ARE YOU COUNTING ON A COMING RAPTURE?
If you were to invent the easiest and most popular religion in the world, you would probably do the following:
• You would tell your followers that their only obligation is to believe. You would teach them that there is no need to conform to any commands, because that would be bondage.
• You would constantly remind them that all obligations of righteousness, including lawkeeping, have been met for them by a personal Savior. (Never mind that after keeping all the law perfectly Himself, He commanded us to do the same.)
• Finally, in your religion no one would need to worry that their faith would ever be tried, or that they may have to defend their convictions or suffer for their beliefs. When the end-time tribulation comes, they will be miraculously whisked away to a heavenly sanctuary, while everyone else who is not of the faith — including perhaps family and close friends — will still be on earth suffering unspeakable horrors. Your faithful, however, will watch all the pain and death from a safe and glorious paradise in the sky, granted to them simply by divine caprice.
Imagine how attractive your religion would be! Who in his or her right mind would not want to have the ultimate in blessings? – all for doing nothing! And when testing comes, they will be immediately removed from the conflict without having to answer for or defend their faith. Is it any wonder that so many people choose to accept these same teachings?
But there is a problem. The Scriptures nowhere support any of this. In fact, the exact opposite is the case.
Nowhere in the 66 books of Scripture do we find that all we need is belief alone. No such statement exists or is implied. On the contrary, Ya’acob (James) 2:17 reads,
Ya’acob 2:17 “So also belief, if it does not have works, is in itself dead.”
The doctrine against doing any kind of “works” (sometimes called “works righteousness”) springs from the writings of the Protestant Reformation, many of which were in defiant response to Roman Catholic excesses and demands of onerous penance on the people.
Nowhere in the pages of the inspired Word, however, is there any example of or statement relating to being in “bondage” because of obedience to the higher standards of the Scriptures.
Neither is there even one sentence saying that because Yahushua the Messiah met the requirements of obedience, that we don’t need to. On the contrary. We are told that His perfect obedience was an example for us, and we are to follow in His footsteps:
1 Peter 2:21-22 “For to this you were called, because Messiah also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.”
And finally, we are never promised an oasis from the trials of life. Paul wrote to young Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:12 “And indeed, all those wishing to live reverently in Messiah Yahushua, shall be persecuted.”
Overcoming trials is what being a True Worshiper is all about, and it leads to eternal reward:
James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who does endure trial, for when he has been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which the Master has promised to those who love Him.”
THE WORD ‘RAPTURE’ IS MISSING
We are nowhere told in the inspired Word to expect to be snatched away to heaven to watch our earthbound loved ones suffer and die agonizing deaths during the worst-ever disasters and conflagration prophesied to engulf this planet. In fact, the word “rapture” never appears in the Scriptures.
Are we any better or more privileged than the prophets of old, who suffered for their faith? James 5:10 says that their lives and experiences are patterns for us:
James 5:10 “My brothers, as an example of suffering and patience, take the prophets, who spoke in the Name of YHWH.”
So what of the idea of a rapture, in which the saints will allegedly be removed from the earth before end-time tribulation? Is there Scriptural support?
The rapture doctrine says that the Messiah will return and either secretly whisk away the “saints” or take them openly to heaven with Him. There they will spend either 3 ½ or 7 years in safekeeping while tribulation rocks this planet.
The rapture teaching rests heavily on 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:
“For this we say to you by the word of the Master, that we, the living who are left over at the coming of the Master shall in no way go before those who are asleep. 16 Because the Master Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of a chief messenger, and with the trumpet of Elohim, and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. 17 Then we, the living who are left over, shall be caught away together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air – and so we shall always be with the Master.”
Trying to make this passage refer to a pre-tribulation rapture of protection is incongruous, considering that the dead are said to go first. The dead don’t need to be raptured to safety because they are dead. Their souls, according to the rapture teaching, will already be up in heaven. In truth, this passage is speaking of the final day when Yahushua returns to earth to set up His Reign, and all the saints, living and dead, will be gathered to be with Him to rule in a thousand-year period on earth.
The timing of the event is critical. Are the believers taken before or after the Great Tribulation? We will find out momentarily.
Other questions that need answering: where is the support for a silent, secret rapture – which some believe will occur – amid “a shout”, “voice of a chief messenger”, and a “trumpet blast”? Is there perhaps a “silent” Second Coming and then a Third Coming? If so, where is the Scriptural evidence?
Let’s learn the whole truth and see whether the entire rapture teaching squares with the plain and clear teachings in the Word of Yahweh.
AS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
In Matthew 24:30-33, Yahushua in His own words reveals what will happen when He returns to earth:
“And then the sign of the Son of Adam shall appear in the heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Adam coming on the clouds of the heaven with power and much esteem. 31 “And He shall send His messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 “And learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that the summer is near. 33 “So you also, when you see all these, know that He is near, at the doors.”
Here we see that when Yahushua returns, the final trumpet will sound and He will gather His elect from one end of heaven to another (not huddled all together in one place, as some teach).
Continuing with verses 37-39, we read:
Matthew 24:37-39 “And as the days of Noah, so also shall the coming of the Son of Adam be. 38 “For as they were in the days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also shall the coming of the Son of Adam be.”
Yahushua tells us that people everywhere will be carrying on their lives oblivious to what is about to happen, just as they were before the earth was inundated by water. Noah and his family were the bright lights amid all of the dark, earthly evil. They are called righteous by Yahweh in Genesis 7:1.
But notice. We read that the final events will be just like those in Noah’s day. And what happened with righteous Noah and his family? Were they raptured from the planet just before the devastating flood? No, on the contrary, they remained on earth. Yahweh had guided Noah to prepare a place of earthly safety and protection – a giant ark floating on the flood waters.
Now note what happened to the wicked. We read that Yahweh “took them all away”. They were taken and destroyed in the waters and only Noah and his family remained.
Yahushua said it will be the same way at the end of the age:
Matthew 24:40-41 “Then two shall be in the field, the one is taken and the one is left. 41 “Two shall be grinding at the mill, one is taken and one is left.”
In the same manner as in the days of the flood, at Yahushua’s coming the wicked will be removed first and the righteous will remain.
The disciples asked Him where these “taken” ones, meaning the wicked people, will go. For the answer we go to a parallel account in Luke 17:35-37, where Yahushua responded:
“Two shall be grinding together, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. 36 “Two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left.” 37 And they answering, said to Him, “Where, Master?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the eagles shall be gathered together.”
What did He mean by “body” and “eagles”? This verse has a translation difficulty. The word “ptoma” in Greek means “ruin, lifeless body, corpse.” The word for “eagles” refers more accurately to vultures. Eagles are not carrion eaters as are vultures.
Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament says about the word eagles in this passage, “Eagles. Rev. puts vultures in margin. The griffon vulture is meant, which surpasses the eagle in size and power. Aristotle notes how this bird scents its prey from afar, and congregates in the wake of an army,” p. 75. There will be millions dying when the messenger comes to separate and destroy the wicked first.
The New English Bible translates Matthew 24:28: “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (NEB)
The New International Version reads, “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” (NIV)
Does this sound like a wonderful place of safety where the believers will be taken up in a rapture? On the contrary, Yahushua told His disciples that those taken, meaning the wicked, will be destroyed, not whisked off to safety in heaven!
TARES SEPARATED FIRST
In His parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13, Yahushua corroborates what we have confirmed in Matthew 24, that the rapture is the exact opposite of what most people think.
Matthew 13:24-50 “Another parable He put before them, saying, “The reign of the heavens has become like a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat and went away. 26 “And when the blade sprouted and bore fruit, then the darnel also appeared. 27 “And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? From where then does it have the darnel?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘A man, an enemy did this.’ And the servants said to him, ‘Do you wish then, that we go and gather them up?’ 29 “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the darnel you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 ‘Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I shall say to the reapers, “First gather the darnel and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my granary…”
40 “As the darnel, then, is gathered and burned in the fire, so it shall be at the end of this age. 41 “The Son of Adam shall send out His messengers, and they shall gather out of His reign all the stumbling-blocks, and those doing lawlessness, 42 and shall throw them into the furnace of fire – there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth…”
49 “Thus shall it be at the end of the age: the messengers shall come forth, and separate the wicked out of the midst of the righteous, 50 and shall throw them into the furnace of fire – there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
But couldn’t Yahushua have already come and gathered His elect to safety by this time? some may be wondering. Obviously, if the righteous were already raptured, they would not still be on earth among the wicked when the wicked are removed.
The rapture doctrine says that Yahushua will come in two stages: “for” His saints, represented by the Greek word parousia, and the second stage being “with” His saints, revealed in the Greek word apokalupto. In fact, New Covenant usage makes no distinction between these two Greek words. The doctrine says that the word parousia in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 is an initial coming “for” His saints before the tribulation. However, parousia is also used in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and 8, where His coming clearly is at the end of the tribulation.
Similarly, parousia and apokalupto are found in Matthew 24:37 (coming) and Luke 17:30 (revealed), respectively. Both speak of this same coming of Yahushua using the context of the days of Noah where the wicked are removed first.
In all three verses in John 6:40, 44, and 54 Yahushua tells us that the righteous will be raised up at the last day. The “last day” occurs after the tribulation, not before. The last day refers to the final resurrection of all believers, John 11:24. That is the timing of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
PROTECTION RIGHT HERE ON EARTH
Just as Noah was protected on earth during the catastrophic flood, and Israel was protected in Egypt during the passing over of the death angel, Yahweh promises the same kind of earthly protection for His people in the last days:
Revelation 12:14-16 “And the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, to 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. 15 And out of his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river after the woman, to cause her to be swept away by the river. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.”
The terms “wilderness”, “river” and “earth” demonstrate unequivocally that the saints will find protection on earth, not in heaven. Satan certainly has no power to chase the saints around in heaven!
Yahushua specifically prayed in John 17:15 that the righteous not be taken from the world, but that they be safeguarded. His prayer directly contradicts the notion of a coming rapture to heaven. In Matthew 24:22, the Messiah said that for the sake of the elect, the last-day tribulation will be shortened, otherwise no flesh would be saved. This tells us that the elect will still be on earth and it is because of them that Yahweh will make an end to destructive events.
It is impossible to reconcile with the Scriptures the idea that the saints will be protected in heaven from end-time tribulation. Scripture prophecy clearly maintains that there will be many who will be martyred for the Truth in the last days (see Dan 8:24; Matt. 24:9; Rev. 13:7 and 20:4).
Yahushua revealed in Revelation 12:17:
“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to fight with the remnant of her seed, those guarding the commands of Elohim and possessing the witness of Yahushua Messiah.”
Obviously there are saints obedient to Yahweh yet on earth – not in heaven – and still subject to attack by Satan. Revelation 6:9-11 plainly shows that many True Worshipers will undergo end-time martyrdom.
Daniel was protected from lions even while right in their midst in the lion’s den. His three friends escaped destruction of the fiery furnace by miraculous protection while still in the furnace itself. Israel had to endure the first three Egyptian plagues in the land of Goshen, and only then were they protected (while still in Goshen, on Egyptian soil).
Revelation 7 reveals a similar destiny for the people of Yahweh in the last days. Before the messenger releases divine plagues that will devastate the earth, the set apart ones of Yahweh will be sealed in their foreheads for protection, verse 3. That sealing is His Name, we read in Revelation 14:1 and 22:4. As with Israel in Goshen, however, there is nothing stating that the people of Yahweh will not have to endure the man-made tribulation that will come first. This is detailed in Revelation 6:1-8.
Another passage that directly rebuts a rapture is Revelation 7:14, where one of the elders inquires of the identity of all those people dressed in white robes.
Revelation 7:14 “And I said to him, “Master, you know.” And he said to me, “These are those coming out of the great distress, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
These saints proved faithful and stood fast in the coming tribulation and they are now granted a position in the Reign of the Messiah.
Rewards are not given to those who escape, but to those who endure and overcome (Rev. 2:26).
Revelation 20:4 says there will be martyrs who refuse to worship the beast who will be beheaded for the witness of Yahushua. Are we to assume that these martyrs are the evil people left behind on earth during the Tribulation? Obviously not. They are the set apart ones, whose preaching, teaching, righteous example, and martyrdom will convert many to the truth during the reign of the Antimessiah.
The next verse presents a real problem for the doctrine of the rapture. Most rapturists maintain that the righteous living and righteous dead will be raptured off to heaven before the tribulation (a teaching known as the pretribulation rapture). But notice:
Revelation 20:5 “and the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended – this is the first resurrection.”
Had there already been a rapture, this would be the second resurrection, not the first.
DOES THE SAVIOR MAKE A U-TURN?
Yahweh promises protection for the righteous, although some will be called on to give up their lives as a witness of faith to others. Resurrecting them to life again is no problem with Yahweh, and they will be the first to rise at the last trumpet blast when Yahushua returns.
A key question that needs to be answered is, where will Yahushua the Messiah go when He comes in the clouds and raises His saints? Will He return to heaven? That is what the rapture teaching says.
We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that the righteous will:
“meet the Master in the air – and so we shall always be with the Master.”
Does He take the saints and return to heaven for as much as seven years for the duration of the Tribulation?
The word “meet” is the Greek apantesis and is used in only two other places in the New Testament. One such place is Matthew 25:6, where the virgins meet the Bridegroom (meet here is apantesis) and they continue on to the wedding feast. He does not reverse direction and take the virgins back to heaven where He came from. Verse 13 tells us that this meeting is “the day and hour when the son of Adam comes” at the Second Coming.
The other instance where apantesis is used is in Acts 28:15. Paul is heading to Rome and a delegation of Roman brethren go to meet (apantesis) him. Paul approaches, they meet and continue on to Rome, his destination. He did not reverse course.
Yahushua’s destination is the Mount of Olives, not a return to heaven, Zechariah 14:4. His intent is to set up his throne at Jerusalem “in that day”. He does not reverse direction and head back to heaven with the newly gathered believers.
RAPTURE: A PERILOUS TEACHING
The rapture doctrine is just another aspect of the modern, false idea of gain without pain. Something for nothing. No effort or overcoming is necessary. Such an idea is completely foreign to Scripture. In the Book of Acts we read:
Acts 14:22 “Strengthening the beings of the taught ones, encouraging them to continue in the belief, and that through many pressures we have to enter the reign of Elohim.”
The rapture doctrine is not only unscriptural, but it will also prove to be sinister. Instead of spiritually preparing people for what is coming, which is the whole reason we are given Scripture prophecy in the first place, people are being led to believe the lie that they will be delivered out of it all.
Revealed prophecy is not given so that we can become lax and lackadaisical. Prophecy is intended to draw us closer to Yahweh:
Deuteronomy 29:29 “…what is revealed belongs to us and to our children forever, to do all the Words of this Torah.”
Notice as well what Romans 16:25-26 tells us:
“…according to the revelation of the secret which was kept silent since times of old, 26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the everlasting Elohim, for belief-obedience.”
How will millions react when they find themselves facing the biggest challenge of their lives and they are completely unprepared? Yahushua tells us how: He says that at that time men will be “fainting from fear”! (Luke 21:26).
THE MARK OF THE BEAST
Because of the fact that many believe in the “pre-trib” rapture theory, they will be blinded to the appearance the Antimessiah and be caught off guard when he introduces the “mark upon the hand and forehead” (Rev 13:16).
Notice the timing of the return of the Messiah in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:
“As to the coming of our Master Yahushua Messiah and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as if the day of YHWH has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way, because the falling away is to come first, and the man of lawlessness is to be revealed, the son of destruction.”
There is an implantable microchip available NOW that is capable of holding all your personal information and banking functions and is no different than a “smart card” except that it’s in your body. This is a likely candidate for the “mark of the beast” in that no one will be able to “buy or sell” without it.
Many christian leaders (including Hal Lindsay) are condoning this microchip implant because of the belief that we are to be “raptured” before the Antimessiah appears!
May we not be deceived into false confidence by a teaching that does not exist in the Scriptures.
We need to heed Yahushua’s admonishment about the last days:
Luke 21:34-36 “And take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down by gluttony, and drunkenness, and worries of this life, and that day come on you suddenly. 35 For it shall come as a snare on all those dwelling on the face of all the earth. 36 Watch then at all times, and pray that you be counted worthy to escape all this about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Adam.”
It is time to find the promised protection and salvation that come from knowing and following the truth, and escape the destruction that results from the misguided doctrines of man.