The Rapture: Not So Fast
“For with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven, and those who died in Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who remain, will be caught up along with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
"Take notice, I am telling you a secret. We shall not all die but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet call. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
The consensus of thought concerning the mechanics of the rapture in the Christian community holds that believers will disappear instantaneously from the earth, in a moment of time. In one instant we will be present on the earth and in the next instant we will be gone. In one instant Christians will be driving cars, flying airplanes, performing surgery, working on computers, in other words transacting life. In the next instant under this scenario cars will go careening around uncontrollably, planes will drop out of the sky and millions of people will “instantaneously in a moment of time” disappear without a trace.
The verses quoted above do not say that we will disappear from sight “instantaneously” in the “twinkling of an eye”. The scriptures state that we will be CHANGED in the twinkling of an eye and that we will be “caught up along with them (the dead in Christ) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”. The change we go through is a change from the perishable to the imperishable, from mortal to immortal. Now the phrase “caught up” is translated from “harpazo” which means; catch up, take by force, catch away, pluck, pull, to seize and carry off by force, to snatch out or away. While these meanings imply some amount of suddenness, they don’t indicate an instantaneous event. To be “caught up” could be an observable event. To snatch something out of the way is a quick happening event but it is an observable event.
What does the bible have to say about the process of how others have been taken from this earth to meet the Lord?
Enoch- In Genesis 5:24 it says that “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him”.
· There is no indication of how God took him, but Enoch didn’t die. In Hebrews 11:8 it states that “By faith Enoch was taken up, so that he did not see death, and was not found because God took him up, for before God took him up, so it is recorded, he was pleasing to God.”
Elijah- In 2 Kings 2:11 it says, “and it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven”.
· This event was witnessed by others and was not a secret event. This event occurred in the presence of Elisha and other prophets who were told in advance (by God) the specific date that Elijah would be taken by God (2 Kings 2:5). There is no indication as to the speed of the ascension, but it was slow enough to be observed. Elijah did not die and there is no indication that he was changed in any way.
Jesus- “So after the Lord had talked with them, He was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God”, (Luke 16:19). “While He blessed them He was parted from them and taken up into heaven”, (Mark 24:52). “He was taken up and a cloud carried Him up from their view”, (Acts 1:9).
· Jesus died and was resurrected. Jesus spent 40 days with His followers preparing them before He departed. This ascension event did not take place in secret. There is no indication as to the exact speed that Jesus ascended, but it appears that it was not in a moment of time as those present watched Him ascend.
John the Revelator- At Revelation 4:1 John is commanded by Jesus to “COME UP HERE”.
· There are no other details of the event.
Two Witnesses- “They two heard a loud voice calling to them from heaven, “COME UP HERE”. And they ascended into heaven in a cloud while their enemies saw them” (Revelation 11:12).
· The two witnesses were killed 3 days earlier and had just been resurrected. This ascension event did not occur in secret. There is no indication as to the exact speed that the two witnesses ascended but it was slow enough for their enemies to view it and comprehend what happened.
From the above we know the following:
1. Enoch was taken by God in an unknown manner, although the Bible states he was taken “up”.
2. Elijah was taken up by God in a whirlwind, in the presence of others who were told in advance that God would take Elijah on a specific date. Elijah had not previously died.
3. Jesus ascended in a cloud in the presence of other believers, there is no indication that any unbeliever observed the event. Jesus had previously died. Jesus spent 40 days with His followers preparing them before He left.
4. John the Revelator- In Revelation 4:1 John is commanded to “Come up here and I will show you what must take place hereafter”. John had just received a vision on earth concerning the Church. When Jesus says “I will show what must take place hereafter”, the hereafter refers to “after” the age of the church has been completed. Nothing that Jesus reveals to John after this verse (Revelation 4:1) refers to the church. John then in heaven received a stunning vision of the future set in the end times. There are no details as to how he was transported or if there were witnesses. John had not previously died.
5. The Two Witnesses received a command from heaven to “come up here” and ascended in a cloud in the presence of others, specifically their enemies. The two witnesses had previously died.
6. There is no indication that any of these events were transacted in a moment of time, and other than Enoch and John where the details of the event are not revealed to us, in the three other instances there were observers who witnessed the ascensions.
Further we can observe that:
1. Those who died and received an imperishable body ascended into heaven in a cloud.
2. At least in one case believers knew the exact date that God was going to act.
3. In two cases a direct command was received to “come up here” and in the case of Jesus He would not need to issue a command to Himself.
Noah and the Ark; A Type of Rapture
Genesis chapters 6 through 8 depict the events of Noah’s day when he was warned of the impending flood and the instructions God gave to him save himself and his family from judgment. We observe the following:
God established a period of time before judgment to allow for repentance.
“My Spirit shall not forever remain in man since he has gone astray. He is flesh. I will allow him another 120 years”, (Genesis 6:3.)
God warned Noah about what He was going to do.
“God said to Noah, I see the end of humanity, for through them the earth is filled with the lust for power. Take notice, I am about to destroy them and the earth with them. Make you an ark…”, (Genesis 6:13-14).
God commanded Noah to:
“Come into the ark, you and your family”, (Genesis 7:1).
God gave Noah a seven day warning for final preparations.
“For after seven more days I will make it rain on the earth for 40 days and nights”, (Genesis 7:4).
On the very date the flood began, Noah and his family boarded the ark.
“In Noah’s 600th year, the seventeenth day of the second month, that very day the fountains of the deep broke through” (Genesis 7:11).
“This is the date on which Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, his son’s, also Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons along with them boarded the ark”, (Genesis 7:13).
Comment: God gave Noah the command to “Come into the ark”. This was followed by a revelation (warning) that in seven days judgment would begin. Noah used that time to perform final preparations. They boarded the ark on the day that judgment began.
God closed the door.
“Then the Lord closed the entrance behind him”, (Genesis 7:16).
The ark rose above the ground.
“The waters mounted and lifted the ark so that it rose from the ground”, (Genesis 7:17).
Judgment occurred on the earth.
“He destroyed from the face of the earth every existing thing from man to beast”, (Genesis 7:23).
We can speculate that as the flood developed that the population came to understand their situation and pleaded with Noah to open the door. Noah could not open the door, for God had closed it. We can speculate that there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Parable of the Ten Virgins; Be Prepared for the Rapture
The Parable of the ten virgins is a parable that concerns the rapture. The parable is presented at Matthew 25:1-13:
Mat 25:1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Mat 25:2 "Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.
Mat 25:3 "For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,
Mat 25:4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.
Mat 25:5 "Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.
Mat 25:6 "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom ! Come out to meet him.'
Mat 25:7 "Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.
Mat 25:8 "The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
Mat 25:9 "But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'
Mat 25:10 "And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.
Mat 25:11 "Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'
Mat 25:12 "But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'
Mat 25:13 "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
The ten virgins are Christians; the five prudent ones are true born again Christians that have the Holy Spirit (oil) in their lives and the five foolish ones are nominal Christians who are not born again (not saved) because they do not have the Holy Spirit (oil) in their lives.
The five who have the oil (are born again) will have the following characteristic among others; they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The five who have not the oil and thus are not saved will have the following characteristics; they intellectually believe in Jesus but they have no personal relationship with Jesus, they do not study or read the bible, they do not believe that the bible is the inerrant word of God, they are embarrassed by “born again” Christians, they are not necessarily offended by sin- “sex between consenting adults is a private matter”, “abortion is a woman’s choice…hey its her body”. Because they don’t read/believe the bible they don’t know what God has said.
The bridegroom is Jesus. And just like Jesus He is taking his time in coming as He promised. He is taking His time because He does not desire that anyone should participate in the Tribulation. He is giving us time to repent (get some oil).
The bridegroom (Jesus) eventually comes but his bride (Christians) is dozing off waiting for Him. The Bridegroom comes when it is exceedingly dark at mid-night (sin filled world in spiritual darkness).
There is a shout and a command is given, “Come out to meet Him”.
Only those with the oil (Holy Spirit) will be able to see their way through the darkness to find the bridegroom. The five foolish virgins are witnesses to the fact that the five prudent virgins were taken by the bridegroom.
The five foolish virgins ask the five prudent virgins for some oil. The five prudent virgins tell them to go buy some for themselves.
Those five virgins with the oil join the Bridegroom. The door is then shut.
Although the five foolish virgins recognize their error and do obtain oil it is too late.
Based on the above studies, we observe from the word of God concerning those previously taken by God that:
There were witnesses-
In the case of Elijah there were witnesses, in the case of Jesus there were witnesses, in the case of the Two Witnesses there were witnesses, in the case of Noah there were witnesses, in the case of the five prudent virgins there were witnesses. Other than Enoch and John in each case in the bible when a person was taken by God there were witnesses. These events did not take place in secret.
The events did not happen “in a moment of time” the events were visually observed-
Elijah was taken in a whirlwind, Jesus ascended in a cloud, the Two Witnesses ascended in a cloud, Noah ascended in a ark as the water rose, the five prudent virgins had time to tell the foolish virgins to “go buy some oil”.
The command to “COME” is common-
The Two Witnesses were commanded to “COME UP HERE”, Noah was commanded to “COME INTO THE ARK”, the ten virgins were commanded to “COME OUT TO MEET HIM”, John was commanded to “COME UP HERE”.
Clouds are used as a vehicle- In the two cases where the individuals were given imperishable bodies they ascended on a cloud- Jesus ascended on a cloud, the two witnesses ascended on a cloud.
When the command “COME” is made the opportunity to participate is closed- in the case of Noah no one else was allowed into the ark, in the case of the Two Witnesses no others were involved, in the case of the ten virgins only those with oil (saved) when the command is given were able to participate, the door was closed.
Knowledge of the exact date that God is going to act- In the case of Elijah and Noah God revealed the exact date He was going to take action. However, in both these cases it appears that the revelation was made within days of His action. In the case of the ten virgins it appears that they were expecting the bridegroom within a certain day.
Applying the above observations to the anticipated rapture there is another possible scenario for the event:
1. The command, “COME UP HERE” will be given. The voice will be recognized by Christ’s followers, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand”(John 10:27-28). The word “pluck” is translated from “harpazo” which was discussed above.
2. Our bodies will be changed from perishable to imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
3. We will be given some type of advance warning as to the exact timing of our departure. Because those who died in Christ arise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) it appears that there is some other communication so there is an orderly process. The dead in Christ then arise to meet Jesus in the air first. We follow after a brief time of preparation.
Comment: When Noah was given the command to enter the ark, he and his family did not actually board the ark until seven days later, the exact date that judgment began.
4. We will be given a brief period of time (seven days like Noah?) to prepare, to warn others, to prepare for our animals, to assist those who afterwards are saved but will be left behind to deal with the tribulation. We will not need sleep and will work tirelessly since we have imperishable bodies.
5. We will have a final witnessing opportunity and many will get saved, but too late for this rapture. They will not be able to participate because they do not have imperishable bodies.
6. We will ascend in a cloud in view of all.
7. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth and many will cry out to the Lord as we are ascending, but this door is closed.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. And if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I shall come in to him and dine with him and he with Me”, (Revelation 3:20).Kurt S