The Mystery of the Rapture, Place of Safety, and the Wedding Supper
of the Lamb
What is the “marriage supper” of the Lamb of God? Where will
it take place? Will it take place in Heaven? Who are the “guests”?
Who is the “bride”? Will the saints be RAPTURED to Heaven
for this Wedding Feast? Will they be protected in Heaven during
the Great Tribulation which rages on earth, as many evangelicals,
such as Tim LaHaye, teach? These questions are answered in this
straight-forward, plain-spoken article. Don’t be deceived! Millions
are being confused and misled by a false hope and expectation!
William F. Dankenbring
In Matthew 22:11-13, we read: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again, he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt.22:2-14, NRSV).
What is this parable all about? And how does it relate to the so-called “secret rapture” of the saints? Will the saints be raptured to heaven to marry the Lamb, and thereby “escape” from the ravages of the Great Tribulation?
Who is the man not wearing a wedding garment? Does this banquet take place in Heaven when Christ marries the Church? Is the individual without a wedding robe an evil spirit who arrives at the banquet uninvited?
Let’s understand this mystery of
mysteries! The “king” obviously is God
the Father, and the Son is Jesus Christ.
So who are those called to the wedding who
don’t come? They represent the Jewish
nation and all those who hear the gospel message, but reject it and refuse to
come to the wedding! They will not become
part of the “bride” – the
Who are those who are called from the highways and streets, to become guests at the wedding? They represent all those who are called during this age, and who respond, and come to the wedding. They are not the noble, the rich and wealthy, but the poor of this world. As Paul wrote: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (I Cor.1:26-29, NRSV).
The wedding guests, therefore, represent true Christians, those who are called during this life, to be members of the body of Christ, the Church!
When will this marriage supper take place?
The Coming of Christ
The apostle John wrote, “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev.19:6-8).
John continues, “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’” (verse 9).
This marriage will occur shortly after the return of Jesus Christ – at his Second Coming! Revelation 19 goes on to describe His magnificent Second Coming in might power and authority, to put down rebellion and to reign upon the earth (Rev.19:11-16).
Where does this awesome wedding take place?
The vast majority of ministers and evangelicals, today, teach that the saints will go to heaven, when Christ returns, and will be “married” at the throne of God the Father.
But is this true?
We read in I Thessalonians, “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 be 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” (I Thess.4:15-17).
Notice! Christ will return FROM heaven, and arrive in the AIR – the atmosphere surrounding planet Earth. THEN we will be caught up to MEET HIM, as He is returning to the earth!
The prophet Zechariah goes on to explain, “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on the day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward” (Zech.14:3-4).
When the Messiah returns, His feet
shall stand in
that very day upon the
Only then will there be time enough for the great wedding feast of the Lord!
will take place on
the earth, in the presence of all the nations, at
Not in Heaven!
Men don’t go to heaven. Jesus’ parable about the wedding feast shows there will be many “guests.” But some of the guests will not wear “wedding robes” – that is, the fine linen garments which reflect the righteousness of the saints! They will try to “crash” the party, and get in by other clandestine, dishonest, false means. They claim that you don’t have to obey God and keep His commandments, to enter into His Kingdom – they say all you need to do is “just believe!”
The invited guests who don’t respond to the invitation are the nations and peoples of the world who don’t accept Christ as their coming King, Ruler, Redeemer and Saviour. So they will be forcibly conquered when the Messiah returns. The guests who try to steal their way into the wedding are human beings who don’t really follow Christ. They are wicked, hypocritical, deceitful “church goers” and false brethren who simply don’t belong because they have not come out of their sins!
Yeshua says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers” (Matt.7:21-23).
Good deeds and works are more important to God than mere protestations of words and claiming to be a “Christina.” The proof is in the works, the deeds – the “pudding”!
God loves His people. He wants them to be READY when He comes. Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her by with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish” (Eph.5:25-27).
Note that Revelation 19 says the wife is ready, the Lamb comes to marry her, and He comes back to earth to do so. She has been cleansed, and purified, and made spotless and blameless in righteousness! When He comes, these saints, comprising the Church, will rise to meet Him in the air (I Thess.4:16-17), and they immediately return to EARTH (Zech.14:4) – they don’t go back up to heaven.
The wedding feast will be held on the earth itself! The earth is God’s footstool (Matt.5:35).
An Old Testament Type
An Old Testament “type” of this great event is mentioned in Exodus 24 where Moses and all the elders of Israel “feasted” at Mount Sinai and “saw God” as it were on a sea of glass – “And they SAW the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and it was as it were the body of heaven in his clearness . . . also they saw God, and did eat and drink” (Exo.24:10-11). Notice that this sparkling, brilliant “paved work of a sapphire stone” is on the earth, or hovering just above it – not way off up in heaven somewhere!
A similar scene is depicted in the book of Revelation, at the wedding supper of the Lamb. We read in Revelation 15, “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed” (Revelation 15:2-4).
Many people have been misled by a pseudo-rapture or variant rapture theory which does not hold water. When Christ returns, He returns just as He went to heaven (Acts 1:9-10). He went up in a cloud, once; He will return in the clouds of heaven – once – not twice. He marries the church when He returns to the earth, after He is upon the earth, before God’s throne (at His footstool – the earth).
Remember, the presence of the Father is EVERYWHERE (Psalm 139). The man who did not have on a wedding garment does not refer to some spirit being, fallen angel, or demon, but to a human being who did not qualify to be part of the marriage of the Lamb. The wedding garment is righteousness – “fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints” (Rev.19:8). This man was not obedient to God and His commandments; so He did not qualify, as he did not have on righteous garments – garments which typify righteousness, which is obedience (Psalm 119:172; I John 3:4). He had apparently not truly, in his heart, accepted Christ as His one true Saviour, and had not given himself to Him in total, abject surrender, to obey Him – to say, “I do” – to make the full “marriage commitment”!
He tried to enter the sheepfold by a
“different door” (John 10:1-10). This individual may have “thought” he was a
true Christian, but he will be cast in outer darkness – together with the
wicked hypocrites (Matt.22:13). He will not enter the
Let’s really understand this! The “secret rapture” theory espoused by Tim LaHaye and most “Christians,” today, is a serious and fatal error. It will likely cause immense multitudes to be unprepared for the diabolical reign of the Beast, or the Antichrist! They assume they will be taken up to heaven before the Great Tribulation, but God promises no such thing! Be sure to read our article, “The Secret Rapture – Fact or Fallacy?” They will be completely, utterly unprepared for the great travail and suffering that will come upon them!
Joseph Goode and other teachers claim that Christ will take His church up to heaven for a period of seven years. While there, the marriage feast will occur in heaven. The saints then will have to watch the horrible agony of the people “left behind” on the earth! They will have to see the poor Jewish Messianic believers go through savage hell on earth.
Is this what God really intends?
Others claim that the Messiah returns to take His flock up to heaven after 3 ½ years of the seven-year tribulation period have passed. Still others say the saints are taken to heaven for only a few months, and then return with the Messiah to this earth.
All these theories are DEAD WRONG! The “secret rapture” is a serious deception of Satan the devil, to destroy God’s people by misleading them into a totally false sense of security!
When Christ returns, it will be a loud, shining, shattering, incredible event. The archangel will blow a loud trumpet. Paul wrote, “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” (I Cor.15:51-52, NRSV).
When the Messiah returns, there will be a mighty shout – the thundering voice of an archangel – which will shake up the nations (I Thess.4:16). It will be heard worldwide, and at that point the dead in Christ will rise, and the living saints will be changed and given a glorious new body, and rise to meet Him in the sky as He returns to earth.
When the Messiah comes, and the saints are resurrected, and meet Him in the air, it will be accompanied by THUNDER! And the nations will “SEE the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with POWER and GREAT GLORY. And he will send out his angels with a LOUD TRUMPET CALL, and they will gather his elect, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt.24:30-31, NRSV).
The saints will be with Him as He sets His
feet on the
Does that sound like a “secret” coming? The only thing “secret” about it will be its TIMING! No one will know the “day or the hour” (Matt.24:36). In that sense, His coming will be like a thief – totally unexpected by the vast majority of people (v.42-44).
The Second Coming will not be a silent, clandestine, secretive, invisible event, with people “disappearing” suddenly from wherever they are, as rapturists proclaim. Such a theory is in denial of the plain scriptures. Such a hope is a false hope, a satanic delusion, a deception of the devil who seeks to entrap and seduce God’s people into a false sense of security. They will stumble unwatchful and heedless into the Jaws of Great Tribulation.
Before Christ returns, there are many things which must occur on earth first! Notice!
In the prophetic chapter of Matthew 24, the Mount Olivet prophecy, Yeshua gave His disciples a point by point sequence of events which must take place BEFORE His second coming. Read the entire chapter very carefully.
Yeshua’s disciples wondered about the return of the Messiah
and the end of the world. “Now as He sat
What did Jesus tell them?
“And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am Christ,’ and will deceive many” (verses 4-5).
Can you imagine that? The very first thing Yeshua warned His followers was to beware of deceivers – false prophets – who would deceive MANY! How true His words have become! 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 His name,” – 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, KJV).
Yeshua Himself had severe words for those ministers who claim to represent him, but in truth deny Him. He warned: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew -16, NKJV).
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!
Yeshua 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 Yeshua Come At Any Moment?
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 second time, after a few years, to punish the Antichrist and
the rebellious earth and to install the
Is there any truth at all to this 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.” But popularity is no basis of knowing what is right or wrong; we must search the Scriptures to find out what is the real truth (John 17:17).
Jesus warned first of all to beware of false prophets and ministers disguised as ministers of Christ. Then He said: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8, NKJV).
certainly live in an age where the fear of war, even World War III, is a
breathtaking reality. The terrors of
modern warfare are unimaginable, causing the mind to reel. They are becoming so horrible that multitudes
will go into a catatonic state of shock (Luke ).
How many wars, rebellions, revolutions, invasions, threats and rumors of
war, can you count on your fingers right now?
How many since World War II? Since
Yeshua’s 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. Many 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.
He prophesied increased persecution upon His true Church, His dedicated
followers. Whereas the
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).
Jesus foretold: “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).
Next on the Agenda -- The Great Tribulation!
Then what did the Messiah say would happen? What comes next? What is the next sign or event which would happen before His return?
very next sign or event to look for, He said, is war in the
Notice it! Let’s pick up the story flow in Matthew 24:
“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the
prophet, standing in the holy place (whoso reads, let him understand), then let
those who are in
“For then will be GREAT TRIBULATION, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were SHORTENED, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:15-22, NKJV).
abomination of desolation will involve foreign Gentile armies surrounding
those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be GREAT DISTRESS on the
earth and WRATH against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword
and be taken away as captives among all nations; and
Notice! We have seen there will be awesome, devastating events which will presage the coming of Christ, including the Great Tribulation itself – and up to this point, Yeshua has said absolutely NOTHING about the “rapture of the saints”! How could He have left it out? If it is supposed to occur somewhere in the middle of those fateful signs and events, then why didn’t Christ even MENTION it?
The answer is simple – because it isn’t going to happen that way! Modern proponents of a rapture before the Great Tribulation have it all backwards!
In this prophecy, Yeshua told His elect, His true disciples, who are living at the End Time, “So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must FLEE TO THE MOUNTAINS; the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your FLIGHT may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (Matt.24:15-20, NRSV).
He made no mention whatsoever of a secret plan to RAPTURE the church to heaven. But He DID warn His saints – His elect – to be ready to FLEE to the mountains, to pray that their FLIGHT would not have to occur in winter or on a Sabbath, when travel is curtailed. These things would not matter if they were to be whisked off to heaven!
Thus far, we have seen absolutely no evidence to support the rapture of the saints to heaven before the Tribulation, or midway through it. But if there is no “secret rapture” to protect the saints, how will they be protected? What is all this about “fleeing”?
Let’s notice other Scriptures which bear on this important subject.
Those Christians who are watchful, vigilant, and pray continuously to be worthy to escape those horrifying events to come, will be spared (Luke -36). They are the ones who will be protected on earth, through the Tribulation, not taken to heaven!
God says of the
The “mountains” mentioned here means the
In the Middle Ages, however, God’s Church
fled the confines of the Roman Empire because of its relentless, vicious
persecution, beginning in the days of Nero and continuing through Hadrian, Domitian, and many others anti-Christian emperors (see
Rev.12:6). They escaped to
God is able to protect His people wherever they are, but when signs of trouble come, He warns them to flee out of danger and not just stay behind in a dangerous, threatened location. He wants His people to prepare and plan wisely. Solomon wrote, “A prudent man foresees evil, and hides himself, but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Prov.22:3, NKJV).
Isaiah tells us, “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past” (Isaiah 26:20).
I believe when the time comes, God will reveal to His zealous, earnest, obedient people what they should do and where they should go. Those who remain behind will indeed be “left behind” – to suffer the wrath of the serpent, that old dragon, Satan the devil (Rev.12:14-17).
the days when the Roman armies under Titus surrounded
During those trying times, Josephus the Jewish historian relates, “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 relates, “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.).
may well have been the voices of God’s people, taking the warning of Yeshua, and beginning their flight to a place of safety
from the ensuing attack and destruction that followed. History records that they fled to the region
the days of the early
F. Bruce in New Testament History, declares, “At some point between
James’ death and the outbreak of the revolt in A.D. 66, Eusebius says, the
church received an oracle, given by revelation to those in
Philip Schaff in History of the Christian Church, “The
Christians of Jerusalem, remembering the Lord’s admonition, forsook the doomed
city in good time and fled to the town of
“To the Mountains”
How does this history help us, in our day, to determine how God intends to protect His people?
The suggestion that God sent a “warning’ – an “oracle” – to the leaders of the Church is significant. Why wouldn’t He do the same, in our generation?
Bible specifically says, “Then let them which be in
principle which God may intend for us in this generation to derive from these
Scriptures is that He will provide a place of protection for His people no
matter where they live. When we see
danger ahead, in our own region, we should flee to the mountains near us. It is possible that God may provide a number
of places of safety or refuge for the Church during the Great Tribulation. God will reveal what we need to know in a
timely manner, when we need to know it.
His message of warning will no doubt be given to those whom He
“approves” – those who are really doing His bidding, and serving Him, as the
early church in
these last days, when once again
But whether or not we are “approved,” or “accounted worthy,” or not, depends solely upon us, as individuals.
Jesus Christ warned, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be ALERT at all times, PRAYING that you may have the strength to ESCAPE all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke -36, NRSV).
When the Great Tribulation is about to descend like a shroud upon all the earth, where will God’s true saints go? Although the Scriptures do not pinpoint an exact location, they do speak clearly on this subject.
We read in Revelation, “So when the dragon [Satan] saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman [the church of God] was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time. Then from the mouth of the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from its mouth. Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus” (Rev.12:13-17, NRSV).
The woman will be protected IN A WILDERNESS region from the ravages of the devil! But not all will be protected. Only those who qualify to escape the horrible things which are shortly going to come to pass, will do so – those who are praying, studying, preparing, keeping vigilant and alert. Those who are not doing so will be caught in the trap – seized in the maelstrom – and will suffer the full wrath and fury of that old dragon, the devil and Satan!
This protection will last for “a time, times, and half a time” – that is, three and one half years (compare verse 14 with verse 6 – 3 ½ times equals 1260 days, which makes a “time” equal to a Biblical prophetic “year”).
God says, in Isaiah’s prophecy, “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; HIDE YOURSELVES for a little while until the wrath is past. For the LORD comes out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no longer cover its slain” (Isaiah 26:20-21). The word for “chamber” is cheder and means, “apartment, secret chamber, parlor,” from a primitive root chadar, meaning “to enclose,” as a room or an inner chamber.
David wrote, “One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. For he will HIDE me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will CONCEAL me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock” (Psalm 27:4-5).
The Coming of the Lord!
What will happen after the Tribulation?
“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).
Notice the proper sequence – First, Great Tribulation! Next, heavenly signs! Afterwards, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ – Yeshua Ha Moshiach!
What could be clearer, more plain, than that? Yeshua 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, too, that when this occurs, Yeshua will send his angels to “GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT” (verse 31).
Who are his “elect”? Let’s let the Bible interpret this for us.
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).
Christ said to His disciples, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bares long with them?” (Luke 18:7).
Paul wrote, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom.8:33-34).
Paul declared, “Therefore, as the ELECT of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col.3:12).
Paul also spoke of “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1). Peter warns us, however, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (I Pet.1:10).
It should be perfectly clear! We who belong to Christ, Yeshua the Messiah, are the true “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 servants of God, true Christians – that God will cut short the days of coming Tribulation, so that the whole world will not perish in nuclear flames! Yeshua promised, “And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22, NRSV).
Notice that these same elect will be gathered up to meet Christ “with the great sound of a trumpet” (Matthew 24:3 1). Obviously, they have not already been gathered prior to this time in some sort of “secret rapture”!!!
“A Thief in the Night”
Think carefully. Be brutally honest with yourself. Does all this sound like a quiet, off-in-a-corner clandestine, surreptitious, secret affair? Will Christ quietly, mysteriously, secretly come to spirit away His saints?
No, not at all!
His second coming will be accompanied with tremendous, high-decibel NOISE! there will be the loud voice of an archangel, as well as the loud trumpet blast rending the heavens! Jeremiah tells us, “The LORD will ROAR from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will ROAR MIGHTILY against His fold. He will give a SHOUT, as those who trample the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise will come to all the ends of the earth – for the LORD has a controversy with the nations” (Jer.25:30-31, NKJV).
Does that sound like a secret rapture?
Christ will be seen by the nations as He comes, Matthew recorded (Matthew 24:30). “Every eye will SEE Him” (Rev.1:7). He will not be invisible or secretive.
Why, then, does Paul also say, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (I Thess.5:2)? Why did Christ declare, “I will come like a thief” (Rev.3:3)?
Does this contradict all the other Scriptures, and mean that He will come invisibly? Does a thief ever come “invisibly”? Of course not! No man can be “invisible” – although a man can “hide,” or come secretly, by stealth.
How will Christ come as a thief? He Himself answers that question. He goes on to say, “and you will not know at what hour I will come” (Rev.3:3 again). In other words, He will come unexpectedly, when most people are sound asleep, totally unalert, and oblivious to the signs around them. Solomon wrote, “For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time” (Eccl.9:12).
As Paul declared, “When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!” (I Thess.5:3).
The world will be caught unawares! But, Paul continues, “But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us KEEP AWAKE and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (I Thess.5:4-11).
Yeshua also declared, “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 notice another 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!
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD HAVE BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR LORD AND OF HIS CHRIST, and he shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the TIME OF THE DEAD, that they should be judged, and that You should REWARD Your servants the prophets, and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great; and should destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:15-19). Here again, spelled out in careful 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 own works; and, the wrath of God will be poured out upon a rebellious, defiant world.
How clear it is! The theory of a secret rapture, to whisk away the saints to heaven before the Great Tribulation, is unbiblical, unscriptural, unfounded and unsound! It is unthinkable! Jesus Christ, Yeshua, never taught it. The apostles did not teach it. It did not become a teaching in the Church until the nineteenth century. Exactly where did it come from? The truth is staggering – mind blowing!
The escapist belief of the “rapture” has been employed by Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, Hal Lindsy, and Tim LaHaye in his series of novels built around the subject. Its supporters have lied, twisted, distorted, and misrepresented the true origin of this fatal belief.
The rapture belief entered the Plymouth Brethren through John Nelson Darby, their most influential prophecy teacher. Its origin traces back to 1830 when a certain Margaret McDonald had a “vision” of the end-times. She had been ill and bed-ridden for a year and a half. She read Matthew 24:40 about someone being “taken”, and then read in Thess.2:7 about a “restraining” influence being “taken out of the way.” She put the two passages together and reasoned that the “one” taken out of the way, before the rising of the Antichrist, must be the church! Darby and others subsequently took up this belief, and he popularized it in the Scofield Reference Bible, from where it has entered mainstream Protestantism like a “thief in the night,” catching millions unawares.
Margaret’s “revelation” has led a charmed life. She began “speaking in tongues” several months after her initial revelation, which supports the conclusion that her source of “inspiration” was not the Spirit of God. God is not the Author of confusion, or phony “tongues” (I Cor.14:33; see my article on “The Truth about Tongues”).
For a thorough study of the origin of the pre-Tribulation rapture theory, read The Rapture Plot by Dave MacPherson (Millennium III Publishers, Simpsonville, South Carolina, 1995).
But what about this passage in Matthew 12:40 about two women, one being “taken” and one being “left”? What does it mean?
We read, “But AS the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and did not know till the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken [that is, killed, as the flood “took them all away,” in Noah’s day], and the other left [alive]. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken [die] and the other left [alive]. WATCH therefore, for you do NOT KNOW what HOUR your Lord is coming” (Matt.24:37-42).
Notice that it was the “Flood” that “took them all away.” The masses died as a result of the Flood! They were not “taken” to heaven to be spared! Likewise, Yeshua is telling us, when He comes, and when the Tribulation is about to begin, one person will die in the melee, and invasion, and one will be left alive. That is the import of His statement here. Those “taken” and who die are those who have not been alert, watchful, and vigilant, observing the “signs of the times.” Those who are left alive are those who will be more heedful, watchful, and prudent (see Proverbs 14:26 again).
On the other hand, what about the passage in II Thess.2:6-7? Paul tells us, “And you know what is restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work but only until the one who now restrains it is removed.” What is restraining the arising of this key end-time figure? In the ultimate sense, of course, it is God Himself and His Spirit, His influence on the earth. God is holding it back until His time comes for the final revelation He is holding it back, I suggest, to give His people time to prepare themselves, to grow spiritually strong, to overcome and get ready.
The one “taken out of the way” to prepare for the rising up of the Antichrist is not specifically identified in II Thessalonians 2:7. However, it would appear that this could also refer to a person or nation which stands in the way of the arrival of this supreme Dictator – one who must depart the political scene before the “Beast” can take his place in full power. This restraining power could well be the United States and President George Bush! When the power of the United States is diminished due to onerous debt and over-extending its reach, the resultant world configuration will be free to elect a man over the United Nations – the end-time “Beast” – who will fulfill the prophecies of the Antichrist!
In other words, the passage Matthew 24:40 does not mention a “rapture” at all. The ones who are “taken” are going to be KILLED – their lives “taken,” as occurred in the Flood. The ones who are “left” are left ALIVE – as survivors – during the coming Great Tribulation and Holocaust that are fast approaching.
Yeshua warned: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else me may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake” (Mark 13:32-37).
What about you? Are you watching and keeping alert? Are you preparing for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb? Are you praying day and night for God’s mercy and protection and deliverance from the frightful days to come, and to stand worthy before the Son of Man?