Rapture of the Church
from eParousia Vol. 2 No. 1, January, 2004
the time of the Great Tribulation, spoken of in Matthew 24, Jesus
tells of a period of betrayal, hatred, persecution of believers,
multiplying false prophets and false Christs, and great deception.
Revelation 13 tells us of the rise and reign of the Antichrist,
and his persecution of those who refuse to worship him and to take
his mark. In this context, we are told, "Here is the perseverance
and the faith of the saints" (Rev. 13:10). This time of persecution
will require perseverance and faith. We can thank God that He strengthens
us by His Holy Spirit and has promised to keep us from stumbling
order to understand the sequence of end-time events, there is one
crucial verse which has been overlooked by many. Matthew 24:21-22
then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred
since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless
those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved;
but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
says that these days of tribulation will not run their entire course,
but will be "cut short" for the elect's sake. The Greek
work for "cut short" is koloboo, which means
"to abridge," "to curtail," or "to amputate."
It is the amputation of something so that it is now shorter than
it was before. How long, we may ask, is the Great Tribulation said
to last? The answer is 42 months, 1260 days, or 3-1/2 years. We
get this from numerous Scriptures (Dan. 7:25, 9:27; Rev. 13:5).
Jesus is telling His disciples that the days of Great Tribulation
against the elect will be cut short to less than the 3-1/2 years.
The 3-1/2 years will not be cut short, but the tribulation against
the elect will be shortened. How is this going to happen? By Jesus
return and the rapture of His elect.
states plainly the time of His return and the gathering together
of His elect:
immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE
DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS
WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be
shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the
sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they
will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power
and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT
TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four
winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matt. 24:29-31).
says that the gathering of His elect will occur "after the
tribulation of those days," which He told us would be "cut
short." So, this event of the sun and moon being darkened and
stars falling from the sky, occurs after the beginning of the Great
Tribulation, but before the full 3-1/2 years have transpired.
are the elect for whose sakes the Great Tribulation will be shortened,
and for whom Christ returns? They are believers in Christ, saints,
His bond-servants, the body of Christ. Throughout the New Testament
believers in Christ are called the elect of God, those whom He chose
as His own (See Rom 8:33, Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 1:1; 1 Pet.
1:1-2). Matthew 24:29-31 represents none other than the rapture
of the Church at Christ's return to rescue believers from the time
of Great Tribulation.
gives us even more details of the rapture of the Church. The most
famous rapture passage is in 1 Thessalonians 4:
this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive
and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those
who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from
heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with
the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then
we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always
be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:15-17).
comforts the Thessalonian believers by telling them that the dead
in Christ will be resurrected just before the translation of living
believers. Christ will descend visibly with a shout, the archangel
Michael will raise His voice, and the trumpet of God will be blown.
This is a visible, noisy, glorious event, not some secret catching
away! The word Paul uses for "remain" is perileipo,
which is best translated as "survive." There will be many
believers killed during the Great Tribulation, but Paul is saying
that "we who survive until the coming of the Lord" will
be caught up to meet Christ along with resurrected believers.
his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells more details
of the rapture of the Church. He states,
we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him [i.e. rapture],
that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed
either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to
the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any
way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes
first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object
of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying
himself as being God (2 Thess 2:1-4).
tells the Thessalonian believers that the coming of the Lord and
the rapture of the Church will NOT happen until after the son of
destruction (i.e. Antichrist) is revealed when he takes his seat
in the temple and demands the world's worship. In other words, the
rapture of the church will NOT happen until AFTER the beginning
of the Great Tribulation.
finally, the book of Revelation, while not telling of the event
of the rapture itself, does show us the results of the rapture,
and the timing is exactly parallel with that of Jesus and Paul.
We read in Revelation 6 of a time of death and martyrdom in seals
4 and 5 (the time of the Great Tribulation), and then seal 6 is
the same sign in the sun, moon and stars that Jesus mentioned in
Matthew 24. Following these heavenly signs, we see in Revelation
a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, people and nation standing
before the heavenly throne. When John asks who these folks are,
one of the elders replies, "these are the ones who come out
of the great tribulation." In other words, they were in the
midst of the tribulation period, and have been caught up to heaven.
This great multitude is none other than the raptured Church, the
gathered elect, the saints.
putting all of these passages together, when will the rapture of
the church take place?
After the revealing of the Antichrist
2. After the beginning of the Great Tribulation
3. After the sign in the sun, moon and stars
4. Before the 3-1/2 years of the Great Tribulation is completed
5. When Christ visibly descends from heaven with a shout, with
the archangel (and other angels),
and with the blowing of the trumpet of God
6. After the dead in Christ are raised first
is the application for us? We must be prepared spiritually for the
"evil day" ahead. We are take up the full armor of God.
We are to look expectantly for the return of Christ. We are to watch
for the signs of His coming. We are to reach the world with the
gospel while God's patience still allows time. And finally, we are
not to fear. We have a great God who has a wonderful plan. That
plan may sometimes involve suffering, persecution, even death. But
we are not to despair. We are to persevere in faith, not looking
at what is seen, but at what is unseen, fixing our eyes on Jesus.
We are to sing with the great reformer, Martin Luther, who wrote:
though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.
article was originally published through eParousia,
Sola Scriptura's monthly end-times e-newsletter.