Part 5 of the “7 Things” series combines two topics, The Purpose and Length of the Great Tribulation, and The Purpose of the Rapture, to show why the Church will escape all of the Great Tribulation.
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Hi, I’m Jack Kelley. In this session we’re going to talk about item number three on our list of Seven Things You Must Know to Understand End Times Prophecy. Number three is The Length and Purpose of the Great Tribulation. And since the Great Tribulation is an event that is designed primarily for the Jews and for the unbelieving nations you find the most information about it in the Old Testament, and specifically the defining passage is Jeremiah 30:1-10.
This is where it gets its Old Testament name, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. In the New Testament, in Matthew 24, Jesus redefines this same time as the Great Tribulation, that’s the name that is more familiar to us. But in the Old Testament, it’s called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. We know from our study of Daniel 9 that the Great Tribulation is three and a half years long. It’s the second half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week of years. We learned that from that study in Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. It’s also defined as being forty two months long in Revelation 11:2, and 1,260 days long in Revelation 12:6.
Now here we understand again, reviewing our study in Daniel 9, that due to the studies of the Royal London Observatory and Sir Robert Anderson, we learned that God always maintained His original calendar when dealing with the world from a prophetic viewpoint, especially. The original calendar of the Earth consisted of twelve months, thirty days each for a total of 360 days. That’s the way the calendars were until somewhere around 700 B.C. when they suddenly all changed. Because they noticed that several centuries earlier there had been an event which threw the Earth’s orbit off by about five and a quarter days. And of course, this meant the time was all wrong and the seasons were going wrong and there was a bigger and bigger divergence between the lunar and solar calendars, and so on.
But for prophetic purposes, God has always maintained the 360 day year consisting of twelve 30-day months. And so, when you take 42 months and you multiply that times 30 days each, you get 1,260 days. And if you take 1,260 days and divide it by 360 days in a year, you get three and a half years. So whether you use the three and a half year, or the forty two months, or the 1,260 days it always turns out to be three and a half years—the length of the Great Tribulation. It’s the second half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
Now, some will try to tell you that it’s a different period of time, that it ends sooner and that it’s not really that long, but having been so specifically defined in a number of different places, I don’t believe that there is any Biblical evidence to justify using any other time span than the ones that are clearly defined in Scripture. The Great Tribulation is three and a half years long. It is defined, as I’ve said before, as forty two months or 1260 days. All these add up to the same period of time; there is simply no justification for using any other time period when referring to the Great Tribulation.
So that is its length. Now what’s its purpose?
Well, for the purpose of the Great Tribulation we’ll go to Jeremiah 30 and, although the full passage takes us for the first twelve verses, I’m just going to read verse 7 and verse 11. Let’s read from Jeremiah 30:7:
How awful that day will be!
No other will be like it.
It will be a time of trouble for Jacob,
but he will be saved out of it.
And there’s where we get the Old Testament name, the Time of Trouble for Jacob.
Now, let’s look at verse 11:
I am with you and will save you,’
declares the Lord.
‘Though I completely destroy all the nations
among which I scatter you,
I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only in due measure;
I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’
And so, now you have in this verse 11 the purpose given for the Great Tribulation. One group is going to be completely destroyed; another group is going to be disciplined. Now, the question is, which one is which? Well, He says in verse 11:
‘Though I completely destroy all the nations
among which I scatter you,
The Jews have been scattered to almost every nation in the world, and the promise that God makes here—the warning that He gives them—He is going to completely destroy all the nations in the world. Now, there is only one time that that could possibly happen, and that would be at the very end of the age. Any other destruction of nations has, by definition, to be partial or else you bring the end to its conclusion. Nothing has happened like that, obviously. Never have all the nations of the world been completely destroyed. That can only happen once and when that happens, that ends everything. So, it has to happen at the end of the age.
And then the second thing that’s a part of His purpose is to discipline, and who is He speaking of? He’s speaking of Jacob—a name for Israel. And so, the purpose of the Great Tribulation is two-fold. One is to “completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you,” and “I will discipline the other group but only with justice not letting them go entirely unpunished.”
And so, these are the two groups that are affected by the Great Tribulation. You have the nations, which will be judged at that point and completely destroyed, and you have the nation Israel which will be disciplined, but only with justice. Now, of course, when we read other passages from Scripture, we learn that that discipline based on justice is simply a weeding out, or a culling out, of the people of Israel who have not accepted the Messiah as their Redeemer, as their Savior.
Those who have will be saved. And that’s what He means when He says, “I will not let you go entirely unpunished.” In other words, He won’t completely destroy the nation Israel; He won’t let them go entirely unpunished. He will discipline them but only with justice and the personification of justice in both Old and New Testaments is the Messiah.
All right, now in an earlier session, we talked about the fact that there are actually three components to humanity. There are the Nations, Israel, and the Church. And so, it says here that only the Nations and Israel are going to be dealt with; that the Church is not even mentioned here.
“Well,” you say, “that’s an Old Testament verse. Jeremiah is in the Old Testament so why would an Old Testament verse mention the Church?” Well, it so happens that the Church (although not mentioned by name) is referred to in a number of places in the Old Testament, but the major point is here: if there are two things that are going to happen—one group is going to be completely destroyed, and the other group is going to be disciplined with justice—then let’s suppose the Church was to be involved in this, which one of those two things would apply?
Would you have the Church be completely destroyed? Well, that would certainly not be in line with or consistent with end times prophecy as we know it. Nowhere does it say the Church will ever be completely destroyed. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Well then, is the Church supposed to be disciplined through the Great Tribulation? And frankly, there are a good number of otherwise very knowledgeable and well meaning scholars who think, yes, the Church deserves discipline. And you know, I wouldn’t disagree with that. The Church does deserve discipline. However, from God’s point of view, the Church has already been disciplined. The Church was disciplined at the cross, a there was a Person there who was disciplined instead of the Church, in the place of the Church, taking the punishment that the Church deserved and by rights should have received. Our Lord Jesus went to the cross. He nailed all of our sins there and He took them all away with His death. His shed blood is all the discipline the Church ever gets.
And you see there are good, valid, and justifiable reasons for that. The very first one of which is that there is a law called double jeopardy which says you can’t be charged and punished for the same crime twice. And the law of double jeopardy is what saves us because, at the cross the crimes we committed were accepted by another and the punishment due us was taken by Him, and that satisfied God’s justice. And so, no longer does someone who belongs to the Church need to be disciplined by God in the ultimate judicial sense because that has already taken place.
The other reason is that the Lord Jesus expressly said that He was going to the cross to take our sins, to bear our sins. And in Isaiah 53, it says, by His stripes we are healed. He has borne our transgressions. And so, those are clear evidence that the Church doesn’t belong in the Great Tribulation because neither purpose of the Great Tribulation applies to the Church—we are not to be destroyed and we are not to be disciplined. And so, there is no good reason for it; no reason at all for the Church to have anything to do with the Great Tribulation.
Now, in a few minutes we are going to look at verses from the New Testament that will show you exactly that fact and will confirm that and verify it in several different places. But for now, I just want you to understand on this track that the idea here is, the purpose of the Great Tribulation is to completely destroy the nations to which Israel has been scattered, and to discipline Israel. And so, you’ve got, destroy or discipline.
And so, we’ve covered now the length of the Great Tribulation (three and a half years, forty two months, 1260 days, however you want to put it) and we’ve covered the purpose of the Great Tribulation—to destroy the nations and to discipline Israel. On our next tracks we’ll start talking about the rapture of the Church, and we’ll tie these two ideas together so you can see how it makes perfect and logical sense that, when you spring from Jeremiah 30 into the New Testament, you understand why the rapture has to precede all of the Great Tribulation.
All right, now on this track we’re going to begin our discussion on the Purpose and Timing of the rapture of the Church. This is item number four on the list of Seven Things You Must Know to Understand End Times Prophecy. As we’ll see, the purpose of the rapture of the Church is to hide the Church in safety during the end times judgments, beginning at an undisclosed point before those judgments begin. We’re going to look at some of the major passages from the New and Old Testament on the rapture—yes, there are Old Testament passages on the rapture of the Church. Before we’re finished, we’ll look at some models, some symbols, some typology that seems to be pointing toward a rapture of the Church and we’ll have a pretty clear picture about what the Bible has to say about this unique event.
The very first one I’m going to talk with you about is in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 & 10. And I’m going to quote here, starting in verse 9:
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
Now that word ”from” is a key word in this passage. It comes from the Greek word apo and it means to keep away from the time, the place, or any relation to the event.
So, when it says at the end of verse 10, “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” if you are reading that literally, read “Jesus, who rescues us and keeps us away from the time, the place, or any relation to the coming wrath.” So here’s a good one to start with, it gives you a pretty clear picture.
Now, there’s another Greek word that is also translated “from” and that Greek word is ek and you’ll find it used in Revelation 3:10. Here it says:
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
This is a passage written to the Church in Philadelphia and it is thought by many, as you look at the overview of the seven churches, to be the Church of the rapture and because of this verse, Revelation 3:10 “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test those who live on the Earth.”
As I said, the Greek word is ek. It means to keep out of altogether. Some translations you’ll see that word “from” is replaced by the word “through” or by the word “at”. Neither one of those are an appropriate translation of the Greek word ek. It simply means from and to keep out of altogether.
Now let’s look at another passage from 1 Thessalonians 5 this time. I’m going to read verses 1 through 5 and verse 9. And these I’m reading to you because I want you to see the difference in the tenses of these passages.
Let’s start with 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5:
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
And now verse 9:
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, as I said, I want you to notice the differences in tenses here. He starts off by saying, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
Now, this phrase “day of the Lord” is an interesting phrase because it is one that’s used so many times in the Scriptures, and it has quite a number of meanings. But its most frequent use speaks of the end times judgments that accompany the Second Coming and that we refer to as the Great Tribulation. And so, first of all you understand that when he is speaking about the Day of the Lord, he’s not speaking about the rapture of the Church; he is speaking about the Second Coming and the end times judgments that come just before it.
And then in the next part of this passage he’s saying, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Now, this is telling us two things. First it’s telling us that the Great Tribulation will be preceded by a period that appears to the people of the world to be a period of peace. And you’ll remember from our earlier discussions on these subjects that the antiChrist makes his initial appearance on Earth as a peace maker and establishes what’s called a false peace—it’s a short peace that is used by him to consolidate his forces and get ready for the major war that he’s going to bring upon the Earth. But the important thing I want you to see here is, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 it says, “We do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
And then it says, “While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them…and they will not escape.” And so, you see the difference in tenses here. He’s writing to the Church saying, “You know that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, but they will not escape it.” And so, he’s separating the Church from the nations there.
And then he goes on to say, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” So, signs and events leading up to the Day of the Lord should be clear to believers. We should not be taken by surprise by these things. It’s only the nonbeliever who will be caught unawares. “You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”
And then in verse 9, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This gives us another opportunity to look at a viewpoint here—when does the wrath of God appear? What is the timeframe, or what is the reference of time, used to identify this period called The wrath of God? Well, the best place I can take you for a definition of this and some clear timing is in Revelation 6:15-17.
Remember, we’re in Revelation 6 here:
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Now, this my friends, is in Revelation 6. This is the first mention of the wrath of God and the wrath of the Lamb, and it’s described here in Revelation 6 as having come. Now you know in the first three chapters of Revelation have nothing to do with the end of the age directly. Chapter 1 is a greeting to John and an identification of the Person who is speaking with him, which is of course, the Lord Jesus. Chapters 2 and 3 are the seven letters to seven churches. Chapter 4 we’re going to look at in just a minute where John finds himself standing before the Throne in Heaven, and a little bit of chapter 5 as well. And then in chapter 6 you have the four horsemen of the apocalypse and that starts Daniel’s Seventieth Week. If you want to look at it from an overall point of view, the Revelation chapters 6 through 18 are really a commentary, or an expansion of, the last half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. But here it says in Revelation 6:15-17, “the wrath of the Lamb has come, and who can stand?”
Now, I just want to take you back a couple of chapters in Revelation while we’re right here, to Revelation 3. We’re going to look at an earlier verse from the same letter that we referred to a minute ago, Revelation 3:7 & 8. This is the beginning of the so called Letter to Philadelphia.
And I want to read to you verses 7 and 8 and they say:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
And so, there is the Lord promising the church at Philadelphia that He has placed an open door before them that no one can close; no one can prevent them from going through that door.
Now go over to Revelation 4:1 and you hear John saying:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.
Here’s another reference to the open door.
And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
Now, it’s my view, ladies and gentlemen, that this chapter 4 verse 1, John is describing being transported to the end of the age and participating in the rapture of the Church. I believe that—as we’ll see in a few minutes when we look at the key passage that describes the rapture of the Church (which is in 1Thessalonians 4)—that when the Lord descends with the archangel and with the sound of the trump and the shout, I believe the shout you’re going to hear is Him saying, “Come up here!” just as He said it to John in Revelation 4:1.
So, why did I show you this at this point? Because I wanted you to see that from 1 Thessalonians we learn that Jesus has rescued us from the time of wrath—1 Thessalonians 1:9 & 10—and in 1 Thessalonians 5 we see that He did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation. In Revelation 6 the wrath of God has come, but preceding that, in Revelation 4, you see the rapture of the Church. And so, another way of saying what I closed on the last track with, it’s evidence again that the Church is destined to escape all of the Great Tribulation.
Now, in this track we’re going to look at the first mention of the rapture of the Church anywhere in Scripture as a clear, definitive passage. As we’ll see a little later on, there are lots of hints leading up to this, but this is the first public announcement of the rapture of the Church.
It takes place in the letter to the Thessalonians, the first letter, and it’s in chapter 4, verses 15 through 17. This was written about 51 A.D. This was almost twenty years after the cross and is the first time the rapture of the Church is ever specifically defined.
So, there’s a principle in Bible Interpretation called the Principle of First Mention, and when you see the first place where something is first mentioned in Scripture, if you read the context around it, you usually find you get some pretty good insight as to what it really means and what its true purpose is and why God really has intended it.
So, let’s go to 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
All right now, let’s look at this passage a little more carefully. First of all, you notice it says, “According to the Lord’s own word” I want you to keep that in mind because a little later on, in just a few minutes we’re going to find out where the Lord said this. But Paul goes on to say, “We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” You see, he’s answering a question about the Day of the Lord and about the rapture of the Church.
You understand, when Paul first went to Thessalonica, he was only there for a short period of time, somewhere around three weeks or so. He taught them an incredible amount of information—and, as you might expect, some of it was confusing and not as clear as he had taught it after a few weeks when they went back to review it. And they had somehow gotten the belief that anybody who died between then (when Paul was there) and the Day of the Lord would miss out on all the benefits of the Kingdom age. And so, they wrote to him and asked him to clarify this. “What about the people who are dying?”
Now, Paul’s euphemism for people who are dying, are people who have fallen asleep. And what he says here at the beginning is:
we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
All right, so what he is saying here is that, “Don’t worry about the people who are dying either of old age, or illness, or accident, or injury, or whatever. They will be raised at the rapture and they will actually precede those of us who are still left at the coming of the Lord and are still alive.”
And so, some at the rapture will come out of the grave. Others will be immediately transformed without passing death—without experiencing death—immediately transformed from life in this world to life in the Kingdom. And so, that answers that question. And this is the definitive passage, this is the passage that is the clearest explanation of what the rapture is: The Lord comes down from Heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the Archangel, with the trumpet call of God. The dead in Christ rise first. And after that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever.
This is also the passage where we get the idea that the Lord doesn’t come all the way to Earth to get us. He meets us in the air, and we talked about that in a previous passage in some previous studies. And so, we’re not going to spend any more time on that this time.
But this is the first public announcement of the rapture. It took place in A.D. 51; the first letter to the Thessalonians was the first letter that Paul wrote and it’s the first time that this doctrine was ever officially announced.
Now, a couple of years later, in 55 A.D. he wrote in a letter to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 & 52, another (just a little snippet) about the rapture of the Church. And in verse 51 he says:
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Again, let’s take a closer look at this passage. When he says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery” in the Greek the word musterion is, “I’m telling you a secret. I’m revealing something to you for the first time. This has been kept secret until now, but now I’m revealing it.” That’s the full meaning of that word that we translate mystery—really, it’s a revealed secret.
Then he says, “We will not all sleep.” You remember, “sleep” is his euphemism for “die” and so he’s saying, “We’re not all going to die but we will all be changed. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. The trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.”
So again, the same idea—first, the dead are raised, and then we who are left and alive will be changed—in an instant, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. We’ll be walking along, minding our own business, we take one step on the Earth, the next step we take will be in the Kingdom. And it will be just that fast. We won’t even have time to think about it. It will be just an amazing disappearance. So, we have that to look forward to. This is called our blessed hope.
All right, now we’ll go back to the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage and in verse 15 we read again:
According to the Lord’s word,
And we say, “Okay, where did the Lord say that?” And I’ll tell you, scholars have looked in vain throughout the New Testament—all the Gospels, everywhere they can think of; any word that was written by the Lord, or about the Lord or written about what He said during the time of His ministry here on Earth—and they can’t find anything. And so, where do you look according to the Lord’s own word?
Now, some people have said, “Well, He said it, but He didn’t write it down.” I can’t believe that, because the rapture of the Church has become such an important item for us to understand. Why would He have said something about it, and then for some reason or other, the disciples forgot to write it down? You know, they were guided, according to the Gospel of John, they were guided by the Holy Spirit. He helped them remember everything that had been said over the past three years over the Lord’s ministry and He made sure they wrote down everything that they needed to write for our benefit, for our edification. So, would the Lord have said it and they forgot to write it down? I don’t think so.
Other people say, “Well, the Lord spoke privately to Paul on the Damascus Road after the Damascus Road experience and after His resurrection.” And I don’t believe this could have happened either. I believe that they are just looking in the wrong place, or not looking far enough through the Scriptures. You know the Book of Hebrews said that the Lord is the same yesterday and today and forever. The Bible is a compilation of sixty six books written by forty authors. But it is not two documents, it is one. It has two sections—an Old Covenant, or Old Testament if you will, and a New Covenant, or New Testament. But there’s no difference between the two. One is not superseded by the other. It’s the same thing, start to finish, Genesis to Revelation, it’s the Word of God and it’s consistent all the way through.
So why should we limit ourselves to just looking in the Gospels for the words of the Lord concerning an event as important as this? It turns out, when we remove that limitation and start looking through the whole Scripture, what we discover is a very clear passage describing the rapture of the Church in Isaiah 26. So let’s go now to Isaiah 26 and we’re going to read verses 19, 20, and 21, and I’m going to insert the comparisons to 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and you’ll see that the two passages are remarkably similar in the things they say.
But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.
Of course, that compares to 1 Thessalonians 4 in the Lord’s own words, “the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Now let’s keep reading in Isaiah 26:
Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
This corresponds to the second portion of 1 Thessalonians 4 where Paul says, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air.”
We’ll talk more about where those rooms are and how those two passages compare in just a minute. But let’s read the rest of Isaiah 26.
This is verse 21:
See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
Now before we go on, let’s look at the comparison in tenses again. The previous verse in Isaiah 26 said, “Go, enter your rooms, shut the door behind you and hide yourself.” The next verse says, “See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.” And so, the direction is clear: you go and hide while the people of Earth get punished for their sins. You see how it’s separating us from the people who will be judged at the end of the age. And of course, we have one more comparison here from 1 Thessalonians 5 where he says, “While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” And so again, just as he does in 1 Thessalonians, the Lord in Isaiah 26 is distinguishing one group from another. And the group that is told to go and enter your rooms and hide is the group He calls, “My people.”
1 Thessalonians 20:
Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
Another indication that this hiding will take place before the wrath of God commences.
Now, just as an interesting little note here, this word “go” in Isaiah 26 is from the Hebrew word, yalak and it has several different meanings, one of which happens to be go; another is come. If you’ve got a King James Version, they translate the word come there. And so, the Lord is calling, “Come!” Like, “Come up here!” in Revelation 4.
And then the third meaning of the word is my favorite. It says, vanish. “Vanish, My people!” And that’s exactly how it’s going to happen. “In the twinkling of an eye” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15. We’re all going to vanish.
Okay, now let’s have a word about these rooms. Where, in Isaiah, the Lord said “Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you” What does that mean? Well, for the answer to that, we’ll go to John 14:1-3 where He says to His disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Now this was spoken by the Lord on the night of His betrayal. The next day He was going to be crucified, dead and buried in the tomb; He was going to be three days and three nights in the belly of the Earth. He was going to come out of the tomb, and He was going to ascend to Heaven and that’s where He has been for the last two thousand years. And He said before He left, He said, “I’m going there.” Where? To His Father’s house in Heaven. “I’m going there to prepare a place for you. Now, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back.” Well, did He go? He did, and so that means He will come back. And He will take us to be with Him so that we may also be where He is.
You see, the Lord’s not promising here in John 14 that He’s going to come back to be with us here where we are. No, He’s promising that He’s going to come back and get us to take us to be where He is. This is a promise that the Church is going to be taken off the Earth, and it ties very clearly to Isaiah 26 where it says He’s going to take us into our rooms in His Father’s house. And, what are we going to do when we are there? We’re going to hide ourselves for a little while until His wrath is passed by. Because, you see:
See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
And so, another clear indication that the Church is not destined to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation. We’re told clearly according to the Lord’s own word that we’re going to be taken and hidden in our rooms during the period of time when His wrath is released to judge the people on the Earth for their sins.
All right, on our last track having to do with the rapture of the Church, we’re going to take a look at some hints that we see throughout the Scripture of the coming rapture. You can’t build doctrine on these of course; these are not designed for that purpose but if you happen to believe in the pre tribulation rapture, these are interesting little things that have great meaning for us and can help us understand the depth of this idea and give us that much more on which to base our beliefs.
The first one we’re going to look at is in Genesis. Go all the way back in Genesis 5 & 6. You know, in Genesis 5 you had the story of the ten patriarchs that are introduced, and one of those was a man named Enoch. He was the father of Methuselah, and Enoch is different from all the others of the ten patriarchs because in each of the cases of the other patriarchs after listing them and their families and how old they were and everything it says, and they died.
But with Enoch there’s a little difference. Enoch, it says, “And he walked with the Lord and was no more.” And so, Enoch just basically disappeared off the face of the Earth. And he disappeared off the face of the Earth some reasonable period of time before Noah came along and of course Noah was chosen to preserve his family through the Flood. And so, what you have here is, Enoch disappeared before the Flood; Noah was preserved through the Flood, and everyone else on Earth at the time perished in the Flood. And there you have the three groups of people—one who disappears before, one who is preserved through, and one who perished in—and this corresponds rather neatly to the three components of humanity—the Church which disappears before the Great Tribulation, Israel who is preserved through the Great Tribulation, and The nations who perish in the Great Tribulation. And so, you have a kind of interesting connotation, an interesting comparison if you will, between the great Flood and the Great Tribulation.
Now, it’s interesting also to note that Enoch’s name translates—it comes from a Hebrew word that means teaching. And the primary purpose of the evangelical Church is to teach the Gospel. Also, according to Jewish tradition, Enoch was born on the sixth day of the Hebrew month Sivan, which was not only the day the Law was given, but it’s also a holy day called
Pentecost and it’s the day the Church was born. And so, another interesting comparison between Enoch and the Church, both of them born on the same day of the month. And again, according to Hebrew tradition, Enoch was raptured, if you will, or disappeared on his birthday. So, if you’re looking for a Hebrew feast date, a Levitical feast date that the rapture of the Church could appear on, don’t look at the Fall feasts. Look at the Feast of Pentecost. Because, if Enoch is truly a type of the Church, he was born on the day of Pentecost, he disappeared from Earth forever on the day of Pentecost, and if that’s true and he is an accurate type of the Church, then you’ll find that the Church, which was born on Pentecost may also disappear on the day of Pentecost.
But the interesting thing, the most interesting thing we want to see from Enoch is he, Noah and all the rest of humanity could represent the three groups on Earth at the end of the age. Enoch represented the Church who disappeared before the Flood, as the Church will disappear before the Great Tribulation. Noah was preserved through the Flood, as Israel will be preserved through the Great Tribulation and everyone else perished in the Flood, as the nations will perish and be completely destroyed in the Great Tribulation.
All right, the next one we’re going to look at is in Genesis 19, specifically in verse 22 where the angels had come to Sodom and Gomorrah and had had their altercation with the people there that night. Lot comes along and saves them and takes them into his house and they dwell there that night with him, and the next morning as they get up and are prepared to go about their business, they tell Lot that he has to go out of town. He has to get his family together and take them away because the angels could not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot and his family were safely away. Lot is described as a righteous person both in one of Peter’s letters and in Abraham’s discussion with the Lord about saving the righteous while He destroys the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah. And the angels actually say, “We cannot do what we came to do until you and your family are safely away.” Some people see Lot and his family as a type of the Church in that situation, where the Lord cannot effect His judgment until the group of people is out of the way.
And so, the next one we’re going to look at is in Daniel 3, this is the story of the three boys in the fiery furnace. And this is a real study in typology because the three boys can represent the remnant of Israel. The fiery furnace is a euphemism for the Great Tribulation. The worship of the statue, of course, is self-evident—we see that in Revelation again, just like we saw it in Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar is a type of the antiChrist, so you remember the story. Nebuchadnezzar decides to erect this giant statue in his own image, and he requires everyone to bow down before it in worship. And the penalty for failing to do so is to die by being thrown into a fiery furnace. And so, of course the three boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down. They are brought before the king. They are given a second chance. They refused it and they said, “Our God is able to save us and even if He doesn’t we still are going to refuse because it is better to be faithful to God than not.” And so, they get thrown into the furnace.
And as they are in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar sees them walking around there and there’s a fourth figure in the furnace with them. The fourth figure, according to Nebuchadnezzar looks like the Son of Man. And so, he calls the three boys out of the furnace, and as they come out there is no smell of smoke on them. Their hair is not singed. There is no evidence that they have been in a fire. The only thing that burned up was the ropes that bound them when they were thrown in.
And so, they represent as I said, the remnant of Israel which is preserved through the Great Tribulation; of course the fiery furnace being the Tribulation. And the worship of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar erected is a model, a prefiguring if you will, of the statue that the antiChrist will have constructed at the end of the age and require all the world to bow down and worship the image.
Now what makes this an interesting model or type of the rapture of the Church is that there’s a central figure in the Book of Daniel that is missing here—Daniel himself is never mentioned. And so, some people say, “Well, maybe he bowed down before the statue.” Well, no that can’t be because God never criticizes any of Daniel’s activities. Only one of two people in the whole Scripture whose actions are never criticized. The other one is Joseph, from the Book of Genesis. And then some say, “Well maybe he didn’t bow down, but they let him get away with it because he was an important person.” And yet, among the people, the counsellors to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was hated by the old guard, if you will, the people who had been there before Daniel got there. They were looking for ways to get rid of him. And as you read the story of the lions’ den in chapter 6, you see that they continued for all of his life to look for ways to get rid of him.
The only logical example is that Daniel is missing. And so, during the period of time in Babylon known as the time of the fiery furnace, Daniel is away—he is missing somewhere. And other people say because of that he represents an interesting model of the Church, missing during the time of judgment.
All right. Now look at Isaiah 57:1. The passage reads:
The righteous perish,
and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
Well, that’s an interesting verse because again, if you go over and read the Hebrew, when you get to “the righteous perish”, the word perish there means are lost. They can’t be found.
And “no one ponders it in his heart; the devout men are taken away” that word taken away can also be translated gathered in, and no one understands.
And so, you could read the passage in Isaiah 57 saying, “The righteous are taken away, can’t be found—and no one ponders it in his heart. Devout men are gathered in and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”
And so, another indication that the righteous are not appointed to suffer wrath but to receive salvation.
Now we’ll go to Zephaniah 2:3 which reads:
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
you who do what he commands.
Seek righteousness, seek humility;
perhaps you will be sheltered
on the day of the Lord’s anger.
And there’s another little hint—seek righteousness and seek humility. The personification of righteousness and humility was the Lord Jesus.
Now we’ll go to the New Testament and we’ll look at Luke 17 which is an often overlooked passage that has to do with the end times. And one of the things that is written here in verses 26 through 29, I’ll read it, it says:
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
Now, some read this passage in Luke 17 as just being the Lord using two examples from the Old Testament to describe His point. One example is Noah, the other example is the days of Lot. But I want you to look at the fact that if you understand the two events He is talking about, they are way different in their focus.
You see, Noah entering the Ark was preserved through the Flood. And so, it says, “If the days of the Son of Man are just like the days of Noah” what He’s saying is that some people are going to be preserved through the judgment, and of course, that’s the remnant of Israel that we’ve talked about on so many different occasions.
And then in the next one He’s talking about something different. In the days of Lot, you didn’t have a group being preserved through the judgment, you had a group that had to be taken out before the judgment could commence. And so, they are taken out of the way. And so, in Luke 17: 26-29, the Lord says that at the end of the age there will be a group preserved through the judgments while another group is taken away before the judgments begin. And that’s another good hint about the nature of things at the end of the age, if you will.
Well, all of this put together, all these different things we’ve talked about concerning the timing and purpose of the rapture of the Church, seem to indicate pretty clearly that the rapture will take place before the Great Tribulation.
In fact, if you take the Bible literally (and that’s the way we do it here, we have a literal, historical, and grammatical interpretation of Scripture) if you take the Bible literally, while none of the popular rapture views can be fully described or explained or detailed or amplified just by using Scripture, the only one that you can explain without departing from the literal interpretation of Scripture, is the pre tribulation rapture. Every other view requires that somehow you manipulate or mangle certain Scriptures in order to make it fit your preconceived notion. Only the pre tribulation rapture view can be made one hundred percent consistent with passages in Scripture. They don’t require any interpretation, they don’t require any unusual use of the words, they don’t require any departure from a strict, literal interpretation.
So, it seems pretty clear to those of us at least who believe this, it seems pretty clear that the most likely chain of events will be that the rapture of the Church will precede all of the end time judgments. I believe it will precede all of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, I also believe it will either precede or happen just concurrently with the battle listed in Ezekiel 38 and 39.
And so, that’s our interpretation of the Scriptures relating to the rapture of the Church; the pre tribulation rapture view seems to be the one most consistent with a literal interpretation of Scripture.