September 28, 2015

Unwrapping Rapture (again)

by Clint Archer

With all the talk of blood moons and the putative “probability” of the rapture being today (September 28, 2015), I decided to reprise this…

All Bible-believing Christians are expecting the rapture; we all just define that event differently. My earlier post, Secret Disservice: Problems with the term ‘Secret Rapture,’  generated some questions I’d like to address.

1) What is the rapture?

The word ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin rapturo, meaning, “I seize, I snatch, or I carry away” which is the Vulgate’s translation of the Greek word harpadzo, meaning “I catch up, I carry away.” As a half-Greek etymology geek I can’t resist mentioning that English sailors sourced their word “harpoon” from the Greek for the implement used to snatch a large  fish out the water.

Harpadzo” or “Rapturo” is  rendered  “caught up”  in   1 Thess 4:16-17  where Paul says,

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord, (ESV).”

Also, 1 Cor 15:51-53 refers to the fact that believers will not all die, but will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye.

This is why I could provocatively claim that all Bible believing Christians are expecting a rapture. We all agree that at some point Christians will be snatched up into the clouds to meet Jesus. The vexing question is: “When?!”

Some say, “Any moment now, before God judges the earth for seven years, which precedes the final return of Christ to usher in his 1000 year earthly reign.” (The correct This writer’s view).

Others aver all of the above, except for the “any moment” part. They’d put their money on a rapturing of the church after the seven years of tribulation. Time would fail to mention the variations of this view, like the “midway through” crew and the “before the worst” bevy, and other combos I may be rudely neglecting.

Still others (and to be fair, most others) assume the tribulation is currently occurring and will be ended by a single event which encompasses rapture, judgment, return, and consummation of all things resulting in the eternal state.

2) Why pick on the ‘secret rapture’?

The reason I took issue with the antiquated use of the term ‘secret rapture’ to describe these events is because I keep bumping into those who misunderstand the pre-trib rapture view, and ridicule the notion that rapture will be covert.

Note please, that I don’t have a problem with what premills believe about the so-called secret rapture, just that some call it ‘secret.’ That designation leaves room for people to misunderstand what we mean.

One admittedly hilarious parody of our view that is worth the four minute video is: “Messing With Dispensationalists.

‘Secret’ should refer only to the fact that its timing is unknown. We cannot predict when rapture will occur. But in discussions with opponents of the view, ‘secret rapture’ is caricatured as positing that no one except believers will be aware of the shout, the trumpet, and the appearing of Christ. I dealt with this last week.

3) Why ought Christians to have a view on the rapture?

Because 1 Thess 4:18 (the verse after the description of the rapture) tells us to “encourage one another with these words.” Paul thought he was speaking plainly enough that the description he just supplied would be encouraging to the believers who were longing to be with Jesus. It seems that the encouragement is to expect a sudden catching away to be with our Lord. If one’s view relegates this truth to an unimportant part of theology, you miss out on one of the great blessings the Holy Spirit gives included in the “all things pertaining to life and godliness” package.

These issues are not salvation issues, and great men have differed for centuries. We all agree (well, most of us who can read) that no one can know the day or hour of the event, so in that sense it is a ‘secret.’

Let’s keep the healthy perspective that whoever is mistaken in their view can still have the gospel perfectly clear, and they will have their mind changed in a twinkling of an eye, it’s just a matter of the timing.

 

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Rick Gomez

    I wonder if anyone has discussed what the likely effects would be on the general population in the event of a pretribulational rapture. Most unbelievers know of this assertion by many Christians and also because of the numerous “Left Behind” type of movies that have been produced recently. There have been those who have proposed unreasonable scenarios that don’t realistically depict what the aftereffects would be on an unsaved world following such an unprecedented world wide event.

    • I don’t think there is any way to predict that. Many people who were familiar with the prophecies of the Messiah, and then saw them fulfilled before their very eyes ended up dying in unbelief. On the other hand, the fulfilment of the prophecies of rapture may well result in a widespread revival. Time will tell.

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Speaking of those “likely effects”, isn’t it passing strange that nowhere does the Bible describe an unsaved world reacting in fear and confusion over the sudden disappearance of millions of people. One would think that, if Christ had come and taken every living believer up into heaven and opened the graves of every saint from every age and continent, that the world would be throw instantly into utter chaos and running about in every direction. Yet nothing. No mention of that. No hint of world-wide panic in the streets or whole systems crashing for lack of personnel to run them.

      Other than the book of Revelation, which is full of symbols and figures from start to finish (like a red dragon, a creature with multiples heads emerging from the sea, and a woman clothed with the sun), we have precious little in the way of matches between popular books and movies and what the Bible actually states.

      • Daniel Leake

        Your last paragraph is pretty frustrating for a person who frequents the comment section of The Cripplegate. I would expect ‘4Commencefiring4’ to do better than just assert “Other than the book of Revelation, which is full of symbols and figures from start to finish…” You ought to be more precise in your statements. For example, there is no significant theological system that views the entirety of Revelation as “symbols and figures”. Many view the 7 churches at the beginning as having been literal historical churches in the first century, but even for the few who don’t, all believe that Revelation 22 is fairly literal and straight-forward. And 100% of major positions believe that the Apostle John literally received the prophecy from God while he was literally on Patmos (and literally still alive at the time).
        I guess my point is that you’re “begging the question” with your statement. It will really confuse folks to hear that the entirety of the book is symbols, as that is a theologically novel position (which is acceptable if textual proof is provided).
        Respectfully,
        Daniel

        • 4Commencefiring4

          Well, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that “literally” everything in the book is symbolic (pun intended), but it does employ them in every chapter (yes, even ch 22–see below) and in many verses in each one.

          Sure, as I stated in another response here, the seven churches would have been real churches, and John was actually on Patmos–a real place–receiving this series of visions. I agree wholeheartedly.

          Yet from the opening scene, we have language that tells us this is going to be a message with words that may not have their literal meaning. Christ is described as holding seven “stars” in His right hand, for instance. Unless the Son of Man has become the size of a galaxy, we know these “stars” aren’t literally stars. In fact, He even tells us what these seven points of light–or whatever they really were– represented: the angels of the seven churches. His tongue isn’t really a two-edged sword now; it’s just how it appeared to John. And on and on.

          Even in 22, He employs some words that make little sense if taken at face value: v.14 says those who “wash their robes” enter the “gates” of the city, clearly a description of the entire company of the redeemed; they aren’t going to be required to wash anything to be saved. I don’t believe this is teaching that eternity will have “gates”, either. Gates that open to what, and close out what? Why would we ever have need to go “outside” where V. 15 speaks of the unsaved “outside” the gates? Are we to conclude that, in eternity, the unsaved–many of whom will be people we knew and loved in life–are just outside these “gates” in a place of suffering while we enjoy the rewards of redemption inside the gates? No, that can’t be what’s being said.

          Eternity, from all I’ve come to understand, will be a place of everlasting joy and peace, not somewhere where those I loved and who didn’t ever come to Christ are just over the wall wailing and crying forever. I think this passage is trying to tell us (who are still trapped in this mortal body in this life) of the contrast between the eventual lot of the saved vs that of the unsaved, not that we’ll be separated by a mere “gate” in essentially the same place. Again, why a gate? No one “inside” needs or wants to go “outside.” It’s a symbol of God allowing us entrance into His reward (“Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter…”)

          He gets the point across well without us having to attribute literalness to the phrases used. It’s very effective.

          • Daniel Leake

            I appreciate your careful response and time. Though it’s just a brief response, I would say that yes there is symbolism, but just because a symbol isn’t clearly tied to a literal object, doesn’t mean that it can mean whatever we want or that it lacks a concrete overall meaning dictated by the context. What concerns me about your original statement is that I find many interpreters of symbols make the leap from “There are symbols in this passage” to concluding that the passage should be interpreted according to different hermeneutical principles than any other passage.

            The principle shouldn’t be that all symbols can have a high amount of latitude in their interpretation, but rather that every symbol in scripture has a range of meaning only as the context grants it.

            So my overall point is that every symbol in revelation must be given the full effort of interpretation, rather than lumping them all together into an eschatological mush, unless the context results in mush:).

            God bless,
            Daniel

      • My view isn’t based on popular books and movies; it’s based on Revelation, the Major Prophets (esp Daniel), the Minor Prophets (esp Joel, Micah, Zecheriah), a few of Paul’s letters, both of Peter’s and Jude too. And yes, understanding hermeneutics takes some concerted effort and study. Good thing there are schools that teach those who teach the Bible. See http://www.tms.edu

  • Johnny

    I need to walk down the street later to my TBN-watching dispensationalist friend to see if he’s still there. If he is, then I agree with this post…. 🙂

    • I’m not sure its only those who believe in rapture who get raptured!

  • tovlogos

    Out of the many times I have heard different aspects of this subject, Pre, have been the one that made most sense to me. Post makes makes no sense… Mid is complicated when the considering the ministry of the two Witnesses. There is a lot of confidence in an exposition of the Pre.

    Therefore: “This is why I could provocatively claim that all Bible believing Christians are expecting a rapture. We all agree that at some point Christians will be snatched up into the clouds to meet Jesus.”

    Revelation 3:10 does serve the Pre-Tribs — I pray…any moment.

    • Even so come Lord Jesus.

      • tovlogos

        Amen, brother.

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Rev 3:10, like all the other statements that are part of the messages Christ gave through John to “the seven churches”, had a specific intended audience: in this case, “the angel of the church at Philadelphia”…a church that is long gone.

      Why should any statement meant for them be applied to us today? In the same passage, He said some of those in that church would be thrown into prison and would “have tribulation ten days.” Does that apply to us, too? Of course not: Believers have always had trials, and for a lot longer than ten days.

      And the “hour of trial that is coming upon the whole earth” that they are “kept from” can’t be the tribulation period, either, because the church at Philly wasn’t going to go through that, no matter what–they existed over 2,000 years before it would ever occur. The “word of My patience” that Christ commended them for keeping would not be the reason they missed the tribulation; their time in history would be. They could have been the worst church in all of the ancient world and still missed the tribulation.

      I know this passage is one of the most cited as indicating the church that exists in the last day will not be subject to “the tribulation”, but if that’s true, then everything else in the seven messages must also be for us. And that’s bizarre. Read through them and try to figure out how they are promises or threats to us. You can’t. Because they aren’t. Do we “tolerate that woman Jezebel” in 2015? Who would that be? Is there a “synagogue of Satan” in our midst who “pretend to be Jews, but lie”? Not that I know of.

      We have to be very careful trying to apply statements from Revelation to us today. Even aside from all the symbolism, much of it was time-period specific and applicable to then-present events of the early church era.

      • tovlogos

        The phenomenon happens throughout the Scriptures, for example, John 3 — applicable to the future blessing of the Jews; and the spiritual blessing of both Jews and Gentiles in the Church age. For example, compare Ezekiel 36:24-27, with John 3:5 — ultimately a spiritual phenomenon.
        However, honestly, I don’t like splitting hairs on unessentials; the point doesn’t mean too much to me — the references in Thessalonians 4 and Corinthians 15 are more than sufficient for me. Blessings and I’ll see you in the kingdom.

      • Good point. We always need to be careful about applying what was written to the OT and NT readers too directly to us. That’s what hermeneutics is about: learning how to apply principles and universal truths to our lives. E.g. Paul told the Corinthians that it was good to support their pastor. That application to our church is quite easy to ascertain. But he also told their women to keep their heads covered. That one’s a bit trickery. But let’s not dismiss God’s revelation on how the end will unfold just because it’s a tricker case of hermeneutic study.

        • 4Commencefiring4

          Amen. There’s another article here on Jer 29:11 and how it’s often incorrectly cited as being an encouragement for us today. But it was meant, in its context, to the people of Israel who had been taken captive, not to me after I lost a bundle investing in Kardashian futures. There’s other verses to give me hope in trouble; I don’t need to commandeer what God told Israel back then.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    I have to admit that I struggle with the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture for a few reasons and please correct me where I’m wrong.

    But as I read Revelation and repeatedly see the words, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints,” am I to believe that those saints are the ones who somehow heard the gospel after the church was raptured (how does that work?) and now have to undergo the tribulation? And if that is the case, was Jesus then addressing this group when He warned of a time unequaled from the beginning that would have to be cut short (on account of the elect) or there would be no survivors? Not that that’s not possible, but that’s a pretty tall order for new believers.
    Not only that, but the two witnesses of Revelation, like the Old Testament prophets, are said to be clothed in sackcloth, indicating they are grieving over the sins of God’s people and calling them to repentance. Does that mean these new saints have already apostatized in the midst of a tribulation?

    Also, when Paul said that the rapture (when we would be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye) at the “last trumpet,” (btw, if those are the 7 trumpets of Revelation, they’re pretty bad) it also says, “THEN the saying that is written will come true, death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:51-54) How is it then that death continues after the rapture and through the tribulation until the number of martyrs is complete (Rev. 6:11)?

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love a pre-tribuation rapture and will be the first to high five everyone in the air on the way up. However, if we have to go through that time of testing (like Jesus said was coming to everyone living on the earth at that point in time (Rev. 3:10), then I don’t want to be one of those people who were told we would go through nothing and end up being disillusioned by what I thought would happen.

    So many questions…

    • These are good questions, Jane. Much of this has been covered on this blog by various writers over the years, so I’d encourage you to search “rapture” and “tribulation” on this site. But briefly, yes there will be elect who get saved after rapture during the tribulation (e.g. the 144,000 Jews, and many others). There are many ways they will know the gospel: 1) unbelievers in churches now, or who are family of believers, who know the gospel but only accept it after the rapture, 2) Bibles, books, and blogs that contain the gospel are resources that will be extant after rapture, and 3) an angel that preaches the gospel to mankind rev 14:6.

      We are not told why the witnesses wear sackcloth, so I wouldn’t base any theological position on their clothing. They are prophets and minister in a somber time of great suffering; that could be reason enough for their garb.

      1 Cor 15:54 actually says that Death is swallowed up in victory when the perishable body becomes an imperishable (immortal) body. He’s not saying that death is only conquered at rapture, death has been conquered by the resurrection of Christ, but it is applies to each person at their moment of glorification; for those alive at rapture the statement “death is swallowed up in victory” is fulfilled not when they die, but when they are raptured and changed/glorified. His point is to give comfort that even though not every believer dies and not every believer lives to the end, we all are glorified, we all get immortal bodies.

      Hope that helps.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Okay, one more quick question to pester you with: When Paul says in 2 Thes. 2, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ AND our being gathered to Him (rapture, right?) we ask you brothers not to become easily unsettled…for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.”

        Okay, so if the lawless one (anti-christ) is revealed AND destroyed by Christ’s coming and our being gathered to Him, how can he still be around through the tribulation to deceive and kill the saints?

        • 4Commencefiring4

          I would submit that’s its really pretty simple: the wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest. At the harvest, it’s all going to be wrapped up at once.

          The End.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Yes, that is how I had always understood it. However, no church I have ever been a part of teaches that.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            I think we’ve complicated it too much. Christ is coming again, period. Not twice more, not with a long series of complex events, judgments, and resurrections, not after this or before that, just once more–and it’s Judgment Day. Everybody out of the pool.

          • Daniel Leake

            With respect again, 4Commencefiring4, arguing the accuracy of a position due to its simplicity seems pretty lacking. There are many variations of Biblical truths that would be ‘simpler’ or make things ‘simpler’, but that’s not really a relevant metric. And furthermore, if simplicity were what God was putting as a high value on the priority list:) the book of Revelation itself is quite long and involves many complexities and nuances (not to say it is impossible or even hard to understand).

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Actually, I’m arguing against the inaccuracy of an unnecessarily complex version in light of how simple Christ made it: He said the sign of the Son of Man would appear in the sky, every eye would see it, and He would send forth His angels to separate the wheat from the tares that had been growing together all this time until the “harvest.” (This is “immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days”). There is no hint of His having come seven years before this and removing all the existing wheat; seems like He’d have mentioned that. I don’t know of one single place where He said or implied that He would be coming back two more times.

            Isn’t there a principle that says we interpret complex and difficult verses by simpler ones, not the opposite? Sure, we have verses that speak of many elements of this or that, and we try to align everything into a long series of intertwining events and characters. But it seems to me that Christ–Who, after all, is the One coming back–gave us a pretty clear summation of what to expect–even if the “when” is not revealed: He’s returning. Once. And it’s the end of history, Judgment Day. His enemy, Satan, is dispatched forever immediately–no waiting ten more centuries for yet another battle with him. It’s over. All the saints will rise and receive their reward; all the lost are assigned their place and, like Peter said, we are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, not a temporary holding pattern that only ends with yet more upheaval and judgments. It’s done. The Victor is victorious forevermore, and He is with His saints in a place that has no more death, etc.

            The “other” popular version has Him returning to a world where sin and death still exit, more wheat and tares are growing, Satan and his minions are still on deck, and the final victory over the enemy must still wait a thousand MORE years.

            Which one sounds more like a conquering King vanquishing His enemies, rewarding His saints, and setting all things to rights?

          • Daniel Leake

            I would be careful not to interpret the passages based on what seems to fit a meta-narrative that you have constructed (rightly or wrongly, biblically or unbiblically). That’s the beauty of the word of God is that it is the “norm’ing norm” and constantly corrects our system. Admittedly there are still passages of the Bible that don’t fit my system, but I try my best not to force them in and allow God to give me the grace to understand them rightly.

            The last point I’ll make regards your comment about Christ not mentioning two arrivals at the end. I would submit that this is not unprecedented, as any interpreter of Scripture is hard pressed to find any indication in the OT that the future messiah would not save his people, judge those who were not his people, and setup the kingdom all in one fell swoop. The Jews believed it would all happen at once and I don’t think that fell outside of what could have happened based on OT prophecy alone.

            My point is not that the NT contradicts the OT at all, but that we have precedent for Biblical prophecy predicting future events WITHOUT giving enough detail to sequence and order them perfectly. A Jew with only the OT could make the same argument for Christ’s first advent as you are for his second.

            Thanks for the interaction. Talking about God’s word seems like a blessed use of time.

          • Not even First Baptist Sesame Street?

          • That would be nice for theology students; eschatology class could have been much easier with a lot less reading!

        • Well, one explanation is that rapture won’t happen until the man of lawlessness is revealed and the rebellion occurs (or begins to occur), but he isn’t destroyed until the final arrival of Jesus to institute the Millenial Kingdom. Remember that Pre-tribbers don’t consider rapture as the Second Coming. It’s the removal of saints from earth, 7 years prior to when Jesus comes back to earth to set up the kingdom and reign on earth.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Yes, but that isn’t what the text says. It says the man of lawlessness is destroyed upon Christ’s return AND our being gathered to Him. Paul doesn’t separate those two events.

            And please know that I fully respect and admire all the hermeneutical (I don’t even know if that is a word) studies you had to go through to come to your conclusions. That is why I read the Cripplegate, to learn.

            However, if one verse, like the one above, doesn’t line up with what I understand or have been taught, I start over. I want to understand it perfectly, if that is even possible.

        • Jason

          It’s teaching here that Jesus will not return and we will not be gathered to Him until after the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed.

          That man is doomed for destruction, but it doesn’t say he will be destroyed before everything else. Instead, his destruction is tied only to Jesus coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

          Therefore, the necessary order of events is as follows:
          1. Man of Lawlessness is revealed.
          2. Jesus gathers believers to Himself.
          3. Jesus returns to earth.
          4. Man of Lawlessness is destroyed.

          The question still remains as to whether Jesus gathering His saints(2) and His return to earth(3) are a single event or if the wrath of God is poured out on the world between those events as the man of lawlessness rules culminating in Jesus returning with His saints and putting an end to the worldly government(4).

          All we can be sure of is that 1 necessarily proceeds 2 AND 3, and that 4 necessarily follows 3. I would also argue 2 precedes 3 as the saints will be with Jesus at His coming, though we get that from other texts.

          In any case, 2 will always be after 1 so believers will always (for some time) be dealing with the worldly government that denies God, persecutes the saints, and sets itself up as God (and to an extent this has happened since the beginning of this age 1 John 4:3).

          As an aside, I see the strong delusion in the signs and wonders movement taking over large sections of church service attenders as well as a tendency for governments around the world to be pushing the Christian faith entirely out of the public square as even acceptable to be mentioned very similar to the end of this text…

    • Jason

      I’ve been looking into some of this stuff lately because it seems like everyone has “end times fever” and there are a million ideas floating around. Here’s some things I’ve found:

      Matthew 24 ties heavily into this discussion. What we see in 1 Thessalonians 4 is Jesus visibly in the sky gathering the church which parallels Matthew 24:30.

      What immediately proceeds this event in Matthew 24:29 is what sounds like a heavenly calamity found in Revelation 6:12-14 with a similar reaction from the world found in verses 15-17.

      The next chapter of Revelation (which begins with “after this”) has God sealing 144,000 Israelis who we later learn (in Revelation 14) are uniquely blameless to protect them against what will follow as well as a great multitude fitting nearly all Biblical descriptions of the church coming out of the tribulation (wars, famines, persecution, etc… as described earlier in Matthew and in Revelation 6 as the seals), which fits with Matthew 24:29.

      1 Corinthians 15 is possibly limited in scope to death losing its sting for those who are in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5-6) and will never experience death again. Death is entirely done away with only after those of the first resurrection have ruled for a thousand years, everyone else is resurrected, and everyone was either in the book of life or cast into the pit of fire (Revelation 20:14).

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        Okay Jason, but you say, “Death is entirely done away with only after those of the first resurrection have ruled for a thousand years, everyone else is resurrected, and everyone was either in the book of life or cast into the pit of fire (Revelation 20:14).

        But again, I don’t understand why Paul makes it sound like death is done away with when the rapture and the first resurrection take place, because he says, “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed (rapture)…when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the the mortal with immortality, THEN the saying that is written will come true: Death HAS been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:51-54) (The death reference from Isaiah 25:7)

        Wouldn’t the literal reading of that text indicate those events are at the same time? And if not, why didn’t Paul say, “later” instead of “then.”

        I also appreciate your references to the passages in Revelation, but I have found that trying to put Revelation in chronological order based on how it’s written requires more Excedrin than I’m allowed to take.

        But do me a favor if you reply; first read Isaiah chapters 24-26 because within these chapters we have the references of the devastation of the earth, Isaiah’s terror as to what awaits people, the foundations of the earth being shaken and split asunder, darkness, as well as the judgement where people are burned with only a few left, etc. And yet immediately after all those horrible events, 26:19 says, “But your dead will live, their bodies will rise…Go my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you. Hide yourself for a little while until His wrath has passed by.”

        I find those chapters helpful in piecing together this puzzle.

        • Jason

          I know what you mean about Revelation. I feel pretty safe saying that numbered things (I.E. seals, trumpets, bowls, etc…) are in order within themselves, and due to the placement of the seventh seal and it’s tie to the trumpets chapters 6-11 seem pretty safe to place in order.

          Unless I’m way off, Revelation 12 then jumps to a vision of the past struggle behind Israel birthing the messiah and the devil attempting to interfere. There are a few other places where things that seem to tie chapters in a chronological order after that as well, but it’s not as clear and since some of it is visions of what’s going on in heaven it may not have immediate application to events on the earth at all.

          Thanks for pointing me to this section in Isaiah. There’s some really interesting stuff in here that should convict the church today a bit about our soft view on wickedness and our acceptance of love of this world as though we can sanctify this world by giving it our blessing.

          Isaiah 24 seems to be a warning of all the wrath that will be poured out on the earth. Verse 23 doesn’t seem to talk about the moon and sun being darkened but rather being confounded and put to shame by the glory of God. I makes me think of Revelation 21:23, which is the promised end to all the wrath.

          Isaiah 25 is focused on the hope of the righteous for deliverance from the persecution of the wicked and death. I find it interesting that he mentions a feast in verse 6, which brings to mind Revelation 19:9, though I’m not convicted enough by that to say that all of chapter 25 could *only* be talking about the first resurrection. It is possible in my mind, however, as the “all people” here is the Hebrew word for all nations/people groups of which the first resurrection will have complete representation.

          Isaiah 26 is a song that the righteous will sing “on that day”. It includes both praise for God providing them with a “strong city” of salvation and a recognition that His judgements are good in the wrath He is still going to pour out on the world.

          Verse 20-21 is really interesting. Here we see God’s people being told to hide away until He is done punishing the people who are inhabiting the earth. This could either be symbolic of the safety they are clinging to in the “strong city” or instructions to those believers who will inhabit the earth during God’s wrath (either those 144,000 from the tribes of Israel who were marked or all believers if the rapture is bunk and “inhabitants of the earth” should not be taken as literal, but rather as a distinguishing characteristic of their relationship to the earth). Personally, I tend to read it as the first, but again I’m not strongly convicted any of these is wrong.

          Then it mentions the earth no longer covering the dead, which seems to be an echo of verse 19, which was offered as a consolation after 18 where it is acknowledged that we could not deliver the earth from the wicked ourselves. My mind immediately thinks:

          18. Nothing we could do could save the world.
          19. Take heart. God is going to resurrect all the victims of the wickedness we couldn’t stop.
          20. Hide away, God’s going to deal with the wickedness now (God doing what we couldn’t in 18).
          21. As He deals with the wickedness, all the concealed effects of the wickedness will also, ultimately, be brought out and dealt with (God fixing what we couldn’t prevent in verse 19).

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Thanks for taking the time to review those chapters, Jason.

            I guess the verses that trouble me the most are where we have the details of God devastating the earth (clearly the end) and then I notice something Isaiah says which is troubling. He says, “They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty…from the ends of the earth we hear singing, ‘Glory to the Righteous One.'” But then Isaiah seems to indicate he knows something terrible that they don’t know. Because he says, “But I said, I waste away, I waste away. Woe to me, the treacherous betray (deceive). Terror and pit and snare await you, O people of the earth…the floodgates of the heavens are open, the foundations of the earth shake…so heavy upon it is the guilt of it’s rebellion.” (Isaiah 24:14-20).

            Perhaps I’m way off base, but the entirety of these chapters does not sound like something God has already done in history so I pay more careful attention. Also, I am reminded that Christ and the apostles warned us of this great rebellion, this deception/delusion in the church sent by God before His return (2 Thes. 2).

            So, is it possible that this could be a picture of what the end time church would look like, seeing the devastations begin and rejoicing, thinking she would be delivered quickly, but wouldn’t be?

            And is it possible that when Isaiah said, “In a surge of anger, I hid my face from you, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:7,8) God was speaking to the faithful church that would resist the anti-christ who would promise them food and safety in the tribulation where their survival may depend on it?

            Again, I really want to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture and personally I don’t want to go through anything. I panic when I don’t eat on time! But given the current lethargy of the church, how repentance and obedience are outdated and we’re blending into the culture, I can’t help but wonder if God has a plan to humble and test us in the desert before we enter the promised land. These are things that keep me up at night…

          • Jason

            I wondered if that section in chapter 24 may have been a sort of global false profession. All of the commentaries I read to see if anyone else was thinking along those lines seemed to believe that he was seeing a glimpse of new earth and then lamenting over what he saw around him instead.

            I’m still not convinced that it isn’t a reference to some false profession that the world will pick up some time after being terrified by some of the destructive signs that will occur (for instance, their reaction in Revelation 6:15-17). The fact that these deceptions come from the “betrayer” may indicate some sort of apostate “church” is involved, but I don’t know if that is the necessary interpretation. The second beast will perform signs that probably offer the world a secondary explaination they will happily turn to.

            Interesting side note, Jesus seemed to allude to the fact that people would only get more despicable in nature after asking the mountains to fall on them during times of great trouble (Luke 23:30-31) because the wood that was alive in His time will be “dried up”. Again, this could be a reference to the unbelieving “church” that’s left after the kingdom is no longer around, but I wouldn’t force that interpretation.

            There’s too much evidence in scripture (and history) to believe that the church will not undergo any tribulation before we find ourselves in the Lord’s presence. The beginning of the birth pains mentioned by Jesus were going on during the time of the first apostles.

            All evidence shows that the love of many will grow cold and that we will experience a time of pretty extreme persecution and have to deal with a government that sets itself up as God for a time (already starting to sound less far off than it would have not long ago).

            However, I believe that the “catching up” of the church to the heavens is a different event from the eventual coming of Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom. We will likely be around for plenty of war, famine, earthquakes, etc… but I do not believe we will be around for the flaming blood hail, blood oceans, etc…

  • Archepoimen follower

    Clint,
    Thank you brother for making the “main thing” the point of your post. I for one am sure that those of us in Christ will be raptured together, the when is in God’s hands and there is no better place for that question to lay!
    We need to be ready, but more important, we need to preach Christ and Him crucified!

    Tim

    • Right. Exactly right.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    While this post is still open, can I ask one more question regarding the rapture?

    I was doing a little research and I read that the rapture theory began with a woman named Miss Margaret Macdonald in Scotland in 1830 who claimed to have visions of a rapture, which Darby accepted and began to propagate. Is it true that this was its origin and this view was not found in the church prior to 1830?