Okay. I really didn’t want to get into all of this, but I feel God wants me to, so here it goes.
There is a coming rapture of the church off this earth, and the biggest debate among Christians is when exactly it happens. I believe the bible is clear that any time God has sent down his wrath to destroy wickedness on earth, he has ALWAYS taken his people out of harm’s way first. It happened at Noah’s flood, it happened when Sodom and Gomorrah were pulverized – and the plagues that God sent down on Egypt during the Passover were only for the Egyptians. No Jewish person suffered, as they were protected by the blood of the lamb. And just as a side note, every one of those times, the believers’ animals were also taken or protected. In the case of the Passover, the Jewish animals were also protected from the plagues by the lamb’s blood, and even though at one point Pharaoh relented and said he’d allow the Jews to leave Egypt IF they left their animals behind, God said no. Not a single hoof was to be left behind. I’ve specifically studied the issue of animals throughout the bible, and now I absolutely believe that our animals will taken with us in the Rapture. The bible says they have souls and spirits, using the same words as for humans, and says all spirits return to the God who made them.
But back to the biblical timing of the rapture. I believe we born-again believers (and ALL of the born-again believers!) have no part in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the Day of the Lord, or the time of God’s Wrath, as the bible alternately refers to that period of torment after the rapture of the church. That time is reserved for the unbelieving Jews, to bring them to salvation, and also to show the rest of the nations that God does exist, and to give them one final chance to choose him. He doesn’t want anyone to perish.
The place in the bible most (pre-tribulation) rapture believers agree is the rapture of the church is in Revelation 4:1
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
But I believe this is wrong. This is the moment John is taken up, to be given knowledge of everything that is going to happen, but this isn’t the church. More in a bit. The other place people hit on is the 24 elders, who are shown already up in heaven when John arrives, sitting on thrones and wearing gold crowns. Revelation 4:4
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
Christians are indeed promised thrones, and crowns, but this is not the church as a whole. For one thing, there are only 24 of them, and I think it’s wrong to assume they are representative of the entire church because the entire church is never referred to as ‘elders’. Only specific people are considered elders. I think these are actually 24 specific people. But who are they, then? For one thing, they are up in heaven BEFORE the church is raptured. Look at this. In Revelation 5, God the Father is given a book that is sealed with 7 seals, and which contains the wrath and judgement of God. An angel proclaims:
Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And John weeps, because: And no one in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
That phrase ‘no one’ in the original language is very specific. It means absolutely no one, with no exceptions. Who is the only person worthy to open this book? Jesus Christ. But the bible is very clear that at this moment, not even Jesus Christ himself can open this book! No wonder John was so distraught. But why was Jesus unworthy at this moment? Because this book is the deed to the redemption of the earth, and the moment Jesus became worthy to redeem the earth was the moment after he died and rose again. So here we have John and the 24 elders, up in heaven together before Christ had risen from the dead!
And just a few lines later, one of the elders tells John to stop weeping, because the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
And after that, John beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain….And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
There it is! The moment in heaven where Christ appears, having just prevailed over sin and death! And unsurprisingly, all those in heaven rejoices with exceeding joy:
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
The elders in particular here are singing this song about how they have been redeemed to God by Christ’s blood, out of every people group on earth – and that is certainly speaking of believers. But wait! How can that be? Since they were already up in heaven, sitting on thrones and wearing crowns before Christ rose from the dead? The answer to that is quite simple. They are indeed believers, but they were people who believed by looking forward to the resurrection of Christ, rather than believers who today look backward to the resurrection. Every believer throughout all of history has been saved by only one thing: grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The bible says that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), and the very first prophecy of Christ’s sacrifice was given in Genesis, right after Adam’s fall into sin (Gen 3:15.) All the old testament believers knew and believed that Christ would come, would die to redeem them from death and sin, and would raise himself from the grave.
So who are these elders? Well, we know of two old testament men who had an early rapture. Enoch was a man who lived before Noah’s flood, and he walked closely with God, and one day God took him up to heaven without him ever tasting death (Heb. 11:5). And Elijah, one of God’s prophets, was taken up to heaven in a rapture, a rapture that around a hundred people knew was coming on a specific day, and which at least one other man witnessed (2 Kings 2:11). So here are two people who were taken up to heaven, in a rapture, without dying, just like the church today will be. And they were both taken up to heaven a long time before Christ physically came to earth. They would have been up there, saved by their belief and faith, just waiting for the day all the things they believed would be fulfilled. I believe Enoch and Elijah are two of those 24 elders. And the other 22? I suspect Moses is one of them, and as for the others – who knows who God decided to take? We’ll find out when we join them!
So if the 24 elders are not the church, where in Revelation does it mention OUR rapture? Okay, listen closely now. This is going to challenge some strongly-held beliefs. I know I struggled with this, when God first started pointing it out. I only saw it because I started studying the bible for myself, deliberately setting aside all the things I’d been taught growing up, and all my church traditions in order to see what the bible actually said.
The seals are not part of the 7 year Time of Jacob’s Trouble, or the judgment of God. Daniel says that the book must be sealed until the time of the end, and then it will be unsealed, as knowledge increases (Dan 12:9). When is the ‘time of the end’? It’s been the last two thousand years, from the time Christ rose from the dead, to the time Christ finally returns. The New Testament writers repeatedly refer to that time period as the ‘last days’ or the ‘last hour’. And Jesus himself referred to the ‘beginnings of sorrows’ which are not yet the end of the world.
In Jesus’ olivet discourse (Matt. 24) he goes through a list of things that will start happening in the world, things that we all will go through. These things align exactly with the first five seals:
But as Jesus says, ‘the end is not yet.’ I believe as soon as Jesus returned to heaven, he opened those first five seals, and as a result, all the things included in them have been gradually increasing on the earth: war, famine, death, pestilence, martyrdom, and earthquakes – just like the labor pains of a woman gradually increase in strength. Some people say the seals can’t be open now, because the fourth seal says that a fourth of the world will die, and that would be millions or billions of people dying all at once, and that hasn’t happened. Is that what the bible says, though?
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
This does not say a fourth of the world’s population will die. It says “Death” will be given power over a fourth part of the earth, and the people living within that geographical space will be suffering various kinds of death. I checked the statistics of how much of the world is affected by war (or its aftermath) a couple of years back, and surprise! According to secular experts, exactly 1/4 of the earth is living under those conditions.
Next, the fifth seal. It’s commonly believed that these martyrs are those who died during the ‘Great Tribulation’, killed by the antichrist. This logically can’t be for several reasons. First, the fifth seal happens so early on, chronologically speaking, that the antichrist hasn’t even gained his power yet.
Second, the 144,000 Jewish men who will become believers and preach salvation during that time have not yet been chosen or sealed with protection – this happens during the sixth seal. So if the fifth seal martyrs are those killed by the antichrist, that means the 144,000 would logically also have been killed, since they have no supernatural protection until the sixth seal.
Third, the witness of those martyrs themselves…listen to what they ask God:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
Once the antichrist rises to power, the bible begins a very specific countdown of days. He will have exactly 1,260 days to reign on earth. There would be no reason for these martyrs to ask God when he will send down his wrath, because the wrath would already have begun, and they would know to the day exactly how long the world has left. These martyred people are those killed for Christ throughout history, who long (as we do) for Christ to settle all wrongs and begin the process of destroying all evil forever.
So the seals are NOT part of the wrath of God, or the seven years of Jacob’s Trouble. These are the things we are experiencing now, and which will continue to grow in intensity and pain until they find their final culmination in that future seven years. What about the sixth seal? Listen to what the bible says:
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
First, right there, it says that the great day of God’s wrath is come at the sixth seal – not before. Second, read the description of what happens to the sun and the moon, and compare that to Joel 2:30-32
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved….
The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood BEFORE the coming of the Dary of the Lord. BEFORE. Not after. The Day of the Lord, aka the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, aka ‘the Great Tribulation’ cannot come before the events of the sixth seal. And notice also that Joel says everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
So when is the rapture? At the sixth seal, probably at the very moment that earthquake hits. There is a fantastic book, called “Earthquake Resurrection” by David Lowe. It’s free on Amazon, if you have Kindle Unlimited. It breaks down all the numerous cases where the dead have been resurrected, and how there is always an accompanying earthquake. It’s quite fascinating.
John goes on to describe what happens at the sixth seal. First he describes how the 144,000 Jewish men are sealed with protection. And then:
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.
This is the raptured saints appearing in heaven, being presented to God as a flawless Bride. Some claim these are the tribulation saints, those who were killed by the antichrist, but again, just like with the fifth seal martyrs, these people arrive in heaven too soon. The Day of the Lord has just begun, the antichrist is not yet in power, and the mark of the beast isn’t even in effect yet. John also wonders who they are, and asks one of the elders, who explains:
And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
I don’t have time in this particular study to explain my theories on what exactly the ‘great tribulation’ the elder speaks of is, but right now I’ll just say that ‘coming out of’ is not the same as ‘going through’. If a gunman entered the back door of MacDonald’s, and some of the people inside the restaurant saw him coming and fled out through the front door, you could describe them as ‘coming out of’ MacDonalds and escaping the massacre to come.
Another reason why these can’t be the Tribulation saints is because the Bible tells us when the Tribulation saints are raised from the dead, and that happens at the very end of Revelation, after Jesus returns physically to earth (Rev:20:4).
(Note: in the above graph, the first seal should be antichrists, plural, not one antichrist. The New Testament writers were clear that many antichrists would be among us, but according to the bible THE antichrist, the final one, will not rise until after the rapture.)
So the rapture will happen when the sixth seal is opened, but when is that? I don’t know, but all the signs God told us to watch for are here, now, and the kingdom of the antichrist is visibly being prepared for him. We can’t have long. Most of us who are studying this believe it will be this year…or if not, possibly next year.
But soon. So very, very soon. NOW is the time to come to Christ.