Herbert W Armstrong Library
Sign In  |  MyHWA  |    
The Secret Rapture - Myth or Reality?
Good News Magazine
February 1976
Volume: Vol XXV, No. 2
QR Code
The Secret Rapture - Myth or Reality?
George P Ritter

Thousands of professing Christians have their future hopes set on escaping the trials and tribulations of this present world by means of a secret rapture. This event is supposed to provide the faithful believer with a guaranteed passport to his long-awaited reward somewhere beyond the fabled "pearly gates." But is this what God intended that Christians look forward to or does he have something else in mind?

   There I was, driving down the freeway and all of a sudden the place went crazy... cars going in all directions... and not one of them had a driver. I mean it was wild!"
   What was it? An invasion from planet X? The end of the world? No, according to the above quote, it was the secret rapture. The "blessed hope" that Christians had long awaited.
   The author further explains: "Someday, a day that only God knows, Jesus Christ is coming to take away all those who believe in Him. He is coming to meet all true believers in the air.... Those who remain on earth at that time will use every invention of the human mind to explain the sudden disappearance of millions of people" (The Late Great Planet Earth, pp. 135-137).
   Those "chosen few" who manage to qualify for the rapture will, if you believe the story, be whisked away to a spiritual never-never land, far away from the pains, agonies and trials of planet earth.
   Sound plausible? Something to stake your life on? According to the rapturists, it most certainly is. As far as they are concerned, this future scenario for the saints is no spiritual pipe dream. They cite several scriptures to back up their theory. For instance, I Thessalonians 4:15-17: "For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and• so we shall always be with the Lord."
   Another is I Corinthians 15:51-53: "Lo! 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality."
Deflating the Rapture Balloon. After reading this far, maybe you are somewhat convinced as to the veracity of the rapture theory. But before you get too convinced, consider the following.
   First of all, there is the question of the "dead in Christ." According to the rapturists, the dead saints are in heaven: "We are told that the moment a believer breathes his last breath and dies his soul goes immediately to be with Christ — to be face to face with the Lord" (The Late Great Planet Earth, p. 140, emphasis ours).
   But according to the apostle Paul both the dead in Christ along with the living "shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." Now how do the dead in Christ "meet the Lord in the air" if they have already been with him "face to face" since their death? And why would Paul tell the Thessalonians that the living "shall not precede those who have fallen asleep [the dead]"? Why bring this question up if both he and the Thessalonians knew that the dead in Christ were already with the Lord? The question is more logically raised and answered if you know the dead aren't with the Lord. (For more information on this subject, read our free booklet What Is The Reward Of The Saved?)
The Third Coming of Christ? Trying to fit the secret rapture into future end-time prophecies is also somewhat of a dubious proposition. Most proponents of this theory would tell you that the rapture occurs before the great tribulation. Christ snatches away His saints and returns with them to heaven. Three-and-a-half or seven years later — take your pick — He comes again, this time to visibly establish His Kingdom on the earth.
   Rapturists in effect are speaking not only of a second but a third coming of Christ. The second is for the church; the third for the rest of the world. Most rapturists would agree that "The Bible is speaking of two separate events" (The Late Great Planet Earth, p. 139). But is it?
   According to this theory, the rapture is supposed to occur at the last trump. Which trump is the last trump? The rapturists say (The Late Great Planet Earth, pages 140, 141) it is the seventh; and, in truth, the Bible says the same thing.
   But notice what takes place at the seventh and last trump. "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever'" (Rev. 11:15).
   Now you could hardly call that a secret coming of Jesus to rapture away the saints. Yet this event occurs at the last trump. There are no more trumpets following the seventh one. It is the same last trump Paul was referring to when he wrote: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable..." (I Cor. 15:52). It is obvious he is referring to the same event that is described in the 11th chapter of the book of Revelation.
   And notice what else happens at this seventh and last trump: "The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear• thy name, both small and great..." (Rev. 11:18).
   But how can this be? The rapturists say the prophets and saints were all raptured away 3 1/2 or 7 years before Christ's visible return to power. Yet here is more evidence that the dead receive their reward at the seventh trump and the visible, public return of Jesus Christ.
Returning in Unlike Manner. If the rapture theory were correct, then Christ never really returns to the earth at the time of the rapture; he only makes a "near miss." Yet notice the contrasting description given in the first chapter of Acts: "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men [angels] stood by them in white apparel: which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-12, KJV).
   Christ ascended visibly from the Mount of Olives. He plans to return the same way. If Christ had intended to rapture the saints, which includes the twelve disciples, why didn't He instruct the angels to tell them differently?
   In order for Christ to return "in like manner," he has to return to the earth — terra firma — not reverse course in midair and head back for heaven. The prophet Zechariah said of this momentous event: "Behold, a day of the Lord is coming.... For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle .... Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east..." (Zech. 14:1-4).
Rupturing the Rapture's Time-table. Zechariah's description hardly sounds like a secret, hidden event. Nor does the description given by Jesus Christ Himself recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. In each of these passages it is important to remember that Christ is talking primarily to His own disciples, who later formed the nucleus of God's Church.
   Notice what He answered in Matthew 24 in response to their question "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" (Verse 3.) Had Christ believed in the rapture theory, He might have answered this question by stating that the first sign of His coming would be one similar to what was described in the beginning of this article — general disorder, people missing, etc. Instead, He spoke of false prophets, wars, famines and pestilence (verses 4-7). Then in verse 9 we read: "They will deliver you [Christians] up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." Not only does Christ neglect to mention a rapture, but He even says that some Christians will have to go through tribulation.
   The apostle John amplifies this in the 13th chapter of the book of Revelation. In speaking of the future "beast" power that would one day hold sway over the earth, John wrote: "And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months [the great tribulation].... Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them" (Rev. 13:5, 7).
   In the preceding chapter, John's description of the coming persecution of God's Church is even more explicit: "Then the dragon [the devil] was angry with the woman [the Church], and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus" (Rev. 12:17). If the Church is to be raptured before the great tribulation, what happened to the faithful mentioned in the above verses? How come they missed the boat?
A Visible Return. The Olivet Prophecy goes on to show what happens after this great tribulation: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light... then will appear the sign of the Son of man 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" (Matt. 24:29,30).
   But then notice what happens in the following verse: "And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect [God's Church or Christians, see I Peter 1:1-2, Colossians 3:12 and Romans 8:33] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (verse 31 ).
   Mark describes this same event: "And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven" (Mark 13:27).
   When Jesus Christ returns to this earth He is not going to come in by some secret back door method. The whole world is going to know about this earth-shattering event (see Rev. 1:7; 6:15-17). Christ is coming both to establish His Kingdom and to resurrect the saints (Rev. 20:4).
   This, rather than a secret rapture, is what God wants Christians to look forward to with renewed hope and confidence.

Back To Top

Good News MagazineFebruary 1976Vol XXV, No. 2
|  Fundamental Doctrines of the Church of God  |  Comments or Suggestions?  |  FAQ  |   Holy Day Information   |   Site Map   |   Donations   |
|  Sabbath & Holy Day Services   |   Weekly Bible Study Services   |   Video Groups   |   2016 Feast of Tabernacles   |
Follow Us: HWALibrary - Mobile Site
Copyright © 2016 Herbert W Armstrong Library
Important Notice

Please Note:

The address and phone number for the Worldwide Church of God given for material are no longer valid for obtaining the material offered in booklets, magazines, telecast and radio broadcast.

HWALibrary.com has all material offered on this site 100% free. You do not need to call or mail your requests, simply do a search for the material offered on our site.

The Worldwide Church of God dissolved after Mr. Armstrong's death in January 1986.

Visit our FAQ page for instructions on downloading audio and video files.

Sabbath Services

Sabbath Services:

Hello, and welcome to our Sabbath and Holy Day service tab. The services provided are selected from the recorded library of this website HWALibrary.com.

Services are posted every Sabbath or Holy Day. Our service consists of 3 hymns, a Sermonette, a hymn, the Sermon and a final hymn.

Continue to the Sabbath Service page.

Bible Study Services

Bible Study:

Hello, and welcome to our Bible Study service tab. The services provided are selected from the recorded library of this website HWALibrary.com.

Bible Study services are posted each Wednesday. Our service consists of an opening hymn, a Bible Study and a final hymn.

Continue to the Bible Study Service page.