The Rapture of the Church

by Dr. Ken Matto

The prophetic event which we are going to study is known as the "Rapture." The standard belief is that the church will be raptured when Christ secretly returns, and all Christians who are living on earth, including those who have previously died, will be removed from the earth. Immediately following this event, the world will be plunged into a seven year span known as the "Great Tribulation Period," which will culminate in the return of Christ. It will be at this time that Christ will set up His one thousand year reign and will reign from Jerusalem.

The question is not whether there is a rapture because it is a biblical event (1 Thess. 4:13-18), but the question is, when will it occur, a.k.a., the timing. If we allow the Bible to be the expositor of this event, we will see that the Scriptures teach the exact timing of the rapture (not the date), and does not shade it in mysterious language. All Christians are interested in the timing of the rapture, and it is imperative that we allow the Bible to be our guidebook.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

(1 Th 4:13-18 KJV) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. {14} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. {15} 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. {16} 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: {17} 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. {18} Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

This is probably the most well known passage on the rapture in Scripture. The word "rapture" is not found in scripture. It is derived from the Latin word "rapius" which carries the meaning of "carrying away." In verse 17, we read the words "caught up" which are derived from the Greek word "harpadzo" which means to seize, steal, pluck, carry off, or snatch away. The same word is used in various parts of the New Testament, for example, in John 6:15, the words "take...by force" is harpadzo. Just to further illustrate this word, we read in John 10:28-29 where it is translated "pluck," and in Jude 23, the word is translated "pulling." So we may safely conclude that the rapture is going to be a sudden, abrupt removal of Christians from the earth. As we have seen in these passages, we have only a description of the rapture but we are still lacking the timing of the rapture. It is then necessary for us to search the Scriptures very diligently, to gain a clue as to when God has ordained the rapture of believers. Once we ascertain the proper timing of the rapture, we will begin to clear up many misconceptions about prophecy.

Matthew 13:24-30, 39-40

(Mat 13:24-30 KJV) Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: {25} But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. {26} But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. {27} So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? {28} He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? {29} But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. {30} Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

(Mat 13:39-40 KJV) The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. {40} As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

In verses 24-30, we read the parable of the Wheat and Tares. This symbolizes both the unbelievers and believers existing together in the congregation of the church. In verse 30, the Lord Jesus says they are to grow together "until the harvest." Now that is a clue as to when the rapture will occur. We have all seen what a farm looks like after the harvest, the fields are cleaned out. So now, armed with the key word "harvest," let us further investigate this chapter.

In verse 39, we see the key word "harvest’ again, and in this verse we also see the harvest is at the end of the world or the last day. The reapers are the angels as verified by Matthew 24:31, which we will develop later. So here we see the Bible telling us that the rapture will be on the last day, with no generations to follow. Let us continue on to see if we are on the right path, allowing the Bible to be its own interpreter.

Matthew 13:47-49

(Mat 13:47-49 KJV) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: {48} Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. {49} So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,

In this parable we see an analogy of the separation of the good and bad fish after the net is pulled onto shore. In Verse 47 the Lord parallels the Great Commission to a fisherman’s net. The symbolism here is that the net was cast into the sea which represents the church sending forth the gospel in the world. At the end of the day when the fishermen brought back the catch, the separation of the good and bad fish took place. It was necessary that the separation be done quickly, so the bad fish would not affect the good fish. In the end of verse 47 we read, "and gathered of every kind."

This parallels Matthew 22:10: "So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests."

This parable tells us that the servants went out into the world and brought back many into the church, both good and bad (saved and unsaved). There are many in the congregations who believe they are saved but are not.

(Mat 7:21-23 KJV) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:21-23 reveals to us that there will be many at the judgment seat of Christ who will be arguing to get into heaven because they sincerely thought they were saved. They were doing what they thought were good works. So we see that we are on the right track as both saved and unsaved will dwell together in the church until the last day, or the separation of the good and the bad. Continuing in Matthew 13:47, we may also render the last part of that verse, "and of every kind having gathered together." So here we see that all will be gathered together at the last day for separation, and this may clearly be seen in verse 49, where Christ makes the distinct comparison as plain as day.

At the end of the world, Christ will send forth His angels to do exactly what the fishermen in verse 48 are doing, and that is separating the believers from the unbelievers. The word "sever" in verse 49 means "to separate." It is derived from the verb "aforizw" (aphoridzo) which means, "to separate from, set apart, excommunicate, exclude." God is using very explicit language here as He declares that there will be a separation of people at the last day or the end of the world. As the fishermen separate the good fish from the bad fish, so God will likewise separate the Christian from the non-Christian. Are you also beginning to see the evidence surface that there will be one general resurrection and not two? Let’s continue on and see if we are still on the right track.

John 5:28-29

(John 5:28-29 KJV) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} 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.

These two verses openly declare to us that there will be only one resurrection. In verse 28 we are told that "all who are in the graves shall hear his voice," and then continuing in verse 29 we see that as a result of hearing the voice of Christ, everyone on earth who is in the grave at that time will be resurrected, and then a separation will take place.

The Christian will be taken into eternal life and the unbeliever will go to judgment and eternal damnation. Those who hold to the two stage appearance of Christ theory believe that verse 29 is just a general statement describing both resurrections without regard to a specific timetable. A case could possibly be made for that if we isolated verse 29 from the rest of the Bible, but we cannot do that.

(Dan 12:2 KJV) 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.

In Daniel 12:2, we read a verse which is an exact parallel to John 5:29. However, in Daniel 12:2, we read the word "many" in contrast to "all" in John 5:29. It seems we are at an impasse. There is a contradiction in the Bible, right? Perish the thought!! There are no contradictions in the Bible. To gain a better understanding of that word "many" we must now turn to the Hebrew word which is used. It is the word "rab" which may also be translated "abundant." Are we on the right path? The answer is Yes! Why? OK, let me answer your question. The same Hebrew word "rab" used for "many" in Daniel 12:2, is translated "multitude" in Exodus 34:6 and "great" in Numbers 11:23.

So we now have a better understanding of the word "many," as it refers to a great abundance of people. God is not telling us that a limited number will be resurrected, rather He is telling us there will be one resurrection of both the just and unjust in one action, and no one will be left in the grave. Daniel was written about 600 B.C. and God was simply telling us that the last day there will be a great multitude of people who will be resurrected. There are about 6 billion people on earth at present, so God foreknew that a great multitude of people would be resurrected. 6 billion definitely qualifies as a great multitude.

John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48

Here we have six verses which are very plain. They claim that the resurrection of both the just and the unjust will be at the last day. Out of this group, John 12:48 deals with the resurrection of the unjust. The common thread that runs through these verses is that all the action will take place on the last day. Let’s take a brief look at each verse.

(John 6:39 KJV) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

In this verse we read that the Lord Jesus will not allow any of the elect to perish (2 Peter 3:9) but those believers who have died throughout the ages will be raised at the last day. In the six verses that we will study, it is interesting to note that in the Greek, the words "last" and "day" are both in singular form, denoting one event on one day. These two words do not allow for two resurrections. God emphasizes this six times in the book of John alone.

(John 6:40 KJV) And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

In this verse we see a reaffirmation of 6:39, but here we are told that the will of God for those who believe on Christ will be everlasting life and will be raptured on the last day.

(John 6:44 KJV) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Here we see a refutation of the idea that man can be saved anytime he wants to. For a person to respond to the gospel, they must be drawn by the Father first. In other words, salvation begins with God and ends with Him. So, here also, we see that those Christians in the biblical sense of the word will be raised at the last day.

(John 6:54 KJV) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

In this verse, Christ is using a figure of eating His flesh and drinking His blood as a synonym for salvation. This verse in no way supports or defends the cannibalistic belief of transubstantiation or the other false teaching of consubstantiation. This is the fourth time we read in this chapter that the Christian will be raised or raptured at the last day of recorded history.

(John 11:24 KJV) Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

This is probably the plainest verse in Scripture showing that the resurrection will be at the last day. There is no possible way that a person may hold to a two resurrection theory with this verse in the Bible. Many say that all believers will be raptured before the tribulation period, so if this is true, why isn’t Lazarus being raptured until the last day? Lazarus was saved, so why is he being excluded from the resurrection of the just before the tribulation period starts? Do you see how imperative it is to twist Scripture just to hold to the pretribulational view? In fact, you do not only have to twist Scripture but you must outright ignore those Scriptures which do not make your case.

When was the last time you heard these six verses included in a sermon on the rapture? I have never heard one! All I hear is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 being linked to Revelation 4:1, the supposed time of the rapture. These are two totally different events being forced together to prove a doctrine which does not exist in Scripture. Revelation 4:1 has absolutely nothing to do with the rapture, it is God giving John the beginning of his vision which extends to the entire book of Revelation. As you may notice every chapter from 5 to 22, begins with the word "and," which means it is a continuation of the vision which started in chapter four.

Revelation 4:1 is in no way a proof text for a pretribulational rapture, because the context will not allow it, yet millions of Christians allow themselves to be duped into believing it is the rapture because they will not follow God’s method of biblical interpretation, which is comparing Scripture with Scripture.

Unfortunately, many Christians allow these prophecy books to do their biblical thinking for them. They judge the Bible according to these books, instead of allowing the Bible to sit in judgment. Let us take a look at the final verse in John.

(John 12:48 KJV) He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

Here is the sixth verse in this series which openly proclaims that the last day will be resurrection day. In this verse, Christ reverses the subject. He states the unbeliever will be raised and judged at the last day (Rev. 20:13-15). So if we combine all the biblical evidence in this chapter alone, we may safely conclude that both the believer and unbeliever will be raised at the last day. This biblical evidence also agrees with the other passages we saw from Matthew, so we must be on the right track.

Let us continue our search for more biblical truth to complete our study in total harmony. Isn’t it something, how we did not even slightly stretch the meaning of any verse. When a verse must be over-justified to have it fit into the doctrine, then no doubt, it does not belong there in the first place.

(1 Cor 15:51-53 KJV) Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} 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. {53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

These verses are also famous passages describing the rapture of the church. In verse 52, we see a hint of when the rapture will occur. It plainly states, "at the last trump." The word "last" is the same word found in the six verses of John. The word "last" comes from the Greek word "eschatos", from where we derive the word "eschatology" which is the study of last things. The word "eschatos" may also be translated "final, extreme, or farthest." Do you see by this definition that when God uses the word "last," He is telling us that the rapture will be on the most extremely, farthest, or final day? The definition of this word alone discounts any possibility of a golden reign after the rapture of the church.

We have openly seen and safely concluded that the rapture will take place on the last day, which is also judgment day for the unbeliever. We took many passages and saw we were on the correct path to truth. Nowhere in this study did we find that the rapture is going to be pretribulational but in fact all the biblical evidence points to the rapture of the church being a simultaneous event with judgment day which is the last day. Now you can raise an argument against my commentary, but how can you argue with Scripture and the original languages, when it is so clear that the Bible teaches the rapture is the last day.

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