There is a lot of fuss in our day on the subject of the so-called Rapture of the Church. The teaching that prevails in Protestantism (Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches) today, is that the true faithful will be swept up to the heavens, BEFORE the appearance of the Antichrist and BEFORE the outbreak of the Great Tribulation upon the inhabitants of the Earth, and also BEFORE the Second coming of Christ. This ";rapture"; has become the theme for books, for sermons, for video movies ...;.
Here is what they assert: ";This event that is known as ";THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH"; is an entirely different event to the glorious, second return of Jesus. The Coming of Jesus to muster His Church will be an invisible one; He will come, and will meet with His saints in the air. It is during His second coming that ";every eye shall behold Him"; (Revelations, A:7); He will be visible over the entire face of the Earth and shall come with His angels and His saints (whom He will have already mustered), to judge the world. These two events are apparently seven years apart. These are the seven years in which mankind will live its most tragic historical moments, under the rule of the universal Dictator. The coming of Jesus Christ to muster His saints will take place before the period of the great tribulation, while His second, glorious coming with His heavenly hosts (Revelations, 19) will take place at the end of the great tribulation ...;"; (MARTIAL CONFLICTS OF END TIMES -; Alk. Tzelepis, page 240-241; the highlighting is ours). This is why they promise: ";If you follow Jesus Christ, you can be sure that you will not undergo the Great Tribulation'; during the Antichrist';s rule over the entire world, because Jesus will come, and He will take away with Him all the truly faithful ones"; (Pamphlet ";THE MAJOR EVENTS TODAY -; Antichrist & 666";)
But, we wonder, does the Holy Bible support these beliefs? If we really love the truth, then we have nothing to fear from this survey. If we really want to please God, we have to be sure that we are following the true biblical teaching, and not any other teachings or deceptions.
Is the Rapture an event apart from the Second Coming?
The followers of the theory ";Rapture before the Great Tribulation"; maintain that the Rapture and the Second Coming are two different events, with a time difference of 3 ½ to 7 years between them. Let';s take a look at the biblical excerpt that they invoke:
";On the basis of the Lord';s teaching, we tell you this: We who will still be alive during the Lord';s Coming, will not precede those who will have died, when meeting with Jesus; Because the Lord Himself, on His command with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God, will descend from heaven and those who died faithful in Christ will be resurrected first. Then we who are still alive will be swept up in the clouds along with them, to meet the Lord in the air during His coming. That way, we shall be forever with the Lord. (Thessalonians I, 4:15-17, New Bible Translation of the Bible Company in he popular language -; NMB)
Here we notice that the rapture'; takes place during the Lord';s coming'; (verse 15), and not earlier! This is a point that is overlooked by all the rapture-prior-to-the-Great-Tribulation'; preachers! The rapture of Christians will take place during the Lord';s Coming';, and not 3 ½ or 7 years earlier. Furthermore, the resurrection of the dead -;which precedes the rapture of the living- also takes place during the Second Coming: ";Christ was resurrected first, then all those who are His shall be resurrected on the day of His Coming (Corinthians I, 15:23, NMB). So, if the resurrection of the dead also takes place during the Second Coming, then those who preach that the rapture supposedly takes place earlier, are teaching contrary to the very Bible that they claim to adhere to! Therefore, the rapture of the Church is not an event apart from the Second Coming of Christ, but one and the same.
Another thing that confirms this fact is the number of comings of Christ. If the teachers of the rapture-prior-to-the-Great-Tribulation'; were right, then we would have a Second and a Third Coming of Christ; one Coming for the rapture, and one for the Final Judgment. Yet the Holy Bible clearly states that the Coming of the Lord that we await is ONLY ONE:
· Just as a lightning bolt appears in the east and can be seen as far as the west, such will be the appearance of the son of man (Matthew 27, text)
· Just as in the days of Noah, thus will be the appearance of the son of man (Matthew 37)
· What is our hope, or joy, or wreath of boasting, or even our standing before our Lord Jesus Christ at His Coming? (Thessalonians I, 2:19).
· We say this to you in the word of the Lord, that we the living, who are left behind during the coming of the Lord, shall not catch up with the deceased (Thessalonians I, 4:15)
All of these passages mention a ONE and ONLY Coming of Christ. It is during this ONE coming of the Lord -; the Second Coming -; that the rapture'; of the Church will take place: ";Thus Christ, after having sacrificed Himself once, in order to take all our sins upon Himself, will appear a second time: not to confront sin, but to save those who await Him"; (Hebrews, 9:28, NMB). Christ will take His Church with Him during His Second Coming, and not earlier, as the rapture theory'; teaches.
Refuting the ";biblical"; arguments on the Rapture';
The rapture'; teachers insist that the Church will be swept up to the heavens, before the appearance of the Antichrist on Earth, and before the outbreak of the Great Tribulation.
So, where do they rest this theory? Let';s take a look at some of the passages that they invoke.
Thessalonians II, 2:5-7. They assert that the obstacle that hinders the appearance of the Antichrist is the Church, or the Holy Spirit that is in the Church. This is why they say that only when the Church departs - during the rapture -; can the Antichrist appear. But the argument that the obstacle or ";the one who knows"; (Thessalonians II, 2:7, text) is the Church or the Holy Spirit inside the Church is unsubstantiated. The recipients of this epistle were aware -from Paul';s verbal teaching- who ";the one who knows"; was: ";Don';t you remember that I had told you these things while I was still with you? And now you know what that is, which hinders him, so that he may appear when his time comes"; (Thessalonians II, 2:5-6, NMB). They knew; we don';t. We can only speculate. But, if we read the 3 first verses of that chapter, every doubt will be dispelled as to whether the Church will be swept away before the Antichrist or not:
";My brethren, regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our reunion with Him, we beseech you, do not allow them to disturb your mind so quickly, nor allow yourselves to be upset by those who insist that the day of the Lord is supposedly close at hand. Do not believe them when they invoke either a revelation of the Spirit or words or epistles that supposedly come from us. Let no-one deceive you in any manner. Because that day will not come, unless first of all apostasy sets in, and the man of sin is revealed: the one who is destined for perdition"; (Thssalonians II, 2:-3, NMB). What do we see here? Many and amazing things!
The things that Paul speaks of concern the Second Coming and ";our reunion with Him"; (Thessalonians II, 2:1, text). The rapture'; takes place at the time of Christ';s Second Coming, and not earlier. And we are warned, not to be deceived by anyone, as he had foreseen that there would be false teaching on this matter. And he says in a very clear-cut way, that the day of the Lord will not come (meaning the 2nd Coming and our reunion with Him -; see verse 1), unless first of all the Antichrist is revealed. So, the Antichrist must first appear, then will the Second Coming and our reunion with Him take place.
Thessalonians I, 1:10 and Revelations , 3:10. The first verse says that we expect Christ to descend, ";who will save us from the imminent wrath";. The rapture'; followers say that this only proves the Church will leave before the Great Tribulation, during which the wrath of God will erupt. First of all, the ";imminent wrath"; does not necessarily imply the Great Tribulation. With this term, the New Testament is referring to the punishment of the unrepentant and disrespectful during the Day of Judgment (Romans 2:5-8; Revelations 14:10). But even if Paul had the Great Tribulation in mind, there is nothing in this verse that indicates the protection of the Church is it departure from this world. In the second verse, God says to the Church of Philadelphia ";because you have preserved the word of my forbearance, I too shall preserve you from the hour of temptation that is destined to come upon the entire universe, to test those who inhabit the earth."; The followers of rapture'; insist that the Church of Philadelphia symbolizes the Church of the Rapture, which is something totally arbitrary; the Church of Philadelphia was an actual, local Church at the time that John was writing the Book of Revelations. Then they insist that the protection of the Church ";from the hour of temptation"; implies ";beyond the hour of temptation";, therefore the Church will be protected by its sweeping out of this world (rapture), before the Great Tribulation. They are mistaken about the significance of the word ";from";, because Jesus Christ Himself had stated: ";I do not ask you to withdraw them from the world, but to preserve them from evil. (John 17:15, text) The phraseology of these two verses is similar, but here, it is obvious that the preservation of the faithful occurs within the world, and not beyond it! He states this very clearly: ";I beseech you, not to take them from the world, but to preserve them from the devil"; (NMB)
Consequently, God preserves the Church within the world, even during the time of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. Besides, Jesus promised He would be with us ";until the end of the world"; (Matthew 28:20, NMB).
Revelations, 4:1. The rapture'; followers maintain that because a voice told John ";come up here, so that I might show you what will happen after these things";, this symbolizes the moment of the Church';s rapture! That is why -;they say- the Church is absent in the 14 following chapters, because it has been swept up to the heavens. First of all, it is nowhere evident that John';s ascent represents the rapture'; of the entire Church. This is an entirely arbitrary assertion. If John';s ascent symbolizes the rapture, then what does John';s return (Revelations, 10:1, 18:1) to the earth-shaking events on earth symbolize? Secondly, they are deceived when they claim that the Church supposedly doesn';t exist in the following chapters, for the reason that there is a mention of saints who are persecuted by the Antichrist! (Revelations, 13:7-10)
Will the rapture'; take place before the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation?
The assertion that Christians will escape the Great Tribulation because they will be swept up to the heavens before the appearance of the Antichrist is also not founded in the Bible. The truth is that Christians will pass through the Great Tribulation and the period of Antichrist';s domination. This is clearly proclaimed by the Holy Bible:
· The ";horn";, the Antichrist, ";waged war against the saints and overpowered them";. (Daniel,7:21) The saints are still on Earth during the time of the Antichrist, otherwise, how could he possibly persecute them? ";It was also permitted to him to wage war against the saints and to defeat them ...;.. This is where the patience and the faith of the saints will show";. (Revelation 13: 7,10, Vellas). ";Here shall appear the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus (Revelations, 14:12). The Church is definitely upon the Earth during the Great Tribulation and is going to be persecuted relentlessly by the Antichrist and the False Prophet, as we can clearly discern in The Holy Bible.
· ";And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall become darkened and the moon shall not shine, and the stars shall fall from the sky and the forces of the heavens will be shaken. And then will appear in the heavens the sign of the Son of man and all the races of the earth shall lament, and they shall see the Son of man coming astride the clouds of heaven with enormous power and glory. And He shall send His angels with a big trumpet to summon His chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other end."; (Matthew 24:29-31, B. Vellas Translation) After the Great Tribulation, the Second Coming and the rapture'; (the mustering of the chosen ones) will take place. Therefore, how contrary to our Lord Jesus Christ are they who preach the falsity that the rapture'; will supposedly take place before the Great Tribulation and before the Antichrist! The words of the Lord are so obvious: they dissolve every deception and false teaching.
· In the parable of the weeds, the Lord is asked about the weeds that sprouted along with the wheat, and He replied: ";Let both of them grow together until harvesting time, and when the hour of harvesting comes, I shall tell the harvesters: First gather the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burnt, but the wheat you must gather into my storehouse'; (Matthew 13:30, NMB). In His explanation of the parable, Jesus said: ";Well, just as the weeds are gathered and burnt in the fire, so it shall be during the end of the world. The Son of man will send His angels and they shall reap from the place of His kingdom those who cause the downfall of others and do things contrary to God';s law, and throw them into the kiln of fire. There they shall weep and grind their teeth. Then the pious ones will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whomsoever has ears to listen, let him hearken"; (Matthew 13:4043, NMB). We notice here that the mustering of the faithful into God';s storehouse'; -; the kingdom of God -; occurs at the end of the world, during the Second Coming and together with the punishment of the irreverent ones, and NOT earlier, as the rapture'; theory teaches!
· ";For then will come a tribulation so great, that none like it has ever occurred from the beginning of the world to this day, and never will. And if those days were not curbed, no man would be saved; but for the sake of the select ones, those days will be shortened."; (Matthew, 24:21-22, Vellas Translation) These words also prove that the chosen ones will be on earth during the Great Tribulation. Furthermore, for the sake of the chosen ones, that period will be shortened! But if the Church had supposedly been swept up by the rapture'; and the Great Tribulation followed immediately after, then for what reason would that period have to be shortened, if no more select ones existed? Could it be, because some would supposedly repent after the rapture';? The Bible clearly states that people WOULD NOT REPENT during the Great Tribulation (Revelations, 9:20-21, 16:9,11,21).
· ";Indeed, it is only fair that God reciprocate tribulation upon those who have aggrieved you, and to you that are aggrieved, relief; also, to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from the heavens together with the angels of His potency inside a fiery flame to condemn those who do not acknowledge God and do not show obedience to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be punished with eternal devastation in the face of the Lord and by the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified among His saints and be marveled during that Day amid all those who have believed, because our testimony to you was credible";. (Thessalonians II, 1:6-10, Vellas). The persecuted Christians of Thessaloniki are being solaced by the Apostle Paul, that their trials will end with the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Two things will then happen at the same time: their persecutors and all the unrepentant profane will be punished, and all the faithful will be glorified. Consequently, this too overthrows the deception of rapture-prior-to-the-Tribulation';, seeing that Christians are rewarded after the Great Tribulation, at the same time that the irreverent are punished!
· ";My brethren, with regard to the coming of or Lord Jesus Christ and our mustering by Him, we beseech you: Do not allow those who insist that the day of the Lord is close at hand to change your minds so quickly, nor to upset you. Do not believe them when they invoke a revelation of the Spirit, or words or an epistle that supposedly originates from us. Let no-one deceive you in any manner. Because that day will not come, unless apostasy first sets in, and the man of sin is revealed: the one who is destined for perdition."; (Thessalonians II, 2:1-3). This passage debunks the entire false teaching of the rapture';: The Second Coming of Christ will not happen, nor will our mustering around Him'; (=the rapture'; of the Church), unless two events have taken place: 1) apostasy and 2) the appearance of the Antichrist. The Apostle Paul warns about those who teach things contrary to the above: ";Let no-one deceive you in any manner"; (Thessalonians II, 2:1-2, NMB).
· ";Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he who remains vigilant and preserves his garments, so that he doesn';t walk naked and his nudity is not exposed"; (Revelations, 16:15). This warning passage is amongst those that speak of Armageddon, the final war between the powers of good and evil (Revelations, 16:14,16). What is important is that the preachers of rapture'; insist that the expression ";I come as a thief"; refers to the stealthiness of the rapture'; that will supposedly take place before the Great Tribulation and Armageddon; but Christ';s warning regarding that point in time -;during Armageddon- proves that the rapture'; has not taken place yet! Because the Church continues to be on Earth, even at the time of Armageddon!
Does the resurrection of the faithful take place before or after the Antichrist?
According to the teachers of rapture';, the bodily resurrection of the faithful occurs during the mystic rapture of the Church, before the appearance of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. But the Holy Bible itself debunks their theory! We read: ";Then I saw thrones and on them were seated those who had been given the authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been decapitated for their testimony about Jesus and the word of God and who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the incised mark on their forehead or their hand. They came back to life and ruled together with Christ for one thousand years. This is the first resurrection."; (Revelations, 20:4,6, Vellas). According to the Protestant viewpoint, the first resurrection is the bodily resurrection of the faithful; And yet, even with their viewpoint, we see in these passages that the first resurrection occurs after the end of the Great Tribulation and the Antichrist! Again, this is proof of the false teaching about the rapture-prior-to-the-Tribulation-and-Antichrist';!
The divine protection of Christians WITHIN the Great Tribulation
But the Lord promises divine protection for Christians, amid the upheaval and the turmoil of the period before the Second Coming: ";Go, my people, to your chambers, close the doors behind you. Hide for a while, until the wrath has passed. Because the Lord will leave His heavenly abode, to punish the iniquities of those who inhabit the earth."; (Isaiah 26:20-21, NMB) Also read John 17:15, Revelations 3:10): Just as God protected the people of Israel in Egypt from the 10 plagues that befell the land (Exodus 8:16-19, 9:1-4, 25-26, 10:21-23), so He will protect His Church from the tortures of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22)
Our conclusion is that the teaching that prevails in contemporary Protestantism about the rapture'; is anti-biblical and dangerous, because it lulls Christians with its false teaching that they will supposedly escape the harsh persecutions and the tribulations that the Antichrist era will bring. Unfortunately in Protestantism, teachings flourish that promote personal well-being and a convenient gospel. This is also why the teaching of rapture'; flourished: because of its refusal to acknowledge persecutions and trials. Thus, all those who believe in the rapture-prior-to-the-Tribulation'; will not be preparing themselves to confront the tribulations and the persecutions by the Antichrist, but to escape from all of these things!
The sermon on the rapture prior to the Great Tribulation"; is a deceptive message that gives false hopes to Christians. This is what had happened in Jeremiah';s time, just before the invasion of the Babylonians in Judah: ";Oh Lord, God! Their prophets tell them that they won';t see war or hunger, and they promise them everlasting peace in this land. And my Lord replied: Those prophets are telling lies. What they prophesy in My name is not the truth. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They tell you of false visions and oracles. They tell you useless things -; the misleading concoctions of their imagination. That is why I, the Lord, forewarn about what I shall do to those prophets, who say that war and hunger shall not come to the land; I shall bring about the death of those prophets by war and hunger. The same will befall the people that sit and listen to their prophecies.';"; (Jeremiah 14:13-16, NMB) This is why we should be careful of what teachings we pursue!
The teaching of rapture-prior-to-Antichrist'; is dangerous for another reason also. Those who await Christ';s arrival first, to muster His Church, and then anticipate the appearance of the Antichrist, may, because of this persuasion of theirs, be deceived into believing that the Antichrist is Christ! With their assertion of ";we won';t be here on Earth during the Antichrist";, they might easily mistake the Antichrist for Christ, and follow the ungodly one! The Holy Bible warns of this danger (Matthew 24:5,24 and Thessalonians II, 2:3,9-12)
";Guard yourselves well. Do not surrender yourselves to debauchery and drunkenness and the needs of daily living, lest that day should take you by surprise. Because it will come abruptly like a trap upon all the inhabitants of the earth. So stay vigilant and pray constantly, so that you may surpass everything that is to happen and you may appear before the Son of Man, duly prepared. (Luke 21:34-36,NMB)
Text: Manolis Kalomiris
Translation by A.N.