PART V:  The RAPTURE of BELIEVERS
Also see The Rapture Commentary

Part I     Part II     Part III     Part IV     Part V     Part VI
Table of Contents
See my note on the Day of the Lord.

Segment 1:  Associated Events

changed bodies

Paul (formerly Saul) was an extremely intelligent Jewish man.  He had persecuted followers of Christ—before having a supernatural and enlightening encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6), occurring sometime after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  After this, Paul became possibly the most staunch, resolute Christian ever.

I believe that the Lord related important knowledge and wisdom to Paul, during that first personal meeting, and subsequently by other great revelations (2 Cor. 12:7a), which had not been disclosed to anyone else.  An example of such is significant details of the Rapture of believers (see “the great assemblage”: C-5, P-I).  One passage written by Paul divulges information which indicates that, at some point (or points) in time, the bodies of dead believers in Jesus Christ will arise and instantly be changed—while the bodies of believers who are living at that time also will be changed spontaneously—into immortal, imperishable forms and will remain that way for eternity:

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 [who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ] will not all sleep [die], but we [believers] will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead [believers in Jesus and in His redemptive Power] will be raised imperishable, and we [alive believers] 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?” (1 Cor. 15:50-55).

Here, Paul was talking to fellow believers (“brothers”) in Christ and, thus, was implying that this miraculous change would happen only to believers when he said “...we will all be changed...” (1 Cor. 15:51c).  Victory over physical death, via resurrection, is a truth declared by God also through the prophet Hosea:

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.  Where, O death, are your plagues?  Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14abcd).

Whatever suffering is encountered in this life, it all will be worth it at the moment of the Rapture (Rom. 8:18).  Incidentally, within my definition of the “Rapture” is included all people, dead or alive, who have believed in and have confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord.  All of them will be raised in ecstatic joy to meet the Lord in the air.

Paul noted that a mortal, perishable (imperfect) body of flesh and blood cannot enter the imperishable Kingdom of God.  Also, each resurrected person will be a distinct individual, not a “duplicate” of Jesus or of anyone else.  That is, just as the sun, the moon, and every star have their own unique splendor (1 Cor. 15:41), so each changed, restored person will have his or her own special luster and glory (15:42a).  Plus, each individual’s unique personality and identity will be retained forever.

According to John, just exactly what the full glory and capabilities of a spirit, soul, and body transformed at the Rapture will be like is yet a mystery.  He said,

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when [Jesus] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

Evidently, then, a few things are known about our glorified bodies, assuming that they will be like Jesus’.  Transfigured, immortal bodies, just as Jesus’ resurrected body, will be composed of imperishable flesh and bones but no blood (Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:49b,50,53), because the Holy Spirit of Life from God directly will supply the Life which the blood now provides (Lev. 17:11a; Rom. 8:2; Rev. 11:11).  As for what “age” transmuted people will appear to be externally, this is difficult to say.  Possibly they will seem to be “ageless,” whatever that might mean; or perhaps they will seem to be an age that humans generally look their best—say, 20 to 30.  However they appear, I believe they will remain in that non-aging state, continuously being renewed every moment—forever.

Changed bodies will be able to pass through solid matter, such as walls and doors (John 20:19,26b); disappear and reappear at will (Luke 24:31b,36); and radiate light as brightly as stars (Dan. 12:3; Matt. 17:2).  Transformed persons will be able to transport themselves from one place to another in an instant of time (Matt. 28:10b,16,17a), presumably at the speed of thought; they will be able to assume other, unrecognizable forms at will (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-16); and they will know important aspects of the future (John 21:18b-19a), however time then is reckoned.

Although not specifically stated of the glorified Jesus, I believe that transmuted individuals will not be required to eat (although they can if they wish—Luke 24:42,43); will be able to travel at a virtually infinite speed (since they can be anywhere merely by thinking it); will be able to go virtually anywhere in the visible or invisible universe; and will have full access to the Power of the Holy Spirit and, thus, will not labor to do anything (Heb. 4:10; Rev. 14:13b).  Imagine soaring effortlessly and freely, with your own body and by the Power of the Spirit, through deep canyons or above beautiful landscapes with waterfalls, rolling green hills, and lush growth—something we can do now only in our dreams.

The condition of a dead body will make no difference at the time it is resurrected, whether it be a whole skeleton, a thousand fragments, or a decomposed or charred remain.  God, the Creator of the universe, certainly is capable of reconstructing a brand new spirit-body (1 Cor. 15:44) at the moment of the Rapture.  Each Christian can look forward joyfully to this wonderful, miraculous transformation—the ultimate metamorphosis.  It will be the final perfect melding of the spirit, soul, and body into a perfect state, living forever and never growing old, with fleshly and sinful urges never again posing a stumbling block, and with death never again posing a threat.

caught up

Overlapped with the concept that the dead and the living in Christ both would be changed at the Rapture, Paul explained additional aspects of this transmutational event:

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep [died] in him.  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we [believers] who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep [died].  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command [or shout], with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Ths. 4:14-17).

Again, Paul was speaking to those believing in the Gospel (death, sin atonement, and resurrection) of Jesus.  He stated that, when He comes, Jesus will bring with Him “...those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Ths. 4:14b).  This means He will bring back the spirits and souls (of those who died having embraced Him as their personal Savior) that have departed from their physical bodies and gone to heaven.  (This does not mean that the spirits and souls of the saved departed are “sleeping” in heaven; rather, it means that these spirits and souls belong to physical bodies which have died or “fallen asleep.”)  Upon death, the spirit/soul complexes of believers enter heaven, where they await reunification with their bodies which will be changed at the Rapture; and then each purified, perfected, glorified person will be united with Jesus.

As Jesus returns in the air, a “loud command” will be given, and each dead believer’s body will be raised and changed (1 Cor. 15:51,52a); then each spirit/soul will enter its own perfected body.  A moment later, the spirit, soul, and body of each believer alive at the time will be changed at once, in an instant of time, into a consummate, flawless, imperishable, immortal form (15:52b,53).  Then all so changed will be lifted off of the earth to meet Jesus in the air.  Thus, first will come forth each one changed from death to Life, to be met immediately by each one changed from life to Life (1 Cor. 15:52b; 1 Ths. 4:16,17a).  And each person so raised, changed, and lifted up will be with the Lord forever (1 Ths. 4:17b), always retaining his/her single identity (as described in “changed bodies” previously in this segment).

It is uncertain whether the “loud command” that is heard will be voiced by Jesus Himself (as when He raised Lazarus from the dead—John 11:43) or by the archangel who accompanies Him.  The direct translation from the Greek states,

...because [him]self the Lord with a word of command, with a voice of an archangel and with a trumpet of God... (1 Ths. 4:16a—The Zondervan Parallel New Testament In Greek and English).

In New Testament times, shouts and trumpets heralded the arrival of visiting monarchs; similarly, heavenly equivalents will proclaim the return of Jesus.  As such, it might be supposed that the archangel who will be accompanying Jesus, rather than Jesus Himself, will proclaim Jesus’ imminent arrival.  In fact, The Jerusalem Bible indicates that this announcement will be made by the archangel, immediately followed by Jesus’ descent from heaven:

...At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven... (1 Ths. 4:16a—The Jerusalem Bible).

In any case, the command, in conjunction with God’s trumpet call, will cause the dead in Christ to be raised.  Then all changed believers, whether previously dead or alive, will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air.

further indications of bodily resurrection

Jesus spoke very clearly about the fact that the Rapture event will occur for each believer when He said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).  The “last day” of which he spoke is what Paul referred to as the future “day of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8b), which I see as a 24-hour day very near the end of the sixth seal stage.  This day shortly will precede the Day of the Lord period, which commences with the opening of the seventh seal.  (The “Day of the Lord,” figuratively, is the last significant period—spanning from one to three years—of this age.)

Paul said that “...if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he [the Triune God] who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).  Moreover, he assured us that Jesus “...will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21b).  John confirmed this when he stated that “...when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b).  In all of these cases, of course, Jesus, Paul, and John were speaking and writing about those who will have accepted Jesus as Savior prior to His next coming (or at least prior to the Great Tribulation).

Second Coming

As Jesus and His disciples sat on the Mount of Olives, they asked Him, “...what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3c).  Jesus’ lengthy reply (the Olivet Discourse) was composed mainly of descriptive events to take place during the 70th Week, up to the opening of the seventh seal, which I have detailed in P-II and in P-III.

Then, Jesus specifically described the cardinal sign of His coming, about which His disciples specifically had asked to know:  “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27).  (“Son of Man” is the most common title used by Jesus of Himself—see “Son of Man”: C-6, P-III.)  I believe the brilliant “lightning” effect is descriptive of the arrival of the Shekinah Glory of the Lord, which will dispel the dimness of the skies after the cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal (see “Shekinah Glory”: P-III, S-2).  This will be the primary sign of His coming.  When God’s Shekinah Glory filled the temple in Jerusalem, His presence was known to everyone (1 Kng. 8:10,11; 2 Chr. 5:13c,14, 7:1-3).  Similarly, Jesus’ electrifying appearance at the Rapture will be known worldwide:  “His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles” (Psalm 97:4).

Jesus went on to describe,

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.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matt. 24:30,31).

I believe this depiction of Jesus’ coming clearly aligns with Paul’s description of the Rapture (1 Ths. 4:16,17a).  Both accounts include a trumpet call, Jesus’ appearing with clouds in the air (sky), and a gathering of those throughout history who have chosen to be with Him (His “elect”) and who have been raised up to meet Him in the clouds.

In Jesus’ chronological account, this event occurs at some point after the onset of the supernatural cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal (Matt. 24:29).  I believe that this spectacular episode, the Rapture of the Church of believing Christians, will take place on a day (the “day of Christ”—Phil. 1:6b,10) near the end of the sixth seal phase of the heavenly scroll’s opening (when people call to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”—Rev. 6:16).  The world will see the face of Jesus, the Lamb, just before He opens the seventh seal of the heavenly scroll.

Now, the word “coming” used by Jesus is a translation of the Greek word parousia.  It is derived from two other Greek words: “para” (meaning “with”) and “ousia” (meaning “being”).  Thus, “parousia” connotes “an arrival to be with and a continuing presence or being.”  The “Second Coming,” therefore, will not be a singular event but rather a series of events.  It will include 1) Jesus’ Shekinah Glory appearance in the sky at the Rapture; 2) His continued presence in Spirit as He doles out the Trumpet Judgments upon the earth during the first part of the Day of the Lord; 3) His descent to earth at the end of the 70th Week to defeat the armies of Magog and its allies coming against Jerusalem (see “physical return of Jesus”: P-IV, S-1); 4) His pouring out of the Bowl Judgments upon the rebellious nations of the world; and, finally, 5) His defeat of the Antichrist and his armies which rebelliously will come against Jesus in Jerusalem.

mourning

Jesus said that, at the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man in the sky, there would be mourning (Matt. 24:30ab).  Most translations indicate that this mourning will be by the “nations” or “tribes of the earth,” from the Greek meaning “tribes of the lands” (or “of the earth”).  This is not the same mourning which the nation of Israel will experience when Jesus descends to earth, in bodily form, to crush her attacking enemies at the end of the 70th week (see “30-day extension”: P-IV, S-2).  The grieving when He appears at the Rapture will be by the entire world.

The Greek word translated “mourn” really is better translated “bewail” or “lament,” indicating more a feeling of regret and anguish than of grief for someone’s death.  I believe this universal lamenting will not be due to the realization that Jesus, the true Messiah, was unjustly crucified centuries ago, as Israel’s mourning later will be.  Rather, I feel it will be due to the comprehension by the world’s unbelievers that the believing Christians close to them—family members and friends—have left their presence via the Rapture.

Additionally, there also will be intense sorrow among many of these hundreds of millions of people because they themselves did not acknowledge God’s Plan of redemption; had they done so, they would have joined their loved ones in the Rapture.  They will be faced, at that time, with the reality that they have been left behind to face the wrath of God.  It is the same idea as someone’s feeling remorse after being caught at doing something bad—not feeling sorry for having done it but for having been careless or thoughtless enough to get caught and then for having to face the inevitable consequences.

trumpet blast

In a previous chapter was related the fact that a shofar (ram’s horn) or trumpet was sounded in ancient Israel just prior to an assembling of the people or at a time of judgment (see “the trumpet or shofar” and “Rosh haShanah, Yom Teruah, or Feast of Trumpets”: C-5, P-I).  Further confirmation that the sound of the Rapture trumpet (blown, one might presume, by the angel Gabriel) will occur shortly before the beginning of the Day of the Lord is indicated by Joel:

Blow the trumpet [horn] in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill.  Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.  It is close at hand....  Blow the trumpet [horn] in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.  Gather the people, consecrate the assembly (Joel 2:1,15,16a).

As noted before, Jesus and Paul also pointed out that the Rapture would be preceded immediately by a trumpet blast (Matt. 24:31a; 1 Cor. 15:52a; 1 Ths. 4:16a).  And, at that time, the “sacred [set apart] assembly” will be caught up to be with the Lord.  (It should be noted that the shofar blown on Rosh haShanah is called the “Last Trumpet,” while the shofar blown at Yom Kippur is referred to as the “Great Trumpet,” even though Yom Kippur follows Rosh haShanah.)

Joel established that a trumpet would be blown at the sacred assembly (Rapture), which would be followed abruptly by the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:1).  Zephaniah also seemed to indicate that the trumpet would announce the wrath of God about to be poured out during the Day of the Lord:

The great day of the Lord is near—near and coming quickly.  Listen!  The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter....  That day will be a day of wrath,...a day of trumpet and battle cry... (Zeph. 1:14abc,15a,16a).

God gave Moses a message which, when symbolically applied to the Rapture, seems to demonstrate the trumpet is an indication that a rescue is about to take place and that God subsequently will come down against oppressive enemies:

When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets.  Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies (Num. 10:9).

Day of the Lord like the Great Flood

Jesus also said to the disciples in His Olivet Discourse (on the Mount of Olives),

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.  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 (Matt. 24:37-41).

Just as Noah and his family entered the ark to escape the floodwater, which came only one week later (Gen. 7:7,10), so also believing Christians will enter the safety shelter provided by Jesus at the Rapture just prior to (perhaps as much as a week before) the onset of the Day of the Lord.  The instantaneous nature of the Rapture is demonstrated by the fact that there will be cases of a saved believer and an unsaved unbeliever together; and the believer will be taken away “...in the twinkling of an eye...” (1 Cor. 15:52), while the unbeliever will be left behind (Matt. 24:40,41).  Unfortunately, even if at this moment many former unbelievers believe and accept Jesus as their Lord, they still will have to endure the fearful Day of the Lord period because they will have missed the Rapture.

Some believe that the description of one person’s being taken and a nearby person’s being left is describing an event at the end of the 70th Week, where the unsaved people are the ones taken away to be judged, while those who are saved are left to enter the millennial Kingdom of God (see C-13).  The argument used to support this is that, in Noah’s time, the unsaved people were taken away by the flood (Matt. 24:39a), while Noah and his family were left to enter the new world after the flood.

However, Rosenthal points out that, in Matt. 24:39a, Jesus used the word airo to indicate how the flood “took away” the people in Noah’s time; whereas, in 24:40b,41b, He used the word paralambano to describe how certain people in the future will be “taken.”  While airo implies to “take up” or to “take away” (with a negative connotation), paralambano means to “take alongside” (in a positive context, occurring also in Matt. 1:24, 2:14, and 20:17). (8)  Thus, it seems evident that those taken “...at the coming of the Son of Man” (24:39b) will be saved individuals caught up to be alongside Jesus in the Rapture; while those remaining, at least up to that point, will be unbelievers.  The latter then will have to face the Day of the Lord judgments.

multitude in white robes

John foresaw in heaven, just prior to the opening of the seventh seal,

...a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9,10).

An angel explained to John,

These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ...  Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev. 7:14bc,16,17).

This is a picture of an almost uncountable number of people saved and caught up (“raptured”) out of the world near the very end of the Great Tribulation.  Included in this great number will be those who have died in Christ prior to the Great Tribulation.  (The souls of those refusing the “mark of the beast” and being martyred by the regime of the Antichrist—Rev. 6:9—apparently will be reunited with their resurrected bodies after the physical return of Jesus—20:4bcd.)  The loud praising of God echoing throughout heaven at this time evidently will be suspended temporarily with the onset of the opening of the seventh seal, when there will be “...silence in heaven for about half an hour” (8:1—see “silence”: P-IV, S-1)—just before the wrath of God descends upon the earth during the Day of the Lord period (see P-IV). 

Segment 2:  Views and Debates

Rapture controversy

One of the biggest debates among Christian scholars revolves around the timing of the Rapture of the Church.  There seem to be five main views: 1) the “Pre-Wrath” Rapture (Pre-WR), 2) the “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture (Pre-TR), 3) the “Mid-Tribulation” Rapture (Mid-TR), 4) the “Post-Tribulation” Rapture (Post-TR), and finally 5) “Multiple” Raptures (MR).  People embracing one of the last four views, though proposing a different timing for the Rapture(s), generally have one basic assumption in common: that the “Tribulation” period is equivalent to the 70th Week (with the “Great Tribulation” being the final half of this period.)

A common claim of those adhering to any of the last four views is that there will be affliction, distress, and tribulation throughout all of the final seven years, whether brought on directly by man, by Satan, or by God.  Although this is true to some extent, in an absolute sense the only portion of the 70th Week referred to by Jesus as being characterized by “great distress” or “tribulation” (Matt. 24:21), and by John as a time of manifest, seemingly relentless persecution of Jews and Christians (Rev. 12:17), is the period after the abomination that causes desolation is set up in the Jerusalem temple (Matt. 24:15) and after the fifth seal is opened in heaven (Rev. 6:9-11), both of which will occur at or near the midpoint of the 70th Week.

Jesus was explicit in pointing out that “...for the sake of the elect those days [of the Great Tribulation] will be shortened” (Matt. 24:22b).  Furthermore, John has shown that before the seventh seal is opened (Rev. 8:1a), there will be a great multitude of people in heaven which will have endured the “great tribulation” (7:9a,14bc) and which apparently will have been saved out of it (7:10)—saved, presumably, from an even more horrifying time yet to come: the “Day of the Lord” period.

“Pre-Wrath” Rapture (Pre-WR)

The prophet Isaiah wrote about a time when the dead will arise, and God’s people alive at that time will be protected from the wrath of God, which then will come upon the earth:

But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.  You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.  Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.  Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.  See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.  The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer (Isa. 26:19-21).

This predicts a time (verified by Paul—1 Cor. 15:51,52; 1 Ths. 4:16,17) when the dead, which have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, will be resurrected in great ecstasy.  Then they, along with God’s people already alive at that time, will hide in “rooms” prepared especially for them until the wrath of God—Who personally will come out of heaven, in the Person of Jesus, to administer it—has passed by.  This is why I refer to the Rapture as a “Pre-Wrath” Rapture.  (See the end of this segment for a comprehensive table of the 70th Week and extensions, including the ‘Pre-Wrath’ Rapture: The 70th Week & Extensions: “Pre-Wrath” Rapture.)

Jesus even told us about these “rooms” (or “mansions” or “abodes”) when He said,

In my Father’s house are many rooms [or mansions]; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:2,3).

Zephaniah affirmed that the wrath of God, from which this protection or shelter would be offered, would be during the Day of the Lord.  He also told us how to receive the shelter:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger (Zeph. 2:3).

Paul verified that believers will be sheltered from God’s wrath by none other than “...Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Ths. 1:10b).

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep [alive or dead at the time of the Rapture], we may live together with him (1 Ths. 5:9,10).

I believe the “wrath” of which Paul spoke here includes both that which will be dispensed during the Day of the Lord, as well as that which will be received by those who have rejected God as they, sadly, spend an eternity separated from Him (see C-14, P-I).

Concerning the Christians living at the time of the Rapture (which I believe will take place on the Jewish New Year, Rosh haShanah—see “Jesus and Rosh haShanah” and “the great assemblage”: C-5, P-I), the direct translation from the Greek text states,

...then we the living remaining, together with them [the resurrected dead], shall be seized in clouds to a meeting of the Lord in [the] air... (1 Ths. 4:17a).

I find the word “remaining” here curious—remaining after what?  It may imply the idea of “surviving after enduring” something.  If so, it indicates that the believers changed and caught up at this time will have survived the distressing Great Tribulation (see “Great Tribulation”: P-III, S-1), which “...for the sake of the elect [believers]...” will be cut short (Matt. 24:22b) by the Rapture.  Then God’s wrath on the Day of the Lord will commence.

It previously was indicated that those saved individuals who died prior to the time of Jesus’ First Coming will be resurrected at the end of the 70th Week, upon Jesus’ physical return to earth (see “physical return of Jesus”: P-IV, S-1).  Why will those saved before Jesus’ initial appearance on the earth be resurrected after those who have been saved following His First Coming and who will be resurrected at the Rapture?  I cannot say with certainty, but maybe it is just one example of what Jesus meant when He said that “...many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matt. 19:30).  Also, I believe the “Pre-Wrath Rapture” is reserved exclusively for those who have at least believed that Jesus rose from the dead and confessed Him as Lord (Rom. 10:9,10), thereby excluding those who lived before Jesus even was born.  For those actually alive at the time of the event, it may be that only the ones living Spirit-filled, anointed lives, professing Jesus’ lordship to others without reservation, and refraining from indulging in the sleaze and corruption of the end-time world, will be changed and caught up (Matt. 25:1-13).  God “...will not be pleased...” with those who “shrink back” (Heb. 10:38b).

But what about those who are martyred during the Great Tribulation but not resurrected until after the time of Jesus’ physical advent at the end of the 70th Week (Rev. 6:9,10, 20:4)?  For one thing, John heard these souls being told “...to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed” (6:11b).  Apparently, God has in Mind to resurrect and transform, as a single group, those saved individuals martyred throughout the final half of the 70th Week.  It could be that most of those killed for the Name of Jesus during the Great Tribulation (before the “Pre-Wrath Rapture”) will be those left unprotected by God from persecution due to their backsliding, embracing of certain “New Age” tenets, and lukewarm Christian convictions at a time when God needs their witness more than at any other time in history (see “repentance, endurance, and overcoming”: P-III, S-1).  Facing certain death, they will profess Jesus as Lord just prior to being executed; but, as a result of their less than adequate witness for Christ following the onset of the 70th Week, due to their fear of being persecuted (demonstrating a lack of faith in God’s protection), they will be deemed less than worthy to be part of the “Pre-Wrath Rapture”; and their spirit/souls will have to await a subsequent resurrection and transformation.


The 70th Week: “Pre-Wrath” Rapture

(Note:  Some browsers will not display the alignments of the arrows in this chart properly.  Take this link to see a better view of the chart: “Pre-Wrath” Rapture.  A more complete view of this chart, including short “extensions” of time following the 70th week, can be viewed here: The 70th Week and Extensions: “Pre-Wrath” Rapture Chart.)


Rapture (just prior to the Day of the Lord)

 

- - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4 to 6 years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - God’s Wrath     
Beginning of Sorrows/Birth Pains Great Tribulation Day of the Lord 

Antichrist’s
 Covenant
   Signed

Midpoint:
Abomination/
Desolation

Bodily 
Return 
of Jesus

=  Second Coming of Jesus, initially in the air (at the Rapture) and later to the earth (at His physical advent).

=  Catching up of the true, professing, living and dead, Christian believers (at the Rapture) to meet Jesus in the clouds.


“Pre-Tribulation” Rapture (Pre-TR)

A common belief of most people holding to the Pre-TR view is that John’s spiritual entrance into the heaven of the future is symbolic of the Rapture of the Church:

After this, I looked and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.  And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it (Rev. 4:1,2).

It is pointed out that after Chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Revelation, no further reference to the Church is made (until Rev. 22:16); therefore, the Church, apparently, must no longer be present on the earth.

Another prevalent belief is that the twenty-four “elders,” seen by John in heaven (Rev. 4:4a,10a), symbolize or represent the multitude of believers taken up at the Rapture.  In ancient Israel, the priesthood (of the house of Aaron) was divided into twenty-four groups (1 Chr. 24:1-19).  Each group of priests served in the temple for two weeks every year, speaking to God on behalf of the people.

In addition, each priestly group had one priest as its representative; thus, these latter twenty-four priests (or elders) represented both 1) the priesthood of Israel and 2) all the people of Israel.  The twenty-four elders in heaven, therefore, represent the completed Christian Church of believers in heaven after the Rapture, according to Pre-TR advocates.

Most believers in a Pre-TR tend to equate the 70th Week with the “Day of the Lord” (as well as with the “Tribulation”).  Moreover, they assume that all of the distress and trials coming upon the earth during this 7-year span are, directly or indirectly, an outpouring of God’s wrath.  Thus, because of Paul’s statement that “...God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Ths. 5:9), the conclusion is that the Rapture will occur before the 70th Week even begins.

Next, there seems to be a predominant belief among those holding to a Pre-TR that the Rapture is an event which will have no signs immediately preceding it but, rather, that it could happen at any moment, without warning.  This is due to Paul’s statement, “...for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Ths. 5:2), as well as his admonition, “...let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self controlled” (5:6), and Jesus’ assertion that “...the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:44b).

Finally, a series of statements made by Paul, concerning the revealing of the “man of lawlessness” (the Antichrist), are seen by some as confirmation of a Pre-TR:

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day [of the Lord] will not come until the rebellion [apostasy] occurs and the man of lawlessness [Antichrist] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. ...  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed... (2 Ths. 2:3,6-8a).

A common interpretation of these verses is that, first of all, there will be an apostasy (falling-away from faith) by many Christians, then the Antichrist will confirm a covenant with Israel (thus causing him to be “revealed”), and then the Day of the Lord (or the “Tribulation”) will begin.  What is “holding him back” from being “revealed” generally is assumed to be the restraining Power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church of true believers.  Thus, when the Holy Spirit’s restraining Power through Christians is “taken out of the way” (via the Rapture), the Antichrist will be revealed, free to formulate and endorse a covenant involving Israel and other Middle East nations, and the Tribulation will begin.


The 70th Week: “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture

(Note:  Some browsers will not display the alignments of the arrows in this chart properly.  Take this link to see a better view of the chart: “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture.)

Rapture (just prior to the Day of the Lord)
- - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - -
Day of the Lord: God’s Wrath
Tribulation Great Tribulation

Antichrist’s
 Covenant
   Signed

Midpoint:
Abomination/
Desolation

Bodily 
Return 
of Jesus

Second Coming of Jesus, initially in the air (at the Rapture) and later to the earth (at His physical advent).

Catching up of the true, professing, living and dead, Christian believers (at the Rapture) to meet Jesus in the clouds.


disputes with Pre-TR

Let me first say that, for many years, I myself accepted the idea of a Pre-TR (“Pre-Tribulation” Rapture), even though I questioned certain “discrepancies” and “missing links” in the chain of the theory.  However, I was forced to take a long, close look at the Scriptures after reading The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish believer who formerly embraced the idea of the Pre-TR.  (This book can be found and purchased here; scroll down until you find the book, and add it to your “basket” for purchase.)  Although I do not agree with every idea in the book (as no one would with any book, including mine), I reluctantly had to admit that evidence I previously had overlooked in the Bible seems to indicate demonstrably that there will not be a Pre-TR but, rather, a “Pre-Wrath” Rapture (Pre-WR)—see “The Rapture” or else “‘Pre-Wrath’ Rapture (Pre-WR)” earlier in this part—sometime after the midpoint of the 70th Week.

I say that I “reluctantly” rejected the Pre-TR because, by adopting a Pre-WR viewpoint, I have reconciled myself to the idea that, unless I die before the 70th Week begins, there is a good chance I will endure many of the hardships and disturbances, which I have described in this chapter, to come during the first six seals.  If I am correct, though, I much rather would be mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and motivationally prepared to enter the 70th Week than to be misled into thinking that I will be taken away via the Rapture before it occurs—only to be utterly shocked and dismayed one day to realize that the last seven years already have begun and I (and all other Christians) are still here.

There are a number of reasons why I no longer embrace the Pre-TR view.  Firstly, it is extremely noteworthy that the idea of the Pre-TR was advanced, substantially, by annotations to the scriptures made by C. I. Scofield in the Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909.  (Annotations below are taken from the New Scofield Reference Edition, published in 1967.)  The idea of the Pre-TR seems to come primarily from Scofield’s first annotation in Revelation, Chapter 4:

Beginning with [Rev.] 4:1 the viewpoint of John is from heaven.  As the word “church” does not appear again in The Revelation until 22:16, the catching up of John from earth to heaven has been taken to be a symbolic representation of the translation of the Church as occurring before the events of the tribulation described in chs. 6-19.

I have neither read nor heard any commentary or argument with convincing evidence that Revelation 4:1,2 is symbolic of a Rapture event.  For one thing, John’s heavenly vision was in spirit, not in body; whereas, each raptured individual will be caught up in a perfect unification of spirit, soul, and body.  Also, John was caught up directly into heaven; whereas, raptured believers will be caught up, initially, to the clouds of the air, where Jesus will be.

Secondly, although it is true that the word “church” does not appear again until Rev. 22:16, I find the assertion that there is no reference to the Church after Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation to be inaccurate.  There are believers against whom the dragon (Satan) will make war, following the midpoint of the 70th Week—that is, against “...those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17).  Many of these people will be killed and will be among the ones described, during the fifth seal, as “...the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (6:9).  At a later time, they will be resurrected; and, in fact, they are seen thereafter by John in heaven and described by an angel as “...they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14b).

Thirdly, the voice telling John to come up was the Lord’s (because it was the same voice that spoke to John previously like a trumpet—Rev. 1:10b).  However, the voice speaking a “command” at the time of the Rapture more likely will be that of an archangel, accompanying the Lord, than that of the Lord Himself.  In New Testament times, shouts and trumpets heralded the arrival of visiting monarchs; similarly, heavenly equivalents will proclaim the return of Jesus.  As such, it can be supposed that the archangel who will be accompanying Jesus, rather than Jesus Himself, will proclaim Jesus’ imminent arrival.  In fact, The Jerusalem Bible indicates that this announcement will be made by the archangel, followed immediately by Jesus’ descent from heaven:

At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven... (1 Ths. 4:16a—The Jerusalem Bible).

Fourthly, I do not believe that the 24 elders (which John saw in the heaven of the future, prior to the opening of the first seal) are symbolic of the entire multitude of caught-up believers.  Scofield’s second annotation in Revelation, Chapter 4, has been influential in propagating the idea that the Church is represented by the elders:

These elders represent the Church.

However, the elders cannot represent the “completed” Church in heaven because later, during the 70th Week, there will be many people saved and added to the membership of the eternal Church.  John saw the elders as “they sang a new song” to Jesus, the Lamb:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9,10).

If the elders represent the completed Church (which I believe they do not), why do they sing, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth”?  Why do they not sing, “You have made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and we will reign on the earth”?  (Although verse 10 in the New Scofield Reference Edition reads, “And has made us unto our God |a kingdom of| priests, and we shall reign on the earth,” Scofield’s third annotation in Revelation, Chapter 5, is an admission that most early New Testament manuscripts read “‘them’ and ‘they’ instead of ‘us’ and ‘we’ in v. 10.”)  These elders are singing about the priesthood and eventual reign of the redeemed Church; but there is no indication from the scripture that redeemed believers—from every tribe, language, people and nation—have yet been caught up into heaven when the elders are singing this.

It is true that the elders wear crowns, are dressed in white, and sit on thrones (Rev. 4:4), which also are attributes of members of the future glorified Church in heaven (1 Cor. 9:25c; 1 Ths. 2:19a; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10c, 19:14, 20:4a).  However, this by no means confirms that the elders are symbolic of, or representatives from, the Church.  (For one thing, the crowns received by gloried saints will be crowns of hope, joy, righteousness, life and glory, not crowns of gold as the elders wear.)

Also, much later is seen “...a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne...” (Rev. 7:9a).  I believe the latter are the newly-raptured believers in heaven, and they are seen to be separate and distinct from the elders (7:11a).  In fact, one of the elders asks John the identity of all these people; since John does not know, the elder informs him that they are those who have come out of the Great Tribulation (7:13ab).  This is another indication that the elders are not the same as, nor do they symbolize, the raptured saints in John’s heavenly vision; the elders and the raptured saints are different entities.

Nowhere in scripture is the identity of these elders expressly defined.  However, I suspect that the elders, though not angels, are supernatural beings created by God before mankind’s creation.  Just as many things on earth are modeled after things in heaven (Heb. 9:11,23,24, 13:14), the heavenly elders are examples of purity and authority after which the priesthood of ancient Israel was modeled, and after which the priesthood of elders in present churches and the priesthood of the future glorified Church will be modeled.

Fifthly, Scofield’s fifth annotation in Revelation, Chapter 19, includes the following claim:

The order of events appears to be: (1) the rapture of the Church just preceding the beginning of the Day of the Lord (1 Th. 4:13-17); (2) the fulfillment of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:27), the latter half of which is the great tribulation (Mt. 24:21; see Rev. 7:14, note); (3) the return of the Lord in Glory to establish the millennial kingdom (Mt. 24:29-30)....

Yet, nowhere in the Bible is the 70th Week referred to either as the “Tribulation” or as the “Day of the Lord.”  These are unsuitable labels, in my opinion, which erroneously have been assumed to be synonymous with the 70th Week.

Sixthly, as I repeatedly have noted in this chapter, I do not believe that the entire 70th Week will be filled with the wrath of God.  On the contrary, I feel that much of it will be comprised of satanic and demonic rage (allowed by God), channeled through nature and humans upon other humans.  Only the last segment, following the opening of the seventh seal, will involve purely God’s wrath, directly “blown out” (Trumpet Judgments) and “poured out” (Bowl Judgments) upon the earth and humanity.

It is noteworthy to observe that it is Jesus the Lamb (not Jesus the Lion) who is seen by John to be opening the seals of the heavenly scroll.  In my opinion, this is further evidence that God’s wrath is not being poured out upon the earth during most of the 70th Week.  I believe after opening the seventh seal, however—perhaps during the period of silence in heaven for about half an hour (Rev. 8:1)—that Jesus’ disposition will turn from that of the humble Lamb into that of the raging Lion, who then will open the scroll (5:5) and will release the wrathful Trumpet and Bowl judgments upon the earth (10:3a).

It also is noteworthy that, in the Book of Revelation, it is not until the description of the sixth seal events that John first mentions the word “wrath”:

I watched as he opened the sixth seal.  There was a great earthquake.  The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.  The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath [Day of the Lord] has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:12-17).

The manifestations of the sixth seal events will be indicate to the people of the world that God’s supernatural, righteous wrath finally is about to be discharged upon the earth.  I believe that the conspicuous, unmistakable disturbances in the sky and on the earth (during the sixth seal—see “Seal 6”: P-III, S-2) will just precede the Rapture, the latter which will provide protection from God’s wrath (Joel 2:31; Rev. 6:12-14,17, 7:9a).  It even seems apparent that the “…face of him who sits on the throne…,” evidently seen by everyone on the earth, will be that of the Lord coming to collect the believers at the Rapture.  Having seen Him, all of humanity alive at the time will realize that His wrath is imminent, causing them to run and hide anywhere they can.

For those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord, and who never have had, nor wish to have, a personal relationship with Him, God’s subsequent wrath will arrive “like a thief in the night,” like pains of travail on a pregnant woman (1 Ths. 5:2,3).  They will see “...the face of him who sits on the throne...” and want to be hidden from it, knowing His wrath is at hand (Rev. 6:16).  However, for those walking in the pure Light of Jesus, or for those willing to do so at that time, the Day of the Lord will not come unexpectedly, like a thief (1 Ths. 5:4); they will be able to look forward to escaping God’s wrath by being saved, via the Rapture, by Jesus (5:9).

Seventhly, I believe two witnesses (Rev. 11:3a) must come, before Jesus’ appearance in the clouds, to announce the Bridegroom’s return, just as two witnesses announced the arrival of the bridegroom coming for his bride prior to a Jewish wedding.  Since they will appear at the midpoint of the 70th Week (see “the two witnesses”: P-III, S-1), then it seems evident that the Rapture must take place sometime after this point.

Many who adhere to the Pre-TR persuasion believe that the two witnesses mentioned by John will prophesy during the first half of the 70th Week.  However, I am convinced that they will begin their prophesying at the midpoint of the 70th Week (after the temple has been built in Jerusalem—Rev. 11:1).  They will prophesy and be partially instrumental in bringing plagues upon the earth during the last 1,260 days (3½ years or 42 months) of the 70th Week.

Finally, concerning Paul’s statements about the “revealing” of the “man of lawlessness” (2 Ths. 2:3b,8a) or Antichrist, I have a few points of difference with those proposing a Pre-TR.  Previously, I stated how the apostasy will be signaled by a rejection of the True God and an adoption of idol worship by many in Israel (see “apostasy and destruction”: P-IV, S-1) after the 70th Week covenant has been confirmed.  (The “many” here may be the same “many” who will support the so-called “peace” agreement in the first place—Dan. 9:27a.)  I also suspect that there will be, coincident with this apostasy in Israel, a “falling away” of faith within the Christian Church.  Although there appears to be a waning of true faith by many at the present time, I believe this Christian apostasy will increase markedly during the first half (3½ years) of the 70th Week.

It is possible that much of the apostasy on the part of many Christians will be due to a great sense of disillusionment, having expected a “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture but suddenly finding that the 70th Week has begun (after the ratification of the 7-year “peace” covenant) and realizing that they have not yet been removed supernaturally.  Possibly, multitudes of them may feel that Jesus has betrayed and abandoned them and that He no longer is worthy of their faith and loyalty, thereby apostatizing from the Church and embracing false theologies.

As for the “revealing” of the Antichrist, I do not see this as the appearance of this man upon the world scene at the commencement of the 70th Week.  During the initial half, he may seem “messiah-like,” a great “peacemaker” coordinating or furthering the agreement Israel has been long-awaiting (which may cause many to apostatize from their orthodox faith and, tragically, to revere him as their beloved “Messiah”).  But I feel his lawless nature will not be revealed at this time; rather, his “antichrist spirit” (1 John 4:3b) will remain publicly veiled for the first 3½ years of the 70th Week.  Only after he walks into the newly built Jerusalem temple midway through the 70th Week, setting up the abomination that causes desolation (Dan. 9:27c; Matt. 24:15), will his true, antichrist character be revealed—much to the horror of Israel and of the observant world.

The next question is this:  Of whom is Paul speaking when he states that “...the one who now holds [the secret power of the antichrist spirit] back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (2 Ths. 2:7b)?  Scofield’s first annotation in Second Thessalonians, Chapter 2, includes the following opinion:

The order of events is:  (1) The working of the mystery of lawlessness under divine restraint which had already begun in the apostle’s [Paul’s] time (v. 7) and which has been expanding throughout the Church Age.  (2) The removal of that which restrains the mystery of lawlessness (vv. 6-7).  There are various views as to the identity of the restraining influence.  The use of the masculine pronoun “he” indicates that it is a person.  It seems evident that it is the Holy Spirit. ...[I]t will be when the restrainer is “taken out of the way” that the man of sin will be revealed; this will be when the Church is translated and the Spirit’s restraining ministry through it will cease.

Although I do agree with Scofield that the entity in question is a person (whose identity I will impart shortly), I do not share the belief that it is the Holy Spirit, working through the Church of believers, who holds back the “...secret power of lawlessness...” (2 Ths. 2:7a) and who will be taken out of the way when the Church is removed via the (Pre-TR) Rapture.

Some feel that the entity “taken out of the way” will be a “government” or a “political system” (which the Antichrist will overthrow).  I disagree with this as well, since the restraining entity clearly is identified with the masculine pronoun “he.”

I believe that whoever this entity is will continue to restrain the antichrist spirit throughout the first half of the 70th Week.  I also believe the answer to the mystery of this restraining force, who will be taken out of the way, is found in the Book of Daniel:

At that time [the middle of the 70th Week] 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 (Dan. 12:1ab).

The archangel Michael always has been Israel’s special protecting “prince” (Dan. 10:13b,21b, 12:1a).  Here, at the midpoint of the 70th Week, he is seen to “arise” or “stand up.”  The term used is the Hebrew word amad, which actually means to “stand aside,” “stand still,” “desist,” or “be inactive.”  Other examples of the usage of amad include:

  1. “Must I wait, now that they are silent, now that they stand there [stand still or desist] with no reply?” (Job 32:16);
  2. “Ezra opened the book.  All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up [kept quiet or stood still]” (Neh. 8:5) (9); and
  3. “The king said, ‘Stand aside and wait here.’  So he stepped aside and stood there [stood aside or stood still]” (2 Sam. 18:30).

Michael, at the middle of the 70th Week, will oust Satan and his angels from heaven (Rev. 12:7-9).  Then Michael will “amad” (desist from any further assistance to Israel—Dan. 12:1a), because he will have been taken out of the way (by God).

Satan, finding himself barred from heaven, will energize the Antichrist (Rev. 13:2b), whose coming “...will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders...” (2 Ths. 2:9).  Michael, who will be the one “taken out of the way,” no longer will hinder Satan from focusing his intense rage upon Israel and the Church during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:17; 13:1-18), which will begin with the opening of Seal 5 (see “Seal 5”: P-III, S-1) in the middle of the 70th Week.  Then one of Jesus’ most foreboding prophecies will unfold: “For then there will be great distress [great tribulation] unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matt. 24:21; cf Dan. 12:1b).  And the Church will witness this, because Christians still will be present on the earth at that time.

“Mid-Tribulation” Rapture (Mid-TR)

Proponents of this theory believe that the Rapture of the Church will occur at or around the midpoint of the 70th Week.  Thus, Christians will be exempt from the ragings of the Antichrist after he sets up the abomination in the Jerusalem temple, as well as from all of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments.  The idea is that Satan’s being thrown out of heaven and down to earth at this point (Rev. 12:7-9) is the initiation of God’s wrath upon the earth.  The entire second half of the 70th Week generally is considered, by those of the Mid-TR persuasion, to be the “Great Tribulation” from which Christians will be saved, via the Rapture.

Some of those who uphold a Mid-TR view point to this passage—immediately following the depiction of Satan’s expulsion from heaven—as evidence:

Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.  Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short (Rev. 12:10-12).

The idea is that salvation, power, the kingdom of God, and the authority of Christ finally have been manifested to Christians by means of the Rapture.  Those who “overcame [Satan, the accuser of our brothers]” have now received their reward by being taken into heaven to be with God.

Others who have adopted the Mid-TR view believe that the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15a) will sound in the middle of the 70th Week (rather than at the end).  They believe this to be the same as the “last trumpet” described by Paul and, thus, see the Rapture as occurring at that time.


The 70th Week: “Mid-Tribulation” Rapture

(Note:  Some browsers will not display the alignments of the arrows in this chart properly.  Take this link to see a better view of the chart: “Mid-Tribulation” Rapture.)

Rapture (at midpoint of the 70th Week)
- - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - -
Day of the Lord: God’s Wrath
Tribulation Great Tribulation

Antichrist’s
 Covenant
   Signed

Midpoint:
Abomination/
Desolation

Bodily 
Return 
of Jesus

Second Coming of Jesus, initially in the air (at the Rapture) and later to the earth (at His physical advent).

Catching up of the true, professing, living and dead, Christian believers (at the Rapture) to meet Jesus in the clouds.


disputes with Mid-TR

Admittedly, this could appear, at face value, to indicate a Rapture of believers.  However, I do not see Satan’s ejection from heaven as part of God’s outpouring of wrath upon the earth, and I feel that much of the dialogue can have another explanation.  To begin with, presently the full Authority and Power of God (Authority over evil and Power to perform miracles) does not fall upon as many Christians on the earth as it should.  I feel one reason is because many have been blinded by “religious” spirits which have robbed them of faith to believe that they can receive certain gifts of the Holy Spirit (see “Holy Spirit vs. religious spirits”: C-9, P-I).  This may be due, additionally, to their sensing that Satan is accusing them constantly before God (which he is doing), making them feel unworthy to receive this supernatural Authority and Power that God wants them to have.  (It follows that they also would be skeptical of those who do have and demonstrate these gifts, believing that no one, other than Jesus’ disciples and apostles of the early first century, is worthy of possessing and exhibiting such gifts).

With the ejection of Satan from heaven, however, the “High Court” in heaven will be closed to him; God no longer will listen to Satan’s accusations of His people.  Somehow aware that these personal denunciations are not being heard anymore, I believe Christians world-wide will experience a spiritual revival unlike any other in history; as a result, spirits of “religion” will be overthrown successfully by those revived.  Rather than the hindering Power of the Holy Spirit being “taken out of the way” at the beginning of the 70th Week (as is suggested by many holding to a Pre-TR view), I see the opposite occurring: a mighty increase in God’s Authority and Power, exhibited by believers on the earth, when Satan and his forces are thrown down at the 70th Week’s midpoint.

I believe this will be necessary to rival (and exceed) the deceptive satanic “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” being displayed at this time, coincident with the revealing of the antichrist spirit through the Antichrist (2 Ths. 2:9).  (Many anointed Christians, who already manifest this Authority and Power, are able to demonstrate it now through acts such as casting out spirits, healing the sick, prophesying, and in other ways.)  I also see this as a time when salvation will come to more people in the world—hungry as never before for the truth and for spiritual fulfillment—than ever have received it in such a relatively short period of time.  All of this is not to say that Christians at that time will rid the world of evil, “purifying” it to make it ready for Jesus’ return.  I reject this premise, held by some Christians, as false.  In fact, I believe the increased supernatural activity by God through Christians will cause the enemy to escalate its persecution (2 Tim. 3:12) and murdering of Christians during the Great Tribulation.

Those believing Christians who, for whatever reason, do not yield to this massive outpouring of the Spirit (in the form of supernatural Authority and Power) may become more “lukewarm,” though they still will maintain a testimony for Jesus (Rev. 12:17b).  However, if targeted and faced with having to decide between embracing Jesus (which will result in persecution and maybe execution) or denying Him (which might enable their lives to be spared), they will not “shrink from death.”

As for those in the Mid-TR category who believe that the Rapture will occur with the blowing of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15a), I disagree with their view of when this trumpet will be blown.  I believe that the 7th Trumpet will be heard immediately prior to Jesus“ physical advent to earth (see “mystery accomplished”: P-IV, S-1), not prior to His appearing in the clouds at the Rapture; and I believe that it will be sounded at the end, rather than in the middle, of the 70th Week.

“Post-Tribulation” Rapture (Post-TR)

One of the main allegations of the Post-TR view is that the 70th Week (“Tribulation”) is not, fundamentally, a time of God’s wrath; therefore, Christians will be exempt from practically none of it.  Many feel that the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments are the same and that the seventh trumpet/seventh bowl will end the 70th Week.  The “last trumpet” spoken of by Paul in his Rapture account to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:52) is considered to be the same as the trumpet blown by the last (seventh) of the angels (Rev. 11:15a) dispensing the Trumpet Judgments of God.  Furthermore, the Rapture of the entire Church will be coincident with (or at approximately the same time as) the Rapture of the two witnesses (Rev. 11:12—see “the two witnesses”: P-III, S-1) who will prophesy in Jerusalem for the last 3½ years of the 70th Week.

After the blowing of the 7th Trumpet and along with Jesus’ bodily return to earth at the end of the 70th Week, to take over the kingdom of the earth and to begin to rule and reign (Rev. 11:15,17), the dead will be resurrected and all those saved through Jesus will be rewarded (Matt. 16:27; Rev. 11:18cd).  The belief is that the dead and the living in Christ will be changed, will be taken up to meet Him in the air as He is coming down, and immediately (or soon thereafter) will return back to earth with Him as He comes to defeat the armies coming against Jerusalem and to assume world control.

Others who believe in a Post-TR differentiate between the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments.  They think that God’s wrath during the 70th Week will be limited to the seven Bowl Judgments (Rev. 15:1b,7) and that these will take place in only a very short period of time at the end of the 70th Week, just prior to Jesus’ physical return.  The feeling is that Christians will be protected only from this brief, wrathful portion of the 70th Week, via the Rapture.  (The latter view is portrayed below.)


The 70th Week: “Post-Tribulation” Rapture

(Note:  Some browsers will not display the alignments of the arrows in this chart properly.  Take this link to see a better view of the chart: “Post-Tribulation” Rapture.)

Rapture (just prior to Jesus’ physical advent)
- - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7 years, minus a very small period of time - - - - - - - - - - - - - - God’s Wrath
Tribulation Great Tribulation DOL

Antichrist’s
 Covenant
   Signed

Midpoint:
Abomination/
Desolation

Bodily 
Return 
of Jesus

Second Coming of Jesus, initially in the air (at the Rapture) and later to the earth (at His physical advent).

Catching up of the true, professing, living and dead, Christian believers (at the Rapture) to meet Jesus in the clouds.


disputes with Post-TR

As I previously have stated, I believe that God’s wrath upon the earth will encompass that which occurs after the opening of the seventh seal: all of the seven Trumpet Judgments, plus all of the seven Bowl Judgments.  The Trumpet Judgments precede and differ from the Bowl Judgments, as a direct comparison of each will show.  I believe the Bible teaches that believing Christians living at the time will be protected from this entire period of wrath, the Day of the Lord.

Now, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, about the “mystery” of the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51), not long after the middle of the first century; whereas, John recorded his great revelation near the end of the first century.  Thus, those to whom Paul wrote could not have been expected to know about the seven Trumpet Judgments (described by John) and would not have associated Paul’s “last trumpet” with John’s “seventh trumpet.”  Yet, since the revealing of a mystery is the disclosing of something unknown up to that point, and since Paul spent probably 12 to 18 months teaching in Corinth, it may be assumed that they would have understood what Paul meant by the “last trumpet.”

I see (and I think the Corinthians perceived as well) the “Last Trumpet,” besides being the description of the shofar blown on Rosh haShanah, as an eschatological term—that is, dealing with the time of the end of this age.  In reference to the use of the expression “trumpet” by the ancient Jewish prophets (see “trumpet blast”: S-1), I believe the Corinthians (and other Christians at the time) would have understood the “Last Trumpet” to represent the sign indicating that the final, climactic outpouring of the wrath of God was about to occur.  The “Last Trump” does, in my opinion, shortly precede the Day of the Lord—the latter which may be thought of as a unit of time appropriately composed of the seventh seal, the seven Trumpet Judgments and the seven Bowl Judgments—from which, I believe, true Christians will be protected.

Additionally, if all the true Christians were to be caught up at once at the physical return of Jesus, there would be no “sheep” in the nations to be separated later by Jesus from the “goats” (Matt. 25:31-46—see “sheep and goat nations”: C-14, P-I).  Notwithstanding all of this, let me say that I believe there yet may be some validity to the idea of a Post-TR Rapture (see the following section, “‘Multiple’ Raptures (MR)”).  As for the Bowl Judgments, although I agree that Christians will be sheltered from them, I already have explained that I believe they are distinct from the Trumpet Judgments and will happen (during a 30-day period) following, rather than at the end of, the 70th Week.

“Multiple” Raptures (MR)

Although I believe that there will be a primary, main Rapture of believers just prior to the onset of the Day of the Lord (the latter being the period during which God’s wrath will be poured out near the end of the 70th Week), the idea that there may be multiple Raptures cannot be dismissed.  For one thing, the 144,000 Jews—marked with the seal of God (Rev. 7:2-8) at about the same time as the Rapture of the Church occurs (7:9-17)—apparently will be taken up to heaven at some later point (14:1-5), during the Day of the Lord period but before the end of the 70th Week (possibly before the worst of the Trumpet Judgments, #5 and #6).

Another Rapture must be recognized as well: that of the two witnesses who will prophesy in Jerusalem for 1,260 days (the last half of the 70th Week) and then will be killed (Rev. 11:3-10).  Their resurrection and catching up (11:11,12), necessarily, will occur near or at the very end of the 70th Week (see “the two witnesses”: P-III, S-1).

With these “secondary Raptures” taking place after the primary Rapture, who is to say that there may not be yet another Rapture of many people around the world before the onset of the second wave of God’s wrath, the Bowl Judgments (see “Bowl Judgments”: P-IV, S-3), which I maintain will happen after the conclusion of the 70th Week?  Indeed, this may be the time when those Jewish and Gentile believers redeemed before Jesus’ first coming—who had faith in their Messiah but who did not know Him to be Jesus—will be resurrected (Job 19:25,26; Psalm 49:15; Jer. 30:9b; Dan. 12:13b).


The 70th Week: “Multiple” Raptures

(Note:  Some browsers will not display the alignments of the arrows in this chart properly.  Take this link to see a better view of the chart: Multiple Raptures.)

Primary Rapture (just prior to the Day of the Lord)

 

- - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3½ years - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4 to 6 years - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - God’s Wrath     
Beginning of Sorrows/Birth Pains

Great Tribulation

Day of the Lord   

Antichrist’s
 Covenant
   Signed

Midpoint:
Abomination/
Desolation

Bodily 
Return 
of Jesus

Second Coming of Jesus, initially in the air (at the Rapture) and later to the earth (at His physical advent).

Catching up of the true, professing, living and dead, Christian believers (at the Rapture) to meet Jesus in the clouds.

 Possible secondary Rapture events.


discussion of MR

Just prior to the destruction (by Jesus) of the armies coming against Jerusalem at the end of the 70th Week (Rev. 14:17-20), John has described another scene which will take place:

I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” [Jesus Christ] with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.  Then another angel came out of the temple [in heaven] and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  So he that was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested (Rev. 14:14-16).

Immediately following this, an angel with a sharp sickle is told to gather a different harvest of “grapes” and to throw them into the “great winepress of God’s wrath” (Rev. 14:17-19).  Liken this to Joel’s parallel account:

Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow-so great is their wickedness! (Joel 3:13).

(See also “blood-stained garments”: P-IV, S-1.)  I think it is very likely all of this indicates that, first of all, a special Rapture (by Jesus Himself) of “ripe Christians” may take place near the end of the 70th Week.  Then, a separate group of “ripe transgressors” from the nations will be attacked and “trampled” by Jesus as grapes in a winepress (Isa. 63:1-6; Zech. 12:9, 14:3; Rev. 19:13a,15c).

Many consider the former harvest (by the “Son of man” on a cloud) to be that of the “weeds” described by Jesus (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43) and, therefore, do not see it as a Rapture event.  However, a few things should be noted.  Firstly, Jesus described that “...the harvesters are angels” (13:39c); but in John’s account, Jesus Himself, not an angel, reaps the harvest (Rev. 14:14,16).  Secondly, Jesus indicated that “weeds” (that is, the unsaved) will be separated from the “wheat” (those who, figuratively, will enter the “barn”—Matt. 13:30c—or, literally, the Kingdom of God—13:43a).  The “weeds” then will be “...burned in the fire...” (13:40,42—see “wheat and weeds”: C-14, P-I).  Thirdly, John the Baptist indicated that Jesus would be “...gathering the wheat into his barn...” and then “...burning up the chaff [the outer husk of the grain, as useless as weeds] with unquenchable fire” (3:12c).

This latter picture of wheat vs. weeds, rather, has similarities to the judgment of the nations (Matt. 25:31-46—see “sheep and goat nations”: C-14, P-I).  In both cases, the unsaved (“weeds” and “goats”) are separated from the saved (“wheat” and “sheep”).  The unsaved will be assigned to the “fiery furnace” (13:42), the same as the place of “eternal fire” (25:41—see “lake of fire; fiery furnace”: “references to hell”: C-14, P-I); while the righteous saved “...will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (13:43a), the place of “eternal life” (25:46b).  I see the separation of “weeds” from “wheat” and “goats” from “sheep” as taking place after the Bowl Judgments (which occur for 30 days after the 70th Week closes), not at the same time as Jesus’ physical return at the end of the 70th Week.

I am inclined to believe, then, that the “harvest” performed by Jesus and described by John (Rev. 14:14,16) is not a gathering of unsaved people to be appointed to hell.  Rather, it seems to be a catching up of those newly saved people who will accept Him as Lord and Savior near the end of the 70th Week and/or of those Christians who were not included in the “Pre-Wrath Rapture” (due to having had a “lukewarm” faith and not having been filled with the Holy Spirit nor having received His gifts).

Various Bible translations describe this harvest as “ripe,” “fully ripe,” or “overripe.”  The word in Greek is exiranthi, indicating a “dried” harvest.  To me, this means a crop which has gone beyond its optimum fruitful stage but which still is “salvable.”  This would seem to be descriptive of people whose rebellious or “lukewarm” spirits will have been broken, due to all the calamities befalling the earth and its inhabitants during the Day of the Lord, to the point where they humbly (and wisely) will acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior.  They may have contributed very little to the Kingdom of God and, as such, are “dried,” having gone beyond the point of useful service in their mortal bodies.  Many of these “...will be saved, but only as [those] escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:15bc).

On a different note, another point might be raised here:  Paul, James, Peter, and John wrote of certain “crowns” to be received by believers at the time of Jesus’ next coming (1 Cor. 9:25c; 1 Ths. 2:19a; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10c).  I differentiate between “crowns” and “rewards.”  Though some will disagree, I feel that all believers will get all of these incorruptible “crowns” (of hope, joy, righteousness, life, and glory); whereas, types and amounts of “rewards” will vary from person to person.  Furthermore, I believe that “crowns” will be awarded by Jesus at the Rapture(s).  However, as I have indicated before, I tend to think that “rewards” will be presented at the end of the 70th Week, upon Jesus’ physical return (Matt. 16:27):  “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name...” (Rev. 11:18cd).  Thus, if there is, following the “Pre-Wrath Rapture,” another Rapture at the end of the 70th Week, those who are taken up in it presumably will be the only ones to receive their “crowns” and “rewards” coincidentally.

A controversial passage spoken by Jesus, the absolute meaning of which frequently is put to debate by Christians, may have its appropriate place here in a multiple Rapture discussion.  It is referred to as the “Parable of the Ten Virgins”:

At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.  The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out:  “Here’s the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!”

Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”

“No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you.  Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived.  The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.  And the door was shut.

Later the others also came.  “Sir! Sir!” they said.  “Open the door for us!”

But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”

Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matt. 25:1-13).

Concerning this parable, many feel that five of the virgins are true, saved Christians; while the other five are hypocritical, unsaved “Christians.”  I tend to believe, though, that all ten are saved, believing Christians; however, only five have been anointed by God with the “oil” of the Holy Spirit as was Jesus, the Messiah (Isa. 61:1ab; Luke 4:18ab; Acts 10:38a).  Just as ancient priests and kings were anointed with literal oil as a requisite to serving God (Exo. 29:7,29, 40:13,15; 1 Sam. 16:3b,13ab; 2 Sam. 2:4a; 1 Kng. 19:15,16; 1 Chr. 29:22b; Psalm 133:2), Christians who want to serve God are to be anointed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21,22; 1 John 2:20,27), the powerful “Oil” of God.

Maybe then, during the 70th Week, Christians who have been anointed by the Holy Spirit, and evidence this anointing by manifesting certain gifts given by the Spirit (see “gifts of the Holy Spirit”: C-6, P-IV), will be caught up in the “Pre-Wrath Rapture”; whereas, those Christians who are such in name only, without putting their beliefs into practice by properly serving God with Authority and Power at a time when the world needs it the most, will be overlooked at the main Rapture event but will be taken up at another Rapture near the end of the 70th Week.  Jesus will “know” the former group because they will have acknowledged Him openly and will have allowed His Holy Spirit to work miraculously through them; but He will “not know” the latter group because they will have been reluctant to take a public stand for Him and/or to do the things Spirit-filled Christians will have been doing.

I find nowhere, however, the implication that the latter group will be separated eternally from God, nor that, at some later time, Jesus will not “know” them.  It would seem quite possible that, having missed the primary Rapture, these Christians in name would become Christians in action, being led fully by the Spirit and performing great miracles during the dreadful Day of the Lord period.  Then, at the end of the 70th Week, they would join the rest of the Bride of Christ at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

If the scene described by John (Rev. 14:14-16) truly is a Rapture, then it would seem that its main purpose at this point in time would be to protect these believers from the second wave of the wrath of God soon to be poured out as the Bowl Judgments upon the earth, following the closure of the 70th Week (see “Bowl Judgments”: P-IV, S-3).  (It might even be coincident with the resurrection and catching up of the two witnesses, as well as of all those who accepted the Messiah as Redeemer during the millennia prior to Jesus’ first advent.)  However, as I have affirmed before, I would not see this “Post-TR” as the primary catching up of (fruitful) believers, but rather the “Pre-WR” as the main Rapture event, which I believe will occur shortly preceding the opening of the seventh seal, beginning the Day of the Lord.  Moreover, if there are going to be multiple Raptures, I still do not see the Pre-TR nor the Mid-TR as probabilities, because that necessarily would force one of them—rather than the Pre-Wrath Rapture—to be the first and, therefore, the primary Rapture.

Rapture passages

These are Scriptures which I believe relate to the Second Coming of Jesus, from the “east” (note that the Magi saw a star, also in the “east”—Matt. 2:7-9—indicating the First Coming of Jesus) and in the clouds, to transform His believers and to take them to be with Him at the Rapture, as well as the catching up of the 144,000 Jews, 2 witnesses, and other possible Rapture and/or resurrection events:  2 Sam. 22:10-20; Job 19:25,26; Psalm 17:15, 18:9-19, 27:5, 31:20,23ab, 49:15, 57:1,3a, 73:24b,25, 97:4, 116:8,9; Eccl. 12:5c; Isa. 18:3, 24:14-16a, 26:19,20, 41:2a, 57:1b, 61:10; Jer. 4:19e, 30:9b; Dan. 12:1c,2a,13b; Hosea 13:14abcd; Joel 2:1,15,16,32a, 3:13a; Nahum 1:7; Zeph. 2:3c; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 24:27,30,31,36,39b-41; Mark 13:26,27,32; Luke 17:24,30,34,35, 20:35,36, 21:27,28,36; John 5:28,29a, 6:39,40,44,54, 14:3; Acts 3:20; Rom. 3:22a, 5:9b,10b,19b, 8:11,19,23, 14:12; 1 Cor. 1:7,8, 3:13, 4:5, 9:25c, 13:10,12, 15:20-23,35,42-44,48b-55; 2 Cor. 4:14, 5:2-4,10; Eph. 1:14, 5:14b; Phil. 1:6,10, 2:16b, 3:11,20b,21; Col. 3:4; 1 Ths. 1:10, 2:19a, 3:13, 4:13-17, 5:9,10,23b; 2 Ths. 2:1; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1b,8; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28b, 11:40; James 1:12, 5:7a,8a; 1 Pet. 1:5,7,9,13c, 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:9a; 1 John 2:28b, 3:2; Jude 21,24b; Rev. 2:10c,25, 7:9-17, 11:12,18cd, 14:1,14-16.

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