Will Christians Go Through The Great Tribulation?
Gordon Lindsay (Adapted)
Gordon Lindsay (Adapted)
This is a tremendously important question confronting the church. Unlike other questions in which opposing views are polarized between spiritual and unspiritual segments of the church, in this case each side of the question is represented by believers who are deeply devoted to the cause of Christ. There are three views that Evangelical Christians hold to…
1. First, all Christians go through the Tribulation and their translation will take place afterward.
2. Second, none of the Christians go through the Tribulation but all are translated before that event.
3. Third, some Christians who are watching and prepared are translated before the Tribulation in a First-Fruit Rapture, and the Final Harvest will take place after the Tribulation.
The first group points to such Scriptures as Matthew 24:29-21 in which Christ's Coming in power and glory is said to take place after the Tribulation. Certainly a reading of this Scripture would cause one to conclude that there is a gathering together of the Elect at the end of the Tribulation. To deny this would require an unacceptable manipulation of the Scriptures. A number of other passages agree with this statement of Christ's.
On the other hand, those who teach a Pre-Tribulation Rapture summon an impressive array of scriptures to back their view. Perhaps the strongest support of this position lies in the fact that Jesus repeatedly warned the church to be on the alert for His Coming which could take place any moment. Therefore, to say that Christ cannot come until after the Tribulation obviously destroys all thought of imminency. In that case, instead of watching for His Coming, we should be looking for the rise of the AntiChrist and the Great Tribulation.
What then is the answer to this seeming contradiction of views? The answer lies of course in the fact that both sets of scriptures are correct.
Will Any Christians Go Through The Great Tribulation
Will any Christians go through the Great Tribulation, or will they all be Raptured before the Tribulation? The Tribulation will be the terrible time of trouble that will come upon the world just before Christ comes back to earth to set up His Millennium Kingdom.
Matthew 24:21-22, 29-31: Then shall be great Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes (people) of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The coming of Christ will be accompanied by certain celestial phenomena that will take place "immediately after the Tribulation." We are told clearly that with the close of the Great Tribulation, Christ will appear and gather His elect from one end of heaven to the other.
From this it is obvious that the question is not whether any Christians will go through the Tribulation, but whether all the Christians will go through the Tribulation? In other words, will some of the Christians be Raptured before that time?
Notice what Paul has to say about this event in his epistle to the Thessalonians…
I Thessalonians 4:13-17: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (died), that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep (died) in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep (dead). For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet 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'!
The same event is referred to in…
I Corinthians 15: 51-52: Behold, I show (tell) you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible (imperishable), and we (also) shall be changed.
The Bible makes many references to the fact that God's people should be in watchful expectation of the coming of Christ. If the Rapture was not going to occur until after the Great Tribulation, then we would not need to be watching for the Rapture now, but we would be looking for the Tribulation to start. But, if it is clear that Christ will take all or part of the church, before the Tribulation, then our personal preparation for the Bridegroom's appearance is a pressing matter that should not be delayed.
Although practically all evangelical Christians believe in this wonderful event called the Rapture referred to by the Apostle Paul, there are sharply differing views about when it will take place. One group believes the whole church will be translated before the Tribulation. They believe that before the Tribulation takes place Christ will catch away all that are saved, removing them from the earth.
However, this view does not adequately explain certain important Scriptures that relate to the subject. The following passages clearly teach that at least some of the Christians go through the Tribulation and for this we give the following proof:
1. Daniel Shows That There Will Be Christians On Earth During The Tribulation.
The seventh chapter of Daniel tells about four great kingdoms that would arise in the earth. Out of the last kingdom, at the time of the end, there would arise "a little horn." This "little horn" is generally recognized to symbolize the AntiChrist of whom it is said…
Daniel 7:21-22 & 25: I beheld, and the same horn (the AntiChrist) made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came (Christ Returned with His Bride), and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
Daniel 7:25: And he (the AntiChrist) shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the Saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time (3½ years). Verses 11 & 22 Show that immediately afterwards "the little horn" will be destroyed and Christ and the Saints will reign.
So, the Scripture plainly shows that there will be Christians on earth during the reign of the AntiChrist. "(He) ... made war with the saints”, and "(He) ... shall wear out the saints of the most High." It is obvious that the AntiChrist could not “make war” or "wear out the saints" unless there were Christians present on the earth.
Daniel 11:31-38: And they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate (an image of the AntiChrist). And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be helped with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed. And the king (AntiChrist) shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.
This clearly shows God’s people were living on earth during the reign of the AntiChrist. And, from even a logical aspect, the concept that there will be Christians upon the earth during the Tribulation is quite probable. For example, the individuals who had been exposed to the Gospel message and previously rejected it will begin to reconsider their views in light of the appearance of the AntiChrist and other events predicted in the book of Revelation. Many who once scoffed at the Bible will, no doubt, begin to seriously seek the Lord. Being in a position of viewing fulfilled prophecy on such a dramatic scale would stimulate great numbers to believe what they previously had not.
2. Jesus Taught The Gathering Of Some Elect Takes Place At The Close Of The Tribulation.
We quoted this passage before but because of its importance we repeat it:
Matthew 24:21-22, 29-31: Then shall be great Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes (people) of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
A simple reading of these verses reveals that Christ's coming and the gathering together of some of the elect takes place after the Tribulation and not before. The Lord makes it plain that His reference is to the Great Tribulation, a time of trouble so severe that "except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." Nor could this gathering of the elect refer just to Jews. It speaks of the gathering of God's "elect ... from one end of heaven to the other." The thought expressed is that this gathering of the "elect" refers to more than the Jews; the church is also called the elect.
I Peter 1:2: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father… Grace to you, and peace...
3. Matthew & Mark Teach That A Gathering Of The Elect Will Occur After The Tribulation.
Matthew's teaching corresponds exactly to that of Mark's. The gathering of the Elect by the angels occurs "after that Tribulation." Luke 21:25-28 also teaches the same thing in different words.
Matthew 24:29-31: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his Elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:24-27: But in those days, after that Tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his Elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
Luke 21:25-28: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption (deliverance) draws near.
4. The Man Of Sin (Antichrist) Will Rise First Before The Visible Coming Of Christ.
II Thessalonians 2:3-4, 6-7: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, That you be not shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day will not come, except there come a falling away (departure) first, and that man of sin (the AntiChrist) be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself as being God. And you know what restrains him now so that he might be revealed in his time... only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall … destroy with the brightness of His coming: Even Him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.
Here again we see that the coming of Christ to set up His Kingdom on earth does not take place before the rise of the AntiChrist (also called the "man of sin" and the "son of perdition”). The Lord's coming for His believers takes place afterward. Paul emphasized that no one be misled that that day is at hand, for it cannot come until the "man of sin be revealed."
“Falling away” means “departure”, and is a reference to the Rapture. The forces of the AntiChrist are restrained on Earth until the Holy Spirit which dwells within God's Saints removes the Bride by the Rapture. With Christ's Bride removed from the scene, the AntiChrist will be released to usher the World headlong into the seven year Tribulation. Thus, this passage is saying that the day of the Lord will not come until the Rapture comes before it.
***Kenneth Wuest, a noted Greek scholar, states in his word studies an interesting point that has much to do with the catching away of the living believers. He states that the phrase “falling away” is a mistranslation of the Greek word apostasia and it should have been translated departure. According to Wuest, the Apostle Paul refers “to the gathering together of the saints to the Lord at His coming, which is the departure of the congregation from the earth.” In 2 Thessalonians 2:1: In Paul’s previous letter, he had described that event in the words, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” which involves a departure from the earth.
The root verb aphistemi is found fifteen times in the New Testament. It is translated as “depart” eleven times. Although it is often found translated in similar meanings, the predominant meaning of this verb in the New Testament … “is that of the act of a person departing from another person or from a place” … Liddell and Scott in their classical lexicon give as the second meaning of apostasia, “a departure, a disappearance.” … Dr. E. Schuyler Engish, is also an authority for the fact that the Greek word means “a departure.” He said there is a strong possibility that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is speaking of the Rapture. The Greek noun apostasia, usually translated "apostasy," is a reference to the rapture and should be translated "departure."***
5. John Saw A Huge Multitude Come Out Of The Great Tribulation.
The last verses of the seventh chapter of Revelation indicate that a multitude of Christians will live through the Tribulation. We are shown a great multitude standing before the throne of God. These are not just Israelites, for we are told that they are "of all nations.”
Revelation 7:9-10 & 13-17: After this I beheld, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, kindred, people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. And one of the elders… said to me, These are they which came out of great Tribulation, and they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb... They are before the throne of God… They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more… For the Lamb… shall lead them to living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Revelation 20:4-6: And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection.
6. The Anti-Christ Makes War With The Christians During The Tribulation.
Chapter 13 of Revelation, as most prophetic scholars agree, relates to the reign of the AntiChrist. If there were no Christians on earth during the Tribulation, the AntiChrist could hardly make war against them. But we are told that he does make war with the saints. The Book of Revelation agrees with Daniel's prophecies on this. From this and other Scriptures, we see that the evidence is that there will be some Christians on earth during the Tribulation.
Revelation 13:7: And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
Daniel 7:21: I beheld, and the same horn (the AntiChrist) made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.
7. Revelation Declares The Final Reaping By Christ Occurs After The Tribulation.
Revelation 14 shows that at this period in the Tribulation, the AntiChrist is still giving the mark of the beast; and the Christians are still being persecuted by him. In other words, the AntiChrist is reigning, the Tribulation is still on, and some Christians are yet on earth. Then as we come to Verses 14 through 16 of that chapter, we see "one ... like unto the Son of man" reaping the harvest of the earth which is evidently the harvest which follows the Great Tribulation.
Revelation 14:9-20: And the third angel followed, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God… and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone… And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever: and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying … Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from here forward:… that they may rest from their labors; and their works will follow them. And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap… for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
8. The Scripture Types Indicate A Post-Tribulation Rapture And Resurrection.
“Days” in prophetic symbolism often refer to years as seen in Numbers 14:34. The Bible speaks of a special period of "seven days" elapsing before the flood came in Genesis 7:4. Noah did not go into the ark until the end of the seven days before the flood, for we are told in Luke 17:27 that on the day that Noah entered into the ark at the end of the seven days, so at the end of the seven years of Daniel's Seventieth Week (which is the 7 year Tribulation) the Christians go into God's ark, as it were - and after that judgment takes place.
9. Judgment Came On The Day That Lot Went Out Of Sodom.
Luke 17:28-30: Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, and they built; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even so shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
The day Lot was taken out of Sodom, the terrible judgment came on the city. So likewise, the day the saints are removed from the earth, the judgments of the Great and Terrible Day of God’s Wrath begins. In other words, these take place at once after the saints are removed. The wrath of God is poured out immediately after the saints are taken out. This truth is fully substantiated in Chapters 7 and 8 of Revelation. As soon as the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord begins, there is only a slight pause until the Apocalyptic Trumpet judgments begin. Thus do the Scripture types indicate that the general harvest occurs at the end of the Tribulation.
One thing that confuses some is that the Scriptures speak of the believers' not being "appointed to wrath." If that be so, then why should any of the Christians go through the Tribulation? Confusion lies in the fact that Christians suppose that the Great Tribulation and the Great and Terrible Day of God's Wrath are the same thing. But these are two different events.
This is easily seen by looking at Matthew 24:29 in which the Great Tribulation occurs before the darkening of the sun and moon. On the other hand, the Great Day of His Wrath follows the darkening of the sun and the moon.
Some Christians Will Go Through The Tribulation,
But None Will Go Through The Day Of God's Wrath.
Acts 2:19-21: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord comes: And it shall come to pass (during this time), that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Revelation 6:12-17: I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Revelation 15:1-2 & 6-7 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them (The Tribulation Saints) that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass… And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.
Will All The Christians Go Through The Tribulation?
Having settled the fact that some Christians will go through the Great Tribulation, we now will look at the question will all Christians go through the Tribulation? Or, is there a called-out group who are caught up before the Tribulation? What is the evidence? This is a matter that should be examined closely. The answer must be based upon the entire Bible evidence, and on what God's Word says. The evidence indicates strongly that there will be a first-fruit Rapture and Resurrection before the Great Tribulation. Here is the evidence:
1. Christ Warns Us To Be Ready Because His Coming Is Imminent.
In all of Christ's warnings concerning His coming, the thought of imminency is always implied. The word "imminency" means an event is "impending." The idea intended is that we should be ready for His coming at any moment. An example of many such texts is found in Mark.
Mark 13:35-37: Watch therefore: for you know not when the Master of the house will come, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping (spiritually). And what I say to you I say to all, Watch.
Apparently from this, as well as many other similar statements by the Lord, there will be an element of surprise in the coming of Christ. Those who believe the Rapture of the Christians occurs after the Tribulation, eliminate the thought of imminency. For example, we do not consider the Great White Throne Judgment to be imminent, for we know that the thousand year Millennium must happen first. Likewise, if the Great Tribulation must occur before any Rapture takes place, then there cannot be the element of imminency. Indeed, if that were the case, then we would not be watching for Christ's coming, as He warms us to do, but rather our attention would be directed to watching for the rise of the AntiChrist and the Great Tribulation. If we are to watch for the Lord's coming only after the Tribulation, only after we have counted off the seven year Tribulation which starts with Israel signing a seven year peace treaty, and only after the 1,260 days of the AntiChrist's reign, and only then could we expect the Rapture to take place, then we would not be warned over and over again to WATCH! The strongest support of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture lies in the fact that Jesus repeatedly warned the church to be on the alert for His coming.
Matthew 24:29-30: Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened . . . and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven… (His Second Return to earth with His Saints)
Christ words on His coming surely imply imminency. The Rapture and Resurrection after the Tribulation cannot be imminent. On the other hand, the first-fruit Rapture, that takes place before the Tribulation, can be said to be imminent. This harmonizes with the words of Jesus when He said…
Mark 13:32: But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
2. The Out-Resurrection Of The Old Testament Saints.
The Scriptures speak of an out-resurrection of the Old Testament saints. The verses that refer to it are often passed over as not of special significance. Actually, they have an extremely important bearing on our subject:
Matthew 27:51-53: And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the Saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after His Resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
These verses declare there has already been an out-resurrection of the Old Testament saints. In other words, the precedent of an out-resurrection was established at this time. Moreover, this proves that the first resurrection is not an event that must all transpire at one given instant. True, the general resurrection of the righteous dead takes place at the end of the age after the Great Tribulation. But here is a resurrection of Old Testament saints that occurred right after Christ's resurrection! Not all the Old Testament saints, but " ... many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection . . ." Since there was a First-Fruit resurrection of Old Testament Saints, then the pattern or precedent is set for a First-Fruit resurrection of New Testament Christians, which we believe the Scriptures show takes place before the Great Tribulation. And with this First-Fruit Resurrection, there will be a simultaneous First-Fruit Rapture.
3. Paul Taught That There Was An Order To The Resurrection.
I Corinthians 15:22-23: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his Own order: Christ, the Firstfruits: afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming.
Here Paul shows that there is an order to the first resurrection, if every believer were resurrected at the same instant, there would be no order to the resurrection, and the above Scriptures would be meaningless: "Christ, the Firstfruits: afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming." (There are no commas in the original Greek text, and they must be supplied by the translator.) Although Christ is the First of the First-Fruits, He is not all of the First-Fruits. Revelation 14 clearly teaches that there will be a relatively large company of First-Fruit Saints, which it would appear, correspond to the First-Fruit Resurrection of Old Testament saints.
Revelation 14:4: These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the Firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.
There is an order to the first resurrection (1) Christ First; (2) A First-Fruit Resurrection of Old Testament saints; (3) A First-Fruit Resurrection and Rapture of New Testament Christians; (4) The final Harvest Resurrection after the Tribulation.
4. Paul speaks of a First-Fruit Rapture and Sought To Be In This Out-Resurrection
Paul put his all into reaching for this prize and he highly encouraged all Christians to do the same.
Philippians 3:11, 14: If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead (from among the dead) . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Study both the text and context carefully. Paul declares he was putting forth every effort to be in the out-resurrection. The Greek original reads "the resurrection from among the dead." It was a prize that Paul eagerly sought. But was all this effort put forth by the apostle simply that he might be in the general resurrection of the righteous in which every saved person will participate? "No." Paul's salvation was settled long ago. As to his personal salvation and assurance of a part in the first resurrection, he said…
II Timothy 1: 12: For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.
Paul was not seeking salvation by some strenuous and prolonged effort so that he might have a part in the general resurrection. Paul was after the prize of the out-resurrection! Of this, he says…
Philippians 3:8: I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung (rubbish), that I may win Christ ... that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection...
We too may seek for the prize of the Out-Resurrection, or Out-Rapture. Christ is coming for His Bride! Paul was running the race to obtain an imperishable crown!
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27: Do you not know that they who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate (self controlled) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible (perishable) crown; but we to obtain an incorruptible (imperishable Crown). I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
5. Christ's Promise In Luke To Those Who Pray To Be Worthy To Escape All Things.
Jesus in Chapter 21 of Luke speaks of the time of trouble that precedes the darkening of the sun and the moon and events which usher in the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. Concerning the Tribulation, Christ gave us a promise that is deeply significant. We are told that there is an escape from the great distress that is to come upon the nations. He says:
Luke 21:36: Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
This verse warrants the most careful study. It is a special promise to those believers who "watch ... and pray always." It does not appear to be a promise to the run-of-the-mill Christians, those who coast along in their Christian lives. Second, it speaks of escaping "all these things" - evidently referring both to the Tribulation period and the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord of which Christ is speaking. "All these things" imply the escaping of both events. All believers will escape the judgment of that Day of Wrath, but those who "watch . . . and pray always," will escape both. Third, Jesus speaks of being "counted worthy." No man can be "counted worthy" of salvation - it is free grace and Christ's worthiness or righteousness is accounted to us for that.
Yet, the Scriptures refer to another kind of worthiness for which the person for his efforts and labor receives certain rewards. Finally, the words "stand before the Son of man" are significant. They suggest a Rapture in which the believer is caught away "to stand before the Son of man" in the heavens. While this Scripture if it stood alone might not absolutely prove a First-Fruit Rapture, it certainly is very much in harmony with this teaching.
6. Christ's Promise To The Philadelphia Church.
Revelation 3:10, 11: Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, so that no man can take your crown.
Here is a promise to be kept from the hour of temptation which will try men who dwell on the face of the earth. The hour of temptation is not to be confused with the Great and Notable day of the Lord which does not come to try men, but to punish the wicked and to execute judgment on the world. On the other hand, the AntiChrist is permitted to try those who dwell on the face of the earth, to determine who they will serve, whether it be God or Satan. The verse appears to be a special promise to those who keep "the word of my patience." It is generally understood that the Philadelphia church symbolizes the faithful church which is in existence just before Christ's coming, in contrast to the lukewarm Laodicean church which will not be ready (Revelation. 3:7-22).
The Lord speaks of setting before this church "an open door." What does this mean? If we let Revelation explain itself, we find that the "open door" signifies, among other things, the open door of Rapture to heaven. In the very next chapter, John is caught up to heaven through the "open door" (Revelation 4: 1). Chronologically in the prophetic narrative, this catching away of the apostle is at the end of the church age and just before the Great Tribulation.
Christ also adds in His message to the Philadelphia church, the admonition, "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, so that no man can take your crown" (Revelation 3: 11). Here the coming of Christ is related to those believers who are ready to receive crowns. Not every believer will receive a crown. Some will be saved by fire. The truth in this verse is consistent with the thought of a First-Fruit Rapture. Furthermore, the Lord related these Philadelphia over-comers to those who will become "pillars" in the temple of God.
Christ declares that He will write upon him the name of His God, something which is said of the First-Fruits of Revelation 14: 1 who have the "Father's name written in their foreheads." These First-Fruits, as we shall see, are in heaven during the Great Tribulation, and this indicates that a First-Fruit Rapture has already taken place (See point 9). The Lord closes with the words, "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:13). Are we able to hear?
7. The 24 Elders In Heaven Who Wear Crowns Before The Great Tribulation Reflect A First-Fruit Rapture.
We have mentioned John's being caught up to heaven through the "open door." This "door" that is opened in heaven, and the voice of the "trumpet" calling him, speak of a Rapture. John the Beloved, one of the Apostles, who will sit on one of the thrones of Israel (Matthew 19 :28) is apparently a representative of the First-Fruit Rapture and Resurrection before the Tribulation. For the Tribulation does not come until Chapter 6 of Revelation.
Now the scene that John sees is that of 24 elders who sit on thrones and who declare that they shall reign as kings and priests on earth (Revelation 5:10). These elders either have been Raptured or have received Resurrected bodies. Crowns are not given to disembodied spirits. Therefore, a Rapture has certainly taken place in the scene presented in Revelation 4. Since the Harvest Rapture has not yet taken place and will not take place until after the Great Tribulation, this must represent a First-Fruit Rapture.
8. The 144,000 First-Fruits Of Revelation 14 Appear In Heaven During The Tribulation.
In Revelation 14, we are shown 144,000 on Mt. Zion. We are told that they are the First-Fruits to God, and no guile is found in their mouth, and they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These are not Tribulation Christians, for we are told that the Great Tribulation is still on, and people on earth are still receiving the mark of the beast (Revelation 14:9-10). They are, therefore, of the First-Fruit Rapture. They have the name of God written upon them, as promised to the Philadelphia church (Revelation 3:12). They sing a new song before the throne; they are without fault before the throne of God; and they follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
Revelation 14:1, 3-4: And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads… These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the Firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.
On the other hand, the Tribulation harvest is not seen until Verses 14-16 of Revelation 14, at which time the Son of man comes and reaps the harvest of the earth:
Revelation 14: 14-16: And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Notice in Revelation 14, that the 144,000 on the Mount Zion in Heaven are not the same company as those in Revelation 7. The only similarity between the two companies is their number and that they have the seal of God in their foreheads which probably will be true of all God's people (Rev. 22:3-4). The 144,000 of Revelation 7 are only Israelites while the 144,000 of Revelation 14 are redeemed from the earth, from among men.
The 144,000 Israelites are living on earth during the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord and need protection by sealing (Rev. 7:3). On the other hand, the 144,000 First-Fruits are already in heaven at that time before the throne of God (Rev. 14:4-5).
Earthly Zion could not contain 144,000 people. The 144,000 Israelites on earth live near, not on, the earthly Zion which, at the most, could hold only a few thousand people. We can safely assume that there is plenty of room for 144,000 saints on the heavenly Zion as well as an "immeasurable company of angels."
With the 144,000 of Revelation 7 still on earth during the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, while the 144,000 of Revelation 14 are in heaven during the Great Tribulation and the events which precede the Day of the Lord, then it is obvious that the two companies are not identical.
9. The Enoch And Noah Type Indicates Rapture Before Tribulation.
We have at least two types in the Old Testament which indicate a Rapture before the Tribulation. Enoch is a type of the First-Fruit Rapture.
Genesis 5:24: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
His translation took place well before the flood; therefore, it is a type of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
Noah, on the other hand, is a type of the Tribulation Christians. Seven days before the flood, Noah gathered the animals into the ark (Genesis 7:1-4). Those "seven days" correspond to Daniel's Seventieth Week, the last half of which is the Great Tribulation. In prophecy a day often symbolizes a year (Numbers 14:33). At the end of "seven days" the great judgment of the flood came, which is a type of the Great Day of the Lord.
Matthew 24: 37-39: But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were: eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Noah and his family in the ark were raised up with the ark above the judgment of the flood and so became a type of the Tribulation Harvest that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24:29-31.
The Tribulation Christians rise after the Tribulation and are not caught in the judgment of the Day of the Lord. (Some see Noah and his family as a type of Israel sealed. This may also be true. Christ, however, likens Noah's going into the ark as a type of His Second Coming.)
10. Elijah Is A Type Of The First-Fruit Rapture.
II Kings 2: 11: And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by whirlwind into heaven.
Types standing alone should not be used to establish doctrine, but they are contributory evidence. Elijah as a type indicates a First-Fruit Rapture. He was taken up to heaven and Elisha was left behind. "One shall be taken and the other left." On the other hand, Elisha would appear to be a type of the Tribulation Christians.
The translation of Elijah resulted in great excitement and controversy. The sons of the prophets demanded that a search be instituted for the missing Elijah. They apparently thought it was a case of supernatural transportation and that the Spirit had merely snatched Elijah away and deposited him on a mountain somewhere:
II Kings 2: 16-17: And they said to him, Behold now, there be with your servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek your master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, You shall not send. And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
Although Elisha permitted them to search for three days, the sons of the prophets found him not. Using the prophetic scale of a day for a year, we can see that the three-day search symbolizes the three years of the Great Tribulation, in which people will be searching for missing loved ones but will not be finding them.
During the Tribulation the wicked will mock the people of God as did the bold youths of Bethel who taunted Elisha with the words, "Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head" (II Kings 2:23)-a daring mockery of Elijah's translation. But two bears suddenly "came . . . out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them" (II Kings 2: 24). (Notice: the number 42 is associated with the AntiChrist Reign during the Tribulation which lasts 42 months.) Elisha is obviously a type of the Christians who are not translated before the Tribulation. Nevertheless, there was resurrection power in Elisha's bones. After his death a dead man came in contact with his bones, and the man revived and stood upright on his feet (II Kings 13: 21). Many of the Tribulation Christians will die as martyrs to be gathered in the resurrection harvest.
There is one more important scriptural evidence that pertains to the subject of the Rapture of the Christians and that is the prophecy of the Sun-Clothed Woman and the Manchild of Revelation 12.
The Woman Clothed With The Sun And The Rapture Of The Manchild
Revelation 12:1-4: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a Woman clothed with the Sun and the Moon under her feet, and upon her head a Crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
The interpretation of the symbol of the sun-clothed woman is a crucial one in understanding prophecy. Some say she represents Israel. Others say that she represents the church. There is no doubt that she is a symbol of Israel, but she represents more than national Israel. The sun-clad woman represents the true church, the called out ones of all ages, whom Satan ever persecutes in his effort to destroy her seed. She was the "'church in the wilderness" when Israel escaped Pharaoh and fled from Egypt (Acts 7: 35). The sun-clad woman represents the church of all dispensations in age-long conflict with Satan. This is shown in the fact that the Great Red Dragon in the symbolism has seven crowns upon his seven heads, thus indicating the whole period of history. (There will be altogether seven world-wide Gentile kingdoms during this age.)
The church and Israel are distinct, yet interwoven together in God's redemption plan and are more closely related than we realize. The early church was in fact composed almost entirely of Jews at its inception. It took on the Gentile aspect only after the apostle Paul received his commission to minister to the Gentiles. Paul saw Israel and the church as distinct entities, yet both a part of the same olive tree (Romans 11:23-25).
Israel and the church flowed together at the beginning of the church dispensation and diverged only when the Jewish nation filled to the full her cup of iniquity by rejecting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). At the end of the age when Israel's national restoration takes place, the people will accept Him whom they have pierced, and we shall see a regrafting of Israel into the same olive tree as the church-although of course the two will still have distinctive identities and missions.
The sun-clad woman, as she represents God's people at the end of the age, certainly includes the church. First, she is a heavenly sign. The church, although on earth, sits in heavenly places with Christ Jesus: "And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2: 6). She holds this position not without conflict, for she must wrestle with Satan and his angels which are also in high places (Eph. 6: 12).
Second, the woman is "clothed with the sun." The sun is a symbol of Christ who is our righteousness (Mal. 4: 2).
Third, the moon is under her feet. This expression shows that the church is in the heavens as well as on earth. Solomon says, "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?" (Songs 6:10). This is a picture of the church clothed with the sun, fair as the moon, set as an army in a spiritual warfare against the powers of evil.
She also has a crown of 12 stars. Revelation 1:20 shows us that stars symbolize the leaders of the church, as well as those of Israel. The twelve stars answer to the twelve apostles of the Lamb: Notice one thing more: The dragon's seven heads, which represent the seven successive world empires, are all crowned. The woman therefore has been in existence during this entire period. However, the ten horns are not crowned as we see they will be in Revelation 13:1. This shows that in point of time Revelation 12 is just before the Great Tribulation. For in Revelation 13 the ten horns of the kingdom of the AntiChrist are crowned, showing that by then the Tribulation has arrived.
Now, we notice that the sun-clothed woman is in travail. She brings forth a Manchild who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron. While this Manchild does symbolize Christ in a retro-prophetic way, this is not the primary fulfillment. The prophecy was, in fact, given over sixty years after Christ ascended to heaven. It just could not be a prophecy if it referred only to the past. Prophecy refers to the future.
Rev. 12:5- 6: And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
In the light of the above fact, it is obvious that this prophecy refers primarily to a Manchild Company of overcomers who are to rule the nations with a rod of iron:
Revelation 2:26-27: And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
This Manchild Company, it is to be noted, is caught up to heaven, just before the Great Tribulation begins. The Manchild cannot be a primary symbol of Christ at this point, for He was caught up to heaven 1900 years before. The Rapture of the Manchild Company at this time is powerful proof that there is a First-Fruit Rapture just before the Great Tribulation. Notice also that after the Manchild is caught up to the throne of God, the woman undergoes a change of position. Satan now persecutes the woman. She is no longer in the heavenlies but is seen on earth, exceedingly weakened by the birth of the Manchild. The Tribulation church no longer sits in the heavenlies, but the Christians, "the remnant of her seed," are left on earth to contend with the powers of hell which are now cast into their midst. The Manchild Company is to be caught up to heaven, and the rest of the seed of the woman is to be left on earth, fulfilling the words of Jesus, "the one shall be taken, and the other left." Satan's persecution of the seed of the woman is accomplished through the Beast who now comes on the scene. His war is not only against believing Jews but against the saints of "all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues."
The Parable of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13: Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten Virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom comes; go out to meet Him. Then all those Virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, give us some of your oil; for our lamps have gone out. But the wise answered, saying, No, there may not be enough for us and you: but you go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the Bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterwards the other Virgins came, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say to you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of man comes.
The Parable of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins is one that deals directly with Christ as the Bridegroom coming for His bridal party. Christ depicts the church as ten virgins waiting for the arrival of the Bridegroom, only half of which will be ready when the Bridegroom comes. The term "virgins" as a symbol always has a good connotation, standing for those separated from the world: "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (II Cor. 11:2). Again in Revelation 14 the First-Fruits to God are spoken of as "virgins." "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb" (Rev. 14:4).
The term "virgins" when used symbolically in the Scriptures does not refer to the married state but rather to separation from the world. The ten virgins represent the true believers of the church of Jesus Christ. That is, they are saved people. They are said to have taken their lamps and have gone out to meet the Bridegroom. The psalmist says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psa. 119: 105). By means of the light of God's Word, they were able to go forth and watch for the approach of the Bridegroom.
Since all of the ten are virgins, what then distinguishes the foolish from the wise? We are told that the foolish failed to take oil in their vessels with their lamps, while the wise did. Oil in the Scriptures is a type of the Holy Spirit. The elders are commanded to anoint the sick with oil. "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5: 14). The oil in itself has no power to heal but rather signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit to heal.
It is God's purpose that His Spirit shall flow continually through and overflow from the innermost beings of His people (John 7: 37 -38). Our lights can be kept burning only when the oil of the Holy Spirit is being constantly replenished. Neglect can cause the supply to diminish.
Paul in II Corinthians 4:7 speaks of our bodies as "earthen vessels" which dissolve after death (II Cor. 5: 1), and that at the resurrection "an house not made with hands" will replace it. But while we are in this world, this "earthen vessel" holds "the earnest of the Spirit." "'Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit" (II Cor. 5: 5). The wise virgins recognized the need of keeping oil in their vessels. The foolish virgins realized the importance of the lamps, but they neglected to keep oil in them.
All ten virgins went out to meet the Bridegroom - that is they were looking for the return of Christ. But there was an unexpected delay. But although there may be unexpected delays, the church must not become discouraged and allow its devotion to wane. She is to be ready whether the Bridegroom should come at morning, noon, or night (Mark 13:35-37).
Finally, as the parable declares, the Bridegroom did come at the midnight hour, which is the darkest hour of the night. And surely the world today is plunged into a dark hour indeed. When the cry came that the Bridegroom was coming, all the virgins arose, and there was a great lamp-trimming. But, alas, the foolish virgins discovered that their lamps had gone out. They had failed to take along a supply of oil. The foolish sought to borrow from the wise, but the latter responded saying that they had only enough for themselves and admonished the others to go and buy from those that sell. This shows that we must constantly replenish the oil in our vessels, and we cannot rely on someone else's blessing or even our own past blessings to make us ready for the coming of Christ. The lamps of the days of Christ were large enough only to hold oil for one night.
But can the Holy Spirit be purchased? Not with money, of course. Yet no one can say that the Spirit-filled life costs nothing. It has cost many Christians their very lives. True discipleship may cost a man all that he has in this world.
Luke 14:26-30: If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother; and wife, and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Christ taught His followers to count the cost. While salvation and the infilling of the Spirit are free, full discipleship demands that we count the cost and be willing to forsake all, or whatever may be necessary to win Christ:
Philippians 3: 7, 8: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
We are told that while the foolish virgins went to buy oil "the door was shut." What does this mean? Revelation 4: 1 speaks of "a door was opened in heaven" and John was caught up into the throne room. The "open door" signifies Rapture. When a door is opened in heaven, those who are ready may pass through. When it is closed, none may enter. This is what happened in the case of the foolish virgins.
There is no doubt that when the Rapture takes place, it will result in the greatest soul-searching the church has ever known. The day of "playing church" will be over, and there will be a tremendous overhauling of Christian experience. People will urgently seek God and the infilling of the Spirit which apparently will be still available until the beginning of the Day of the Lord (Acts 2: 16-21). But it will be too late to participate in the First-Fruit Rapture.
So the Lord had to say to the foolish virgins, "I know you not." He did not say as He said to the hypocrites. "I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity" (Matt. 7: 23). He did not call the virgins "workers of iniquity," neither did He say, "I never knew you." His words are in the present tense, "I know you not." He indeed knew them as believers who accepted Him as Savior. But at this particular hour He had come as Bridegroom. He could not recognize them as members of the bridal party.
The whole teaching of the parable is that those who would be among the First-Fruits to God, those who would be "virgins ... without fault before the throne of God" must make themselves ready. These are the ones who will make up the Manchild Company of believers. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we see the words of Christ portrayed, "One shall be taken, and the other left."
What Will Be The Effect Of The Rapture On The World?
It is not too difficult to imagine what happens on earth when the Manchild Company is taken out. "The birth of the Manchild into immortality takes out of the world some of the best material in it. With the most devoted of God's saints being caught away to God, and to His throne, the earth is left minus the presence, prayers, activities of reaching out to the lost, and the moral forces of these saints. The removal of these faithful ones to their Lord dilutes the salt of the earth . . So while heaven thrills with rejoicing over the devil and his angels defeat there, his ejection to earth causes a sad note of woe and pity for dwellers there.
Revelation 12:12 : Woe to the earth and the sea! because the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.
What will happen on earth after this supernatural event of the Rapture takes place? One thing to consider is that the First-Fruit Harvest will be a comparatively small number of people in comparison to the world's population.
Certainly the First-Fruit Rapture will be different from that which has often been portrayed, which was that great masses of Christians would suddenly be taken from the earth.
We believe that the picture has been vastly overdrawn with many planes without pilots going into screaming nose-dives; locomotives without engineers wildly pursuing their courses to head-on collisions; great numbers of people suddenly vanishing from public gatherings, and so forth.
The indication is that the First-Fruit Rapture includes what the name implies, a comparatively small group of overcomers, those who "follow the Lamb wherever he goes."
The Effect Of The Rapture On Those Left Behind
One thing is certain: Life will go on and people will adjust themselves to the mystery or rationalize the event to suit their particular way of thinking. A sin-hardened heart is not suddenly brought to repentance by an amazing wonder. Jesus, in relating Abraham's conversation with the rich man in hades, tells of Dives' request that Lazarus be sent to his father's house to warn his brethren against coming to that place. Abraham replied, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16: 31).
Some, no doubt, will be filled with remorse when they realize that they have missed the prize. Others will be hardened. The Scriptures are not without evidence concerning the events which follow the Rapture. Here are some considerations.
1. What will be the effect of the Rapture on the Christians left behind?
In the days of Elijah, the sons of the prophets had a premonition that the prophet would be translated (II Kings 2:5). Yet when the event occurred, they were not ready to believe that it had taken place. They were not convinced that Elijah had gone all the way to heaven. Like Obadiah, they thought that the prophet probably had been transported to another place (I Kings 18:12). Despite Elisha's protestations, they insisted on a three-day search (II Kings 2: 16). Of course they did not find Elijah.
(Could those "three days" foreshadow or speak of people searching for their loved ones for up to three years of the Great Tribulation?)
Certainly there will be many who will rationalize the strange disappearance of God's people in a way that will be in harmony with what they want to believe. Then too, there is the instance of supernatural transportation as in the case of Philip, so people may be inclined to believe that the Raptured Christians have been merely transported to another place, as the sons of the prophets supposed concerning Elijah.
2. With others, however, the event will result in heartbreaking soul searching.
Too late they realize that they have neglected the repeated warnings of the Lord Jesus Christ to be ready for His Coming. "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25: 13). This warning was given at the conclusion of the Parable of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins, in which Jesus plainly showed that a substantial part of professing Christians who will be waiting for the Bridegroom will not be ready when He comes. "And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage" (Verse 10).
Luke 21:36: Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
With many, after the Rapture, there will come the bitter realization that they have failed to be among the five wise virgins, and there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Though they then resolve to resist the AntiChrist at all costs, they must live in the realization that they have missed the prize.
All this is a sobering matter. The Christians who remain on earth during the Great Tribulation may also expect some such kind of personal persecution. It will not be easy for them to meet the mocking taunts of the world or the scorn of some asking why they were left behind.
3. Yet, it is likely that much of the sobering effect of the Rapture will be neutralized by supernatural or uncanny happenings associated with the AntiChrist.
The devil will have his superman, the son of perdition, on the scene. "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (II Thessalonians2:9).
These lying wonders will astonish the world. Apparently there will be some kind of pseudo-resurrection of the Beast. We are told that the Beast was "as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast" (Rev. 13:3).
This lying miracle, a wound unto death, and the demonstration of the Beast's return to life will be of a nature to astonish and to amaze the world, whatever the miracle is. As Satan moved in the days of Moses through the magicians to mimic the miracles of God, so we may be sure that Satan has plans to confuse people, so that the effect of the Rapture will be neutralized as much as is possible.
Some Questions Answered About The Pre-Tribulation Rapture
It is sometimes said that I Thessalonians 4:13-17 indicates that the Rapture and first Resurrection all occur at one instant and that there is no place for partial Raptures and Resurrections. But the facts indicate otherwise. In the first place there has already taken place a partial Old Testament resurrection (Matt. 27:51-52). If that resurrection is not part of the first resurrection, then of which one is it?
That the text in I Thessalonians 4:13-17 indicates that all events of the first resurrection must take place at one instant is not consistent with good Bible interpretation. For example…
John 5: 28-29: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil. to the resurrection of damnation.
These verses might just as well be taken to indicate that the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked dead takes place at the same hour, and some indeed actually so teach it. But Revelation 20:5 makes it clear that 1000 years elapse between the two resurrections.
Moreover, as we have noted before, Paul definitely speaks of an order to the resurrection (I Cor. 15:23). If it all occurs at one instant, there would be no order to it. He said the first-fruits come first, then afterward those that are His at His coming. And Paul himself declares that he is striving to have a part in the out-resurrection.
But Wouldn’t A First-Fruit Rapture Divide The Body Of Christ?
If there is a Rapture which takes place before the Tribulation, the church or Body of Christ will be divided; some will be on earth and some in heaven, so this cannot be true, since there is only one body.
A little reflection will show that this objection is not valid. All through the ages, some believers have been dying and going to paradise, while others still remain on earth. This is true at this present moment. A difference in geographical location, therefore, cannot divide the body of Christ. Nor does the unity of the body imply that varied positions of rank and reward will not be given to the different members. Indeed, we know that some believers will have no reward at all.
We all agree, Christ is the Head of the church and the most important member of the mystical body. Yet He ascended to heaven over 1900 years ago. It must be conceded that this ascension to heaven did not divide the body of Christ; neither will the Rapture of the First-Fruits do so.
Can The Church Be Symbolized By A Woman With Child?
It is sometimes objected that the sun-clad woman who gives birth to the Manchild could not represent he church, since a married woman is never used to symbolize the church; therefore, the figure of a travailing woman cannot represent the church. In answer, may we note that this symbol of the sign woman is not used of the New Testament church solely, but of the church of all ages. Nevertheless, those who regard the New Testament church as not having the office of spiritual maternity are mistaken. John, the writer of the Book of Revelation speaks of the church as "the elect lady and her children" (II John 1:1).
The duty and responsibility of the church in every age has involved travail for spiritual children. The Apostle Paul, who stands first in the bringing forth of the Gentile church speaks to the Galatians who were not showing the fruits of true believers saying…
Galatians. 4:19: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.
Paul shows that the church is not as Israel under the law .
Galatians 4:26: But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The apostle then goes on to say that the barren bears more than she which has a husband!
Galatians 4:27: For it is written, Rejoice, you barren that bears not; break forth and cry, you that travails not: for the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.
It is obvious that Paul is not trying to show that the church is married, but rather that she is bearing more children than she which has a husband. These are spiritual children, of course, and the travail is in the Spirit. In the case of the sun-clothed woman, physical birth is not implied but rather birth to a higher sphere of a company of true overcomers.
Why Are The First-Fruits Taken Before The Great Tribulation?
The above question is, we believe, one of the upmost serious to every believer. Its answer should have the effect of causing us to consecrate our lives to Christ as we never have before. Is being in the First-Fruits company a reward? Yes, being included can be considered the highest reward in Heaven. Christ said…
Luke 21:36: Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
The promise to the Philadelphia church that it would be kept "from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Rev. 3:11) teaches the same thing. Indeed the promise is associated with receiving a "crown."
Revelation 3: 10: I come quickly: hold fast to what you have, so that no man can take your Crown.
The popular view that the Raptured Christians are taken to heaven merely to escape the trials of the Great Tribulation altogether misses the point. Those of the Smyrna church, for example, who suffered bloody persecution during the days of pagan Rome did not consider their sufferings as punishment. Indeed, they were Christ's martyr saints. The Lord knew their "Tribulation and poverty" and told them that they were rich. Christ encouraged them to be faithful unto death, promising them that "I will give you a crown of life" (Rev. 2:9-10). Indeed there are those today who have suffered greatly in communist countries, who might be excused for supposing that they are already in the Great Tribulation.
1. But there is a circumstance associated with the first Rapture that has been largely overlooked. It is highly probable that those who participate in the First-Fruit company will be given responsibilities of such a high level that they will need special training.
To a large extent the scenes and activities in paradise have been withheld from us. Paul apparently saw things in paradise that were amazing, but of which he was not permitted to speak lest it would lead to endless speculation on the part of earth-dwellers.
Nevertheless, we may well assume that in the next life men continue to learn and prepare themselves for activities in the ages to come. Despite the fact that most of these things have been withheld from us, enough has been revealed to show us that the believers in relation to the position they have won will be given responsibilities of an ascending order. For example, we know that the believers are going to judge the world. Paul says.....
1 Corinthians 6: 2: Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
This judgment committed to the Christians is clearly shown in Psalms.
Psalms 149:5-9: Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron: To execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all His saints. Praise you the Lord.
2. Notice the first-fruits company that is on Mount Zion. They follow the Lamb "wherever He goes." Wherever Christ goes, they go. His task becomes their task. They participate in His secret counsels. There are many duties to be carried out on a high level. Observe the varied activities of the twenty-four elders.
First of all, they join in the great worship scene (Rev. 4: 9-11; 5: 8-10). They cast their crowns before the throne; they sing and play on harps of gold; they are custodians of the vials of the prayers of the saints in preparation for their offering to God (Rev. 5:8). They act in a priestly capacity. They explain certain mysteries to John (Rev. 5:5; 7:13-14). They are present before the company of the 144,000 on Mt. Zion (Rev. 14:3).
John, himself, is kept busy in various ways. Though he is recorder of the Book of Revelation, in addition he is given the task of measuring the temple of God and those that worship therein (Rev. 11:1-2). As an official representative of the church, his act typifies how the believers will measure the inhabitants of the earth with the rod of judgment.
3. We are told that the Manchild Company will "rule all nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12:5). With such a task before them, there is good reason why they should experience prior Rapture to heaven, so that they may be ready for their great work.
Christ is the head of the Manchild Company, which will rule the nations; but He will have many rulers under Him in carrying out this responsibility.
4. But probably of the most immediate importance, the Man-child Company will participate in the displacement of Satan and his angels from the heavenlies. It is at the time that the Manchild Company is caught up to heaven that the great final battle in the heavenlies will begin. Michael and his angels will fight the dragon. But they will not accomplish the task alone. The Christians will participate in this historic event:
Revelation 12:11-12: 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. Therefore rejoice you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.
In reading this passage we see that together with the blood of Christ and the power of the angelic host, the word of the over-comer's testimony is required. There is a moral conflict as well as a physical conflict. We who live on earth are not able to comprehend fully this great conflict in the heavenlies. But praying believers know something of the reality of it. Daniel knew the meaning of the conflict when he wrestled for twenty-one days against the prince of Persia.
Paul tells us that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high (heavenly) places." It is the Christians who have learned to battle Satan in the heavenlies, in their prayer life, who will be useful in that great final battle that is to come, just before the Great Tribulation begins.
Yes, the Christians who are in the First-Fruit Rapture will have tasks allotted them. They are invaluable to Christ in assisting Him in displacing Satan from the heavenlies. Far from taking repose in the happy realms of paradise, the First-Fruits are with Christ in the heat of the conflict.
Saints who are not yet resurrected may indeed rest from their labors. But while they rest Christ and His First-Fruit company will round up the forces of evil and bring to naught the armies of the Beast. Christ will judge the nations, but He chooses to do it with the help of His chosen vessels.
And thus do we see the reason for which Christ will Rapture those who are the first-fruits to God and who will follow Him wherever He goes.