The Rapture and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Rapture of the Church is a topic which is not without controversy. It is often debated and in many places spoken against. Some even say we should not think too much about it, that we cannot know the hour nor the day so we should leave this subject to reveal itself…
Jesus however commanded us to be vigilant, and watchful, saying: “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24: 42-44)
Leaving the doctrines of man behind us then, we will make our case on the singular merit of Holy writ, proofing on that basis, the doctrine of the Rapture, describing both form and timing of this event which is called “our Blessed Hope”.
Our blessed hope
Rapture is the Latin word, for the Greek word “Harpazo”, used in the original texts, which means “to be snatched away”. It is often referred to as our blessed hope.
It is indeed a blessed hope because the doctrine of the Rapture teaches that the dead in Christ shall rise first and then, we who are alive will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye and be taken up to Christ, to meet Christ in the air and be with Him forever. Since Christ is the treasure of the true believers heart, meeting Him is what’s hoped for most and fills us with joy. Also, knowing that the dead in Christ shall rise first, believing in the Rapture means: death has lost its sting, for we can say with full confidence, that to live is Christ, but to die is (great) gain !
What Christ had to say about the Rapture
We do not see Christ teaching the Rapture directly in the Gospels. However, He did show the essence of it in on several occasions, most notably in the parable of the ten virgins.
Five of them were wise, five were foolish, and they all fell asleep while the groom tarried.
The parable of the ten virgins is a picture of the church. Those five, who were prepared and kept their lamps filled with oil, were ready when the shout went out at midnight, that the bridegroom was coming and they were taken into the marriage feast and the door was shut. And the five foolish virgins were left behind, and could not enter with the wise.
In Matthew 24:32-33 , Jesus places His return at the time when the Fig tree becomes tender and puts out its leaves. This is a reference to Israel, to a time when she would again be in her land and would flourish. As we see in our days. Israel has grown strong and should be blossoming and bringing forth fruit… but until now there are only leaves.
In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus also uses the story of Noah, to show how the world would be and how the events of His return would unfold. But more about that later.
Pauls teaching about the Rapture
The apostle Paul taught directly about the Rapture in three separate writings.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, The Apostle Paul comforts the church, that they should not be grieved as if there is no hope. Because Christ shall come again and descend from heaven, at the shout of an archangel and a blowing of the trumpet of God. Then the dead will rise first and we who are alive at that time, will be caught up (Rapture / Harpazo) together with them, to meet the Lord in the air, and so be with Him always. Paul ends this chapter, by telling us that we should encourage one another with these words.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul explains in more detail the circumstances surrounding the coming of our Lord and our departure to be with him. Paul points out that the antichrist, the man of lawlessness can only be revealed after he who restrains is taken away. We believe that this is the event which Paul has previously described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Rapture of the church.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul exclaims that he is telling the church a hidden truth, a mystery: That the living and the dead shall all be changed, in a moment of time, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, putting on immortality and being victorious over death !
Paul taught the churches and through his writings is still teaching us, that:
- There is hope, for both the living and the dead shall rise in immortality in the twinkling of an eye.
- The trumpet will sound and we will be caught up (Rapture / Harpazo) to be with Christ in the air.
- Immediately after the Rapture, the antichrist will be revealed.
Images and foreshadowing of the Rapture
The Bible is filled with foreshadowing and analogies, showing us in the form of a parable or story or historical account, things that concern truth and heaven and future events. It is a deeper layer, underneath the teachings of the new testament, of which Christ often made use.
God has written the Bible in such an incredible way, that by knowing His Word, we can know the Truth and the Truth shall set us free. The Truth will always plant our feet firmly on the Rock of Christ Jesus, so that we are not tossed about by all different winds of doctrine.
Christ Himself is in this way visible in every chapter of the Bible, it all points to Him. Likewise, we have foreshadowing of the Rapture in several chapters, of which we will name three: Noah and the flood, Sodom and Lot and the appointed feasts of Israel.
Noah and the flood
In Matthew 24:37, Jesus teaches us that the time of His return will be like the days of Noah, where the people will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah went into the ark. And they were unaware until the flood came and swept them away. Through faith, Noah built the ark over a period of 120 years and through it, he prophesied against the world, that it’s conduct was evil and that God had appointed a day of wrath, to destroy all the unrighteous. And when the Ark was finished, God brought the animals and Noah and his wife and sons and their wives, into the Ark and God shut the door behind them.
This finds its parallel in the Rapture, for the world is wicked and the true believers testify against her, through the foolishness of preaching and self-sacrifice, proclaiming that God has prepared a day of wrath, to consume the wicked. When the time of this warning is over, God will take his faithful into his Ark and He will shut the door, so no one can afterward enter.
Sodom and Lot
Of Lot we are told, that he was a righteous man, who was greatly distressed by the depraved conduct of the wicked. (2 Peter 2:7). When the wrath of God was about to fall on Sodom, for their wickedness and delight in evil, God sent His angels, to snatch away Lot, his wife and his daughters, so they would not be punished with the wicked.
In our day, the true believers are in an almost constant state of distress, because of the exponential growth of wickedness of the world. For, not only are those things now allowed, which God has forbidden, such as homosexuality, transgenderism, witchcraft and child sacrifice, but the world celebrates those things and rejoices in them.
The seven appointed feasts of Israel
In the Bible we can read about the seven feasts, which God commanded Israel to observe in the book of Exodus and Leviticus.
Starting with the Passover, Israel observed four feasts in spring and three feasts in the fall, separated by a long summer period.
The appointed feasts of Israel show a striking similarity with the gospel and last-day events, to which Christ and His disciples also point.
The Passover celebrates the liberation of the children of Israel from the bondage to Egypt. The Israelites marked this event by the offering of the Passover lamb, of which the blood was to be put on the doorposts and lintel of the house, so that the angel of death would pass by their house.
Many, like John the Baptist have pointed out that Jesus is our Passover Lamb, which was killed, so we might live.
Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzi)
In the second appointed feast of Israel, the symbolism of sin as leaven in our lives and our need to depart from it is portrayed. In Christ we see a bread (body) which was totally without leaven (sin) which was broken for us at the cross (which we commemorate in the breaking of the bread).
The traditional Matzah (a form of unleavened bread) is striped and pierced and unleavened, showing in a form, the Body of Christ crucified, by whose stripes we are healed, who was pierced for our transgressions and who was without sin.
First fruits (Reshit Katzir)
Directly following the feast of unleavened bread, on the morning after the Sabbath, the appointed feast of first fruits is celebrated. During this time, the children of Israel would bring the first of the early harvest and wave it as a wave offering before the Lord. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians reminds the church that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
After fifty days, in summer, the feast of Pentecost is celebrated, by offering two loaves of leavened bread. From the account in the book of Acts, we can clearly see the church celebrating Pentecost and the Holy Spirit falling on them that day, resulting first in the preaching by Peter to the mixed multitude outside.
The two loafs of leavened bread symbolize both the Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Christ, who are leavened (still have a sin nature) but are holy (set-apart).
The Great Pause
After Pentecost, a great pause was introduced, stretching until the feast of Trumpets. This period represents the period in which the church spreads the gospel (the great commission).
Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)
The feast of Trumpets occurs in September, it is a day of blowing trumpets in all the land (Leviticus 23:24) It is seen as a day of judgement and the sixth day of creation, on which God created Adam and Eve. On the celebration, the shofar (Ramshorn) is blown, to jolt us from our sleep. The blowing of the Shofar is also meant to stir fear in the hearts of the people, as is written in Amos 3:6 .
The Shofar is blown throughout the day and the last blow is a great long blast.
Read also 1 Corinthians 15:52 in this regard where Paul teaches that the Church will be snatched away at the last Trumpet blast !
The feast of Trumpets is a pre-image of the Rapture, it is a day of ingathering and a time of last warnings for the world, commemorated by the blasting of the shofar.
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
Ten days after the feast of Trumpets, there is a day of atonement, a day to afflict the souls, remembering man’s sinful nature and repenting from it. This feast finds its fulfilment in the great tribulation, the time of Jacobs trouble, during which time, the Jews will come to know Jesus as their true Messiah and when they come to know Him, they will look on Him and mourn over Him who they pierced. The Church however does not owe atonement, because her debt was paid by Christ’s sacrifice.
Feast of tabernacles (Sukkot)
The last of the appointed feasts is the feast of tabernacles, celebrating the time when God made Israel live in booths (or tabernacles) in the wilderness. It is a great feast, lasting seven days.
The feast of Tabernacles is a foreshadowing of the millennial reign of Christ on earth, a time when we will all live in safety, in His tabernacle.
It is interesting to note that all the appointed spring feasts of Israel found their true fulfilment in Christ and that on the exact day of their celebration. This could indicate that the Rapture will take place at the time of the last trumpet blast on Rosh Hashanah…. !
The Jewish wedding ceremony
The Jewish wedding custom of Jesus’ day was celebrated in a specific order, some of these points are still observed by orthodox Jews to this day.
Lord willing, we will dedicate an in depth post on this, for now, we’ll stick to the basic structure, divided in past, present and future events.
- Groom leaves Fathers house (John 16:28)
- Marriage Covenant offered to the bride (Matthew 26:28)
- Bread and wine are used to seal the marital covenant (Matthew 26:26-27)
- The Groom pays the price for His bride (1 Corinthians 6:20)
- The Groom goes to His Father’s House, to build a bridal chamber (John 14:2)
- The Groom is absent, the Bride must remain faithful and vigilantly watch for His return. (Revelation 2:10)
- The Father inspects and approves the room addition His Son has built. (Matthew 24:36)
- The Bride waits for the Bridegroom, making herself ready for marriage remaining loyal (Ephesians 5:27)
Future events (the Rapture)
- The Groom retrieves the Bride (John 14:3)
- There is a wedding party, started with a torch procession to the bride’s home, with a shout and the blast of the shofar (ramshorn) (1 Corinthians 15:52)
- The Groomsmen lift the bride from the ground and carry her to the Groom (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
- The Groom takes the Bride to His Father’s house (John 14:3)
- Bride and groom consummate the mariage in the wedding chamber and remain there for seven days. (Revelation 19:6-9)
Future events (the wedding feast, Christ’s return to rule)
- After seven days, the Groom unveils His bride for all the world to see. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:10)
- Wedding party, invited guests join in the celebration of the Wedding feast (Revelation 19:9)
- Bride and Groom live together in their new home. (Revelation 21:9-27)
The Pre-Mid- or Post tribulation Rapture
Among those who believe in the Rapture, there is contention concerning the form and especially concerning the timing of this event.
Using the analogies used in the Bible and the image laid down in the Jewish wedding customs, we can form a picture of the Rapture and it’s timing, relative to the tribulation.
Noah and the flood
Noah, his wife and his sons and their wives were not exempted from living in a world growing increasingly wicked. Noah prophesied 120 years, before God cast down His wrath upon the earth. But when He did so, before the rain started, God took Noah and his family and placed them in the Ark and shut the door behind them. They did not go through the tribulation themselves, but were save in God’s arms, during the judgements upon the earth.
Sodom and Lot
When God sent his servant, to visit Sodom, they found a city so vile and wicked, not even ten righteous could be found in it. When the wicked came and would have done harm to righteous Lot and his family, the angel struck the wicked with blindness and took Lot and his family out of the city. Lot’s wife however did not leave the city in her heart and when she turned, she was turned into a pillar of salt. God did not allow righteous Lot to be burned with the wicked, indeed, if ten righteous would have been found, the city would still be standing. But Lot and his family only, were taken away and judgement fell on the city. Lot’s wife however, who could not break with wickedness, fell under the judgement.
The seven appointed feasts
The feast of trumpets, being a foreshadowing of the Rapture, follows after the great summer pause. It is a day of ingathering and of warning. Trumpets are blown and at the last trumpet the bride is snatched away… After that, the days leading up to the feast of Yom Kippur are days of sorrow and introspection. Those days start after the last trumpet, not before and not during.
The Jewish wedding customs
In the Jewish wedding custom, we see the wedding procession coming to retrieve the bride, when they arrive at her house there is a shout and she is lifted from the ground and carried to the Groom.
Christ Himself likened the Church in the last days as ten virgins, five wise and five foolish. Christ says: At midnight there was a cry: The Bridegroom is here, Come out to meet Him ! (Matthew 25:6) The virgins had all fallen asleep and needed to be awakened. They were not rescued from the midst of great tribulation, they were asleep !
What about the sequence of events of Matthew 24 ?
In Matthew 24:31, we read that immediately after the tribulation of those days, He will send His angels to gather His elect. Many Christians have taken this verse to mean that the Rapture must be post-trib (after the tribulation). But what does the text really say ? when we continue to read we see that the angels will gather the elect: “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Why does it say heavens and not earth ? because the elect won’t be on the earth, having been raptured beforehand.
Taking all these things into account, we can safely say that the Rapture is clearly taught by Jesus and by Paul and is visible in both Biblical stories and in the Jewish-Galilean wedding rituals as foreshadowing. Do you recall that Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana ? (John 2:1-11) Do you think He was telling us something with that ?
Does that mean that the Church will be taken away, without her seeing any trouble ? No, the church will see persecution, she always has. The fact that Christians in Europe and the US have experienced a relative peace during the past decades is an anomaly, not normative at all. However, the Church, the beloved Bride of Christ will not suffer with the wicked, under the outpouring of Gods wrath.
At midnight, She will totally and completely be taken up to her Bridegroom, to His Father’s House. To consummate the marriage, started when Christ bought her… when He bought us… Now that’s a blessed Hope !