The Secret Rapture --
Fact or Fiction?
How -- and when -- will Jesus Christ return to planet Earth?
Will He come secretly to rapture -- or catch away -- His saints
to be with Him in Heaven? And then return 3 1/2 to 7 years
later in power and glory?
Perhaps there is no question that is more controversial, and
replete with more consternation and confusion than the Second
Coming of Jesus Christ!
William F. Dankenbring
Jesus did tell His disciples, very bluntly: "I will come again" (John 14:3). Unfortunately, 90 percent of the Christian world today denies Jesus' words, and does not believe He is coming again. But I say to you, look around you -- consider the condition of this modern world: IF Jesus does not come again, this world is DOOMED!
Mankind's rope is just about to run out! With the proliferation of nuclear weapons to more and more nations, with the U.S. and Russia each still able to blast all life from the face of the earth, with the growing threat of world pollution, overpopulation and famine leading to food wars; with the rapid escalation of international tensions, and the threat of "holy wars" and international terrorism, the countdown to the ultimate Doomsday has ticked closer and closer to the reality of Armageddon.
Leading scientists suggest Doomsday is only twenty or thirty years away, now, and counting. But Bible prophecy indicates it is much closer than that! We may be only seven to ten years from the End -- or even closer than that!
Countdown to the Messiah
People have speculated for generations as to when Jesus Christ would return. Those who lived around the year l000 A.D. thought Jesus would come back in their time. Europe was panic stricken with fear, worried about the end of civilization at that time.
In 1844 William Miller thought Jesus Christ would return then.
Thousands heeded his words of prophecy, and waited upon the tops of hills, climbing trees, and watching the heavens for any sign of Jesus' return. While waiting, one person fell out of a tree and broke a leg!
Why did Miller think that Jesus would return in 1844? He simply made a mistake in his calculations (which shows how dangerous it is to try to "calculate" prophecy!). Frankly, prophecy is not something you can calculate, or figure out mathematically, or by using a computer. Jesus inspired Peter to write: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (11 Peter 1:20-21).
William Miller made several errors in judgment. First, he interpreted Daniel's vision of Daniel 8 incorrectly. In verses 13-14 we read: "Then I heard one saint speaking and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
Miller assumed that this prophetic period began in 457 B.C. with the decree of Artaxerxes. He counted 2300 years from that time (a day for a year), and came to 1844, when he assumed "the sanctuary would be cleansed" by the return of Christ. When Christ did not return in 1844, his group got together and figured out an alternative explanation. Rather than simply admit they had been wrong, they said Christ did return to the sanctuary in heaven, and cleansed it and the prophecy did not refer to His coming to earth at all. Rather, they said, He began looking over the books -- He began the "investigative judgment" in heaven at that time, and when He finishes, then He will return to earth!
Miller made a fundamental error. He assumed the prophecy began in 457 B.C. But the Scripture nowhere says any such thing. That was his private, personal belief. Secondly, the prophecy in Daniel 8 does not even mention the "return of Christ." It rather deals with the subject of the "cleansing of the Temple." It was an assumption on Miller's part that this marked the return of Christ, and that it would occur 2300 years after 457 B.C. Two assumptions -- two fundamental errors -- and one big prophetic blunder resulted!
For the correct rendering of this prophecy, write for our article "Daniel's 2300 Day Prophecy Revealed At Last!" As this article shows, the major historic fulfillment of this prophecy began in 334 B.C., when the empire of Greece (the "he goat" of the prophecy) attacked the Persian empire ("the ram"). Counting from this time, the prophecy was initially fulfilled by the "Six Day War" in 1967 when the small state of Israel attacked the surrounding Arab nations, and recaptured the West Bank of the
Jordan river, the Sinai desert, the Golan heights, and most important, from the viewpoint of the prophecy, the Old City of Jerusalem with the Temple Mount! This phenomenal victory occurred exactly 2300 years from the phenomenal victory of Alexander the Great over the assembled armies of Persia at the Granicus river in 334 B.C.!
When Will Christ Return?
When, then, will Jesus return?
Before discussing the prophetic indications in the Bible and supplying dates, let's remember the words of Jesus. He warned: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36). He added: "Watch therefore: for ye KNOW NOT what hour your Lord doth come" (verse 42).
Notice! In this prophetic chapter, Jesus gave His disciples a point by point sequence of events which must take place BEFORE His second coming. Read the entire chapter very carefully.
Jesus' disciples wondered about the return of Christ and the end of the world. "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3). The Greek word translated "world" in this verse is aion and actually means "age." They were referring to the end of this present evil age, not the end of planet Earth itself, but the end of this present evil civilization under the sway of Satan the devil.
What did Jesus tell them?
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many' (verses 4-5).
Can you imagine that? The very first thing Jesus warned His followers was to beware of deceivers -- false prophets -- who would deceive MANY! How true His words were! Millions are deceived, confused, today, even about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! His words have been misinterpreted, misunderstood, misconstrued, and manhandled by many who simply refuse to believe He meant exactly what He said!
There are many deceivers on earth today -- many false prophets -- and many of them even come "in my name," Jesus said-that is, claiming to be His ministers, His servants, His prophets. They claim to worship Him. The apostle Paul warned about such Christians leaders who preach Christ while they deny His true teaching, His true message: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an
angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their words" (II Cor. 11:13-15).
Jesus Himself had severe words for those ministers who claim to represent him, but in truth deny Him. He warned: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-16). He added: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22-23). Consider these weighty warnings of Jesus. Let us then read very carefully His own words in Matthew 24, about His second coming, and not listen to the pied pipers of modern religion!
Jesus clearly indicated God has not told us the day or precise hour of His coming! If anyone claims to know the day or hour, then, I would conclude he is a false prophet. Jesus meant what He said! Guessing games with prophecy will do us no good. Speculation will not help.
But, notice what Jesus did NOT say. He did NOT say we couldn't know the approximate time of His return. In fact, He gave us signs to watch for. He said: "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors" (verse 33).
Can Jesus Come Immediately?
There is one school of thought which believes Jesus may return at any moment -- even this very night. Those who suggest this, believe Jesus is returning to rapture away His saints to heaven, first, and then will come a third time after a few years to punish the Antichrist and the rebellious earth.
Is there any truth to this popular view?
If popularity is any criteria, then it must be true, because -- most Christians sincerely believe it. Bumper stickers on automobiles announce: "IF I AM RAPTURED, TAKE THE WHEEL." Others read: "JESUS IS COMING SOON, AND IS HE SORE." But popularity is no basis of knowing what is right or wrong; we must search the Scriptures to find out truth (John 17:17).
What does the Bible reveal?
Jesus warned first of all to beware of false prophets and ministers disguised as ministers of Christ. Then He said: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. AU these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8).
We certainly live in an age where the fear of war, even World War III, is a breathtaking reality. The terrors of modem warfare are unimaginable, causing the mind to reel in a state of shock. How many wars, rebellions, revolutions, invasions, threats and rumours of war, can you count on your fingers right now? How many since World War II? Since Korea? Since Vietnam? We are always hearing of wars and revolts in Africa, eastern Europe, Asia, central America, and the Middle East!
Jesus' words have been fulfilled to the very letter.
And famine? Never was the threat of world hunger ever any worse than right now -- and growing worse daily. World population is burgeoning, because few if any nations really practice birth control, and the food supply is beginning to show signs of strain, faltering, and failing. Millions are soon destined to die from famine and starvation.
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions -- these too are increasing. Jesus said these signs would. be the "beginning" of sorrows or tribulation. Next He prophesied increased persecution upon His true Church, His dedicated followers. Whereas the Church of God has enjoyed relative peace and harmony with the neighbors around us for several decades, times are beginning to change. Anti-Christian sentiment is spreading. The tax favoured treatment of religious non-profit institutions is being severely threatened. The secular government and society is becoming increasingly hostile toward religion! Ever since that false prophet Jim Jones led his fanatical followers in Guayana into a mass suicide orgy, and a bizarre sect of Sabbath keepers were cremated at Waco, Texas, by Federal "storm troopers," the world has become suspect of any and all who claim to be Christian!
Jesus told us it would happen. He said: "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:9-11).
Did you ever think of this? Did you realize YOU could become a martyr for Jesus' sake?
The early apostles were beaten, whipped, bludgeoned, run out of city after city, for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ! They were harried, harassed, and hounded by religious infidels and the Establishment of their period of time!
Has human nature changed?
Is the world really welcoming the gospel of Jesus Christ any more today than it did then?
Many have forgotten the words of Christ, or perhaps thought His words were meant for some other generation. But Jesus says to all of us: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
"And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:16-22).
Did you ever think that could happen to YOU?
It is time we began to think about it. These words of Jesus Christ are going to come to pass in our generation!
It seems incredible -- parents betraying their own children, children pressured by the state into tattling on their own parents, brothers accusing brothers -- "He is a member of that Church!" "She is a supporter of that Church!" "Those people over there -- they are Christians -- lock 'em up and throw away the key!"
Persecution -- affliction -- even martyrdom -- some will be killed for Jesus' sake! It can happen-even in America! Don't kid yourself!
The milk of human kindness is fast eroding and disappearing from the earth. Have you noticed how blatantly impatient people are becoming? It is as if there is a spirit in the air. Teen age gangs are proliferating, murdering and killing. Teachers are afraid of being raped, assaulted, or killed in their own schools. People are afraid to walk the streets at night in major cities due to muggers. People cut in and out of traffic with no show of concern. Police officials are tempted, take bribes, become corrupt. Prostitution and pornography are growing into multi-multi billion dollar industries, preying on the weak and lonely in society! Drug abuse is everywhere -- rampant -- a trillion-dollar a year industry!
Jesus foretold it: "And because INIQUITY [lawlessness, sin] shall abound, the love [natural affection for neighbor, for others, as well as love for God] of many shall wax COLD" (Matthew 24:12).
Jesus said that during this time of world engulfing woe, travail, and persecution, the Church of God would continue preaching. In fact, Jesus was adamant: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in ALL THE WORLD for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (verse 14).
That gospel is going forth now as it never has in the past! The whole world is beginning to hear it, and although few are doing anything about it, few are changing their lives, nevertheless, as Jesus said, it is a "witness" against them and their evil deeds! When this commission is fulfilled, Jesus said, "then shall the end come."
That "end" is probably much closer than we dare think!
Next on the Agenda -- The Great Tribulation!
Then what did Jesus say would happen? What comes next? What is the next sign which would happen before His return?
The very next sign to look for, He said, is INVASION OF ISRAEL! Notice it! Let's pick up the story flow in Matthew 24: "When ye shall see therefore the abomination of desolation. spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And WOE unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in winter, neither on the Sabbath day.
"For then shall be GREAT TRIBULATION, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be SHORTENED, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matthew 24:15-22).
The abomination of desolation will involve foreign Gentile armies surrounding Jerusalem-the standards of an invading army hoisted, raised, over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem! Luke's account of this same prophecy makes the picture even clearer. Notice: "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the DAYS OF VENGEANCE, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
"But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be GREAT DISTRESS in the land, and WRATH upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword [INVASION] and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:20-24).
Notice five things about this fantastic, explicit, detailed prophecy:
1) Although Jerusalem was invaded by Titus and Vespacian in 69-70 A.D., and the Temple was desecrated and defiled, and the people subjugated, and carried off into captivity, that was merely a TYPE of what is still to occur! That invasion did NOT fulfill the words of Jesus Christ, except as a type, or forerunner, of what is yet to happen in our day. How do we know this? Because Jesus said the tribulation He was referring to would be SO GREAT that there wouldn't be anything it in all history! -- "since the beginning of the world," "no, nor ever shall be." There can only be ONE such tribulation! Only one can be the greatest, the worst, the most horrendous!
2) Jesus clearly said He was talking about the things to occur leading up to His second coming (Matthew 24:3; Luke 21:7, 27; Mark 13:4, 26).
3) Foreign armies will be surrounding Jerusalem, they will attack, and lead the people captive, and Gentiles will once again rule the city of Jerusalem -- it will be "trodden down" -- until Christ returns!
4) From the time Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans in 135 A.D. during the Bar Kochba rebellion, and all the Jews were deported, until 1967 Jerusalem was trodden down of the Gentiles. But in 1967 the Jews once again gained control of the city. Therefore, this prophecy was a "prophecy within a prophecy "that the Jews were to regain control of Jerusalem in the "last days." Otherwise, how could the Gentiles at the time of the end take it captive from the Jews?
5) God's people are told to flee to the mountains, and to depart from Jerusalem. What does this mean?
A Place of Safety
At that time God will carry His faithful elect -- true and genuine Christians -- those who have not been ashamed of Christ, who have not denied Him, but who have obeyed Him faithfully and kept His commandments -- at that time God will carry them into a secure and safe place, a refuge from the Great Tribulation ahead.
Where will the place of safety be? Some have speculated it might be Petra, the Rose-red City of Rock. Interestingly, the Israelites camped out at Petra on their journey from Egyptian
bondage. Moses visited Petra, and the Wadi Musa ("river of Moses") still flows there, a cool, refreshing, perpetual spring of fresh water.
Petra, lies southwesterly from Amman, the capital of Jordan. It was anciently a place in Edom taken by Amaziah, king of Judah, and named by him Joktheel (11 Kings 14:7). It may be the place spoken of in prophecy in Isaiah 42:11: "Let the wilderness [remember, God is going to carry His Church to the "wilderness" to a place of refuge-Revelation 12:14] and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock [Selah, or Petra] sing, let them SHOUT from the top of the mountains"!
This chapter is talking about the second coming of Christ, the Messiah to deliver His people. Verse one says He "shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles" -- definitely referring to the second coming. He will "set judgment in the earth" (v. 4). At that time God says to His people: "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep [protect!] thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison [the captive Israelites], and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (vs. 6-7).
Verse 11, then, speaks of "the inhabitants of the rock" or Petra. But today nobody lives there! There is a small, largely rock hewn hotel and restaurant outside the Siq, the narrow channel or defile that leads into the Rose-red city of rock itself, and a few Bedouin Arabs who take tourists through the ruins of Petra -- and that is all.
Who are these "inhabitants of the rock" whom God tells to "sing" and "shout from the top of the mountains"? Petra, remember, nestles amongst mountain peaks! Could it be the Church of the living God? Could that be a place of safety?
Perhaps an indication that this may be so is found in Isaiah, chapter 16. We read: "Send ye the lamb [Jesus Christ] to the ruler of the land from Sela [Petra] to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion [the "daughter" of Zion could refer to the Church, as the Church is the "bride" of Christ, and many prophecies refer to the Church as a virgin woman -- see Eph. 5:26-27, Rev. 12:14]."
Note that this verse speaks of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, going to Selah, or Petra, to the mountain in the wilderness where the daughter of Zion -- perhaps symbolical of God's people -- is found. However, this could also be referring to end-time people of the tribe of Judah who have fled to Jordan for refuge when the land of "Israel" is attacked.
Compare Revelation 12:14-17: "And to the woman [the Church] were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the
wilderness, into her place [prepared by God for her], where she is nourished for a time, and times and half a time [three and one half years], from the face of the serpent ["the face of the spoiler"]. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood [armies] after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth. and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Notice verses 2-3: "For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab [Jordan!] shall be at the fords of Arnon. Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday, HIDE THE OUTCASTS; betray not him that wandereth. Let mine [the Lord's] outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness" (vs. 2-5).
Notice carefully: Here we have God's outcasts mentioned, and connected with Selah, or Petra. These "outcasts" could refer to God's Church, or even to the people of Israel, fleeing from captivity. Verse three says "Hide the outcasts." From what? From the wrath of Satan the devil -- from war and destruction!
The fact that Petra is involved is also clear from verse 3. There are many caves, and "rooms" hewed out of solid rock, where people could live, and hide, and in these caves their shadow in the midst of the day would be nonexistant, just as there is no shadow at night!
God says, "let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab" (Jordan) (verse 4). "Be thou a COVERT" or refuge, a place of safety -- "to them from the face of the spoiler" -- modern "Babylon," under the guidance of the "Beast," who is inspired by Satan the devil.
A Closer Look at Petra
About 312 B.C. Petra passed from the Edomites to the Nabateans (compare Obadiah 3; Jer. 49:16). The dynasty of the Nabatean Arabs ruled in Petra from that time till New Testament times, with several kings named Aretas, one of whom is mentioned in I Corinthians 11:32. The kingdom of the Nabateans came to an end in 106 A.D. and Petra became a province of the Roman Empire.
Physically, Petra lies in the nook of a deep sandstone canyon excavated by water on the northeast flank of Mount Hor. "The valley, with branching side valleys, is about 4,500 feet long by 740 to 1,500 broad, and is surrounded on all sides by precipitous sandstone cliffs. The main gorge is called Wadi Musa, the Valley of Moses . . . A rivulet traverses it through its whole length. The variegated colors of the rock-red, brown, purple, yellow-add to the beauty of the spot. There are tombs, remains of temples, an amphitheater, a triumphal arch, etc., most of them apparently of Roman times. Besides these, there are tombs and dwelling houses in the adjacent cliffs, some of which may be of older date. On the height above, overlooking the ancient city, is the great high place; and yet other altars stand on neighboring lofty sites" (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p. 844, art. "Sela").
I visited Petra, in 1978. Our group rode horseback through the Siq into the high walled, impressive valley itself, and entered some of the huge rock-carved rooms, including the Treasury, or the Khazneh. Theoretically, I suppose a few hundreds or thousands of people could live there, even today, if they were supplied and nourished with sufficient food. They would have to be well organized. But certainly, if God chose to protect His people there, He could do it without a doubt!
"Let Us Remove Hence!"
In the days when the Roman armies under Titus surrounded Jerusalem and besieged it, there were a great number of false prophets who told the inhabitants of the city that they should wait upon God to deliver them. But other wise men, seeing the signs of the times, and the evidence of forthcoming desolation and destruction, encouraged the people to surrender to the Romans.
During those trying times, Josephus the Jewish historian related that "there was a star, resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year" (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Bk. VI, v, 3).
During the festival of Pentecost, Josephus related, "as the Priests Were going by night into the inner temple, as their custom was, to Perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first Place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence'" (ibid.).
These may well have been the voices of God's people, taking the warning of Jesus, and beginning their flight to a place of safety from the ensuing attack and desolation that followed. History records that they fled to the region of Qumran, and thence to Pella, a small community across the Jordan river.
In the days of the early New Testament Church, when the Roman armies under Titus and Vespasian attacked Judea, the Church fled to safety. Hurlbut, the Christian historian, relates: "In the fall of Jerusalem, few if any Christians perished. From the
prophetic utterances of Christ the Christians received warning, escaped from the doomed city, and found refuge at Pella, in the Jordan valley" (Story of the Christian Church, PP. 42-43). At that time there is no record of their fleeing to Petra, but to a small town named Pella.
"To the Mountains"
Another possibility is that there may be many places of safety or refuge for the Church of God during the Great Tribulation. The Bible specifically says, "Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains" (Matt. 24:16). Perhaps, then, mountains will be a place of refuge for the people of God living in Israel and Jerusalem during these last days. This could refer to the Judean hills, such as En-gedi, a place on the western side of the Dead Sea where David fled and hid from king Saul.
The principle which God may intend for us to derive from these Scriptures is that He will provide a place of protection for His people no matter where they live, in a mountainous region near them, and that when we see attack and invasion imminent, we should flee to the mountains near us.
In these last days, when once again Jerusalem and Israel become the focal objective of the armies of the revived "Roman Empire" or European Colossus, the saints of God will once again have to flee for their very lives to escape the holocaust to follow. Petra itself could be a primary refuge for God's people. However, since Jordan is connected with the Beast power in Psalm 83, in a confederacy against the people of Israel, it seems unlikely that God would hide His people in the land of an enemy nation which itself is to be punished with destruction.
What will happen next?
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: AND THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man [Jesus Christ] in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING IN THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together HIS ELECT from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-3 1).
There we have it! There is the proper sequence --
First, Great Tribulation!
Next, heavenly signs!
Then, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
What could be clearer, more plain, than that? Jesus makes it perfectly plain, so simple a child can understand it. He said the heavenly signs would occur "immediately after" the great tribulation of those days, not before. And Christ Himself would return AFTER the heavenly signs, and therefore also AFTER the tribulation! Notice again: "And THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and THEN shall all the tribes of the earth . . . and [THEN] they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven . . ."
Notice, too, that when this occurs, Jesus will send his angels to "GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT" (verse 31). Who are his elect?
Peter spoke of Christians as being God's elect. He began his first epistle, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, ELECT according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1: 1-2).
We are the elect -- "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" (I Peter 2:9-10). Jesus Himself is the true corner stone; "elect, precious" (verse 6), and if we are in Him, then we are the elect of God also!
It is for the sake of God's "elect" -- true Christians -- that God will cut short the days of coming Tribulation, so that the whole world will not perish in nuclear flames! (see again Matthew 24:22).
Notice that the elect will be gathered up to meet Christ "with the great sound of a trumpet" (Matthew 24:3 1). This mysterious trumpet is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible prophecies.
The Great Trumpet Blast
Notice I Corinthians 15, the famous "resurrection chapter." The apostle Paul tells us plainly, speaking of Christians:
"Behold, I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMP: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [the still living] shall be changed" (verses 51-52).
The time the trumpet sounds, the time the elect are "gathered," is the same time as the trumpet blast, and the resurrection of the saints from the dead!
Further light is shed on this "mystery," as Paul calls it, in I Thessalonians 4. Here, Paul says: "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the COMING OF THE LORD shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. 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. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:13-17).
Compare carefully these verses with Matthew 24 and I Corinthians 15. It is obviously speaking of the same, identical time and event! In all three places the "elect" of God, true Christians are gathered up from the four winds, from around the world, to meet the returning Christ "in the clouds," and in all three accounts this event is accompanied by a "great sound of a trumpet," or "the last trumpet," or "the trump(et) of God."
Does this sound like a secretive, clandestine event, which the whole world will scarcely even be aware of -- a secret, quiet, mysterious, ghost-like event, where many people disappear suddenly, without any noise of any kind? Is this trumpet blast a "silent" trumpet? Is the voice of the archangel a "silent" voice? That is what believers in the theory of the SECRET RAPTURE would have you to believe!
A SECRET Rapture Event?
Think carefully, honestly. Does this sound like a quiet, off-in-a-corner clandestine, surreptitious, secret affair? Will Christ quietly, mysteriously, secretly to spirit away His saints?
No, not at all!
His second coming will be very noisy -- there will be the loud voice of an archangel, as well as the loud trumpet blast rending the heavens! Christ will be seen by the nations as He comes, Matthew recorded (Matthew 24:30). He will not be invisible.
When the Bible speaks of Jesus coming "as a thief, " it is speaking of the TIME of his arrival, not the manner of His coming! A thief comes at night, when you least expect it. Even so, Jesus compared His coming to that of a thief. He said: "But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch [or hour] the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 24:43-44).
What Is the "Last Trumpet"?
Now let's see one final scripture which spells out very clearly the Second Coming of Christ. Paul wrote that the saints would be resurrected at the "LAST TRUMPET" (I Cor. 15:51-52). This is the trumpet which is blown when Christ returns for His saints. Does this trumpet announce a secret rapture?
Which trumpet is the "last" trumpet blast?
In the book of Revelation (which means a revealing, not a concealing of information), we read a prophetic outline of the future. According to this outline, the future is sealed with seven seals which will be opened consecutively (Revelation 5:1-9). Notice that the seventh seal will consist of "seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets" (Rev. 8:1-2). When each of these trumpets are sounded, various events will take place on the earth. The first angel sounds his trumpet, and plagues are poured on the earth. So it is for the next three angelic plagues, accompanied by trumpet blasts (Rev.8). When the fifth angel blows his trumpet, another plague -- a terrible war -- erupts on the earth (Rev.9:1-12). This is followed by the sixth angelic trumpet blast, and an army of 200,000,000 men from Asian nations attacks westward, killing one third of mankind (Rev.9:13-21).
But notice, now -- notice what happens when the SEVENTH, or LAST, trumpet will sound!
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD ARE BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR LORD, AND OF HIS CHRIST; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, 0 Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the TIME OF THE DEAD, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give REWARD unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:15-19).
Here again, in more detail, is what will happen when the last trumpet blasts forth its shrill clarion call. Christ will return; the dead in Christ shall be raised; the saints will be judged and rewarded, every man according to His works; and, the wrath of God will be poured out upon a rebellious, defiant world.
How clear it is!
The theory or belief in a secret rapture, to rapture away the saints before the Great Tribulation, is unbiblical, unscriptural,
and unsound! It is unthinkable! Jesus did not prophesy it. The apostles did not teach it.
We have seen that Jesus pinpointed many specific events which MUST occur first, before His second coming in power and glory. He lists these events in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, in the Mount Olivet Prophecy. If we will believe His simple, straight-forward words, then it is obvious that Jesus will not and cannot come tonight, or tomorrow night, or any other night, until these signals -- these prophesied events -- these signs which point to His second coming -- are first fulfilled!
Many of them are in the process of being fulfilled right now. Others still remain to be fulfilled. And the way world events have speeded up, with attention focused on the Middle East, those prophecies still be fulfilled could begin to be fulfilled very rapidly.
Therefore, as Jesus said, we need to heed His admonition:
"Watch ye, therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning; lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, WATCH" (Mark 13:35-37).
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For like a snare shall it come on all of them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to ESCAPE all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:34-36).