4) The Purpose Of The Rapture
Adapted from – A Bible Study by Jack Kelley (Reformatted and complete scripture quotes added by myblessedhope.com)
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thes. 1:9-10)
The Greek word translated from in the above passage is “apo.” Literally it means to keep the subject (us) away from the time, place, or any relation to the event being referenced, in this case the coming wrath. This verse is one of several that explain the purpose of the Rapture of the Church, and that’s to be hidden safely out of the way before God visits His wrath upon the Earth. OK, but when does God’s wrath come?
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17)
After Revelation 3 the church is not seen on Earth again until we come back with the Lord in Chapter 19:14, as predicted in 17:14. In Revelation 4 John sees a door standing open in heaven and is told to “Come up here!” Instantly he finds himself in the spirit, standing before the throne of God at the end of the age. He’s been transported to the time of the Rapture.
He sees 24 elders there, seated on thrones of their own around the throne of God. They’re all dressed in white with crowns of gold on their heads. They bow down before the Lord and place their crowns at his feet giving honor and glory to him. In chapter 5 they call themselves Kings and Priests as they sing praises to God. By their titles, clothing, crowns, thrones, and activities it’s clear that they represent the newly raptured church.
There are four Old Testament views of the Throne of God. Those in Isaiah 6:1-4 and Ezekiel 1 and 10 don’t include these 24 elders.
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4
Ezekiel 1 and 10 – The entire scripture is included at the end of the study due to length.
The one in Daniel 7:9-10, an end of the age vision, hints at multiple thrones but offers no detail. But in the Book of Revelation they’re mentioned 12 times. Some group has arrived in Heaven that wasn’t there in Old Testament times, and 12 is the number of government. It’s the Church, come to rule and reign with Christ.
9 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10
So the Church is raptured in chapter 4, and is shown in heaven in chapter 5, while on Earth God’s wrath is loosed in chapter 6 as the passage above clearly states.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was written in 51AD and contains the very first clear mention of a Rapture ever given. Neither Jesus nor the Disciples ever taught it. Its existence was kept secret until then just as its exact timing is secret to this day. Many of the mistakes made about the timing of the rapture come from futile attempts to find Gospel passages that teach it, as we’ll see in our discussion about the Second Coming.
We think the Rapture is perhaps the single most important component of End Times prophecy, and for us it is. So why didn’t Jesus ever mention it? 1 Cor. 2:6-10 gives us the answer. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The phrase “rulers of this age” refers to Satan & Co. Had they known the astonishing abundance of blessings the Lord would shower down upon those who accept His death as payment for their sins, they would have done everything in their power to prevent the crucifixion. Think of it. We’re called Kings and Priests, given incalculable wealth and influence, made heirs with Christ of God’s estate, something Satan could never achieve and we could never deserve, and it’s all ours just because we believe. This realization came to Satan after it was too late to prevent it and turned what should have been his greatest victory into an agonizing defeat. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)
But like everything in God’s plan, you’ll find hints of the Rapture even in the Old Testament. Look at this passage from Isaiah 26:19-21. But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
Notice how the pronouns change from second person when God speaks of His people to third person when He speaks of the people of the Earth. It means the two groups are different. One is told to hide because the other is going to be punished. (Note: the Hebrew word translated “go” in the phrase “Go my people” is translated “come” in some translations, recalling the command to John in Revelation 4, “Come up here!” But the word has another primary meaning and it’s my favorite. It means vanish. “Vanish, my people!” Yes we will.)
Now read two of Paul’s most popular Rapture disclosures. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thes 4:15-17)
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. (1 Thes. 5:1-5) For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes. 5:9)
Here’s another even more dramatic shift of pronouns. Using the third person, Paul describes unbelievers caught by surprise, thinking they had entered a period of peace as destruction suddenly rains down upon them, cutting off all hope of escape. Then Paul switched to the second person, telling believers we shouldn’t be taken by surprise as the End approaches, and finally to the first person as he includes us with him, not appointed to wrath.
Now watch carefully as we lay Isaiah’s writings over Paul’s. But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. (The dead in Christ will rise first.)
Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
(After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.)
See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. (While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.)
Although the Bible contains 66 books and involved 40 writers, there’s one Author and His message is consistent from Genesis through Revelation. This is how Paul could open his passage on the rapture by saying, “According to the Lord’s own word …”. The Lord never mentioned the rapture in the Gospels. Paul had read Isaiah.
Of course there are several more passages where our Lord promises to protect us from the coming judgments. And although the cynics can truthfully say that the word rapture doesn’t appear in any of them, don’t pay any attention to that. They’re just trying to confuse us.
They know that rapture is a word of Latin origin, not Hebrew or Greek, the languages of the Bible. (The earliest translation of the Bible was into Latin, and the term rapture comes from there.) Its Greek equivalent is harpazo, which is found in the Greek text of 1 Thes. 4:15-17. When translated into English, both words mean “to be caught up, or snatched away.” There’s a similar situation with the word Lucifer, also of Latin origin. It doesn’t appear in any of the original texts either, but no one would be naive enough to deny the existence of Satan on such a flimsy basis.
Additional Scripture – from the discussion area above. (Listed at end due to length.)
The Living Creatures and the Glory of the Lord
1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin- 3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.
4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, 5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.
15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. 16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. 18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.
19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. 20 Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22 Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. 23 Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. 24 When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.
25 Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
The Glory Departs From the Temple
1 I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of sapphire above the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim. 2 The LORD said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in.
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD. 5 The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.
6 When the LORD commanded the man in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from among the cherubim,” the man went in and stood beside a wheel. 7 Then one of the cherubim reached out his hand to the fire that was among them. He took up some of it and put it into the hands of the man in linen, who took it and went out. 8 (Under the wings of the cherubim could be seen what looked like the hands of a man.)
9 I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like chrysolite. 10 As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 11 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the cherubim faced; the wheels did not turn about as the cherubim went. The cherubim went in whatever direction the head faced, without turning as they went. 12 Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. 13 I heard the wheels being called “the whirling wheels.” 14 Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
15 Then the cherubim rose upward. These were the living creatures I had seen by the Kebar River. 16 When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the cherubim spread their wings to rise from the ground, the wheels did not leave their side. 17 When the cherubim stood still, they also stood still; and when the cherubim rose, they rose with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in them.
18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. 19 While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the LORD’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces and four wings, and under their wings was what looked like the hands of a man. 22 Their faces had the same appearance as those I had seen by the Kebar River. Each one went straight ahead.
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