The Fallacy of the Rapture as revealed by the Word of God
by David Redmond
The Bible should not be forced into theological brackets which some church or church leaders set up. Any church or any church leader can twist the Bible to have it mean what they want it to say by three simple tricks:
1. Taking a verse out of the context.
2. Adding words to the text of the word of God.
3. Subtracting words from the text of the word of God.
(Quoted from Dr. Peter S. Ruckman, President of the Pensacola Bible Institute, Pensacola, FL.)
This study is about the coming of the Lord and his gathering of the church to himself. In essence, it is a substudy of the principle of the Resurrection of the Dead (Heb.6:1-2). Within the church today, there are at least four different versions of an event commonly referred to as the “rapture”, which deals with the gathering of the church to the Lord Jesus and which brings the saints into the fullness of the Resurrection of the Dead by the resurrection of their body (Ph.3:21, Ro.8:23).
The four versions of the in-gathering of the church are Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, Pre-Wrath, and Post-Tribulation. There is a lot of contention in the church concerning the “rapture” and while I don’t want to add to it, the Bible cannot possibly support four different versions of one event. That means if one be truth, then the others are false doctrine. In discussing the rapture with different people, I have heard many excuses for not confronting this issue. Some have said “it’s not a salvation issue” and others (trying to make light of the issue) have said “I’m a Pan-Rapturist”, it will all pan out in the end.
To me, these are lazy and cowardly excuses for not dealing with issues of false doctrine. If you think that doctrine is not an important issue, then just look in 1Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus to see how many times the Apostle Paul addresses the importance of sound doctrine. “Salvation” doctrine is not the only area where error can cause believers to fall from their faith. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says to study to show yourself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth. He continues by saying to shun those whose profane and vain talk leads to ungodliness, whose word eats as a cancer; of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus. Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. So here Paul brings forth a perfect example concerning the very issue we are looking at in this study, the resurrection of the dead. False doctrine concerning the resurrection can overthrow the faith of some. The resurrection is the hope of our salvation (Acts 23:6, 24:15, Col.1:27, 1Jn.3:2-3), therefore it is a bedrock doctrinal issue and since the “rapture” concerns the resurrection of our body, it is also a bedrock doctrinal issue.
I make no apologies for the fact that, in this study, I profess the Post-Tribulation point of view. I used to be a fanatical believer in the Pre-Tribulation rapture until the Holy Spirit began to show me numerous inconsistancies in that doctrine. I then put away all my preconceived doctrines and let the Holy Spirit reveal the doctrine of Christ. It caused me to dig deep into the word of God and led me into a very long study on the foundational principle of the Resurrection of the Dead.
In this study, I focus on the inaccuracies of the Pre-Tribulation rapture doctrine in the belief that the other points of view are dealt with to sufficiently reveal the truth of the word of God. Essentially, pre-trib, mid-trib, and pre-wrath can be bundled together because they have a common premise that the church is removed before God pours out his judgement and wrath upon a wicked, unbelieving world. I confess that in some areas I use a bit of sarcasm to make a point. Please overlook my weakness and focus on the point of the word.
As we study we will look at the Word of God and determine what is truth and what is false. I strongly encourage you to do this study within the confines of a study on the principle of the Resurrection of the Dead. If you build upon the foundational principle, the house you build will be solid and unshakeable.
I pray that as you read what follows, that you consider what is written above and not lock up your beliefs with what your church or denomination teaches. Search the scriptures (Acts 17:11) and let the word of God show you what is of the soulish ways of man’s doctrines and what is of the Spirit of God.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. – Hebrews 4:1
The anytime appearance of the Lord Jesus in the air and the subsequent ‘rapture’ of the church to heaven prior to the great tribulation (spoken of by Jesus in Mt.24:21) has only been taught in mainstream church circles for about 170 years. From approximately 1830 and continuing all the way back to the Apostles, Christians were taught to be overcomers, patiently enduring persecution, affliction, and tribulation unto the coming of the Lord to establish his manifest presence here on Earth.
The Origin of Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theology
Before we look at the available information concerning the origin of pre-trib rapture theology, I would like to point out that many, both pro and con, attempt to base the legitimacy of this doctrine on when it first appeared and who originated it. In reality, when and who originated it is a minor issue. The real issue is how this doctrine aligns with the word of God. Let’s remember that as we look at the question of origin.
While many today attribute the origin of “rapture” theology to a young Scottish woman named Margaret MacDonald, pre-tribbers present “evidence” that pre-dates her supposed 1830 revelation of the rapture and in fact, if anything, she had a very minimal role in the dissemination of pre-tribulation rapture theology. Rapture proponents have been quick to point out that there were “men of God” who wrote of a pre-tribulation rapture previous to Margaret’s alleged revelation. Therefore, let’s look at the references promoted by pro-rapture proponents as the source of their doctrine. I want to stress that this information was gleaned primarily from pre-trib sources.
“All the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.” -Pseudo-Ephraem (c. 374-627)
The above statement was supposedly written by Ephraem the Syrian, who was a well known Orthodox priest that lived in the latter half of the fourth century. Supposedly, this is the earliest recorded reference to a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church and its copy date has been estimated at between 374 and 627 a.d. The reason it is attributed to Pseudo-Ephraem is because nobody has been able to verify the authenticity of the text to the real Ephraem, hence the pseudonym. The fact that authorship cannot be substantiated makes it suspect as a reliable reference source for Biblical doctrine. So why bother with it?
In 1585, a Spanish Catholic priest named Francisco de Ribera wrote a commentary on Revelation, which consisted of notes in the Vulgate Bible. Apparently, this commentary made reference to a pre-tribulation rapture. Supposedly, in 1838, Samuel Roffey Maitland, who was the Librarian and Keeper of Manuscripts at Lambeth Palace, London, where the Church of England library was kept, discovered Ribera’s manuscript and published it for the sake of public interest. I have been unable to locate a copy of the translation and one major pre-trib source denies that it even exists.
The earliest published reference to a pre-tribulation rapture supposedly occurred in 1788. Around 1740, a young Baptist named Morgan Edwards wrote an essay for eschatology class on his views of Bible prophecy. This essay was later published in Philadelphia (1788) under the following title: Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties. In the article, Edwards supposedly made statements which expounded his views concerning a pre-tribulation gathering of the Church. As far as can be determined, Edwards views concerning a pre-trib rapture gained no notoriety nor was this doctrine given any credence in the Church. I have not been able to find/obtain copies of the articles, therefore the text is prefaced by “supposedly”.
Another published reference to a pre-tribulation rapture occurred in Spain in 1812. This publication was entitled “The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty,” written by Emmanuel Lacunza, a Jesuit Catholic priest from Chile, who wrote under the pseudonym of Rabbi Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra, who was supposedly a converted Jew. This book was later translated into English by Rev. Edward Irving and published in London England, in 1827.
The Rev. Edward Irving was the founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, whose followers are referred to as Irvingites. Irving and his Irvingites began teaching the principle of the pre-tribulation rapture around 1830, no doubt influenced by Lacunza’s book because the same scriptural references were used. In the same time frame John Darby, who was a Plymouth Brethren leader, began preaching the pre-tribulation rapture also. Darby claimed that he came to the revelation of the pre-tribulation rapture in 1827 which, interestingly enough, is the year that Irving published the English version of Lacunza’s book. Another English Pastor who played a role in spreading the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine was a man named Robert Norton. These three men all knew each other and attended many of the same prophetic conferences that took place in the 1830’s throughout Scotland, England, and Ireland. In these meetings, they shared and promoted the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine. Initially, it was not well received within denominational circles and caused quite a division in some churches. Over a period of approximately 60 years, the rapture theology became accepted into some mainstream denominational churches as doctrine. At the beginning of this century when the Pentecostal movement began, Pentecostals taught the rapture doctrine as they learned it from the denominational churches they came out of. Likewise the Charismatic and Word of Faith movements that followed continued teaching the same as they were taught in the churches they came out of, and so it continues today.
So there, from my limited investigation, we have an abbreviated version of how the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine made it’s way into the Church. In looking at the question of doctrinal origin, it is obvious that it did not get widespread attention in the Church until the 1830’s time frame, inspite of the efforts of pre-trib rapture proponents to provide pre-dated references. Even so, the bottom line is that neither the apostles nor the early church “fathers” ever mentioned a coming of the Lord other than his well documented second coming.
“I challenge opponents of the pre-trib rapture to stick to a discussion of this matter based upon the Scriptures.”
Quoted: Thomas Ice, Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center in Wash. D.C.
While it’s interesting to see how rapture theology was introduced into the Church, the most important thing to consider is: What does the word of God say about this issue? Therefore, I agree with Mr. Ice’s above statement. Let’s go to the scriptures.
THE COMING OF THE LORD AND OUR GATHERING TOGETHER UNTO HIM
One of the buzzwords that rapture proponents use is called “Consistent Literal Interpretation”. They say that they interpret the Bible literally, yet the most glaring problem with rapture theology is that it is very weak in scriptural support and very strong in speculation, conjecture, and hyperbole. There is NO scripture that literally says Jesus will gather the church before the tribulation and take it to heaven; yet there is scripture that literally says Jesus will gather his elect (the church) after the tribulation at his second coming.
2Corinthians 13:1 says, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established (Mt.18:16, Dt.19:15). In principle, for something to be established as Biblical doctrine it must be supported by multiple scriptures and those scriptures must be used in context. Nowhere in the Bible does it speak of a secret coming of the Lord. In particular, Jesus never said or implied that he would come again in the air, on the earth, or under the earth, before his prophetically well documented second coming. To prove or disprove the Biblical reality of rapture theology we must search the scriptures to see if these things be so (Acts 17:11).
Whenever we deal with something that is suspected to be counterfeit, we compare it with the genuine article. For instance, government treasury agents are not taught what counterfeit money looks like, they are taught what real money looks like so that they will recognize the counterfeit when they see it. In the same sense, when we deal with the Word of God, we must know what is real so that we recognize that which is counterfeit. Therefore, let us go to the word and learn what it says concerning the Lord’s coming and our gathering together unto him.
In Matthew 24 (see also Mark 13 and Luke 21), Jesus brought forth the great Olivet prophecy in answer to the disciple’s questions as to when shall these things be? What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world (age)? In answering the questions, Jesus laid out the order of events that would lead to his return and the gathering of the saints to himself:
- He spoke of false prophets, wars, famines, pestilence’s, and earthquakes (vs.4-8)
- He spoke of affliction and persecution that will come upon the saints for their witness unto the nations (vs.9-14)
- He spoke of the “abomination of desolation” where the antichrist will sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (vs.15, Dan.11:36*, 2Th.2:4, Rev.13)
- He spoke of great tribulation that will come upon the world (vs.21)
- He said that immediately after the tribulation the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall give no light, the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken
- And then the sign of the Son of man shall appear in the heaven
- And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn (vs.30, Zec.12:10-12)
- And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and shall gather his elect from the four winds (four directions of the earth), from one end of heaven to the other (vs.29-31, Mk.13:24-27)
*(see additional information concerning Daniel at the end)
What Jesus said is that he will not come in the clouds, with the sound of the trumpet, to gather the saints until after great tribulation.
Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theology
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain
unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord
himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and
with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive
and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the
air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these
words.” – 1Thessalonians 4:15-18
“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the
heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of
God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We
shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal
must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and
this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that
is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” – I Corinthians 15:49-51
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1Corinthians 15:49-55 are the foundational scriptures used by pre-trib rapture proponents. Therefore, if the foundation can be pulled apart, then the rest of this doctrine will collapse. The basis of rapture theology states that these two scriptures speak of a separate coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to remove the church from the earth, prior to his second coming, so that they can escape the tribulation that Jesus said will come upon the earth. In order to infer this, the scriptures have to be taken out of context and not in conjunction with other scriptures dealing with the same subject (which is another indication that it’s false doctrine). When looking at these and other scriptures in relation to the coming of the Lord Jesus, we will focus on clouds, the trump of God, the ingathering of the saints, and the order of events that must happen before His return.
Everything that is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51, which are THE foundational Pre-Trib rapture scriptures, supports what Jesus described as occurring at his second coming. In these two scriptures, Paul has built upon and clarified what will happen at the Lord’s return to this earth. For instance, in 1Th.4:17 when it says that we shall meet the Lord in the air, the word ‘meet’ has a special connotation. It is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate. “It seems that the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary” (Moulton, Greek Test. Gram. Vol. I, p.14; Vines Expos. Dict. of Biblical Words). So, when those who are alive are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, it will not be to return to heaven but to greet and welcome Jesus as the newly arriving dignitary, Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords, coming to the earth. This occurs at his second coming. At the same time, we shall be glorified so that, when we see him, we shall see him as he is and we shall be like him (1Jn.3:2).
Jesus said that upon his return, he would come in the clouds, or clouds of Angels (Mt.24:30, Mk.13:26, Lk.21:27).
In Acts 1:9-11, Jesus was taken up and a cloud received him. As the disciples continued to look up, two men in white apparel tell them that as Jesus was taken up into heaven, he shall come in like manner (in the clouds). When the two men spoke they were standing on the earth, not in the air. When they said that Jesus would come back in like manner that he left, they meant when he came back to earth.
Revelation 1:7 tells us that he will come in the clouds and every eye shall see him (no secret coming there).
Joel 2:1-2 tells us that the day of the Lord shall be, among other things, a day of clouds. We can verify that this is talking about the second coming that Jesus referred to in Mt.24 because further down, in Joel 2:10, it says the sun, moon, and the stars shall be dark. This is just as Jesus describes.
Zeph.1:14-15 says the great day of the Lord is …a day of clouds.
In 1Th.4:15-17, Paul tells us that at the coming of the Lord, those who are alive shall be caught up in the clouds with the Lord and those who have previously died. I already discussed what the term “to meet” the Lord meant. This scripture is totally synchronized with the events that Jesus stated would occur at his second coming. My question to rapture proponents is: what in this scripture sets it apart from other scriptures concerning the coming of the Lord and, other than conjecture, where does it say anything of a secret coming or that they will return to heaven? I will give you a hint: it says nothing of the sort.
The Trump of God:
Jesus also said that at his return, there would be the great sound of a trumpet (Mt.24:31).
In Joel 2:1, the command goes forth to blow the trumpet in the day of the Lord.
Zeph.1:14-15 says the great day of the Lord is …a day of the trumpet
1Th.4:16 says the Lord shall descend from heaven with the trump of God.
1Cor.15:52 states that at the last trump, both the dead and the living shall be raised. Many try to define the “last trump”, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist figure it out. The “last trump” is literally the last trumpet sounded before Jesus returns to earth and at the same time gathers his church. When does this “last trump” sound? It blows as Jesus is leaving heaven to return to earth.
As you can see, the two foundational scriptures for the “rapture” fit hand in hand with the descriptions that Jesus spoke concerning clouds and trumpets at his second coming. This prompts me to again ask, what is contained in these two scriptures that sets them apart from the others that describe the return of Jesus Christ to earth and the establishment of his millennial kingdom? Again I say, nothing!
The Gathering of the Saints:
Jesus said that when he returned in the clouds with power and great glory, that he would send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet to gather the elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Mt.24:30-31, Mk.13:26-27).
The gathering of the saints is simply the fulfillment of that portion of the Doctrine of Christ (Heb.6:12) concerning the Resurrection of the Dead. Let me state that again: The rapture is the fullness of the promise of resurrection. You must understand this. Many Christians do not make the connection of the rapture to the fullness of the resurrection. Again: rapture = fullfillment of the promise of resurrection.
When we were saved, our spirit was resurrected immediately into a newness of life and relationship with God, the Father (Ro.6:4-5, Eph.1:5, Ro.8:15, Gal.4:5). Our soul is being resurrected on a daily basis, in that, our mind or our way of thinking is being renewed to think God’s way and not the way of the “old man” (Ro.6:6, Eph.4:22-23, 2Cor.4:16, Col.3:9-10, Ro.12:2, Tit.3:5). The fullness of the resurrection occurs when our body is resurrected and glorified (Ro.8:23, 1Jn.3:2, Ph.3:21, 1Cor.15:51-54, Ps.17:15, Col.3:4).
There are two distinct events within the resurrection of the dead, one is the resurrection of the righteous unto everlasting life and the other is the resurrection of the unrighteous unto everlasting damnation (Jn.5:24-29, Dan.12:2, Acts 24:15, Lk.14:14, Rev.20:4-6, 11-15).
There is a set order of occurrence for the resurrection. Paul tells us in 1Corinthians 15:23-24 that every man will be resurrected in his own order (or company): Christ, the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming (the righteous), and then (one thousand years later) cometh the end when the unrighteous will be resurrected. [ Also read, Daniel 13:13 “in thy lot”. Daniel is told that he will stand in his “lot” at the end of the days, meaning the last day. The word “lot” means portion or destiny. This is referring to his partaking of the resurrection of the righteous.]
We already know that Jesus Christ the firstfruits has been resurrected, so that order has been fulfilled. The next order is those that are Christ’s at his coming. A big problem exists if there is a so called rapture of the saints prior to the tribulation and the second coming of Jesus. If the rapture takes place as taught by the pre-tribbers, then only part of the church will be resurrected and receive their glorified bodies. Those members of the church who are saved subsequent to the rapture, during the tribulation, will not have partaken of the resurrection of the righteous and therefore, not received their glorified body. Therein lies the problem.
Hebrews 11:35-40 tells us that faithful women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might receive a better resurrection (Notice that the context from here to the end of the chapter deals with the resurrection). Believers were scourged, stoned, persecuted, afflicted, and endured torments. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise (of resurrection); God having provided some better thing for us, that they (the dead in Christ) without us (the living in Christ) should not be made perfect (to bring to an end by completing or perfecting). In other words, those who have died in the Lord, cannot obtain the resurrection of the righteous before those who are alive.
1 Thess.4:15 tells us that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede (prevent) them which are dead (asleep). That means those who are alive cannot obtain the resurrection before those who have died. Therefore, if there is a pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath rapture, the word of God is false because the word says that ALL saints will obtain the resurrection of their body at the same time . If there is a pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath rapture the saints who are saved during the tribulation and remain until the second coming of the Lord will not have partaken of the fullness of the resurrection. Can you not see the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth here? (2Ti.2:15) If all saints partake of the resurrection of their body at the same time, then it can only occur at the Lord’s second coming.
Additionally, in 2Th.2:1-5, Paul confirms the order of occurrence for the resurrection of the righteous in regards to the order of Matthew 24:
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we
ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report
or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already
come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the
rebellion (apostasy) occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to
destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or
is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?”
– 2Th.2:1-5 (NIV)
What this scripture tells us is, the Lord will not return and the saints will not be gathered until after the apostasy occurs and the anti-christ is revealed, who will set himself in God’s temple (next on the place of the Rock of the Dome the Abomination of desolation) proclaiming himself to be God. Remember that Jesus said in Mt.24:15, 21 that great tribulation shall not come upon the world until after the abomination of desolation and the saints shall not be gathered until after great tribulation. The day of the Lord referred to above is that day Jesus returns to gather his saints to himself, crush the lawless, and establish his throne on earth (Rev.19&20, Zec.14:1-9).
Mansions in Heaven and the marriage supper of the Lamb
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s
house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a
place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive
you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John.14:1-3
Another fallacy within rapture theology is that Jesus is building mansions in heaven so that when He raptures the church, the saints will go to heaven with the Lord, live in those mansions, and during the seven year tribulation will celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb. The scripture quoted in reference to the Lord’s building project is John.14:1-3.
If, as we have seen, the Lord gathers his church as he returns to establish the kingdom physically on earth and after the thousand years, we see the new Jerusalem and God’s throne descending from heaven to be permanently settled on the earth for eternity (Rev.21:2-3), then who is going to dwell in these houses that Jesus is building in heaven? Sounds like a useless building project to me.
The fact is, John 14:1-3 is not dealing with the ingathering of the church at his coming, it is dealing with salvation and adoption. When Jesus says “in my fathers house are many dwelling places”, the word “house” means: dwelling place, household, and by implication, family. Therefore, what Jesus was saying is that in the Fathers family are many places reserved for sons and daughters. Jesus went to prepare a place of habitation for us within the Fathers family by his sacrifice at Calvary (Eph.1:3-12, 2:19, 3:15, 2Cor.6:17-18, Gal.4:4-7). It was after Calvary that he came again and received us unto himself, so that we became part of his body, eternally joined to him and brought into the Fathers family. Jesus clarifies this in Jn.14:23 by saying that the Father and him would make their abode (same Greek word as mansions) within us. Therefore, his building project is not taking place in heaven, it is taking place on earth, in us.
Concerning the marriage supper of the Lamb, the scriptures indicate that it will begin at the second coming of the Lord. Revelations 19:7 announces that the marriage of the Lamb is come. Notice that this is after the seven seals of the book have been opened (Rev.6:1-8:1), after the seven trumpet judgments (Rev.8:2-11:15), and after the seven vial judgments (Rev.16:1-17). It tells us in Rev.19:9, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb, then in the verses following, we see the Lord and the saints who are in heaven (the dead in Christ) preparing to leave to go to the earth (Rev.19:11-16).
In Rev.19:17, an angel announces to all the fowls, “Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God” that they might eat the flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, etc. Which supper is the angel speaking of? The context of the chapter indicates that it is the marriage supper of the Lamb. We next see the beast (anti-christ), the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered to make war against the Lord. Then the Lord defeats the beast and the false prophet, throwing them into the lake of fire and the armies of the earth are slain. It appears that God’s intent as to what happens at the marriage supper of his Son is quite different from man’s religious interpretation. The marriage supper of the Lamb begins with a sacrifice. In Eze.39:17-20, the Lord beckons every feathered fowl and beast of the field to the sacrifice that he sacrifices where they will eat the flesh of the mighty, princes of the earth, and all men of war. This is the same description of events as we saw previously in Rev.19:17.
It certainly appears that, according to scripture, the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place after Jesus returns to the earth. In respect to rapture theology, the saints obviously can’t be partaking of the marriage supper of the Lamb during the tribulation, can they? The holy scriptures indicate that they cannot.
The Coming of the Lord – parousia vs. erchomai vs. apokalupsis
Continuing our litany of misperceptions expounded by rapture theologians is that there are specific Greek words used in the New Testament that differentiate between the pre-trib coming of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus. We can look at this and quickly put it out of our misery.
Rapture enthusiasts believe that certain scriptures using the Greek word “parousia” are specific to the pre-trib coming of the Lord and that scriptures using the Greek word “erchomai” are specific to the Lord’s second coming. A third Greek word, “apokalupsis” is also translated in some scriptures as “coming” and is not usually mentioned. Right up front, I’d like to say that if rapture theology is true, then all uses of the word “parousia ” in scriptures dealing with the Lord’s coming must be specific to the “pre-trib coming” and vice versa for the Greek word “erchomai“. Otherwise, it is up to view and opinion as to which scripture pertains to the pre-trib coming and which pertains to the second coming. Views and opinions digress into religious dogma, of which there is no end.
- Parousia – (3952) a being near, i.e. advent or return; by implication, the physical aspect: coming, presence. Comes from root word (3918) which means: to be present or to come.
- Erchomai – (2064) to come or go: to come from one place to another, to appear, to come before the public.
- Apokalupsis – (602) disclosure: appearing, coming, manifestation, be revealed, revelation
When we look at the definitions of the Greek words, they are similar in meaning and their use can be compared to our use of the English words: come and return. They have the same basic meaning, but their difference is more in inflection than content. We can see an example of this in Mt.24:3 when the disciples ask Jesus, “what shall be the sign of your coming ( parousia )?” and in Mt.24:30 Jesus replies, “they shall see the Son of man coming (erchomai) in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. Obviously, both the disciples and Jesus are speaking of the same event, but they use two different words meaning “coming” to describe it. Also, if use of the word “parousia” is specific to the pre-trib coming of Jesus (as some pre-tribbers claim), then why is it used in Mt.24:3 by the disciples and Jesus responds with a description of his second coming?
Also, in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul tells us that the Wicked (One) shall be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming ( parousia ). If you read the context preceding this verse, you will see that the Wicked who is destroyed is the anti-christ. Now my bible tells me (in Rev.19:20) that the anti-christ is taken and cast in the lake of fire at the Lords second coming. So, if Paul, in 2Thessalonians, tells us that this happens at the coming ( parousia ) of the Lord, then it must be the one and same coming.
The following is a list of scriptures where the words, parousia, erchomai, and apokalupsis are translated as “coming” in regards to the return of the Lord. If you can find anything in them that specifies or implies a pre-trib coming of the Lord prior to his second coming, please let me know. Furthermore, if you can provide a reliable means of distinction between scriptures concerning his parousia to rapture the church and his second parousia, other than speculation and guess work, again please let me know. Parousia (Mt.24:3, 1Cor.15:23, 1Th.2:19, 1Th.3:13, 1Th.4:15, 1Th.5:23, 2Th.2:1, 2Th.2:8, Jas.5:7-8, 2Pe.3:4,12, 1Jn.2:28), Erchomai (Mt.24:30, Rev.16:5, 19:7), Apokalupsis (1Cor.1:7). If I missed some you think are relevant, then please send me an email.
The Church in the Book of Revelation
There are several misperceptions that pre-tribulation rapture proponents bring forth concerning the book of Revelation. The two that I want to expound upon here are, the rapturist interpretation of Rev.3:10 and their assertion that after Revelation 4:1 and before Revelation 19, the church is not mentioned.
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from
the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that
dwell upon the earth.” – Rev.3:10
Pre-trib theology states that in Rev.3:10, when Jesus says “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation”, he is speaking of the rapture of the Church prior to the great tribulation. This is nothing but wild speculation and conjecture. Lets break this scripture down and see what it says.
” Because thou hast kept the word of my patience”. The Greek word for “kept” is tereo, which means: to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard, to observe. The Greek word for “patience” is hupomone , which means: steadfastness, consistency, endurance. In the NT, this word describes the character of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and godliness by even the greatest trials and sufferings. This portion of verse amplified says, Because you have guarded, observed, and carefully attended to the word of my steadfast consistency and endurance,
” I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation” The Greek word for “keep” is the same as that for “kept” above (tereo). The meaning of the word “temptation” in the context used here means: the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, and consistency. What this portion of verse says is, I also will carefully attend to, take care of, and guard you from the appointed time of the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, and consistency,
” which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth .” The world used in this context means, the whole inhabited earth. The Greek word for “try” means: to tempt, to try or test one’s faith, virtue, and character by enticement to sin.
When we amplify Rev.3:10 based on what we see above, it says:
Because you have guarded, observed, and carefully attended to the word of my steadfast
consistency and endurance, I also will carefully attend to, take care of, and guard you
from the appointed time of the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, and consistency,
which shall come upon the whole inhabited earth, to test the faith, virtue, and character
by the enticement to sin of all them that dwell upon the earth.
Where, I ask, is there anything in this scripture that would indicate that Jesus is speaking of removing the Church from the earth? More to the point, it says that Jesus will guard, take care of, and attend to the saints in the time of trial because of their faithfulness and consistency (as in, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee-Heb.13:5). This scripture is consistent with Jn.17:15 where Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep (tereo) them from the evil”.
The Lord is not going to remove the Church during the tribulation period, for we are on this earth to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ to get people saved. Even though the tribulation will be a time of terrible judgment upon the ungodly, God’s people will be guarded, carefully attended to, and taken care of by the power of the most high himself. Does not God have the ability to perform this? Did he not keep Noah and his family without removing them from the earth? (Gen.7:13-23) Did he not protect Lot without removing him from the earth? (Gen.19:15-16) Were the children of Israel afflicted by the plagues brought upon Egypt? Were they not safe in Goshen? (Ex.8:22-23, 9:6,26, 10:23) Were they not saved by the blood of the Passover Lamb when death overshadowed the land? (Ex.12:27)
Persecution, tribulation and trails
Let me ask you this: Where in all of the Bible do you see God removing his people from the earth when he brings forth his judgment upon the ungodly? It is never mentioned, past, present, or future. Concerning believers the word does say in 1Th.5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”. Therefore, we as believers do not have anything to fear about God’s wrath when it is poured out upon the world, because we are not the object of his wrath, the ungodly are.
Does that mean that during the tribulation period that saints will not undergo trial, persecution, and tribulation? No! It does not, for followers of the Lord Jesus Christ will not only be persecuted, but will be persecuted unto death (Rev. 6:9-11, 7:13-14, 12:11,17, 13:7-10, 14:12-13). Is it God who brings this persecution and tribulation upon the saints? No! It is Satan and the ungodly who persecute the people of God.
Did Jesus ever promise believers that they would not suffer persecution and tribulation? No! On the contrary, he stated in John.15:20, “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you”. In Mt.24:9 when Jesus was speaking of the end times, he stated, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake”. In Jn.16:33, Jesus said, “These things have I 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”.
A Christian’s reaction to persecution and affliction should be a witness to the world of Jesus Christ. For instance, in Acts 16:20-34 Paul and Silas were unjustly brought before the magistrates, they were beaten and thrown into prison with their feet placed into stocks. Did they moan and complain to each other because they were mistreated? No! At the midnight hour they prayed and sang praises to God. Then there was an earthquake. Next we see the jailer falling down before Paul saying “what must I do to be saved?” and his whole house getting saved. Was it the earthquake that caused him to get saved? No! It was their witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, even in a time of persecution and affliction. As I stated earlier, the purpose of the Church on earth is to be a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, preaching the gospel to the lost and getting them saved.
Pre-trib theology asserts that after Revelation 4:1, the Church is not mentioned again until Revelation 19. Their train of thought is that when John is caught up to heaven, that this is representative of the Church being “raptured”. As we look at the scriptures, you will see that this is nothing more than a continuation of speculation, conjecture and hyperbole. In simple words: Absolutely false!
First, let us look at what the word says about the clothing of the Church. This will enable us to observe one obvious method of reference to the Church after Revelation 4:1. In Rev.3:4-5 it says, “”Thou hast a few names even inSardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels”. In Rev.3:18 when Jesus speaks to the Church of Laodicea, he says “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment , that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear…” And again, look at what Rev.19:7-8 says concerning the wife of the Lamb, which is the Church: “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints“.
It is obvious from the scriptures that the Church is clothed in white robes. This is representative of those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, being made righteous in the eyes of God. Therefore, any reference to believers in Revelation that wear or are arrayed in white robes must be referring to members of the Church.
Now go to Rev.6:9-11, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…And white robes were given unto every one of them”. Isn’t this describing members of the Church?
Next look at Rev.7:13-14 , “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes ? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation , and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. Isn’t this also describing members of the Church? Only the Church has been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Doesn’t it also say that these saints came out of great tribulation? How can that be if the Church was raptured?
Also, check out Rev.12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death”. Is this not also referring to the Church? Who else has overcome by the blood of the Lamb?
Next, Rev.12:17 , “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ“. Again, this has to refer to the Church. Who else has the testimony of Jesus Christ?
Next, Rev.13:7- , “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints , and to overcome them…”. Many would say, how can this refer to the Church when these saints are overcome? This scripture goes hand in hand with Dan.12:7b, “and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished”. To scatter the power means, to scatter or disperse the strength or power. Toward the end of the tribulation, Satan and his anti-christ will think that they have won the victory over the Lord and His Church, to the point that anti-christ will sit in the temple proclaiming himself to be god. Did not Jesus say in Mt.24:22, “but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” and in verse 24, “for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect”? This shall be a time of great persecution and suffering for the Church, but at the same time, though their strength may be dispersed, they will in the end see victory.
Finally, Rev.14:12, “Here is the patience of the saints : here are they that keep the commandments of God , and the faith of Jesus “. Who else keeps the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus except for the Church?
How can it honestly be said that after Rev.4:1, the Church isn’t mentioned again until Rev.19?
Of more significant importance, how can it be said that the Church is raptured prior to the tribulation? I mean, the Church is the Church. Is part of the Church going to be glorified and part not? That does not align with the scriptures. The resurrection of the righteous is one event. Therefore, the whole Church will be glorified, receiving the fullness of the resurrection, at the same time. This can only occur at the second coming of our Lord to the earth.
In summary, we have weighed rapture theology in the balance of the holy scriptures and it has been found wanting (Dan.5:27). Everything brought forth in this study has been in context and witnessed by multiple scriptures. There are too many scriptural contradictions for rapture theology to be considered as part of the doctrine of Christ (Heb.6:1-2). I encourage all who read this study to search it out for your own self, because it is you who must be convinced by the scriptures and the Holy Spirit as to what is truth.
Also, please remember this, the gathering of the saints at the coming of the Lord is the fullness of the principle of the Resurrection of the Dead (Heb.6:2). The endtime gathering only deals with the resurrection and glorifying of our bodies (Ph.3:20-21, Ro.8:23, 2Cor.5:1-4). The Resurrection of the Dead contains so much more for us to apply to our lives right now, than for us to just look at it as a future hope. Our life in Jesus Christ gives us the power to live a new life right now, for we have been resurrected unto a new life already (Ro.6:4, Col.2:12, Eph.2:4-7).
My hope and prayer is that all who read this and study the resurrection, will do so looking at it’s application to our whole being (spirit, soul, and body). I encourage you to email me with your questions and comments. Also, I am not so haughty that I think I have all the answers, so please, if you have something that would bring further clarity to this study and the word of God, I would value your contribution. Have a wonderful, blessed time in the word.
Give all glory to God!
*[In Daniel 12:6-13, two questions are asked that parallel those of the disciples in Mt.24:3, “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” and “what shall be the end of these things?” In the answer to the first question, an order of events is laid out in which “all these things shall be finished” (To find out what “all these things” are, read Daniel chapter 9-12):
- It shall be for a time, times, and an half (3-1/2 years).
- When anti-christ completes his task to scatter or disperse the strength or power of the holy people (the church), the end shall come.
Concerning the second question, the angel replied “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end”, but in answer to the question he said:
- That many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
- From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days (3 years and 7 months)
- Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days (3 years, 8 months, and 15 days)
There are many today that believe we are in the last days and we shall see the prophesies concerning the end come to pass. In the words of the angel, in the last days the wise shall understand. The Hebrew word translated as “wise” is also used in Jo.1:8 where it is translated as “success”. The scripture tells us that for us to be wise and have good success (sakal: intelligent, skillful, expert, wise), the word is not to depart out of our mouth, and we are to meditate day and night in the word that we can be diligent to do according to all that is written. In other words, we are to eat, sleep, and breath the word; and the Holy Spirit shall give us wisdom to understand the things that are coming to pass in the last days. One thing we can see in the scripture above, is that from the time the daily sacrifice is taken away till the occurrence of the abomination of desolation is 3 years, 7 months. Exactly 45 days after the abomination of desolation, the word tells us that a blessing is going to take place. This is my view and opinion, but I believe that the blessing will be the coming of the Lord in power and glory to gather the saints and physically establish God’s great kingdom here on earth.]