Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Rapture Part 2
Unfortunately, the subject of this paragraph is anything but encouraing to a lot of Christians. Controversy over the Rapture, as it called, springs up all the time – causing for deep divisions between Christians.
It’s such an important event, and yet so little referenced in the Bible, that I thought it would be helpful to run through exactly what the Rapture is, and what the various views about its occurrence are.
As we begin – I want to discuss briefly some different ways of interpreting the Bible, prophecy, and the Book of Revelation. Not everyone believes the way that I do – and good Christians can disagree on many of these points.
A recent paper I was given says there are seven ways to interpret the Book of Revelation. I’ll list them for you briefly:
Preterist – It all happened in the 1st century
Church History – the book charts the course of church history
Idealist – It’s all symbolism
Dispensational-futurist - It’s all future prophecy
Classical Futurist – All future except the letters to the churches
Eclectic – There are truths in the book but no way is all right (and all ways are some right)
I don’t think my position, and that of Calvary Chapel, is any of these. Perhaps then I would call it the Dual Fulfillment position.
I believe that Revelation was relevant to the audience at the time – and to the churches. I think that these were real letters to real churches at the time, but I think it also teaches us spiritual values and contains a great deal of symbolism. AND – I do believe that the prophecies in this book will also be fulfilled literally in the future. There are examples all over Scripture of prophecies that were fulfilled both near when they were made and much later in the future. That leaves room for those who think the Revelation was all fulfilled in the 1st century, but also those that believe that it is yet to be fulfilled. By the way – I don’t see how you can interpret Rev 21-22 any other way than in the future.
Also as a part of our discussion is The Great Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation is found referenced in only Revelation 7:14 by name – but refers to a seven year period of time just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is a time of great turmoil on the earth – and is a time when the Anti-Christ, a world figure who is filled with the spirit of Satan himself, rules the earth.
A third aspect is The Millennium.
The Millennium is found referenced in Revelation 20 – during this period of time, Satan will be bound and Jesus will rule with the Saints on earth after His return.
We’re going to get into more of this during our study in 2 Thessalonians but what sets the stage for all of this discussion is found in the Book of Daniel. It is upon this foundation that all discussions of the end times are built.
Daniel has prayed to the Lord – repenting for the sins of Israel that cast had them out of the land and into Babylon. This prophecy was written about 539BC.
Daniel 9:24-27 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
This prophecy focuses on two sets of three things (weeks of years). The first three have to do with dealing with Israel’s sin problem – the second set with ushering in the kingdom of the Messiah, or “The Anointed One” from verse 26.
The “seven sevens” mentioned here are pretty much agreed to be periods of years.
Break it down this way:
49 years after the order to rebuild Jerusalem is given – the work will be done. That command was given in 444 or 445 BC. (that’s the first set of sevens)
After another 62 sevens – or 434 years, the Messiah will be “cut off” and appear to have done nothing. There have been some famous calculations made that seem to indicate that exactly to the day from the command to restore Jerusalem – Jesus walked through the gates of the city at the beginning of Passion Week.
So that leaves one set of seven years to deal with – and is at the heart of our discussion – whether this period is past, or yet to come – and where does the Rapture hit in relation to that period? If a final set of seven years sounds familiar – it should – as it is most likely the Great Tribulation I just mentioned.
This prophecy says that the “He” referred to in verse 27 (dealt with in more detail later in Daniel) is the Anti-Christ, who will create a peace agreement in Israel – but will break it midway through the seven years and proclaim himself to be god in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.
With me so far? Confused? Wait – there’s more.
One more thing to mention – the word Dispensationalism. This is a type of view of the history of mankind according to time – different dispensations.
According to this school of Biblical interpretation there are 9 periods of time when God “dispenses” or administers the world’s affairs.
The 9 are:
- The dispensation of innocence
From Creation to the Fall (Gen 1:28-3:6)
- The dispensation of conscience
From the Fall to the Flood (Gen 4:1-8:14)
- The dispensation of civil government
From the Flood to the dispersion at Babel (Gen 8:15-11:9)
- The dispensation of promise (patriarchal rule)
From Babel to Mount Sinai (Gen 11:10 -- Ex 18:27)
- The dispensation of Mosaic law
From Mount Sinai to the upper room (Ex 19 -- Acts 1)
- The dispensation of the bride of the Lamb (the church)
From the upper room to the Rapture (Acts 2 -- Rev 3)
- The dispensation of the wrath of the Lamb (the Tribulation)
From the Rapture to the Second Coming (Rev 6:1-20:3)
- The dispensation of the rule of the Lamb (the Millennium)
From the Second Coming through the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:4-15)
- The dispensation of the new creation of the Lamb (the world without end)
From the Great White Throne Judgment throughout all eternity (Rev 21-22)
Willmington's Bible Handbook
So right now we are in the dispensation of the bride – or some say – of grace.
Let’s go back to our discussion of the Rapture. One of the only references to it is found in this part of 1 Thessalonians.
I want to lay out 8 reasons why I think the Rapture – the snatching away of the church – occurs BEFORE the start of the Great Tribulation – and allows the Anti-Christ to bring in his false peace treaty and gain world domination.
1. There’s tribulation, then there’s Tribulation!
John 16:33 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. KJV
“trouble” is how the NIV renders it. It is very different from a specific event, the Great Tribulation.
Matthew 24:20-22 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
“distress” here is “tribulation.” The “elect” then would be Israel who get saved during the Tribulation.
So point number one is that the trouble we have as Christians is not the same as the Tribulation brought on the world during the final 7 years of human history.
2. The Tribulation is not for the church
Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. KJV
Another term for the Great Tribulation is “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” The Tribulation is Jacob’s trouble – Israel – not the church, which already believes and will be saved from wrath.
3. The 70th Week is for the Jews
Daniel said "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city” We’ve had 69 of those weeks and are now in a holding pattern. After the age of the church, God will once again work to save the Jewish nation.
People look to Matthew 24 as a reason why the church will go through the Tribulation – but Jesus was answering a question about the future of the Jewish nation – and is talking about what will happen to the Jews during this time.
Verses 1-14 speak generally about how to spot the end times – but beginning with verse 15 when Jesus speaks of the Abomination of Desolation – we are talking about Jews living during the Tribulation.
Once the church is Raptured away – the Daniel clock starts ticking again and things can be finished up for “your people” (the Jews).
4. The Tribulation is God’s Wrath
Revelation 6:16, and 14:10 tells us that the Tribulation is God’s wrath against sinners on the earth. Yet in Romans 5:9 Paul tells us that through Jesus we are saved from God’s wrath. In fact, as far back as Abraham, God told man that He would not judge the righteous with the wicked. So anyone that says the church will go through the Great Tribulation has to first argue that God has changed.
Revelation 6:16 "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
Romans 5:9-10 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
So if the Great Tribulation is God’s wrath – we should ask, is appropriate for the church to go through this? I say – no.
5. The Church is spared from wrath
The Lord has given special promises to His church regarding the Great Tribulation. In Revelation 3:10 He tells the faithful church at Philadelphia that they will be spared from the “hour of temptation.” Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that we were not appointed for wrath.
Luke 21 gives us clues as promises for the church – that we should be praying that we would be counted worthy to escape – not Jesus coming for His church, but the Tribulation.
Genesis 18 – when Abraham and the Lord discussed Sodom – Abraham said “shall God destroy the righteous along with the wicked?” The answer was “no.”
What did God do with Lot? He led him out – forced him out – of Sodom before it was destroyed.
"For God knows how to deliver the righteous... and to reserve the ungodly for the day of judgment" (II Peter 2:9)
6. The Fullness of the Gentiles – Romans 11
Romans 11:25-27 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
God will once again turn His attention to Israel – and the nation will realize that Jesus really is the Messiah – but this can’t occur until the “full number of the Gentiles has come in.” So after that – there is no more reason for the church to stick around and she leaves the scene.
Hosea 3:5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.
Zechariah 12:10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
7. “He” that restrains is the church
2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
That “he” is the Holy Spirit’s work in the church – restraining evil and lawlessness in the world. Notice that he is “taken out of the way.” Raptured. Then technically, the Great Tribulation starts with the covenant the Anti-Christ makes with Israel – which I believe would come soon after the Rapture.
We’ll get into that more in our study of 2 Thessalonians
8. The Rapture & The Second Coming are different Events
In the Rapture Jesus comes for His church.
1 Corinthians 15:51 "Behold, I show you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. 52 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.”
In the Second Coming Jesus comes with his church. (in the clouds – 1 Thess 4:16 – above)
Jude 14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones…”
1 Thessalonians 3:13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
The Second Coming is for these purposes:
- No one will miss it (Luke 17:24)
Luke 17:24-25 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
- Jesus physically comes (Zechariah 14:4) and touches the Mt of Olives
Zech 14:4-5 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
- He destroys the Anti-Christ (2 Thess 2:8)
2 Thess 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
- He sits enthroned in Jerusalem and judges the nations and we co-rule with Him (Rev 19:15, Rev 20:6)
Rev 19:15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib – Post Trib
So we come to the heart of it – if there is a Tribulation, if there is a Rapture – then when does it happen?
Mid-Tribulation says that when the Abomination of Desolation takes place (remember that – the Anti-Christ proclaiming himself God in the Temple?) – that’s when the church is Raptured.
One of the main arguments used is that God’s wrath doesn’t really begin until the Abomination of Desolation. So the Great Tribulation doesn’t begin until then. Before that time is “the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:8)
This position is also known as the Pre-Wrath Rapture
1. Problem: Proponents of this view feel that the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation are not really the Tribulation – and does not represent God’s wrath on the earth (thus the church being spared from that wrath).
They state that Revelation 4 – 9 are the “beginning of birth pains.” But in Revelation 6:17 is where we get the people crying out because of the “wrath of the Lamb.” That suggests that God’s wrath has begun to be poured out on the earth – and the church is to be spared God’s wrath through the blood of Jesus.
2. Anyone with a calendar could look back once a world leader creates a multi-year peace treaty with Israel that solves the Middle-East crisis – and count up to the mid-point and thus the Mid-Tribulation Rapture. Yet we are not to know the day or the hour. (see next)
This position suggests that the Rapture happens right at the end of the Tribulation – in other words, we go zooming up to the clouds then come right back down with the Lord at His Second Coming.
The main problem is that of knowing the timing.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
If the Rapture comes midway through the Tribulation or at the end – then, again, everyone needs only to get out a calendar to know when the Rapture occurs – exactly 1,290 days later.
Another problem – Post-Tribbers postulate that the First Resurrection, stated in Revelation 20:4 is the only time when people come to life – the church, and all believers. The problem there is what about Jesus Christ?
1 Corinthians 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
The fact is, the first resurrection has already started with Jesus – so us being resurrected, or changed really before Revelation 20, is not a problem.
Another problem is the whole “saints” thing. Mid, and Post seem to get caught up on the wording used.
In Revelation 13:7 the Beast is given power to conquer the saints. This would almost suggest that Jesus was wrong when He told the disciples that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18). And later John would write “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”
So what gives? The saints of Revelation 7:14 (“they that came out of great tribulation”) are the people that get saved after the Rapture. Are they a part of the church? Yes – I believe so – but that doesn’t mean that once someone gets saved they instantly get Rapture during the Tribulation.
In fact, when Jesus returns – those that got saved and are still alive will repopulate the earth.
Understand the three parts of the book of Revelation.
Rev 1:19 "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” The Greek word “later” is meta tauta – or “after these things.”
In Chapter 1 John writes his vision of Jesus “what you have seen.”
In Chapters 2 -3 John writes of the things that are – the letters to the church.
Then in Chapter 4:1 "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." Meta tauta “after these things.” After what things? The things of the church.
Two other pictures
Isaac & Daniel. Isaac in Genesis 22:19 Abraham comes back from almost sacrificing Isaac (a picture of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ). You don’t see Isaac again until Genesis 24:62 when Abraham’s servant is bringing back to Isaac a bride. So in this picture the bride is brought to Isaac just as the bride is brought to Jesus – the next event after the resurrection.
Daniel chapter 3 – Daniel is a picture of the church. When
Nebuchadnezzar was going to put the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace for not bowing to his image – Daniel is not present. As the church will not be present during the Hebrew tribulation.
There are many others.
So what should we do with this knowledge?
1 Peter 4:7 “But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watchful unto prayer.”
- Keep busy
Instead of sitting on your hands waiting – worrying about it – do what Jesus said to do: preach the gospel in all the world, making disciples of all nations. Grow in Him and let Him shine out of you.
- Be comforted
Verse 18 of 1 Thessalonians 4 says: “comfort one another with these words.” There is little comfort in knowing that the church would have to withstand God’s wrath by going through all or part of the Great Tribulation.
God, I believe, wants us to find comfort in the fact that He will rescue us – like he did for Noah, and Lot – out of judgment and into His presence – to enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb and await our time to return with Him to rule on the earth.
Are we hard and fast on this? I am totally convinced – but as I said at the beginning – honest Christians can debate. One things for sure – once it happens, all the arguments will cease.