Article by: Kenneth J. Ester
The Rapture Cannot Happen at the Second Coming
The rapture is real according to scripture. Whether you are Pre-Tribulation, Post-Tribulation, Pre-wrath or whatever, if there is one thing they all agree on, it is that the rapture is in the Bible.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (NASB)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 (NASB)
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
When you put these two scriptures together, this is what will happen...
Jesus will descend from heaven with all of the souls of the dead believers. With a great shout The bodies of the dead will rise first as imperishable bodies. As the souls are reunited with their now imperishable bodies, all of the true believers who are still alive will be changed from perishable to imperishable. Then we will all, both the dead and the living believers who are in their glorified bodies will be snatched up to the clouds to be with Jesus forever.
Again, there is absolutely no doubt that according to God's word, the rapture will happen. The question is not whether the rapture is real, but when it happens in the timeline of the End Times.
Now, to be clear from the start, I am Pre-Tribulation. Not because I was taught this or read a book or saw some cheasy movie. I am Pre-Tribulation because I have studied it in depth and that is what I found to be true according to God's word.
I will be clear on another fact. I cannot prove the Pre-Trib rapture is correct by giving you any scriptures to prove it. The truth is however, nobody can prove any rapture stance by giving scriptures that prove it. So you Post-Tribbers and Pre-Wrath and Mid-Tribbers have nothing on the Pre-Tribbers when it comes to that.
Yeah, I know that some Post-Tribbers believe they can prove the Post-Tribulation rapture is right and will use Matthew 24:29-31 or Mark 13:24-27 as your proof. The truth is, the only way these scriptures prove any rapture theory true, is if you interpret them to do so. I can interpret them to fit the Pre-Trib rapture perfectly.
You see the word "elect" and automatically assume its every true Believer being gathered by the angels. But that is the problem with how most Christians study scripture these days. They assume far more than the scripture actually says. These scriptures never say that "all" of the elect are gathered.
All humans are people. All of the Elect are believers. Within the human race there are sub groups. Caucasions, Asians, African Americans, and plenty of other races. Within the Elect, there are also sub groups. There are the Bride, the Tribulation Saints and there are the 144,000 Jews who will be sealed on their foreheads and will follow Jesus everywhere He goes. If Jesus sends forth His angels to gather the 144,000 Jews, it will still fulfill this prophecy perfectly. Thats what I say will happen. These scriptures are not saying the rapture happens after the tribulation. They are saying that after the tribulation, during the second coming, Jesus sends His angels to gather the 144,000 Jews and take them to Mt. Olive where He will set foot.
Whose interpretation of these scriptures is correct? You will say yours and I will say it is mine. Can either of us prove their interpretation is the right one? Since neither of us can prove the other wrong, these two scriptures cannot be used as proof of either stance. They are only interpreted to fit your beliefs.
That is exactly my point here. No rapture stance has any scriptures that prove their stance is right. But that does not mean their is no proof in Gods word to help us find the truth. There happens to be plenty of absolute proof that it is impossible for the rapture to happen at the second coming. That it must happen well in advance. Which means there is certainly proof that the Post-Trib rapture, as well as some Pre-Wrath beliefs are impossible to be true.
The Marriage of the Lamb
Revelation 19:7-8 (NASB)
7 Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
There are a few important keys I want to make first. I will discuss them deeper after.
1) The Bride is wearing "Fine" linen.
2) The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Now you may try to argue these facts are not correct, but first I will put it all together and then we will address the validity of these points.
These were verses 7 and 8. Now lets skip forward to the next event in Revelation 19, which is only three verses later.
Revelation 19:11-14 (NASB)
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
Now lets look at the key points in this scripture.
1) There is an army that will follow Him back on white horses.
2) That army is clearly stated as being in heaven.
3) The army is wearing what? "Fine linen".
Talk to any scholar who is unbiased and they will tell you that it is clear the Bride is the saints. God is not going to give anyone or anything else the credit for what the saints did. The bride is clearly the saints and they are clothed in their righteous acts.
If a specific term is clarified to have a specific meaning in scripture, and then the same term is used in another book, there is often a connection still being made, but it is not a strong proof. If it happens in the same chapter, it is always taken as to still have the same definition. If it happens only a few verses apart, it is absolutely having the same definition. The fact that it clearly states that the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints, and only a few verses later it says the army that follows Him back in the second coming is wearing "fine linen", clearly means that this army that follows Him back is in fact the Bride.
I have seen my brethren reach in desperation to say that the bride is something else.
The Bride is Israel -- Because there are old testament scriptures where God calls Israel His wife, they try to argue the bride is Israel. .... 1) There is a clear difference between a bride and a wife. One is already married. The other is going to be married. They are not one and the same. .... 2) The only scriptures calling Israel God's wife are in the old testament. In the New Testament we have scriptures where Jesus connects Himself to the saints by referencing Himself as a husband and the saints as a virgin to be presented to the Father. It is simply illogical to change Israel from a wife to a bride and focus on old testament scriptures and claim the new testament scriptures of Jesus, the one who is the husband, connecting himself to the saints as the bride as meaningless.
The Bride is New Jerusalem -- Now some believe the saints are the new Jerusalem. I disagree with that, but seeing as that would make the saints the bride, I have to assume that is not the take on this defense. To make the New Jerusalem as a physical city as the bride of the Lamb? Simply ridiculous. .... 1) Jesus teaches against us being attatched to any material things and then He turns around and is wedded to a material thing? .... 2) In Revelation where the angel says "Come, let me show you the bride" then John sees the New Jerusalem coming down. It never says the city is the bride. You are only assuming that. If I picked you up in California and said "Come, let me show you the Detroit Lions". Then we got on a plane and as the city of Detrit came into view, would you assume the Detroit Lions was the city? No, of course not. You would assume that is the city they play in. Then as the stadium came into view would you assume the Detroit Lions was a building? Still no. Once you saw the players inside the stadium out on the field, then you would know you saw the Detroit Lions. The Bride will live in the New Jerusalem. The city is not the bride! I mean, be serious. Do you truly believe that Jesus is going to be wed to a city? Can you name one reference in the Bible or anywhere where someone gets married to a city? Of course not! The Bride is not the city. It is the saints who will live inside that city.
The Bride can be angels -- No. Just no. 1) Angels are never once in scripture connected to wearing "fine linen". They can wear white linen, bright linen and multi colored clothes, but it never once says they are wearing "fine" linen. Every time fine linen is used, it is connected to humans. .... 2) Never are angels shown to be riding a horse. Only humans do that. ....3) There is no logical reason Jesus would wait until the end times of the human world, to be wed to the angels. 4) Scripture interprets scripture and there is no connection to Jesus being wedded to angels anywhere in the Bible.
There simply is no logic in saying that the bride is anyone or anything other than the saints. The only reason anyone will say otherwise is because they care more about twisting scripture to fit their beliefs than changing their beliefs to fit Gods word.
If the Bride is the Saints, then it means that the rapture simply cannot possibly be at the second coming. Because the Bride (the Saints) who are the ones who are raptured, are following Jesus back on white horses in the second coming. They simply cannot possibly be following Him back from heaven and be raptured from the earth at the same time. The marriage of the Lamb is not going to be before they are raptured. Revelation chapter 19 literally proves the rapture cannot happen at the second coming. It must happen before the Lord returns in order for the Saints to be in heaven and wed to the Lamb and then they follow Jesus back. There is no logical and scriptural way anyone can make chapter 19 fit a rapture that happens at the second coming.
The Dead who Come to Life
Revelation 20:4 NASB
4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The first thing John sees is thrones and they sit in them. He has not seen the dead come to life yet, so it cannot be the dead who sit in the thrones. To make it the dead sitting in the thrones is to change the order of events as they are written. It is to change God's word. Who are they who sit in the thrones?
The 'only' ones that scripture ever connects to thrones are human. The only ones who can be supported by scripture as sitting in these thrones are the saints. However, Paul is clear that the dead rise first. As I explained at the start of this article, I believe the bodies of the dead rise from their graves first and the living and the dead are raptured together. Either way, it is either that the dead are raptured first, or the dead and living are raptured together. The one thing that is impossible, is for the living to be sitting in the thrones before the dead are raptured.
From a stance that the rapture happens during the second coming, this verse simply does not work. It has the saints in their thrones before the dead come to life. It has the dead being resurrected 'after' the second coming and even 'after' the beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, as well as 'after' the devil is bound.
I have put this to Post-Tribbers multiple times and not once has anyone been able to actually make this verse fit the post-trib stance as well as fit the rest of scripture. I will hit on some of the arguments...
1) John doesnt see the dead come to life. In some versions it says He sees the souls and they live, so they could have come to life before this and they are the ones sitting in the thrones. ....... This doesnt work because John clearly states he sees "souls" and he sees these "souls" after he sees those sitting in the thrones. If they were already alive, he would not have said he sees souls. He would have said he sees the saints or sees the bodies. Or he sees those who were once dead. He doesnt say those things though. He sees "souls" which is only used if they are dead when he sees them. On top of that, John sees them "after" seeing those sitting in the thrones. He does not say he sees them sitting in the thrones.
2) It is the 24 Elders -- Though there is a connection with the 24 Elders sitting in 24 thrones, this scripture clearly says "judgment was given to them". There is no scripture in the Bible that connects the 24 elders to being given judgment of any kind. But there are three occasions where the saints are connected to being given this kind of position.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 NASB
2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to form the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?
2 Timothy 2:12 NASB
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us;
REVELATION 20:6 NASB
6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
There is no doubt that it is the saints who will be in the thrones when the Kingdom of God is set up on Earth. Not the 24 Elders. Their thrones are in heaven. Ours are on earth.
I have also seen the argument that it will be angels who sit in the thrones. You can use all the same arguments against that as I made against the 24 Elders.
Another problem with this verse for the stance that the rapture happens at the second coming, is that it clearly tells us who they are who come to life. It is they who are killed during the tribulation! Those who reject the beast and do not take the mark or worship his image. For this to be all the dead who are raptured, it would need to include the believers who died of old age, died in accidents, or from sickness. Yet it 'only' mentions those who die during the tribulation!
It is logically and scripturally impossible to make Revelation 20:4 work with the belief that the rapture happens at the second coming. For if this is the rapture, they are being raptured 'after' the second coming, and somehow the living sit in thrones before the dead are even raptured. They also need to add to Gods word to make it work by saying it is all the dead believers of all time who come to life, even though it only mentions those who die during the tribulation. That stance simply does not fit scripture.
On the other hand, Revelation 20:4 fits the Pre-Trib stance perfectly and cleanly.
If the rapture happens before the tribulation, we are in heaven being wed to the Lamb and prepared to follow Him back.
On earth, after the rapture, there will be many who know the Bible, but never believed it was true. Christian families who had members who were taught the truth but they never believed. Atheists who study the Bible only to have stronger footing to argue with Christians. Many Jews! When the rapture happens, they will all recognize what happened. Many of them will see it as absolute proof that the Bible was true all along. They will turn to Christ in droves and become the church here on earth during the tribulation. We refer to them as the Tribulation Saints. Most of these will be killed for not taking the mark of the beast or not worshiping his image.
Among these will be a particular group of Jews. There will be 144,000 of them who dedicate themselves to the Lord in a very special way. They will be marked on their foreheads by the Seal of God.
In the second coming, the Bride who was raptured will follow Jesus back. In His descent, He will send forth His angels to gather the elect. In this particular case, the elect who are gathered is the 144,000 Jews who are sealed on their foreheads. They are gathered and taken to Mt. Olive where Jesus will set foot. From there they will follow Jesus everywhere He goes.
After the second coming, and after the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, and after the devil is bound, the Tribulation saints who died during the tribulation will come to life and join the Bride on the thrones.
The Pre-Tribulation stance fits it all absolutely perfectly. Seamlessly. No changing the order of events to make it work. No adding to the scripture to make it work. It fits cleanly.
There is only one argument that anyone ever makes against this explanation of how the pre-trib rapture fits Revelation 20:4.
This is the First resurrection!
If the dead coming to life are the first resurrection, then how can they possibly be raptured before the tribulation?
The answer is simple really. The Bible often connects the First Ressurection to Jewish harvests. What some do not understand is that the Jewish Wheat Harvest, which is the one that is often connected to the rapture, happens in three phases. It does not happen all in one shot. There is the First Fruits, The main harvest, and then the Gleanings. Lets look at each phase and how it compares to the first resurrection.
1) The First Fruits -- This is where they harvest a small part from the center of the crop and present it to the master. He then decides if the crops need more time to ripen or not. .... THis is why Jesus is referred to as the "First Fruits". He was the center of it all and He was resurrected and presented to the Father.
1 Corinthians 15:20 NASB
20 But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
2) The main harvest -- When the crops are ripe, they will harvest the vast majority of the fields, leaving only the outer fringes for the poor to pick at. .... This is represented by the rapture.
2) The main harvest -- When the crops are ripe, they will harvest the vast majority of the fields, leaving only the outer fringes for the poor to pick at. .... This is represented by the rapture.
Leviticus 23:22 NASB
22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the stranger. I am the Lord your God.’”
3) The Gleanings -- After the poor and travelers have had their time to pick at what's left, they harvest the last of it before it can over ripen and rot. .... This is the dead tribulation saints coming to life in Revelation 20:4.
When it says "This is the First Resurrection", it is not saying the dead coming to life is the entire resurrection. It is saying this is the "completion" of the First Resurrection. Jesus was the first phase, the rapture is the second, and the tribulation saints coming to life are the third phase that completes it.
Now you might choose to say you disagree with this understanding and I am just interpreting it to fit the Pre-Trib rapture. But to say that, you have to be saying that Jesus being resurrected was not part of the first resurrection. I think deep down inside, you know that He was a part of it. He was the first part of it. He was the beginning of it.
The simple truth is, I gave you two clear arguments that show that the rapture cannot possibly happen at the second coming. The marriage of the Lamb shows the Saints in heaven already and following the Lord back. So they could not possibly be raptured in His descent. The dead coming to life cannot possibly be the rapture as it happens 'after' the second coming and there are saints already sitting in the thrones. I have put these arguments before those who believe the rapture happens at the second coming and nobody has yet been able to give me a good clean explanation that fits scripture. On the other hand, I can give a perfectly clean and scriptural fit using the Pre-Tribulation rapture stance.
As I often like to say, if two sides argue and side A cannot answer the problems presented by side B, but side B can easily answer all the problems presented by side A, it doesn't take a genius to recognize which side has the truth.
Nobody can give scripture supporting their stance and prove their stance to be true. Not when it comes to the timing of the rapture at least. However, the only doctrines that can be proven false are the false doctrines. The truth will always stand strong.
The only question I have for anyone who reads this, is what is more important to you? Your truth or God's truth? If they do not align, are you willing to change your own beliefs to fit His word, or will you try desperately to twist scripture to fit your beliefs? Will you hang onto your own beliefs at all cost?
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