Why I Believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Part 2
The key phrase in Revelation 3:10 is, "to keep you from the hour of trial." This passage simply tells believers that we are not going to go through the Tribulation, but it doesn't tell us anything about how we are kept from the Tribulation, that comes from other passages of Scripture. Nevertheless this is an important verse because it supports the view that the church does not go through the Tribulation period. What keeps us out of the Tribulation is the event known as the Rapture.
John 14:1-3: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also."
Philippians 3:11: "if somehow I may to attain the resurrection from the dead." In the context, Paul starts out by talking about all the things that he counted as producing righteousness in himself; all of his religious activities, his pedigree as a Pharisee, his consistent obedience to the law, all of the things that according to Jewish custom of the day would put one in good standing with God. He concludes in verse 7 by saying that all those things that were positive to him, the religious activities that he thought would get approval from God, were nothing. After he was saved he counted them loss for Christ. Then we have a four-sentence verse. What he says in verse 8 is the main idea of this section: NRSV"More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." All of those things that we as human beings think impress God, Paul counts as loss for the excellence of knowing Christ. "That I may gain Christ"—that is the purpose—"and be found in Him." What follows qualifies and describes what it means to be found in Him. First of all, "not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by means of faith [imputed righteousness]." What gives us approval from God is the fact that we possess Christ's righteousness, righteousness that is imputed or given to us from God, not our own righteousness. Everything from that relative pronoun "which" to the end of the verse is simply describing the phrase, "not having my own righteousness." So there is the first statement: "I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ, that I may gain Christ," that is # 1; # 2 is in verse 10: "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection."
Then we have verse 11. In a KJV or NJKV they translate this as if there is some doubt or question in Paul's mind: "If by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." This translation "resurrection from the dead" is the Greek noun EXANATASIS [ecanastasij]. ANASTASIS is the normal Greek word for resurrection; EX is that same preposition we have seen, being kept from the hour, trial—"that I may attain to that out-resurrection from the dead." This word EXANASTASIS is just another synonym for the Rapture. The way that is translated, "if by any means," is an extremely unusual construction in the Greek. It starts with the particle EI [e)i] which is translated "if," but it has a subjunctive mood verb. There is not normally an EI with the subjunctive mood verb in a conditional clause in the Greek. It is very rare, but it is used here and it is because there is a little word in between, POS [pwj]. This construction is used to express what is called a final purpose. In a list of purpose clauses it is the last one in the list. So what we come to is, it is not "if by any means," as if Paul isn't sure whether or not he is going to make the Rapture. Remember, he is a believer and dead or alive he is going to make the Rapture. This isn't a statement related to imminency, that maybe I'll be Raptured. He will be, because he is a believer. He is making, instead, a distinct statement, and the NASB translates it correctly when we look at those first three words "in order that." The translators caught the thrust of this very rare Greek idiom. It is simply expressing the last purpose clause. He has said, v.8, "I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may gain Christ, and be found in him…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." He has received imputed righteousness that he may be in the resurrection. That is what he is saying here, and that occurs at the Rapture. So Philippians 3:11 is another passage that indicates the Rapture.
Philippians 3:20: NRSV"But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Again, we are not waiting for the Antichrist, we are waiting for Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53: Paul in the preceding 50 verses has been giving the most detailed account on the importance and the reality of physical, bodily resurrection; that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead physically with an immortal body for His humanity, and in the same way we will be resurrected from the dead with a physical, immortal body. Now he gives them new information.
NRSV"Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 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. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality."
In Greek a mystery is a previously unrevealed doctrine, something that had not been revealed in the Old Testament. The Rapture wasn't revealed in the Old Testament because the Rapture doesn't relate to Israel and Old Testament saints, it relates to the church. Why didn't God reveal this to the Jews in the Old Testament? Because if He had revealed it to Jews in the Old Testament, that there was going to be another people that would come in after the Messiah, then it would give them a clue that they were going to reject the Messiah. So because He was giving them a real condition, and Jesus Christ was truly and genuinely offering the kingdom at the first advent, God couldn't give them any information prior to that that would clue them in as to what their response was going to be to that offer. Because they rejected the offer of the kingdom, the kingdom was postponed, and there is a parenthesis that comes into history known as the church age. The church age was not revealed in any way in the Old Testament. So the end of the church age isn't revealed in the Old Testament.
Paul emphasizes this transformation that must take place: mortality must put on immortality. This passage is talking about the mechanics of the Rapture, that it takes place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It will be an earth-shattering event. If it were to take place today it would plunge the world into chaos, and it could very well be that way when it takes place unless the number of believers is very small. Just imagine the chaos that will ensue when all of these key people, who are believers, vanish. Probably the chaos that will arise from that will be a springboard for the rise of a very strong, powerful individual who can then begin to restore order to civilization, because it will indeed break down civilization. There will be a vacuum of power into which the Antichrist moves and is raised to power.
"…in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet." This is not talking about the last trumpet judgment in Revelation, it is talking about the trumpet that comes announcing the end of the church age.
If anyone asks why we believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture the place to go in 1 Thessalonians chapter four. It is written to enlighten, inform, the believers at Thessalonica because of their concern when members of the congregation, and friends and family, were dying, and they were so expectant of Jesus Christ's return at any moment that they didn't realise that some of them were going to die. So they wrote to Paul and asked what happened to the believers who die. In verse 13 he says: "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died [who sleep], so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." There is this euphemism used in the Scripture about believers in physical death as sleep. It doesn't mean soul sleep, that is a doctrine of the cult called Jehovah's Witnesses, it is not a biblical teaching. We are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord when we die.
All this teaching about the Rapture isn't just to satisfy curiosity about future events but to give us comfort when we lose loved ones who go to be with the Lord. Verse 14: "For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died."
Verses 15ff: "For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
There are three sounds that take place in verse 16. First of all there is a shout. This is the Greek word KELEUSMA [keleusma] which indicates a summons to carry out a procedure. It usually indicates the beginning of a battle engagement or an athletic competition. This sound is indicated in several key passages related to future events. Revelation 4:1: "After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." John's movement to heaven is symbolic of the Rapture that occurs at the end of the church age before the events of the Tribulation period. John 5:28, 29: "Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." This isn't a technical description of eschatological events, it is simply a summary of all that transpires. But what calls them forth is His voice, the shout that we hear in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Furthermore, we have the voice of Michael the archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. This is Michael, mentioned in Daniel 12:1 and Hebrews 1:14. He announces this event. Then, third, with the trumpet of God. Not any of the trumpets in Revelation but the trumpet that is parallel in 1 Corinthians 15:52. Trumpets were typically used to call people to assembly to announce a major event. Then we are caught up to be with the Lord in the air. Clouds are often associated with the glory of God and His presence, so we are caught up to be with the Lord Himself, not just some idea, not just some abstract concept of deity, but with the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the "dead in Christ" refers to church age believers. The phrase "in Christ" is a reference to positional reality, that when we trust in Christ as our savior we are identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. So it involves those who are in Christ, not Old Testament saints but church age believers. These are the only ones that are raptured, and they are all changed.