The end-time phenomenon called the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the church has captured the thoughts of many. This concept has become a basis for multimillion-dollar enterprises, producing books, Christian television shows, and movies. It is a theory that I had believed for most of my life. My friend Ann shared with me how she and her husband no longer believed a "pre-trib" rapture theory and offered me a book to read. I skimmed through the book, but because I was convinced I knew the truth, I went to the bible with the intent to prove to our friends that what I believed was correct. I researched the topic in depth, examining every aspect of the Second Coming. The more I learned the more convinced I became that I could no longer embrace my former belief. I was overwhelmed with a sense of grief--the hope to which I had clung for so many years was gone. But my grief was short lived as I realized that this is GOD's words, and His ways are higher than man's ways!
The truth I learned from the study of the Lord's Second Coming is monumentally important. We cannot take lightly the timing of Christ's return--it is closely linked to the entire message of this book. It is not enough to say that as long as we are ready, it is irrelevant whether Jesus returns "pre-trib," "mid-trib," or "post-trib." We must understand precisely what Jesus' Coming will mean to the true believers, as well as to the pseudo-believers and the unbelievers. In this chapter, we will discover that Jesus returns at the end of the Great Tribulation, and the reason He does.
If we think the pre-tribulation rapture theory is merely a difference in beliefs among Christians, we are sadly mistaken. Do we not realize how vastly widespread the enemy's deception is? Satan's desire is to see everyone spend eternity without Christ, and those looking to escape the enemy's clutches will be most vulnerable to his deception. The idea that they will not suffer any tribulation will have made them blind to the full implication of all that is transpiring. Sadly, millions have bought into the erroneous belief of a pre-tribulation rapture, and the majority will be further deceived with the increasing deception as Christ's Coming nears. Even in these deceptive days, many have responded to the Holy Spirit's call to open their eyes to the truth and become a part of the remnant prepared as a Bride to meet Jesus.
In the earlier part of First Corinthians 15, Paul expounded on the natural and the spiritual, death and resurrection, and the hope of the believer in Christ. In the fiftieth verse we are told "that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption [decay]1 inherit incorruption [immortality]"2. (NKJV). Then Paul speaks of "a mystery": He says that all will not die, but will be changed in "the twinkling of an eye" when the last trumpet sounds.3 The bodies of those who died in Christ will rise from their graves and receive a new, immortal body. Those still alive will receive immortal bodies to replace the mortal [flesh] bodies of this life. Verse fifty-two is emphasized as "proof" that the church will be raptured before the tribulation begins. But Paul told the Thessalonians that those who are "alive, and are left [Greek: survive]"4 will be caught up to meet Jesus as He returns at His Second Coming.5
Jesus told of what His Return would mean for the elect who have remained faithful to Him. At the end of the terrible time of tribulation, the sun will be obscured, the moon will not give any light, "the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken [disturbed]6: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." The people of the earth will mourn when they see Jesus coming "with power and great glory." At this point, as the "last trumpet" is heard, the Lord's angels will "gather together his elect from the four winds [quarters of the earth],7 from one end of heaven [the sky]8 to the other."9
Here is a familiar passage used by end-time preachers: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice [cry of incitement]10 of the archangel, and with the trump [trumpet]11 of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Many who are of the pre-tribulation rapture persuasion say that "caught up" means "rapture." We must not be taken up with argument over whether or not the definition is correct, but we do need to understand the timing of the Second Advent.
The Greek word "harpazo [seize],"12 translated "caught up," was used in several other verses throughout the New Testament. Here are some examples of where "harpazo" was used:
- In this passage, the words in bold print tell the story. "And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord [suddenly] caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the good news (Gospel) to all the towns until he reached Caesarea." (Acts 8:39-40 Amplified).
- "Jesus therefore perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force, to make him king, he withdrew again into the mountain himself alone." (John 6:15).
- "And on some have mercy, who are in doubt: and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." (Jude 22-23).
The word "rapture" could never be used in place of the above bold words.
This "pre-trib" rapture concept has become so popular that numerous Christians believe there are two stages to Christ's Return. The bible does not support such thinking. The message is clear--Jesus' Second Coming is a one-time event. This is evident in the meaning of the Greek word translated "coming," which is used in all verses that speak of Christ's return. James Strong tells us the Greek word is "parousia,"13 and literally means "the return of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked."
As Jesus said, His Coming will be seen by all: "For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man." (Matthew 24:27). There will be no question that it is Jesus--His coming will be seen around the world as His brightness, like flaming fire, lights up the sky from one side of the heavens to the other. There are some who claim Jesus' Coming will be seen on television, but God does not need man's technology to accomplish His purposes. His Coming will be a spectacular display of power like no man could ever have dreamed possible!
Whether we call it "rapture" or not, the Scripture clearly shows that all who are in Christ WILL be caught up to meet Him. At His coming, a part of His remnant will be raised from the dead, while the remainder of the remnant will be made up of those who are still alive, having survived the worst of times ever to come upon the earth. What a glorious day, to be changed in the twinkling of an eye and leave this mortal body behind!
But there is an end for those who chose a life of self, having ignored the Lord's call to come to Him and receive Life.
What will happen when the deceived and deceivers, the goats, the tares, and all those who rejected Jesus see Him coming? John tells how he saw Jesus open the sixth seal, after which followed a great earthquake. The sun, he foretold, will turn black and the moon will be blood red. There will be a mighty shaking of both the heavens and earth. It will be a time of great terror, as these next verses show: "And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves 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 who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" (Revelation 6:15-17 NKJV). It is a day of wrath for all who have chosen to continue in the flesh--they cannot stand in the presence of the Son of God. Like Adam and Eve, they will try to hide their condition of flesh, but there will be no place to hide.
1. Greek #5356
2. Greek #862
3. 1 Corinthians 15:52
4. Greek #4035
5. 1 Thessalonians 4:17
6. Greek #4531
7. Greek #417
8. Greek #3772
9. Matthew 24:29-31
10. Greek #2752
11. Greek #4536
12. Greek #726
13. Greek #3952