With so many, many things to discuss regarding the prophesied End Times, why do I feel it is important to begin with an explanation of The Rapture? What is the Rapture? When will it occur? What does it mean for me as a Christian? What does it mean for the non-believer?
A number of years ago, Tim LaHaye wrote the popular “Left Behind” 17 book series. Besides making many Best Selling lists, it also was made into a Hollywood movie with Nicolas Cage seen by millions. While fictional, but based on Biblical prophecies, it told about an unbelieving commercial airline pilot who went through the time of the Rapture and was left behind. His wife and son met Christ in the air while he and his daughter were left behind to see what happens when only unbelievers are left in this world. Eventually, they both found Christ but they still had to endure the 7 year time period called the Tribulation (more on this in a future newsletter) that Jesus told us about in Matthew 24:21:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
So, according to Mr. LaHaye’s story, a man who remained on earth because of his unbelief lost family members during the Rapture and then found and accepted Christ, still had to endure the worst time in recorded human history. What could he have done to escape the misery that came down on the earth as prophesied? Well, he could have accepted Christ as his personal Savior BEFORE the Rapture! What then is the Rapture? How does the Rapture differ from the Second Coming of Christ at Armageddon?
I must start with the TWO future comings of Christ. As prophesied in the Bible, Christ would be born to take away the sins of the world for all who believe in Him and accept Him as their personal savior. He died for our sins! After the Crucifixion He rose on the 3rd day and spent a number of days on earth teaching His disciples the message He wanted them to preach to the world.
When Paul first described His coming BACK to our world (after His death and Resurrection) he said:
“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming (Rapture) of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep (died) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
Do you see what the Bible says? We believers that are alive at the Rapture will meet Jesus IN THE AIR and will be with Him forever! Another statement made in the Bible regarding the coming Rapture occurs in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
Some may call the Rapture folly because the word “rapture” is not written anywhere in the Bible. The word “rapture” is NOT in the Bible. But neither is the word grandfather, Trinity, et.al. Rather, the Latin word “rapio” (which comes from the Greek – harpazo) meaning “snatch, grab, carry off, abduct…” is used. When Christ descends from Heaven He is going to snatch us! He is going to grab us! He is going to carry us off! Why? So, like Noah and Lot, we will NOT have to go through His final judgements on this earth. In Genesis 7:4 after He told Noah and his family to go into the ark, He said “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.” He told Noah to go into the ark 7 days ahead of when the destruction would begin! By the way, it took Noah and his sons 100 years to build the ark. They were warned that judgement was coming! When the two angels visited Lot in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and were harassed by the evil men living there, they told Lot in Genesis 19:15 “With the coming of the dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying “Hurry! Take your wife and two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” In both cases, they were warned BEFORE the punishment came and were taken out of harm’s way BEFORE it arrived! We have been warned that in the last days Christ will 1.) grab us away from the earth so that we will not be harmed when the destruction comes, and 2.) we will meet Christ IN THE AIR.
I believe the Bible is very clear on when the Rapture will occur. Some believe it will be during the Tribulation, others believe it will be after the Tribulation. They believe this because they feel Christians must be punished for their sins during the Tribulation absolutely rebuking the reason Jesus died for our sins. All you have to do is read Revelation 3:10 to understand what Jesus clearly says about the Rapture occurring BEFORE the Tribulation begins:
“Because thou (Believers) hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (Tribulation), which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
When you compare this Second Coming to the perhaps better known Second Coming at Armageddon, you see that with His coming He actually steps onto the land. At the “official” Second Coming Jesus will stand on the earth at the battle of Armageddon:
“Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feel will stand on the Mount of Olives.”
Do you see the difference? There will be TWO returns! At one coming He will join the believers in the air while at the other He will vanquish His foes while standing on the ground at Armageddon. While 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 points to the fact that the believers, whether alive or dead, will be raptured and MEET Christ in the air, Zechariah 14:5 says that ALL the saints will come with Christ when He returns at Armageddon. “Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You.” In one example, the believers meet Christ in the air and in the other they come with Him, an act that dictates they were already with Him when He comes again to the earth.
Another example of why we believers will return with Christ and not have to remain on the earth waiting for His return at Armageddon? According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord HIMSELF (capitals mine) will descend from heaven with a shout…” but at the Second coming He sends His angels to gather the elect (those that accepted Christ during the 7 year Tribulation/pre-Armageddon time period) “And He will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and THEY (capitals mine) will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31.
If you accept the notion that God has promised that if we believe in Christ and accept Him as our Savior, He will keep us out of the judgement the same way He did for Noah and Lot, then the next question might be, so when will the Rapture occur? In the Book of Mark, Christ Himself said that no one could know the “…day and hour of His return.” By examining the ancient Greek (much of the Bible was written in Greek), we learn this may not actually be the case. When Christ said in Mark 13:32-33:
“But of that day and hour no one KNOWS (capitals mine), neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not KNOW (capitals mine) when the time is…”
Scholars throughout time have interpreted these verses to mean that God did not intend for us to KNOW when the Rapture or the end of the world would occur. A number of Bible references do conclude we actually CAN KNOW the exact time of Christ’s ultimate return at Armageddon (e.g., exactly 1260 days after the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ by the Antichrist) but the date of the Rapture will remain a mystery to us.
An expert on the ancient Greek language, Joseph Civelli of Pensacola, Florida actually may have uncovered the answer! In his book “The Messiah Returns” he says the generation COULD know by better understanding the original Greek language the Bible was written in. For example, I can say in English “I know you”. You then must interpret how I used that in context I said it to fully understand what I meant. Did I mean I physically knew you? Did it mean I know of you? Does it mean what I know of you? To what degree do I know you, in passing or intimately? In the original Greek there are 5 different words for the one English word “know”. The Bible has been translated from the original Greek into English and may have lost some of the original meaning and intent!
Interestingly, the word “know” used in Matthew 24 and in Mark 13 were actually two different Greek words in the original Bible! Those two words, both meaning “know” were ‘ginosko’ and ‘oida’. While they convey similar meanings, they are different. According to Strong’s Concordance #1097 and the Companion Bible, appendix 132 says ‘ginosko’ means “to understand, to be sure of, and to have unconditional and objective knowledge”. When this word is used it means the information can be obtained and understood; you can have absolute and complete knowledge. In other words, the information or knowledge is either available and understandable or it is not. If Jesus had used this verb there would be no question that no one could know “…of that time, not even the angels, or the Son.” It is an absolute!
But, He did not use ‘ginosko’. Instead, He used the word ‘oida’ which basically means the same thing except when it is used in certain past tenses. When used in these certain past tenses, as Jesus did, its meaning is obtained from the Greek work ‘optomai’ which means to be understood intuitively or knowledge that is obtained without effort. Usage of ‘oida’ in other than certain past tenses refers only to HOW knowledge is obtained, not the degree of understanding as with ‘ginosko’. When used positively, ‘oida’ means that the information is understood intuitively. When it is used negatively, it doesn’t mean you can’t know it. Rather it means it takes effort, investigation or study in order to uncover and understand it. In other words, it is not readily apparent but it is there to obtain and understand!
Jesus made a clear distinction between the two “knows” in Matthew and Mark:
Matthew 24:32 (ginosko) “…Know that the summer is near…”
Matthew 24:32 (ginosko) “…Know that it is near…”
Matthew 24:43 (ginosko) “…Know this, if the good man…”
Mark 13:28 (ginosko) “…Know that the summer is near…”
Mark 13:29 (ginosko) “…You will know the time is near…”
Matthew 24:36 (oida) “…Of that day and hour knoweth no man…”
Matthew 24:42 (oida) “…You won’t know when your Lord will return…”
Matthew 24:43 (oida) “…If the good man had known…”
Matthew 25:13 (oida) “…You know neither the day or the hour when he comes…”
Mark 13:32 (oida) “…of that day and hour knoweth no man…”
Mark 13:33 (oida) “…you don’t know when the time is…”
Mark 13:35 (oida) “…you don’t know when the master of the house is coming…”
When Jesus used the word ‘ginosko’ He was indicating that knowledge was available and understanding would be complete. When He used ‘oida’ He was indicating that the knowledge would NOT come automatically but would require some effort to perceive and understand it. Obviously, around the world at any moment there are 24 different hours and 2 different days. If I were to say the Rapture would occur at 10PM on Tuesday, do I mean Central Standard Time? Rather, I believe what Jesus said and what was written in the original Greek was that for those of us alive in these last days who have seen the rebirth of the nation of Israel and are cognizant of the fulfillment of so many Biblical prophecies made between 2,000 and 2,600 years ago, the Rapture and the end times are not far off. We WILL know it! BUT, beware of anyone saying it will happen on a certain date or at a certain time. The Bible does not tell us that. It only gives us the information, if we study it, that lets us know what is needed to happen before it could occur. No other generation in history has seen this ancient prophecy fulfilled with the Jews return to their promised land. It took OUR generation to see their return to be able to better understand or KNOW the Rapture is NOW near. In the timeline of Biblical prophecy, there is no other event now required for the Rapture to occur today. The clock has started! It can happen at any time!
I can’t leave this topic without addressing what the world of unbelievers will think when millions disappear in the twinkling of an eye. In one moment, believers are here and in the next they are gone! Of course there will be a global “explanation” (UFOs, kidnappings, migration, etc.?) but the fact remains there will be unbelievers aware of the consequence of that event but who did not believe it would ever happen. Like the pilot in the Left Behind series, he recalled his wife telling him about this event which he missed! The Rapture is God’s Promise to His believers that they will be saved by their faith and trust in Jesus. For those that ARE NOT raptured, if they recognize what they just missed like the pilot in the Left Behind books, they can still be saved for eternity but they will have to endure the judgement of the world that will see billions of people perish. But also knowing that God’s plan is to “snatch” us away from the coming worldly judgements BEFORE they occur, should not scare us but rather comfort us in the knowledge that if we have accepted Christ and asked for forgiveness of our sins, we will join Christ in the air.
“Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:18
If you got anything from this message, any hope or understanding, please share it with your friends and family. After all, we are all charged to “…comfort one another with these words”.
May God Bless you!