The Coming of Jesus
A “Rapture” Occurs
· “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 24:31)
This verse describes a scenario in which the angels appear in the sky all over the world with a loud announcement. This is more clearly described in I Thessalonians 4:16 – 17 “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 together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Although the word “rapture” does not actually appear in the Bible, the accepted concept the word represents matches the concept described in scripture. It was used in the Latin Vulgate translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. In fact, there are instances of such a “beaming up”, such as the whirlwind that took Elijah “up” and Jesus, when he was “taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). It is also mentioned here: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” (Mark 13:26-27) There is also a clear description of a private rapture of the two witnesses after they are resurrected, “And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. (Revelation 11:11-12)
Using the description in Matthew 24:31, and the other verses mentioned, it seems that those “clouds”, or vessels, will be beaming people up into them, just as in the case of the ascension of Jesus, and the witnesses mentioned above, however, on a massive worldwide scale. This is where the concept gets confusing in the minds of those studying the various conceptualizations of this reality. First there are at least four theories about exactly when it will occur in relation to the hypothetical 7 year reign of the Antichrist:
The Rapture Time Theories:
· The Amillennialists: God’s promises regarding the end times are figurative and will not be literally fulfilled, particularly the 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.
· The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: The Rapture occurs before the period of tribulation, presumed to be 7 years and believers will not have to experience any of its disruption and pain. Most Christians accept this theory.
· The Mid-Tribulation Rapture: The Rapture happens 3 1/2 years after the period of tribulation starts.
· The Post-Tribulation Rapture: Those chosen will not be raptured until after the end of the 7 years of horror.
· The Partial or Split Rapture: Some of the chosen are raptured just before the period of tribulation and the rest are raptured, ether during, or at the end of the tribulation.
Scriptural Anomalies on the Rapture Time Frame
· The Rapture Occurred 2000 Years Ago: The following verses add a confusing element into the rapture time frame:
“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:28), “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27), and “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4: 17)
So, we are left with deciding if it has already happened, or it will happen before, during or after the times of trouble.. Now we add to the equation the question of who will be raptured. Is it those who faithfully wait for him, the 144,000 male virgins (Revelation 14:4), or both, and if both, are they raptured together? The possible theories are infinite and certainly we have yet another element that must added. Is it even correct to consider this in the first place?
A Time Unknown
Many people and organizations have tried to predict the exact date of Jesus’ return over the almost 2000 years since his death and many continue to do so. Those prognosticators who deal with timelines and specific dates for events simply ignore the clear edicts against this. “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:6-7), and “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) We cannot know the times and it is made clear that constant vigilance is commanded, in light of that reality. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:42-44)
We may not know when things will happen, but scripture does reveal what to expect.
· “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)
The exact time of the return of Jesus cannot be determined as is clearly demonstrated in the thousands of major failed predictions that the day was known. This is immediately repeated in verse 42 “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”, and, again, just 2 verses later, 44 “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”. In fact, the concept that we cannot know when he will return and when the prophecies surrounding his return will occur is repeated several times, as can be seen in the following verses:
· Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
· Mark 13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
· Luke 12:40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
· Acts 1: 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
· 1 Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
· Revelation 3: 3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
· Revelation 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
The concept of a rapture can certainly be something hopeful to look forward to, but, as history has shown, nobody has gotten it right yet. It would take a sizable reference work to list all the failed prophecies concerning the rapture and predictions about the end times. And, of course, the edict that we would only be wasting time trying to predict dates, set chronologies, or lay out sequences applies to all aspects of the many prophecies about the end times.
Jesus and his angels will suddenly appear in the sky, all over the planet, in a massive fleet of “clouds”, or vehicles, which will send shockwaves through the atmosphere, blot out the sun, cause the appearance of strange phenomena in the sky, and strike terror and cause great anxiety throughout the world. It is difficult to put the prophecies of Revelation in proper context with the tribulation before and the events after Jesus appears, as described in the Gospels. But, whether they occur before or after he arrives, we clearly see that mankind suffers greatly while resisting the return of the Messiah they expect, culminating in a great battle with the armies of the world gathered together against Jesus.