We believe that the Bible teaches that all believers in this present church age will be raptured or "snatched away" by the Lord Jesus upon His return. This is the next great prophetic event and may happen at any moment.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 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. 16 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: 17 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. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. IThes 4:13-18
The second advent of Christ takes place in two stages. First He returns to meet us "in the air" at the Rapture. Seven years later, we return with Him at the end of the Great Tribulation to set up His earthly kingdom, that was promised to Israel. This Kingdom is a literal thousand year reign of Christ we refer to as the millennium.
It is not my purpose in this article to expound upon the prophetic sequence of events in a detailed and comprehensive method, but to focus the scope of this discussion on the answer to a most important issue. When does the Rapture take place? We are Premies, that is, we believe that the Rapture is pre-millenial and pre-tribulational.
With regard to the Millenial Kingdom, there are those that believe that it is not literal and they are referred to as Amillenialists. The "A" in front of the word negating its literal meaning. There are others that believe that the "Church" is the Kingdom of God or that the church age believers are responsible for bringing in the kingdom. We believe that God will keep His Biblical promise to Israel and give them a literal 1000 year kingdom here on earth.
The Great Tribulation, Daniel's 70th Week, immediately precedes the Kingdom age.We believe that the Rapture immediately precedes the Tribulation. Some believe in a mid-trib or post-trib rapture. In my opinion, there are two problems associated with these views. They negate the imminentcy of the Rapture as stated in the Epistles to the Thessalonians well as other scriptures. These theories also nullify Biblical promises from God to save us from the wrath to come.
The paramount prophecy of the OT which reveals to us God's prophetic sequence of events is found in Daniel chapter nine. Seventy sets of seven years unfold Biblical history that pauses after the 69th week, when Christ is crucified. The Church age, of an undetermined amount of time, has carried us forth to this day while we look for the Savior to appear. Then, God will resume his dealings with Israel in the final seven year period known as the Tribulatiuon where He will deal with Israel regarding the Messiah. Notice that six things are determined in verse 24. Three were fulfilled at the cross and three are yet future. The Messiah is "cut off" in verse 26 at the cross of Calvary. Verse 27 exclaims how the antichrist will work during his week of seven years. The church age is in between.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. Daniel 9:24-27
1. We see in the Old Testament how God spared "just" Lot. The NT reveals that Lot was "saved" in spite of his wretched testimony. Lot had chosen Sodom and had become a city Elder (sat in the gate). He failed to have any influence on the townspeople although they had quite a negative impact on him. His married daughters did not believe and chose to stay. His son-in-laws laughed at him when he told them about Jehovah and the coming destruction. He offered his two unmarried daughters to a group of depraved men that surrounded his house wanting to defile the angels lodged within. Lot's wife left her heart in that wicked city and turned into a pillar of salt as the angels escorted the family from God's wrath. Lot became drunk and impregnated his two daughters which had escaped with him.
And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. 30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
Abraham's concern was obviously directed toward Lot and his family. God delivered Lot from the judgment of Sodom just as He will deliver us from His judgment upon the earth during the Tribulation.
2. We are not waiting for tribulation and judgment. We are waiting to be delivered from the wrath to come. The Rapture is the "Blessed Hope" of the believer in this age according to Titus 2:13. When Jesus plainly told us that we would experience tribulation in this world, I believe that he was refering to trials and tribulations of our daily Christian walk and not the Great Tribulation.
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. I Thes 1:9&10
3. The Bible tells us that the Lord views us as being "seated in the Heavenlies." We have the righteousness of Christ and have been washed in His blood. He took our "punishment" upon himself that we should not be smitten. He is coming for us and although we can't know when, we have a divine appointment.
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. I Thes 5:1-9
4. The Bible reveals to us that we will be gathered together with Christ at His coming and that the Antichrist will be revealed. I strongly believe that verse seven speaks expressly of the Holy Ghost. "He who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." The Holy Spirit gives way to the antichirst when the Holy Spirit is removed at the Rapture. He is taken out because, although he is omnipresent, he chiefly resides in the Believers who will be snatched away at the Rapture. Verse eight says, "And then shall that Wicked (one) be revealed only to be destroyed by the Lord at His return to earth to set up His Kingdom. Verses 10-12 also reveal that those who have heard the gospel and rejected Christ will believe the lie of the antichrist and follow him to eternal destruction.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon 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.
and shows that there will be rebellion as the man of lawlessness appears
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. II Thes 2:1-12
5. The Bible tells us in Revelation that we are to be kept from the time of judge which comes upon the whole earth during Daniel's 70th week.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Rev 3:10&11
6. Perhaps the strongest evidence in the Bible supporting the pre-millenial, pre-tribulational Rapture theory is found in the chronology of the book of Revelation. Chapters 2&3 are the messages to the seven churches speaking of the church age. Chapter 4 is a prophecy of the Rapture as John goes through the door of Heaven after hearing the shout, "come up hither." Chapters 5-18 tell about the seal, trumpet and vial judgments as well as the antichrist and the harlot church among other aspects of the Tribulation. The "Church" does not appear again until Chapter 19 when we return to earth with the King to set up his Millenial Kingdom.
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Rev 4:1-11
Let me close with these promises from God's Word that show us His mercy in passing us by with condemnation.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24