The purpose of this paper is to determine from scripture alone when and how, if at all, the "rapture" is to occur. It will not be easy to disengage from the web of religious intrigue in which this subject has been encased, and it will require some math, but the effort will prove valuable to those who are willing to put in the time and thought. Following are some questions which will be addressed:
- Where did the idea of the rapture come from, including the seven years of an antichrist?
- How many advents of Christ are there?
- How secret will it be?
- What about the "thief in the night?"
- Who will witness Christ's coming?
- What about Israel and the temple yet to be built?
- Does the manner in which the rapture occurs really make any difference in our salvation?
As to a rapture, secret or otherwise, we know from John 14:2 that Jesus intends to come back for His people. Of this we can be certain for He promised that...
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:2-3.
The question of course is, In what manner will Jesus come to receive us unto Himself?
Thanks to two historic figures, Francisco Ribera and Margaret McDonald, there is much confusion on this subject.
Ribera was a Jesuit priest at the time of the Protestant Reformation around the late 1500s, when Martin Luther had labeled the pope as the Antichrist. Scriptural references were so prevalent and the evidence so compelling that, thanks to the invention of the printing press and Bible scholars willing to risk their lives for the crime of making scripture available to the common people, all Christendom was alive with conviction and the Catholic Church took a substantial hit. Ribera is credited with initiating a "Counter Reformation" by applying Daniel 9:26-27 to a despotic figure at some nebulous point in the future, thereby taking the focus off the papacy and leaving the door open for speculation of all kinds.
McDonald was a self-proclaimed "prophetess" around the early 1800s, who at the age of fifteen began having visions about the end of the world. She is credited with endorsing Ribera's dispensationalist theory of a future antichrist by adding the idea of a "secret rapture" in which Christians would be spared the horrors of a seven-year tribulation during which Jews would have a second chance. This view creates several difficulties which will be discussed below.
The Second Coming
As has been documented above, there is no doubt among Christian believers that Jesus will return, but we must understand that nothing in the Bible essential to salvation is safe from Satan's sophistries, and the manner of Christ's coming is no exception. In an effort to know whom to believe, it is therefore vital to find out what the Bible actually says on the subject in order to: (1) understand the fate of Jesus' followers so that none need be unfairly surprised, (2) determine the exact nature of His advent so that a counterfeit will not confuse the honest in heart and (3) unravel the misinterpretation of scripture upon which the original lie is based.
Regarding what Jesus told His followers to expect:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Mat 24:9
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rom 8:36
...that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. Rev 13:15
In direct response to the disciples' request to tell them what to expect at the "end of the world" (Mat 24:3), Jesus not only told them to expect martyrdom (vs 9), but to pray that their "flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day." vs 20. This last text tells us two things; that Christ's followers will be fleeing persecution at the end of time and that the Sabbath will still be in effect. One can argue that the Sabbath keepers are Margaret McDonald's converted Jews, but the Bible says there is no division among Christians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28
If, according to Paul, there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, how can we make a case for a seven-year reprieve for Jews only who happen to be alive just before Christ returns? And what about the Jews who died prior to this time of second chances? Is God arbitrary, extending special favors to some and not to others
Jews have always had the same opportunity as the rest of us to get to know the God that Jesus loved, and to choose Him as Gentiles of all stripes have chosen Him for millennia, without the acvantage of a supernatural exhibition. Regarding literal Israel, Paul had this to say about Abraham's seed:
And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:29
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Rom 2:28-29
The spiritual Jews whose praise is of God are those who stand for Christ in every age irrespective of race and nationality.
Advents and Temples
Two other considerations in the McDonald/Ribera scenario are (1) the number of advents required to fulfill the prophecy and (2) a physical temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
Regarding how many advents, the Bible says:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Heb 9:28
There really is no way around the numbers. If there is a Secret Rapture as well as an audible one as described in 1 Thess 4:16, then that makes three; once as a baby and twice as an adult. One must choose whether it is two as the Bible says or three according to the traditions of men.
Regarding the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus had this to say:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Mat 23:37.
From this scripture alone, it is difficult to misunderstand Jesus' thoughts about the temple at Jerusalem, and yet Protestants all over America are actively preparing to build a new one. Why would professed Christians want to reinstate a system that was done away with at the cross unless they have misunderstood a prophecy and were anxious to see it fulfilled according to their convictions? Can God not orchestrate His affairs without our help? To participate in and actually pay for a building that denies the sacrifice Christ made at such terrible risk and suffering is, to my way of thinking, about as heretical as one can get. It is an excellent barometer of how duped the Christian population has become and how reliant we are on seminary graduates to tell us what to believe. Paul had this to say about such zeal:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Rom 10:1-3.
Have we become so focused on our zeal for God that we have forgotten to let the Bible interpret itself?
Do the Math
Here is where people's eyes glaze over, but please remember that God gives us these exercises for a reason, and the reason is to protect us from deception. In fact God's word is loaded with mathematics for this very reason, to protect His truth, so let's just grit our teeth and plow through it.
Any pastor competent in Rapture theology will point to Daniel 9 for the rationale, so this is where we will begin. The last four verses are a 70-week prophecy given to Daniel as a present from God to point him down the ages to the advent of the Messiah. The prophecy is a cohesive unit based on the rule that a day in prophecy represents a year. Ezek 4:6. Ribera took these verses and twisted them to his own ends by: (1) making the Antichrist the focus of the prophecy and (2) disjointing the final week to an unspecified time in the future. But following is how the verses actually read in the KJV.
Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Dan 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Dan 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
Pay close attention to the underlined sections for they will tell you exactly how the prophecy is to be read. Following is a paraphrase of God's message to Daniel through the angel:
Daniel, My beloved son:
You have spent 70 years in captivity for reasons that were not of your doing, and you have represented me among the heathen with utmost loyalty and decorum. For this reason I have sent my angel to give you a gift. You have been asking when the 70 years of Babylonian captivity would be up, but I am going to tell you of a different prophecy, a 70 week prophecy, that will usher in the advent of the long awaited Messiah. It goes like this.
(70 weeks x 7 days = 490 days = 490 years)
Four hundred and ninety years from the date of the decree to send your people back to Jerusalem, the Jewish dispensation will come to an end. My Son will have been born and completed His role as Messiah and the old covenant will be fulfilled. The rituals and ceremonies (sacrifice and oblations) pointing to His ministry and death will become obsolete.
This 70 week prophecy is divided into three parts. The first part, seven weeks (49 years), will be the time it takes to restore the damage to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple. The second part, 62 weeks (434 years), is the intervening time before My Son actually begins His ministry. The final week (7 years) will finish up the prophecy and accomplish the following 6 things:
- Finish transgression
- Make and end of sins
- Make reconciliation for iniquity
- Bring in everlasting righteousness
- Seal up the vision and prophecy
- Anoint the most Holy
A careful study of these four verses will show that the 70 week "vision and prophecy" were "sealed" as a unit when Christ's work of reconciliation for iniquity was finished. It was at the stoning of Stephen three and a half years after the crucifixion that the message of salvation went to the Gentiles. I find it interesting that a strong Rabbinic curse is leveled against any Jew who reads Daniel 9, a pretty good indication in my estimation that they know it applies to the Messiah. I sincerely hope that those inclined to believe that these verses point to an Antichrist at the end of time will reconsider their position in the light of new evidence. When we let the Bible speak for itself, all confusion disappears.
To the Glory of God
March 31, 2011