Behold, I show 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 shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
What is “HARPAZO”? Harpazo is a Greek word meaning “to seize upon with force.” When translating this word into English, we use the phrase “snatch up” or “caught up.” Harpazo is the Greek word used in Acts 8:39 where Philip was “caught away” and the eunuch saw him no more. The common term used by most modern day professing Christians when discussing this subject is “rapture.” There are those who have a concern with this concept and they emphasize that the word “rapture” does not appear in the Holy Bible. They are correct in their assertion, but the concept expressed by the word is indeed a concept that we can most certainly find in scripture. “Rapture” comes from the Latin word “rapturo.” “Rapturo” is the word which was used by Latin translators of the Holy Bible in referring to harpazo. In general conversation among prophecy students, the rapture or the HARPAZO refers to that time in the future when Jesus’ followers will be “caught up” or “snatched up” into the clouds and their bodies will be changed into bodies which are immortal, and they shall forever be with Jesus in eternity.
We can determine quite readily that the idea of the HARPAZO is absolutely a doctrine of the Holy Bible. What is not quite as easy to determine and what is debated among various groups of professing Christians is the answer as to when – relative to the return of Jesus to establish his Kingdom on Earth – does the harpazo or rapture occur. Probably most professing Christians believe that the return of Christ to establish his Kingdom coincides with the Harpazo (“post-tribulation” rapture), and that these are a one-in-the-same event. It is hoped that this chapter will answer our major curiosities concerning the Harpazo.
Generally speaking, the debate concerning when the rapture will occur centers around three specific times. These times are all related to the tribulation period. The tribulation period is a short period of time, usually agreed to be a seven year period immediately prior to the return of Jesus. The seven year period is normally, though not always, thought to be divided into two consecutive three and one-half year periods. This idea of a seven year period which is divided into two, three and one-half year periods, comes from interpretations of the prophecies found in Daniel and in Revelation. Generally, the times debated by the experts for the rapture to occur are these three: post tribulation (at the end of the seven year period), pre-tribulation (prior to the beginning of the seven year period), and mid-tribulation or pre-wrath (falling either directly in the middle of the seven year period, or just prior to the “wrath” portion of the seven year period).
I studied and considered this topic for over five years before finally coming to a decision. The decision turned out to be a very easy one when I once had the proper information put before me. During the time I was studying, I read books and articles which put forth various positions on the subject. All the writers had their models and their timelines, and they were all convinced that their particular version was the correct one. Once I attended a debate in Dallas, Texas, in which nationally recognized Christian experts debated their opinions concerning the timing of the rapture. I was disheartened, both at their lack of solid and complete logic and at the attitude of minor verbal attacks upon the other experts who disagreed with them. This was a subject, which obviously is difficult for everyone, and a subject upon which our eternal salvation DOES NOT depend. And yet, these Christians were verbally attacking and belittling each other. I was saddened. It was even more saddening when I realized that the experts from all three positions had failed to sell me on their particular model concerning the timing of the rapture. The models all had scriptural problems and were all lacking in sound bottom-line logic.
Eventually, I read a book called “Red Moon Rising” by Mr. Peter Goodgame which did much to put my mind at ease on this subject. What we will discuss in this chapter revolves around what I learned from reading that book. It was actually quite simple, and it answered most of my concerns on the subject of the rapture. If after reading this chapter on the subject of the rapture, you find yourself desiring additional information, I very much recommend Mr. Goodgame’s book.
Before we really get into the subject, let’s remember that though this subject is very provocative, and though it can play a large part in helping us to grasp the big picture of the prophetic outline of the latter days and of the tribulation, our eternal salvation DOES NOT depend upon our interpretation of this subject. If others disagree with us, it is probably not a disagreement we should ever debate nor a disagreement over which we should even become frustrated. Though I am confident that the information we will discuss in this chapter is relatively accurate, I could be wrong. I have been wrong before. I have been wrong about this particular subject before. Before I spent a five year period (part-time) of semi-serious study into this subject, my opinion concerning the timing of the rapture was pretty much opposite of my present (more informed) opinion. It has been my observation that most people who hold my previous opinion (post tribulation rapture) to be correct have done much less specific study into the subject than most of the people who hold my present opinion (pre-tribulation rapture). This in itself does not make either position correct. It does point out that if the pre-tribulation opinion is correct, it is something that is not on the surface when reading scripture. I doubt that anyone ever decided that there would be a pre-tribulation rapture by simply reading the Holy Bible through one time. It is information that typically requires study. I hope you find this chapter enlightening.
The immediate and obvious problem which most folks have with the pre-tribulation rapture, is that it requires that Jesus return twice. If Jesus is to return twice, it would be once to rapture the saints, and then a few years later to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. The problem is that no where does scripture pointedly say that Jesus returns twice. It does, though, on careful scrutiny provide two quite different descriptions of his return. Also, if there is to be only one return by Jesus at the end of the tribulation, then we are left with some unanswered questions concerning several passages of scripture. These questions are readily addressed if Jesus returns twice. If we begin to wonder why the two returns are not plainly spelled out, let’s remember that the Old Testament described two comings of the Messiah (once as a suffering Servant who was crucified, and once as a conquering King), but it never plainly says that the Messiah will come twice. Very few people prior to Jesus’ first coming realized that his visitation would be dual. But now that we know that his visitation is/will be dual, it seems to be quite plain in the text of the Old Testament. If we read the Holy Bible, with the idea in mind that it just might describe that Jesus will return twice (once for the rapture of his saints, and once to establish the Kingdom of God), then it becomes much more plain that this is what scripture describes.
Before we go any further, let’s cite some verses which seem to describe or lend to the idea of a rapture that occurs prior to the time of great tribulation and war when Jesus will return to the Earth as the conquering King. And let’s note as we read these verses that some of them are verses even from the Old Testament which seem to refer to the harpazo.
Psalm 27:5 – For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
After reading the above verse, we first notice that it refers to a time of trouble (tribulation?) and it then speaks of being hidden in the secret of God’s tabernacle. We know that God’s tabernacle is not in this world. If we were to be hidden in God’s tabernacle during the tribulation, then a pre-tribulation rapture would be required.
Zephaniah 2:3 – Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.
Again we have a verse which speaks of being hidden during the day of the LORD’s anger (or the tribulation). When we read the details of the tribulation period in the Book of Revelation, we almost have to ask ourselves – “Where in this world could there be a place to hide given the description of the worldwide tribulation?” If indeed there will be no place in this world to hide, then being hidden would require a pre-tribulation rapture away from this world. People have often stated (post-tribulation believers) something similar to, “I believe that the LORD has the ability to protect us on this Earth during the tribulation.” We can surely all believe that the LORD has such ability, but can we not additionally believe that the LORD has the ability to rapture us to his tabernacle during the tribulation? This seems to be what he says he will do.
Isaiah 26:19-21 – Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, YHWH cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
The above passage from Isaiah speaks of “entering into thy chambers” for protection. What type of chambers could protect us from the tribulation described in the Book of Revelation? There is a wedding that is described in Revelation as taking place in heaven. Could this passage above refer to the bridal chambers of Jesus’ bride (the church)? Those chambers would be in heaven, and this verse would thus require a pre-tribulation rapture.
Joel 2:16 – Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
The context of this verse from Joel is “the day of the LORD”, during which the tribulation occurs. It refers to the bridegroom going forth from his chamber (Jesus going forth to execute judgment upon the world?) and the bride out of her closet (the church coming out of her closet or chamber where she had been protected?). This verse taken alone would give us little information, but then we know that no prophecy is of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), and when we put this verse in the context of the wedding that is to occur as described in Revelation, it seems to draw us to the conclusion that the bride (church) was being protected in heaven during the tribulation. This again would require a pre-tribulation rapture.
Matthew 24:36-42 – But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
These verses from Matthew seem very plain. They occur at a time which seems to be relatively normal, with normal activities such as eating, drinking, and marrying just like the people prior to Noah’s flood who had no clue concerning the coming flood. People are working in the field and grinding at the mill, which are daily activities and then “WHAM!” one is taken while the other is left. All these people had no clue that the rapture was about to occur. First, let’s consider the description of the tribulation period. That period will be so horrible that we can doubt that there will be people “grinding at the mill.” It is not a normal time; it is a horrible time. Therefore this scripture references an event that must be before the tribulation. Also, at Jesus’ return to establish the Kingdom, there is no account of people being “taken” or “left,” and seemingly no reason for it at that point in time. Instead, all will come before him and he will separate the “sheep from the goats.” These verses must be describing a pre-tribulation rapture. Let’s not forget that Jesus’ final return to establish his Kingdom comes after a precise seven year countdown. Those who live through the tribulation will be able to look to the exact date of Jesus’ return if they are aware of scripture and if they keep an account of the last 1260 days or the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation. If they are only vaguely aware of scripture or if they have no calendars to easily keep up with the exact dates, they can still know that Jesus will return roughly seven years after the beginning of the tribulation or 3 ½ years after the two witnesses are murdered in the streets of Jerusalem. Concerning “the unknown hour” from the scripture above, let’s consider that when we search the scriptures and read the passages describing the Lord Jesus' return, we find various verses that tell us we won't know the day and hour of that event. In addition to the above verses which refer to the unknown hour, Matthew 25:13 is another verse that says Jesus will return at an unknown time. And then we find other scriptures such as Revelation 12:6 which pointedly indicate that there will be a waiting period of 1,260 days. This 1260 day period begins when the coming world ruler (Antichrist) stands in the new temple of God and we see “the abomination of desolation” as this leader declares himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This particular event, along with the murdering of the two witnesses takes place at the mid-point of a seven-year tribulation period (Daniel 9:27). Let’s note here that some students of prophecy teach only a three-and-a-half-year tribulation. They are not necessarily incorrect because the first half of this seven year period is the time during which the two witnesses will be preaching to the world, and the tribulation of those first 3½ years will be relatively mild compared to the second 3½ years. Regardless as to whether the “tribulation” is 3½ years or seven years, at some point in time after the harpazo, there still remains to be a specific last seven-year period immediately prior to Jesus’ return, as described by Daniel. When those who flee from Judea into the wilderness depart, they will know that they have 1,260 days to wait for Jesus (Matthew 24:16). When we consider the coming world leader posturing himself as God, and we consider the murder of the two witnesses, and we consider the fleeing by those who are in Judea, then we cannot apply to these situations the phrase "neither the day nor the hour". Our only remaining choice seems to be to separate these two distinct events. Thus, we conclude that the rapture of the Church is prior to the tribulation, and that the return of Jesus to establish his Kingdom is at the end of the tribulation.
Luke 21:36 – 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 is obviously telling us that some will escape the tribulation. This, by itself, would not absolutely require a rapture, but as a practical matter, how else could the tribulation be escaped? The description of the tribulation seems to be that the complete and entire world is in terrible chaos and agony. If there is no pre-tribulation rapture – how could anyone escape while still being on the Earth?
John 14:2-3 – In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Here in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he is preparing something awesome for his bride (the church), and that after the preparations are made, he will come for his church, “that where he is there we may be also”. Jesus is obviously not making such preparations in this world or on this Earth, so if he takes us to where he is we would have to be raptured. And since, when Jesus comes to establish his Kingdom on Earth, he will at that time be on Earth, the above passage must refer to a time prior to the establishment of the Kingdom; thus we have a pre-tribulation rapture.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 – 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 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Above in I Thessalonians, we learn that the saints are to meet Jesus in the atmosphere at his return, and that the dead will rise to meet him first in the clouds. We know that at the establishment of the Kingdom, Jesus will physically come down to the Earth, and we would have no need to “meet Him in the air.” Let’s also notice that Christians are to “comfort one another with these words”. If this was referring to a time after the tribulation period, and if we have to first live through such a period, how much comfort would these words be? This is another reference to a pre-tribulation rapture.
I Thessalonians 5:9 – For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, which in context is concerned with the “coming of the Lord”, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has not appointed us to wrath. We know that God’s wrath occurs during the tribulation. Thus, if Christians are not to be a part of the wrath, then Christians must have been raptured away during the wrath of God. We also know that according to Revelation 13:7, the coming world ruler (Antichrist) will overcome the saints that are living on the Earth. If the saints who are here during the tribulation are to be overcome by the Antichrist, then they must be suffering through the awful time of God’s wrath. Paul tells us that the believers were not appointed to this. Our conclusion must be that there will be those who are converted during the tribulation period who will suffer and indeed many will be beheaded. But those who are in Christ prior to that time are NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH, and will thus be raptured to another dimension. For the last two thousand years, whatever has been suffered by the peoples of Earth has been suffered by both Christians and non-Christians. In Nagasaki Japan, the atomic bomb exploded over a church. In the past, Christians have not received any peculiar protection from the happenings on Earth. And yet we are told that Christians are NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH during the tribulation. It certainly seems that the Christians must be raptured away from the tribulation. How else can we interpret 1 Thessalonians 5:9? It must refer to the removal of the Church from this world.
Revelation 3:10 – Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the HOUR of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Here in Revelation, Jesus is telling the Church that he will keep them from the HOUR of temptation (the tribulation) which will come upon all who dwell on the Earth. If this hour of temptation is to affect all who dwell on the Earth, then Jesus must be placing the church somewhere other than the Earth (raptured away from the Earth) and it must be prior to the tribulation, since the church will be kept from the tribulation. Additionally, let’s pay particular attention that the church will be kept from the HOUR of temptation. Since an hour is a span of time, the only way to be kept from the HOUR is to be outside the space-time continuum. God saved Noah from the flood, but not from the HOUR of the flood. God saved Lot from the destruction of Sodom, but not from the HOUR of that destruction. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saved from their execution by fire, but they lived through the HOUR of their trial in the furnace. We can see that it surely seems that this promise can only be fulfilled by Jesus removing his church from this dimension. Thus we can conclude that Jesus plans to rapture the church away to another dimension prior to the tribulation.
Let’s now look at some scriptures that talk about Jesus’ planned return to Earth to establish his Kingdom, and notice the differences between these scriptures and those scriptures from above which refer to his return for the purpose of the harpazo or rapture of the church. We can see that these seem to paint a different picture than do the verses above which refer to the rapture. The verses below speak of a return to Earth, not to the atmosphere above the Earth. They speak of a return by Jesus WITH the saints, not a return to rapture the saints.
Zechariah 14:4-5 – And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
Let’s notice two very important factors about this passage in Zechariah. First, Jesus is returning to the Earth (his feet shall stand on the Earth), whereas for the rapture, the church will meet him in the air. Secondly, as Jesus returns in this passage, the saints (the church) are already with him (since they were raptured away prior to the beginning of the tribulation).
I Thessalonians 3:13 – To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
Again we notice in I Thessalonians, that Jesus will return with all his saints. How could Jesus return with his saints if they were not raptured away prior to his return?
Jude 14-15 – And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Again, in Jude we are told that the Lord is returning with his saints. Thus they must have been raptured away prior to the Lord’s return.
Revelation 17:14 – These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of lords and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Once more in Revelation, we see that when the King of Kings returns he will have his church (called, chosen, and faithful) with him. Therefore, the church had to have been raptured away prior to Jesus’ return.
Revelation 19:5-16 – And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
In the above verses we read about the marriage supper of the Lamb. From Luke 12:36, we can learn that when Christ returns, He will be returning from a wedding. Here in Revelation 19, we read about the marriage itself. According to Jewish custom, the marriage supper takes place before the marriage. At the time of the wedding, the bridegroom goes to the home of the bride unannounced. She is then taken to her new home which is the bridegroom’s father's house. This custom provides us a precise correlation with the events according to a pre-tribulation rapture. Jesus, the Bridegroom, comes and raptures the Church, His Bride. After meeting in the atmosphere, the Bridegroom and the bride return to His Father's home. The marriage supper then takes place in heaven away from the tribulation on Earth. Let’s notice from the above verses that both the bride and the armies which follow Jesus are arrayed in “fine linen, white and clean". Let’s also note that we are told above that “fine linen is the righteousness of saints”. Here we clearly see that the saints (church) are the bride which is also the armies following Jesus. We can see from this passage that the saints must have been raptured prior to Jesus’ return to establish the Kingdom.
Though there are a number of additional scriptures, those above should function well enough to establish that there will be a rapture of the church prior to the tribulation. But before we leave this thought, and in order to further establish in our minds the pre-tribulation rapture, let’s look at the few thoughts or tidbits of information below.
- We are told that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). We are also told that the coming world leader (Antichrist) shall overcome the saints (Revelation 11:7, 20:4 & Daniel 11:33-36). Taken together, are these statements an indication that the church will be removed from the earth?
- In the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25, the five wise virgins tell the five foolish virgins to go and buy oil. The “mark of the beast” will be in effect during the tribulation. The “mark of the beast” will be required for any person to buy or sell. When the "mark of the beast" is in use, which it will be immediately prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of God, Christians would not advise Christians to buy or to sell. Can we then conclude from this parable an indication of a pre-tribulation rapture, since the mark of the beast has not yet been used when the bridegroom is returning for the bride?
- Those who take the position of a post-tribulation rapture, suppose that the church will meet Jesus in the air and immediately return to Earth for the Battle of Armageddon. I have heard a couple of people ask the question, “Since Jesus uses the analogy of a marriage between himself and the church to describe his relationship with the church, would not the post-tribulation idea of the rapture (meeting Jesus in the air and immediately coming back to the battle of Armageddon) relegate the marriage supper to a fast food snack?”
Let’s now discuss another topic that fits quite well with the ideas addressed above. Any study of the harpazo or the rapture requires a study of the seven seals beginning in the sixth chapter of Revelation. Almost all experts on Holy Bible prophecy teach that the timeline for the tribulation begins with the opening of the 1st seal. With a little careful attention, I believe that we can establish that this is an incorrect concept, and that the tribulation does not begin prior to the 6th seal being opened. The openings of the first four seals seem to describe some terrible things. But if we read carefully, we can see that the riders of the four horses were given power to do or to accomplish some terrible things, though we do not see graphic descriptions that these terrible things actually happened at that time. The 5th seal describes the resurrection of the dead, and gives a description of the actual event. Let’s note that the “souls under the altar” ask how long it will be before God avenges their blood on those who dwell on the Earth. Why would they ask such a question, if the tribulation were under way? The tribulation is obviously a horrible time and contains a specific number of days, and yet these souls did not notice anything horrible or unusual happening and they did not know how long before God’s vengeance would begin. Can we decide that this must mean that the 5th seal is opened prior to the tribulation?
With the opening of the 6th seal we find the mention that the moon will appear red as blood. The blood red moon is mentioned only three times in scripture. Other than here in Revelation, the blood red moon is referred to only in Joel, and then the Book of Acts quotes the verse from Joel. So, the only other reference in scripture to a blood red moon comes from Joel 2:31 where Joel tells us that the moon will turn blood red BEFORE the great and terrible day of the LORD. This means that when the 6th seal is opened and the blood red moon appears, the day of the LORD, or the tribulation has not yet begun! Thus the opening of the first seal cannot signal the beginning of the tribulation, since the sixth seal is opened prior to the beginning of the tribulation. With the remainder of the description of the 6th seal, we can see that worldwide disaster has indeed come to the Earth as an actual event. Later in the text, but prior to the opening of the 7th seal, John sees the innumerable multitude. An angel then tells John that the people who make up the multitude are those who have come out of or “away from” great tribulation. It seems clear that in seeing this multitude, John is witnessing the raptured saints in Heaven.
Many bible teachers believe that this large multitude went through the tribulation and are standing before God after death or martyrdom. The Greek word translated as “out of” in Revelation 7:14 is “ek.” This Greek word is a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), and can mean from or out (of place, time, or cause; literal or figurative). The Online Bible Greek Lexicon gives the proper meaning as “out of” or “from” or “by” or “away from.” So the translation of Revelation 7:14 could read that the innumerable multitude were those who had come AWAY FROM great tribulation. We can then conclude that the innumerable multitude must be the raptured saints. As we continue reading the description of the 7th seal, we can then see that the “wrath of God” is truly loosed on Earth. The 7th seal does not simply describe a power or ability, as do the first four seals. The 7th seal describes horrible events taking place on Planet Earth. We must conclude that the 7th seal signals the beginning of the tribulation. And let’s remember, the 7th seal takes place while the innumerable multitude of raptured saints are in heaven as described after the opening of the 6th seal.
Revelation 7:9-14 – After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of (or away from) great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Before we finish our discussion of the harpazo, there are two sometimes troublesome verses which we should address. The first is I Corinthians 15:52 where Paul refers to “the last trump,” or trumpet. Some folks assume that this means the last trumpet in the book of Revelation. Numerous and long essays have been written on this subject, and we don’t need to devote such time to the topic here. Let’s suffice it to say that trumpets are referred to numerous times in scripture, and that there is no evidence other than assumption that the trumpet referred to by Paul is the same as the 7th trumpet in Revelation. Let’s also note that Revelation had not even been written when Paul wrote I Corinthians.
The second passage is found in Revelation chapter 20. Here verses 4 through 6 read as follows: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” We can see that reference is made to the “first” resurrection. We can also see that in a timeline, this event appears to happen after Jesus’ return to establish his Kingdom on Earth. This can indeed be confusing when considering the pre-tribulation rapture, and when we know that the dead in Christ will rise prior to the rapture. So, what is the explanation for this “first” resurrection? The explanation is that we have another instance of the problems of language translation. The Greek word here translated as “first” has other meanings, as well; it does not always mean “first.” The Greek word here is “protos” and according to Strong’s Greek Lexicon, protos carries the following meanings: “foremost (in time, place, order or importance):—before, beginning, best, chief(-est), first (of all), former.” The Online Bible Greek Lexicon uses the following as meanings for “protos”: “first in rank, influence or honor; chief; principal”. Thus we can see that the above passage from Revelation 20 is referring to the “chief” or “principal” resurrection. It is definitely not the “first” when considering a timeline; after all, was not Jesus the “firstborn of the resurrection”?
Let’s also note concerning the above passage from Revelation 20, that the only people who are a part of this particular resurrection are those who are beheaded during the tribulation. And then this passage tells us that the rest of the dead did not live until after the thousand year reign of Jesus. Yet, we know that the dead in Christ will rise prior to the rapture, and they therefore cannot be among the “rest of the dead” referred to in Revelation 20 above. Thus, this passage is actually further proof that the dead in Christ must have already been resurrected; else they could not be a part of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
We might ask ourselves why this particular resurrection is the chief or principle or foremost or “first in rank” of the resurrections. We might guess that this is the principal resurrection because it involves a larger number of people than any other resurrection prior to the Kingdom of God. If the experts are correct in their assertion that there are presently more people alive in this world than there are people who have died in all of history, then it could likely be the case that the resurrection of Revelation 20 cited above will resurrect the largest number of people of any resurrection. This, unfortunately, also means that there will be an almost unimaginable number of people who lose their heads during the tribulation period. We should pray always that we will be accounted worthy to escape the trials that are coming on the world (Luke 21:36).
We know from the word of God that we cannot know precisely the day or the hour when the rapture will occur. But we also know that we will be given signs that we may know when the end of this age is near. We cannot study the topic of this chapter without wondering when the Messiah will return for his church. SO, when will Jesus return? That has been the question of the ages. In the last fifty years there has been a steady increase in the number of people who are interested in Bible prophecy, and a steady increase in the number of “experts” who are willing to decide upon a date of the return of the Christ. Some experts pick dates, but most propose a general time era within a few year period. I have not yet bought into any of the proposals, as none of them have seemed truly solid to me in all respects. I may now have my own proposal for a general time era – or better a general “deadline” for the return of Jesus. No, it’s not absolute, and I would in no way stake my salvation on it, and being wrong on this subject would not surprise me, but it may yet be worthy of consideration. Read on.
As a start let’s keep in mind that Jesus himself said that a single generation would live to see all the signs of his return. In Matthew 24:32-34 he said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” So now we need to know two things: 1) When does the parable of the fig tree begin?, and 2) How long is a generation?
As to the beginning of the countdown for the generation in the parable of the fig tree, most of the experts point to one of three dates:
- On December 9, 1917, British troops under the leadership of Sir Edmund Allenby seized Jerusalem. This was the beginning point of the west controlling Jerusalem and the beginning point of the setting up of a Jewish state.
- On May 14, 1948, the Jewish Community in Israel under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion reestablished sovereignty over their ancient homeland. The Declaration of Independence of the modern State of Israel was announced on that day which was the day that the last British forces left Israel.
- On June 27, 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated as a result of the Six-Day War, and the Eshkol government, with the backing of the Knesset, extended Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to the eastern part of Jerusalem.
Obviously, at least two of these dates are wrong. To my way of thinking, the first date is not a likely candidate for the beginning of the countdown. Though the importance of this date is now plain, only a very few very astute Bible prophecy scholars would have noticed the importance of this date at the time that it happened. Jesus said, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near”. I believe that he was referring to “things” that would be readily apparent to most all people. December 9, 1917, was not readily apparent to most, and even today only a few of those who study Bible prophecy are aware of that date; certainly the average person is not aware of the date or the event.
The second date, May 14, 1948, is one that many people are aware of. Indeed, the whole world was aware of the event when it happened. The whole world knew that “God’s Chosen People” (as they are known to the world) once again possessed a nation of their own. I believe that this is the starting point for the countdown of the “generation which shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.”
As for the third date of June 27, 1967 when the Jewish state regained control of Jerusalem, yes it is a very important date and it is a date with which many are familiar. Though a decent argument might be made that this could be the proper date for starting the countdown, I believe that the arguments are all lacking for one reason. That reason is May 14, 1948. The whole world ALREADY knew about the regathering of Israel, and certainly students of Bible prophecy already had their eyes on that very real beginning of signs of the end. When the Jews reformed a nation after almost 2000 years without a nation of their own, it was a truly miraculous event. It was an event that would be missed by no person who was paying attention to Bible prophecy. It signaled the parable of the fig tree. Many Rabbis and Christian scholars contend that the nation of Israel is likened to a fig tree. One of the reasons is the scripture of Hosea 9:10 which says “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time.” So if the signal of the parable began on May 14, 1948, it could not be restarted on June 27, 1967. June 27, 1967 was only another of the continuing signs of the end of this age. Thus, I have come to strongly believe that May 14, 1948 is the BANG that signals the beginning of the parable of the fig tree.
So, if May 14, 1948 signals the beginning, how long might we have left in this age? We must now decide, “How long is a generation?”, for Jesus said, “This generation shall not pass”. From scripture we can make decent arguments that a generation could be forty years, or seventy to eighty years, or a hundred years. Which, if any of these is correct? Let’s look at which is the most logical. The idea of a hundred year generation comes from Isaiah 65:20 where we are told that “every child shall live his hundred years before he dies”. So here we have a hundred years for the span of a generation, but in context, it is quite plain that this is referring to a time after the return of Jesus to earth. Thus the generation in the parable of the fig tree might be something different than a hundred years.
In Numbers 32:13 we are told, “And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed.” This is where some get the idea that a “biblical generation” is forty years. It might have some validity, but this was referring to a social order from around three millennia ago, and the generation referred to was twenty years old when the count started. Is there a more logical length of time for a generation in our age?
Psalm 90 is a Psalm worthy of study for several reasons. But for our purpose here let’s look at Psalm 90:10 which says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Here is where the idea for a generation being seventy to eighty years comes from. The Psalm certainly seems to fit the age in which we are living. Isn’t a typical life span around 75 years in length? I like this idea as the length of the generation to which Jesus referred when he said, “This generation shall not pass”. Let’s use this length to look further.
Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit in 27 AD or 28 AD according to most scholars. 2000 years after 28 AD brings us to 2028 AD. 2028 AD is EIGHTY years after May 14, 1948. Let’s also look at a couple of other points about this particular time. From Psalm 90:4, we are told “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” Additionally from 2 Peter 3:8, we are told “But beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Now, keep the thousand years for a day in mind as you read Hosea 6:1- 2, which says “Come and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day (or during the millennium) he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” So, Jesus will raise us up after two days which according to Peter is as two thousand years. And two thousand years after Jesus’ anointing brings us to 2028 AD, which is also eighty years or a generation (if by reason of strength, according to Psalm 90) after May 14, 1948. This is certainly not conclusive, but it is worthy of our attention, I believe.
If “the reason of strength” is not there and we only have a seventy year generation, this also brings us something of interest. An in depth study of God’s Holy Days and the symbolism involved, along with a study of the future rapture or “snatching away” of the believers leaves many with a feeling that the rapture will likely occur on either the Day of Pentecost or the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah). For a couple of reasons, but mainly because of the very strong indication that the rapture will be very shortly after the “blood red moon” referenced in Revelation Chapter 6, I am led to believe that the rapture might very well be on the Day of Pentecost. The reason is that the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) is always on the day of a new moon or “the dark of the moon.” This doesn’t seem to be a good time for God to display a “blood red moon” to the world. The Day of Pentecost, on the other hand, always falls relatively close to a full moon. Now, having said all of that – if the Rapture were to occur on the Day of Pentecost, and if the “generation which shall not pass” covers a seventy year period beginning on May 14, 1948, it becomes interesting. Seventy years after May 14, 1948 brings us to Monday May 14, 2018. The Day of Pentecost is always on a Sunday. In 2018, The Day of Pentecost is on Sunday, May 13, 2018 – ONE DAY before the expiration of the seventy year period which began on May 14, 1948. Again, this is not conclusive, but it is surely interesting and worthy of our attention.
One other note: By definition of the original Greek used, the generation referred to could also mean until ALL living at that point in time have died, regardless as to the length of their life.
I do believe that the clock started on May 14, 1948. For the reasons above, I also strongly suspect that the length of the generation referred to by Jesus is eighty years or less. I also believe that regardless of the length of the generation, the rapture could come at any time prior to the completion of the generation. Be ready. 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 21:36).