If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.  John 7:17-18
A Grace Bible Church Publication

The Rapture

By James M. Frye
Mail: gbc@voyager.net
 

Introduction

There is perhaps no subject today that has aroused more curiosity than that of the rapture. What is it? When will it take place? What is God's purpose for it? In this article we will seek to answer these questions. But be ready, for what the Bible says on this subject may be quite different from what you have been taught. 

What is the Rapture?

What is the rapture, and what will happen when it takes place? To answer this question, let us look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. We will examine this passage one verse at a time.

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:13
This passage begins by talking about those who are asleep. The term "sleep" is often used in the Bible to refer to believers who have died.
... he [Jesus] saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead

  

John 11:11-14
So, "them which are asleep" is a reference to believers who have died. We must also keep in mind that it is the body that sleeps and not the soul (Matt. 27:52). The Bible teaches that there is conscious existence after death (Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-10; Luke 23:43 etc.). 
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:14
When a believer dies, his spirit is separated from his body (James 2:26). The body returns to the dust, but the spirit returns to God (Eccl. 12:7). For a believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). 

One day Jesus Christ is going to return to earth. When he does, he will bring with him believers (their spirits) who have died and gone to heaven. But not all believers will die before Jesus returns.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:15
There will be believers still alive on this earth when Jesus Christ returns. So then we have two groups of believers: those who have died (whom Christ will bring with him); and those who are still alive (whom Christ is coming for). 
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:16
As we have said, Jesus will return to earth bringing the spirits of believers who have died with him. But what about their bodies? This verse tells us that he will raise them from the dead. Jesus will reunite believers' spirits with their bodies. Their bodies shall be raised immortal, never to die again.

But what about the bodies of believers who are still alive when Jesus returns? They have not died yet, so they cannot be resurrected (raised from the dead).

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 

  

1 Corinthians 15:51-53
The bodies of believers who are still alive at the second coming of Christ will be changed. Their bodies will be changed from mortal to immortal in a moment.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [raptured] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:17
Then both groups (those who have been resurrected and those who have been changed) shall be raptured together to meet the Lord in the air at his coming. 
 
 

When Will the Rapture Take Place?

There is much debate today about the timing of the rapture. Will it take place before the tribulation or after? In this section we will seek to answer this question. 

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caughtup [RAPTURED] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
From this passage, one thing is clear. The rapture will take place when Jesus comes. So when does Jesus come? Before the tribulation or after?
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 

  

Matthew 24:29-31
Jesus will come immediately after the tribulation. It couldn't be any clearer. What is it called when Jesus comes to gather his elect unto himself? Why, it's called the rapture, of course. And there it is right in the text immediately after the tribulation. Notice that he comes in the clouds, with angels and with the sound of a trumpet. That is almost the exact wording that we found in 1 Thessalonians 4.

Some people will object at this point and tell us that Jesus will come twice. They say that he will come once before the tribulation, and a second time after the tribulation. That means that there would be both a second and also a third coming of Christ. Now where does the Bible speak of a third coming of Christ? It doesn't. There is no such thing. When challenged, they will respond to this by saying that both comings are part of the second coming. Now, unless you are extremely bad at math, you cannot have two second comings. Is that the way we count (1, 2, 2, 3)? No, of course not. The second part would instead be a third coming.

To try and get around this obvious difficulty, those who teach a pre-tribulation rapture speak of the first and second phases of the second coming. Again, where does the Bible speak of phases of the second coming? 

ORIGIN OF THIS DOCTRINE 

Where did this doctrine, of a pre-tribulation rapture and of there being two phases of the Second Coming, come from? It may shock you to learn this, but the fact is that no one in the Christian Church ever heard of or believed in this doctrine prior to the 1800's. For 1800 years of Church history no one believed that the rapture would take place before the tribulation or that there would be more than one future Coming of Christ. If you doubt this, simply check any of the confessions and creeds of various denominations prior to this time. Check, for example, The Westminster Confession of Faith 1647, The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, or The New Hampshire Baptist Confession 1833, etc., etc.

How, then, did this doctrine originate? It originated around 1830, in a Scottish Church pastored by a man named Edward Irving. A 15-year-old girl named Margaret McDonald believed that she had received a new revelation from God. This supposed "revelation" was then picked up by a pastor from the Plymouth Brethren named John Nelson Darby. Darby began looking at the Bible through the rose-colored glasses of this young woman's supposed "revelation". He then worked it into an entire system. This system is known today as Dispensationalism. This teaching then spread to the United States by the mid-1800's, although it was still little known. 

The doctrine did not become popularized until it was adopted by a man named C. I. Scofield. This teaching then found its way into the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. This Bible was spread far and wide, and it wasn't long before large numbers of people began interpreting the Second Coming according to Scofield's notes. 

This doctrine has gained such wide acceptance and popularity today, that roughly 90% of all books and perhaps 99% of all radio and TV broadcasts on the subject of prophecy promote this teaching. Not all of the main-line denominations hold to this teaching, but those who don't are largely silent on the subject. 

So we see that this doctrine did not come from the Bible but rather was imposed upon the Bible. For 1800 years, no one got this belief from the Bible. 

DISPROVING THIS DOCTRINE

There are many passages of scripture that clearly contradict this teaching. 

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him [THE RAPTURE], That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand [IMMINENT]. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [THE DAY OF THE RAPTURE] shall not come, except there come a falling awayfirst, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 

  

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
This passage warns us not to let anyone deceive us by teaching that the rapture is at hand (imminent). All who teach a pre-tribulation rapture also teach that the rapture is imminent. It is often said that there is nothing that must take place before the rapture. They tell us that it could happen at any moment. This passage warns us not to be deceived by this teaching. It tells us that two things must happen before the rapture can take place. 1) There will be a falling away (apostasy). and 2) The man of sin (the antichrist) will be revealed by entering into the temple and claiming to be God (the abomination of desolation - Matthew 24:15). 

Now, if there is anything that must take place before the rapture, how can it be imminent? And since the rapture is to take place after the antichrist is revealed, how can it be pre-tribulational? How can the rapture take place before the tribulation, when the Bible says that it will take place after an event that all pre-tribulationists agree happens during the tribulation? 

Have you ever seen the end-time movies or read fictional books that are based on this teaching? We hear of cars suddenly going out of control as the driver disappears in the rapture. We watch as people who missed the rapture begin looking around to see who the antichrist will be. Is that the picture the Bible gives us?

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 

  

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
Jesus is coming back for his saints. When he does, he will not only give them rest from their troubles, but he will also be glorified in them and admired by them. But is that all he is going to do? No. Read the passage. He will also take vengeance on unbelievers (them that know not God) and cast them into hell punishing them (with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord). 

There is no getting around it, unless you just choose to ignore this passage and believe whatever you want regardless of scripture. All of this happens at the one second coming of Christ. Notice that the word when occurs in this passage twice - Both times between statements of what Jesus will do to believers and what he will do to unbelievers, inseparably linking the two together. When will he come for believers? When he comes to judge unbelievers and cast them into hell. 

When the rapture takes place, unbelievers lives will not go on as normal. They will stand before Jesus in judgment, and he will cast them into hell. How could there be a tribulation after that?

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 

  

Matthew 13:24-30
Here we have the parable of the wheat and tares. The interpretation of the parable is given a little further on in the chapter.
He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom [believers]; but the tares are the children of the wicked one [unbelievers]; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 

  

Matthew 13:37-43
From this passage we see that believers (wheat) and unbelievers (tares) will exist together (and not be separated) until "the end of the world". If the rapture were to take place prior to the tribulation, then believers and unbelievers would have to be separated before the end of the world. But Jesus tells us this is not the case. This passage also says that when Jesus comes to gather (rapture) believers to himself, he will also cast unbelievers into hell. How could the tribulation possibly take place after all unbelievers have been cast into hell? No one would be left to follow the Antichrist? No! The rapture takes place after the tribulation.
 
 

THE DAY OF THE LORD

When studying scripture, it is important to study each passage in its context. The subject of the second coming and the rapture does not stop at the end of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. It carries on into chapter 5. So let's look at that section.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [RAPTURED] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:2
From reading this passage in context, one thing is immediately clear. The day in which the rapture takes place is called the day of the Lord. Does the day of the Lord take place before the tribulation or after the tribulation? How can we know when it begins?
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. 

  

Isaiah 13:9-10
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. 

  

Joel 2:31
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 

  

Joel 3:14-15 
From these passages, we see that the day of the Lord begins with cosmic signs in the sun, moon and stars. So, when do these cosmic signs take place? Before the tribulation or after? 
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 

  

Matthew 24:29
The cosmic signs will take place after the tribulation. So the day of the Lord will take place after the tribulation. And since the rapture takes place on the day of the Lord, we also know that the rapture will also take place after the tribulation. And as we saw earlier, it's right there in the text.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 

  

Matthew 24:29-31
OTHER OBJECTIONS

Others will object and tell us that there must be two phases to Christ's second coming. They tell us that there are apparent discrepancies in scripture that may only be resolved if Jesus comes twice. What are these supposed discrepancies? Lets look at a couple of them. 

Objection Number 1 
"Some passages say that, at the Second Coming, Jesus will come with his saints (believers). Other passages say that, at the Second Coming, Jesus will come for his saints. Now, how can he come with them unless he first comes for them? Therefore, there must be two phases of the Second Coming." 
Sounds good, doesn't it? Human reasoning always does (1 Cor. 3:19, Cols. 2:8). There is no discrepancy here. [They do err not knowing the Scriptures (Matt. 22:29).] 
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus [Christians who have died] will God bring with him. 
Here we have the saints that he is coming with.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we [CHRISTIANS] which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep 

  

1 Thessalonians 4:14-15
Here we have the saints that he is coming for.

We have both groups in the same passage at the same time - the second coming (not comings) of Christ.

The saints that he is coming with are Christians who have died and are coming back with him from heaven. The saints that he is coming for are Christians still alive on the earth. No discrepancy! And no excuse for creating two Phases of the second coming. 

Objection Number 2 
"Some verses say that the Second Coming will be a time of relief and deliverance. Other passages say that the Second Coming will be a time of punishment and great distress. Therefore, there must be two phases of the second coming." 
Once again, there is no discrepancy here. As we saw earlier, the Second Coming will be both a time relief and deliverance and also, at the same time, a time of punishment and great distress.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 

  

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
The Second Coming will be a time of relief (rest) and deliverance for believers who have been experiencing trouble during the Great Tribulation. It will also be a time of punishment and distress for unbelievers who will be cast into hell. The Bible says that this will all take place at the one Second Coming of Christ. 

Why is There a Rapture? 

If the purpose of the rapture is not to deliver believers from the coming tribulation, what, then, is its purpose? Let's look at a passage that we looked at earlier.

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 

  

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
Jesus is coming back to give believers (who have been going through the tribulation) rest from their troubles. At the same time, he will also be coming in flaming fire, taking vengeance on unbelievers (them that know not God). The purpose of the rapture is to get believers out of the way of the fire.
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 

  

Luke 17:28-30 
Just as God sent angels to deliver Lot out of Sodom before he destroyed it with fire, Jesus will also send his angels to deliver believers from the fire to come. 
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 

  

2 Peter 3:10-13
As we have seen previously, the day of the Lord is the day in which the rapture takes place. When Jesus comes, he will not only rapture believers but will also destroy the heavens and the earth with fire. The purpose of the rapture is to get believers out of the way of the fire. 

Summary

At the beginning of this article, we set out to answer three questions: 

1. What is the rapture, and what will happen when it takes place? We have seen that when Jesus returns to earth he will bring with him the spirits of believers who have died. He will then resurrect their bodies, placing their spirits back into their now-resurrected, immortal bodies. Believers who have not yet died, but are still alive when Christ comes, will have their bodies changed from mortal to immortal in a moment. Then both groups will be caught up (raptured) together to meet the Lord in the air at his coming. 

2. When will the rapture take place? We have seen that the rapture will take place immediately after the tribulation, on the day of the Lord when the sun, moon and stars turn dark.

3. Why is there a rapture? We have seen that when Jesus comes for believers he is also coming to destroy, not only unbelievers, but also the heavens and the earth in flaming fire. The purpose of the rapture is to get believers out of the way of the fire. 

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Our Vision

There are many false doctrines being taught today, both inside and outside of the Christian Church. We at Grace Bible Church have a great desire to see that these false teachings are exposed and refuted by the Word of God. It is our desire to produce articles that may be placed (free of charge) in the hands of God's people - to enable them to share the truth with those who have been misled by false doctrine.

Would you like to have a part in this ministry and help us get this message out to others? If so, you may make as many copies of this article as you need to give to those who have been misled by the false teaching exposed here. To place this article on your webpage in its entirety, write to Grace Bible Church. Permission is usually granted. 

May God bless you as you do His work.

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