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WHEN IS THE RAPTURE?

by Jacques More

When is the ecstacy?

The mental transport of extreme delight?

No. That's not what I mean.

What I am referring to is the Bible prophetic use of the word. The Rapture is the name given to the moment when all the righteous are taken away at the last trumpet. In the study of prophetic events relating to the 'last days' the Rapture is one such event. It will be the moment when all good believers living on earth are gathered together. More specifically, snatched away or, seized from the earth and away from the destruction of remaining wicked inhabitants.


The word rapture is an adaptation of the Latin word 'rapere', to seize. Indeed, there is a bird of prey called a raptor which is identified as a snatcher of its quarry. With strong talons and fierce ability to take away its victims. This Latin word 'rapere' was used in the Latin Bible to translate the Greek word 'harpadzo' in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This has been translated in English as 'to take away' or 'to catch away'. To seize or, snatch is also a good translation. It is the word used by Jesus when He says:


My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

John 10:29


You can walk out of God's hand because He has Self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), but you can't be snatched from His hand by another whilst there. The emphasis on the speed of this snatching can be pictured well with the use of 'harpadzo' in the Greek Version of the Old Testament where Job mentions the wicked as those who:


. . . snatch the fatherless from the breast . . .

Job 24:9


So this snatching, this Rapture, is mentioned by Paul in Thessalonians:


Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air . . .

1 Thessalonians 4:17

It is not the first mention of this prophetic event, but it is an important one. There are other mentions of this 'seizing', the Rapture, the gathering together of the good guys. Jesus said:

. . . they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven . . . and He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect (1) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Matthew 24:30-31


The trumpet is mentioned as an announcer of set moments in the prophetic stages of the last things. Paul mentions it with this event in a discussion of what happens to our bodies at the Resurrection. He is discussing death and what happens afterwards. Which is also part of the context of the Thessalonians passage. Both mention death and the Rapture.


. . . We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet . . .

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Paul is using the word 'sleep' as part of his discussion about what happens after we die. He uses it this way in the Thessalonians passage we have begun to look at.


. . . we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:15:16


So, at the second coming of the Lord the dead believers will arise then, the believers alive at the time will be snatched away to gather with them and the Lord in the air. This is what is known as the Rapture. Mark mentions the event like this:

. . . He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

Mark 13:27


This snatching will be so quick that,


. . . two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

Matthew 24:40-41

'I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.' And they answered and said to Him, 'Where, Lord?' So He said to them, 'Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.'

Luke 17:34-37


This is the rapture. We have now seen what it is and why it is called the rapture, but when is it going to happen?

The Tribulation
First, we need to look at another prophetic event called the Tribulation. The reason for this is that the timing of the Rapture is in general understood as one of three possibles: pre-trib, mid-trib or, post-trib. That is, before the Tribulation, in the middle of it, or after it.

What is the Tribulation? And, how long is it?
The length of time is important to the understanding of when the Rapture occurs. If it is understood that it is a fixed period of time and that it is not split in two then there is no mid-trib to consider. If it is split in two then there is. The Tribulation is a time of great persecution against the saints. Jesus said:

. . . then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

Matthew 24:21-22 (also Mark 13:19-20)


Both in Matthew and Mark Jesus is recorded as specifying an event which must be looked for as a sign of this tribulation starting. It's beginning point. Both Matthew and Mark also make an added note:


. . . whoever reads, let him understand . . .

Matthew 24:15

. . . let the reader understand . . .

Mark 13:14


Understand what?

Jesus said,


Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation', spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand) . . . For then there will be great tribulation . . .

Matthew 24:15, 21


This event as spoken by Daniel the prophet is helpful to see when the Tribulation occurs. The event is the removal of the daily sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem and, at the same time what is described as an 'abomination of desolation' which will stand in the temple. This is what the person known as the Antichrist will do. Daniel was told this person, this 'prince' shall:


. . . confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate . . .

Daniel 9:27

Also,

. . . from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.

Daniel 12:11


In Revelation we are told,


. . . the temple of God . . . has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

Revelation 11:1-2

And,


. . . the beast . . . was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.

Revelation 13:5

Daniel wrote the same about this ruler:


. . . and behold, a fourth beast . . . He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints will be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

Daniel 7:7, 25


How long?
We have the same time period given to us in three different ways and repeated in more than one place. The two principal books being Daniel and Revelation. Not forgetting that Matthew and Mark were written before Revelation and they mention the importance of Daniel. The three ways shown above are 1290 days, 42 months and 3½years. The latter being shown us as 'time and times and half a time' as well as 'the middle of the week'. The word for week in the Hebrew is literally 'a sevens' and it is understood as a prophetic reference here to seven years (cf. my Article The Year of The Lord's Return . . . A Possible understanding). The 1290 days make up slightly more than 3½ years, but it can be seen there is a link to a clear limit for this time of tribulation as well as a definite starting point. 1260 days is mentioned in Revelation 11:3 - exactly 3½ years. Knowing this period of time the believers alive then will be able to comfort one another in the midst of persecution. Looking ahead to this time Jesus said:


In your patience possess your souls.

Luke 21:19

A mid-tribulation?
A mid-tribulation understanding appears to have come about due to the 7 years of rule of the Antichrist from the point of the covenant which he makes right up until the end of the Tribulation. But, the Tribulation does not start proper until halfway through this 7 year period. When the sacrifices are stopped in the temple. It is then uninterrupted for the next 3½ years (42 months). With this in mind we are left with either a pre-trib or a post-trib timing for the Rapture.


When is the Rapture?
We know what the Rapture is, why it is called that and that it is to happen next to the Tribulation. What we need to know is are there specific statements relating to these two events to help us see when they occur in relation to each other? I believe there are several. Jesus said,


Immediately after the tribulation . . . He will . . . gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Matthew 24:29-30

And also in Mark,


. . . after that tribulation . . . He will . . . gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

Mark 13:24-27


Paul is equally clear. Having made his first mention of the Rapture to the Thessalonians in the letter quoted above, when he wrote a second letter he warned the believers,


. . . concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or letter . . .

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2


Paul is clear here. He is talking about the Lord's coming and the gathering together to Him. This is the Rapture. In his first letter he had said,


. . . we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18


So, when he says 'our gathering together to Him' he is clearly referring to the Rapture. He then says,


Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, so that he sits as God in the temple(2) of God.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4


A Post-trib Rapture
So, not only did Jesus explicitly state that this gathering together as occurring after the Tribulation but, Paul says it does not happen until after the Antichrist appears and enters the temple and declares himself as God. As we saw this is when he stops the daily sacrifice and sets up the abomination of desolation. And we saw this as the beginning moment of the uninterrupted 3½ years of the tribulation.


Other pointers to this
Jesus in Matthew and Luke says the following:


. . . as in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

Luke 17:26-30


What the angels said to Lot helps to see the timing here:


. . . the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, 'Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.'

Genesis 19:15

Jesus said,


. . . so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

Luke 17:30


'On the day that Noah entered the ark' and 'on the day that Lot went out of Sodom' came destruction upon those who remained behind. Within hours in Lot's case. Definitely within 24 as Jesus says. So, at the Rapture the saints will be snatched from the earth immediately prior to judgment and destruction to occur later that same day. This is another good pointer to the Rapture occurring after the 3½ year Tribulation. Then the Antichrist, the Son of Perdition, also known as the Lawless one will also be destroyed,


. . . the lawless one . . . whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:8


What now?
In the knowledge that God is in control and that He has a plan let us seek out what His plan and calling is for our own lives. Not forgetting that the fields 'are already white for harvest!' (John 4:35) and 'therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.' (Luke 10:2).


NOTES:
(1) The word 'elect' here is from the Greek 'eklektos'. Here and throughout this Article it refers to 'the righteous'. cf. The Meaning of eklektos; (2) The temple here is translated from the Greek 'naos' and is the most commonly used word for the buildings of the temple in the Septuagint: the Greek Version of the Hebrew scripture. cf. How Soon is Jesus' Return?

If you have enjoyed this article then you'll delight in the sketch written here entitled A RAPTURE CHAT


Ref. S.029

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 2001. All Rights Reserved.

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