Perhaps no other doctrine in all of Christianity creates more buzz and yet controversy than the yet-future advent known as the rapture. Many Christians believe in the rapture and many others do not; even among those who believe, there are opposing views as to whether the rapture occurs before, during, or after the tribulation.
This diversity among Christians is not bothersome, though, because the rapture is not a salvation issue.
A born-again believer is not going to lose his or her salvation based on the acceptance or denial of rapture doctrine.
Therefore, I choose not to bicker, contend, or argue about it with Christians. On such matters, I prefer instead simply “to agree to disagree.”
That said let me now state that I do see sufficient evidence in the Bible to support a rapture and wholeheartedly accept the view that Christians will rapture prior to the tribulation.
What is the Rapture?
The rapture is an event in which born-again believers that are alive and remaining on this earth during some prescribed future time known only to God will miraculously and suddenly be transformed from flesh to spirit and taken into the presence of Jesus Christ.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God…Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with Him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
“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.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
In other words, rapture is the physical removal of believers from this planet by God at some appointed future time known only to God.
Does Scripture Suggest a Rapture?
The most compelling evidence in Scripture that Christians will rapture concerns Israel. But we’ll discuss that in a moment. First, let me share something else (perhaps not as persuasive) but indeed noteworthy.
In the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, inside His instructions for how John was to write the prophecy, Jesus used three distinct tenses: past, present, and future. “Write the things which you have seen…”, “Write…the things which are…”, “Write…the things which will take place after this” (Rev.1:19).
The first, “the things which you have seen” is in the past tense. This could only have meant what John had seen moments earlier when he beheld Christ. Thus corresponding with John’s eyewitness account of the risen and glorified Son of God as contained in Chapter One.
The second, “the things which are” is in the present tense. Which, when taken in conjunction with the letters Jesus addressed to the Church in chapters Two and Three, denotes that that Jesus was speaking of the Church (which did exist during the time of John).
The third, “the things which will take place after this” is in the future tense. This corresponds with the yet-future events shown to John beginning in Chapter Four after he is subsequently taken in the “Spirit” to heaven and shown the future (Revelation 4:1-2).
Many believe (as do I) that these series of events leading from how Jesus outlines the prophecy to John’s rapture into heaven after the Church is addressed are an anti-type of the rapture of the Church prior to the tribulation. Also suggestive is the fact that the Church is never seen on earth throughout all the grim events of the tribulation, and when represented, only as being in Heaven.
Fair enough. But there is a more compelling reason to believe the Church will rapture prior to the tribulation that surrounds the Nation Israel and as such, suggests the explanation for the tribulation.
Why a Tribulation?
Christians generally believe in a tribulation. Therefore, the issue among most Christians is not the reality of a tribulation but its purpose; and this is where doctrinal beliefs about rapture differ.
The opposing camp would say that the tribulation is for the purification of the Church, and therefore reject the idea that God would enable Christians to escape what He intends for a cleansing.
On the other side, of course, others discern Scripture teaching something entirely different from that view. And for any number of conclusions, have little cause to doubt that the rapture will occur and absolutely believe that it will occur at some point or the other.
For me personally, the most convincing proof that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture is inside Daniel’s prophecy regarding the Nation Israel and the fulfillment of Israel’s “seventieth week”.
Israel’s Seventy Weeks
Seventy years after Daniel and his people had been carried away captive and Jerusalem destroyed by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 36:17-21), Daniel, from his understanding of the book of Jeremiah, knew that these “desolations” were nearing an end (Jeremiah 25:11; Daniel 9:2). As a result, he was praying for an understanding as to the future of his “city” and his “people” (Daniel 9:3-19) and while in prayer, was visited by the angel Gabriel and given this message.
“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…” (Daniel 9:24-26)
Upon close inspection, several truths are undeniable. That the prophecy pertains to Daniel’s people and holy city (Israel and Jerusalem), that there is an allotment of time of seventy weeks in which God has vowed He would complete a miraculous work in the Nation, and finally, that along with a scheduled starting point (“from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem”) it is also clear that the time-line is interrupted and a portion of God’s vows for the Nation are yet unfulfilled.
Okay, now let’s take a closer look.
First, let’s consider the measure of time. The Hebrew word for “weeks” is shabua, meaning literally a “seven”, including a week of seven days, a week of weeks, a week of months, and a week of years. It will become clear shortly that the word shabua used here refers to “years of sevens” or “seven-year periods”. Likewise, that the allotment of time in this prophecy is a period of four hundred and ninety years (70 X 7 = 490).
Secondly, we must recognize that the “weeks” are not contiguous. Rather than one period of 490 consecutive years, there is an explicit interval between the 69th and 70th weeks. In other words, 483 consecutive years (69 weeks) to the time when “Messiah shall be cut off” and a remaining 7 years (the 70th week) reassigned to the future.
Thirdly, let’s consider the historical date scheduled to begin the countdown of this allotment of years. Gabriel identifies it as “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”; which did occur years later on March 14, 445 BC when King Artaxerxes of Persia gave the decree to Nehemiah to return to and rebuild Jerusalem (see—Nehemiah 2:1-8). In his book entitled “Daniel’s Prophecy of The 70 Weeks”, author Alva J. McClain describes in detail how the 483 years (69 weeks) from March 14, 445 BC to when “Messiah shall be cut off” ends on April 6, 32 AD—the very day when Jesus was presented as “Messiah the King” to Israel and rejected (Luke 19:28-44).
Fourthly, six promises made by God in the prophecy are still awaiting completion and have yet to be fulfilled.
- to finish the transgressions;
- to make an end of sins;
- to make reconciliation for iniquity;
- to bring in everlasting righteousness;
- to seal up the vision;
- to anoint the Holy of Holies
It’s Not Coincidental
As Bible and prophecy teacher, Chuck Missler, once remarked, “Coincidence is not a kosher word to God.” That a prophecy surrounding Israel has yet a time allotment of seven years (the length of the tribulation) and promises of healing and reconciliation still pending cannot be coincidental. Likewise, the notion that God will not fulfill His promise to the Nation, or somehow meant something other than what He told Daniel in response to the prophet’s prayer for his people and Jerusalem is beyond comprehension.
Naturally, one day we will all know the truth about rapture. But for now, I am fully persuaded that the final yet-future tribulation concerns God’s divine purpose and plan for the Nation Israel and the Church will not be here to endure it.
More exciting still is that rapture can happen in our lifetime. The next breath we inhale here on earth might very well be exhaled in heaven in the presence of Jesus. It’s a wonderful thought. “Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).