B. The Rapture
They cried with a loud voice, "0 Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?" Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their follow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Rev. 6:10â€‘11 RSV)
The day will come when God, who is patient and longâ€‘suffering for our sakes, will respond to these prayers of His martyred saints and wrap things up. What will be involved in such a wrapâ€‘up?
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that till the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion in an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13â€‘14)
until the ancient of days came, and judgement was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.... But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. (Dan. 7:22,18)
There are two distinct aspects to the kingdom, depicted here: The first aspect is when "one like unto a son of man" (Christ) receives the kingdom from the "ancient of days" (God). The second aspect is when Christ bequeaths and jointly shares His kingdom with His chosen ones, the saints of the Most High. What is the significance of these two different aspects?
And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, the kingdom of God cometh not with observation: (Luke 17:20).
On the one hand, the Lord says that the kingdom of God comes without observation, yet in several other places he relates specific outward signs of the coming of the kingdom. Why is this so?
Neither shall they say, Lo, here! Or, there! For lo, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)
And madest them (to be) unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth. (Rev. 6:10)
And Jesus answered and spake again in parables unto them, Saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, (Matt. 22:1â€‘2)
But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. (Matt. 24:36)
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. . . (2 Pet. 3:12)
to whom God was pleased to make known this mystery ... which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Col. 1:27)
... may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ: (Eph. 4:15)
Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. (James 5:7 NASB)
you are God's field ... (1 Cor. 3:9 NASB)
The hidden aspect of the kingdom that comes without observation is this: God the Father is preparing a bride for His Son composed out of people he has chosen from before the foundation of the world. These people are constituted a kingdom unto Christ by letting Christ rule in them. This denying of the self to let Christ rule in them is dependent on the exercise by them of their free will; thus the day of God is not a set date- its coming can be hastened by greater numbers of believers allowing Christ to mature in them and by their letting Him mature in them faster. (See Appendix. XII.)
Not all who are called will be chosen; not all believers will pay the price in this life to let Christ rule in them and thus constitute them a kingdom to Him. This hidden kingdom, which will be the bride to Christ, is a present from one person of the Triune God (the Father) to another person of the Triune God (Christ the Son). What good is a present if the exact time of this giving is not a surprise? This is why not even Christ knows the day and hour when this kingdom will be given to Him. Only the Father knows. The day and hour depends on a sufficient maturity of Christ in an adequate number of believers, sufficient enough to adequately express Christ as His bride and reign with Him during the time of the second aspect of the kingdom. What is the second, open aspect of the kingdom?
Look at yourselves, that ye lose not the things which we have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward. (2 John 8)
For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt. 22:14)
... called saints ... (Rom 1:7)
And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8:17)
The coâ€‘reigning with Christ during the millennial kingdom, which is a 1,000â€‘year wedding feast, is a reward to those believers who go on to be overcomers- Âthose who allow Christ to overcome their selfâ€‘life and thus transform their souls into His image. All believers will be the new Jerusalem (the wife of Christ) in eternity, but only the overcomers will be the bride of Christ during the millennium.
when he shall come to be glorified in his saints ... (2 Thess. 1:10).
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Tim. 3:16 Intl. Greek)
For yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, Peace and safety, then suddenly destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child: and they shall in no wise escape. (1 Thess. 5:2â€‘3)
To those overcoming believers who are daily living the kingdom life in their spiritual walk, the rapture will just be a change of location and a fuller enjoyment of what they are experiencing. To both the world and the believers who are not walking in spirit and ready, the rapture will come unexpectedlyâ€‘ as a thief in the night.
And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her hand a crown of twelve stars, and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered. (Rev. 12:1â€‘2)
This sign is a type of all the believers, both Old Testament and New Testament believers, who are always spoken of corporately with respect to God in female types. The woman herself is the universal church: all bornâ€‘again believers of all New Testament time. This aspect of the rapture is a hidden one, as the coming of the Lord as a thief in the night is compared also to a woman in travail in (1 Thess. 5:2â€‘3) aboveâ€‘ this is the woman in travail spoken of by the apostle in that verse. Also, the beginning of travail spoken of in (Mark 13:7â€‘8) refers to the start of the church age, not to the end times. What is this child that she is travailing in birth to deliver?
and he made us (to be) a kingdom, (to be) priests unto God and his Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 1:6)
and he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as I also have received of my Father: (Rev. 2:26â€‘27)
And she was delivered of a son, a man-child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne. (Rev. 12:5)
The manâ€‘child brought forth by this woman will be the resurrection of the overcoming believers throughout history, who are no longer physically alive. These are the stronger ones of God's people who led victorious spiritual lives while alive on the earth. Because they are the stronger part of God's people (the woman), they are referred to as a manâ€‘child: they are a part of the woman yet they are also distinct from the rest of her. This woman, the universal church, has been pregnant since the church age began and has been travailing to give birth since then. The birth-rapture of the manâ€‘child will occur shortly before the tribulation begins.
From all this we may surely infer that, although Satan is a rebel, he has not yet been deprived either of his title or his power. He is till the great High One on high, who divides the world into different provinces according to its nationalities, appointing a powerful angel, assisted by countless subordinates, as viceroy over each kingdom to direct its energies and bend them to his will. 295
And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom, become our God's and the authority is become his Christ's: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their (soul) lives even unto death. (Rev. 12:10)Â
When the manâ€‘child is caught up to God, there is no longer any use, excuse or room for Satan and his fallen angels in heaven; the faithful angels under Michael are ordered by the overcomers to cast them out of heaven. This will be the fulfillment of the coming of the kingdom in its hidden aspect.
And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel. (Rev. 7:4)
And she was delivered of a son, a manâ€‘child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne.... And they overcame him (Satan) ... (Rev. 12:6, 11)
To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. (Rev., 2:7)
such a one caught up even to the third heaven ... (2 Cor. 12:21)
And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.... These were purchased from among men, to be the firstâ€‘fruits unto God and unto the Lamb. (Rev. 14:1,4)
and to bring the first fruits of our ground, and the first-fruits of all fruit of all manner of trees, year by year, unto the house of Jehovah: (Neh. 10:35).
But watch ye at every season, making supplication that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:36)
Because thou (Philadelpha, the church off brotherly love) hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Rev. 3:10 KJV)
The 144,000 sealed of the children of Israel are faithful Jews who will pass through the Tribulation on the earth; they are sealed for protection from the supernatural afflictions of that time. These will repent shortly before the Lord's physical return (covered later in Subsection G.) and are probably a literal number.
The 144,000 on the heavenly Mount Zion, however, is a symbolic number signifying the maturity and completion of these believers and is probably not a literal numberâ€‘ since such maturity is not predestined and depends on the exercise of free will. Enoch, who was translated alive to heaven by God because he was well pleasing to God, was an Old Testament type of the rapture of these firstâ€‘fruits. This symbolical number of redeemed are the living overcomers raptured as firstâ€‘fruits to God, and (like the manâ€‘child) are raptured not to the clouds, as will be the majority of living believers at the general harvest in Revelation 14:14â€‘16, but to heaven. This occurs shortly after or simultaneously with the rapture of the manâ€‘child and also precedes the Tribulation.
Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot; they ate, they drunk, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed. (Luke 17:28â€‘30)
And as were the days of Noah so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man (Matt. 24:37â€‘39)
â€¦but He that taketh refuge in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain. (Isa. 57:13)
And they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand? (Rev. 6:16â€‘17)
As we shall see, the coming of the Lord (and the rapture) starts at the beginning of the threeâ€‘andâ€‘aâ€‘halfâ€‘year Tribulation and ends with the physical return of Christ at the end of the Tribulation. The beginning of the coming of Christ (and the rapture) will occur without much specific prior warning and will catch the world by surprise. These events will alarm the world, and everyone will begin to realize what is happening.
Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. (Isa. 55:6 NASB)
We are now in the age of grace, with repentance and forgiveness of sins available to all men. The age of grace ends with the coming of the kingdom age and the coming of Christ. But the kingdom comes (in one aspect) three and a half years before Christ returns physically; and Christ begins to return three and a half years before His physical return to the Earth. According to all Scriptural implications (as we shall see) and the ramifications of free will, the age of grace may end at or shortly after the beginning of the Tribulation: repentance and forgiveness of sins, with regeneration, may not be available during the Tribulation (and certainly not afterwards).
And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were looking steadfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two man stood by them in white apparel; who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven. (Acts 1:9â€‘11)
And the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send forth the 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 13:26â€‘27)
And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown. And in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped. (Rev. 14:14â€‘16)
Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:17)
Christ will return in the same way that He left: Sometime after the rapture of the man child and firstâ€‘fruits, He will leave His throne and come to the atmosphere of the Earth, hidden in the clouds. The living believers who are left will then be caught up to the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The Judgementâ€‘Seat of Christ will be set up in the clouds during this time (this is what the â€œone like unto a son of manâ€, Christ, will be sitting on), and it is then that the Lord will decide whether each believer will receive the reward of the millennial kingdom or suffer punishment (a further disciplining needed to bring them to maturity) during that time.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matt. 13:30)
As we have seen, the return of Christ will occur over a three and a half year period and will be of two aspects: firstly, in a hidden way as a thief in the night to steal away His most precious ones (the manâ€‘child and the firstâ€‘fruits) and, secondly, at His actual visible return from the clouds. Thus are these and other apparently contradictory verses reconciled, being illustrations of the two differing aspects of the same process.
And he shall send forth 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. (Matt 24:31)
And the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. (Rev. 8:6)
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump (et) of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15â€‘17)
The rapture of the large majority of the living believers left on the earth after the rapture of the firstâ€‘fruits will occur towards the end of the Tribulation, almost certainly in the last three months.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (et): for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 16:5 1â€‘52)
And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed goat voices in heaven, and they said, the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever. (Rev. 11:15)
And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Dan. 7:27)
At the sounding of the last (the seventh) trumpet, all the remaining believers still on the earth will be raptured to the clouds, preceded by the dead in Christ who were not overcomers during their lifetimes and thus were not part of the manâ€‘child. In this way all believers, living and dead, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive a reward (reign with Christ during the millennial kingdom) or suffer punishment (a further disciplining during the millennium), before the actual, physical return of Christ to the Earth after the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
Unlike the rapture of the majority of the believers, the rapture of the first fruits (the living overcomers) will occur before the Tribulation. If you miss out on this and still want to be an overcomer, there is a "shortâ€‘cut" of sorts possible.
And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: ... And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet a little time, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course. (Rev. 6:9, 11)
And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Rev 13:15)
And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and four thousand, even they that had been purchased out of the earth. (Rev. 14:1â€‘3)
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the beast and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing by the sea of glass, having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lambâ€¦(Rev. 15:2-3)
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw that souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4)
When the Antichrist sets up his image in the temple at Jerusalem, you can go there, refuse to worship him, and be beheaded on the spot. If you do that, you also will reign with Christ during the millennial kingdom.
Here is the steadfastness of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Rev. 14:12)
Who are those who keep the commandments of God? The Jews. Who are those who have the faith of Jesus? The Christians. The Antichrist will persecute both the Christians and the Jews when he rises to power. Also among the Lateâ€‘Overcomers will be the Jews who refuse to worship the image of the beast.
Imagine his surprise when, after death, such a Jew (who is still awaiting a promised Messiah) is set on a throne by Christ to coâ€‘reign with Him for a thousand years!
But there is a catch to all this: as in everything else, self-effort is not of real value in regards to spiritual matters. The description of the Antichrist's persecution of God's people implied by the original language is that of making war on them by wearing them out, and not necessarily immediately putting them to death. If you go to Jerusalem with the intention of martyrdom but without the express leading of the Lord in your spirit to do so, most likely instead of being allowed to be a martyr, you will be thrown into prison and tortured. Everything is a matter of the Lord's will, not our selfâ€‘effort.
SUMMARY OF THE RAPTURE:
Shortly before the Tribulation begins, the overcomers will be raptured to heaven. The dead overcomers (the manâ€‘child) will be resurrected and raptured first, followed shortly by the living overcomers (the firstâ€‘fruits). The large majority of living believers will pass through most of the Tribulation and be raptured as the general harvest not to heaven but to the clouds. Toward the very end of the Tribulation and shortly before the literal physical return of the Lord to the Earth, the dead nonâ€‘overcomers, immediately followed by the living nonâ€‘overcomers still left on the earth, will be raptured to the clouds also. All of the believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive a reward or suffer punishment. Those who need further disciplining to mature will be cast into outer darkness for the duration of the millennial kingdom. Those who receive a reward will return with the Lord to fight at Armageddon and reign with Him during the millennial kingdom, which will be a thousandâ€‘year wedding feast.