This prayer assures us that Jesus now rules the entire universe. All authority has been given to Him. However, He does not yet reign on the earth. For two thousand years the saints of God have prayed that He might soon come and reign on earth as He already does reign in heaven. In Revelation Chapter 4, a great scroll, which we may think of as the title deed to the earth, is handed to Jesus by His Father. Jesus is called to begin His long awaited reign on earth. He will accomplish this in stages, by first coming for His church, and then by strategically directing and orchestrating all of the events of the end time. Evidently He will establish a beachhead on the planet, a command center for those military operations which will culminate in His final appearance in public as earth's legal King of kings and Lord of lords. His activities during the Tribulation will not be detected by unbelievers, though there will be rumors He has returned. Many events occurring on earth, due to the clandestine operations of the 144,000, will cause earth's inhabitants to be nervous.
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-- and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-- if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
"Immediately after the distress of those days "'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:21-30)
If we consider all the parallel events the book of Revelation describes, including the throwing -down of Satan and His hosts to earth during this last three and a half years, then it makes sense that our Commander-and-Chief should establish His battle headquarters for the end time right here on earth. This is where the final conflict will be fought, including the Seed of the Woman winning a final victory over the Seed of the Serpent.
But the church is the Body of Christ and the Head can not be separated from the Body! So we must begin to think of ourselves as present on earth with Jesus during the Tribulation period. Our resurrection bodies will make us invulnerable to sin and death. Furthermore, like our Lord, we will be invisible to the inhabitants of the earth.
When Christ returns, it is with "armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean."
And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. (Revelation 19:11-14)
This is undoubtedly a picture of the His redeemed (Revelation 3:18) with glorified, immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-50), able to descend from the heavens without the aid of a spacecraft!
We are told in Colossians 3:4, "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. And 1 Thessalonians talks about the "coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
The book of Revelation tells what we will do, once we have returned with Christ:
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
The Centrality of Israel and Jewish People During The Tribulation
A great body of converted people from all the nations are mentioned several times in the book of the Revelation--after the Rapture of the church. Usually they are called the "Saints." They are believers in Christ--Jews and Gentiles alike, but they are not referred to as the church, nor are any of the usual descriptions of the church attached to them. The apostate church of the period will be corrupt, and will give its influence to Antichrist (Revelation 18), so these Tribulation Saints will not in any way be associated with this apostate church, the great harlot of Revelation 17.
The theme of Israel's place during the tribulation period will be expanded in the third section of the book, but here are some of the key points which illustrate the centrality of Israel and Jewish people during this period of time:
It is synonymous with Daniel's 70th Week - Daniel 9:27; Revelation 13
The 144,000 Sealed from the 12 Tribes of Israel - Revelation 7:1-8
The Two Witnesses - probably Old Testament leaders - Moses and Elijah (or, as some think, Enoch and Elijah) - Revelation 11:1-12
Flight of Israel - Revelation 12
Treaty with Israel, Defilement of the Temple - Revelation 13
Dr. Renald Showers explains the significance of viewing the Tribulation as a period of Israel's history.
"All other views of the Rapture have the church going through at least part of the 70th week, meaning that all other views mix God's 70-weeks program for Israel and Jerusalem together with His program for the church."
Population of The Millennium by mortal believers
The pre-Tribulation Rapture interpretation best explains this important feature of God's future plan. According to Jesus' teaching on the Mount of Olives, there will be a judgment of the nations (Sheep and Goats - Matthew 25:31-46) just before the Millennium, just prior to the commencement of the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:1-6). This taking of some and leaving of others is not the Rapture, but it corresponds to the Parable of The Wheat and The Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). In that parable, the tares are collected FIRST, and tied into bundles to be burned (later - The Great White Throne judgment), then the wheat is gathered into the barn. The wheat represents true believers who have survived the Tribulation period, and are thus permitted to enter the Millennial Age.
If the Rapture took place at, or near the end of the Tribulation, all believers would have glorified bodies, and there would be no righteous mortals left to enter the Millennium!
Differences between The Rapture and The 2nd Coming
We believe that much of the confusion about the Rapture is caused by a lack of understanding that Christ comes first for believers, and then comes later in what is properly called the Second Coming, or His Glorious Return as King of Kings. Here are some of the differences between these two events.
· Christ comes for His own 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
· Believers taken to Father's House John 14:3
· Seen only by believers 1 Corinthians 15:52, 19:11-16;
· No reference to Satan
· Earth not judged
· A Mystery 1 Corinthians 15:51
The 2nd Coming
· Christ return with His own Revelation 19:14
· Believers come to Earth Matthew 24:30
· Every eye will see Him Revelation 1:7 Matthew 24:30
· Satan bound Revelation 20:1-3
· Earth judged Revelation 20:4-5
· Foretold in Old Testament
· Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 12:10; 14:4
One way to better understand the clear distinction between The Rapture and the Second Coming in glory can be see by carefully considering the different Greek words used for these two events.
Absence of the Church
Finally, and probably most significant of all, is this fact:
The Church is Missing From The Tribulation - Revelation 4-19
In the first three chapters of Revelation, there are constant references to the church and to the Seven Churches. However, starting at chapter 4, verse 1, where John is told to "come up here," the church is obviously absent throughout the Tribulation period. The expression "come up here" does mean leaving the earth in Revelation 11:12 where the translation of the Two Witnesses takes place. (We are not suggesting that the Rapture takes place in chapter 11, only that the same expression, used there, does mean virtually the same thing for the Two Witnesses that the Rapture does to the church.)
There are numerous references to believers in these chapters, but they are not called the church. What might be called the church on the earth during this time is the apostate shell of nominal Christianity, which has lost its true believers, and has joined with other religions of the world to become a "United Religion," which, in turn will give its power to Antichrist. This apostate church is pictured as a prostitute riding the beast in Revelation 18.
Finally, the absence of the church will undoubtedly account for the lawlessness spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.