7 Church Raptured
Home Up Bible Timeline 7 Church Raptured 8 Need to be Saved 9 Cross of Christ 10 The  Apostasy 11 Millennial Reign 12 The Restitution

 

Chapter 7

The Rapture of the Church

In this chapter we want to examine the scriptures that deal with the removal of the true Christian church prior to the revealing of the Anti-Christ and the 7 year tribulation. The rapture is the event that ends the church age. It is described in 1 Thessalonians 4 v 15-18. The saints who have died during the church age and those still alive will be called to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. They will receive immortal bodies and enter heaven with their Savior. There are presently two streams of Christianity developing side by side. The larger group is the professing religious Christianity which will remain on earth and enter the tribulation. They will follow the Anti-Christ thinking that he is Christ. The smaller group will be the true Church which will experience the rapture and enter heaven prior to the 7 year tribulation.

The word "Anti" is translated from a Greek word which can mean both "a substitute for" or "in opposition to". The Anti-Christ will present himself to Israel as their Messiah and will be accepted by them for a time. John 5 v 43 says, "I (Jesus) come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another (Anti-Christ) shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." What many have not realized is that he will also be the head of the false Christian Church which must be in place when the rapture happens. For just as Jesus Christ has a bride, so must Anti-Christ. The Ecumenical Church will be that bride. This is the major reason why there is so much confusion in Christianity. False Christianity is abounding with its earthly agenda and false teachers and false doctrines.

The true Church is told to be looking for Christ to come not Anti-Christ. It is a spiritual attitude to be looking for Christ to come for there is a crown of reward given. Reading 2 Timothy 4 v 8, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

1 Corinthians 1 v 7 says, "So that ye (believers) come behind in no gift; (eagerly) waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1 v 10 says, "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath (7 year tribulation) to come." Hebrews 9 v 28 says, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Titus 2 v 13 says, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ."

All these verses are written to the Church. The true church should be looking for the rapture as its hope. For at the rapture we receive our immortal bodies and rewards for service. We are not to be looking for the Anti-Christ but Christ. We are not to be looking for the wrath of God which comes during the 7 year tribulation. 1 Thessalonians 1 v 10 says that Jesus has delivered us from the wrath to come. Revelation 3 v 10 says, "Because thou has kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." The Church's hope is meeting the Lord in the air before the tribulation.

As to the timing of the rapture, the scriptures say we cannot know the exact day or hour. However it does say that we will see the day approaching. Hebrews 10 v 25 says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." If the Church was here to witness the revealing of Anti-Christ and the signing of the 7 year treaty she would know the day. Christ's coming would be exactly 7 years or 2,520 days later. Therefore our initial conclusion is that the rapture of the Church happens just prior to the 7 year tribulation. This then indeed becomes a blessed (happy) hope and does not contradict other scriptures on Bible prophecy.

Scripture reveals that the conditions of the world at the time of the rapture are immensely different from the coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. The Bible calls the rapture a blessed (happy) hope and a comfort. It can only be true if the rapture is placed before the 7 year tribulation.

In 1 Thessalonians 4 v 15-18 we have the description of the rapture. It reads as follows,

Verse 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep (those who have died as Christians).

Verse 16 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:

Verse 17 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.

Verse 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

These verses reveal that the Lord does not come physically to earth but calls saints to meet him in the air. This is contrasted to Revelation chapter 19 where the door of heaven opens and the Lord returns out of heaven with his bride the Church to the Mount of Olives. Verse 18 says this is a comforting thought but it is only comforting if the rapture is prior to the tribulation. If the Church was to go through the tribulation (which it does not) she would need to be looking for the Anti-Christ, for the wrath of God, and to endure the worst period of 7 years the world will ever see. The rapture would not be a blessed hope nor one of comfort. The rapture would become a pointless happening on the prophetic agenda. Happily this is not the case for God always removes his saints when the time for his direct wrath falls. He removed Noah and Lot before judgment fell and he has promised to remove his Church before the 7 year tribulation.

Reading further in 1 Thessalonians 5 v 1-4,

Verse 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

Verse 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

Verse 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail (birth pangs) upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

Verse 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

In these verses the 7 year tribulation comes upon the world as a surprise. The world including the nation of Israel are boasting in having achieved peace at last. Anti-Christ has been able to bring his political and religious power to bear upon the Middle East. But the peace is short lived as the end-time events of the tribulation rapidly intensify like a woman going into hard labor. The rapid pace of world events that our generation has experienced is preparatory to the birth pangs of hard labor. Verse 4 says that a true Christian will not be taken by surprise because he will recognize the day approaching. This is in contrast to the general statement heard from religious Christianity. They will say rather stoutly, "Nobody knows the day nor the hour, it could be today or a hundred years from now." You can see the scripture says quite the opposite of these religious statements. As mentioned before there is a crown of reward for those who look for his appearing.

The rapture takes place at a time of peace and safety in contrast to the end of the 7 year tribulation. By the end of the tribulation nearly two thirds of the world's population has died, everything in the oceans has died, all fresh water is poisoned, massive famines have occurred, tremendous earthquakes and all the armies of the world are aligned in the middle east for a massive confrontation. These are totally different conditions to those for the rapture.

Reading Matthew 24 v 37-39,44,

Verse 37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Verse 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark,

Verse 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Verse 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

Reading Luke chapter 17 verses 26-30,

Verse 26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

Verse 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Verse 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

Verse 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

Verse 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

Here in these verses the Lord Jesus is describing conditions in the world just before the rapture of the church. They are vastly different from the 7 year tribulation. The world is enjoying all the normal activities of life but ignoring their need to get right with God. The world is living a life of self-indulgent pleasures and increasing sexual immorality. The principle presented of Noah and Lot's removal before the wrath of God falls is the same for the rapture of the church. God does not bring judgment upon the world while his children are still upon it. He removed Noah and Lot and will also take out the church prior to the 7 year tribulation.

Verse 44 above says, at such an hour you think not the Son of man cometh. When could the world truthfully say this? At the end of the 7 year tribulation when the earth has been devastated? Would they be saying, oh well, everything continues as it always has? Of course not! The world will be in such a condition that what else could they expect but the Lord to come. But the coming of the Son of man in these verses is at a time of normal activities, a time of relative peace and safety! This is the time of the rapture when the Son of man cometh in the air for his bride.

This is why Titus 2 v 13 commands us to be looking for the blessed (happy and comforting) hope, the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Twenty-Four Elders

The chronology of the book of Revelation places the rapture before the revealing of Anti-Christ and therefore before the 7 year tribulation. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 cover seven historic churches in Asia Minor but prophetically they cover the general history of the church age. The seven churches outline the dominant type of church in each period although all of these type of churches are present. The Laodicean church is the current dominant church period we are in. This is the false apostate church which will remain on earth after the rapture to be the bride of Anti-Christ. They are only professing Christ but when it comes to obeying his word they deny him. They are characterized by worldliness and compromise.

In Revelation 4 v 1 the apostle John is raptured into heaven and reads as follows, "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." Revelation chapter 3 closes with the Laodicean church and chapter 4 opens with the rapture of John and the beginning of things to happen after the church age ends. Revelation chapters 4 and 5 record the events in heaven that the Apostle John witnessed. Examining these chapters will reveal the raptured church in heaven.

Revelation 4 v 4,10,11 describe the 24 elders.

Verse 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

Verse 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Verse 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

In Revelation 5 v 5-7 the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb (Jesus) that was slain stands in the midst of the throne and receives the scroll with the seven seals. As this event happens the 24 elder's sing their redemption song.

Revelation 5 v 8-10,

Verse 8 And when he (Jesus) had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.

Verse 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

Verse 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Contrast these verses in Revelation chapter 5 with Revelation chapter 1 v 4-6 which speak of the church in exactly the same way v6...hath made us kings and priests unto God.

Revelation 1 v 4-6,

Verse 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

Verse 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Verse 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The Lord Jesus Christ has received the seven sealed scroll which contains the judgments of the 7 year tribulation. This period is covered from Revelation chapter 6 to 19. The first seal is opened by the Lord Jesus in Revelation 6 v 1. The opening of the first seal reveals Anti-Christ who begins his campaign of peace which cumulates with the signing of the 7 year middle east peace treaty. This begins the 7 year countdown to Christ's return with the Church out of heaven in Revelation chapter 19.

In Revelation chapter 4 and 5 we have the 24 elders witnessing the Lord Jesus Christ receive the scroll and also opening the first seal. The examination of the 24 elder's attire and redemption song will reveal them to be the raptured church now in heaven.

The elders sit on 24 thrones. In Luke 22 v 30 and Matthew 19 v 28 the Lord Jesus promises the twelve apostles that they would sit on twelve thrones in his millennial kingdom. Luke 22 v 30 says (Christ speaking), "That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19 v 28 says, "And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The twelve apostles who began the Church are promised 12 of the 24 thrones. It is likely that the other 12 thrones are reserved for saints as yet unknown but given to them based on their faithfulness and worthy service. In Luke 19 v 17 the Lord rewards a servant with authority over 10 cities because he was faithful.

The elders are clothed in white raiment. In Revelation 3 v 5,18 and Revelation 19 v 7,8,14, the church is clothed in white raiment. Revelation 3 v 5 and 18 says (Christ speaking), "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment... I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see." Revelation 19 v 7,8,14 reads, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Here the church and the elders are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

The elders are wearing gold crowns. Salvation is a free gift upon repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ. However the Lord Jesus has promised crowns of reward for how one walks as a Christian. Once the rapture happens all Christians will appear before the bema seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3 v 10-15 and 2 Corinthians 5 v 10). The bema seat of Christ is like an awards ceremony at the Olympic games. The Lord will look at how each Christian ran the race of life. This is a judgment for rewards not sin. The penalty for sin has already been dealt with by the cross of Christ. The Lord desires to reward us for faithful walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. A walk that is consistent with his character and in obedience to the Bible. Only what is done with the strength of the Holy Spirit will qualify for a reward, everything done in the religiousness or carnality of the flesh (self effort or motive) will be burned. At the bema seat there will be crowns given for self-control over the flesh (1 Corinthians 9 v 25), a soul winners crown (1 Thessalonians 2 v 19), for loving his appearing (2 Timothy 4 v 8), for enduring temptation (James 1 v 12), for elders who rule well (1 Peter 5 v 4) and a crown for martyrs (Revelation 2 v 10). The 24 elders wearing crowns of reward is a picture of the raptured church.

The elders are redeemed out of every tribe, nation and tongue. The song sung by the elders is in the first person when you read the King James Version. This is important to note because modern versions have rendered this portion of scripture as being in the third person. The Greek text underlying the modern versions is different than the Greek text which underlies the King James. In the modern versions they have the 24 elders singing about another group of people different from themselves being redeemed and reigning on the earth with Christ. The modern versions confuse the picture as to who the 24 elders are. As stated earlier Satan wants to rob the true Christian of the "blessed hope" and muddy the waters of Bible prophecy. I believe his fingerprints are revealed here. In the King James Version the 24 elders are singing about themselves being redeemed from every tribe, tongue and nation. This is the raptured church which has been purchased by the blood of the Lamb.

The elders are kings and priests. In the Old Testament God instituted a priesthood for the nation of Israel. The priests came from the tribe of Levi. This tribe provided the priests for the work in the temple at Jerusalem. The Levites did not all serve at once but were divided up into 24 courses of two weeks each where they would come to the temple and perform their work. The significance is that the number 24 represented the priesthood in Israel. Reference verses for this are in 1 Chronicles 23 v 1-4 and 1 Chronicles 24 v 1-4 and 19. The church is also pictured as a priesthood in 1 Peter 2 v 5 and 9. They read as follows, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." The 24 elders and the raptured church are identified as a royal priesthood. We noted earlier that the virtually the exact same phrase of "kings and priests" is used in Revelation 1 v 6 which refers to the seven churches in verse 4.

The elders will reign on the earth with Christ. The raptured church is also promised to reign with Christ in 2 Timothy 2 v 12. It reads, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him...". The 24 elders and the raptured church are identified as reigning with Christ.

The term "elder" is a term that is unique and strongly connected to the church age. Timothy was directed by Paul to appoint elders over each of the churches. In the Old Testament there were elders but these were under the High Priest and the priestly tribe of Levi.

Some have offered the possibility of the 24 elders being redeemed Old Testament saints but the arguments for this are considerably weaker and indirect. There is some scripture that appears to place the resurrection and reward of Old Testament saints at the end of the 7 year tribulation as was promised to Daniel. We read this in Daniel chapter 12 v 1-3. Even then I won't be too dogmatic on this event as in our picture of the Jewish wedding it seems that the friends of the groom (ie OT saints?) would have to be with him at the rapture as he gets his bride from earth. But anyways, let's read Daniel chapter 12 v 1-3, for if this is the resurrection of OT saints they could not be part of the 24 elders in Revelations chapter 4 and 5.

Daniel 12 v 1-3,

Verse 1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people (Israel); and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time (time of Jacob's trouble): and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Verse 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Verse 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (resurrection and glorification of OT saints?)

The Rapture Pictures a Jewish Wedding

We have shown that the rapture of the church takes place prior to the revealing of Anti-Christ and prior to the 70th week of Daniel. The church is sitting in heaven watching the Lord Jesus open the first of the seven seals in Revelation 6 v 1. This really is a "blessed hope" for as we watch the world preparing for Daniel's 70th week the promise of the rapture is a great comfort. The day when we will not have to battle the world system, the flesh and the devil will indeed be glorious. The redemption of our bodies which are weak, aging and perishable for new immortal bodies will be amazing. The results of the fall of Adam and Eve will be reversed. What a day to look forward to!

In closing our chapter on the rapture an understanding of the Jewish wedding traditions is important. These will give insight into some of the Lord's actions and statements. The first major step in a Jewish wedding is the betrothal. The bridegroom traveled from his fathers house to the home of his desired bride. The groom would determine the price to be paid and make payment. From that moment the groom and bride were regarded as husband and wife. The bride was to be exclusively set apart for the groom. As a symbol of the covenant relationship the groom and the bride would drink a cup of wine as their betrothal benediction was pronounced.

The bridegroom then returned to his father's house to prepare living accommodations for his bride. The father would tell his son when preparations were satisfactory and he could go get his bride. The father didn't want his son to build a shabby hut on his property so he could rush back and get his bride. The father was wisely given this decision. When all things were ready, the groom, the best man, and other friends went to the house of the bride trying to surprise her but preceding their coming with a shout.

After the arrival back at the father's house the bride and the groom would be escorted to the bridal chamber or "huppah". Prior to entering the huppah the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. There in privacy the marriage was consummated. Then the wedding guests would feast and make merry while the groom and his bride remained in the huppah for seven days. At the conclusion of the seven days of huppah the groom revealed himself and his bride with veil removed so all could see her.

The picture of a Jewish wedding is perfectly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church. For 2,000 years ago he left his Father's house in heaven and traveled to earth. The cost to buy the bride out of the kingdom of Satan was his life and shed blood on the cross. Colossians 1 v 13 and 14 confirms this, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness (Satan's kingdom), and hath translated (adopted) us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption (fully paid price) through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." In 1 Corinthians 6 v 19 and 20 it says "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

From the moment the price was paid, the Church has been set apart as the bride of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1 v 2 says, "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Hebrews 10 v 10 says, "By the which will we are sanctified (set apart) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." As a symbol of the covenant relationship (betrothal) the Lord Jesus in the upper room with his disciples drank a cup of wine. 1 Corinthians 11 v 25 reads as follows, "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."

In John 14 v 1-3 we see the Lord Jesus tell his disciples that he was going to his Father's house to prepare a place for them. It reads as follows,

Verse 1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

Verse 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Verse 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

The Lord Jesus in Acts 1 v 7 and Matthew 24 v 36 reveals that God the Father would tell him when preparations were satisfactory and he could go get his bride. The day and the hour was the perogative of the father in the Jewish wedding. The two verses mentioned read as follows, Acts 1 v 7 says, "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. Matthew 24 v 36 says, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Some have interpreted these verses to mean that a Christian shouldn't bother with the rapture and the Lord's coming because no one can know! They suggest that the prophetic part of God's word (about a third) is to hard to understand. However, an illumination of Jewish traditions with the help of the Holy Spirit brings proper understanding.

When does God the Father give his word for Jesus to go and get his bride? This event happens in 1 Thessalonians 4 v 15-18 which we examined earlier in this chapter. God the Father gives God the Son the word. The Lord Jesus comes to the air with a shout and the trump of God. The Christians both asleep and living instantly arise to meet the Lord in the air and to ever be with him.

Instantaneously the raptured saints receive their immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15 v 50-54), then are evaluated for rewards at the bema seat of Christ. From here the church is veiled for 7 years while the tribulation is going on down on earth. This would correspond to the seven days of huppah mentioned earlier. At the conclusion of the seven years or 7 days of huppah the Lord Jesus reveals his bride to the world in Revelation 19 v 7-14. Colossians 3 v 4 says, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."

 

Some Reference Material on the Rapture

1. Maranatha, Our Lord, Come by Renald E. Showers

Published by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc.

2. The Next Move - Current Events in Bible Prophecy

by Rob Linsted Published by Bible Truth, P.O. Box 8550

Wichita, Kansas, 67208

3. The Rapture by Hal Lindsey Published by Bantam Books

4. There's a New World Coming by Hal Lindsey Published by Bantam Books

5. Global Peace and the Rise of Anti-Christ by Dave Hunt

Published by Harvest House Publishers

Dave Hunt Newsletter and Catalogue write P.O. Box 7019, Bend, Oregon, 97708 web site www.thebereancall.org