Is The Popular and Traditional Rapture Doctrine Biblical?

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching is very popular today among Christians. This is popular because they see a lot of benefits for Christians when it happens. The main benefit that is denied to non-believers is they will be spared from the wrath of Antichrist (Note, the wrath of the antichrist occurs at different time apart from the wrath of the Lord Jesus Christ which happens in the last year, the seventh year or the Day of the Lord). That means even before the Antichrist rules, Jesus Christ will supposedly come down from heaven and snatch them away from the earth to rescue them from the coming tribulation. The rapture doctrine teaches also that Jesus will come to earth two times. The first time is secret simply to rescue the believers and the second time is what we all commonly believe as the Second Coming. The First Coming is when He came down in flesh to be crucified. The rapture teaches that all Christians will be "rescued" and those being left behind are the unsaved, lost, sinners who will suffer the Tribulation, the wrath of the Antichrist. A book and later made into a movie, Left Behind made this teaching very popular. But what is popular may not be necessary true and this is a very dangerous doctrine to believe in. Now, the question is, is how valid is the "Rapture" doctrine as many believe today? Can we find it in the Bible? Let us examine the facts.

Buff Scott made an in-depth research on the beginnings of the "Rapture" doctrine. Apparently this doctrine is a new teaching and not part of the original teachings of the Apostles and even Jesus Christ Himself. He said:

In 1997, in an issue of my publication The Reformer, I issued a challenge to anyone who could document any evidence that the “Rapture” dogma, as publicized today, was taught by any “church leader” or “church father” prior to 255 years ago. No one came forward. It is now 2007. I’m still waiting.

In my research, I discovered that in 1742-44 Morgan Edwards wrote a book on the modern-day “Rapture” doctrine. It was published in 1788. Thus began the contemporary “Rapture” melodrama. 

Here is my own personal study:

1. It is not true that Christians will not suffer the tribulation.

Dan 7:21 referring to the Antichrist’s reign over Christians:

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them.

Dan 7: 25 again referring to the Antichrist’s reign

He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

Dan 8:24 again referring to the Antichrist’s reign

His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; He shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people.

Rev 12:17

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Rev 13:7

It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

And from Jesus’ own warnings to His disciples and all Christians in Matt 24:9; 20-22. This warning is for believers, not unbelievers.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”

“And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

2. There are other verses and references that compliments 1Thess 4.

The “Rapture” was based primarily in 1Thess 4:15-17 (emphasis, mine)--

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Note the trumpet call. This verse is actually the same in essence as with 1Cor15:51-53 (emphasis, mine):

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Note the last trumpet call. The last trumpet is the 7th trumpet, and the Bible records no more trumpet call or 8th trumpet after this. This is the same 7th and last trumpet mentioned in the Rev 11:15-19. It highlights several important majestic events:

  • Jesus Christ shall begin to rule the world (v. 15-16)

  • The wrath of God starts to destroy the nations (v. 18)

  • The dead will be judged and obviously, the dead in Christ will rise as spoken of in 1Thess 4:16 & 1Cor 15:52) for those who are not saved will not rise yet or judged at this time until the Millennium is over (Rev 20:5)

  • Those who are saved shall be rewarded (v. 18) again referring to the transformation from perishable to imperishable bodies and reign with Him a thousand years. This is the first resurrection (Rev 20:5-6)

The next question is, when will the dead in Christ being raised first? In the gospel of John 6:39 it says (emphasis, mine):

This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

And again in John 6:44 (also v.40), take note of these three verses. These alone can totally destroy the traditional pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

How do you reconcile this now with popular belief that rapture occurs prior to the tribulation? 1Thess 4:16 above says, "... And the dead in Christ will rise first" prior to the rapture. But Jesus will not raise the dead yet until the last day! Also, the last day is singular, one specific day and is the very last day. Raising the dead in Christ only happens, repeat, only in the last day. It is not before the Great Tribulation, not before the Lord's Day, not after the Millennium but only in the very last day of the Last Seven Years. According the next verse, (v. 7), the rapture can happen only after the dead in Christ have already risen. Therefore the rapture can not start prior to the Tribulation since this is just the start of the Last Seven Years. Learn more about chapter 6, The Day of the Lord, the last year of the Last Seven Years. Also learn more about the 70 weeks and 1 week prophecies of Daniel that reveals the time frame of the last Seven Years.

3. We are warned against teaching or believing false news of the wrong time of His appearing.

Jesus confirmed that His Second Coming happens only after the distress of those days and in fact warned us sternly not to believe in false news that He will come prior to this.

Matt 24:4-5

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

But we are informed in advance that he will come much later, and that is immediately after the tribulation of those days.

Matt 24:29-31

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Take note of the last trumpet, the 7th trumpet call. Unless we hear the trumpet which shall be audible all across the globe, do not believe of any rapture taking place. Take note also the gathering of the elect together from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. We need to be lifted up for the Lord Jesus will be making war against the nations, burn the earth and the elements and therefore secure us first in safety after which, we will all descend down with the resurrected dead altogether to Jerusalem. This is the time of transformation; this is the time of the true rapture. Also check The Battle of Armageddon for more details on the last trumpet.

4. God is able to protect us in the midst of hardships or tribulation

Consider these past examples:

a. God spared Noah from the flood. He was not taken away from the world but was kept safe in the ark in the world.
b. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in the fire but were not hurt at all (Dan 3). Compare with the prophecy in Isa 43:2 for the last days.
c. Daniel was in the den of hungry lions but was not harmed by them (Dan 6).

Others will say, "But the future tribulation is a persecution like no other, much worst than at any time in the past." I like to be rescued from that coming distress. Jesus wants us to be rescued from those times too. However, He does not need to remove us from the tribulation but be kept safe in the midst of tribulation. What is much worse pain than physical death anyway? All what the Antichrist can do is to kill the body but is not able to harm the soul. When Jesus said,

"For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equalled again" (Matt 24:21).

He meant the magnitude or the number of deaths and length of time the suffering will be. He did not mean the degree of pain we will suffer. That is why He also said:

"If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened (Matt 24:22).

He also said:

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul . Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt 10:28).

Now, remember this very important words from Jesus when He was praying for His disciples.

"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15-16).

Tribulation and persecution will surely come to us, we will suffer the pain. But it is through the pain that we are refined into pure gold. It is through the pain that we seek God and feel closer to Him. It is through pain that we get blessings from Him. I welcome the tribulation and prove to my God that I will remain faithful to the end. He wanted us to be in the world so He can use us to preach His Good News to those who seek Him. Do not be afraid of the tribulation but pray that God will keep us safe while obeying His Great Commission.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt 5:10-12).

Also in 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

5. But there is another, different kind of “rapture” to take place during the reign of the Antichrist which is not popular among believers.

Don't be dismayed of seemingly being forsaken by God during the time of unequalled distress. I am borrowing the same term "Rapture" to mean being rescued from Antichrist. There is another “Rapture” that is little known about—the rapture to the Wilderness as spoken of in Rev 12:6, 14 symbolizing the suffering of Israel, its struggles and the salvation of God.

Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

Time and times and half a time is the exact length of time that the Antichrist was given authority over the saints (Dan 7:25) and therefore some of the elect shall be given refuge in the wilderness over this period. But take note, not all Christians will be provided refuge--only the deserving ones, pure and not lukewarm believers. In fact, it is not actually the kind of rapture many people expect. It is simply a temporary place of refuge while the Antichrist is ruling the world. The place is not yet heaven and those taken there are still in their physical bodies. The reason many deserving Christians are taken into the wilderness aside from being rescued from the wrath of the Antichrist is, they will serve a very special purpose during the Day of the Lord. This is limited, not all Christians will be taken.

After realizing that he (Antichrist) can no longer harm those taken into the desert, he will make war against the rest of Christians.

The dragon will make war against the rest of her offspring and those keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 12:17).

I mentioned that those taken into the wilderness or desert are the deserving and pure believers but actually, they will still need more purification or purging process as they are still seen as sinners by God. I would say they are the "just above the border line Christians" and not yet reaching the top or high mark. Read about this same account of being taken into the desert, (in some manuscripts, wilderness) prophesied in Ezek 20:33-38 (emphasis, mine)--

You say, "We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone." But what you have in mind will never happen. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will rule over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered—with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

This is the repeat of history that happened during Moses’ time that he and his people spent in wilderness before their entry to Israel, the Promised Land. Take note that this is a prophecy and has not yet taken place. Read Ezek 20-41-44:

“I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel,” says the Lord GOD.’”

Check Greenland: The Camp of God's Army - Part 1 and Part 2 for the more wonderful details on God's army.

Keep praying and keep on studying the Bible Studies for the Last Days.

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