With all that goes on in these days, it’s always good to question, to search out the truth. I’m not promoting myself, or some new discovery, as this truth I write about I’m also reading elsewhere from various ministries and authors, and I believe it to be an important truth. I’m asking you to consider something that perhaps you haven’t before.
This may come as a surprise to some, but those who are “left behind” are THE BELIEVERS.
Our first priority as believers is to spread the Word of the Lord. Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 28:18-20, in a nutshell, is to reach, baptize, and teach. I personally have to believe that one of the worst things we could do is to tell a new believer in these days that they will be “raptured” out of here before bad trouble comes.
Now I’m not a big-name theologian, not claiming to be one; I’m just an unknown student of the Word of God. My goal is to check out what the Word says against what I’ve always been told, and put it down in writing. My goal also, for anyone who might read this, is for you to check out the Scriptures for yourself to see if you think what I’m writing could possibly be correct.
I love to study the Word. I like to dig in and see if what I’ve been told is true or not, or only partly true. What do the original languages say? Scriptures can be taken out of context; stories can be passed on enough that in time they are perceived as truth. Scriptures can be read over time after time, and become commonplace enough that truths are often missed. A huge problem is reading the New Testament without understanding the Hebraic foundation of it all. One example is that when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles were NOT in an upper room; they were on the Temple grounds, probably in the place known as Solomon’s Porch, or Portico, along with thousands of their Jewish brethren who had come to Jerusalem to observe Shavuot, the Feast of Tabernacles, otherwise known as Pentecost. That’s why so many came to where the apostles were to see what was going on. Also, there were countless immersion pools on the Temple grounds, enabling those thousands to be immersed into Jesus at that time. See Luke 24:53 and Acts 2:1-2; when reading those verses from Acts, be aware that in Scripture the Temple is referred to countless times as “the house of the Lord,” and often just, “the house.” Scripture does NOT say that the apostles then ran downstairs (which I heard an online preacher recently state one time); neither does it say that the crowds ran up to and were all in an upper room. Rather, Acts 2:6 says that, “And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together….” All these Jewish people from all over were on the Temple grounds, and hearing this noise, they came over to see what was going on.
That paragraph was a rabbit trail. Now on to the subject of this writing:
Matthew 13:24-30 is the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds). Rather than harm the good by removing the bad, both are left together until the harvest. Revelation 14:15ff speak of the harvest at the end of the age. Jesus said in Matthew 13:30, at the time of the harvest, that the reapers should first gather up the tares for destruction, then gather the wheat. (Tares are a kind of weed resembling wheat.) In Matthew 13:40-43, Jesus explains the parable, that the unrighteous will be gathered out first; “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Matthew 13:49-50 says, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (my emphasis). Now read Matthew 24 with that thought in mind. The weeds, the chaff, the bad fish, will be separated out first at the end, and the righteous will be “left behind.” THEN the righteous will be gathered together with the Lord in the air. In days of old, when these words of Scripture were written, chaff was separated from wheat by tossing harvested wheat into the air, and letting the wind blow the chaff away. The wheat would fall back to the ground, and be gathered once the chaff was cleared out. From words such as these, I have to conclude that there will indeed be a rapture of the saints, but NOT before a final tribulation. Matthew 24:29 says, “But immediately ‘after’ the tribulation of those days… they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.”
A very important point regarding “rapture” is that the “church” will NOT be taken away, and Israel “left behind.” An honest reading of Romans 9-11 should clear up that misconception. There is no Scripture that indicates that Gentile believers are to be separate from their “elder brothers,” the Jewish people. To believe otherwise is actually somewhat anti-Semitical. In Romans 11:17-18, Paul strongly warns, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (emphases mine). Being grafted in, we Gentile believers are adopted sons and daughters of Abraham. Many Jewish people have come to faith in their Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) since the “Jesus People” days of the early 1970’s. Many more are still coming to that faith, both inside and outside of Israel. Here’s a consideration for you: perhaps the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son is the church, the Gentile believer!
A pre-tribulation rapture is not actually taught in Scripture. It is a teaching that became popular in the 1800’s, pieced together by Scriptures taken out of context. The apostles and the early church fathers never taught of such an event. The western church, in a comfortable state overall, began hoping for an “escape” before great trouble and tribulation began. That hope is there primarily because of “fear.” Corrie ten Boom spoke of a Chinese pastor who told her, “Never teach of a rapture before tribulation. Our people are going through great tribulation right now.” The western church has very little concept of the trials that believers around the world are going through; those who, through the grace of God, endure horrible ordeals in the name and faith of Jesus. I’ve heard it said that the current tribulations that “third-world” believers are going through are not as bad as what the book of Revelation pictures for the great tribulation. Perhaps, but tell that to a believer who has a gun at their head to either denounce their faith or die. Tell that to a parent who watches little children being slain because the parent wouldn’t deny the faith. Tell that to a believer being tortured beyond understanding because of their refusal to deny Jesus. Read “Tortured for Christ” by Richard Wurmbrand; check out the Voice of the Martyrs website. For a very thorough study of pre/mid/post-trib rapture thoughts and more, I recommend the book “When Jesus Returns” by David Pawson. Other books I can recommend are: “The Approaching Apocalypse” by Robert I. Adams; and “Not Afraid of the Antichrist” by Michael L. Brown & Craig S. Keener.
I guess my main point in writing this is, as I said above, I fear that many believers, whether new or long-time, expecting to be raptured away before tribulation, may come face to face with some serious trouble and lose faith because of not being “caught up” before great trials begin for them. I do believe that verses such as Isaiah 26:20-21 and Zephaniah 2:3 hint that there will be some believers who are kept safe during tribulation; there will be martyrs, just as there are in China, Africa, and other places now, but others will come out relatively unharmed. Corrie ten Boom related the story of how, as a child, she was worried about being at a railway station and not having her ticket to get on the train. Her father assured her that he had her ticket, and she didn’t need it until it was time to board. In the same way, I believe that our Heavenly Father will give believers a special measure of grace to endure, but not before it is needed; until that time, we should do our best, with the Spirit’s help, to not worry.
Are we in the great tribulation at this time? I really don’t think so, although we are probably very close. Current events are more than likely “birth pangs;” pangs which will get worse and closer together before “birth” comes.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” There is no mention of a “silent rapture” in those verses, although a pastor of a certain denomination defiantly said it was so to me one time some years back. No, we are going with Him to Jerusalem, and it will probably be quite noisy. Acts 1:10-12 (at the “the mount called Olivet): “And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” He will come descending to the Mount of Olives; “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7).
Also, the word “rapture” is not found in Scripture. A definition of “rapture” is “the carrying of a person to another place or sphere.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul says we will be “caught up;” the Greek is ἁρπάζω har-pad’-zo, which means, “to seize, catch up, snatch away.” So yes, believers will be “caught up;” just not at a time when a lot are expecting to be, however.
When Paul speaks of the rapture, he is not saying that believers will be taken away with Jesus in the air to live in heaven forever. Paul was writing to believers who lived under the Roman empire, and he was standing against and urging Jesus’ followers to also stand against the paganism of Rome; Paul, along with the early church fathers, did not expect that the return of Jesus would be some 2000 or more years later. Looking at the culture of life under the Roman empire when Paul wrote, N.T. Wright, in his book “Surprised by Hope” explained the understanding of the “rapture” to Paul’s readers: “when the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city. It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly. When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country, they would escort him royally into the city itself.” So when Paul wrote of the “rapture,” Wright notes that he wrote of believers, “having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.” Believers will be caught up into the air and escort the Lord back to earth, specifically to Jerusalem.
Wright continues: “Being citizens of heaven doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights.”
The whole Christian rapture theory – pre, post, or mid – about being raptured away to be taken to heaven just goes against the whole idea of resurrection, and renewal of our bodies to live and reign upon a renewed earth. A rapture that believes we will go out to meet the “emperor” and escort Him “home” (Jerusalem) is the only one that works when all the pieces are put together.
Zechariah 14:2-4 “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” Zechariah 14:8-9 “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.”
Also somewhat of a surprise – the “dead in Christ” are probably not in Heaven, as we think of Heaven. Now hold on. Just as Jesus told the thief on the cross, “…today you will be with me in Paradise,” we need to understand that Paradise is a peaceful, resting place where the “dead in Christ” are. However that looks, they are still in the presence of the Lord. Realizing this can help us better understand difficult statements Jesus made, such as in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
As we learn from 1 Thessalonians 4, when Jesus returns, it does NOT say that He is bringing believers with Him. It says that “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them….” Whoever is alive at that time – dead or alive – will be given new, transformed bodies, that is, it is the same old body with new properties. That is how Hebrews 9:27 (“it is appointed for man to die once”) plays out for those who are still alive – the old bodies will “die” as we are transformed with those new bodies. We will have bodies as Jesus had following His resurrection – strong, healthy, magnificent – yet still identifiable to others. We will be, in a sense, the clouds in which the Lord will appear over Jerusalem. The redeemed will rule and reign with the Lord during a millennium of time. Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” They did not come from Heaven with the Lord, they “came alive.”
Jesus’ death was a firstfruits of resurrection. A firstfruits indicates that more will follow; indicates the resurrection of all those who followed Him. His resurrection is, in a sense, a return to “the Garden.” This refers to the coming “new earth,” when all of creation will be restored at Jesus’ return. Romans 8:20-22, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
The pains of childbirth. Jesus said, in Matthew 24:8, “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” Any woman who has given birth knows that the pain of the labor and delivery are overlooked when she sees and holds her new baby. In the same way, once our “birth pangs” are over, there will be great joy in seeing the “new.” And what are “these things” the Lord spoke of? Wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines and earthquakes. Then they will deliver you to tribulation….
Those who rejected the Lord will not come to “life” until the thousand years are over. They are in a separate place for the unsaved dead. The story of Lazarus and the rich man, in Luke 16, is a parable, but I believe it contains rich truths beyond what our human minds can fully understand. The rich man is in Hades; Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom. They can see each other, but cannot cross over, from either side. Another translation in the Greek for “bosom” is “bay.” A bay can be pictured as a pleasant place, a “Paradise.”
How about those who “never heard?” My personal opinion is that 1 Peter 3:19 touches on this: “…in which also He [Jesus] went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison….” I also feel that His voice echoed through the ages – from the ancient past all the way through to the future, of all the dead who NEVER HEARD, had a chance to hear, the Gospel. Again, this is those who NEVER HEARD. Those who rejected the Lord in this life have had their chance, just like the rich man. So I feel that those who never heard are also in Paradise, a peaceful resting place. This is NOT Purgatory. Our “purgatory,” as it were, is here on this earth, where we are tested and tried for our eternal future.
Following the thousand years, “Heaven,” the New Jerusalem, comes down to the new earth. 1 Corinthians 15:24, “…then comes the end, when He [Jesus] delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”
So I conclude by saying, be ready! Be prayerful and worshipful, strengthen your spirit, through the Holy Spirit, to withstand trouble. Don’t expect to be raptured out before trials come. Do not expect to be given the “ticket of extra grace” to endure, until the exact time it is needed, and only if you hold out your hand to “Father” when He hands it to you. No need to worry beforehand. Be the “wheat” that is “left behind” until the wicked are removed.