How does the “Rapture” fit into end-time events? This topic is one of the most divisive topics in all Christianity. Some folks believe that a rapture will occur in the future. While others don't believe in the rapture at all. When we look to the bible and use it as the only source of information, we can be sure to learn the full truth. Complete faith in the word of God is crucial when forming an understanding of past, present and future prophetic events.
The first thing to understand concerning the rapture is that the word “Rapture” is a man-made term that cannot be found anywhere in the bible. The official definition of the word “Rapture” found in most dictionaries is: The transporting of believers to heaven at the second coming of Christ. The gospels confirm that there was indeed to be a “taking away” of believers during Christ's second coming...
Matthew 24:39-42 KJV
And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
At face value, the text speaks for itself. The problem with the modern-day idea of the “rapture” comes in when the texts are taken out of context and other non-biblical ideas are added to it. Yes, it is written that a group of believers were to be taken from this earth and brought up to heaven, but Jesus Himself was clear as to what generation would witness the grand event.
Matthew 24:34 KJV
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mark 13:30 KJV
Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
In His statement in Matthew and Mark, Jesus is referring to the generation living in the days before the end of the old covenant world. In order to alter the meaning of Jesus' statement and place it in a generation that it was not intended for, some argue that the word generation holds a more broad or symbolic meaning. But again, when you allow the bible to interpret itself, it is clear that the meaning for the word “generation” cannot be changed to a time span longer than that of the life-time of an ordinary man. A change like that is not supported by the bible in any way, shape or form. In order to change the meaning of the word “generation” and give it a longer time span, you would have to find another bible text to justify the change; and none can be found within the scriptures. In fact, by specifying how many generations have passed from king David to Christ, the book of Matthew confirms the definition of the word...
Matthew 1:17 KJV
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
When we accept Christ's testimony concerning which generation would witness His second coming, we can then understand that the first century, early church, did not know the day or the hour of Christ's return, but they did know that they were living in the generation that would see it come to pass. This is clear in the apostle Paul's writings...
1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 KJV
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 KJV
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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.
1 Corinthians 15:50-52 KJV
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.
The apostle’s message was clear: some of them in that generation would still be alive and not face death before that prophetic event came to pass (1Thessalonians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 15:51). When you read all of the apostles' teachings on the subject, you can see that they truly believed Christ's words concerning when He would return...
Matthew 16:27-28 KJV
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to His works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.
People will often try to discredit the apostles, by saying they really didn't have a clear understanding of what Jesus meant, regarding the timing of His return. This may have been the case in their early days with Jesus, but it is not a valid argument for the latter days. This fact is illustrated in a dialog between Jesus and Peter concerning John, that took place in the last few days before Jesus was taken up to heaven. In the discussion, Peter asks Jesus what John would be doing in the days before His return. It's not clear exactly what led up to the question, but Jesus' reply to Peter speaks for itself...
John 21:22 KJV
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
follow thou Me.
Again, at that time the disciples knew and understood much more than they did when they first started following Jesus, but they still had a few questions. This is evident in the text following Jesus' reply to Peter. In the text, it shows that the disciples heard what Jesus was saying, but they weren't 100% sure what He meant by it...
John 21:23 KJV
Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
It is important to realize that any questions or confusion that the disciples may have had at that time, were cleared up on the day of Pentecost. This is due to the fact that before Jesus was taken up to heaven, He promised them that the Holy Spirit would come to them, give them understanding and remind them of everything that He had told them...
John 14:25-27 KJV
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
After Christ was taken up to heaven, the apostles had the grand responsibility of relaying the truth, concerning all things, to all the believers in the early church and beyond. A job so monumental could only be done by the aid of the Holy Spirit. So when the apostles spoke about prophetic things that were to come upon them, in their own generation, it was by the aid of the Holy Spirit alone...
1 Corinthians 10:11 KJV
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
As mentioned briefly before, the end of the whole literal world was not upon them, rather it was the end of the old covenant world with all the laws and ordinances that was coming to an end during the second coming (Hebrew 8:13 KJV). Now that we have the full bible to glean information from, we can see that the understanding that the disciples came to, concerning Jesus' statement about John tarrying (not dying) before He returned, was a valid conclusion. This is due to the mere fact that in the book of Revelation, John is in deed still alive and tarrying when Jesus testified to him, three times in a vision, that His second coming was about to be upon them...
Revelation 22:7 KJV
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
Revelation 22:12 KJV
And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Revelation 22:20 KJV
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Another misconception surrounding the modern idea of a “rapture”, is regarding the group of people that the bible says would be taken up to heaven. In this generation, Christians that believe in the rapture, also believe that it will be modern day Christians that will be the ones taken away from this earth; before a time of tribulation begins. However, needless to say, since the bible supports the fact that Christ's second coming has already passed, during the generation that Jesus said it would, then modern day believers are not logically a part of that number. In fact, the bible is very clear that those who were to be redeemed from the earth, at Christ's second coming, were comprised of 144000 saints from the nation of Israel; not from the whole literal world...
Revelation 14:1-3 KJV
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
Revelation 7:4 KJV
And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
The bible describes this group of saints as being first fruits. In other words, they were chosen first to inherit the kingdom of heaven...
Revelation 14:4-5 KJV
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
This is confirmed by the apostle Peter who wrote that judgment would begin with the house of God (Israel)...
1 Peter 4:17 KJV
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
If we allow Peter’s words to speak for themselves, it is clear that judgement was to come upon the Jews first (those under the old covenant), then to those who receive the gospel. The judgement of those under the old covenant goes hand in hand with the first resurrection that is mentioned in the book of Revelation…
Revelation 20:6 KJV
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
It is this group of saints that will return with Christ, for the final time, to judge the rest of the world. This is known as the final judgment and it has not come to pass yet.
1 Corinthians 6:2 KJV
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?..
For those who reject the bible evidence justifying a first century fulfillment of Christ's return, because they believe that the great tribulation has not passed, history and the bible have provided the answer to clear up that reservation. It is no secret that in the first century, before the Roman/Jewish war of 70AD, the Jews and Christians were heavily persecuted. This fact is confirmed in John's introduction of himself, in the first chapter of Revelation. Here he states that he was a companion in the tribulation. In other words, he was going through the tribulation at that time along with the other believers...
Revelation 1:9 KJV
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
It is important to understand that times of judgment follow a similar repeating pattern. First there is a vast turning away from God and the rejection of His will, followed by a season of persecution (or tribulation) of those who live within the Lord's will, ending with an act of judgment on the offenders and the redemption of the faithful. This was the case in Noah's days, then again with the early church, and it will happen for the last time before the final judgment; that is still to come. The difference between the tribulation in the first century and the time of trouble that will come in the future, is that believers living in the future time of trouble, will not be overcome by it, unlike the first century church was in their generation. The book of Daniel provides us with the evidence and Matthew 24 tells us that a tribulation of that kind will never touch God's people again...
Daniel 7:20-22 KJV
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
Matthew 24:21 KJV
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
In the time of trouble to come, those who truly believe and are faithful, will not be overcome by the darkness that will cover the earth. Instead, His truth will be a shield around us. This is why the first century tribulation was worse (for God’s people) than the time of trouble that is to come. God will protect all believers through it...
Psalm 91:3-5 KJV
Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.
In a nutshell, the multitude of Christian believers, that are dwelling on the earth (in this generation), will not get a ticket to escape the troublesome times that will engulf the whole world in times to come. Believers will witness the whole thing...
Psalm 91:7-8 KJV
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Those who make it through the trouble are described in Revelation chapter 7...
Revelation 7:9 KJV
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.
Again, the bible is clear that the multitude does not escape the trouble, but they come out on top. When all is said and done, God will dwell among His people...
Revelation 7:13-15 KJV
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. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Notice in the text above that the apostle John has no idea who the great multitude represents, when he was asked about them in his vision. This is due to the fact that the multitude is not a part of his generation. This information was not provided to the apostles before, because it was not relevant to their time and therefore not a part of their mission at hand. This can be seen in the first chapter of Acts, when the disciples questioned Jesus concerning when the kingdom would be restored back to Israel. It is important to know that the restoration of the kingdom and the second coming are two separate events in time...
Acts 1:6-7 KJV
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.
While it is evident that the 144000 saints were taken up to heaven in that generation long ago to inherit the kingdom of heaven, it is also true that in the future, Christ will return with those same saints to judge the world. At that time, Christ will bring the kingdom of heaven down on earth and make all things new…
Revelation 21:5 KJV
And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
In the day when Christ returns, He will dwell among His people in a restored world with no sin, no evil, no suffering, pain or death...
Revelation 21:3 KJV
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
Zechariah 14:9 KJV
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name One.
The final problem concerning the modern view of “the rapture” is that it is often described as an event carried out in secret; until everyone notices that their faithful loved ones are missing. One verse not only clears up the generation question but also disputes the fact that it was to happen in secret...
Revelation 1:7 KJV
Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
From the text, it is clear that the whole world (at that time), saw and knew that something monumental was taking place. Notice that a time indicator was given in the text, by the mere fact that it points out that those who pieced Christ on the cross were going to be alive to see the event come to pass. This also backs up Jesus' words in Matthew 24:34 and the apostles’ teachings in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians. Although we were not alive in that generation to see the fulfillment of these things, the bible says that our faith needs to stand in place of the things that we are unable to see...
Hebrews 11:1 KJV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
It is important to know that the enemy (Satan) continues to cover up the truth, alter the word of God and discredit the bible in any way that he can. If we spend time reading the bible for ourselves and let go of preconceived ideas and beliefs, the bible can and will speak for itself.
John 4:24 KJV
God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.