Tag: THE RAPTURE

RAPTURE 30: ONE TAKEN, THE OTHER LEFT

It’s a common view, as it once was mine, that when Jesus said, speaking of the future time of distress that, “one will be taken, the other will be left” (Matthew 24:40-41) he was speaking of a surprise rapture at some time before the tribulation. The one taken would be the raptured believer: the one left behind would be the one….left behind.

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This idea first leads me to ask what this says about “the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” during the tribulation (Revelation 14:12)? As some of those “left behind” in a pre-tribulation rapture are going to be believers in Jesus Christ, and as I discussed previously, will be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ just as we are now Revelation 12:11) why is it that we pre-tribulation believers are blessed with escape from the perceived outpouring of the wrath of God on the earth, while those future saints will have to live through it? Are they to be subjects of God’s judgment, as it is claimed we all would be if there were no early rapture? The claim that God would not pour out his wrath upon his Church rings a little hollow if we realize that by this standard all those saints saved by grace through faith and by the blood of the lamb during the tribulation will suffer the wrath of God on the earth! Are they appointed to wrath? Are they “left behind” because they just didn’t make the grade, so God is going to punish them for it?

A far more logical explanation is that we will all be treated equally; that all believers will be called upon to be witnesses to Christ during the tribulation, and that, as I wrote in early excerpts of my book, the wrath of God which we believers will all escape is eternal judgment, not temporal earthly suffering. Refer again to the millions of believers who have suffered persecution around the world through the centuries, and continue to do so: did they incur the wrath of God? No, it was the wrath of man and the devil.  

Verses about one being taken and the other left, while possibly speaking partially of the rapture- are far more likely to be warnings of the judgment of the godless. In his Olivet Discourse Jesus gave the example of a wicked servant who, on the realization that his master is staying away for a long time, begins to beat his servants and to get drunk. In response to the servant’s actions, Jesus said:

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites… “ (Matthew 24:48-51).

The wicked servant, who did not expect his master to return, was the one being judged. He was not aware of the day or the hour of his master’s return, and was taken by surprise. He was not raptured: he was judged.

Before saying that one would be taken and the other left, Jesus had just given the example of Noah and the Flood to show that it was necessary for his followers to be ready for his coming (verses 38-42). The two subjects are related. Jesus, speaking of those destroyed in the Flood, said:

…and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (verse 39).

The wicked were “taken away” by the waters in the judgment of the Flood, said Jesus. It was Noah and his family who were left behind. The wicked servant was punished when his master suddenly returned. Therefore, the phrase “one will be taken, the other left” is not speaking of a pre-tribulation rapture. Instead it’s speaking of the time of wrath and judgment, which will occur at the end of the tribulation.

RAPTURE 27: MORE CLUES FROM THE PARABLES

Among the parables of Jesus are some which relate to his future return from heaven. Though they aren’t detailed prophesies of end times events by any means, they do contain some important principles and interesting relevance which we may be able to use as guidance on the timing of the rapture, particularly when we compare them with other more specific prophecies…

THE PARABLE OF THE WEEDS

Jesus told a parable of a farmer growing a field of wheat. The parable is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13. While the farmer was asleep said Jesus, his enemy threw some tare seeds -destructive weeds-into his wheat field. The tares began to grow among the wheat, but when one of the man’s servants asked if they should pull up the weeds, the farmer answered that they should not, because they may also pull up the wheat by mistake. Having spent some time working on wheat fields myself, I know that some weeds can be almost indistinguishable from the wheat, until they’re fully formed.

The farmer told his servants to let both plants grow together until the harvest. At that time, when the wheat is harvested, the tares should also be pulled up and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

Jesus, interpreting the parable plainly for his disciples, said that the man who sowed good seed represents the Son of Man: Jesus Christ. The field represents the world, and the good seed stands for the rightful children of the kingdom. The tares speak of the children of the devil, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil himself (13:36-39). Such images are fairly easy for the Bible-reading Christian to understand, but it’s the following verses which become more relevant to us in this study. Jesus explains:

The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (verse 39).

This statement has some similarities with Jesus’ words in the Olivet Discourse, in which he tells us that when he returns in power and glory for all the world to see:

…he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).

Jesus’ return is “the end of the age”. He will send out his angels to gather his elect, just as the angels in the parable gather the harvest.

Continuing with the parable, Jesus then goes on to tell his disciples that as the weeds are pulled up and burned, so the angels will remove all wrongdoers-everything that causes sin and all who do evil-and throw them into “the fiery furnace”. The final result is that the righteous will inherit the kingdom:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (13:43).

Notice that according to the farmer’s instructions-the farmer who represents “the Son of Man”, at harvest-time both the wheat and the weeds are dealt with. The wheat is not gathered before the tares, but the farmer tells his servants, the angels, to “first” collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, and then-secondly-to gather the wheat into his barn (verse 31). Notice also that the sequence: tares first, wheat second, is repeated in Jesus’ own interpretation of the parable (verses 41-43).

Is there a link between the harvest in this parable, and that of the harvest of the earth in Revelation? In chapter 14 of Revelation we read of the “harvest of the earth”, in which “one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head”, seated on a cloud, is told it’s time to harvest the earth:

Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (Revelation 14:15b).

This end-time harvest is reaped some time after a warning not to accept the mark of the beast, and after a call for the saints “who remain faithful to Jesus” to patiently endure (14:12). It’s also after the fall of Mystery Babylon (14:8). Mystery Babylon is destroyed by the beast and his kingdom, by the design of God (Revelation 17:16-17) giving us yet another example of how God uses one enemy of his to destroy or punish another. The Harlot’s destruction occurs during the last three and a half years of the commonly expected seven-year period, as noted before, and therefore after Antichrist has been revealed to the world.

As the harvest of the earth occurs after the fall of Mystery Babylon, it must be at or very near the return of Jesus, because the fall of “the great prostitute”, noted again in chapter 19, is celebrated immediately before the “bride” is said to have made herself ready and Christ rides out of heaven in power and glory (Revelation 19:1-3).

The harvest of the earth in Revelation chapter 14 is closely followed by or contemporaneous with the gathering of grapes and their destruction in “the winepress of God’s wrath”. So in this case, grapes are representing the unsaved wicked of the world. More specifically in the case of the grapes, Revelation seems to speak particularly of the destruction of the forces of the beast at Armageddon. This passage in Revelation is an echo of one found in Joel’s prophesy of the day of the Lord:

Let the nations be roused, let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshophat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow-so great is their wickedness!” (Joel 3:12-13).

The two products of harvest-the wheat and the grapes of wickedness-are being reaped simultaneously in Joel’s prophecy. They’re both being gathered at the time of the nations’ advance into the valley-not years apart or on different occasions. They’re seen together in the passage. The only possible difference in the timing of these two is that when the sickle is swung the grapes of wrath are already gathered, because the command is to trample them, not to gather them.

The fact of the harvest being an end-time event, in which the righteous and the wicked are judged at more or less the same time at the end of the age, is clear. The harvest of the earth-of the righteous-is again after and not before the mark of the beast. Also notice the fall of Mystery Babylon. This is an end of tribulation harvest.

RAPTURE 25: FALL AWAY FROM WHAT?

Welcome readers. Here’s another installment of my book* on the timing of the rapture. I was a pre-tribulation believer for twenty-eight years: I now know how wrong I was to unquestioningly accept everything the “experts” taught. The good news is that this post is considerably shorter than most…

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Paul wrote that a preliminary and unmistakable sign that the Day of the Lord was beginning or about to begin will be a “falling away”, or a “rebellion”, followed by the revealing of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3). What exactly this “falling away” will be is a matter of some debate, though it’s generally considered to be a falling away of nominal believers from the faith.. Some have attempted to interpret it as being the rapture. More likely it’s a movement of those loosely associated with the faith away from it. This is the most common view and makes the most sense, but the exact interpretation of what the falling away may be isn’t the subject of this post.

Imagine this: the rapture has taken place before the tribulation. The Church is gone. Besides the millions and billions of unsaved people on earth, only nominal believers and hangers on are “left behind”. In this case, I want to ask the question: What will there be for anyone to “fall away” from? If the Church is gone, and with it the Holy Spirit, what is there left to fall away from?

Is it the Church? How can you fall away from a Church which has already gone? How can you lose a faith you didn’t really have anyway? How can you rebel against God or against Christ if you’re already so weak in the faith or hypocritical that you missed the rapture? And in that case, if the Church were raptured and then all the weak “left-behind” people fall away, where do “those who remain faithful to Jesus” spoken of several times in Revelation, come from (Revelation 14:12)? We would have to assume that these weaklings suddenly become the toughest, most fearless and faithful believers in history. So why didn’t they get raptured? We ourselves, supposedly the ones to be raptured, are not that tough. We aren’t out there sharing the gospel in the midst of severe persecution. Is it because they just happened to be going through a phase of spiritual weakness that they didn’t get raptured? Haven’t we all experienced that? If this is the case, Jesus is willing to “dump” us if we experience a time of discouragement and weak faith. Isn’t he more faithful than that? Doesn’t he uphold us? Didn’t God say “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5,6)?

With all the persecution going on and the mark of the beast being instituted in the tribulation, it has to be nothing short of remarkable that those saints living at that time will have such incredible faith that they’re prepared to die for Jesus! How can there be any “falling away” during the tribulation if the Church is already gone, and “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” are prepared to die for their Lord?

If we try to say that the “falling away” will happen before a pre-tribulation rapture in order to escape this conundrum, we only create another conundrum, because Paul, giving the initial signs of “The Day of the Lord” here, surely would have said something like “that day cannot come before there is a falling away first, and we are all changed to immortal, and then the man of sin be revealed”. Also, if the falling away is to come first, before tribulation, the rapture would not be so “imminent” and unexpected, would it? Why would Paul speak of the falling away, and then go straight to the revealing of Antichrist, giving these two signs as the initial signs of the Day of the Lord, without mentioning the rapture, if it is supposed to come before either of these events?

If the rapture has already occurred at the point Paul is speaking about-that is, before the falling away and before Antichrist is revealed, why did Paul not mention it to the Thessalonian church in the same chapter? He had already mentioned the rapture in his first letter to these believers when speaking of the coming of the Lord: it was not a hidden mystery to be kept from the Church. Surely, that would be an ultimate sign of the arrival of the day of the Lord, particularly to anyone “left behind”? He wrote to them about the rapture in his first letter, and it’s no longer a “mystery”: why not mention it now? If the rapture is indeed the first “sign”, which it would have to be if it’s “imminent” and must come first, why not mention it when speaking of what to look out for as signs of the Day of the Lord coming?

THE CAUSE OF REBELLION

The most logical answer to all these questions is that the Church will still be around when Paul’s initial sign-events of the Day of the Lord take place, and that those who are weak in the faith and who attend church for something to do, or who are trusting in their church organization or favorite teachers instead of Jesus, will rebel against the true Faith when the going gets tough. This will be the “falling away”. The tribulation will be a divider between the people of God and those who don’t want to know God. Jesus said that there will be such great deception and distress in those times that if it were possible even the elect will be deceived. Those who are not the elect will be deceived. They will be the ones to fall away. There will be a sharp division between the saved and unsaved.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND:THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

RAPTURE 24: WHICH LAST TRUMPET IS THE LAST LAST TRUMPET?

Not only do to teachers of the pre-tribulation rapture theory insist, without scriptural statements, that the first of two resurrections is in stages, but they also have to resort to claiming that there is more than one “last trumpet”. This is the subject of excerpt twenty-four of my book*

Paul, when telling the Corinthians that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51) speaking of the resurrection and the rapture, said that “the last trumpet” will sound (verse 52). Then, when writing to the Thessalonians on the same topic he mentioned “the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-19, esp. verse 16). Jesus, when speaking of his physical and visible return to the earth, said that he would send his angels “with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Since there will be a “last trumpet” according to Paul, at which the rapture will take place, there must be previous trumpets, or a series of trumpets. We know from Revelation that there are trumpets sounded as a part of the final judgments on the earth. However, pre-tribulationists claim that the loud trumpet call which Jesus said will be sounded upon his glorious return at the end of the tribulation is a different trumpet call, or part of a different set of trumpet blasts entirely to the trumpet call Paul spoke of. They say that there is more than one series of trumpet calls, and so Jesus’ trumpet call announcing the gathering of his elect at the end of the tribulation has nothing to do with the trumpet sounded at the rapture. This has to be their claim to avoid the otherwise clear fact that Christ will return for his bride and his elect at or near the end of the tribulation.

Do they know that to be so, or is it necessary for them to invoke different trumpets or series of trumpets in order to preserve their theory? If there are other trumpets or series of trumpet blasts, and since “the”, or “a” “last trumpet” heralds the resurrection and the rapture of the living, we could rightfully ask when these other trumpet blasts or series of trumpets were or will be heard, what did or will they announce, and…which last trumpet is the last last trumpet?

Trumpets are heard from time to time throughout the Bible. However, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find any other series of trumpets related to end times events, other than the one found in Revelation, which announces a final series of judgments. There are only two other trumpet sounds mentioned in Revelation. One is the voice of Jesus in the first chapter when he spoke to John, which sounds like a trumpet, and the second is speaking of the fact that musicians will no longer be heard in Babylon when it is destroyed (18:22). These are clearly not related to the rapture.

Zechariah tells us that “…the Lord God will sound the trumpet”, in a prophecy sounding very much like an end-times deliverance of his people Israel (Zechariah 9:14). This does nothing to alleviate the pre-tribulationist’s problem, but only adds to it, because it fits with the principle of Christ appearing in power and glory to deliver Jerusalem, to bring judgment, and to gather his people. And the fact that God was only speaking of the deliverance of Israel in Zechariah’s prophecy does not mean that the return of Christ is only to deliver Jews. This could simply be a part, a detail of the bigger picture.

Exactly what happens at the seventh trumpet judgment of Revelation anyway-is it at all relevant to this question? An angel gives us the answer in chapter 10:

…in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished…” (10:7).

Didn’t Paul also call the resurrection and the rapture a “mystery”? (1 Corinthians 15:51). Hmm, that’s quite a coincidence isn’t it? Perhaps that’s a different mystery…

Here in chapter 10 of Revelation we’re told what will happen when the seventh-and last-trumpet is about to be blown, but in the next chapter it is actually blown, and this is the result of it:

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

The seventh trumpet announces that God and his Christ have taken over the world and have begun to reign. Another outcome of this seventh trumpet follows:

The nations were angry and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name…” (11:18).

Believers, according to Paul, will appear at “the judgment seat of Christ”, and will be rewarded or shamed for what we have done while alive in the world (2 Corinthians 5:10). I wrote about this in my chapter on the resurrection.

The seventh and last trumpet of Revelation has delivered “the kingdom of the world” into the hands of God and of his Christ (11:15), and at the same time set up the judging of the dead and the rewarding of God’s people (11:18). Can it really be coincidence that Paul wrote how, upon Christ’s return in “blazing fire” and not before, that the persecutors of God’s people (and here he was referring to Church age saints) will be judged, and the persecuted rewarded (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)? There is just too much agreement with these two accounts for them to be unrelated.

The seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last. To the unbiased this is at least reminiscent of the “last trumpet” and the “trumpet call of God” spoken of by Paul as a herald of the resurrection and the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). It’s also undeniably similar to the return Jesus spoke of, when, in the space of two verses, he described both his return to the earth in power and glory, and the “loud trumpet call” upon which the angels will gather his elect (Matthew 24:30-31). At this point, the kingdom of earth will have become the kingdom of God and of his Christ.

IMMINENCE THEORY AND LAST TRUMPETS DON’T FIT TOGETHER

Warning and announcement is the purpose of trumpet blasts in Biblical and secular history. But if, as pre-tribulation believers say, the rapture and the coming of Jesus Christ is ‘imminent’, so that there is nothing to occur before it in terms of last days events, what were the previous trumpets for, and when did they sound, according to scripture? If the rapture is imminent, what could any previous trumpets possibly mean to us: surely we cannot know them or recognize them-we aren’t supposed to. And if we could, why is there nothing in scripture about them? Where are the previous trumpets described in Bible prophecy? Jesus said nothing about them in his Olivet Discourse. Paul said nothing about any trumpets previous to the “last trumpet” heard in the resurrection and rapture. In truth, they’re absent from scripture, and the only series of trumpets we’re told about is the seven trumpets in Revelation which lead up to the transfer of earth’s kingdom to our God. Some pre-tribulation teachers have attempted to attach trumpets to past events in history, such as the First World War, but this is simply guesswork and not supported by scripture. No-one can confirm such things, so how are such “trumpet” blasts of any use at all?

So then, the last trumpet spoken of by Paul when referring to the resurrection and rapture of believers could easily match the seventh trumpet- the last trumpet- described in Revelation chapters 10 and 11, which will occur at the end of the tribulation, not before it.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

WILL JESUS KEEP US FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL? (RAPTURE 21)

Will Jesus Christ keep true believers from the coming “hour of trial”, meaning the tribulation? That’s the claim of many people who teach an early rapture. This phrase is taken from a verse in Christ’s letter  to the church in Philadelphia, and the promise applied to believers in our age:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

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I have to wonder just how the Philadelphian church received the benefit of this promise, because if you think about it, they, being first-century Christians, didn’t get raptured before they died. Their bodies still sleep even now while their souls are “present with the Lord”. In the pre-tribulation rapture sense which people now hope for, that is, going to heaven while alive and so escaping persecution and death, there was no fulfillment for the Philadephians. Why would Jesus make a promise of rapture, if that’s what this is, to a first century church?

Could it be instead that the promise is being misinterpreted? Perhaps we could look at it in a different way. And the way I”m going to suggest isn’t going to be popular with some of you: the natural death of those in the first century church was their escape from trial. Isaiah wrote:

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find their rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57: 1-2).

Being human in the twenty-first century West we think that escape from trial should mean instant transport to heaven. But perhaps God has a different idea. Jesus told the Philadelphians that as they’d patiently endured they would be kept from trial, and we think that we deserve the same treatment-that is, rapture-while those “left behind” to live through the tribulation don’t. This attitude isn’t borne out in scripture. Even those who will bravely live through the tribulation, and refuse the mark of the beast, are said to “patiently endure” and remain faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12). At this very point in John’s book we’re told that those who die in the Lord at this time are “blessed”. And in language very reminiscent of the Isaiah quote above, we’re told that their deaths are their “rest”:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”…”Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them” (verse 13).

Here, we’re told what we cannot grasp in our relatively free and safe Western culture-that escape from trial does not have to entail rapture. And the obvious observation must be made that millions of believers through the centuries, and even today in many parts of the world, have not been delivered from persecution by being raptured. Jesus said,  No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:20).

PATIENT ENDURANCE

Here’s that quote from Jesus’ letter again:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

It seems easy to apply this phrase to the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t it? And yet there isn’t really any mention of “rapture” or of being changed and transported to heaven. Perhaps we should look at the context of this phrase before we make a decision. With the first part of the verse in place, it reads like this:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…I will keep you from the hour of trial…” (etc).

The reward of the Philadelphians was in return for their patient endurance. What does Jesus mean by “patient endurance”? When I was first a Christian I was waiting for the rapture to happen any day. I thought I didn’t need to get a job because I would be zipping off to heaven before I’d even signed the application form. I had told my unbelieving family members where I would be when I disappeared along with millions of others around the world, and I’d written out a large “Where I’ve Gone” note for them to find. Is that what Jesus meant by “patient endurance”, or was I missing something? We can get a good idea of what the Philadelphian church was patiently enduring, and what other churches were patiently enduring, by reading through Revelation, particularly the letters. In John’s opening testimony, he wrote:

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

John was suffering persecution because of his testimony-the testimony of Jesus. Because of this suffering he was “patiently enduring”, just as the Philadelphian church was (3:10).

Interestingly, Jesus also expected the Philadelphians to “hold on” to what they had, and he said to them (and to us) “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God” (3:11-12). Despite the fact that they were going to be kept from the world-wide trial which we may see as the tribulation, they were still expected to endure and to overcome. Their lives were not trouble free. They were not delivered from all trouble, and they were not raptured.

Overcoming is a common theme in the letters to the churches. It speaks of enduring persecution (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:21). The Olivet Discourse includes a very relevant passage in which Jesus speaks of those living in those future, last-days times of “distress”. Speaking about all the trials they will experience, he said:

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

These words, “stands firm” are translated from the very same word which is also translated “patient endurance”. The first-century church in Philadelphia lived through their own trials and patiently endured, just as the tribulation saints will be expected to patiently endure, because they will be the ones living at that time. The Philadelphians died nineteen hundred years ago and so by natural death were kept from the future hour of trial which will affect the whole world, if that’s the trial Jesus was speaking of. He may have been speaking about judgment instead.

Again, the “hour of trial”, if it is the tribulation, is not necessarily seven years long. The world will be in some sort of relative peace and security before Antichrist is revealed three and a half years before the return of Jesus, not seven years (Revelation 13:5). Therefore, even if Jesus had meant in his letter to the Philadelphians that we, in our time, will escape the tribulation, there is no guarantee that the rapture will occur seven or more years before the visible return of Christ.

Thanks for reading. This post is the twenty-first edited excerpt from my book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. It’s available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon.