To be able to distinguish between the rapture and the appearing of Christ, it is important to notice a major difference. The rapture is described in 1 Thess. 4:15-18. The righteous are taken out of the world prior to it being judged; at the appearing of Christ, the wicked are gathered out for judgment, and the righteous left for the kingdom or the thousand year reign of Christ. It is the latter that is the subject of the Lord’s instruction to the disciples in the gospels, and to the elders of Israel at his trial.
Let us look at a few of these scriptures. In Matthew 13:38-43, the present public view of the kingdom is considered. It is what we call Christendom, the great profession that includes those that are real and those that are mere professors – the tares [darnel] and the wheat. At the end of this age, it is the angels that gather out the tares into bundles for burning, and it is the righteous that shine in the kingdom. Matthew 24 shows that his appearing to Israel and the world is after the tribulation. Jew and Gentile would have Christ go to heaven via suffering and death. Therefore the earth will only enjoy the kingdom after the judgment - the day of the Lord so often referenced by the prophets of old. Matthew 24:29-31 – But immediately after [my emphasis] the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the land lament, and they shall see the Son of man comng on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. This links with Zechariah 12:10-14 …they shall look on me whom they pierced, and they shall mourn, etc. In Matthew 25:31 he describes his judgment of the nations: But when the Son of man comes [or “shall have come”] in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit down upon his throne of glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before him, etc. You wil notice that all this action is “after the tribulation of those days”. That coming or appearing will be visible to all and Christ taking up his throne of glory is the action predicted by the Old Testament prophets and the Psalms.
At the close of the gospels the Lord Jesus anticipates both the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the three and a half years of tribulation. It takes some care to pick the transition from one to the other. We haven’t space just now for that discussion.
To return to the rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, this is not a matter of sight but of three great sounds – the Lord himelf, with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven, etc. In chapter 1:9-10 of this same epistle, Paul says: “to serve a living and true God, and to await his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from among the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the coming wrath”. We are delivered from it. The rapture is prior to the coming wrath. To recap, the rapture is marked by sound, the appearing by sight, and manifested glory. Colossians 3:4 tells us that we will be with him in glory, coming to reign with him. "When the Christ is manifested who is our life, then shall ye also be manifested with him in glory."
Is there any Old Testament scripture that typifies this translation of saints of God prior to judgment? Enoch, a man who walked with God in a period when the earth was corrupt and full of violence, was translated – see Genesis 5:24. Hebrews 11:5 - “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death …for before his translation he has the testimony that he had pleased God”. After that, Noah and his family went through the judgment [the flood] unharmed. These two are types of the assembly [church] and the faithful remnant of Israel; the one translated prior to the judgment, the other preserved in or through it. Scripture is amazing. There are many writers, but one Author.
To answer a few other questions from “A Young Christian”:
Antichrist will be, I think, an apostate Jew. This does not mean he will have his origin in Palestine. Why do I say this? Judas was a type of antichrist; so was Absalom, king David’s son. Absalom led a conspiracy against his father. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, antichrist is revealed as follows in verse 7: “…only there is he who restrains now until he be gone, and then the lawless one will be revealed”. I would think that this is just after the rapture. May I assume that “he who restrains” now is the Holy Spirit? The distinctive character of this age is the indwelling in the church of the Holy Spirit. When the church is removed, I believe the Holy Spirit goes also. (This does not imply that the Spirit will cease to work in people. The Holy Spirit has been active since the foundation of the world.)
In Revelation 13 – we see that there are two beasts and the dragon (Satan), a trinity of evil. A beast conveys the idea of power without conscience. The first comes from the sea, but in verse 11, another comes “out of the earth”. He has horns like a lamb, and spoke as a dragon. He is the one who does the signs and deceives the population. This confirms Paul’s words in 2 Thess. 2:6-12. This one has the religious aspect – the false prophet - and the deceitful works of power, imitating Christ’s works. It is all to cause people to worship the first beast. One is called the beast, one is called the false prophet, and Satan who “gave the authority to the beast” – see Rev.13:2-4. Both the beast and the false prophet are dealt with in Rev. 19:20. “Alive were both cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone”. In the following chapter, Satan is bound in the abyss for a thousand years while Christ reigns over the earth.
Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3) built an image of gold and those who refused to worship it were subject to the death penalty – just as in Revelation 13. The three faithful men who refused were protected in the furnace, just as the faithful Jewish remnant will survive the great tribulation of 1260 days. Notice how Nebuchadnezzar used music so prominently in the false worship.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take of the water of life freely” Revelation 22:17.
MM Last revised 18/04/2007