When the Man Comes Around

And I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.

Rapture

First of all, what is the Rapture?

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

What this tells us is that when all true Christians die, they are not immediately escorted to Heaven and hang out with their ancestors while waiting for their ‘big assignment’ that earns them their wings (ala Clarence Goodbody). Rather, they all ‘go to sleep’ and await the Last Trumpet, at which point they will be resurrected and given immortal bodies.

But, you might be asking yourself, will the Rapture include the living along with the dead? Yes, according to 1 Thessalonians. The dead are raptured first, then the living will follow.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

When does it happen?

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, andthey 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.

After the tribulation, according to Matthew and Mark. And after the last trumpet, as we saw in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians (quoted above). Note that there is no mention of more than one Rapture. So all who are living in Christ will be ‘caught up’ only once, after all the dead in Christ are raised at the first resurrection.

But Luke says there will be some who escape the tribulation, right?

Luke 21:36

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

The first thing we need to do, as always, is put the verse into its context and figure out what “these things” are. For that, we go back a few verses…

Luke 21:20-28

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 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. Andwhen these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

This says that when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies looking for its destruction, the “desolation” is about to occur. This is the desolation that is connected to the Abomination, since there is no other desolation mentioned in association with the end times.

A “woe” is also mentioned. There are three woes in Revelation, each assigned to one of the last three Trumpets. The first is the ‘locusts’ of the 5th Trumpet. Then the plagues of the Two Witnesses in the 6th Trumpet. The final woe is the pouring out of God’s wrath at the 7th Trumpet.

And not coincidentally, the next thing we see is the “wrath upon this people” coming. The desecration consists partly of people being killed by sword, led away as slaves, signs in the sun (Vial 4) and moon (Vial 5), seas roaring (Vial 2).

And when these things BEGIN to come to pass (verse 28) is when we are told to “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” This is the second coming of Christ, immediately after the Abomination that makes Desolation, and as the Vials (wrath of God) are about to be poured out.

But back to the question about ‘escaping these things’ in Luke 21:36… you can see the things that the Raptured will escape are the Vials of God’s Wrath and the Desolation. God’s Wrath is poured out in Revelation chapter 16.

Revelation 16:1

And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

But hold on… the ‘wrath of God’ is mentioned much earlier, right? Well, wrath is mentioned in chapter 6…

Revelation 6:17

For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

We need to put that verse in its context…

Revelation 6:15-17

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 sitteth 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?

Seeing it in its context, we now know that this is simply what people on earth will be saying on that day. However, God first mentions His wrath in Revelation 16:1 (quoted earlier). Always take God’s word over man’s.

Ok, so that’s what Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul have to say about the Rapture. What about John? That takes a little digging to figure out. Start with the first reference to souls in chapter 6…

Revelation 6:9-11

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

So the first mention of souls is at the 5th Seal, where the dead in Christ are ‘resting’ (not resurrected) and are told to wait until all martyrs are killed. We already know that the dead are resurrected before the living are raptured. So we have to see where the dead in Christ are mentioned next.

Well, there is the mention of a Great Multitude standing before the throne in the next chapter, during the next Seal…

Revelation 7:9

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

Revelation 7:14

These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

So they show up after the tribulation has begun. You can’t come out of something unless you were first in it. Also note that they ‘came out’. This can mean they were not ‘taken out’ or ‘brought out’ by anyone else. But the question is, are these the resurrected dead or the Raptured living? All we need to do to figure that out is look further into the narrative to see if there are any more christians killed that end up reigning with Christ during the Millennial Reign since they will need to be included in the resurrection, too. If there are, the living souls can’t be caught up yet. We see there indeed are in chapter 13.

Revelation 13:15

And he [the False Prophet] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

So we do have more christians killed. But we still need to confirm that those people are included in the first resurrection. Skipping to chapter 20, which clearly shows the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the 1000 year reign of Christ, we have that answer…

Revelation 20:4-5

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: 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 upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.This is the first resurrection.

Clearly, christians that died during the persecution by the False Prophet (long after the references in 6:9-11 and 7:9) are now resurrected and included in the 1000 year reign.

Then read verse 5 again. Revelation 20:5 is critical for understanding the Rapture. It shows that there will be a group of dead souls that will not be resurrected before the 1000 year reign. This ties directly to a verse back in chapter 14, which is given immediately after describing Christ physically standing on Mount Olive with the 144,000… the first mention of Him in an earthly sense in Revelation.

Revelation 14:13

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

The phrase “from henceforth,” means anyone after that point. This verse doesn’t apply to anyone who dies in Christ up to that moment. Only after. The moment when Christ physically appears on earth is the cut-off point for being included in the first resurrection. Believers who are alive and the ‘dead in Christ’ before that point will reign during the 1000-year reign of Christ. The souls who accept Christ after His arrival will ‘rest from their labours’, using the same term (rest) that was used to describe the dead souls at the 5th Seal. These souls ‘live not again until the thousand years are finished’, at which time they will be judged according to their deeds in the goats and sheep judgement described in Matthew 25:33-34. Some into new Jerusalem, others into the lake of fire.

Matthew 25:33-34

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Revelation 20:12-15

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The ‘dead’ in this section is every soul that was not included in the first resurrection. The reasoning behind this is that people who believe in Christ before He is physically present have to rely on faith. Their faith is what grants them special status in the Millennial Reign. But the people who accept Christ as their Lord after they actually see Him are not relying on faith. Therefore, they remain human, living and dying during the proceeding 1000 years. These humans will be resurrected after the 1000 years but cannot be judged on faith, so they are judged by their works.

So, we’ve determined that the souls of the dead up until the point of Christ’s physical return on earth will be included in the first resurrection. It is only after this that the rapture of the living can logically occur. This is entirely consistent with the verses in 1 Thessalonians which was quoted in the beginning of this article…

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Lastly, it is commonly argued that the Rapture can happen at any time in the immediate future because the Lord says He will come “as a thief in the night.” By this logic, if we can see the events such as Luke describes in Luke 20:20-28 (quoted earlier), we could predict the coming of the Lord, thus negating the surprise element and creating a conflict with the infallibility of scripture. For that purpose, let’s look at a well known verse from the books of Matthew and 1 Thessalonians…

Matthew 24:36

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

1 Thessalonians 5:2

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

But now let us look two verses further, and then back to Revelation…

1 Thessalonians 5:4

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Revelation 3:3

Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

We are actually told that christians should NOT be caught unaware of the day when Christ returns.

People think that Christ will sneak in like a thief and ‘steal away’ His believers as He leaves, also unnoticed. But not all thieves sneak in and out. A recent television commercial depicted a woman at home who is surprised by a thief who kicks in the front door at night and is then scared away by the alarm system. We are left to assume that if the security system wasn’t activated, the woman would have been attacked by the intruder. To find a similar scenario in scripture, we turn to Matthew…

Matthew 24:43

But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

In essence, you could say that our faith is our security system that saves us from the Lord’s wrath, but we have to read the instructions to turn it on. The most common operator’s manual was originally printed in 1611 by King James.

But when does Christ return as a thief? Well, He tells us through John in Revelation…

Revelation 16:15

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

That statement is made as the Wrath of God begins and the Antichrist’s armies assemble at Armaggedon. No one can doubt that it happens at the end of the Tribulation.

For a final ‘nail in the coffin’ of a pre-Tribulation theory, we can go to 2 Peter…

2 Peter 3:10

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

The coming of the Lord as the proverbial ‘thief in the night’ simply cannot happen at the beginning of the Tribulation and go unnoticed. We might not be able to predict the exact day and hour the Lord comes, but we now know the general timeframe. God bless!

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