The Rapture

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Welcome to the 8th week of a series that will take us right up to the very end of this world, but don’t worry we are at least a few months until I get to that part.

If you are just joining us, we just finished with the third chapter of Revelation and talking about the seven churches that King Jesus instructed the Apostle John to write to. And if you are anything like I used to be and think those letters are just the warm up to the juicy stuff in the rest of the book, think again and listen to or watch those talks. Just think about it, they are letters literally dictated by the risen King of Kings to us, his church, spelling out what he wants and does not want from us. I’d say that’s pretty important. So, please catch up on them if you haven’t already.

 

And I also must warn you that I have a lot of information to cover today, so try to keep up, and if I’m talking too fast you can always listen to it later in slow speed. And I always post my entire transcript on our website if you want to look up that thing I said halfway through the talk.

Today we will finally be shifting gears a bit and heading into the part of the book that is future to us. So far, we’ve only been talking about the past and the present because the first part of Revelation is about just that.
If you recall, or for the first time if you are new today, in the first chapter when John’s vision started and Jesus showed up with white hair, fiery eyes, burning feet, and a sword coming out of his mouth – Jesus instructed him to do the following:
Revelation 1:19 (NASB)
Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
And so far, we have covered what John “had seen” – the vision of Jesus and the lamp stands. And when Jesus started dictating the letters to the churches, that classified as the “things that are.” And what we are about to talk about are the “things that will take place after these things.”
And how we know that is because that is the way chapter four begins.
Revelation 4:1 (NASB)
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”

 

Do you see the connection? What this tells us is that all of the things that John wrote after chapter 1:19 are “the things that are” up until the point that John says “after these things” and Jesus even further clarifies that what John is about to see is what must take place “after these things.”

And since the things John is about to be shown are things that have not yet happened as of 11/6/2016 – that means the rest of this book is about things that are still future to us, which also means that we are still part of “the things that are.” And thus, as I already said – those letters are to us as much as they were to the churches of AD 95 when John had this vision and wrote the letters.
So, again, I encourage you to take those letters seriously. Listen to those talks, and heed what Jesus says to us. Because this next part can happen anytime.
Now let’s talk about our future…
We pick it up again in chapter 4 of Revelation. I’m using the NIV now because it’s a bit easier to read. I was using the NASB before because it’s a bit closer to the literal Greek.  Anyway, we are going to read the whole chapter but we will only be covering a small part of it today. Next week we will get into all the details of chapter 4 and 5 and the amazing throne room scene, and following that we are going to do a miniseries I’m calling Back to the Future. For three weeks we are going to go back to the intriguing prophecies of Daniel and some other Old Testament stuff that is necessary to understand before getting into the really juicy stuff of Revelation. I encourage you not to miss a single one of those as they are essential to understanding the who, what, where, when, and most importantly, why of the rest of Revelation.
Anyway, let’s get to it. Remember that the Apostle John – one of Jesus’ original disciples – is very old and the last living Apostle. He’s been exiled to the island of Patmos, and one day he has this great vision that began with Jesus appearing to him in a way he had never seen him before and telling him to write some letters. Now the vision is going to shift from Jesus dictating letters to John writing about what he sees.
Revelation 4
1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit,and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”
Certainly not something you see every day. And it only gets more otherworldly from here.

Most of this I will be covering next week, but I wanted to give you the larger context of what we’re talking about today. Today I want to focus on just a few details here that tell us about an event that is not specifically mentioned anywhere in this chapter or in this book. But based on these details and based on a plethora of other Scriptures from the rest of the bible, it must have taken place somewhere between the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. And, of course, I’m talking about The Rapture of the Church.

One thing I have pointed out frequently in this series and will continue to do so is the fact that Revelation is literally the last chapter in a very long novel. And like any other book, the last chapter is written in such a way that the author assumes you have read the rest of the story and know it well, and all the last chapter needs to do is tie up loose ends. In the last chapter of a good novel, all that needs to be mentioned is a person’s name or a place and the whole backstory will come to mind without the author needing to repeat all the information already in the book. Well, Revelation is the same way. And it’s one of the reasons it’s going to take so long to go through, is because there is a whole lot of back story that we need to be reminded of to be able to understand what is happening in this last chapter.
Another thing I need to remind you of now that we are really starting to look at future events is the fact that there is going to be a lot about these things that we simply cannot know for certain. There are many things that we do know, but there are also many that we simply will not know until they unfold in time. Much like looking into a fog.
I like to look at it like the few weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. We know who the teams are. We know the players. We know where and when they are playing, and we know each team’s stats from the season. But with all of that, we don’t know who is going to win. And even if someone from the future could tell us the final score, we still wouldn’t know exactly how that score was obtained or all the details of each minute of the game. It’s the same way in prophecy. So, the best thing I encourage each of you to do is, in addition to listening to me, do your own research.
The things I’m about to cover have been interpreted many different ways and have lead to many different conclusions. What I’m going to teach you is what I have come to believe based on my own research. I’m pretty confident about most of it, but like I said, because I am human and so are you, and we can not actually see into the future – there will always be a level of uncertainty with how we understand these events unfolding.
But that’s OK, because what ultimately matters is not how accurate we are regarding the end times. What ultimately matters is whether or not you have made King Jesus YOUR KING or not.  That, and that alone, will determine your ultimate destiny which will last much much longer than the seven years of tribulation we will see described in this book.
Now with that said, let’s talk about the future event that we call the Rapture.
I say that “we call it the rapture” because that is not the term used for it in in our English Scripture. Where we get the term “rapture” actually comes from the Latin Vulgate translation of
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
The Greek word translated as “caught up” in verse 17 is ἁρπαγησόμεθα which comes from the root verb ἁρπάζω which means to seize by force or snatch up. The Latin Vulgate, which was pretty much the only translation used until the 1500’s,  translated that Greek term as the latin RAPTURA – which has a meaning like being seized or kidnapped. Anyway, I’m sure you can see how we got RAPTURE from that.
And in case you’ve never heard of it, the Rapture is defined as the future event that is described in the passage I just read. Jesus will come down from heaven, the trumpet will sound. And in an instant, everyone who has died already and was a true Believer  will be resurrected, given new bodies, and fly up to the sky to meet the Lord in the air. A split second later, all true believers who are still alive at that moment will also receive new bodies and meet the Lord in the air. And as the passage says we will be with the Lord forever.
Another passage that describes this is
1 Corinthians 15:51
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

We actually see quite a few references to this event in Paul’s letters. The Apostle Paul, in case you don’t know became a Christ Follower after the risen Jesus blinded him on the road to Damascus. After that, he got the Gospel and much more straight from the Jesus himself. He even was taken up to heaven in similar fashion to John at some point but was told not to write what he saw.

 

But I guess he was permitted to talk about some of it because it seems that especially for the Thessalonians and Corinthians, he had explained the whole thing to them in person and the letters were just to answer some questions or clear up some misunderstanding without spelling it out in detail again. And so, that is what we have to go on. But, based on the many side references to these events, we have come up with the picture I explained to you.

 

Most scholars and commentators agree on the details of the rapture that I have so far described. It’s hard not to because it’s spelled out pretty clearly. The place where people start disagreeing is on the question of WHEN this event happens.

Now, I don’t mean WHEN as in the day, month, and year. That is something we cannot know. That is clear in scripture in multiple places.
Most notably from the mouth of Jesus himself in two different places.
Matthew 24 (similar in Luke 17)

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Here Jesus tells his disciples that when He comes back, it will be a complete surprise to everyone. He said something similar to the church at Sardis.  If you recall from a couple of weeks ago, Sardis was the church that thought it was alive but it was really dead.
Revelation 3:3
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
That phrase, “like a thief”, is used often in Scripture to indicate an unexpected surprise, or at least an unexpected time.
And so, when we speak of WHEN the rapture will happen – what we mean is WHEN in relation to another event that is part of the end times prophecy, and that is the tribulation.

 

What we call the tribulation (and it actually is called that in some places in Scripture) is the period of time that Jesus described this way:

Matthew 24
21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

Clearly such global great distress has not happened yet. Not that there hasn’t been ANY distress or localized tribulation. The Christian church has been persecuted at various levels since it began. In the early days, Nero used impaled Christians as tiki torches. There have been countless martyrs for the faith through the centuries, and even today we are seeing Christians being tortured and killed in the middle east and china and other places. But so far, we have yet to see the overwhelming and completely global, not just localized, wholesale persecution of the church AND major catastrophes on the earth as described in the next few chapters of Revelation.

 

So, although there IS already SOME tribulation, as in trouble, going on for Chrstians – it’s not THE Tribulation described by Jesus or what John sees in this book. So, the tribulation is still in our future, and the Rapture either happens before, during, or at the end of it.

If you do some research you will find an enormous amount of writing in all three camps. Most fall into either the Pre-Tribulation or the Post-Tribulation camp, or Pre-Trib and Post-Trib for short.
This is not the same as Pre-Millenial and Post-Millenial – we will get into that a bit later in this series.
Based on my own research, I have come to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, meaning that the rapture of the church will happen before the remaining events spelled out in Revelation, the tribulation. 
Now, whether our clothes will be left in a pile as some movies depict or even folded up neatly as others show, I don’t know. Scripture doesn’t tell us anything other than it will be very fast and unmistakeable. We also do not know if the rest of the world will be able to hear the trumpet or see Jesus in the air or if our bodies will be visible as they go to meet Him. For all of those details we will just have to wait and see.
But as to the question of when in relation to the tribulation this happens, I am pretty confident that it is before, not during and not after.
And one Scripture that makes this clear to me is something we covered just two weeks ago.
In the letter to Philadelphia in the previous chapter, Jesus makes a very specific promise:
Revelation 3:10
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
And as I said that week, there is really only one thing that could qualify as a trial that is going to come on the whole world – and that’s the tribulation.
So really, if this verse was all we had to go on, I would think the argument would be settled. But the truth is, this is not the only evidence.  There’s much more.
One such evidence comes in the passage I already covered from Matthew 24, but I’m going to look at its counterpart in Luke as it is a bit more descriptive for this point.
Luke 17
24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 

What is Jesus telling us here with the examples of Noah and Lot? He’s telling us two things about when he comes back.

 

One: it will be a surprise to the point that everyone will be going about their normal lives completely unsuspecting when it suddenly comes upon them, and

 

Two: that the righteous will be saved from the coming destruction just like Noah and Lot.

 

We see this a lot in Scripture where events of the Old Testament foreshadow similar events in the future. And we see multiple times in the history of Israel where righteous people were taken out of a place before it is destroyed, which would seem to foreshadow, as Jesus here indicates, that the same thing will happen with the worst calamity to ever befall the earth. The righteous will be saved from it before it happens. And we know that the only righteous are those who have the righteousness of Christ due to their faith in Him. Otherwise known as Christians or Christ Followers.

Another passage that speaks on this is in 1 Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 5:1-9
1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and 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, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 
Now, this passage might seem a bit confusing at first. First, Paul says that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, surprising the people who are saying “Peace and safety.” Then he says that YOU, fellow believers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
Is he saying we won’t be surprised by the rapture like I just said we would?

No, he’s saying we won’t be surprised by the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is not the rapture. The Day of the Lord is when Jesus comes all the way back to the earth as a conquering king, defeating his enemies, and setting up his thousand year rule. Otherwise known as the Second Coming.

 

I could do a whole sermon on just this distinction as there are many Scriptures that make this abundantly clear, but I don’t think you want to sit here for three hours today…

 

The Rapture is sometimes called a “fly by” – as in Jesus never touches earth. He stays up in the sky and brings us up to him. In the Second Coming, He comes all the way down to the earth – and what’s more – we will be with Him when He does.
Revelation 19:11-14 – Christ’s Return
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.

We will talk about this scene in detail a bit later in the series, but what we should notice right now about this coming is that he has the armies of heaven with him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.

Where else do we see such imagery – specifically the white clothing?
One is in the letter to Sardis in chapter 3
Revelation 3:5
The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white.
The 24 elders in chapter 4 that we read today are dressed in white.
And really, we only need to back up a few verses in that same chapter – 19 – to see exactly what white linen means:
Revelation 19
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing watersand like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
So, it is undeniable that this army that follows Jesus back to earth are his bride, the church, the saints, God’s holy people – US WHO BELIEVE.
Two other passages make this even clearer:
1 Thess 3:13
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Jude 1
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone,
Angels are never called “his holy ones.” So, if nothing else – regardless of when we go up, we all come down together with Him when He returns as the conquering King.

 

So, now back to the Thessalonians passage we were referring to. Paul is telling the believers they will not be surprised by this Day of the Lord, the Second Coming. That is true because once certain events take place the timing of this final event will be known from the prophecies we will cover in that Back to the Future miniseries, so that those saved during the tribulation can look forward to it ending.

 

It is also true because, if we are coming down from heaven with Jesus at that point, it means we were already up in heaven before this happens, and thus we will not be on earth to be surprised by it.

That is what he means in verse 9
1 Thess 5:9
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are not appointed to go through the wrath that is the tribulation. And if you come to the Back to the Future miniseries, you will understand how that is exactly what the tribulation is about – God’s wrath.

But that is not the only evidence either.

There is good evidence in Revelation chapter 4, which is where we started today, that in this part of John’s vision, the church is already in heaven.

The main indication is the presence of the 24 elders.
Let’s revisit the text from chapter 4 since we’ve gone all over the place since I read it minutes ago:
Revelation 4
1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
We will talk about the rainbow and the throne next week. Right now we are interested in these elders.

 

 

The Greek word for elder is πρεσβύτερος – where we get our English word Presbyter. It means a mature man having seasoned judgment (experience); an elder. So, these are definitely human beings, and not angels.

Another clue that these are human beings is the kind of crowns they have. There are two Greek words for crown: στέφανος and διάδημα.  Diadema is a crown of birthright, not earned by anything done, but an inherent right because of who that person is – like a king. Stephanos is a crown that is earned, most commonly in the olympic games, and also the kind of crown often referred to in Scripture as the crown of life. Well, that is the kind of crowns these elders are wearing. They are Stephanos, earned for a life well lived. Angels don’t get such things.
So, we are sure they are human.

So, who are they?  Answer: We don’t know. And their specific identity must not be important because it wasn’t included in the description.

 

The more important question is, why 24?

 

One thing to note from this point forward: details matter. Specific details, and especially numbers are all included for a reason. If the number 24 wasn’t important, John would have just said several or many. We will see this a lot in Revelation.

 

As I’ve explained before, numbers are symbolic. To find the meaning of numbers in Scripture we look at how they are used in various contexts. The specific use of 24 other than in this scene goes all the way back to details of the Levitical priesthood.The details are recorded in the OT book of 1 Chronicles….24. That should be easy to remember.

 

In order to carry out the ceremonial duties of the tabernacle and temple, the priests were divided into 24 groups who would effectively take shifts in administering the Law and standing as representative of all the people of Israel before God. Similarly, the musicians who served in the same fashion with music were also divided into 24 sections in representative form as well. From this we gather that the number 24 is a number that indicates the representation of a whole group of people. And indeed, that seems to be the case here in Revelation with the 24 elders. 

 

After Christ created his new church, elders replaced priests in a sense. There was no longer ceremonial duties, but they still acted as leadership for and representative of groups of Christians. And so, with 24 elders being present here in the throne room it is reasonable to believe that they represent the church, and the entirety of it.

 

Not only does 24 mean representative of a whole, the fact that there are exactly 24 thrones and each one is filled is also indicative of a completeness. It is not a stretch to think this picture symbolizes the whole church being in heaven at this point.

And how would that happen except that the whole church was taken from the earth and brought to heaven before this scene unfolded?
Now at this point you may be wondering if the 24 elders necessarily represent the entire church? After all – aren’t there going to be more people saved during the tribulation? Are they not part of the church?

 

Well, actually it would seem they are not. Not all humans who make it to heaven are part of “the church” – all the heroes of the faith that died before Christ walked the earth are definitely going to be in heaven, but they are not part of “the church.” Likewise, those who are saved after the church is removed will still make it to heaven but will not be part of “the church.” I will get into this in more detail later in the series, but for now just understand that at the wedding of Christ the Groom and the Church the Bride – there are also invited wedding guests who get to enjoy the party. Some of these guests will be the Old Testament Saints, and some will be the Tribulation Saints. If this hurts your brain, don’t worry I’ll get to this again later in the series.

So, all that to say there is good evidence these 24 elders indicate the church is in heaven in totality. 

I believe these things in addition to the other Scriptures I’ve mentioned all point to a probable pre-tribulation rapture, but I welcome you to do your own research if you disagree.

There is one other thing here in chapter four that many think could also be symbolic of the rapture, and that’s the way John is told to “come up here” with a voice that sounds like a trumpet and is immediately swooped up into heaven. That sounds pretty similar to what we should expect when the rapture happens. And that’s not the only place this happens in Revelation.

 

Later when we get to the two witnesses. I won’t go into detail about them today, but basically they are from God and they cause lots of trouble for the antichrist until finally he is allowed to kill them. Their bodies lay in the street for three days and then this happens.

Revelation 11
11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
 
Another “come up here” and a going up to heaven via the sky. Quite rapturesque wouldn’t you say?

 


Shifting Gears…

 

One more clue before I get to the one that ultimately convinced me. This one has to do with the Jewish feasts.

 

There are seven (surprise, surprise) feasts that God commanded the Israelites to observe on an annual basis after He brought them out of Egypt as part of the overall Law. It turns out they were more than just built-in holidays, they were prophetic. We know this because the first four have been fulfilled.

1) Passover (Leviticus 23:5)Held on the 14th day of Nisan. Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover at the same hour that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening (John 19:14).

 

2) Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6)Seven-day feast starting the day after Passover. Pointed to the Messiah’s sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ body was in the grave during the first days of this feast.

3) First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10)On the day after the Sabbath following the Passover. Pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”
4) Weeks or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16)Occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age (see Acts 2). The Church was actually established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the gospel.
So, these feasts that the Jews had been practicing for hundreds of years lined up exactly with Jesus’ death and resurrection and the beginning of the church. Hardly any biblical commentators and scholars deny this. So, it would seem only obvious to expect the other three to be fulfilled in like manner. 
The first four feasts happen in the spring, then there is a long break and the last three occur in the fall.
5) Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24)The first of the fall feasts. Celebrated the first day of the 7th month. Many believe this day points to the Rapture of the Church when the Messiah Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:52).
6) Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27)This is on the 10th day of the 7th month. Many believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).

 

7) Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:34)A seven-day feast that begins on the 15th day of the 7th month. Many scholars believe that this feast points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over all the world (Micah 4:1-7).

 

Now, I just covered that very briefly. There is much more to this if you do some research. But pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say?

 

Anyway, these again are just clues that you can decide for yourself what you think they mean, if anything.

 


 

Now, I’m sure for some of you, you’re head is spinning. This is a lot of information and I’m going fast. My head is still spinning and I’ve been studying this for months!  So, before we get to this next and final point I want to make sure you’re ready to hear it. So, everyone stand up. Stretch a little. Shake it out. Now sit back down and let me tell you the clue that finally convinced me.

 


 

So far I have shown a considerable amount of Scriptural evidence that I believe points to a pre-tribulation rapture. But to be honest, as I was doing my research I actually wavered back and forth a bit between pre-trib and post-trib as I went through the various arguments. There are indeed a few believable arguments for a post-trib rapture that I’ll leave you to research on your own, but when I came across what I’m about to share with you I was finally fully convinced of a pre-trib rapture.
It comes from a passage that most church people are familiar with but probably have no idea what it really means.
John 14
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
 
This is one of those passages we like to put a frame around and hang on our walls. It’s so comforting and reassuring. Jesus wants to be with us. He’s preparing a place for us. It’s awesome!  But what in the world is he talking about?
If you grew up with the KJV, you know this as “In my father’s house are many mansions…” making it even more confusing. “Many rooms” is a more accurate to the Greek translation.  But still, what is Jesus talking about?
Well, I’ll tell you why this is confusing to most of us. It’s because most of us are not first century Palestinian Jews. What Jesus says here about rooms and preparing a place and coming back and such would have made perfect sense to his audience and brought up a whole picture of something they were very familiar with but is totally lost on us.
To give you a clue, let me attempt to bring the metaphor he is using into our modern American context.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father has a great job lined up for me that pays well enough that I’ll be able to afford a nice house for us. We’ll have to spend some time apart first, but when the time is right I’ll meet you at the altar and after we say our vows to each other we will be together forever!
Do you get the picture? I hope I made it clear enough that you should be picturing a wedding ceremony in your head. (I’m sure the picture helps too)

 

Well, it turns out that is exactly what Jesus was alluding to, only it wasn’t a wedding ceremony like you and I would imagine – it was a wedding ceremony that was practiced in the culture he was living in – a Jewish wedding ceremony from the first century – which is NOT how modern American Jewish weddings work if you’ve ever been to one.

Now, for the Jews of Jesus’ day it was a rather long and drawn out process that involved several specific steps that are still practiced in some parts of the world but are completely foreign to us sheltered Americans.
And to explain how that worked, I’ll need five volunteers. Four men and one lady.
Back in these days in the Jewish culture (and many others) marriages were primarily arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. I’m sure the bride and groom were involved in the decision in some cases, but often they would not be.
Now, before we get to the process I need to explain about the many rooms. In those days, families generally all lived together in one house. Usually something made of mud brick and not very big. And as the family grew, rooms would be added onto the house to accommodate more people – such as when a son got married.

Anyway, the marriage process began when the father of the groom decided it was time for his son to get married, though sometimes this process began when the bride and groom were still children and arranged for when they grew of age. He would choose a bride for his son from among his own tribe and send his servant to the father of the bride to arrange it and come to a price. Once the price was agreed to, the bride and groom were now betrothed or as we would say, engaged – even if they hadn’t even met. Such was the case when Abraham got a wife for his son Isaac by sending his servant on a long journey to get her.
Now, usually the bride would have a say in the matter at some point, but once the betrothal was arranged – legally they were pretty much married at this point and in order to break it off they would have to get divorced. That was the case with Joseph and Mary. They were engaged when he found out she was pregnant and he was thinking of divorcing her when the angel Gabriel told him not to.
So the servant goes back to the father of the groom to tell him the good news and the father tells the son to prepare a place for him and his bride – meaning build yourself an addition onto the house.
As that is going on, the bride is getting herself ready for the wedding day – which, consequently can happen at any time (like in Jesus’ parable of the virgins waiting for the groom who is going to come at an hour unknown but soon!). It is actually up to the father of the groom to decide when the son is done preparing and it’s time to get married. And once he’s decided, he tells his son, “Go get her!” So, the son rushes over to the brides house, scoops her up and takes her back to the place he just built to present her to his family and they spend a week in the first parts of the celebrations with just the grooms family.

 

Depending on where we are in history, sometimes this was the point where the bride and groom consummate the marriage in a private room while the bridal party waits.

Then, once they are done at the groom’s house, they join the bride’s family and invited guests and the celebration process goes into the next phase. That celebration could last from a few days to a few weeks usually depending on the affluence of the parents of the bride and groom. Then when all that is done, the bride and groom can settle down together and start having babies.

Are you seeing now what Jesus was alluding to that his disciples would have immediately picked up on?  He’s telling them/us – his church – his bride – that if he goes to prepare a place for us, then he will surely come again to take us to be where he is – because we are his bride! 

 

And if the example of the Jewish wedding is any indication, that will indeed be a fly-by where he comes, snatches us away for a period of time, and then we reemerge together to finish the celebrations.

 

And guess what we find in Revelation 19 at the end of the tribulation just before Jesus and his church come back to earth?

Revelation 19
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
 

It turns out that the whole millennial kingdom is part of the wedding celebration with the final completion of the ceremony being in the new heaven and new earth. But we’ll be getting to that sometime in the Spring.

 

And if your mind is blown now, just wait until the next few weeks…

Now, I don’t know about you, but that cultural background sealed the deal for me. One thing you will find as you study Scripture and especially the things that Jesus talked about, is that he constantly used illustrations from the Jewish culture of his surroundings. One, because the people he was teaching would understand what he was saying, and two – if you really think about it – the Jews were God’s chosen people, through whom the world would be blessed. Don’t you think, like with the feasts, that God would use the Jews to show the world more about himself than what is in writing?

 

Could it be that most of their customs and cultures and practices are different than the rest of the world because they point to the attributes of God and His plan? It turns out that is just the case, and you will have your mind blown about it like I did in the coming weeks. 

 

Anyway, all that to say, if you don’t understand the ancient Israelite culture you will totally miss so much of what the bible communicates. But as you start to learn the details of that culture, so much of God’s Word comes to life and make more sense – including this beloved passage about the father’s house that to me, points clearly to a rapture, a snatching away via fly by, of the bride/church before the bad stuff happens.

 


 

Anyway, I could give you even more evidence that requires a bit more explaining and background but I just don’t have time today. But as we get later in Revelation it will come up again, so I hope you will join us for the rest of this series.

 

So, with all of that said, I have shown you at least part of why I believe that we will be raptured before the tribulation that comes on the whole world. I covered a lot of stuff, but I will have my notes posted online if you want to take a closer look. And I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusion.

But whatever you conclude, the good news about all of this is that whether the rapture is before or after or during, the promises of God still stand. We who believe in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord, King, and Savior – are not appointed to wrath and Jesus says that He will come to get us so we can be with Him forever.

And that’s good and comforting news.

 

I encourage you to come back next week as I cover the rest of chapter 4 and 5. Some interesting stuff in those chapters. You should read ahead.

 

As for today, I am out of time and I’m sure you are all ready for some chili, pie, and cornbread.

 

So, let’s pray.