Why I Believe in the Rapture – Part 2
John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #23
September 2, 2014
"Father, it is such a privilege to come before Your throne of grace because Jesus Christ has paved the way, opened the door, removed the veil that we may have immediate access to Your grace because of His work on the cross. Father, we thank You for our salvation that is complete in Christ and that all we need to do is to trust in You and we have eternal life; trusting in Christ’s work on the cross where He paid for our sins. Now Father, as we continue our studies of the Scriptures understanding Your plan and purposes in human history, we pray that you might help us to understand these things and to see that though things may seem chaotic around us, things may seem random, nevertheless You are in control and You are working history toward an ultimate goal, an ultimate purpose. We pray that You would help us to understand the things that we study this evening to gain a greater understanding of future things. We pray in Christ's Name, Amen."
We are continuing tonight in our study on the Rapture and we looked at this last time in terms of some key verses and we will continue to look at some key verses this evening and then move on beyond that. We may or may not get into the next dispensation, which is the Tribulation. Here is a reminder is a chart of the ages (slide 3). This is God’s plan that we know from revelation, from God’s Word that is, not the Book of Revelation, but from God’s revealed truth. There are two basic ages in the Old Testament (OT) period as seen at the top (of the chart), age of the Gentiles, from Adam to Abraham, the age of the Jews (Israel), from Abraham to the Cross, and since then we are in the age of the church, the church age. In the OT age of the Gentiles that was subdivided into three dispensations or administrations of God, from creation to the fall was the age of perfect environment or the dispensation of perfect environment. The second dispensation, the dispensation of human conscience, from Adam to the Flood, and then from the Flood to the tower of Babel you have the dispensation of human government. The failure at the tower of Babel led God to choose to work through one person, Abraham. This is the shift, major shift that takes place in all history. Since the giving of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12 is shaped by that covenant. The Jewish people, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are the centerpiece of history. They are the focal point of God’s plan even during the time when they are apart from God.
In the OT there were many times when Israel was under divine discipline when they were apostate, when they were in complete disobedience to God, nevertheless, they were still at the center of God’s plan. They are still at the center of God’s plan today; even though the group that God is working with today is the church age in which Jewishness or Gentileness is no longer a significant factor in the spiritual life. That will change at the end of the church age, which is signified by the arrow pointed up. That is the Rapture of the church, which will then be followed by the Tribulation.
So I started a couple of weeks ago looking at the question of why I believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture. This is an important question. I never went through an oral exam at Dallas Seminary where I wasn’t asked a question, why do you believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture? About three or four different times I had oral exams either in my masters’ work or doctoral work and that was always one of the questions.
Why do we believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture (slide 4)? Now to answer this we basically have to answer two questions (slide 5): What is the Rapture? When is the Rapture? We will complete the answer to the first question this evening and probably get into a good bit of the answer to the second question as we go along. So the first question: What is the Rapture (slide 6)? We defined it this way (slide 7): The Rapture is the translation of all living believers from the earth at the end of the church age immediately following the resurrection of all dead church age believers; the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation begins.
Jesus Christ, we are told in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, will at some point unknown in the future descend from heaven in the clouds, not to the earth, but in the clouds, and according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16 there will be three simultaneous events:
1. There will be a shout.
2. There will be a cry from the archangel and the trumpet of God will blast.
3. Then the dead in Christ rise first.
That term (“rise”) there is important. That verb is “resurrection.” It is not rapture. The next verb relates to the Rapture. “And then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together.” That is the word in the Greek, HARPAZO (slide 8). It was translated into Latin with the verb RAPIO and RAPIO means rapture. It means to take something up, to snatch it away, and it is a future indicative of that verb. That is where you find the word in Scripture. This slide, HARPAZO means to be “caught up.” It would refer to a thief, perhaps coming into the house and stealing something. It is unannounced. It is a surprise. It is something that is snatched. It some times can imply force. So that is the word that is used there that is where we get the word “rapture.”
The key passage we looked at was 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (slide 9) as I pointed out. Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:18 at the bottom. Paul concludes this by saying, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” I think it is important because you get so many people who get really wrapped around the axle on prophetic things. They want to know when Jesus coming back and aren’t these the signs of the times? Look around us right now. The world is in chaos today. We have the rise of China and China’s power threatening Japan over some territories in the Pacific Ocean. We have Russia threatening Ukraine and every day we are reading about new forces and new threats on Ukraine. We have just gone through a fifty-day war with Gaza (Hamas) in Israel. We have the rise of ISIS. We have various threats to the security of the United States by people who claim to be associated with ISIS down along the Texas border. All kinds of crazy things are going on not to mention just the normal craziness we see in the world with crime and with war and with poverty and with all of these other things.
When the Bible teaches prophecy it teaches us about God’s plan for the future. Its purpose is always to give comfort. Even in the OT when you look at books like Daniel and Jeremiah, these announcements from God that give future details, are all designed to give comfort to God’s people that even though they may be taken out of the land of Israel, nevertheless, God would bring them back to the land. God would be faithful to them. God would be faithful to his promises. God would take care of them. And so it is always couched within the language of comfort. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (slide 10) we read that Paul says, “We don’t want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep.” That is those who have died in Christ. Now “asleep” is really a euphemism used in Scripture to apply to believers who have died physically. It doesn’t mean soul sleep, which is a doctrine that Jehovah’s Witness teaches. It means they have died physically; they have gone to be with the Lord, face to face with the Lord. There is another category of those who are “asleep” in Jesus and they are usually on the back row and every now and then they snore (laughter). So that is our first main passage.
The second main passage is that of John 14:1-3 (slide 11), which I looked at or began to look at last time, where Jesus is talking to His disciples in the upper room the night before He goes to the Cross. It is very important to understand that context. Jesus has just observed what is known as the “Last Supper.” The Last Supper was a seder meal, a Passover meal, the night before Passover; and it was later that night that Jesus is going to be arrested by the Roman soldiers. He is going to be taken through a series of six different trials at the end of which He will be beaten mercilessly by the Roman soldiers, and then He will be horribly crucified upon a cross just outside the walls of Jerusalem at a place called Golgotha in Hebrew, meaning the place of the skull. There He would die for our sins. He would pay the penalty for our sins as God poured out our sins upon Him from twelve noon until three p.m. This is the night before. Jesus is giving His last parting instructions to His disciples. It is during this time that He is telling them what is going to take place after the crucifixion.
Up to this point we have been still in the age of Israel. The Mosaic Law has still been effective, but the Mosaic Law is going to come to an end at the Cross the next day. Then God is going to usher in a new era, a new dispensation that will begin fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost, “Pentecost” that “pente,” at the beginning, means fifty. It is fifty days later after Passover. And so the disciples are beginning to realize that there is something amiss and they are not really focused on the crucifixion. They don’t seem to have really understood that Jesus was going to die, but they are concerned about the fact that He has announced that He is leaving them. And so they want to know, especially Peter, who is the outspoken one, where He is going. So that the end of John 13 Peter is asking, well where are you going and how can we go there? So Jesus answered and said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” So again, just like Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4, Jesus is comforting them. (John 14:1-3, slide 11) “Let not your heat be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions,” “are many dwelling places,” as the New King James translates it, which is more accurate. “If it were not so I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Now I went through this last time. I think this is really important to remember (slide 12). This was an observation by a Mennonite commentator on Revelation by the name of J. B. Smith, who noted that there were eight significant parallels between John 14:1-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, showing that they are talking about this same kind of thing and that if they are talking about a pre-Tribulation Rapture, then this would be quite different from talking about the Second Coming. In the Second Coming Jesus comes to the earth. Jesus comes to judge the earth and to rescue Israel from the judgments of the Tribulation. At the Rapture Jesus comes to take His own with Him back to heaven. That is the thrust of John 14:1-3. Jesus is talking about the fact that He is going to heaven where He came from and that in His Father’s house, which is in heaven, are many dwelling places, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go there to prepare a place for you that where I am, i.e., in heaven, you may be there also. So He is talking about a heavenly destiny. He is not talking about the church coming with Him, just being raptured at the end of the Tribulation, sort of meeting Him halfway up in the air and then coming right back down where they would stay on the earth. He is talking about something very different.
When J. B. Smith took the language, the vocabulary of John 14:1-3 and compared it to the Second Coming passage of Revelation 19:11-12, there weren’t any significant similarities. When he took 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and compared that vocabulary to Revelation 19:11-12, there were no significant similarities. But when he compared John 14:1-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 together, there were these eight striking similarities (slides 13-14). What is also interesting in the last point is that each of these items that he noted occurs in the same order in each of these passages.
1. Both passages focus on comfort. Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “We don’t want you to be uninformed about those who are asleep, that you might grieve as those who have no hope.”
2. Both passages emphasize belief in Christ as the key issue. In 1 Thessalonians 4:14 Paul says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” In John 14:1, in the second part He says, “believe in God, believe also in Me.”
3. Both passages focus on God the Father and Jesus the Son. In John 14:1 he mentions God; in John 14:2 the Father; and then He uses God first, “believe in God,” then He mentions Himself second in John 14:1, “believe also in Me.” So that order is the same. In 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15. He talks about how God bringing with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. So He talks about God and Jesus, so there is a focus on both Persons of the Trinity.
4. Both passages instruct their audience. In John 14:2 Jesus says, “I told you.” “If it were not so, I would have told you.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Paul says, “I say to you.”
5. The return of Jesus is next mentioned in both passages.
6. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says He will receive them; “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, in John 14:3, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” When Paul states it he says (1 Thessalonians 4:17), Jesus comes in the clouds and believers will be caught up to be with Him in the clouds and be with Him forever,
7. The destiny of believers in John 14:3 is to “Myself” and “to Him” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
8. In both passages, believers will continue to be with the Lord.
Now I ran through that real fast because we covered it last time, but it is striking that there are these similarities. So that helps us understand that John 14:1-3 is clearly a Rapture passage. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Paul says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” that is he is indicating that Jesus has taught about this. Where did He teach about it? Here in John 14:1-3. Now what the passage in John 14:1-3 clearly states is that Jesus is going to heaven. He is going to this destiny from whence He came. He was with the Father in heaven, now He is going to go back to the Father in heaven. He is going to do something, prepare something in heaven and in the abode of God in heaven, and then He is going to come for us and take us to that place. Now it is important to understand that this fits with other passages of Scripture in that in Acts 1:11 (slide 15), we see Jesus ascending to heaven. After He ascends two angels appeared to the disciples and said, why are you looking into the sky, men of Galilee? “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” And so that is the same.
So Jesus is going to heaven to prepare places for us. So this helps us to answer the two previous questions related to where Jesus is going and what He is doing there. He is going to heaven and He is going to a place called His Father’s house, which is an allusion to the Father’s throne, which is where He goes to be seated at the right hand of the Father according to Psalm 110:1, as well as, Acts 2:33-35 and Revelation 3:21. Now He goes there to prepare dwelling places. Now the Old King James translated this “mansions” and that has entered into the warp and wolf of evangelical Christianity. People think there are hymns written about their heavenly mansions and all of this is due to probably a failure on the part of William Tyndale when he translated the Latin word mansiones into English as “mansion” because the English word “mansion” comes to indicate some sort of palatial dwelling. But that is not part of the meaning of the Latin word mansiones, which is in the Latin Vulgate. It is the term that translates a Greek word MONE as I have at the bottom of the screen (slide 16), which is related to the verb MENO. Remember, we talked about that a lot in John 15. Jesus said, “abide in Me.” “If you abide in Me, I will abide in you;” “If you abide in My Word.” That word “abide” means to remain or to stay. It is the verb MENO.
The noun form is MONE. It means a place to stay, a place to remain and it came to refer to a dwelling place. It came to refer to a temporary dwelling place, such as an inn. Something probably a little nicer than some of the inns that are advertized on TV that keep the light on for us. But it could refer to an apartment. It could refer to a home. It is just a broad term. It is not a technical term. It is used only one other time in the New Testament (NT), interestingly enough. In this same passage but in the next chapter in John 14 where it talks about the indwelling abode of the Father and the Son in the individual believer. So that is quite a significant different context from the one that we’re looking at. So it is not some fancy palatial mansion. I know that is going to disappoint a lot of people who have thought that they have a place to go and they know exactly what it is going to look like. It is really a temporary place. It is not temporary in the since that it is some shack; it is temporary in that it is not our permanent abode. Our permanent abode is going to be in the New Jerusalem. And so He is preparing a temporary abode because that is not where we are ultimately going to end up. We come back with the Lord at the end of the Tribulation period and then we will rule and reign with Him.
Now the church is composed and our destiny is considered heavenly as opposed to earthly, but that is distinguishing the fact that we don’t have an earthly reward like the Israelites do in terms of the land that God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ours is related to our spiritual relationship to Jesus Christ. And so He is going to prepare this dwelling place for us and it is clear that this is something in the future. He says, “I will come again.” It is translated as a future sense. It is really a present tense verb. There is a sense in which the present tense is used to refer to future things because they are so certain they are referred to as if they are present. So He says, “I am coming again” and it indicates that this is a future time. So this clearly speaks of Jesus’ departure from the earth to the heavenly abode of God, and there He prepares for the arrival of the church. He has a temporary abode for us because fitting in the Jewish marriage ceremony, the Jewish betrothal ceremony that the bridegroom would provide a temporary place for the bride to stay prior to the marriage feast. And we know from Scripture that the marriage feast takes place when Jesus returns at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. That is when that fits. So it fits the pattern of Jewish wedding customs. Jesus will return to the earth as described in Revelation 19:7 and He will be bringing His bride with Him to the wedding feast. It is very different from the other scenarios that we will look at.
Okay, the third verse that indicated and emphasizes the coming of Christ at the Rapture is Philippians 3:11 (slide 17). I wish I had time to go through the entire context because this is one of the great contexts for the emphasis on possession of Christ’s righteousness and not our own righteousness, as Paul says in Philippians 3:8-9, “I count all things lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish.” That is a pretty bland word for the Greek. The Greek word is SKUBALA, which refers to manure. So he refers to everything lost, he suffered the loss of all things, and counts everything as manure “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ; the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means” he says in Philippians 3:11. And that really has more the sense of “in order that”, which is how I translated it in the slide. It is more of a nuance. He is not saying “if” maybe I will maybe I won’t. He is saying “in order that” I will attain to the out-resurrection, EXANASTASIS. ANASTANSIS would just be resurrection.
So you think of the resurrection of the dead as a broad term, everybody from all the ages is resurrected; but the church is a subset, as we will see in our passage in 1 Corinthians 15 is the second group that is resurrected. Jesus is the firstfruits, the church next, and then we are going to have at the end of the Tribulation period the resurrection of OT saints and Tribulation martyrs, and then there is another general resurrection at the end of the millennial kingdom. So Paul is talking about something specific here, which is something that is out from the entirety of all of the resurrections, so that is an allusion to the Rapture. In Titus 2:13 (slide 18), another important passage, it tells us that we’re “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Now this is a very important passage for a number of reasons:
1. First of all it connects God and Savior together. It is a clear passage on the Deity of Christ that Jesus Christ is both God and Savior.
2. A second thing that we are really focusing on here is that this coming of Christ, “the appearing” of Christ, and it uses the word EPIPHANEIA here, which is just a general word for appearance. But what this tells us, in terms of prophetic things, is that the next thing that we are looking for is the appearance of Jesus.
Now when you look at the panorama of prophecy in Revelation, you know that there are going to be a number of things that happen. There is going to be the rise of the prince who is to come, who is called the Antichrist, and he is going to sign a treaty with Israel, according to Daniel 9:24 and following. He signs that peace treaty that is the beginning of the last seven year period in the history that God has for Israel’s people. It is a time period we’ll get it into this either later tonight or next week that we refer to as the Tribulation period. It is that last seven year period that ends with the campaign of Armageddon. So we have all these things that happen after that. After the Antichrist signs the peace treaty there is going to be war upon the earth. There are going to be various geophysical disasters that take place. There is going to be an enormous meteor shower or something of that nature that is going to rain stones upon the earth, and all these different things that happen. So if Jesus doesn’t come back in any way shape or form until the end of the Tribulation, then we wouldn’t be looking for His return to be next. We would be looking for the Antichrist. That is what you find a lot of people do. They speculate in the midnight glow, over the midnight sun, or National whatever Enquirer, and all of these other things. Is so-and-so the Antichrist? Has the Antichrist been born? All of these different things.
Well as Christians, who properly understand the Bible, we’re not looking for the Antichrist; we’re looking for Jesus Christ. The next thing that is going to happen is going to be the Rapture. The Antichrist does not become known; he is not revealed until the after the Rapture of the church. Now you and I may know him. He might be your next door neighbor. He may be somebody that you think is very wonderful in politics today. He may be somebody who is European. He may not even be American. Who knows who he is? We may know him. He may be on the scene internationally as a politician or a government leader in some country somewhere, but he is not going to be identified as the Antichrist until after the Rapture has taken place. And so none of us will ever know who the Antichrist is until after the Rapture has taken place. So the importance of Titus 2:13 (slide 18) is that it tells us that we are not looking for any of these other signs of the times that Jesus talked about because all of those so called signs of the times mentioned in Matthew 24 and the things that occur between Revelation 4 and Revelation 20 are all take place after the Rapture. So we are looking for the next thing that is going to happen in God’s prophetic timetable, and as things tick tock, tick tock, down the line, the next thing that is going to occur that is prophetically significant for us, not for Israel. Some things are happening that are stage setting for what will take place after the Rapture, I believe. The next thing that we know for sure that happens is going to be the Rapture of the church.
That takes us to our next passage, Philippians 3:20 (slide 19), where Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” We have a citizenship. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have earthly responsibilities or that you “gave up” your earthly citizenship responsibilities at all. How do we know that? Because every time Paul got threatened a certain way by Roman authorities, he pulled out his citizenship papers. He went to his citizenship argument. I am a Roman citizen; you can’t whip me because I am a Roman citizen and that is illegal. So Paul isn’t saying here that we don’t have our earthly citizenship anymore, but that is not the most significant citizenship. The most significant citizenship, the most significant and eternal one as church age believers, is that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which all we eagerly wait for a Savior.” See we wait for the Savior who will come from heaven. Why? John 14, He has gone to heaven in order to prepare a place for us and so we are waiting for Him, according to what the angel said in Acts 1:11, to come back to the earth. We are waiting for our Savior to return, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the last passage that we are going to look at that is another significant passage. I think the three most significant passages are: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2. John 14:1-3; 2 Corinthians 15:51-53. I’ve got these on the board (slide 20). Here is 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, but we will look at these as we lead into this. Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. 1 Corinthians 15 is one of those great chapters in Scripture that people need to understand. It is in 1 Corinthians 15 that Paul is giving in depth defense of the doctrine of physical, bodily resurrection. Think about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. I always use this example somewhat facetiously. When Jesus was raised from the dead, when Mary and Martha came the next day, and Peter and John came and they went into the tomb, the grave clothes were laid out in perfect order. There was the main body of the grave clothes and then there was a gap for the neck and then there was the scarf that covered His face. And so it is as if His physical body dematerialized and then rematerialized as a new resurrection body, a non corporeal body. But His resurrection body had a direct connection to His corporeal human body. He didn’t just get another body that had no connection with His previous body.
So I have always wondered about this. When people get transplants, you know you die and you give a cornea transplant and you give a heart transplant or whatever all your organs go to somebody else? If the Rapture were to occur do you get all of those back? People losing their heart all of a sudden, you know? Lighten up a little bit, we’ve got to laugh about these things! We don’t know but there is this physical connection and that is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 15. (It) is that this is a physical bodily resurrection and there is a direct connection between that body that we will have, that resurrection body that we will have in the future, and our present corporeal body. It is going to be different. So if you are too skinny you are not going to be too skinny. If you are too fat you are not going to be too fat. If you are old you are going to be young again. If you are still a baby you are going to be mature. But there is a connection between the two and this is what Paul is talking about and this whole argument is grounded upon Jesus’ physical, bodily resurrection; and he gives the evidence and witnesses for that in the 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
In 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 he (Paul) explains that without Christ’s physical, bodily resurrection from the dead, Christianity would have no foundation. He basically says if Jesus didn’t physically, bodily raise from the dead, then we have no hope and we are hopeless people. We are believing in a myth because our hope is that there is victory over death and Jesus is the One who established that victory over death. He was the firstfruits; the first in order. He uses that term “firstfruits” from the OT analogy that the very first of the harvest would be given to God as an offering to God. So it also implies that it is the first, it is the best, and that there will be much more to follow. So if Christ is the firstfruits, that implies that there are going to be subsequent resurrections. And so we see that consistent with what Jesus taught in John 14:2-3, He is raised from the dead first. He will go to heaven and then He will return for those who compose the church. These are described as those who are Christ’s at His coming. This is here in 1 Corinthians 15:23 (slide 21). “But each one in his own order” and he uses the Greek word there for “order” that indicates like rankings, as in the military. If you watch a military parade it will be led off by one unit followed by another unit followed by another unit. And so there is going to be an “order” in which the resurrection takes place. It is not just one massive resurrection where everybody goes up at the same time.
If you look at the way this is described, there are thousands of years in between these illustrated resurrections. First of all we have Christ the firstfruits. This took place in approximately April of AD 33. Then we have afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming; well that refers to church age believers when Christ comes at the Rapture. How much time is there that has gone by from Christ’s resurrection to the Rapture? Well at least almost 2,000 years at this point. Then comes the end when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father. Now that occurs at the end of the millennial kingdom. So between the resurrection of the church and the millennial kingdom at least a thousand years or a little more than a thousand years takes place. So there are many different groups that are resurrected:
1. First, Christ.
2. The church.
3. Then the OT saints and Tribulation martyrs at the end of the Tribulation.
4. And then there will be a general resurrection at the end of the millennial kingdom.
He is just giving a broad outline here indicating that there are these distinct groups that will be resurrected. That these lengthy time periods take place between the resurrection and at the very end, that comes at the end of the millennial kingdom, after the Rapture, after Daniel’s 70th week, and after the one thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth. So then he answers the question related to how the dead are raised and this is covered in 1 Corinthians 15:35 and following, until he gets to the point where he talks about how this happens, how this takes place.
This is really important. I had the opportunity to drill down on this a few years ago, and I realized that this is saying something; a lot more than what appears on the surface. There are even today, even some pre-Tribulation dispensationalists that who think that this is just a general statement for the resurrection in the future, and that this is not talking about the Rapture, but this is talking about the end of the Tribulation period even though they are pre-Tribulation Rapture. But I want to point out the first clause (1 Corinthians 15:51, slide 20) it says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery;” that tells us right away that what he is talking about here is something that has never previously been revealed.
Now we studied this term “mystery,” the Greek word MUSTERION in the NT. And it doesn’t refer to something like a riddle that you are trying to find the answer to, discovering somebody who committed a crime like we think of in terms of mystery novels or murder mystery television shows or films of that nature. It talks about something that is a previously unrevealed truth. Now in the OT period, follow me on this, in the OT period there was never any prediction of the church or the church age. It was a mystery. And the spiritual life of the believer in the church age was not revealed in the OT. One of the reasons for that is that Jesus was going to come and He was going to give the Jews an offer of the kingdom and it had to be a legitimate offer of the kingdom. If He had revealed that there was going to be another people of God following that, then that would have made it clear that, hey, you guys are going to reject the kingdom. So in order to make it a really fair offer there is no indication of what is going to happen afterwards given in the OT. Prophecy goes up to the Crucifixion and stops until we get into end times prophecy. There is a gap there that becomes evident when you study the Word.
So this is talking about something that wasn’t revealed in the OT because it doesn’t relate to Israel. It relates to the church. Now anything that happens during the Tribulation period is happening during the time of Daniel’s 70th week. That relates to Israel. We’re going to cover that remarkable prophecy probably in about two weeks. We will wait until we get there, but most of you have gone through that with me. When Daniel gives that prophecy he is laying out the chronology of God’s plan for Israel. But the Messiah is cut off or killed at the end of the 483rd week. That leaves one seven-year period to go between 483 and 490; 490 years were decreed for Israel. So at the end of 483 years the Messiah was cut off, then there is a pause. God hit the “pause” button on the plan for Israel and He hits the “go” button after the Rapture. So there has been this pause for almost two thousand years now.
So this mystery applies to the church. And so it is not talking about just general resurrection. That was clear in the OT. In Daniel 12:1-2 it is very clear that Daniel talks about the fact that there will be a future resurrection. So the whole concept of that general resurrection was not a “mystery” in the OT. It was clearly revealed. So what is being said here has to do not with the general resurrection, but it has to do with something else related, a different resurrection. And so he is giving this as it relates to the church. He (Paul) says (1 Corinthians 15:51), “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” indicating that he is talking about “we” as church age believers. How will this take place? It takes place (1 Corinthians 15:52) “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” And the word that is used there indicates just as light would reflect quickly off of somebody’s eye. It is quicker than a blink. Some have measured it to be 1/64th of a second. So fast your brain can’t even register it. It is just going to happen in a nanosecond, we would say today.
“In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” Now this is the trumpet for the church age. There are many different trumpets. Some people try to argue that this is the last trumpet in the Tribulation period. But the last trumpet in the Tribulation period is composed of seven bowl judgments. There are three series of judgments given during the Tribulation period. The first seven are called the “seal judgments.” The seventh seal judgment, that seventh seal is opened, and it reveals seven more judgments, and they are called the trumpet judgments. When the angel blows the last of the trumpet judgments, the seventh one, this is somewhere near the middle point of the Tribulation period. And when he blows that last trumpet it is not to indicate that is coming back, it is to indicate that there are seven more judgments that are called “bowl judgments.” It is not announcing a resurrection at all. So trumpets were used to announce things and there would be last trumpets to end different segments of God’s plan in history. So this is the last trumpet of the church age. And the “trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable.” So we have the same order that we have in 1 Thessalonians 4, “the dead will rise first and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds…, and thus shall we ever be with the Lord.”
So here we are told that this happens in a nanosecond. “The dead are raised imperishable and we…” (slide 21). He (Paul) distinguishes “we” from the dead because he is still thinking that he’ll be alive when this takes place. That is called the doctrine of the imminence of Scripture. Paul believed that it would take place at any moment. It would happen during his lifetime. Now that changes as he got older, but he believed that was still imminent. So the simple point that I am making here is that he has got the same order that you have in 1 Thessalonians 4, (1 Corinthians 15:52-53) the dead first, and then those who are alive will be changed. So “the dead will be raised imperishable and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable.” Whether you are alive or dead you have a perishable, corrupt body and it must be transformed into that which is imperishable. The perishable body is described as a mortal body by the parallelism there at the end, “this mortal must put on immortality.” So this describes the Rapture. This sequence of events is the same in all of these passages: 1 Thessalonians 4; 1 Corinthians 15; John 14:1-3. And we learn that Jesus Christ will return “in the clouds” and then we will all be caught up to be with Him.
So now we are going to shift. We’ve look at what is the Rapture and we are going to look at “when is the Rapture?” Does anybody have any questions? No questions, okay. Two questions (slide 22):
1. What is the Rapture?
2. When is the Rapture?
So let me just go over these charts (slides 23-26) and help you understand these four views:
1. The first view (slide 23) is the pre-Tribulation Rapture. And it is defined that the Rapture occurs “before” that is the prefix, before the Tribulation, and it ends the church age. It is not the beginning of the Tribulation. It is the end of the church age. Just as the Cross was the end of the Law, but the church age did not begin until 50 days later on the Day of Pentecost. The Rapture is the end of the church age and it is the signing of the covenant between the Antichrist and Israel that begins Daniel’s 70th week. So it can be charted like this. We have timeline the church age, Tribulation, and Millennium, and the pre-Tribulation Rapture occurs before the Tribulation. It ends the church age. That is the “pre-Trib” Rapture. We usually shorten long words like Tribulation to Trib, Thessalonians to Thess; just catch on to the vocabulary.
2. Then we have the partial Rapture view (slide 24). The partial Rapture view is defined that at the Rapture only those faithful dedicated Christians will be caught up. Carnal Christians, if you are out of fellowship, if you haven’t been walking with the Lord, according to this view, you get to stay behind and go through the Tribulation. But if you get your act right, you may get raptured at several points throughout the Tribulation. See this is really the product of a legalistic mentality because you always have certain Christians who are not comfortable with the fact that some Christians are carnal. Some Christians don’t walk with the Lord. They’re living in disobedience. So they always want to punish them. They don’t understand grace. Now in this view you have the timeline; spiritual Christians are raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation, before the Tribulation, but carnal Christians get raptured at various times through the Tribulation. So it is the partial Rapture view. This is really a minority view. It was more popular for some during the mid-19th century.
3. There were some who held to a mid-Trib Rapture view (slide 25), which is the view that the Rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation, halfway through at the end of the first three and a half year period, roughly at the same time as the abomination of desolation; and that believers will endure the first half. There is a variant that came out a few years ago called the pre-wrath Rapture. And that view only the last stage, the bowl judgments, are called the wrath of God. And so Christians won’t endure the “wrath,” the wrath of God. It's really a variant. The same critique, the same problems with mid-Trib basically. There are some differences; I understand that, but just for general sake, right now, it is just a modification of the mid-Trib view. This is the idea here that all believers go up halfway through the Tribulation.
4. And then we have the post-Trib view (slide 26). This is a view that the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation forcing all believers to endure the entire seven-year period.
Now we have about seven minutes left and I always like to do this with my students when I teach in Kiev because sometimes a good visual helps you understand why the Rapture has to take place at a certain time and you don’t get it otherwise. So what I am going to do is to ask for some volunteers…. You guys come down here. We are going to walk through different scenarios of history. We are going to pretend that this is a timeline. We are going to go from left to right, so all three of you stand over here. Stand next to each other. Don’t stand facing me, face me this way. Okay. Now this is a timeline. They’re in the church age and we are going to walk through time and we are going to walk through the Tribulation period, and then we are going to have the Second Coming, and then we are going to walk into the Millennial Kingdom. We are going to see what happens according to the two primary views that describe the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation.
Now the first one is the pre-Trib view. So Barb is going to be a Christian because she is so nice. She is going to be the Christian. John and Greg are unbelievers. But after the Rapture John is going to become a Christian and Greg, all through this thing Greg is just going to go to the lake of fire. He is just absolutely reprobate. Okay. So they are going to start walking. We are going to walk and oh, all of a sudden the Rapture occurs! So Barb goes off to heaven and these guys keep going. Now John becomes a Christian and he goes along and we are going to come to the end of the Tribulation period and Jesus comes back. And see Greg is a reprobate, he is an unbeliever, so he is going to be sent off to judgment. So you go over there to judgment. Now John is a believer. He survived all of the judgments of the Tribulation so he is one scarred up guy! But he is saved. He is still in his mortal body. He hasn’t been resurrected and he is going to find some lovely woman and they are going to get married and have lots of kids and repopulate the earth during the Millennial Kingdom.
Now let's go do the other scenario, same people, same scenario, but this is going to illustrate what happens in a post-Trib Rapture scenario. Okay? Come on, we are walking through the church age, but there is no Rapture. So the Tribulation begins. Remember, this is illustrating the post-Trib Rapture view. So the Tribulation begins and now John becomes a believer. So Barb and John are both believers and Greg here, well, he is still a reprobate. So they are going to go through the Tribulation and they come to the battle of Armageddon and Jesus comes back and they survive, but the Rapture occurs as Jesus is coming down. So they get resurrection bodies. Okay, y'all go off there. There is going to be a judgment and Greg gets sent to Torments. Now who is going to be left with a mortal body to go into the millennial kingdom and repopulate the earth? Absolutely no one. The post-Trib view falls apart not only exegetically and theologically, but in terms of fitting any kind of scenario. It leaves no one to repopulate the earth. So that will stick with you forever! No matter what else we sing, no matter what else I teach, the one thing you will always remember is that little illustration. Alright, let's close in prayer.
"Father, thank You for this opportunity to go through these passages dealing with the Rapture. It is a great comfort because we know that whether we die or whether we survive to the Lord’s coming, what we are looking forward to is not disaster, but we’re looking forward to the Lord’s return. We are looking for Jesus Christ. We are not focused on signs of the times. We are not focused on all these other things. We are not distracted by those things. We can just focus on our mission as believers to make disciples, to teach others, and to grow to spiritual maturity. Father, we pray that You will help us to understand and assimilate all the things that we are learning about future things and Your timeline that we may be encouraged and may use that to encourage others as well. We pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen."