I have been a believer for 40 years, and for that entire season, I have always believed that there would be a future event in human history when Yeshua would come into the sky and snatch believers away before the terrible time of the Great Tribulation started. In fact, it is through the reading of The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey that I first learned about the Rapture. It impressed me enough that it led me to invite Yeshua into my life as my Messiah and Savior. That was the Summer of 1983, exactly forty years ago. Back then, I knew nothing about the Bible or the end times; however, what I was learning about a just, loving and compassionate God seemed to make a lot of sense.
Fast forward to 2023, almost two decades of published daily devotionals, six books, and two degrees later, and the Rapture of the Believers is still on my mind. Frankly, it is probably on my mind more today than it was twenty years ago – likely due to all the world events occurring at a rapid pace in front of our eyes almost every single day.
The more I read my Bible, the stronger I feel about a premillennial, pre-tribulation Rapture (PPR). This has a lot to do with the approach to the word of God I have been taking for the last four decades. Early on, as I was told that God left me a love letter (the Bible) with a lot of instructions and direction about how to live with Him and for Him, I could never look at that book and not take its message literally. Otherwise, how many interpretations do we really end up with? This, of course, doesn’t eliminate the use of figures of speech in the Bible, but we need to take God’s counsel at face value and then, if necessary, seek a symbolic or allegorical meaning.
What happens if I have been wrong about the Rapture for the last forty years? So, I want to consider the possibility of the Rapture not happening.
One of the first things those who adhere to a premillennial, pre-tribulation Rapture (PPR) are often accused of is escapism. We are accused of trying to bail out before God’s wrath when we should go through it. I guess it would be escapism if there were a sense of selfishness in those who believe in a PPR. The opposite is often the case. Those of us who believe in a PPR have a great sense of urgency, and the imminency of the Rapture is encouraging us to share the Good News even more so. Incidentally, the Bible never speaks of believers not going through difficulties, challenges and/or turmoil prior to the Tribulation. The days we live in seem to validate the idea that persecution is coming to believers as well as to Jews, and we have not even started the Great Tribulation yet.
Frankly, instead of a no-Rapture view, a lot of people believe in a post-tribulation Rapture that will happen simultaneously with the physical return of Yeshua the Messiah to the earth at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. Basically, the Rapture and Second Coming are separated by a few brief moments, making the Rapture less of an important milestone in God’s program than it ought to be. One of the questions I have, is, “How could a Rapture happening at the end of a specific period of seven years be unknown and imminent?” How can the Rapture and the Second Coming be one and the same event when in John 14:1-3, Yeshua promised, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Additionally, when we look at Revelation 19:11-21, which is the New Testament passage about the Second Coming of Messiah, there is no mention of the Rapture whatsoever. Why would that be if both events are linked or one and the same?
Do we have solid, biblical reasons to believe that the Rapture and the Second Coming are two separate events? I think we do, and let me offer just a few:
• Signs that are given before the event:
Before the Rapture: None – 1 Thessalonians 1:10
Before the Second Coming: Many – Matthew 24:4-28
• Location for the event:
Location for the Rapture: In the air – 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Location for the Second Coming: The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – Zechariah 14:2-4; Revelation 19:14
• People taken at the event:
At the Rapture: Believers (the Bride of Messiah) are taken from earth and unbelievers are left behind – 1 Thessalonians 4:17
At the Second Coming: Living believers (the Bride of Messiah) enter the Messianic Millennial Kingdom and unbelievers are judged – Matthew 13:41-42; 49-50
• Changes on earth at the event:
At the Rapture: No topographical change.
At the Second Coming: Many changes on planet earth – Zechariah 14:1-11
There is no doubt that both the Rapture and the Second Coming of Yeshua describe His actual physical return. At the very least, what believers should focus on is the fact that Yeshua is coming back. In other words, the story isn’t finished yet; far from it! Many will claim that there will be no Rapture as a single event, but that Yeshua will indeed return to Earth.
I hold to a premillennial, pre-tribulation Rapture view. There is always a possibility that I am wrong, although forty years of Bible study have only reinforced my position from several vantage points in the Bible. The prophetic significance of the Feasts of the Lord found in Leviticus 23 have helped to strengthen my view and so has the understanding of the Jewish wedding system and the Bride of Messiah.
Yet, if I am wrong, I am very encouraged by the wise words of Charles Ryrie in Come Quickly Lord Jesus, “If His coming should be pretribulational, then we will praise Him because we missed that terrible time. If it is postribulational, then we will gladly suffer for His sake. Either way, we still have the blessed hope of His coming.”