(1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
Do you believe in the rapture?
Today there are multitudes of professing Christians who no longer believe in the rapture of the Church. Their leaders are into a doctrine called, “Kingdom Dominion.” These leaders are teaching that the Church is going to be triumphant in this present age and that it will take dominion over the nations to establish God’s physical kingdom on earth before Jesus comes back. They sincerely believe that the world will be increasingly Christianised and presented to Jesus when He comes by a triumphant Church ruling and reigning over the nations of the earth. Of course if you believe this then why is there even a need to believe in the rapture at all? This is the logical conclusion if you believe this doctrine of “Kingdom Dominion.”
Read the Bible!
However, sincere they may be they are sincerely wrong! To justify this teaching they have to ignore the coming of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation and the fact that the Bible itself says things will get progressively worse in the world and not better. Jesus Himself said this (Matthew 24:21-22). Also they have to deny God’s prophetic purposes and promises He made to Israel regarding their restoration as a nation. They have to deny God’s purposes for Israel in the Last Days. In fact they would say that their movement is the one that will usher in the return of Jesus. They have to have replacement theology to justify their “theological” position. They are saying that somehow Jesus returns to the Church before he returns for the Church. This is heresy! It is only after Jesus has come back that there will be Kingdom Dominion and not before. Daniel tells us that the saints inherit the Kingdom only after the Antichrist and the kingdoms of this world have been destroyed (Daniel 7:27). “Why don’t they read the Bible?” The Bible is very clear that there will be The Time of Jacob’s Trouble also called The Great Tribulation and the worldwide persecution of faithful Christians by the Antichrist. Many of the Church Fathers going all the way back to the apostles and including the apostles clearly taught that the Antichrist would persecute the Church just before Jesus comes back. Never the less the purpose of this study is to look at the types of the rapture in the Bible. We will only look at the main ones.
Now the term “rapture,” is simply a Latinised form of the Greek term “caught up.” It is the Greek term episyanagogo,”gathering,” with Him. This word is where we get the word “synagogue.” The word “Harpazo (har-pad’-zo) is the Greek word which the New Testament translators have rendered as “caught up”. For example Paul uses this word when he describes himself as being “caught up” to the third heaven. He said, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up [Greek, harpazo] to the Third Heaven.” (2Corinthians 12:2) The word “Rapture” is taken from an obsolete French word, which means “abduction” or “to carry off”. The Bible does not make a distinction between the Resurrection and the Rapture as they are the same event. This term conveys the idea that the faithful Church will be caught up into the air to meet the Lord Jesus when He comes again. It describes Jesus’ faithful followers being gathered around Him in the air with Him at the centre. Matthew also described this event when he wrote; “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all of the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)
“At that time”
Notice the phrase “At that time.” What time is that? It certainly isn’t a “secret” pre-tribulation “snatching away.” The “catching up” of the saints is placed right at the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble when the wars, diseases, famines and earthquakes have devastated the planet. It is at the time that the constellations are not giving their light, when the stars are falling from heaven, when the heavenly bodies are shaking and the armies of the nations are surrounding Jerusalem. It is at that time when these things are occurring in rapid succession and the world is in its final “death throes” that the Lord Jesus comes back to rapture and resurrect the saints, to deliver Israel and to fight against those armies that have come against Jerusalem. The conditions Jesus mentions just prior to His Second Coming clearly contradicts Kingdom Now and Kingdom Dominion teaching or “Post Millennial theology.”
Many ‘types’ of the rapture
Now there are many types of the rapture in the Bible and when you understand the Jewish way of viewing prophecy it makes perfect sense. The Jewish mind of the First Century Bible believer viewed prophecy as a pattern of historical events similar in character with partial fulfilments in history that all collectively taught about an ultimate fulfilment at the end of this present age. (You can look at this in our study on this website called, “How to understand Biblical Prophecy”) The Bible clearly teaches that the faithful Church will be rescued out of The Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14). It would seem that the Church is seen coming out of the Great Tribulation between the sixth and the seventh seal in the book of Revelation. The last thing happening on earth before Jesus comes back will be the Great Tribulation. To diminish the rapture or to deny it or to attempt to do away with it is to rob Christians of their hope.
The rapture and resurrection
For the majority of faithful believers today in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan, and in most third world countries the Islamic beast empire is already persecuting the faithful Church. The one hope these precious believers have is the certainty of the rapture and the resurrection. Ultimately this pattern of persecution in these countries will have a final fulfilment in the global persecution of faithful Jewish and Christian believers at the hands of the Antichrist (Daniel 7:21) (Revelation 13:7). In fact before Jesus comes back world conditions will be so bad that true believers will be longing for Jesus to return to rescue them. Jesus Himself said this would be the case (Luke 21:25-28). Once again the conditions Jesus described just prior to His return flatly contradict Kingdom Now teaching. Now let’s look at types of the final rapture from the Bible itself.
(Genesis 5:24) “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Hebrews 11:5) “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For, before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”
In the character of Enoch and in his rapture we have an example of the character of the faithful remnant in these last days that will be caught up to be with Jesus when He comes. We are told several things about Enoch.
Firstly, “he walked with God.” His whole life was lived in union with the Lord. He had no Sunday religion but a personal relationship with the Lord that he had cultivated every day, moment by moment, as he walked in line with God’s will and purposes for his life. This will be a distinguishing mark of those who will be raptured. If we say we love Jesus then we will love His word. If we do not love the Bible then we do not love Jesus at all, in fact the Jesus we have will not be the Biblical one! Only those who are ready for the bridegroom with the oil of the Spirit burning brightly in their hearts will be taken into the wedding feast!
Secondly, “He was commended as one who pleased God.” His first and foremost desire was to please the Lord in all things. Every day he gave God the Lordship over everything he said and did in his life. The Lord was number one and everything else in his life was subject to that. He also was one who was looking forward to meeting the Lord. As the writer to the Hebrews said, “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (deliverance)” (Hebrews 9:28).
Thirdly, “By faith Enoch was taken,” The thing that really pleased God was the fact that Enoch walked by faith every day of his life. The Bible says that without faith we cannot please God at all (Hebrews 11:6). The word used for faith in both Testaments also implies faithfulness. Enoch not only believed in God but believed Him as well. He took God’s word seriously and not only believed what it said but also did what it said. As James said, “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Enoch’s faith was demonstrated by his actions. He did what he believed. Jude also tells us that Enoch also prophesied about the false teachers that would come in the last days and for the Second Coming of Christ (Jude 14-15).
He was faithful
To sum up Enoch was taken because He walked with God, He pleased God and because He walked by faithfulness. Also he was in a position to receive revelation about the things to come. Daniel said that Enoch’s attitude would characterise the faithful remnant in the last days. “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” (Daniel 12:10b) In these last days wisdom and faithfulness will go hand in hand. If we want to understand what is really happening today regarding prophecy in the light of the Bible and world conditions then we need to be practicing faithfulness. God will never reveal His end time prophetic purposes for Israel, for the Church and for the world to those who are Biblically ignorant. If we are faithful to the Lord then we will be faithful to His word the Bible and know what it actually teaches about the last days.
(Genesis 6:8-9) “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”
Noah and his family lived in a time when things were like they are today in the world. They lived in a world filled with violence, materialism and wickedness of every kind and degree. The Bible says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously.” Today it is the same and notice that the imagination was involved. Today with the multi-media and the Sodom and Gomorrah of Hollywood our minds and indeed our imaginations are constantly bombarded with images and concepts of violence, immorality, lust, perversion of every kind and materialism on a scale unprecedented in history! Also we are also told in the Bible that Noah was a preacher of righteousness and in this maintained a good testimony in the sight of God and man. It took him around 120 years to build that Ark. Day after day he persevered as he preached righteousness, sawed wood, melted pitch and continued to build with no sign at all of the impending judgment to come. But the Bible says, “By faith (faithfulness) Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)
Faith in action
Imagine Noah building a great ship in the middle of dry land. He was acting on his faith and what he believed not on what he saw. There was no water in sight. By faith he saw what was coming. He really believed that what God had said would come to pass exactly as He had said; consequently, Noah began building the “ark of salvation.” Image how the people laughed and jeered and mocked Noah and his family. However, once God had shut the door of the Ark and the rain and the floods came upon the people multitudes were left outside. Many were screaming and crying and beating on the outside of the Ark as the dark waters swirled around them and engulfed them until there was only silence everywhere.
The rescue of the faithful remnant
In the last days just before Jesus comes back there will be only a faithful remnant longing for and looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ to rescue them from the coming wrath. They will be hard pressed, persecuted, afflicted, tempted and rejected by the world. They will be surrounded by hostility on all sides yet preaching righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ alone and warning people to flee from the wrath to come. They will be compelling people to run into the Ark of Salvation that is only in Christ alone! Yet Jesus himself also said that because of the increase of wickedness even the love of most Christians would grow cold (Matthew 24:12-13). When you look at the condition of the professing Christian Church in the world today with its false prophets, its ecumenism and interfaith associations and its conformity to the standards of the world you can see that what Jesus said was right.
Keep your lamp burning!
Every believer must constantly guard against losing his or her first love for Jesus. All of us who belong to the Lord Jesus must constantly keep our love for Him and His word alive in our hearts. We must constantly be filled up with the oil of the Holy Spirit in the lamps of our lives to see in the encroaching darkness and to be ready for the bridegroom’s appearance in an hour when He is least expected! The bridegroom will not take those who do not have the oil of the Holy Spirit in the lamps of their lives. When they go into the darkness then that darkness will be very dark indeed! Remember the Lord Jesus will only come for a bride that is waiting eagerly for Him and anticipating the wedding day! Perseverance will be rewarded in the end. As the Bible says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (in due season) we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) Those whom Jesus will rescue from the coming wrath will be totally relying upon the grace (unmerited favour) of God, walking by faithfulness, practicing the righteous standards of God, keeping their relationship with the Lord fresh every day and preaching righteousness. Also they will be sheltering under the blood of Christ. Those who walk with God as Noah did will be snatched away. Like Noah and his family they will escape the wrath to come!
(Luke 17:28-29) “It was the same in the day of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the same day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.”
(Genesis 19:16-17, 20) “When he hesitated, the men (angels) grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”
In the Bible we are told that Lot was a righteous man even though he was living in morally and spiritually degenerate world. Every day he was afflicted with the things he saw around him. Every day he struggled to be faithful to God when everything seemed to be against going God’s way. Yet we are told in the New Testament that he was a righteous man i.e., to say he was living and walking by faith yet oppressed and burdened by his environment. He was, “a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard).” (2 Peter 2:7-8) When the time came for him to leave Sodom he was reluctant to go. Probably to some degree he had become attached to the things of this world. He had a prominent position in the city and was doing very well where material prosperity was concerned. However, because of Abraham, God had mercy and Lot and rescued him from the wrath that fell upon Sodom and the other cities of the plain. The very same day that Lot was taken out of the city the fire of God’s wrath fell. Lot was rescued at the very last moment. He did not experience the wrath of God. The same thing will happen to the faithful Church.
To leave or to cleave?
When we see God sending down fire from heaven upon the Cites of Sodom and Gomorrah we have a picture of the wrath of God being poured out upon a godless world at the end of this present age. Lot is a type of the faithful remnant that will be rescued just before the fire falls. God’s word tells us that those who have the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ will not experience His wrath (Romans 5:9) (1 Thessalonians 5:9). In the last days before Jesus comes back it will be a remanent that will make it out of here! Like Lot some believers will find it hard to leave their possessions and lifestyle but if their hearts are really for the Lord then they will be rescued! In fact things will be so corrupt in the world just before Jesus comes back that it will be a miracle if any of us make it out of here! Peter said, “And if the righteous are scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear.” (1 Peter 4:18)
Some won’t make it
There will be some who won’t make it out of here at all. Remember Lot’s wife was also escaping but she looked back and was caught in the judgement. Here heart was in the world. She was thinking only of saving her life in this world and still attached to the things of this world. Possibly she was still hungering after the social life, her position and standing in the community, May be she was thinking about the dress shops and the café’s where she often conversed and rubbed shoulders with the other prominent women in the city. It would seem she really loved and hungered after “the good life” she had in this world and yet just as she was escaping from the world she decided to look back despite God’s warning and she perished in the flames! She became a pillar of salt. She had a choice to leave or to cleave!
For Abraham’s sake and because Abraham had interceded for the righteous in the city God rescued Lot. Like Lot, those who love the Lord Jesus and His Word will be rescued, not because they have their own righteousness, but because of Jesus’ righteous standing before God and because, like Abraham interceded for his nephew Lot, Jesus is always interceding for His faithful followers at God’s right hand (Hebrews 7:25) (Romans 8:34).
4. The Exodus
(Exodus 14:13-14) “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The Exodus is not only a type of our Salvation in Christ but also a pattern of what will happen at the end of this age concerning the nation of Israel. While in its context it relates to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt in Moses time it also points to Israel’s deliverance in the last days from the hands of the Antichrist and his armies surrounding Jerusalem. Egypt in the Bible is also a type of the world and Pharaoh is a type of the god of this world the devil. Israel is a type of those justified, sanctified and redeemed from the ‘Egypt’ of this world and its “Pharaoh” the devil. Ultimately it points to the rapture and resurrection of the Church!
The ultimate Exodus experience
When we see Joseph’s bones being carried out with the Israelites it illustrates the truth that “The dead in Christ will rise first.” Joseph represents those who have died in Christ. The living Israelites represent those who are still alive in Christ at His coming. This Exodus clearly points to the Resurrection and the rapture of the Church! Both the living and dead saints will be resurrected and raptured and redeemed! When the plagues of judgment began to fall on Egypt the Israelites were divinely protected because they were sheltering under the blood of the lamb. They were still in Egypt at that time but when the final wrath was poured out on the Egyptians at the Red Sea the Israelites were out of Egypt! Of course the plagues and judgement upon ancient Egypt in the book of Exodus are replayed on the Egypt of this world in the book of Revelation. The ultimate “Exodus” experience for every believer will be the rapture of the faithful Church out of the “Egypt” of this world
(Joshua 2:21) “And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.”
Rahab was a prostitute living in the city of Jericho. An outcast from society and a ‘sinner’ like all of us who knew the wickedness of the human heart apart from the grace of God. The two main things about Rahab is that she believed God’s word that the judgement was coming and risked her life to hide the Israeli spies and tied the red cord in the window. The red ribbon was a symbol of the blood of Christ. In the light of the New Testament only those who are sheltering under the blood of Jesus by faith alone will be rescued from the coming wrath of God upon sin. Figuratively Rahab is a type of every true born again believer trusting in the blood of Christ to save them in the day of God’s wrath. Paul understood this truth when he said, “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9) This truth is clearly seen when the Israelites in Egypt were spared from the plagues. God passed over them and did not judge them because they had sheltered under the lamb’s blood. When God saw the blood on the doorposts He passed over them. Rahab was in the city right up to the end and when the city walls collapsed she was delivered. Jericho is a type of the God hating, Christ rejecting world of the last days. Joshua and the armies of Israel are a type of the Lord Jesus coming again with the armies of heaven to destroy and to overthrow the kingdoms of this world. Rahab is a type of the faithful remnant waiting for their rescue out of the world. You could say that Rahab was “raptured” figuratively speaking.
The Blood of Christ
There is only one thing that can save us from the wrath to come and that is the blood of Christ. If we are truly saved by faith in Christ alone then spiritually speaking we are marked with His blood and not destined for wrath but to obtain Salvation through Him. God Himself sees the blood of Christ upon the doorposts of our hearts and lives and will pass over us when He judges the world in righteousness by the same Jesus Christ whom He has appointed. When we see Rahab rescued out from the destruction of Jericho it teaches us about the rescue and rapture of the Church just prior to the final wrath of God. Only those relying on the total efficiency of the blood of Christ to save them will be rescued. Anyone who is not marked by the blood of Christ through faith in Him will suffer God’s wrath as the Egyptians did in the time of Moses. The apostle Paul wrote; “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9)
(2 Kings 2:11) “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
The times of Elijah and what happened teach us about what will happen in the last days just before Jesus comes back. Elijah was God’s prophet and the one along with 7,000 that would not bow to the spirit of false religion promulgated by the witch Jezebel and her false prophets. Elijah represents the character of the faithful remnant that stood against the numerous false prophets leading God’s people and their leaders astray. Even though there were 7,000 in Israel who supported Elijah they were still in the minority.
A faithful remnant
In these last days just before Jesus returns the faithful remnant will be like Elijah, They will be standing against a Godless society, a backslidden Church with corrupt leaders and numerous false prophets deceiving and being deceived by the spirit of false religion personified in the character of Jezebel. The way she controlled Ahab and led him astray shows us how the spirit of false religion (which is witchcraft) is leading many of our Church leaders astray in these last days. Jezebel had her numerous false prophets and the Church is full of them today. The list is almost endless. Much more could be said about the times of Elijah and how they teach us about the last days. The fact is that Elijah was caught up after he had completed his ministry for the Lord. After a long life walking with God, serving him, standing against severe opposition, persecution and the spirit of false religion he was caught up. In these last days the same thing will happen to those who remain faithful to Jesus and to His word the Bible. Remember it was only the five wise virgins that went into the marriage feast with the bridegroom. The others were left behind!
If you really belong to the Lord Jesus and are walking in all of God’s will for your life you will be taken to meet the Lord in the air at His coming. Not one member of the Body of Christ, the true Church, will be left behind to experience the final bowls of God’s wrath. When the last trumpet sounds we will all be caught up to meet the Lord in the air; “Listen I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) There are seven trumpets. At the sound of the last trumpet every truly born again believer will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His Second Coming.
7. The Transfiguration
(Matthew 17:2-3) “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
The Transfiguration is one of the clearest types of the rapture in the Bible. The Apostle Peter, who was one of the three present when this event took place, later relates this experience to what the Second Coming of the Lord will be like. “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (1 Peter 2:16) The transfiguration is directly linked to the Second Coming of Christ in great spender and majesty. Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah and talked with them. Both Moses and Elijah shone with the same brightness and splendour as the Lord Jesus did. This event teaches us about the rapture and the resurrection of the Church. In fact as we have already said the rapture and the resurrection are the same event. Moses represents those believers who have died physically in Christ while Elijah represents those believers who are still alive in Christ when He comes again. Both those who have died and those who are alive receive their resurrected bodies at the same time.
Caught up together!
When Jesus comes again both the living and the dead in Christ will be caught up together to meet Him in the air. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that we who are alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18) To deny that there will even be the rapture as some do is to rob believers of their hope! At the very end of this present age the rapture and resurrection will be the only hope for faithful believers in this world.
8. The Ascension
(Luke 24:50-53) “When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
(Acts 1:9-11) “After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go to heaven.”
The Lord Jesus Himself was raptured. He had a glorified body after His resurrection just like we will have at the rapture and resurrection. John said, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; For we shall see Him as He is. And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
Destined to reign!
Whatever happens to us in this world the one sure thing we have to look forward to is the rapture and resurrection of our bodies. As believers we are not only destined for heaven but also to be resurrected to reign with Christ on this earth. In the last days just before Jesus returns the one hope that every true born again believer will have is the resurrection. Job expressed it in this way when he said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon my grave. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes-I, and not another. How my heart years within me!” (Job 19:25-27) Do our hearts yearn for the Lord’s return? Well God is going to organize circumstances in the world in such a way that we will desperately long for His coming. Forget what the Kingdom Now preachers are telling you. Things are not going to get better but worse. To embrace the Kingdom Now teaching is to make the rapture virtually irrelevant!
9. The Apostle Paul
(2 Corinthians 12:2-4) “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows. And I know that this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-was caught up to Paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
Paul himself was “caught up to the third heaven.” Now from this we can know that there are three spheres of heaven. The first heaven is the air just above the circumference of the earth. This is Satan’s domain as he is “the prince of the power of the air.” The word used for “air” is that sphere of the heavens where the radio and television waves circumnavigate the globe. Television and radio waves flow in Satan’s area of dominion. This is why the television has great power and influence over the imagination. Satan is using this medium to programme the minds and hearts of millions around the globe to go along with his agenda for the world and for his ultimate appearance in the person of the Antichrist. The second heaven is that sphere where the sky, the sun, the stars, the planets and the whole solar system exist. The third heaven is where God Himself resides with the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. Paul was caught up to this dimension but does not describe what he actually saw. But what he saw blew his mind and he could hardly express himself as to what he saw in that realm of existence where time as we know on earth does not exist.
We shall be like Him
The apostle John wrote; “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3) When we as believers have been raptured, resurrected and have received our glorified bodies we will be able to live and move in that realm just as Jesus can. During the Millennium we will be able to walk among people on the earth and in an instant experience a transfiguration into the heavenly realm just as Jesus did on the mount of Transfiguration. Remember after His resurrection Jesus could live and move among men yet He could pass through a closed door when He appeared to his disciples. After all we will have bodies the same as His glorious body. This is what we will have at the rapture and resurrection.
The hope of the rapture and resurrection should spur us on as believers to live Holy lives in this present evil age. To be holy is to love God with our entire heart, with our entire mind, with our entire soul and with our entire strength and to love our neighbour as we would love ourselves. On these hang all the law and the prophets for this kind of love fulfils all of the requirements of God’s Law. While Paul saw we do not know but he was not the only one caught up into the third heaven, as we will now see. The apostle John was caught up to the third heaven.
10. The Apostle John
(Revelation 4:1-2) “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.”
The first thing John saw when he was transported into the third heaven was the very throne room of God Himself. When we are raptured the first person we will see will be the Lord Jesus Himself the King of Kings and Lord of Lords coming in the clouds of heaven. However if we die before Jesus comes back the first thing we will see will be the very throne room of God Himself. In Chapter four and five of the book of Revelation John describes what heaven is like. While Paul does not reveal what he saw John does. When we read what John writes we are taken out of our time and into an eternal dimension where time as we know it down here on earth no longer exists. In that realm we will be living in the past, the present and the future all at once. We will be able to comprehend eternity as God sees it.
There will be no limitations to our minds and hearts receiving God’s ageless wisdom and knowledge. At the centre of the worshipping throng of heaven will be the Lord Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world. In the last chapters of Revelation John goes on to describe the Heavenly Jerusalem and the final and eternal state of all things. Many Bible scholars see John’s rapture as the rapture of the Church before the Tribulation but that is an inference. In fact we see the Church coming out of the Great Tribulation later on in chapter seven verse fourteen. Also in Revelation chapter thirteen we see the saints being persecuted by the empire of the Antichrist. The word John uses for “saints” in verse seven of the same chapter is the standard New Testament word for Christians. However, John’s rapture definitely teaches us about our ultimate rapture as believers.
There will be a rapture!
The point of this study is not to prove a pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or even a pre-wrath rapture but to point to the one single fact that all those who truly belong to Christ will be caught up to meet Him in the air when He comes again and that this should be our hope as believers. You may ask, “Do I believe that the Lord could come at any moment? I believe that if you or I as a believer die before our Lord Jesus comes back then yes, the Lord has come for us. However, Do I believe that the rapture can happen at any moment? No I don’t! The Bible teaches us that the Lord Jesus cannot come back until at least three things happen. Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians clearly tells us that we will not be gathered to the Lord in the air until three things happen. Let’s briefly look at these. In Second Thessalonians chapter two Paul mentions the apostasy. Secondly he mentions that the man of sin will be revealed. Thirdly he mentions that there will be the infestation of counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders in the professing Christian Church on a global scale. In fact the apostasy and the false signs, miracles and wonders will pave the way for the Antichrist. The apostasy and the counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders are a conspicuous feature in the professing Christian Church today. Only after Jesus’ faithful followers know who the Antichrist is will they be gathered to meet the Lord in the air. We have dealt with this subject from Second Thessalonians on this website under the title, “The Coming of the Lord and the Man of Sin.” This is an exposition of Second Thessalonians chapter two. The point is that if the Church is going to be removed before the Great Tribulation and the manifestation of the Antichrist then who was Paul speaking to if the Church was no longer around? A fair question?
Things will be getting better?
Today the Kingdom Now teachers are telling us that everything is going to get better and not worse and that the Church will take possession and kingdom dominion over the nations of the world. Some are teaching that we are now in the Millennium. Others are teaching that we are moving into the Millennium progressively as the world’s nations are Christianised. All Kingdom Dominion teaching leads to the conclusion that the nations of the world, once Christianised, will ultimately be presented to Jesus when He comes by a triumphant Church. If this is the case then why even believe in the rapture at all? Why for that matter should we even believe in the coming Antichrist, the final apostasy, the Great Tribulation and the place of Israel in the prophetic purposes of God? This is the logical conclusion to Kingdom Now and Kingdom Dominion teaching.
It is an undisputable fact that the writers of both Testaments including the Lord Jesus Himself taught otherwise. All of them specifically teach the doctrines of the last days and about all of the events relating to them. To try to get around plain Biblical texts the propagators of Kingdom Now theology have to do “’monkey tricks” with the Bible texts. In fact when they are challenged about the last days they have to some-how “spiritualise” the texts or say that the events described have already happened. For example many kingdom dominion teachers actually relegate the events of Matthew twenty-four to 70AD and say there is no future fulfilment in history. However, if you look closely at the chapter you will see that Jesus does mention the events of 70 AD but goes on to describe what will happen again in the last days leading up to and including His Second Coming.
What has been will be again
In Matthew chapter twenty-four Jesus specifically points to the abomination of desolation that would happen in the future. The desecration of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem happened under Antiochus around 160 years before Jesus was born. This was the abomination of desolation Jesus spoke about. Jesus took this past event and said it was going to happen again in the future and it did happen again in 70 AD around 40 years later just as He predicted. However, He was also saying that it would happen again just before the end of this present age when the Antichrist himself would desecrate the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Again the whole context of Matthew twenty-four primarily relates to the last days and includes the coming of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, the rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ. The text is very clear on these points. Furthermore Matthew chapter twenty four is connected to Matthew Chapter twenty five. Besides in Matthew chapter twenty-five Jesus did not separate the sheep from the goats in 70AD. The whole context of Matthew chapters twenty-four and twenty five point to the events of the last days and include the Second Coming of Christ.
The rapture will in fact be a rescue of the faithful Church, rejected by the world and persecuted by the forces of the Antichrist. In all of the types of the rapture we have looked at from the Word of God the common truth revealed in all of these events is that there will be a rescue of the faithful Church just before the wrath of God falls. This truth is a common feature in both Testaments. In fact you cannot separate the rapture and the resurrection. They are the same event and will happen simultaneously! This is the clear teaching of the Word of God. To teach otherwise is to rob Christians of their hope in this world and to deny the plain teaching of God’s Word! The apostle Paul wrote; “Listen I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) and again he wrote; “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)
The Last Trumpet!
It is at the sound of the Last Trumpet that we who believe in Jesus will be raptured and rescued out of the Great Tribulation! In Revelation Chapter seven verse fourteen we see the faithful Church “coming out of the Great Tribulation.” Some translations use the phrase, “…who come through the Great Tribulation” or “…who are coming through the great persecution.” To come out of something or to pass through it you have to be already in it! According to the clear teaching of scripture the faithful Church goes into the Last three and a half years of this present age. Remember the Antichrist’s beast empire will have power over the saints and over people for three and a half years and most of that time it will be the wrath of Satan, however, when the Bowls of God’s Wrath are poured out right at the end then it becomes the Wrath of God. As the bowls of wrath come down the faithful Church goes up to meet the Lord in the air at His Second Coming. Remember Paul’s words to the Thessalonian believers, “…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead —Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath”… “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 5:9)
Remember the Titanic
They said of this ship that not even God could sink it! Well they were dead wrong! Using this as an illustration we could say that the whole world in fact is a ‘Titanic headed for the iceberg’ and only those who have their lifejackets of salvation on will escape. They will be sitting on the outside in the lifeboats knowing that the disaster is coming. They have warned the others sailing in the ship to put on their lifejackets even though there is no indication that a disaster is looming. Even though it is cold and dark outside while the majority of revellers continue on in the casinos and pleasure palaces of this world unaware that the ship is heading for the iceberg that will sink it. Those who do not put on the lifejackets of salvation will go down with the ship when the disaster comes. We need to be clothed with the garment of salvation being the robe of Jesus’ righteousness if we are to escape the coming wrath! Whether we belong to Satan or to the Lord Jesus we will be snatched away either by the Lord Jesus or by Satan. If the rapture and resurrection is not uppermost in our minds then we are of most men to be pitied. The ship of this world is sinking fast and only those who are sitting in the lifeboat of salvation and clothed with the lifejacket of Jesus’ righteousness will be rescued!