The Rapture of Believers
Believers Shall Be Caught Up When Christ Comes Again.
It is clearly recorded in the Scriptures that when the Lord Jesus comes again all believers of the Lord, no matter who have fallen asleep or those who live on the earth, shall be caught up to see the Lord (1Thess. 4:16-17). It is a blessed hope for believers. And such hope makes us endure the life on the earth (1Thess. 1:3; 2Thess. 1:4-10). Therefore, we shall have right knowledge about the rapture of believers so as to obtain right attitude of life and right result.
Three Different Kinds of Views upon the Rapture of Believers
It is generally admitted that believers shall be caught up when the Lord comes again. However, concerning the specific time of the rapture, there are four different views: 1) Pre-tribulation Rapture; 2) Mid-tribulation Rapture; 3) Post-tribulation Rapture; 4) Partial Rapture. Since both “Mid-tribulation Rapture” and “Post-tribulation Rapture” confess that believers will experience the Tribulation, both of them can be regarded as the same one. Therefore, it will be generally divided into three kinds of views, and each of them is upheld by many famous spiritual giants respectively.
1. Pre-tribulation Rapture: J.N. Darby, C.I. Scofield, D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, William Kelly, J.H. Brookes, J.M. Fray, J.A. Seiss etc.
2. Post-tribulation Rapture: George Mueller, R.W. Newton, A.J. Gordon, A.B. Simpson, Dr. Erdman, Prof. Moorhead, H.W. Frost etc.
3. Partial Rapture: Hudson Taylor, R.C. Chapman, Robert Govett, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, Austin Sparks, Watchman Nee etc.
Seeing from the above-mentioned names, all of them are of great attainments in Biblical research. Therefore, we need not choose according to the reputation of anyone or traditional views.
Faults of the Pre-tribulation Rapture
Traditionally, the majority of Christians believe Pre-tribulation Rapture. It is right that “some” believers will be caught before the Tribulation. However, it is rather arbitrary to claim that “all” believers will be caught up before the Tribulation, for many scriptures are contradictory to such view. Now here is an attempt to point out the improper points therein:
1. The Lord Jesus has clearly mentioned “one is taken and the other is left” when he comes (Matt. 24:40-41). But the supporters of this school say that: 1) here the prophecy aims at the Jews, not Christians; 2) if it is applied on Christians, it will be the false believers that are left.
Lord only promises to the church in
3. The evil bondman (Matt. 24:48-51) and the foolish virgin (Matt. 25:3, 11-13) and the servant who had received one talent (Matt. 25:24-30) that the Lord Jesus has mentioned are all explained as false believers, as if the Lord who calls them “servants” and “virgins” is deceived by them.
4. It is promised in the Scriptures that Christians are delivered from the coming wrath (1Thess. 1:10), for God has not set us for wrath (1Thess. 5:9). And the wrath here is interpreted in this school as the Tribulation (2Thess. 1:6-10). In fact, the reasonable explanation shall be the deliverance from the wrath and penalty the unbelievers shall suffer.
5. It is said in this school that there is no mention of the church any more after the third chapter in the Book of Revelation and therefore the whole believers have already been caught up unto the heaven. However, in the Book of Revelation, it is clearly mentioned those who are clothed with white robes and have washed their robes and come of the great tribulation (Rev. 7:13-14) as well as those saints who keep the faith of Jesus in the Tribulation (Rev. 14:12). Are they all believers who have just repented and been saved in Tribulations? Are these believers not a part of the church?
6. It is explained in this school that the twenty-four elders the Book of Revelation (Rev. 4:4, 10) are the representative of the whole church. And the Tribulation starts after chapter six, so the whole believers will not suffer the Tribulation. However, if the twenty-four elders really represent the whole church, there will cause many doubts: 1) it is the angels that were firstly created in the universe, not believers. How can Christians become elders above the angels? 2) Why does it not mention that the white garments the elders are clothed with are washed by the blood of the lamb (Rev. 4:4; see 7:14)? 3) The elders take the golden bowls full of incense (Rev. 5:8). Why does the church not pray of herself but bring the prayers to God for others? 4) The apostle John says “my lord” to one elder (Rev. 7:14). In the church of the New Testament, who is greater? John? Or the elder? 5) Why is the song that the elders sing not the song of redemption, but the song of creation (Rev. 4:11)? As far as the song of redemption in chapter five is concerned, it is sung for others (Rev. 5:9-10; it is “them” not “us”).
7. They believe that it is the Jews instead of the Gentiles that will suffer the impending Tribulations (Jer. 30:6-7; Dan. 12:1) according to the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Daniel. If it is so, why does it also mention “the trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world”? Therefore, it goes against the principle that “it is again written” (Matt. 4:7).
8. The Tribulation will not start until the man of sin appears. If the one who hinders is not removed, the man of sin will not be revealed (2Thess. 2:3, 7-8). It is said in this school that the one who restrains is the church and the Spirit who works in the church. Therefore, the man of sin will not reveal and the Tribulation will not come until the church is caught up and the Spirit leaves. If it is so, there will be no preachment of the gospel or the inspiration of the Spirit. Why does it say that some of them are saved in the Tribulation? Those who are of this school also mention that the Spirit is removed temporarily in order to support their views.
9. “The day of the Lord comes as a thief by night” (1Thess. 5:2). It is believed that it is the sudden disaster comes to those who do not believe (1Thess. 5:2-4). However, to believers, the coming of the Lord is the hope worthy of mutual comfort (1Thess. 4:18) and is the day of brightness. We need not expect it in fear. If it is do, why are we believers exhorted to “watch and be sober” (1Thess. 5:6)? Believers will always be caught up, and at least they will not receive the reward and not reign with the Lord.
cases of the rapture in the Old Testament are mentioned in this school. All of
them typify the Pre-tribulation Rapture of the church, e.g. Enoch represented
the rapture of the church before the flood sent by God. The house of Noah
represented the remnant of the Jews would be kept after the Tribulation. Lot
was saved before the fire sent by God to destroy
Faults of the Post-tribulation Rapture
Possibly, it is not wrong that “some” Christians or even the “majority” of the Christians will be caught up after the Tribulation. However, it sounds farfetched that “all” Christians will be caught up after the Tribulation. Here, the faults therein are presented:
1. “I will keep you out of the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). It is held in this school that the word “keep” here is “reservation”, not “deliverance from…”. If it is so, the Lord Jesus also uses the same word to pray for those who are of Him: “that you should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). And here, it will be thus explained as “may you reserve them in the power of darkness”. However, such view is contradictory with the verse “He has delivered us from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13). Therefore, there are obvious flaws of such pedantic interpretation.
quote the verses “through many tribulations, we must enter into the
to the record of the Book of Acts, it
is believed in this school that the Lord will be in the heaven until “the
restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). That is to say, He shall come to build
4. It is believed in this school according to the Book of Psalms (Ps. 110:1) that Christ will not leave the throne at the right hand of God the Father until His enemies are annulled. That is to say, Christ will not come from the heaven to the earth until the Tribulation ceases. If it is right, only when Satan is bound and cast into the lake of fire after the kingdom of one thousand years can Christ come upon the earth. Obviously, such quotation of the Scriptures for the purpose of proving one’s own viewpoints only brings contradictions.
5. Many Scriptures are quoted in this school to prove the hope of Christians is the glorious revelation of Christ, namely, the reigning of Christ in His second coming. At that time, we believers will obtain the blessings we hope for (1Cor. 1:7-8; 1Tim. 6:14-16; 2Tim. 4:8; Titus 2:13; 1Pet. 1:7, 13; 4:13). Moreover, they also infer that Christ will reveal after the Tribulation, so believers will also be caught up to receive the blessings of hope after the Tribulation. Thus, the second coming of Christ, the rapture of believers and believers’ obtaining the blessings of hope will happen at the same time, dismissing the Pre-tribulation Rapture. Actually, the blessings of hope that believers will obtain are a series of hopes at different times, including the blessing of being delivered from the Tribulation, the blessing of being transfigured, the blessing of reigning with the Lord for one thousand years, the blessing of being delivered from the second death, the blessing of taking part in the feast of the marriage of the Lamb, the blessing of eternity etc. This is the trouble that they even equate one general verse with another verse presumptuous. Such inference is rather dangerous and insignificant. In addition, there is an important principle of the interpretation of the Bible. We have to interpret one scripture and research the truth according to the integral and sound views of the whole Scriptures, not the literal meaning (the same meaning as the phrase “own particular interpretation” 2Pet. 1:20) of the scriptures.
6. It is also inferred in this school according to the parable of wheat and darnel (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) in the Gospel of Matthew that the will of God is the true believers and false believers exist together until the completion of the age. That is to say, the Lord will ripe and divide them after the Tribulation. However, it is only able to prove that the believers who are alive will experience the Tribulation, but unable to deny that the overcomers will be caught up before the Tribulation. Those who support the “Pre-tribulation Rapture” believe that this parable is related to the kingdom of the heavens, not the church. Actually, the kingdom of the heavens and the church are two sides of one body. The teachings of both of them. If they must be differentiated clearly, most of the teachings in the Gospels will be improper to be applied on Christians.
7. The description in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians is also quoted: when believers are caught up “with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God” (1Thess. 4:16-17). Therefore, it is inferred that believers are caught up in public, not secretly. The supporters of the “Pre-tribulation Rapture” quote the verse in the First Epistle to the Corinthians that believers are caught up “in an instant, in twinkling of an eye” (1Cor. 15:52). The moment when men in the world have realized what has happened, believers’ rapture has already become history. Therefore, it is still secret. Both the schools of Pre-tribulation Rapture and Post-tribulation Rapture have made the same mistake of catching one certain verse to prove their respective views and failing to give a sound explanation. In fact, some believers are caught up secretly and some are in public. The First Epistle to the Thessalonians refers to the public rapture, and the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians refers to the secret rapture.
8. If all believers who still live (the whole assembly) shall be caught up after the Tribulation, the biblical teachings of watching and being sober will turn meaningless, for what we wait for is the Tribulation, not blessings, and what we rely on is not the Lord, but the antichrist. And it is not late to wait for the Lord even at the end of the three years and a half of the Tribulation. Likewise, if the whole church is caught up before the Tribulation according to the views of the Pre-tribulation Rapture, why should we watch and be sober since believers’ spiritual condition of preparation has nothing to do with the rapture. Let us eat and drink, for no matter Pre-tribulation Rapture or Post-tribulation Rapture, believers are treated with without distinction. Why should we be nervous vainly? This is the wrong view upon the rapture, which brings wrong attitudes to common believers.
The Evenhanded View ---- Partial Rapture
Since the whole church shall neither be caught up before the Tribulation nor after the Tribulation, the relatively just and fair view is supposed to be the Partial Rapture, which gives reasonable and sound accounts according to the Scriptures. That is to say, reasonable explanations for different scriptures are presented in this school, and are corresponding to the purpose of the warnings and exhortations concerning the second coming of Christ and the rapture in the Bible. Here the general outlines of “the Partial Rapture” are presented as below:
1. Before the Tribulation, those who overcome among the living believers will firstly be caught up (Matt. 24:39-41; Rev. 12:5; 14:1-5).
2. During the Tribulation, those who have become mature in succession, and who overcome and who die for the faith among the living believers will then be caught up (Rev. 7:9-14).
3. At the end of the Tribulation, the Lord reveals in public and all the living believers are mature and thus caught up (Rev. 14:14-16; 1Thess. 4:16-17; 1Cor. 15:51-52).
According to the Scriptures, there is indeed the rapture before the Tribulation, but it is only some believers, not the whole church. The main points of the Pre-tribulation Rapture are listed as follows:
1. The time of rapture: before the Tribulation ---- “keep you out of the hour of trial, which is about to the come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
2. Those who are caught up:
a. Believers who watch and are ready ---- “watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy of escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36); “watch … be ready” (Matt. 24:40-44; Luke 12:35-40); “watch and be sober” (1Thess. 5:1-6).
b. Believers who stand firm and keep the truth of faith ---- “keep the word of the Lord’s patience” (Rev. 3:10); “he that overcomes and keeps the Lord’s works unto the end” (Rev. 2:26-27); “to obtaining of glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, so … stand firm and hold fast the instructions which you have been taught…” (2Thess. 2:14-15).
c. Believers who are strong and holy ---- “and she brought forth a male son, who shall shepherd all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5); “and in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Rev. 14:5).
d. Believers who desire and wait for the Lord ---- “love his appearing” (2Tim. 4:7-8); “await the Lord Jesus Christ from the heavens” (Phil. 3:13-14, 20).
3. The conditions of the rapture:
a. “Know not” (Matt. 24:39), “in that hour that you think not” (Matt. 24:44);
b. When believers work, or live or rest ---- “in the field … grind in the mill” (Matt. 24:40-41); “in bed” (Luke 17:34-35);
believers are caught up: “the
Mid-tribulation and Post-tribulation Rapture
According to the Scriptures, there are indeed many believers that will be caught up after the Tribulation, but not the whole church. The main points of the Post-tribulation Rapture are presented as below:
1. The time of rapture:
a. “At the last trumpet” (see 1Cor. 15:52; 1Thess. 4:16); namely, when the seventh trumpet is sounded at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 8:2; 10:7; 11:14-18);
b. “The man of sin has been revealed, the son of perdition” (2Thess. 2:1-4), namely, at the end of the Tribulation;
2. Those who are caught:
a. Those who are of God ---- “the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together” (1Thess. 4:16-17; 1Cor. 15:51-52);
b. Those who are of God ---- “the harvest of the earth is dried… was reaped” (Rev. 14:14-16);
c. Those who bear witness to the Lord in the Tribulation ---- “who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14); “two prophets (witnesses)…went up to the heaven in the cloud ” (Rev. 11:12, see 3-4); “those who keep the commandments of God and hole the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17; 14:12); “those who had gained the victory over the beast, and over its image, and over the number of its name, standing upon the glass sea” (Rev. 15:2); (note that they may be partially caught up during the Tribulation)
3. The conditions of the rapture:
a. Those who have fallen asleep shall firstly be raised up and then caught up (1Thess. 4:16);
b. Those who are alive may be dried by the Tribulation, namely, their life has become mature (Rev. 14:15);
4. Where believers are caught up: in the clouds in the air ---- “be caught up in the cloud to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thess. 4:17; see Rev. 14:14).
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou