The Rapture
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deliverance via the Rapture

The greatest Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, likened the “day of the Lord” to a woman writhing in the most severe pains of hard labor (Isaiah 13:8,9—see birth pains).  He also associated conspicuous cosmic disturbances (13:10, 34:4) with that general time period.

In another place, Isaiah gave a similar description of a woman writhing in labor pains (Isaiah 26:17), but in this case he associated with it a special type of deliverance for God’s people:

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 (Isaiah 26:19-21).
In this special deliverance, a resurrection is described, followed by an entering by God’s people into their “rooms” (presumably the same “rooms,” “chambers,” or “mansions” described by Jesus as the ones He was going to prepare for them—John 14:2,3).  There, they will be protected until the Lord’s “wrath has passed by,” during which time the people of the earth will be punished for their sins.

Paul noted that “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  I believe that most of the 70th Week, leading up to the Day of the Lord period, will not  consist of God’s wrath being discharged actively upon the world.  In heaven, during more than the initial half of the 70th Week, Jesus the Lamb passively will be removing the seven seals from the scroll, which will have been handed to Him (Revelation 5:1-9), rather than actively doling out punishment upon the earth.

Rather, I see the majority of the 70th Week as a time when God will remove His stabilizing, helping hand from the earth and mankind.  As a result, there will be great instability in and on the earth itself—manifested by such things such as frequent, intense earthquakes, famines, plagues, and catastrophic weather, as well as chaos in societies worldwide, most likely including widespread economic collapse and horrific acts of terrorism.  This will create a highly volatile environment in which the Antichrist (the “eleventh horn” of the first beast)—supported by bewildered, disoriented, panicked people everywhere—will rise to power.

In the Book of Revelation, the very first  occurrences of the word “wrath” are found after the description of the cosmic disturbances and tumult (following the opening of the Sixth Seal).  At this time, the people of the earth, from the great to the lowly, will flee to hide in caves in the rocks of the mountains, terrified of the visible appearance of the Lord (Isaiah 2:19-21; Revelation 6:15,16).  They will see the Lord Jesus coming on the clouds of the sky and will want to be hidden “from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (6:16,17).  It is at that point, I believe, that the Pre-Wrath Rapture will occur, just prior to the impending “great day of their wrath” (Day of the Lord), during which the wrath of the Father and the Son (the Lamb) will be doled out upon the earth.

Thus, after the intense cosmic disturbances have begun to take place, the primary Rapture event will take place.  Multitudes of believers who have died thoughout the centuries will be resurrected.  Together with believers alive at the time, they will be transformed into glorified, immortal, imperishable forms, or changed bodies—each being clothed with his or her “heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)—and instantly caught up (raptured) to be with Jesus in the clouds.  Then they will be taken into heaven, where they will praise God sitting on His throne (Revelation 7:9,10).  In this extraordinary manner, they will be delivered and protected from the terrible Day of the Lord period to follow, when God’s righteous wrath will be unleashed upon the earth.


day and hour unknown

Jesus noted, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father(Matthew 24:36).  I believe there is strong evidence to support the idea that the main Rapture will take place on a Rosh haShanah (= Feast of Trumpets, Yom Teruah or “Day of the Awakening Blast”).  The year of which Rosh haShanah we cannot be absolutely certain.  Even if we knew the year, we would not know on which day or hour of that particular Rosh haShanah, traditionally celebrated for two days each year, that Jesus will appear in the clouds.

Rosh haShanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at the new moon.  Before methods were available to calculate the exact time of each new moon, no one knew the day or hour the new moon would occur until two witnesses, peering into the sky, detected the first tiny sliver of the waxing moon.  Upon their announcement (just as the two witnesses of the future will prophesy and announce the appearance of Jesus in the clouds), Rosh haShanah officially would begin.  As such, the phrase “we do not know the day or hour” came to be synonymous with Rosh HaShanah.

Thus, when Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour [of His appearance in the clouds]” (Matthew 24:36), He most likely was making a direct reference to Rosh haShanah.  This is the first Jewish Fall festival, which Jesus will fulfill upon His Second Coming on the clouds into earth’s atmosphere.  A series of trumpets (shofars) is sounded on this Rosh haShanah (Feast of Trumpets), and Jesus’ appearance will be at the blowing of the last of these trumpets (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  Exactly which Rosh haShanah, and on which day and hour of that Rosh haShanah, only the Father knows for certain.

Whenever it happens, though, this Feast of Trumpets, occurring shortly after the opening of the Sixth Seal, will be followed soon by the opening of the Seventh Seal and then the seven Trumpet Judgments.  It is not until the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet (Revelation 11:15,17) that Jesus will return to earth to begin to rule and reign.  This will take place on a Yom Kippur (= Day of Atonement).  On that day, the great trumpet will sound (Isaiah 27:13).

There is another possible rendering of the “day and hour unknown.”  In case there happens to be a partial  or firstfruits Mid-Tribulation Rapture (perhaps at at Matthew 25:6) at the midpoint of the 70th Week, only the Father will be the Judge of which believers are caught up and which ones stay behind.  The ones left behind, who do not apostatize from the faith, can expect to be caught up later at the Pre-Wrath Rapture, or perhaps even later at a Post-tribulation Rapture (on the day Jesus returns to earth—Revelation 14:14-16).  Thus, no living person would know, for certain, what day or hour on which he/she would be caught up and away to be with the Lord.


after the Rapture

Following what I believe to be the (primary) Rapture event during the cosmic disturbances and the earthly shaking of the Sixth Seal, John described the supernatural sealing of 144,000 from the tribes of Israel—12,000 from each tribe—for protection on earth, from that point forward (Revelation 7:1-8).  I suspect that, very possibly, all of these 144,000 sealed will have been “on a fence” concerning the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and Lord.  If so, after they see that the Rapture clearly has taken place, these “servants of God” may be the ones to whom the “baton” of spreading the Gospel message to the world is passed (since later, after this group of 144,000 is “redeemed from the earth,” in what apparently is their own “private catching-up” episode, the Gospel message next will be proclaimed to the world by a flying angel—14:1-7).

It is immediately after the sealing of the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel that John described what I believe is the great multitude of newly-raptured saints in heaven.  They will be “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb,” holding palm branches (just as the great crowd had done during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Passover—John 12:12,13) and praising God (Revelation 7:9-17).  This multitude of saved believers will have been caught up, dead and alive, out of the Great Tribulation (7:14).  As a result, they will not have to endure the wrath of God during the Day of the Lord period, most of which will consist of the Trumpet Judgments.

The Day of the Lord will begin, as written chronologically in the Book of Revelation, after the opening of the Seventh Seal (Revelation 8:1–10:7).  Initially, there will be “silence in heaven for about half an hour” (8:1).  That is, the noise of thunderous praising of God by redeemed saints and all the angels (7:10,11) will cease briefly as the seven angels with the seven trumpets stand before God (8:2), ready to pour out the Trumpet Judgments.  From this point foward, God no longer will be “passive” (in opening the seals) but, rather, will take an active roll in directing the seven angels to dispense His wrath upon the earth.  In essence, Jesus’ disposition will turn from a Lamb into a Lion.

The Rapture will be such an extraordinarily stupendous and unique event in human history that one certainly would have expected Jesus to have foreseen, and John to have viewed, its future happening.  I believe Jesus did so when He described the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of the sky (Matthew 24:30,31), and John did so during his description of the Sixth Seal events (Revelation 6:16), as well as of the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” soon thereafter in heaven (7:9).  The fact that Jesus did not, at the beginning of His Olivet Discourse, describe such a great event to occur, nor did John see a great multitude of people in heaven at or just prior to the opening of the First Seal, are merely two elements that call into question the “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture view.


Rapture not unexpected

Unlike those who believe in a “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture, I do not see the Rapture as being a “silent, unexpected” event at all.  Jesus’ disciples specifically had asked Him what would be the “sign” of his coming and of the “end of the age” (Matthew 24:3).  Jesus’ return back to earth, in association with the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet, will be the end of this age and the start of His Kingdom on earth during the Millennium.

Some feel that the “sign” of Jesus’ next coming will be the appearance of some type of symbol or image in the sky, such as, perhaps, a cross.  I feel that the Son of Man’s brilliant, dazzling Shekinah Glory, exploding from the Sixth Seal’s cosmic darkness like a blinding light, will get the immediate attention of the entire world.  It will signal the imminent appearance of the Lord in the sky.  The same radiant glory of Jesus, on a much smaller scale, temporarily blinded Saul/Paul on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5).  Furthermore, Jesus’ actual appearance in the clouds (Matthew 24:30) at the Pre-Wrath Rapture—the first phase of Jesus’ Second Coming—can be considered to be the “sign” that His Second Advent (bodily descent) to earth is forthcoming, at a later time.

Jesus likened His next coming, in the future, to lightning flashing from the east to the west (Matthew 24:27).  He indicated that the cosmic disturbances of the Sixth Seal will darken the skies, and then “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.”  Then, I believe that the “sign” of Jesus’ next appearance will be His intensely bright materialization in the clouds of the sky, which will be seen by all the people on earth.  It will be observed from the east to the west, instantaneously, similar to the way that lightning in the eastern sky also is visible far to the west of its place of origin.

The people will mourn, I believe, because

  1. everyone will see the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God and the Son of Man, “coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory,” gathering His elect (saved believers at that time) from the earth (Matthew 24:29-31), and
  2. all who are not raptured will lament and bemoan the fact that they have been left behind—to face the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16,17).

Paul stated, “for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” and urged, “let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5:2,6).  He also stated, “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, we may live together with him” (5:9,10).  On the surface, these three passages seem to imply the following:

  • Jesus can appear in the clouds, at any moment, without notice;
  • every second of every day, we should be disciplined and expectant of His imminent appearance; and
  • following His sudden appearance, believers will be shielded (via the Rapture) from God's impending wrath, which will begin, without warning, for the rest of humanity.
However, Paul indicated that the people for whom Jesus will appear unexpectedly are those in spiritual darkness, for whom sudden destruction will come “as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).  (The “labor pains” mentioned by Paul are different from the “beginning of birth pains” described by Jesus.)  He then added that “you, brothers” (that is, believers in Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Savior) would not  be in darkness, and for these the “day” (of the Lord) would not  come as a thief (5:4,5).

This does not  mean that believers should not be self-controlled in their actions, as Paul advised that they should be (1 Thessalonians 5:8).  But I do believe it means that when the cosmic disturbances of the Sixth Seal are occurring, saved believers will be looking up expectantly, and with great anticipation, for Jesus to come on the clouds and redeem them.  On the other hand, lost unbelievers will be absolutely terrified, horror-struck, and aghast at what is about to come upon the world—particularly when they see, in the clouds above, the face of the Jesus the Lamb sitting on His throne (Revelation 6:16,17).


apostasy

Being convinced that the Pre-Wrath Rapture is the first and main “catching-up” event for believers, and that it is not preceded by any other rapture events, one phrase written by Paul concerns me.  He spoke of the “rebellion” or “apostasy” which would take place, prior to the revelation of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) at the midpoint of the 70th Week (2 Thessalonians 2:3).  Actually, the word is correctly translated “apostasy” (from the Greek ), indicating a loss of faith and a falling away from one’s religious or spiritual beliefs.  The word “rebellion” indicates more of a forceful and active revolt or uprising, resulting from intense disenchantment and disillusionment.  Certainly, a rebellion can result from apostasy, but not necessarily.

I believe it is quite possible that some—maybe a great many—people will apostasize (fall away) from the Christian faith after realizing that the 70th Week has begun but that they have not yet been caught up from the earth to be with Jesus.  It could be that a significant number of these disenchanted people, having been led to believe that a “Pre-Tribulation” (that is, a pre-70th-Week) catching-up would occur, but suddenly finding themselves facing insurmountable trials and hardships, will think something like this:  “Hey!  We had been assured  that Jesus would be coming for us before this point, but it hasn’t happened!  Maybe Jesus has abandoned  us—or maybe there is no Jesus after all!”  Perhaps this even could cause many marginal Christians to join the ranks of Islam.

Considering this possibility, I believe that it is important for those who embrace a “Pre-Tribulation” (or even a “Mid-Tribulation”) Rapture view to make sure they understand all aspects of the Pre-Wrath Rapture view.  Whether or not they wish to embrace the Pre-Wrath view now, at least they will know Jesus has not abandoned them, when they realize that the 70th Week is progressing while they still remain on the earth.


secondary rapture events

I believe that the Pre-Wrath Rapture, occurring after the opening of the Sixth Seal described by John in the Book of Revelation, will be the primary (most important) Rapture event during the 70th Week, although, perhaps, there may be a Mid-Tribulation Rapture event prior to that.  Moreover, I also believe that there will be subsequent rapture (“catching-up”) events, until the very end of the 70th Week.  Maybe the phrase “Behold, I come like a thief!” (Revelation 16:15), interjected just prior to the pouring out of the Seventh Bowl (16:17), is an indication that yet one last Rapture event will take place at that point as well.

As noted before, the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, who will be sealed for protection (Revelation 7:1-8) immediately after the initial Rapture, were seen by John in heaven at a later time, presumably after their own event of being raptured into heaven (14:1-7see 144,000 caught up).

The two witnesses clothed in sackcloth, who will prophesy for 1,260 days during the second half of the 70th Week (Revelation 11:3), later will be killed (11:7).  After 3½ days, they will be taken “up to heaven in a cloud” while their enemies look on (11:11,12).

At possibly the very same time that the two witnesses are ascending to heaven, there will be those who will be caught up (“harvested”) at the end of the 70th Week (Revelation 14:14-16), just prior to Jesus’ physical return to earth to destroy the enemies of Israel and Jerusalem.  This may be considered to be a Seventh Trumpet Rapture.  I agree with those of the “Post-Tribulation” persuasion who point to this as a Rapture occurrence; however, I maintain that the Pre-Wrath Rapture, not  the harvest of believers at the end of the 70th Week, will be the first and primary Rapture event (unless, perhaps, it is preceeded by a Mid-Tribulation Rapture of as many as half of believers).

At the initial, Pre-Wrath Rapture, angels will be the ones who will gather the elect (Matthew 24:31); whereas, at the catching-up event at the end of the 70th Week, Jesus (the Son of Man) Himself will be the one who will gather the final harvest (Revelation 14:16) of believers.  I believe that all of the events in which saved believers are gathered, near the end of the 70th Week and at the beginning of the Millennium, can be considered part of the “first resurrection” (20:5b,6a); whereas, the “second resurrection” (20:5a), when the unsaved are condemned to the second (eternal) death, will take place at the end of the Millennium (20:11-14).  All of those taking part in the “first resurrection” will not be affected by the second death (20:6b).


Olivet Discourse and six seal parallels

Once the main Pre-Wrath Rapture event has been placed at Matthew 24:30,31 and at Revelation 6:16, it is worth looking at earlier passages in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 to see if they are similar.  Indeed, they are.

It already has been shown that the cosmic disturbance descriptions by both Jesus (Matthew 24:29) and John (Revelation 6:12,13) are comparable.  Further analysis will show that Jesus’ brief descriptions of previous portions of the 70th Week match closely with those of John’s.

Below, I will indicate what John saw when, in the future, the first six seals of the heavenly scroll will be opened (Revelation 5:1-5) and then, in each case, what I believe are the parallel events described by Jesus (see also Chronology of the Olivet Discourse):

First Seal:  I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. ...  I looked, and there before me was a white horse!  Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest (Revelation 6:1,2).

Jesus:  Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many (Matthew 24:4,5).


Second Seal:  When the Lamb opened the second seal,...another horse came out, a fiery red one.  Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.  To him was given a large sword (Revelation 6:3,4).

Jesus:  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Matthew 24:6,7).


Third Seal:  When the Lamb opened the third seal,...there before me was a black horse!  Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.  Then I heard...a voice...saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Revelation 6:5,6).

Jesus:  There will be great earthquakes, famines... (Luke 21:11).


Fourth Seal:  When the Lamb opened the fourth seal,...I looked and there before me was a pale horse!  Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.  They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth (Revelation 6:7,8).

Jesus:  [There will be]...famines and pestilences [plagues] in various places... (Luke 21:11).  All these are the beginning of birth pains [sorrows] (Matthew 24:8).


Fifth Seal:  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained (Revelation 6:9).

Jesus:  Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. ...  For then there will be great distress [great tribulation], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.  If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:9,21,22).


Sixth Seal (part 1):  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 (Revelation 6:12-14).

Jesus:  Immediately after the distress [great tribulation] of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies [powers of the heavens] will be shaken (Matthew 24:29).


Sixth Seal (part 2):  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 has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17).

Jesus:  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 [shofar] call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:30,31).



The 70th Week and Extensions: “Pre-Wrath” Rapture

The 70th Week and Extensions*: 'Pre-Wrath' Rapture

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