Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Rapture

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. -Romans 15:4

In the last post, I promised I would post about a time which is written about in the Bible- an event popularly called the rapture. There's a lot to cover, and I'm sorry to make it so long!

I know there are people who don't believe in a rapture, there are some who don't understand it, and still others who believe in the event, but aren't sure when it will happen. I'm not an expert on this, but I will try and lay out the basic understanding of it- so let's get on with it.

First of all, the word "Rapture" is not in the Bible. There are certain verses which suggest a time when Christ will come and take His church (meaning His followers) back to heaven, allowing us to miss the worst of the end time tribulation period. Theses verses talk about being "caught up" or being taken away in the "blink of an eye". The English phrase "caught up" translates the Greek word harpazo, which means "to seize upon with force" or "to snatch up." The Latin translators of the Bible used the word "rapturo," the root of the English term "Rapture."

As with all of the Bible prophecies, there are certain events in History, which is recorded in the Old Testament which point to the present or future prophecies of the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there were 2 cases of harpazos or raptures in the cases of Enoch and Elijah. Enoch is one of the most interesting guys in the Old Testament.

Enoch had a son named Methuselah, who in turn had a son named Lamech- the father of Noah. Interesting, that Methuselah died the same year as, but before the flood. Anyway, Enoch was 365 years old, and the Bible tells us that he walked with God. This means that he didn't only live a Godly life, but he was close to God, pleased and obeyed and was God's friend. A very special relationship! The Genesis verse reads: Altogether Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more because God took him away. This literally means Enoch never died a physical death, but was taken to the presence of God. What is interesting here, is that in Jewish Tradition, Enoch was said to have been born on the day that Jewish people observe Hag Shavout- the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. (which is coming up at the end of this month by the way!) And that he was "caught up" to heaven on his birthday. So, born on the day of Pentecost, and raptured on the day of Pentecost 365 years later. Interesting that the Holy Spirit visited the Apostles and the church was "born", on the day of Pentecost.

There were three groups of people facing the judgement of the flood of Noah: those that perished in the flood. Those that were preserved through the flood - Noah and his family. And those that were removed prior to the judgement of the flood- Enoch. It is interesting that Enoch might be a foreshadowing of a removal prior to judgement, in contrast to Noah and his family who were protected through it.
Elijah as we know was a prophet of God. He was carried to heaven with a whirl wind in a fiery chariot, with Elisha as the witness. Elijah never died a physical death either. Interesting too, is that the first raising of the dead happened (see 1Kings 17:17-24) by God through Elijah.

As I posted some time ago about the rapture, God never leaves His people to suffer His full Judgement. As with Noah and his family, who God preserved by having him build the ark, we also see that Lot and his family were warned by the Lord to get out of Sodom and Gomorrah before those cities were destroyed. Rahab the prostitute was saved from the destruction of Jericho (see Joshua chapter 2 and 3).

Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger. - Zephaniah 2:3

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. -Psalm 27:5

These 2 verses don't come out and say that God raptures, but they suggest what happened in the Old Testament preservations and "salvations" of Noah, Lot and Rahab, and of being caught up to escape the Day of the Lord.

Before we go on, I want to repeat about the time when the rapture will take place. Some people believe it will happen before the Tribulation begins, before the Antichrist comes on the world scene. This is referred to as the Pre tribulation Rapture. Some people believe it will happen half way through the tribulation- at the time of the false peace between the world and Israel, but just before the Antichrist breaks the peace treaty- 3 1/2 years into it. This is called mid tribulation, and the last group believes the church will be raptured just before Jesus comes back at the end of the Tribulation, to fight the final battle at Armageddon. This is the post tribulation view. I've posted before why I believe in the pre tribulation view, some of which is what I just spoke of, where God gets His people out before a time of full judgement.

Now, onto the New Testament. It's interesting too that in the New Testament we see Philip, Paul, John and Jesus all raptured, but with the case of the 3 Apostles, they were "transported" to be given messages and/or prophecies, and came back to earth to write down or tell about what they had seen.

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. -Luke 21:36

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,-1 Thessalonians 5:9

The removal of the church is also the event which will take away the present blindness of Israel. Many Jews are wary of Bible believing Christians- many, do not believe in Jesus as their Messiah- and many find the whole end time prophecy ideas as offensive and degrading. Many Jews feel that by the end times, they must believe in Jesus or they will go to hell, and they, as with many non religious and people with other philosophies, find that to be a very narrow minded and judgemental thing to say. Unfortunately too, there are some Christian groups who believe that the nation of Israel has failed and been replaced as the chosen people of God, by the Christian Church. The latter views are clearly mistaken, and contrary to what the New Testament scriptures tell us about Israel. I won't go into all the details, but one only has to read much of Paul's writings, Hebrews is a great example, to see that the Jewish People have yet a huge place in all things, and as I've written before, Israel is in the thick of everything.

Now, The Jews were chosen by God through the covenant to protect and preserve the purity of the original manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures- they received it and wrote down by divine inspiration of God and took that message to the rest of the world. The Old Testament contains more than 300 prophecies about the first coming of Jesus, yet when He came, many of those who prophesied about Him, rejected Him. During the history of the Jewish people, God has kept His promise of eternal blessings. They have been scattered through out the world only to be brought back to the land that God gave them. While God loves them and has a special place for them, He has also allowed for a "spiritual blindness" to have come over them, as so many have not believed in Christ as the Messiah.

In each generation since Abraham however, there have been some Jews who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, and are commonly referred to the believing remnant. But, because of those Jew's who have not received Christ as the Messiah, God has blinded their eyes. Someday, the whole nation of Israel will come to join the remnant and be restored to the position of special favor. Someday, the whole nation of Israel will come to join the remnant and be restored to the position of special favor. The rapture of the church is a prelude to the Nation of Israel's "scales" being removed from their eyes.

"Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded....that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:7, 25). For more on this, please visit:

"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13). The Lord will wash away "the filth of the daughters of Zion" (Isaiah 4:4). He will put His "law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33). Their iniquity will be forgiven (Jeremiah 31:34). God will put a "new spirit" within them (Ezekiel 11:19). He will "sprinkle clean water" upon them (Ezekiel 36:25). The Deliverer "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob..." (Romans 11:26). "The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left..." (Isaiah 11:11; 43:5, 6)

Another way we can learn about the rapture, is by looking at Jewish Traditions, such as weddings.All through the Gospels, Jesus relied on the ancient Jewish wedding pattern for many of His parables.

In the Ancient Jewish Wedding , the bridegroom took the initiative and negotiated the price (mohair, which is much like a dowry) he must pay to purchase the bride. Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was made, and the young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was declared to be set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride drank from a cup of wine over which the betrothal had been pronounced. After the marriage covenant was established, the groom left his bride at her home and returned to his father's house, where he remained separated from his bride for approximately 12 months. This gave the bride time to prepare her for married life.

During this period of separation, the groom prepared a place in his father's house to which he would later bring his bride. At the end of the period of separation, the bridegroom came - usually at night - to take his bride to live with him. The groom, the best man, and other men in the party left the father's house and conducted a torch-light procession to the home of the bride. Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the time of his coming. As a result, the groom's arrival was preceded by a shout, which announced her imminent departure to be gathered with him. After the groom received his bride, together with her female attendants, the whole wedding party returned from the bride's home to the groom's father's house, where the wedding guests gathered.

Shortly after their arrival, the bride and groom were escorted by the other members of the wedding party to the bridal chamber. Before going into the chamber, the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. While the groomsmen and bridesmaids waited outside, the bride and groom entered the bridal chamber alone. There, in the privacy of that place, they entered into physical union for the first time, consummating the marriage that had been delayed nearly one year earlier.

After the marriage was consummated, the groom came out of the bridal chamber and announced the consummation of the marriage to the members of the wedding party waiting outside. Then, as the groom went back to his bride in the chamber, the members of the wedding party returned to the wedding guests and announced the consummation of the marriage.
Hearing the news of this, the wedding guests remained in the groom's father's house for the next seven days, celebrating with a great wedding feast.

During the seven days of the wedding feast, the bride and groom remained hidden in the bridal chamber (Genesis 29:21-23, 27-28) for the seven days. Afterwards, the groom came out of hiding, bringing his bride with him, but with her veil removed so that everyone could see her.

The New Testament portrays the Church as the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:22-33, and 2 Corinthians 11:2 . In the opening verses of John 14, the marriage covenant is confirmed. Paul continually reminds us of the purchase price and the covenant by which we, the Bride, are set apart, or sanctified.

Jesus is the Bridegroom, who has gone, and His return to gather His Bride is imminent. He has gone to prepare a place for His people- His Bride. The idea of imminence is taught throughout the New Testament and there is no event which is a necessary condition for His gathering of His Bride.The Bride of Christ, the church, is made ready to come with Christ to earth (Revelation 19:7-8, 14) before the Second Coming, but how could this happen if the church is still on the earth awaiting the Second Coming? If the Rapture isn't real, then how does the Bride (the church) also come with Christ at His Return?

We can also look at the various Jewish Observances as well. Coming up this year at the end of May, (the 6th of Sivan) Israel will celebrate Hag Ha Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. This is based on Leviticus 23:15-22, which points to "the day after shabbat after Passover" (the Feast of First Fruits) plus 50 days--in Greek, Pentecost. Pentecost is one of only three of the seven feasts of Moses which was mandatory for every able male to attend. This seems to show that these three were very important. The Feast of Weeks is associated with the birth of Israel and the giving of the Law in Exodus. It is also called the Feast of Revelation.

The seven Feasts of Moses are not only for remembrance, they are also prophetic. The first three, in the month of Nisan, show the First Coming of Jesus. The last three, in the month of Tishri, are associated with His Second Coming. It is this one, Pentecost, in between, which is related with the Church, by which it was pointed out earlier, the church was born on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit visited upon the Apostles, as promised by Jesus. The Birth of the Church appears to be a fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost. Jesus predicted it, and it was also fulfilled precisely on the Feast of Pentecost. It's interesting that this is the only Feast of Moses in which leavened bread is allowed, which seems to give it a Gentile influence (Leaven is shown in the scriptures to be a "type" of sin. Jesus and Paul both used it this way. It corrupts by puffing up.)

Another name for the Feast of Weeks is Hag Ha Kazir, The Feast of Harvest, since it is celebrated at the time of the "first harvest." Jesus often used "the harvest" to refer to the ingathering of believers.In the Seventy Week prophecy in Daniel 9, where the Angel Gabriel outlines God's plan for Israel, we see four interesting verses: 9:24 tells of the scope of the prophecy. 9:25 tells of 69 weeks (of years) which ends with the Messiah the King. 9:26 shows an interval before the 70th week. And 9:27 tells of the 70th week. In Daniel 9:24 it shows that all 70 weeks are for Israel. The church must depart prior to the 70th week, before the final seven-year period.We see in Daniel the "Second Coming" is preceded by a "week" of seven specific years which includes an interruption in the middle of the "week".
From a view of 2 Thessalonians 2, we learn that the removal of the church is a necessary condition to the appearance of the Antichrist. Since there is a definite seven-year period immediately preceding the Second Coming, it would seem that there could be up to as many as 33 years (40 - 7) between the rapture and the beginning of the seven-year period for the Man of Sin to appear, rise to power, and position himself to enforce the covenant that Isaiah calls the "Covenant with Hell." These years could also include the rebuilding of the Temple, the rebuilding of Babylon, and other anticipated positioning for the event of Christ's final return. With all of the things happening in the world, and which will be coming on the horizon, it suggests that the circumstances anticipated for the seven-year period are moving right along, and these support the view that the Rapture is getting closer and may closer than we know.

One more point on the Day of Pentecost is the Book of Ruth. The Jewish observance of the Feast of Weeks has always included the reading of this book. What is interesting, is that this story parallels events relating to the Church. This is one of my favorite Books in the Old Testament. It is a love story which shows the role of the kinsman-redeemer. As we look at Boaz, we notice that he, in many ways, pre-figures Jesus Christ. Through his act of redemption, Boaz returns Naomi (Israel) to her land, and also takes Ruth (a Gentile) as his wife. This suggests a parallel with the Church as the Gentile bride of the kinsman-redeemer. The similarities between Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth with Christ, Israel, and the Church, have been widely recognized, but it's so interesting to think- who first introduces Boaz to Ruth? An unnamed servant! (John 16:13)

It seems that the events regarding Israel directly is interrupted for a period of time. This interruption appears to be associated with Israel's rejection of the Messiah and God's program for Israel is resumed at the completion of the Church. The completion of the church is at the time when the church age is finished- at the rapture. Paul tells us that the Church is a mystery not revealed in the Old Testament and if we read the scriptures carefully we can find this "interruption" throughout the scriptures. The day is approaching when the Church is "complete" and God will remove it and again continue with His program with Israel. Is it possible that His "clock" will restart on the 6th of Sivan, the day of Penticost, the day that it was inturrupted?

Paul mentions the "Trumpet of God" in connection with the rapture. It is interesting that this term appears only twice in the Bible: at the giving of the Law at Sinai and at the rapture. This isn't the "Trumpet of God" with the temple trumpets or the shofar. We need to realize that these trumpets continue during the Millennium, so they aren't "the last trump."

OK. I know this is long, but there is just a little more. Some have the view that the "Second Coming" of Christ and the "Rapture" are somehow the same. There seems to be a number of things in the scripture which shows that these are different and separate events. The event known as the Rapture is most clearly shown in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which encourages the Christians that, at the time of the "snatching up" they will be reunited with those who have died in Christ before them.

There are also scriptures which show a "time of trouble", which has never been seen before, that Jesus called the "Great Tribulation." Many hold to the view that the Rapture of the church will occur after that period of time, closely associating it with the Second Coming. This is known as the "post-tribulation" view.

The Rapture is characterized in the New Testament as a "translation coming" (1 Corinthians 15:51- 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) in which the Lord comes for His church, taking her to His Father's House (John 14:3). At Christ's Second Coming with His saints, He descends from heaven to set up His Messianic Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:4-5; Matthew 24:27-31).
Paul speaks of the Rapture as a "mystery" (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), that is, a truth not revealed until it is told of by the apostles (Colossians 1:26). The Second Coming, on the other hand, was predicted in the Old Testament (Daniel 12:1-3; Zechariah 12:10; 14:4). In fact, the oldest prophecy told by a prophet was given before the flood of Noah and was of the Second Coming. It was given by Enoch, quoted in Jude 14-15.

The Rapture is the believers going from earth to heaven; at the Second Coming it is from heaven to earth. At the Rapture, the Lord comes for His saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16), while at the Second Coming the Lord comes with His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

The rapture is the only prophetic event that is both unspecified and imminent.
So. Will the church go through the time of Tribulation? With the signs pointing to a time of the church's "disappearance", it doesn't seem so. Will the church suffer though at all? Most definitly. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. -John 16:33 What He is saying, is while we will have trials and tribulation, it is different than going through the "Great Tribulation" as described in the end time prophecies. The true believers of Christ are suffering in different degrees all over the world, and the persecution will keep happening until Jesus takes His people up to Him. These triblations and trials are inspired by Satan, and they will get worse because he knows his time is short.

This is differnt than what will be the full wrath of God during the end times. The Great Tribulation involves more than the wrath of the world or the wrath of Satan: it involves the righteous wrath of God. But the Church has these promises:

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. -Luke 21:36

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,-1 Thessalonians 5:9

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour [time] of temptation [trial], which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. -Revelation 3:10

While things are pointing to the immenance of the rapture, we can't try and set a date for it to happen.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. -Matthew 24:36

While we know the time is near, we also have to be ready. We are commanded to "go about our Father's business" while we wait, and "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. -Matthew 24:44

We need to sense urgency, that the time is nearer than we know. We need to be prepared for persecution. We have, in the west been "sheltered" from any real persecution so far. Time may come soon, where we will begin to suffer as much as our brothers and sisters have in other areas of the world have been suffering. We must remember the existence of organized evil; not just good and bad individual choices. We also need to remember spiritual warfare and be prepared for it. We have to understand the worldviews of today and how Biblical Christianity is different from that, and even different from many of the liberal church and emergent church philosophies. We have to stay in constant teaching of the Bible.

The differences between a Bible believing Christian, and a liberal person who professes faith, is in their view of Scripture, the end times, and especially the Cross and Resurrection. Do they take the Word of Jesus literally? Many may focus on the love of Christ, which is good- but we need to believe on ALL His word, not just those which make us feel warm and fuzzy. Is Christ the only way or not? If you believe in Christ, are you willing to follow Him, wherever it leads, to pick up your cross, to die?

If you don't believe in Jesus, I hope you can see some of the things written, not only here, but in so many places, and more importantly, ask the Holy Spirit to Show you the Scriptures. If you don't know or think God exists- ask Him to show you.

Next time, we'll look more at the church, and more closely at what is in store for Bible believing Christians until the rapture.

Note~ Much of the material on the facts about the Jewish observance of The Festival of Weeks and the relation between the Festivals and the Rapture and facts of the Rapture was from Koinanoia House.

No comments:

Post a Comment