This is sort of a Bible study where you will need to do some careful reading of the scriptures I shall present for your assessment. I shall give you some of my own thoughts on these scriptures, and also some thoughts from other Bible expositors; but I do not say that any of these thoughts are conclusive, so I want you to make your own assessment from the scriptures presented.
When it comes to end time events, and in particular the Rapture, there are many different ideas, all of which have a mixture of Biblical backing and “Spiritualising”, or “Allegorising”, which means not accepting the literal meaning of the passage for some reason, and translating it with a “more spiritual” meaning than the literal text. This has to be done in the case of parables, poems, and in some other passages of scripture where a literal acceptance of the literal text is clearly not what is meant.
The different doctrinal views on the rapture and on prophecy in general, are usually determined by the extent to which the allegorical or spiritualising method is used, and we shall not know until we get to heaven which parts of which theories were right and which were wrong, and neither does it matter at all, as long as we are taking the safest path, and living day by day in Christ Jesus, obediently watching and waiting for His coming, and longing for the day when Jesus will come down into the clouds to call us up take us unto Himself to His Fathers home in heaven.
In the Pre Millennial Pre Tribulation doctrinal view, the literal method is used extensively, allowing the Word of God to speak for itself unless it is clearly parabolic or poetic or in some cases in futuristic prophecy.
The following examples of futuristic prophecy would be of something seen but not understood by the prophet, such as “aeroplanes” in Isa 60:8 “Who are these who fly like a cloud, And like doves to their roosts?” or “Helicopter gunships” in Isa 31:5 Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, He will also deliver it; Passing over, He will preserve it.” Or “nuclear weapons” described in Zech 14:12 “and this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths”. Such passages obviously require an allegorical or spiritualised interpretation to get a logical understanding of the event the prophet is describing, but does not understand.
Again, the following verse will be important to our conclusions.
1Cor 15:23 But every man (hekastos – neuter gender refers to both male and female) – in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
HOW MANY RAPTURES ARE THERE?
I used to believe and teach, that there would be a partial rapture, and only True Believers who were living day by day in Christ Jesus, obediently watching and waiting for His coming, and longing for the day when Jesus come, would be taken in the rapture, and there are very many verses which give this impression very strongly in the New Testament. Then in my studies I read Dr. Dwight Pentecost’s book called “Things To Come”. In this book he says you cannot take a part of Christ’s body to heaven and leave part of it behind, and I agree.
I now believe that only True Believers who are living day by day in Christ Jesus, obediently watching and waiting for His coming, and longing for the day when Jesus comes are actually the body of Christ and His Bride. I believe that a lot of “Professing Christians” will not be in the body of Christ as His Bride, as they are only professing to be Christians. The whole Body of Christ shall be resurrected or raptured, no question of that, but the tares and the foolish virgins will be left behind.
Now consider the following verses carefully!
No. 1. Gen 5:24 “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” This is the very first mentioned “Rapture” in the Bible. Heb 11:5 “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
No. 2. 2 Kings 2:11 “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Elijah was the second person recorded in scripture to be “Raptured” up to heaven. Elijah was translated as he was snatched up to heaven in the Chariot of Fire.
Concerning Jesus Himself, after He was physically resurrected, and after He was seen alive, walking, talking and eating, being touched and handled, was taken up to heaven in a moment of glory (Acts 1: 9-10) But that was not Harpazo, He was lifted up “epairō to raise up, exalt self,” slowly, in a moment of glory for all to see. This would not count as a “Rapture” or a “snatching away” in the true sense of the word.
Phillip, was snatched away, Harpazo in Acts 8: 39.5 but he was not permanently translated. Paul was also caught up Harpazo to the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12.2, but again he was not permanently translated. So although in these two instances the same word Harpazo was used, they do not constitute a “Rapture” or a translation in the true sense.
No. 3. The Rapture. The most commonly known rapture would have to be the rapture described in 1 Thess 4:16 & 17 “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: V17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up “Harpazo” “snatching away” together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
This will be the next rapture to take place, and it could happen at any moment. The Church has been given no warning signs, but we have been warned that it will happen when we least expect it, and that when it does happen, we MUST be ready. That means that we must be ready every day.
This rapture is the “Pre Millennial, Pre Tribulation Rapture” promised several times in God’s word, and it is also likened by Jesus to the Judgement flood in Noah’s day, and to Sodom and Gomorrah when the Angels had to hurry Lot and his family out of Sodom so God could commence His judgement. Noah had to be in the ark with his family BEFORE the judgement could begin, likewise Lot and his family had to be safely out of Sodom and up the mountain BEFORE God could commence Judgement.
God’s judgement can only commence when His people are safely out of the way. Read Rom 5:9 “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him”. Rev 3:10 & 11 “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, (Tribulation) which shall come upon all “the world”, (not on The Church) to try them that dwell upon the earth”. Rev 3:11 “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown”. 1Thess 5:9 “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”. Luke 21:36 “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man”. Make sure you are a part of this Rapture.
No. 4. Rev 7:9 “After these things (After the 144,000 evangelists had been sealed in Rev 7:1-8) I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands”, ………… Rev 7:13 & 14 “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘Who are these clothed in white, and where did they come from?’ Rev 7:14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.
Different version of the Bible say different things, The New Living Translation says these are the ones who died in the Great Tribulation. The Good News Bible says these are Tribulation saints who have come safely through the Great Tribulation to this point, most Bible translations just say they are the ones who have come out of the time of terrible suffering, or, that they are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation.
Some say these are the harvest of people converted under the ministry of the 144,000 Israeli evangelists, and are likely to be Israelis from all around the world, however I doubt the number of Israelis who turn to Christ during the tribulation would account for a number no one could number. I believe Dr. J.A. Seiss is probably correct when he states “They are not a part of the Church proper; for their repentance comes too late for that. They are a superaddition to the Church – a supplementary body – near and precious to Christ, but made up after the proper Church has finished its course.”
It is very likely this vast group comprises mainly Gentiles, with some Jews, and represents both Resurrected and Raptured tribulation saints, the same as Rapture No 3 comprises both Resurrected and Raptured Church saints. It is highly likely that many of these were “Tares” or “Foolish Virgins” before the Rapture of the True Church. Professing Christians, but not practicing Christians. Make sure you are not part of this Rapture.
No. 5. Our next Rapture event seems to be found in Rev 12:1 & 2 “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. v:2 Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth”.
Scripturally, this woman clothed with the sun should be identified with Israel, as in Joseph’s dream (Gen_37:9 & 10) The Catholic Church claim this woman is Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of the Christian Science Religion) claimed to be the woman in this passage.
Most Bible Scholars say the “Child” is Jesus, as it is referred to in verse 5 as a “man child” but I have a few problems with this. Firstly the word “Child” in all cases in this passage is “Neuter” gender, which can mean male or female, but that aside, the sex is not important, as the “Church” is the body of Christ (Male) but the Church is the “Virgin Bride of Christ” also (Female). Next we see in verse 4 and 5 that as soon as it was born her child was caught up “Harpazo” “snatched away in an instant” and this does not fit Jesus who lived 33 years on earth, and was killed. Also, when He was taken to heaven, it was slow and glorious to behold.
Finally, the woman who is clearly Israel, “ fled from the dragon into the desert for 3 ½ years, where God sustained her. This section of the story is clearly still future, as it has not yet happened, it is part of the great Tribulation. When John was caught up to heaven in Chap 4 of Revelation, he was told he would be shown the things that were yet to take place, or still future. So this whole passage does not add up in any way for me as being the story of Jesus birth. I believe that this is another part of the Tribulation Raptures, where living Tribulation Saints are caught up to God before the very worst of the Tribulation judgement begins. I believe these will be Israeli converts, and the woman being Israel would logically give birth to Israeli children.
No. 6. Rev 14:1 “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads”. Clearly these are the 144,000 Israeli evangelists who were sealed in their foreheads in chapter 7. Rev 14:4 says “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb”. This indicates that they have already been raptured – redeemed by the Lord. These were probably the first Israelis to become Christians after the Church’s Rapture.
No. 7. During the Millennium, the people who survive the Great Tribulation, and the judgement of the sheep and the goats, (see Matthew 25:32-46) will enter the millennial period, and during the millennium they will re-populate the earth again, millions of people will be born and many will also die. Many of those who are born during the millennium will become believers, but many will rebel against God when Satan is released once again, in order to give those people born during the millennium the choice of who they wish to follow.
All those who rebel against God (see Rev 20:7-10) will be destroyed by Fire from Heaven. Those who do not rebel, but who continue to follow Jesus as their Saviour, will have to be “Raptured” in order to survive the total destruction of the heavens and the earth by fire, and the creation of a “New Heaven and a New Earth”. (See 2Pet 3:12 “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” and Rev 21:1 “I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and so had the sea”. This one will be the Final “Rapture”.