Why the Rapture Must Happen
Before the Tribulation
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the links below to access the
other parts of this study.
"For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
Note: Some translations use the words “saves or rescues” instead of the word “delivers” since the original Greek language of the Bible supports the practice of using these words interchangeably.
Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to certain disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Bible states that their "eyes were restrained" so that they could not recognize Him. They were leaving Jerusalem and were disillusioned by recent events. They believed Jesus to be the one who would redeem Israel. But, he was now crucified and dead as far as they were concerned. After questioning them at length, Jesus said;
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Read the entire account in Luke 24:13-31)
The statement made by our Lord…
“O foolish ones, and slow of
heart to believe in all that
the prophets have spoken!"
Can also be applied to many
modern-day churches and
The phrase Jesus uses here; "...all that the prophets have spoken" – refers to something called “Bible prophecy”. Yet today, it’s hard to find a church - or even an individual Christian - who will discuss this subject because of the controversy and anger it generates. It’s difficult to believe “what the prophets have spoken” - when you either avoid or eliminate their words from your conversation and Christian life. It wouldn't be accurate to describe most modern-day professing Christians as “slow of heart to believe Bible prophecy”. Why? They avoid the subject like the plague or embrace popular misconceptions taught by their church or denomination without question. Yet, Bible prophecy (or the prophetic Scriptures) reveal the true nature of Christ's salvation and it’s amazing future fulfillment. In Revelation 19:10 the Apostle John reminds us of this truth by writing ;
"...the testimony of
Jesus is the
spirit of prophecy."
Eschatology is the study of Bible prophecy involving end-time events, which includes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is estimated that 1 out of every 25 verses in the New Testament is directly related to Christ's promised return. However, when looking at all the Holy Scriptures (both the Old and New Testament), nearly one third involves Bible prophecy. Spiritual leaders and their devoted followers, who refuse to discuss these issues, are avoiding a large and important part of the Bible. Many believe “the rapture” - falls under this area of “Eschatology” and should be considered “optional or nonessential”. Yet, we will discover how this way of thinking carries serious implications and unintended consequences of an eternal nature.
Nothing generates an argument more than a discussion about the rapture. If your goal is to polarize a gathering of Christians, just introduce this subject and you’ll have your wish. Contrary to popular opinion, this kind of division should never be viewed as some kind of healthy discussion. It’s more an indication that serious problems exist with the faith and the spiritual foundation of the worldwide Christian Church. This Bible study is designed to examine some of these problems.
Saint Paul describes the rapture to both the Corinthian and the Thessalonian churches in different ways, which provides a more complete picture;
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?'" (1 Corinthians 15:50-55 - Emphasis Added)
"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: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 - Emphasis Added)
Notice that the end result
is that believers will
“ever be with the Lord”,
which makes the rapture
part of our blood-bought
Most of us are wrongly taught that the rapture is a special reward given to a select few for exceptional Christian service, devotion and righteous behavior. Yet, Scripture connects this supernatural event to the salvation Jesus Christ gives to His Church by “grace through faith”. It means that the rapture is an integral part of the same program of salvation, obtained only by faith apart from any and all personal merit and behavior. Possessing salvation apart from personal merit is also referred to as Grace (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:4-8, Titus 3:5-7). As a result, all who follow the grace-based principles of Romans 10:8-16 and simply “call upon the name of the Lord” in faith will not only be saved, but will also qualify to participate in the fulfillment of their salvation at the rapture of the Church - if they happen to be alive at the time. In the very next chapter, following his statement from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Paul begins to emphasize that this “departure or catching away of the Church” (or what many call “the rapture”) is indeed an event directly tied to Christ’s salvation. Speaking to all believers in the Thessalonian Church concerning this same subject Paul states;
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 Note: The term “God’s wrath” is an alternate way Scripture describes “judgment, condemnation and punishment for sin”)
Contrary to popular opinion, Paul is not using general or vague language concerning Christian salvation. He’s deliberately connecting how the believer obtains salvation along with its ultimate fulfillment through the “catching away of the Church” – when they leave the earth to live with Christ.
More detailed information is provided about this righteous status of the believer in his letter to the Romans;
“There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment and punishment for sin) to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
Why does Paul go out of his way in both of these statements, spoken to two different church congregations – to emphasize that believers are not appointed to wrath and are no longer under God’s condemnation for sin?
The correct answer to this question is tied to the core truth of the New Testament gospel, where Jesus Christ bore all of our sin (past, present and future) on the cross – which also includes the judgment these sins demand.
As a result, Christ’s redemption
in His blood (or the ransom He
paid to purchase us) leaves no
sin remaining to condemn us.
“…being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)
Note: Justification (or the state of “being justified”) means that God treats us as if we had never sinned – even when we do sin. For the believer, this condition of “being freely justified” continues uninterrupted for eternity, which is why the Bible refers to salvation as “eternal or everlasting life”. God calls it “eternal” because it doesn’t end once it is received. The Amplified Bible emphasizes this truth by saying …
"FOR GOD'S GIFTS AND HIS CALL ARE IRREVOCABLE. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]" (Romans 11:29 Amplified Bible)
Looking into the future at the crucifixion
of Christ, the prophet Isaiah declares;
"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way;
AND THE LORD HAS
LAID ON HIM THE
INIQUITY OF US ALL."
The Scripture quoted from Hebrews 8:8-12 continues to shed light on this truth and describes Christ’s salvation as “a New Covenant”, which was first spoken by the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament and repeated by Saint Paul in the New Testament book of Hebrews. It is here we discover the amazing promise, where God said that He will refuse to remember our sins and lawless deeds.
Yet, God’s decision to “not remember our sins” could only legally begin after the cross, where Jesus bore our sin and forever ended its tyranny over the human race.
"Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant (the old covenant of the Law) that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant (The New Covenant) that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." (Hebrews 8:8-12)
Important note: The New Covenant was offered to Israel first, which is why the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah (his words are repeated in the 8th chapter of Hebrews) seems to indicate that it is only something God gives to Israel “and the house of Judah”. But, after Israel rejected Christ’s salvation (as Paul states in Acts 13:44-52), God “went around” their disobedience and extended the incredible benefits of the New Covenant to all Gentile races, which He now brings into the New Testament Church beginning at the house of Cornelius through the preaching of Peter in Acts chapter 10. Keep in mind that the word “Gentile” is a racial term that includes all earthly human races, which also includes any Jewish people who choose to join the Gentiles and become “one new man in Christ” (Read Ephesians 2:4-19). Bringing the Gentiles into the New Covenant is declared to be “a mystery” and was generally not understood during the Old Testament administration of the Law in Israel.
How can a Holy God refuse to
remember our sins?
“The Lord (God) has laid on
Christ the iniquity of us all”
… just as Isaiah said.
Following the cross, John provides
more detail concerning this revelation
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
In his letter to the Corinthian Church,
Paul repeats the same truth a
"For He made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
If these things are true (and they are) then God can no longer legally appoint us to or place us under His wrath and judgment – and will no longer condemn us for past or future sins. Contrary to popular traditional church teaching, this is exactly what Paul said in Romans 8:1-2. It’s the same core truth that also allows Paul to declare;
“…that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT IMPUTING (CHARGING) THEIR TRESPASSES TO THEM.” (Read all of 2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
Since Jesus, as the Lamb of God bore all our sins (past, present and future) on the cross, God now considers our sin debt, “paid-in-full”. If all sin is paid for (some call this atonement) through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, then it would be unjust for our Heavenly Father to continue holding it against His children. This is the legal reason God not only refuses to remember our sins, but also refuses to hold the ones we commit in the future against us. This is also why Paul could authoritatively declare;
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
Yet, as we learn later in this study, many who claim to be “Bible-believing Christians” reject this total and complete bearing of our sin by Christ because it contradicts the traditional and historical teachings of their church. As a result, their interpretation of the Bible and end-time events - such as the rapture - is not only incorrect and misleading, but also involves many dangerous and unthinkable consequences of an eternal nature. Peter warned the Church about this group when he said;
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers AMONG YOU, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, EVEN DENYING THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1-2)
Yet, if Scripture is correct and God no longer charges sin to the Christian’s account - and no longer condemns them for sin because of the blood-bought redemption Jesus provides at the cross; then …
It also means that Christ’s redemption
provides a legal exemption issued
from Heaven’s courtroom concerning
any future judgment for sin. This is why
Paul taught that all believers in Christ,
from the least obedient to the most
obedient, are not appointed to (or
exempted from) God’s future wrath.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the links below to access the
other parts of this study.
Return To Home Page