Will Jesus return invisibly, secretly to "rapture" or take away the Church to heaven BEFORE the coming tribulation?
A COMMON idea being preached today is that Christ may return "at any moment," invisibly, secretly, to "rapture" or "catch away" the Church before "the great tribulation" and the appearance of a superhuman "Antichrist." This secret return of Christ is called "the first phase" of Christ's second coming.
Coming in Two Phases?
Jesus, we are asked to believe, may suddenly descend from heaven this very night! But He will stop in mid-air! Immediately, the righteous dead will be raised and all true Christians who are alive will be "translated." Then Christ returns to heaven — some say for 3 1/2 years, others say for 7 years. During this period, according to this teaching, God will vent His wrath upon the world by permitting an Antichrist to deceive the nations — especially the Jews — and to torture all who won't submit to him. This time of torture they call indiscriminately the "tribulation" and "Day of the Lord." Then, they say, the "second phase" of Christ's coming will occur. Jesus will come visibly, in power and glory, WITH the saints, to conquer Antichrist and to restore the Jews to Palestine! But is this what the Bible really teaches? Are there "two phases" to the second coming of Jesus Christ? Will He return secretly? WHY IS THE WORD "RAPTURE" NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE IF THIS THEORY BE TRUE? When, where and why did the doctrine of the secret rapture begin? The answers to these questions will shock you! It is time you learned the TRUTH!
A Time Sequence of Events Tells
Jesus has given us a time sequence of events soon to occur. This sequence you will find in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. These three chapters contain the order of events at the close of this age of man's rule. Notice what Jesus told His disciples — and that includes you and me today if we obey Him. Following false teachers, proclaiming a false gospel, yet coming in the name of Christ, would be wars, famines and pestilences — occurring in that order. Then there would be what? — the secret return of Christ to take away the Church in a secret rapture immediately before a tribulation? No! Just the opposite! Here are Jesus' own words: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars... and famines shall be and earthquakes in divers places. But all these are the beginning of sorrows. THEN" — the very next event — "shall they deliver you up unto TRIBULATION, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Mat. 24:6-9). Did you notice that? Jesus' own disciples — those who follow Him — "You" — are to be delivered up to tribulation! The disciples of Jesus could not be in tribulation if they were secretly raptured to heaven before the tribulation and if only unbelievers remained on earth. Besides, Jesus said that it is "FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE" that the nations would hate you. This must be referring to believers, not non-believers. Mark records the same statement of Jesus: "And ye shall be hated of all for my name's sake" (Mark 13:13). A martyrdom of Christians! Luke records the same (Luke 21:12, 17).
A Way of Escape?
Though Jesus prophesied that Christians would be persecuted in a coming great tribulation, HE ALSO SAID THERE IS FOR SOME A WAY OF ESCAPE! That way of escape is not the secret rapture! "But watch," said Jesus, "and pray always that ye be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36). You can escape all the troubles soon to fall on a heedless world — but you must watch world events and pray! Jesus repeated this same promise to His Church today: "Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial" — the tribulation and events that follow — "which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Rev. 3:10). But how and where are the Christians who watch and pray going to escape? Turn to the 12th chapter of Revelation. Here we find the answer! Here we find the true Church — the Church of God — pictured. A woman, remember, is the symbol of a Church (II Cor. 11:2). This chapter pictures the true Church, whereas the 17th chapter of Revelation pictures the false churches — a mother church and her daughter churches. Notice verse 6 of chapter 12. In the tribulation during the Middle Ages "the woman [the true Church) fled into the wilderness, where she hath there a place prepared of God." That tribulation is merely a type of the coming great tribulation — a time of trouble of such magnitude as has never occurred on earth before. Now turn to verse 13: "And when the dragon [Satan] saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman" — this is the persecution that is yet in the future, a persecution that is being secretly planned at this very moment! How does the Church escape? "And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman that she should fly TO THE WILDERNESS to her place" for 3 1/2 years. The Church is NOT taken to heaven, but to the wilderness — to a desert region here on earth. "And the earth helped the woman" (Rev. 12:13-16). Could anything be plainer? But what happens to those not accounted worthy to escape? "And the dragon... went away to make war with the rest of her seed" — the remainder of the Church that did not escape. The people whom Satan hates — and against whom he stirs up the nations — the people who "keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus" (verse 17). How plain! Some of the Church escapes to a place of safety on earth. But there is no "secret rapture"! Jesus told us to "pray that your flight be not in winter, neither on a sabbath: for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the world's beginning until now, no, nor ever shall be" (Luke 21:21). If there were a "secret rapture" we would not have to be concerned about either the winter or the sabbath!
Is the Tribulation the Time of God's Wrath?
There is another great mistake that all who believe in the rapture theory have carelessly taken for granted without proof. It is that the "tribulation" and the "Day of the Lord" represent the same period of time. The Bible reveals that the tribulation is the wrath of Satan, the wicked spirit ruler of this present age. We read of that in Revelation 12. Notice! The devil is angry. He is responsible for the persecution of the Christians who are not accounted worthy to escape. Satan hates God's way. So does this world. It is Satan's world — little wonder that it hates the good news of the Kingdom of God. What did Jesus say would immediately happen after Satan's wrath — the tribulation? The rapturists would have you believe that the "second phase" of Jesus' return would immediately occur. This is not what Jesus said. Notice: "IMMEDIATELY AFTER the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (Mat. 24:29). Now turn to Joel 2:31: "The sun shall he turned into darkness, and the moon into blood BEFORE THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE DAY OF THE LORD COME." The "Day of the Lord" is the time God steps into world affairs directly. It is the time of His wrath against the nations! This "Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night," wrote Paul in I Thes. 5:2. This is not speaking of the rapture, but of the time of God's interventions in world affairs very shortly before Jesus returns. Compare this with Revelation 6:12, 16-17: "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood; and the stars of the heaven fell to the earth... and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of the one sitting on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: because the great day of their wrath is come; and who can stand?"' This day of God's wrath comes unexpectedly — like a thief in the night. The tribulation, however, occurs before the "Day of the Eternal's Wrath"! Notice that during this "Day of the Lord" the trumpets begin to sound — (Rev. 8.6). "And the seven angels that had the seven trumps [or trumpets] prepared themselves to sound." Trumpets are a symbol of war. This is the time when God's restraint over the nations is loosed — when the nations war upon one another with horrifying new weapons till they learn that God alone can bring peace and that His laws make life worth living. Notice, now, an amazing fact which very few have grasped!
The Seventh Trumpet Sounds
What happens when the seventh and last of these trumpets is sounded? "And the seventh angel sounded: and great voices in heaven came saying, 'The Kingdom of the world is become our Lords and His Christ's, and He shall reign unto the ages of the ages'... 'We thank thee, Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was; because thou hast taken thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldst give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth'" (Rev. 11:15, 17-18). Notice that this is the time for the prophets to receive their reward. It is the time of the resurrection! And this, remember, occurs at the seventh or last trump! Now compare this with I Corinthians 15:51-52: "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 tramp: for the trumpet" — the seventh and last trumpet — "shall sound, and the dead" — and that includes the prophets (Rev. 11:18) "shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Do you grasp the significance of this Scripture? AFTER the tribulation, after the intervening heavenly signs, during the Day of the Lord, at the sounding of the seventh trump THE DEAD ARE RESURRECTED AND THOSE ALIVE, WHO believe and practice the truth, ARE CHANGED FROM MORTAL TO IMMORTAL!
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This is no secret rapture before the tribulation. The dead are not resurrected twice! Those who are still living are not changed to immortality twice! Of course not! There is not the slightest indication of a "secret rapture" and a resurrection of the saints before the tribulation. But this is not all! Open your Bible to Matthew 24:30: "And then" — after the heavenly signs which follow the tribulation — not before, but after the tribulation and during the Day of the Lord — "THEN shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send forth his angels with a great trumpet [or "a great sound of a trumpet"], and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." This verse pictures the second coming of Christ — at the seventh and last trump, the great trump. And it is the time of the resurrection! The ELECT are gathered together. Who are the "elect" or chosen ones?
Who Are these "Elect"?
Luke 18:7 tells us: "And shall not God avenge His ELECT, that cry to Him day and night?" These elect are not the Jews! The Jews will not be converted as a nation until Jesus returns. The Jews today are "enemies of the gospel" (Rom. 11:28), not elect or chosen. Any concordance will provide you with many other scriptures (I Pet. 1:1-2, Col. 3:12; Rom. 8:33, etc.) proving that true Christians are the ELECT or chosen ones today. These are the ones to be gathered when Jesus returns with the SOUND of a great trump! Paul also mentions the same tremendous noise of the seventh trumpet that will rend the air at Christ's return. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with an archangel's voice, and with the trump of God: AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (I Thes. 4:16-17). Did you notice that this is the time of the resurrection? It is the time of the LAST TRUMP according to I Cor. 15:52. And in Revelation 11:15, 17-18 the seventh or last trumpet is ALSO THE TIME OF THE RESURRECTION. And the time order of Jesus' Mount Olivet prophecy and of the book of Revelation places the sounding of the seventh trumpet and the resurrection AFTER THE TRIBULATION — at the very climax of the "Day of the Lord"! These verses describe the same trumpet, not different ones. There is no possible room for a "secret rapture." One famous text used to contradict these plain passages of Scripture is the 14th verse of I Thes. 4. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, even so them also that are fallen asleep" — the dead are asleep in their graves, not awake in heaven, according to Paul — "will God through Jesus bring WITH Him." This verse is supposed to teach that 3 1/2 or 7 years before Christ returns a "secret rapture" occurred, the dead were secretly taken to heaven and now they return with Jesus from heaven. But is this what the Scripture says? How is Jesus going to bring those who are asleep in death WITH Him? Notice: "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the presence [or coming] of the Lord, shall in no wise precede [the Old English word "prevent" meant "precede"] them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven" — with the saints? — NO! "and the dead in Christ shall rise first." Observe that Jesus, with the angels from heaven, descends toward to earth, not with the saints, but IN ORDER TO RESURRECT THE SAINTS! "The Lord shall descend... and the dead shall rise"! After Jesus descends toward earth the dead rise first! They meet Christ in the air, Now the dead are with Christ in the air — the atmosphere surrounding this earth. "THEN we that are alive and remain shall together with them be caught up in the clouds"! We, too, shall be together in the air with those who have just been raised, those whom Jesus is bringing with Him to this earth. Notice that being "caught up" — Paul does not say "raptured up" — occurs after the tribulation, at the last trump when Jesus descends visibly in power and glory. Suppose you had a friend who is returning today. You would probably meet him at the bus or rail station or at the airport, wherever he arrives. Then you RETURN WITH HIM to your home. In the same way, it is only natural that we should meet Jesus and return with Him to this earth at the Mount of Olives by Jerusalem. If your friend were returning today, he would not take you back with him to the place he had already left, and then return all over again, would he? That would be ridiculous! Yet that is the concept of a "secret rapture" — that Jesus meets you, rakes you to the place which he left (heaven) in order to return to this earth!
Jesus Returns IN LIKE MANNER
How did Jesus leave this earth? "He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight" — the disciples were looking at Him — "and while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men 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. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet" (Acts 1:9-12). Were there two phases of Jesus' ascension? No! Then there will not be two phases to His return — He will come in the same manner in which He left. Notice the prophecy concerning the fulfillment of this very promise: "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh... His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives" (Zech. 14:1-4). Jesus ascended visibly from Mt. Olivet; He will return visibly to it — but this time in all the might and power of God as King of kings. And notice that it is in the very day in which He returns that His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives. "It shall be one day which shall be known as the Lord's, not day, and not night; but it shall come to pass, that at evening time there shall be light" (verse 7). This is the climax of that period called the "Day of the Lord" in prophecy. This one twenty-four hour day will bring an end to this Babylonish civilization. And notice that Jesus sets foot on earth in the very day He returns — not 3 1/2 or 7 or 1000 years later! That is what the Scripture says! There is no secret rapture before the tribulation or at any other time! The resurrection is at the mighty sound of the seventh trump IN the Day of God's wrath which follows the tribulation. The tribulation is not the Day of the Lord. There are two separate and distinct periods of time. Christ does not return in two phases, one secret, the other visible. He returns in the same manner as He ascended — AND THAT WAS NO SECRET RAPTURE! He ascended visibly. He will descend visibly. Some, of course, seize on minor Scriptures and misinterpret them to attempt to prove their theory. Take Revelation 4:1-2, for example. This, we are told, represents the rapture. But these two verses do not say that! JOHN saw the prophecy in the Book of Revelation unfolded in heaven became that is where Jesus is — not because of a secret rapture! One prominent writer attempts to prove that II Thes. 2:7-8 refers to the rapture. His theory is that this prophecy has not yet begun to be fulfilled — that Christ must come first "to rapture the Church before the tribulation." But notice the first part of verse 7: "For the mystery of iniquity DOTH ALREADY WORK" — even in Paul's day! The prophecy is being fulfilled. Let us, however, notice the time setting of this prophecy. The Thessalonians had asked Paul how long they would have to wait until the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Paul answers that the day of Christ's return and the resurrection cannot come "except there come a falling away FIRST, and that man of sin be revealed..." (verse 3). Notice the time sequence! An apostasy shall have come first and the man of sin shall have been revealed BEFORE the day of Christ. Until these two things happen, the day of Christ is being withheld — restrained! Christ is not coming and the resurrection will not occur until after the apostasy has commenced and the man of sin, who rises out of its midst, seats himself in the temple of God claiming to be God (verse 4). Now continuing with verses 6 to 9, according to the original inspired Greek: "And now you know what withholds [or, is keeping back the Day of Christ from occurring], so that he [the man of sin] might be revealed in his own [or, appointed] time. For the mystery of iniquity is already working: there is only one who is now withholding [or, keeping back the Day of Christ] until he [the man of sin] comes on the scene out of the midst [of the apostasy]; and then shall that Wicked be revealed [seated in the temple of God, claiming to be God], whom the Lord shall consume ... by the brightness of His coming..." Notice that this must all happen before the resurrection when Christ comes in "flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel" (II Thes. 1:8). Observe that the Greek words heoos ek mesou geneetai, translated in the King James Version, "until he be taken not of the way," mean exactly the opposite in Greek — "until he comes on the scene, or appears, out of the midst" of the apostasy! Christ cannot return for His saints at the resurrection until the man of sin, who today heads a great apostasy — a great fallen Church (Rev. 17) — moves his headquarters to Jerusalem and seats himself there in a temple of God (see Daniel 11:44-45 and Rev. 11).
The ORIGIN of the Secret Rapture
Now comes the surprise! The doctrine of the Secret Rapture comes from Antichrist! — that man of Sin who claims to be God! The earliest generally recognized modern adoption of the doctrine of a coming superhuman Antichrist preceded by a "secret rapture" occurred around 1825. Samuel R. Maitland, librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, swallowed the theory. Around 1830 J. N. Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren, accepted it. The Scofield Bible propounded the same erroneous theory — and from there it has spread throughout fundamental Protestantism. And where did these misguided Protestants first learn of this theory? From the Jesuits in the 16th century! Joseph Ribera and Cardinal Bellarmine and Alcasar were among the first to propound the theory. You can verify these facts in the Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by McClintock and Strong, and in many other reference works. It is time you opened your eyes to this HERESY that has stemmed from "BABYLON THE GREAT, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth" (Rev. 17:5). Unless you recognize this vile doctrine for what it is, YOU AND MILLIONS WITH YOU ARE PLUNGING STRAIGHT FOR THE MOST FIENDISH, DIABOLICAL TIME OF TORTURE EVER INSTITUTED BY MAN! IT IS NOW BEING PLANNED IN EUROPE! There is only one way of escape — "Watch world events and pray constantly."