Twice the Lord declared that there will be those who will pass through life to the other side of the great divide without passing through the cold door of the grave. The first instance was when the Lord called for Lazarus to come out of the grave. It was the fourth day of Lazarus’s death. It is very of significance that He uttered these words in front of the grave. He said:
“I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live. Even though he dies and whosoever lives and believes me will never die”, -John 11:25-26 [NIV]
In Matthew 24:34 Jesus was speaking of the end of the world. He said, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things happened,”
The great Apostle Paul through revelation by God added more light on this mystery by showing how it will done.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed – 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. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, when the perishable has been clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” -1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (NIV)
According to the revelation that he received, he then declared the time of its fulfillment. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
“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. 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.”
The resurrection of the dead in Christ and the changing of those alive from mortality to immortality and to meet the Lord in the air is called by the evangelical Christians as the RAPTURE. The word rapture is not found in the English or Tagalog Bible. It was taken from the Greek word harpazo which means “to forcibly seize upon, to snatch away or to take to oneself.” It was in the Philip who was “caught (raptured) to the third heavens” (2 Corinthians 12:2). Rapture or harps is God’s acts wherein at the coming of His Son Jesus Christ all those that have died in Christ will be resurrected and those who are alive and watching for His coming will be changed and together they will be forcibly seized upon and snatched away to meet Him in the clouds. The watching disciple; therefore, physically awake or asleep will be raptured by the power of God at the Lord’s coming.
The story of a great company who will not experience death is not completely new experience in the Bible. There had been cases where the faithful follower of the Lord were rewarded and honored by God by not allowing them to die. For example, the saintly man named Enoch. The Bible describes the life of this godly man as one “who walked with God.” So, “God took him.”
“And Enoch walked with God and then he was no more because God took him away.” -Genesis 5:24
Enoch’s life was in complete agreement with the will and purpose of God. For according to Amos 3:3, “how can two walk together unless they be agreed.” His life is the picture of the Church of Christ in the end time that through the teaching of the Apostle in the Church is able to fulfill all the will of the Lord.
Another example is Elijah. At the end of his amazingly success and miraculous ministry, after he has chosen his successor he was seized upon the power of God through a “whirlwind.”
“As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” -2 Kings 2:11
He too did not taste death. He is like one of the innumerable multitude who is the Church of Christ in the end time, who, after fulfilling her ministry on earth will not taste death as promised by the Lord.
This is a mystery for it is against the course of nature that something or someone will be caught up in heaven for immortality. Because all must die. All men must die. But the church is a chosen people – God’s elect.
The Lord Jesus Christ likened His coming with that of the days of Noah. He drew a very clear analogy of His coming with Noah’s days. Noah as one family symbolizes the Church which is the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15). The flood symbolizes judgment of God which is the Great Tribulation. The flood came upon them in great surprise and took them away, but Noah and his family were safe inside the Ark.
The rapture of the end time church is pictured by Christ in Matthew 24:40-41:
“Two men will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill, one will be taken and the other left.”
And in Luke 17:34, “I tell you on that night two people will be on bed; one will be taken and the other left.”
These words of our Lord state there are people alive who will not taste death but rather they “will be taken” or snatched away by the power of the Lord.
But Noah’s days were not only used by Christ to show the unpreparedness of the world on His coming but also the relation of the rapture’s occurrence with the coming of the Great Tribulation.
There are three theories among evangelicals regarding the time of the rapture in relation with the Great Tribulation.
- The Post – Tribulation Theory – it holds that the church will continue thrive on earth through the tribulation period at the end of the church will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then together with Church the Lord will immediately come down to earth. In this theory the church will be exposed in to the reign and affliction of the Antichrist.
- The Mid – Tribulation Theory – according to this theory the church will be raptured at the middle of the Great Tribulation. This refers to the three and a half years of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. They believe that at the first half of the Great Tribulation the divine wrath has not yet been poured. It will only be at the beginning of the second half that the divine wrath will be poured. Before this outpouring of the divine the church will be raptured.
- The Pre – Tribulation Theory – this states that the Church as the body of Christ in its entirety, will be the resurrection of the dead in Christ and translation of those who alive, be removed from the earth before any part of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel begins. Simply it means that before the Great Tribulation the church will be removed from the earth.
The Pre-tribulation theory is to be believed for the following reasons:
- 1. The Great tribulation was likened to Noah’s times. The Lord said “…as it was in the day of Noah so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man be…” Noah is the picture of the Church. The flood is the picture of the Great Tribulation. Seven days before the flood Noah and his family and all the animals that should be included were commanded by God to enter the Ark (Genesis 7:1-5). Therefore before the Great Tribulation by the sound of Archangel, by trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will be raised, those who are alive who are doing the will of God will be changed and together will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
- 2. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel clearly states that it is specifically for the Jews only. Notice the “Seventy sevens (weeks) are decreed for your people and your holy city…” (Daniel 9:24). The entire prophecy is concerned primarily with Daniel’s and their holy city – Israel and Jerusalem. The Great Tribulation is the seventieth week of Daniel’s Seventy Week. It is referred to in the Old Testament as “Jacob’s Trouble”, (Jeremiah 30:7). Therefore it is not for the Church.
- 3. The Church of Christ is not appointed to suffer God’s wrath.
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” -1 Thessalonians 5:9
The Great Tribulation is a time of:
a) Wrath – Revelation 6:16-17 ; 11:18 ; 14:19
b) Judgment – Revelation 14:7 ; 15:4
c) Indignation – Isaiah 26:20-21 ; 34:1-3
d) Punishment – Isaiah 24:20-21
e) Hour of Trial – Revelation 3:10
f) Hour of Trouble – Jeremiah 30:7
These are what the Great Tribulation is from which the Church has been delivered. We as the church is looking forward for this blessed hope. As part of His body each of us must live the way where we might be like those wise servants whom when their Lord come will be found ready and prepared. Therefore heed the words of the Lord, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: WATCH!”