Question: Is there a rapture of the church? And if there is, is it before or after the tribulation?

Answer: The word "Rapture" does not occur in the Scriptures. The word is used to designate the removal of God's people and it is most often assumed by believers that this event is to occur before the great tribulation. However, many confuse the "rapture" with the first resurrection, as described by the apostle Paul. This event occurs after the tribulation at the second coming of Jesus.

   "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 (the first resurrection - Revelation 20:4,5 - 'The Resurrection of the Just;' Luke 14:14.) "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: 16,17.
    "Behold, I will show 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 "- I Corinthians 15:51,52.

Paul is teaching from the words of Jesus who said -

   "Immediately after the tribulation of those days - (For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be - Matthew 24:21, Daniel 12:1) - shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, (fallen angels, 'stars' lose their power- the "heaven" here, as observed by the context of the text, is the upper atmosphere, not God's realm) and the powers (demonic forces) of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven (the cross) 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: - Matthew 24:30.
   And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect* (believers) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other - Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27.

   The believers are gathered, then angels are sent to remove the wicked "as in the days of Noah" - Matthew 24:38-41. This event coincides with the destruction of the beast and the false prophet and their followers at the time of Jesus' coming - Revelation 19:19-21.
   “So it shall be at the end of the world (age): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 13:49, 50. (The Bible defines the "wicked" as those who have rejected God. An example would be communists. Communists believe in God, but they hate Him. God isn't going to destroy someone who has no knowledge of Him, but would accept Him readily when presented with the Gospel. God, through His foreknowledge knows who will be His and these will be spared during this event.)
    Then follows the gathering of the nations and the judgment for the rewards of the sheep and the goats - Matthew 25:31-46, Ezekiel 34:17- 22; - the stewards of His talents - Matthew 25:14-30. "And behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according as his work shall be" - Rev. 22:12, Isaiah 40:10.
   The Great White Throne judgment is the second resurrection which determines the fate of all those who did not partake in the resurrection of the just at Jesus’ second coming which occurs at the literal end of the world, in heaven, after the millennial reign of Jesus on this earth with His Saints– Revelation 20:11-15, 21:1, II Peter 3:7, 10, Mark 13:31.

   At this point I can hear you ask trembling, "Does this mean that you are saying there is no pre-tribulation rapture of the church?"
   Not quite, there is still hope. We need to take a look at Revelation 3:7-10. These passages describe the church of Philadelphia, which is the only spiritual condition of the seven churches that is promised to be kept from "The hour of temptation." "The Hour" which is also referred to as the hour of His judgment, does not occur until chapter fourteen.
   Up to this point, the book of Revelation describes progressive tribulation until it cumulates into the great tribulation or "The Hour."
   The only precedent we have in the Scriptures for a "pre-tribulation or pre-'hour' rapture" occurs in Chapter Eleven with the calling up of the two witnesses- Revelation 11:11,12.
    It is commonly taught that these are two individual Jews who are testifying, but if we look closely we can see that they are referred to as "candlesticks" (Rev. 11:4) designating them as churches, which refers us back to the candlesticks in chapters two and three. For more insight into this subject, check out our article The Seven Flames
   Also please check out our feature Revelation Times for an expository study on the book of Revelation, currently from chapters one through thirteen.

*The Elect is commonly thought by some to refer to only the Jews who will be testifying during the great tribulation. Jesus says that He is coming to gather His elect, (Matthew 24:31) the event which Paul also describes in I Thessalonians 4:16,17, to encourage the believers there. Although there were most likely some Jewish believers in that congregation, the church in Thessalonica was also comprised of "a great multitude" (Acts 17:4) of Gentiles as well. Therefore Paul is including them in the elect category. In Colossians 3:11,12 Paul says that those who have put on the new man are - "neither Greek nor Jew....but Christ is all and in all. Put on therefore as the elect of God..." - the divine nature. Therefore Gentiles who have obeyed the Gospel are viewed as the "elect" - "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ..." - I Peter 1:2. - Here the apostle Peter tells us how we become the elect.
    We do not replace the Jew, but we become Jews, separated to God, because through Christ we, the "wild olive tree" have been grafted into the Jewish remnant olive tree of God's elect and are now considered to be one with them - "For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;" -Romans 11:16,17
   "For they are not all Israel which are of Israel" - Romans 9:6.- "Israel has not obtained what he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded" - Romans 11:7.
    "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" - Galatians 6:15, 16.

Copyright 2010 by H.D. Shively

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