I have noticed as I have perused various internet outlets, that there is some confusion among believers concerning the rapture. While some don’t believe in a pre-tribulation rapture at all, it is revealed very clearly in Revelation 11:12, when the two witnesses are called up to heaven before the last trumpet sounds. These witnesses represent the 144,000 remnant who are seen safely in heaven afterward and prior to the carnage that erupts at the end of chapter fourteen in verses fifteen through twenty. The 144,000 are raptured prior to the angel’s warning not to take the mark of the beast in verses nine and ten.
The 144, 000 in turn represent the Philadelphian remnant that God promises to keep from the hour of temptation (apostasy) which in turn keeps them from the hour of His judgment, the tribulation. This is a symbolic number representing a greater multitude, but is symbolically showing us that it is a small amount of believers in comparison to the number of Christians on earth at that time.
This group are not only Jews as taught by Cyrus Scofield, who did not understand prophetic symbolism. In the description of the 144, 000 in chapter seven we see that Manasseh replaces Dan. This shows us the half-Gentile offspring of Joseph, who is a similitude of Jesus, being grafted in to the Hebrew lineage. Therefore we are being shown that the 144,000 is a mix of believing Jews and Gentiles.
It’s important to understand that it is only the Philadelphians who are promised to be kept, who also share the same characteristics with the Smyrnans, which is the only other church spiritual condition that receives no correction from the Lord. Both share the same spirit of faithfulness. The remaining five spiritual conditions will be left behind if they do not repent in time. Therefore it is important for us to examine the things those churches are harboring that will keep them from the Philadelphian category.
We are to pray we are worthy to escape as Jesus said (Luke 21:36) and be willing to let Him change or remove those things in us that would keep us earthbound.
The concept of a pre-tribulation rapture was not taught by Jesus or by the Apostle Paul who, in I Thessalonians 4:16, is teaching the first resurrection of the dead, which occurs after the tribulation just before Jesus returns. Paul’s statements are commonly mistaken for the pre-tribulation rapture. The pre-tribulation rapture was indicated later in John’s Revelation prophecy. The pre-tribulation rapture is also prophesied in the Apocrypha (I Esdras 6:26), where Esdras (Ezra of the Old Testament) is told by the Lord through an angel that “They shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death.” This event would instigate a change in the hearts of the people who witness those being taken up – “and the heart of the earth’s inhabitant’s shall be changed.”
The post-tribulation rapture which includes the first resurrection of the dead (I Thessalonians 4:16), occurs before God’s wrath falls to destroy the beast one world government, the antichrist and Babylon, the city/system that represents them. When God calls His people out of Babylon, (Revelation 18:4) that is the pre-wrath rapture and the first resurrection of the dead in Christ; and it will be the only time that there will be no true believers on earth. This is the rapture that will gather up all those who have been left behind along with those who have come to the Lord during the tribulation.
The great tribulation is the result of man’s sin falling back upon him, which occurs before the first resurrection/rapture. The purpose of the tribulation is to hopefully bring mankind to repentance. After the post-tribulation rapture, the wrath of God is poured out upon all those who willfully practice sin and rebellion against God.
While Babylon is being destroyed and vile men are experiencing God’s wrath, the Lord’s church will be celebrating the marriage supper of the Lamb. In order for the marriage supper of the Lamb to take place, every believer would have to be present, no one would be excluded, thus the dead in Christ rise first and the believers are gathered by the angels (I Thessalonians 4:16, Matthew 24:31). It is in this period of time between the Lord’s sign appearing in the sky and His actual physical return to earth with His saints, that this long awaited marriage supper with the Lord takes place.
I hope this has clarified things for some. The great tribulation and the time of God’s wrath are two separate events that will occur in a not so distant future. Let’s take advantage of the time we have left to prepare ourselves to meet the Lord. To help us understand those spiritual conditions that hinder the five churches in Revelation’s chapters two and three, please read our feature, A Sermon for the Church
Copyright 2020 by H.D. Shively
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