Rapture Ready – Reasons to Believe in the Rapture in Revelation
Before we continue to Revelation 6, I wanted to pause and study a certain doctrine that is hinted in Revelation, impacts the events in Revelation, but is not directly referenced. It is the doctrine of the rapture. This is a controversial doctrine. Scholars are not in agreement on this issue. I want to share with you the top seven verses about the rapture, the difference between the rapture and the resurrection, and then show you in Revelation the implications of the rapture on the events that happen starting in Revelation 6.
TOP SEVEN VERSES ABOUT THE RAPTURE
- John 14:3
“If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3, HCSB)
- Matthew 24:30-31
““Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” (Matthew 24:30–31, HCSB)
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10
“and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead —Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10, HCSB)
The rapture happens before God’s wrath. The resurrection happens after God’s wrath.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
“For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17, HCSB)
The word “caught up” is the Greek word “harpazo” which means to snatch up or to carry off. In Latin, this word is “raptus” from which we get our word “rapture.”
RAPTURE VERSES RESURRECTION
The rapture releases the Judgment Seat of Christ. The resurrection releases the white throne judgment. At the rapture, we will receive our reward of crowns (1 Corinthians 3:8-15, Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The Judgment Seat of Christ must not be confused with the White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11–15. You may contrast these two important events as follows:
Judgment Seat of Christ
White Throne Judgment
Immediately after the Rapture
After the thousand year kingdom
Determines rewards for service
Determines amount of judgment
We will not only meet our Lord Jesus Christ at the Rapture, but will also be reunited with our believing friends and loved ones who have died. “Together with them” is a great statement of encouragement. Death is the great separator, but Jesus Christ is the great Reconciler.1
This is the reason why the 24 elders in Revelation 4 bow down and give their crowns to the One on the throne. They represent believers who have been raptured.
“the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say:” (Revelation 4:10, HCSB)
This means that the rewards judgment (known as the judgment of Christ) will take place before the white throne judgment. When do these take place. The rewards judgment will take place between Revelation 4:1 and Revelation 6:1. This is the reason why John sees the elders bow their crowns in heaven.
- Titus 2:13
“while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13, HCSB)
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
“Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53, HCSB)
- Philippians 3:20-21
“but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20–21, HCSB)
In the book of Revelation, the church appears in chapters 1-3. Many have called this section of the book something similar to a letter to the church. Then, there is a shift to a set of visions for the rest of the book. The question can be said: “Where is the church during this time?” Since the church is not addressed, the logical conclusion is that the church is gone. While there are no definitive answers from the book of Revelation to suggest that the church is gone, there are verses in the New Testament, seven of which we have just reviewed.
Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary disagrees with many of his dispensationalists. He states:
Endorsing the rapture of the church as prior to the tribulation should be done on the basis of passages other than 4:1.2
John Piper doesn’t believe in a pre-tribulational rapture. He states his view like this:
I believe that there is one more coming of Christ not two, and that at that coming he will not take the church back to heaven but will gather the church to reign on the earth.3
Arnold Fruchtembaum, a Messianic Jewish theologian, points out that even when a post-tribulation theologian like George Ladd tries to explain his position, he has to admit that the pre-tribulation rapture makes more sense.
After arguing for Posttribulationism for 164 of the 167 pages in this book, Ladd admits, in the end, “that the Scripture nowhere explicitly states that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation.” He makes one exception, Revelation 20, but this chapter does not deal with the Rapture, only with the resurrection of the Tribulation saints; and Ladd has not proven that these saints are Church saints. In fact, he also admits that while the Bible speaks of saints in the Tribulation, “they are not called the Church.” A further admission is that the Bible does not “explicitly place the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation.”4
I share with you just these three people to let you know that many do not use the book of Revelation to prove a rapture. However, you can see that the rapture had to occur before the events in the book of Revelation by pointing to certain scriptures in Revelation. We will go chronologically to show how the church leaves at the rapture and returns at the resurrection in Revelation.
SEVEN VERSES IN REVELATION THAT SHOW A RAPTURE HAD OCCURRED1. The church is distinct and different from the saints in Revelation (Revelation 2:1-3:22)
In each of the letters to the churches, the words “to the angel of the church” is used. Elsewhere, the book of Revelation refers to believers as saints. What happened to the church? The logical conclusion is that the church is raptured and does not return until the end of the Tribulation period.
Also the purpose of the Tribulation is to fulfill the goals of Daniel 9:24-27. In that prophecy, Daniel was shown that a time of suffering would occur for the Jews in order that they may be ready to accept the Messiah. As Fruchtenbaum notes:
A major purpose for the Great Tribulation is to bring about Israel’s national salvation. “God’s purpose for Israel in the Tribulation is to bring about the conversion of a multitude of Jews,” and these will be the ones to enter the Messianic Kingdom “and experience the fulfillment of all Israel’s covenants.”5
The events in Revelation chapters 6-19 concern the nation of Israel. However, there will be people who are called saints during this time. These saints are called “Tribulation saints” because they come to know Jesus Christ during this time. The word “church” is not used. Instead, they are called saints. I believe the reason that the word “church” is not used is because the false system of the Antichrist will take over that word and use it for his false religious system. He will usurp the word church and people will believe that they are following God’s will. There will be a clear distinction between the false “church,” and the true church (known as the saints). We have examples of that today. Mormons call themselves a church. Groups use the word church, even though they are not Christians.
2. The saints pray to God for deliverance and that brings out the bowl judgments (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18)
3. The saints are called to suffer and persevere (Revelation 13:10, Revelation 14:12)
4. The third Bowl judgment was against the persecution of the saints in the Tribulation (Revelation 16:6)
“Because they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, You also gave them blood to drink; they deserve it!” (Revelation 16:6, HCSB)
The third bowl judgment is the answer to the prayer request in the seal judgment of the saints under the altar.
5. Babylon is judged because of the violence against the saints in the Tribulation (Revelation 18:24)
“and the blood of prophets and saints, and of all those slaughtered on earth, was found in you.” (Revelation 18:24, HCSB)
6. The wife has been prepared in Heaven (Revelation 19:7-8)
“Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7–8, HCSB)
The wife of the Lamb has been prepared. While everything is going on down on Earth, in Heaven, the church has been preparing for her big day.
7. The armies of holy people follow Jesus from Heaven to Earth (Revelation 19:11-14)
“The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen.” (Revelation 19:14, HCSB)
These armies are wearing pure white linen. So who are these people? Jude refers to a prophecy by Enoch about the same event:
“And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict them of all their ungodly acts that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him.” (Jude 14–15, HCSB)
Who are these holy ones? The holy ones are the church. The saints are people who convert to Christianity during the tribulation period. We know this because the saints are referenced as early as Revelation 6.
1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 181.
2 Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 150.
3 John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
4 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1994), 298.
5 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1994), 531.