I grew up in church and with the awareness of a soon coming rapture of the church, the bride of Christ. The only argument I ever heard never questioned if there would be a rapture, but rather when the rapture would take place, pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I had even heard of those who don’t believe in the rapture. I have heard some of the arguments used in defense of their assertions for there being no rapture, but it’s hard for me to find much substance to them. It’s not like they have a lot of scripture to support their views with, because they don’t, but it seems that in order for them to take the position that they do requires them to discount other scriptures which would support the rapture position.
Those who don’t believe the Bible speaks of a rapture are of the opinion that the rapture is a fairly new line of thought, and that it originates from the early 1800’s. This is not so. According to Chuck Missler, if we were to look outside of the scriptures found in the Bible, we would find that the earliest writings referring to a rapture, especially a pre-tribulation rapture, were as early as A.D. 100 in the epistle of Barnabas. This is followed by four other writings leading up to the fourth century writing of Ephraem, the Syrian.
It is believed by some that the basis for the idea of a rapture hinges upon two scriptures, I Thessalonians 4:15-17 and I Corinthians 15:51-53. While it is true that these are well used scriptures in defending the position of a rapture, we can find that the Bible has a lot more to say on the subject than just that. We see it not only in the words of the Apostle Paul, but also in the words of Jesus. We see it in the Jewish feasts, the marriage customs of the ancient Jews, and in some of the historical records found in the Old Testament. As I mentioned earlier, to discount the idea of the rapture as from God requires one to discount various aspects and sections of the Bible. I know that none of us truly want to do that, so let’s take a quick look at some of what I just mentioned.
To begin with we need to see that the idea of a rapture is seen in the seven feasts God gave the Jews to observe each year. It is commonly believed that the feasts were only for the Jews, but that is not the case. In Leviticus 23:2, God makes it very clear that these are His feasts that they are to observe. That same passage refers to these feasts as convocations, also translated as “rehearsals”. In other words, God established these feasts as rehearsals for an appointed time to come. Many believe that with Jesus and the subsequent dispensation of grace, the Old Testament has no real value to a Christian outside of historical information and to help us understand the plan of God leading to salvation through Jesus. Seeing how that none of the feasts were fulfilled until Jesus came, and that there are still three of the seven feasts left unfulfilled, it could be argued that the Old Testament is still very relevant to us as Christians in this day and age.
When we look at the Jewish feasts, Jesus fulfilled the first three and the birth of the Church fulfilled the fourth feast on the day of Pentecost. The next feast to be fulfilled is Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets, a feast that very closely parallels our understanding of the rapture. When we take a close look at this feast, there is a lot about it that screams out that it represents the rapture of the church. This fifth feast is next on God’s prophetic timetable yet to be fulfilled, and when we look at the final two feasts we see that they closely resemble the end of the tribulation period and the start of the 1000 year reign of Christ here on earth. In addition to that, the period of time between the fifth and sixth feasts is known as the “Days of Awe”, a period of time that appears to represent the seven-year tribulation period.
The Apostle Paul alludes to the Jewish feast Rosh Hashanah when he mentions the “last trump” in conjunction with the “catching away” of the Church. The “last trump” Paul talks about is not the seventh trumpet sound mentioned in the book of Revelation. How can we know that? To begin with, the way Paul mentions the “last trump” indicates that the Jews were well acquainted with it and what it was, and that there was no need for him to explain himself. Also, Paul’s mention of the “last trump” was about 40 years before the Apostle John’s revelation of end time events and the seven trumpet blasts of judgment, therefore Paul could not be referring to John’s revelation. The “last trump” he was referring to was the last of 100 blasts of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, a blast that all Jews knew as the “last trump”.
When speaking of His return, Jesus made the statement that it would be at a day and hour no man knows. The phrase “day and hour no man knows” refers to the Jewish feast, Rosh Hashanah. Ancient Jews referred to this feast with that phrase because it was the only one of seven that they never knew when it would begin, but they knew it would be within a 48 hour time frame. When a Jew made this statement, or used it themselves, they were referring to this feast, the same feast that is symbolic of the rapture. In this way it can be argued that Jesus was letting us know His return for the Church would be on this day, though we don’t know which year, day or hour it would take place.
When we look at the marriage customs of the ancient Jews, we see a number of things that closely resemble the rapture and the events surrounding it, including the time of the 7-year tribulation period and the following millennium reign of Christ. In order for us to seriously look at these, we need to first remember that the Apostle Paul tells us that the Church is betrothed and espoused to Christ (I Corinthians 11:2), and that the relationship between a husband and wife models the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). In the process of an ancient wedding, the bride and the bridegroom enter into a marriage relationship, but they don’t consummate it until later. After entering into the marriage, the groom departs to prepare a place for his bride at his father’s house. During this period of time, the bride has no idea of when the groom will return for her, but her responsibility during this time is to prepare herself for his return and to eagerly anticipate his return at any moment. If she fails to do so, the marriage process will be cancelled with a letter of divorcement and he will return to his father’s house without her. If she has done what is expected of a new bride, the groom will take her back to his father’s house and consummate the marriage, and this will be the start of a 7-day period of time known as the marriage feast. After the marriage feast is concluded, the husband and wife will re-enter public life.
When Jesus told us that He was going to prepare a place for us, and that in His Father’s house are many rooms, He was talking as a groom to His new bride. The fact that we don’t know when He will return is locked up in both the marriage customs of ancient Jews and the Feast of Trumpets. The rapture is Christ’s return for His bride, another piece of the puzzle found in the Feast of Trumpets. Many times Jesus told us He would return as a thief in the night for those who are not watching for Him, and that only those who are watching will not be caught off guard. It is because of that, and because of the example we see in the ancient Jews marriage customs, that we understand why it is so important to be watching and prepared for Him when He returns.
Some argue that no one has ever been raptured up, or caught up, before, but that isn’t true either. Not only can we say it did happen before, but we can also say it happened in the Old Testament. We know that Enoch just disappeared and was never seen or heard of again because God took him (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5). Elijah was another one that was “caught up” to heaven (2 Kings 2:11) as a whirlwind pulled him up.
What about the belief of a pre-tribulation rapture? One aspect of the pre-tribulation position is that the rapture keeps us from the judgments to come, and we see this in the lives of both Noah and Lot. God withheld the judgment of total destruction until His people were safe. Noah found his safety in a boat God commanded him to build, also known as the ark, and Lot found safety when he left Sodom and Gomorrah and went to Zoar. If that wasn’t enough, Isaiah 26:20-21 speaks of the rapture of the church, the Bride of Christ, and that God calls her up to be hidden from the judgments He’s about to pour out upon the earth.
As we can see, the argument opposing the rapture position, especially the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t have much to stand on, and the argument for a pre-tribulation rapture is pretty strong. So, is there a rapture to come or not? I think it is a very risky thing for someone to argue against the rapture position. In my next blog I will be answering the question, “Does it really make a difference whether or not someone believes in the rapture?” In the meantime, watch and pray so that you are not caught off guard and left behind.