Bible Study Helps and Lessons
By Pastor George Rice
The theory of the secret rapture is the popular understanding in Christianity today as to how the history of this world will end. In a nutshell it goes like this: the followers of Jesus will be secretly, silently snatched from this earth. Friends and relatives left behind will not be able to find them. With the “church” removed from this earth, God can then fulfill His covenant promises to Israel. Those Jews who believe in Jesus will preach the gospel to their fellow Jews and to the Gentiles who were left behind. All have a second chance to prepare for the return of Jesus and the beginning of the millennium. Between the rapture and the return of Jesus there is a seven-year period of tribulation. During this time the antichrist will appear. Under his leadership the whole Christian world is united. Favoring Israel at first, he turns upon them in an attempt to des troy them. It is at this point the Jesus returns, begins the millennium, and establishes His kingdom on earth.
There is only one problem with this theory. None of it can be supported by Scripture. In fact very little Scripture is quoted to support the secret rapture. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have made the secret rapture popular by their novels known as the Left Behind series. In their first book of 468 pages, Left Behind, only one passage of Scripture is quoted to support the rapture, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 (page 210). While they explain that the rapture fulfills Paul’s statement that followers of Jesus must put off the corruptible and the mortal and put on incorruption and immortality, they fail to direct the reader’s attention to the fact that this change will take place during a very noisy event and it is not a secret. While the change will take place “in the twinkling of an eye,” it will be accompanied by a blast from the trumpet of God. In fact, imbedded within the quotation from 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 (which is given in full) the blowing of the trumpet is mentioned twice. So this change does not take place in silence and it is not a secret.
Here are the fallacies in the secret rapture theory.
A. The rapture
1. As noted above, the dead will be raised and the living changed amid the blowing of the trumpet of God - 1 Corinthians 15:15-57.
2. Paul repeats the trumpet sound and adds the shout of the Lord and the voice of the Archangel - 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. (See the study on Jesus’s return).
3. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is used as proof of the secret rapture because it says that the followers of Jesus who are alive will be “caught up. . .to meet the Lord.” The context of this event, the trumpet sound, the shout of the Lord, and the voice of the archangel, is ignored.
4. Based on 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 it becomes clear that to separate the resurrection of the righteous dead and the catching up of the righteous living from Jesus’ return by seven years of tribulation is erroneous. All of the events listen in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 happen simultaneously.
5. Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 24:40, 41 about people being taken is also used while ignoring the context. Jesus uses the flood in Noah’s day as an illustration of what will happen when He returns. The people who did not enter the ark were taken away by the flood waters (verse 39). Those who were left behind were safe in the ark. Jesus then said, “So also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (verse 39). In this context, being taken away in verses 40, 41 refers to the destruction of the wicked. Those who are left behind are saved.
6. The same is true in Luke’s Gospel where he quotes the same words of Jesus but adds more detail. In Luke 17:34-37 Jesus speaks about some being taken and others being left. The disciples wanted to know where the people will be taken, so they asked, “Where, Lord?”(verse 37). Jesus answered, to be fed to the vultures. The Greek word translated “eagles” is αετος or vulture. This destruction of God’s enemies by bird is graphically pictured in Revelation 19:17-21. In view of what is said in both Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel, I prefer to be left behind, thank you.
B. Seven years of tribulation
The only prophecy that speaks of seven years (one prophetic week)is found in Daniel 9:27. Daniel 9:24-27 is Gabriel’s explanation of the 2,300 evenings and mornings found in the prophecy of Daniel 8:14. As the one week or seven days of 9:27 is understood to be seven years by those who teach the secret rapture, so 2,300 evenings and mornings, or days, is 2,300 years.
Here is how we know that Daniel 9:24-27 is an explanation of the 2,300 years of Daniel 8:14. First, the time prophecy is given to Daniel (8:14). Second, Gabriel tells Daniel that the vision of the evenings and mornings is true (8:26). The only reference to a period of time involving evenings and morning is in 8:14. Third, there are two Hebrew words for vision, hazon and mareh. Mareh (vision) is used in 8:26 to refer back to the evenings and mornings in 8:14. When Gabriel returned to explain this time prophecy to Daniel, he told him to “consider the matter, and understand the vision” in 9:23. The Hebrew word for vision here is mareh. Gabriel was directing Daniel’s attention back to the mareh (vision) of the evenings and mornings (8:14), which was true, and he was about to explain to Daniel the 2,300 year prophecy.
Within Gabriel’s explanation a 69 week period or 483 years is carved out of the of the first part of the 2,300 years. A second period of 70 weeks or 490 years is also carved out. Between the 69 weeks and the 70 weeks there is one week or seven years. This is the period of time that is said to be the seven years of tribulation at the end of time. However, there are still 1,810 years after the 70 weeks that remain to fulfill the time prophecy of 2,300 years. What do those who teach the rapture do with the 1,810 years? Ignore them.
Gabriel tells us what will happen during the one week period or the seven years. First, the Messiah will appear at the end of the 69 weeks (9:25). Second, He will be cut off following the 69 weeks and before the end of the 70 weeks (9:26). Third, in the middle of the week the sacrifices will be brought to an end (9:27). Jesus’ ministry was during the first 3 ½ years of the seven year period. In the middle of the week Jesus was crucified and animal sacrifices had no further significance. What they pointed to had been accomplished, thus they were brought to an end. During the remaining 3 ½ years that completes the seven year period (or one week), the apostles preached the gospel to their fellow countrymen. This remaining 3 ½ years ended with the persecution of Christians under Saul and the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. At that point in time the gospel was taken to the Gentiles.
The one week period between the end of the 69 weeks and the end of the 70 weeks cannot be torn out of its position in the total time of 2,300years. It cannot be placed at the end of human history because there are 1,810 years left after the 70 weeks to complete the 2,300 years.
C. The antichrist
Because the antichrist is supposed to arise during the seven years of tribulation, those who teach the secret rapture find him in the explanation of the 2,300 years that Gabriel gives to Daniel. They find the antichrist in the statement, “Then he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week” (Daniel 9:27). The he is the antichrist, they say.
But he is a personal pronoun that requires an antecedent. A personal pronoun is used so a proper noun will not be continually repeated. The proper noun antichrist never appears in Gabriel’s explanation. Therefore he cannot refer to the antichrist. Two proper nouns do precede the he. They are Messiah and prince in verse26. The Messiah is, of course, Jesus. The prince of the people is also Jesus. Jesus is called “Prince” seven times in Daniel (8:11, 25; 9:25, 26; 10:21; 11:22; 12:1). A legitimate question arising out of 9:26 is, Who are “the people of the prince who is to come” who in turn “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”? Jesus is the Prince who is to come. His people are Israel. They are responsible for the destruction of the City of Jerusalem and the sanctuary at the hands of the Romans. When Jesus left the temple for the last time, having been rejected by the religious leaders who were plotting His death, He said, “Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). And concerning the magnificent structure of the temple, He told the disciple, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
As was pointed out at the beginning of this study, the theory of the secret rapture cannot be supported by Scripture.