The Pre-Tribulation Rapture,
The Wrath to Come,
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-17)
By Noel Chartier
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17)
Indeed there will be a rapture of the church, or a gathering together of the saints unto Jesus Christ, and the place where we find the matter of this subject is the Holy Bible, God's revelation to mankind, the "more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed" (2 Peter 1:19). While the word "rapture" is not found in the Bible, as other words such as the "Trinity", we will find the concept there. The word Rapture comes from the Latin word Rapere, which means to be "snatched away" or "caught up", and indeed we will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
In Paul's Second letter to the Thessalonians, it is evident that some thought that the Day of the Lord was at hand because of the trials, tribulations and sufferings they were enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4-12). They had become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and "received the word in much affliction" (1Thes. 1:6). They "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1Thes. 1:9), and suffered much from their own countrymen (1Thes. 2:14, 3:3-4, Acts 17:5). Perhaps they thought that they had missed the rapture because of the false teaching of "Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2Tim. 2:17-18).
Paul wanted to assure them that this was not the case. He said, "Let no man deceive you by any means . . . neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us." He said "we beseech you, we request urgently of you, in regards to our gathering together unto Christ, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or troubled in spirit, thinking that the Day of the Lord is at hand." He said, "for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" (2Thes. 2:3). Notice that Paul says "that day". What day is he referring to? Paul only ever had one of two days on his mind, it was either "this day", the present day, or "that day", the "day of the Lord".
Now he says that this day would not come except there come a "falling away first". The Greek word for "falling away" is apostasia, which comes from apostasion. The root word means "a departure". It comes from two words, apo which means "away from", and histemi which means "to stand". This is where we get our word apostasy (apohistemi), which is generally understood as a departure from the faith. Apostates are those who once held to the tenants of the Christian faith but have subsequently departed. They now stand away from the truth. They have departed from the faith. The apostle Paul told Timothy, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from (apohistemi) the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1Timothy 4:1). But this is not the only meaning to the word, the primary meaning of this word is a departure. This is what apo histemi means, to depart from.
Paul says "that day" will not come lest there come a "falling away first", a departure first. What departure is he talking about? He said "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?"(v. 5) Paul said that before the Day of the Lord could come there had to be a departure first. What departure did Paul talk about in his First letter to the Thessalonians? He talked about a departure, not from the faith, but of the church from this earth. He talked about the Rapture.
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [Christians who have passed on], that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that WE WHICH ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN UNTO THE COMING OF THE LORD shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be CAUGHT UP together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Paul says we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, he says that those in Christ are going to "depart from" this earth. Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us and that he would come again and receive us unto himself (John 14:1-3). So we might say that Paul is speaking about two departures. In relation to the earth there is going to be a departure, and in relation to the faith there will be a departure. He says the whole church is going to apostatize (depart). First the true church is going to depart from the earth. Secondly, the professing church will depart from the faith, that body of truth contained in the Word of God. Today the church is in apostasy, but I believe we ain't seen nothing yet. Jesus said, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8) I believe when Christ returns that there will be very little if anything left of "the faith". After the rapture, the "professing" church is left behind. The true Bride of Christ has departed from the earth and has been caught up to meet the Bridegroom.
The Son of Perdition
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (2Thes. 2:3). Paul says that the departure comes first, then antichrist will be revealed after the Rapture. "And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only HE who now letteth [restrains] will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed" (v. 6-8). The "mystery of iniquity" is already at work, but one day that Wicked shall be revealed.
Paul said "without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (1Tim. 3:16). The Bible says "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). God was manifest in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the "brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3). Just as there is the "mystery of godliness", there is "the mystery of iniquity". Satan will manifest himself in the flesh in the person of Antichrist, the son of perdition, that Wicked one. This will take place during the Great Tribulation.
But who is this that will "be taken out of the way", the One who is now restraining the revelation of Antichrist? Paul told the Thessalonians, "now ye know what witholdeth that he might be revealed" (2Thes. 2:6). It is the presence of the church, the Body of Christ in the world. It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth that dwells in the church, that withholds the revealing of Antichrist. Until the Body of Christ is united with her Head in heaven, the revelation of Antichrist will be hindered.
Jesus told his disciples before the day of Pentecost, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit could not come unless Christ departed. In the like manner Christ will not come back until the departure of the Comforter who abides in every true believer. So, the question beckons, Will the Lord take the Holy Spirit from the Church? Absolutely Not! The Lord will not take the Holy Spirit from the true church for He said "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5). He said, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:16-17). So the church shall be taken out of the way, that light of the world, the salt of the earth, then darkness shall envelop the face of the earth as it enters into that terrible time known as the Great Tribulation. Then shall Antichrist be revealed.
Jesus said, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (John 5:43). The world will receive antichrist "Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2Thes. 2:4). The word "anti" has two meanings. The first is "against" or "opposed to", the second is "in the place of". Antichrist not only opposes God but he exalts himself above God putting himself in the place of God.
The apostle John said, "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time" (1John 2:18) The Antichrist shall come, but today there are many antichrists. The mystery of iniquity is already at work. Anyone today who says that he is Christ or "Christ's Vicar" is an antichrist. Today Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. Today there is only one Vicar of Christ. Jesus said, "if I depart, I will send him unto you." Who would he send? "Another Comforter", "the Spirit of Truth", "the Holy Spirit". The One who is here in the absence of the King is the "Spirit of Christ". The second Person of the Triune Godhead.
John also says that "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (1John 4:3). The spirit of antichrist is he who denies the deity of Jesus Christ, who denies that God has come in the flesh. "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (1John 2:22). "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deciever and an antichrist" (2John 7). Jesus said of the last days that "many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall decieve many" (Matthew 24:5).
"Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED INCORRUPTIBLE, AND WE SHALL BE CHANGED" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Thus far we have seen that there is a rapture for those true believers who are yet alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord. We shall be "caught up", to meet the Lord in the air, who shall at that time "change our vile body", in the twinkling of the eye, "that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Philip. 3:20-21), immortal and incorruptible. As to the timing of the Rapture, we believe it to be before the Day of the Lord, before the Great Tribulation.
The apostle Paul says, "Behold, I shew you a mystery". A mystery in the New Testament is NOT something that can not be known or explained. While it may have been veiled in the Old Testament, it is now revealed in the New. We find eleven such mysteries revealed in the New Testament.
Paul says "I shew you". He regarded himself as one of the "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Cor. 4:1), a steward of that "which was kept secret since the world began" (Romans 16:25). For example, the OT saints understood that there would be a resurrection of the dead, for we read in the book of Daniel, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2). Job would say, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:25-26). Although they knew of the resurrection, they knew nothing of the translation of the living. They may have wondered, when the dead are raised up, what will happen to those who are alive and remain to that day? Paul says, "We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed". Martha knew there would be a resurrection, but the Lord revealed to her that some would never die.
"Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:23-26).
Jesus told Martha that those who have believed and are dead shall live, but further explained that there would be some who would never die. Not only do the dead in Christ rise from the dead, but whosoever LIVETH AND BELEIVES on the Lord Jesus Christ SHALL NEVER DIE. This is the blessed hope of the Christian that we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not die, but shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and we shall be changed. Jesus proved that He is the resurrection and the life, not only by raising Lazarus from the dead, but by raising Himself from the dead (John 10:11, 15, 17-18).
The Wrath to Come
Paul said to "comfort one another", with the fact that our loved ones who are asleep in Christ shall rise from the dead, and that we shall be united together with them again to be with the Lord forever. But he also said to comfort one another with the thought that we SHALL NOT go through the Great Tribulation, the wrath which is to come.
There is yet a Day of Wrath which is to come. It is the Day of the LORD. Some of the Thessalonians were deceived into thinking that this day was upon them. Perhaps they thought that they missed the rapture, or that the church was to go through this day of Trouble. Perhaps they thought this because they were being persecuted and were suffering affliction, and enduring tribulations. (1Thes. 2:14-15, 3:3-4, 2Thes. 1:4-5) Jesus Christ said "in the world ye shall have tribulation", but we will not go through the "Great Tribulation".
This day is a popular theme throughout the Old Testament. Therefore, it would do us well to learn what is said of that day. The prophet Zephaniah said, "The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. THAT DAY IS A DAY OF WRATH, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land" (Zeph. 1:14-18). It is a day of "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21).
The prophet Isaiah also gives us a glimpse of that day with such frightful imagery, that it should move us to redeem the time, and warn others to flee from the wrath to come, that they might look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
"Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:6-13).
Both Zephaniah and Isaiah point out that the wrath of God is to come. It is a Holy and Righteous wrath which is against all ungodliness. Many may cry out, "How could a loving God send people to hell?" Tell me this one thing then. When a man commits such a sin as murder, should we send him to prison? I now hear a loud cry that he should be put to death. In fact, this is what the Bible teaches. "Whoso sheddeth manís blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6). People, the wages of sin is death. Death basically means separation. For those who die in their sins, death will mean separation from God in Hell for eternity. But God so loved the world that he has provided a remedy for our melody. He allowed His sinless Son to bear our sins and to die in our place, "that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26), so we might receive the forgiveness of our sins.
Today is a day when the world, if they are told at all, are only told of the meek and humble man from Galilee, the man Christ Jesus, the lowly servant of Jehovah, who came to bear all our sins away and help us through all our troubles. This is all true, and the world needs to hear this, but if we are to preach "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), we are not to stop there. Yes, the lost need to know about the love of Christ and their need for salvation, but salvation from what? Not only salvation from our sin, death, and hell, but from the wrath of God which is to come.
In today's "Christian psychology" of self-esteem, we are told that we should not dare preach anything that is "negative". We should not correct, or rebuke error, or warn of false teachers, or preach of hellfire and judgment. May I say first of all that "self-esteem" is not taught in the Bible, but rather, we find just the contrary. Jesus mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke that we should "deny self" (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) and follow Him. We are told "let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philip. 2:3). But as we come to the end of the age we find that men shall be clinging to the satanic lie of self-esteem. Paul tells us "in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves" (2Timothy 3:1-2).
Secondly, we need to warn others of false teachers and grievous wolves. Paul "ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). He "ceased not" to do this. He would name "Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2Tim. 2:17-18). He would tell Timothy "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1Tim. 5:20). He would rebuke Peter publicly for his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:14). Proverbs says, "He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue" (Proverbs 28:23). Also, "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Proverbs 27:5-6). "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him" (Lev. 19:17). This is the loving thing to do. Paul says, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1Timothy 4:16).
We need to preach the whole counsel of God. On the one hand, we have the lowly servant Jesus who walked the dusty trails of Galilee, who rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. On the other hand, we have the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will ride into town on a white stallion, and come to judge the world in righteousness. He is the one with "Eyes as a flame of fire . . . And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Rev. 19:12, 15). The world needs to know of the wrath to come that they might see their great need for salvation, and see the one who is mighty to save, the one who is glorious in all His apparel, the one who bore the wrath of God in their stead. They need to see Jesus.
Today, if you are a Christian, it is a comfort to know that we will not have to face the wrath of God, for Christ paid it all. He died for us. But today, if you are not a Christian I can offer you no hope, I can offer you no comfort outside of Jesus Christ.
"For God hath not appointed us to WRATH, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11).
Paul says wherefore comfort yourselves together. Why is this such a comfort? Because God has not appointed us to WRATH, but, to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity. He was "smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4), He was bruised of Jehovah (Isaiah 53:10). He was cut off out of the land of the living, and his soul was poured out unto death, for He gave himself, for us an offering and a sacrifice to God. As the burnt offering, which typified Christ, was entirely consumed, so all of Gods WRATH was poured out on His Beloved Son. "All thy billows and thy waves passed over me" (Jonah 2:3). "His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations" (Isaiah 52:14-15). He was Judged in our stead, and became our Surety. He bore our iniquities and became our substitute, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Therefore, with glad hearts we:
"Wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which DELIVERED US FROM THE WRATH TO COME" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
We are to wait for His Son from heaven. We are to be watching for Him, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:13-14). Not only did he redeem us from our sins, but he delivered us from the WRATH TO COME.
Today, God is not pouring out His wrath. Today is not the Day of Judgment (John 3:17), but the Day of Grace. The "wrath to come" will take place during the Great Tribulation, Daniel's 70th week (9:24-27). It is known as the time of "Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:4-7), which consists of seven years. It "shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1). God will deal with the nation Israel during this time, to "refine them as silver is refined", and God's wrath will be poured out on the unrepentant, Christ rejecting world because they would "receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-13).
The Lord is long-suffering not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And account that the long suffering of the Lord is salvation, but one day His patience will run out. The day will come when the iniquities of mankind will come to a full, as it did for the Amorites (Gen. 15:14-16), and the judgment of God will come, "the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath" (Rev. 16:19). So why will you perish? Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, Now is the accepted time, Today is the day of salvation.
"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart TREASUREST UP UNTO THYSELF WRATH AGAINST THE DAY OF WRATH AND REVELATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: TO THEM who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and IMMORTALITY, ETERNAL LIFE: But UNTO THEM that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, INDIGNATION AND WRATH, TRIBULATION AND ANGUISH, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (Romans 2:4-9).
The Prophet Nahum stated, "God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth WRATH FOR HIS ENEMIES. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet" (Nahum 1:2-3).
Wrath is reserved for His ENEMIES. But Praise the Lord, that "WHEN WE WERE ENEMIES, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. . . . being now justified by his blood, WE SHALL BE SAVED FROM WRATH THROUGH HIM" (Romans 5:10-11, 9).
God has not appointed us to wrath, but has delivered us from the wrath to come through the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were all enemies, but, by the Grace of God, we were reconciled by the death of His Son. Yet, for those who reject the pardon offered by God through the Lord Jesus Christ, who trod under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace, there is only "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). The Lord will not acquit the wicked, but reserves wrath for his enemies, and will take vengeance on his adversaries.
Jesus Christ has been given authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of man (John 5:22, 27), and the day of His righteous judgment will come (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus said, "He that rejecteth me, and recieveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them" (Romans 1:18-19).
We might ask, when is the wrath to come? It is during the Great Tribulation, which we may read of in the book of the Revelation, Chapters 6-19. It may be noted that in these chapters there is no mention of the Church, but rather they are seen prior to this in heaven, as represented by the twenty-four elders. (Rev. 4:4, 10-11, 5:8-10) Let us take a look at one excerpt out of the Great Tribulation, which may be helpful to see that it is then that the "wrath to come" will take place.
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the WRATH OF THE LAMB: For THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH IS COME; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:12-17)
Praise God that there is salvation in Christ Jesus "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. . . . He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:16-18, 36). Today is the day of Grace. When once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, so too today, the Son is not condemning a lost mankind, but calling lost sinners to repentance. He is calling them into the ark of salvation, that is, into Christ Jesus. And those who entered into the ark with Noah were lifted up above the waters of God's wrath and were not judged in the flood.
Old Testament Survey.
We have heard that there will be a Rapture, a departure of the Bride of Christ, of those who are in Christ, "who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord". We have also heard that the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us from the "wrath to come", which takes place during the Great Tribulation which follows the rapture. We have seen that wrath is reserved for the enemies of God, and that the ungodly are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The Lord has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by One, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
Now, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the saints is clearly taught in the New Testament, but, does the Old Testament speak of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture? While this doctrine is clear in the New Testament as a mystery revealed by Paul, I believe that it may also be seen in the Old Testament, while not quite as clear, yet, quite evident. Here are a few scriptures for your consideration.
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. COME, MY PEOPLE, ENTER THOU INTO THY CHAMBERS, and shut thy doors about thee: HIDE THYSELF as it were for a little moment, UNTIL THE INDIGNATION BE OVERPAST. For, behold, the LORD COMETH OUT OF HIS PLACE TO PUNISH THE INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH FOR THEIR INIQUITY: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain" (Isaiah 26:19-21).
"The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are TAKEN AWAY, none considering that the righteous is TAKEN AWAY FROM THE EVIL TO COME. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds [bedchamber], each one walking in his uprightness" (Isaiah 57:1-2).
"Gather yourselves together, yea, GATHER TOGETHER, O nation not desired; BEFORE the decree bring forth, BEFORE the day pass as the chaff, BEFORE the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, BEFORE the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you. Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: IT MAY BE YE SHALL BE HID IN THE DAY OF THE LORD'S ANGER" (Zephaniah 2:1-3).
Watching, Waiting, Looking
When the Lord ascended into heaven in the sight of his disciples and a cloud received him out of their sight, two men in white apparel stood by and 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 1:11). Here again was the promise affirmed that Jesus would come again. Jesus also spoke of His second coming several times.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 14:1-3).
He also told the Church at Thyatira, "But that which ye have already hold fast till I come" (Revelation 2:25). He said, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (Matthew 25:32). The fact of the matter is that Christ will come again. And we believe that the scripture clearly establishes that there are yet two comings. The first is in the air, for His saints, the second is seven years later, to the earth, with His saints.
Now all throughout scripture we are told to be watching, looking, and waiting for the coming of the Lord. "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matthew 24:42). "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13). "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:32-37). "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" (1Thessalonians 5:6). We are told that we do not know the day or the hour of the coming of the Lord, therefore, we are commanded to watch.
The point being, that, if the timing of the rapture was to be after the Great Tribulation, there would be no point in watching and waiting for Him today. If His return were to be after the Great Tribulation it would be foolish to expect Him today. You might as well watch for the Tribulation or the Antichrist, rather than the Lord. But the Bible teaches that the coming of the Lord is "in the air", and that it is imminent, that is, it could happen at any moment. Therefore, we should be watching, today with great anticipation for His appearing.
Although we do not know the day or the hour, the Bible indicates that we may know that his coming is near, when we see certain things coming to pass. Now, the church is not looking for signs, but for the Lord. It is the Jew who seeketh after a sign. But when we begin to see the end time stage being set, it causes us to come to the conclusion that it can't be long, it is time to look up. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28). "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it [the Kingdom of God] is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:32-34).
Paul tells us that the Day of the Lord will come upon those who are not watching, as a thief in the night. But, to those who are watching, to those who are children of the day, who are not in darkness, that day will not overtake them as a thief (1Thes. 5:1-8). Perhaps today, the Lord will come for His own, even now, and return seven years later after the Great Tribulation with His saints.
The Lord Comes WITH His Saints.
As we have already stated, we believe that there are yet two comings of the Lord which are separated by seven years. The first coming is in the air, when the Lord comes for the church. The dead in Christ shall rise first, that is their bodies will be raised incorruptible, and those who are alive and remain shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and we shall all be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord "IN THE AIR". The second coming is the visible return of the Lord to the Mount of Olives WITH THE CHURCH. At that time all Israel shall be saved from the nations gathered about her to destroy her. The Lord will then judge the nations of the world. Israel will come under the earthly blessings and promises of the covenants, and will become the head of the nations. The Lord will sit upon the throne of his glory in Jerusalem, and will reign in righteousness for one thousand years, and we shall live and reign with Him.
Now what we would like to establish here is that the Lord returns WITH all his saints. And if he returns with all His saints, they were obviously taken up prior to the return of the Lord in all His Glory. That He returns with His saints is clearly established from the scriptures.
"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, THE LORD COMETH WITH TEN THOUSANDS OF HIS SAINTS, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Jude 14-15).
"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and THE LORD MY GOD SHALL COME, AND ALL THE SAINTS WITH THEE" (Zechariah 14:1-5).
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and HIS WIFE hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that SHE SHOULD BE ARRAYED IN FINE LINEN, CLEAN AND WHITE: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. . . . And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And THE ARMIES WHICH WERE IN HEAVEN FOLLOWED HIM UPON WHITE HORSES, CLOTHED IN FINE LINEN, WHITE AND CLEAN" (Revelation 19:7-8, 11-14).
"And the LORD shall utter his voice BEFORE HIS ARMY: FOR HIS CAMP IS VERY GREAT: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" (Joel 2:11)
"To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, AT THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST WITH ALL HIS SAINTS" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall YE ALSO SHALL APPEAR WITH HIM IN GLORY" (Colossians 3:1-4).
"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the
Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that
it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working
whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:20-21).
The Last Trump
We would at this time like to address certain claims by some who do not hold to the teaching of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. There are many camps in this arena and for the benefit of this discussion we will just briefly mention some of the other positions held. At the same time we would like to remind you that whatever man teaches, he is individually accountable before God to rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim. 2:15). He is to Prove all things and to hold fast to that which is good (1Thes. 5:21). He must search the scriptures whether those things are so (Acts 17:11).
Since the beginning of the church, there have been an array of positions in regards to the timing of the Rapture. Some of the main views that are held today are the "Pretribulation Rapture", which we believe to be the correct interpretation of the scripture. There is also the "Partial Rapture", the "Postribulation Rapture", the "Mid-tribulation Rapture", and the "Pre-wrath Rapture".
The "Partial Rapture" view teaches that the rapture occurs before the tribulation, but only "spiritual" Christians will be taken. Other Christians will remain to be purified through the trials of the tribulation.
The "Postribulation Rapture" view teaches that all Christians will be taken in the rapture at the end of the seven year tribulation. Of those holding this view, some do not distinguish the rapture and the second coming as separate events. Others distinguish between the rapture and the second coming, believing that the rapture occurs moments before the second coming of Christ so that those raptured may return with Christ to the earth.
The "Midtribulation Rapture" view teaches that all believers will be taken in the rapture at some point around the middle of the seven year tribulation, after the first three and one half years.
The "Prewrath Rapture" view teaches that all Christians will be taken in the rapture approximately three quarters of the way through the tribulation, at the last of the seven trumpet judgments (Rev. 10:7), just prior to the seven bowls of God's wrath (Rev. 16). It is this particular view that we would like to look into further, for it has become a popular view today, which has developed in the seventies. The following scriptures are pointed out in support of this view:
"Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1Corinthians 15:51-52).
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1Thessalonians 4:16-17).
These two scriptures say we shall be changed at the "last trump" and that we shall be caught up with the "trump of God". Two things happen at the sound of this trump, we shall be caught up, and we shall be changed. On the assumption that there exists seven trumpet judgments (Rev. 8-10) within the Revelation, they place the rapture at the last trumpet. If these were the only verses that we could find on this subject matter within the scriptures, indeed, this could be a possible conclusion. But, we must take the whole counsel of God, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line" (Isaiah 28:9).
The things which we do know for sure is that at the last trump the dead in Christ shall be raised from the dead and the living shall be changed. The disagreement we have with the above view's is their timing of the rapture. What I would like to suggest to you, is that which I believe to be a valid interpretation of the scripture. I would like to turn your attention to another trumpet. We find this trumpet also mentioned in the book of the Revelation. The apostle John said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last . . ." (Revelation 1:10-11).
John heard a great voice and it was as of a trumpet. "And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle" (Revelation 1:12-13). Who did he see? It is the One who said "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (v. 18). It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who died for our sins and rose again for our justification.
We hear this same voice again in chapter four. And may I remind you again, that after chapters two and three we no longer see the church on the earth till they return with Christ from Heaven. They have been called up to be with the Lamb and are represented by the four and twenty elders who say, "for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9). They are the ones who have been washed from their sins in His own blood. (Rev. 1:5-6)
After addressing the "things which are", that is, the seven churches, which signify the general state of the church through this age, from Pentecost to this present hour, the apostle John says "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (Revelation 4:1). The trump of God says "Come up hither" and the true church will depart from the earth. He says "I will shew thee things which must be hereafter". Hereafter what? The departure of the church. This will mark the end of the Day of Grace. What may we ask is hereafter? It is the Day of Wrath, and the next 13 chapters describe this terrible time known as the Great Tribulation.
This same voice is the voice that raises the two witnesses from the dead. "And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them" (Revelation 11:12). It is the same voice that raised the dead during His earthly ministry. "And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth . . ." (John 11:43-44). It is the voice of the One who spoke the universe into being, the One who upholds "all things by the word of his power" (Hebrews 1:3). The One who said, "Let there be light: and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). By this One "were all things created . . . and by him all things consist" (Colossians 1:16-17). It is the voice of the Almighty God, the Alpha and Omega, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. . . .Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which ALL THAT ARE IN THE GRAVES SHALL HEAR HIS VOICE, AND SHALL COME FORTH; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:21, 24-29).
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1Thessalonians 4:16). When the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, "Come up Hither", it will be as with the voice of the archangel, he will not need the help of any angels to raise the dead. His shout will be as with the trump of God. It is none other than the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Have you yet heard His voice? He says "Come unto me". "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). Will you receive him? Will you acknowledge your sins and repent, putting your faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave his life for you, to be your substitute in death, who shed his blood for you, that you might have the most wonderful gift of eternal life?
Jesus said, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."
An evangelist was holding special meetings for boys and girls. One day after the children's meeting, little Helen came home, rushed to her father's study, threw her arms around his neck, and said, "Daddy, I am a Christian!" "Well, Helen," said her father, "I am so glad to hear that. When did you become a Christian?" "This afternoon," she said. He asked her to tell him what had occurred. "Oh," she said, "Mr. Sutton, the evangelist, said that Jesus Christ was there in the room, and that if we would believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead we could have everlasting life. We could receive Him as our Saviour, and He would come and live in our lives and make us His very own." "Well," he said, "go on; tell me what else happened." "Why," she said, "I received Him as my Saviour and Jesus took me in." "Well, Helen," he said, "that is all very interesting, but how do you know that when you received Jesus as your Saviour, He took you in?" And he said he would never forget the look on the face of his little girl as she drew herself up, and said, "Why, Daddy, because He said He would!"
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the
sons of God" (John 1:12).