The Rapture Doctrine
The Rapture Doctrine 
A CASE AGAINST THE RAPTURE
by Gene Justice
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The following timely article was forwarded to us at BRI some years ago and it appeared in BRI’s original journal The Interpreter’s Pulpit in 1992. It was received by BRI unsolicited and without any copyright. While we have heard that Gene has since departed to “be with Christ” we feel his research contribution is important enough to be shared with a larger audience.
In the minds of many fundamentalist Christians, the idea of a Rapture is quite strongly embedded. We wish above all things that love will exist among all Christians whether some believe in doctrines contrary to one another or not. None of us knows all the truth, but all of us should recognise that Christ is the Saviour of us all.
Let us look at some of the differences in the acceptance of the Rapture theory.
The Resurrection Trumpet
We will begin by going directly to the heart-and-core of the Rapture controversy. The entire theological debate over this much-disputed subject has to do with the time in which a particular trumpet or trumpets are blown. It really centres on whether the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 is the same as the last trump of 1 Corinthians 15:52. Christ’s coming is intimately tied to the sounding of trumpets. The trumpets are mentioned four times in the New Testament in relation to Christ’s coming. Let us notice these four key scripture texts:
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man
coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a TRUMPET, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Mt 24:30,31).
“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” (1 Thes 4:15-17).
“Behold, I shew 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” (1 Cor 15:51,52).
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever…and the time of the dead that they should be judged and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great, and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth”
Theologians and laymen alike have become polarised into three basic schools of thought in relationship to these trumpets and the future 70th week of
Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9). The seven-year “week” of Daniel is referred to in general by most Christians as the coming tribulation. The final three- and-a-half years of acute tribulation is known as the great tribulation. Those who believe the resurrection of Christians occurs at the beginning of the
tribulation are called pre-tribulationists or more simply pre-tribs. Those who believe the resurrection will occur at the middle of the “week” are called
mid-tribs, and those who feel it will be at the end of the tribulation are called post-tribs. (These abbreviated terms have become almost theological in
import and we will use them in their present accepted sense.)
The four scriptures quoted above are viewed quite differently by the theologians of the three categories. They agree that 1 Corinthians15 and 1
Thessalonians 4 are referring to the same event. They also agree that Matthew 24 refers to a post-trib gathering of Israelites. But the difficulty concerns the time of fulfilment of 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 11. The pre-tribs ascribe 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 to the beginning of the “week,” and Matthew 24 and Revelation 11 to the end of the “week.” The mid-tribs place 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 at the middle along with Revelation 11. The post-tribs place all four at the end of the “week.”
Therefore the answer to when the trumpets sound is the heart and core of the entire Rapture question.
The Testimony of Scripture
There is a definite key that unlocks the chronology of the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. The key is given to us in the follow-up epistle of 2 Thessalonians. Paul had to write this letter to settle the question of the chronology of the return of Christ. The Thessalonians had mis-understood Paul’s personal teaching in his first epistle to them. They were being troubled by false teachers (2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2:2). Paul wrote to settle their minds by referring to the events of the future 70th week itself, as they are described in the book of Daniel. He stated rather dogmatically with full apostolic authority that the coming of Christ for His saints will not occur until AFTER a great falling away into error (2 Thes 2:3) and the setting up of the Antichrist’s throne in the Temple of God at Jerusalem (Daniel 11:36,45).
The first event, or “great falling away” into error, occurs during the entire seven years of tribulation. This will be a time of many false Christ’s and false prophets. Such false teachers will undoubtedly increase during the second half of the week (Matthew 24:5,11,23,24). But the Antichrist himself will not sit in the Temple until after he profanes it at the middle of the week — an event called the abomination of desolation (Daniel 8:11-14; 9:27; 12:11).
He will sit in the Temple of God during the latter three-and-a-half years of the tribulation period.
Thus Paul is saying in effect that the two above events must precede the coming of Christ not only in judgment, but for His saints also. The entire
epistle is from the point-of-view of the saints and their ultimate redemption. Paul is clearly stating that the event of the saints’ resurrection is at the END of the 70th week. This one passage alone should settle the question of the chronology of the return of Christ and resurrection of the saints!
Even earlier in the same epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul mentioned that the return of Christ in judgment and wrath coincides with His return for the saints. They are by no means seven or even three-and-a-half years apart.
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power: WHEN HE SHALL COME TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Then Paul goes on in Chapter 2 to show that the time element for Christ’s return is at the end of the 70th week. If the coming of Christ for His saints were pre-trib, Paul would not need to mention either the “falling away” or the “man of sin.” The saints would not be around to worry about such dire eventualities. If the resurrection of the saints were mid-trib then the saints would not have to worry about the Antichrist being at the Temple in
Jerusalem, since they would be leaving the earth at the time of the abomination of desolation. Everything happening on earth thereafter, including the
Antichrist’s three-and-a-half year reign from the Temple, would not be consequential to them. But if the resurrection were post-trib, then the saints would need to pay very much heed to both the“falling away” and the entire three-and-a-half year reign of the Antichrist from Jerusalem.
The scripture is definite and clear on the chronology of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15. They are, along with Matthew 24:29-31, both post-trib. In fact all three coincide at the same trumpet. Notice the strong warning Paul gave against removing the resurrection from its appointed post-trib location.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, EXCEPT there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” — two events occurring during the 70th week (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
But what about the trumpet of Revelation 11? Is it mid-trib or post-trib? Let us look at Revelation 11:18 for the answer.
“…and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the PROPHETS, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great…”
One of the most righteous prophets of old was a man named Daniel. He had the unique honour of being told the exact time of his personal resurrect-ion from the dead.
“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety DAYS. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty DAYS. But go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the END OF THE DAYS” (Daniel 12:11,12).
The abomination of desolation is the event that divides the 70th week in half — being the benchmark of the middle of the tribulation (Daniel 9:27). The latter and former halves of the week are three-and-a-half years or 1260 days in duration. Therefore 1290 days and 1335 days from the abomination at mid-week takes us just beyond the end of the 70th week — the time of Daniel’s resurrection along with all the prophets and Old Testament saints.
Thus the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 is sounded at the end of the week and coincides with the trumpet of Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 1 Corinthians 15. This would mean that one trumpet and one event is being discussed in four New Testament passages by three New Testament
One of the most unbiblical teachings to most Protestants is the Catholic teaching of trans-substantiation. By taking certain figurative statements of the New Testament in a literal sense, the Catholic Church has concluded that the bread and wine of its Eucharist is actually the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Such a doctrine is untenable and defies all logic and reasoning. Yet this Catholic doctrine has a very definite Protestant counterpart among many advocates of pre-trib. Such Christians reason that the church is the literal rather than figurative body of Christ.
But this erroneous concept goes much further. With seemingly technical expertise, a big deal is made over the seeming fact that Israel is the bride of
Christ and the Church is the body of Christ. Yet in Ephesians 5:25, the church is unmistakably compared to the wife of a husband. And in Romans 7:4, Christians are distinctly said to become “Married to Christ.” The truth is that figures of speech are being employed in describing the relationship of Christ and the Church. In Ephesians 5 both figures are employed. (Compare verse 25 with verses 29-30.) The key to understanding Ephesians 5 is found in verse 31 where we are referred back to the first “marriage” between Adam and Eve. Eve had the unique distinction of being created out of Adam. She was first a part of Adam (his body), and then by a divine miracle she was given a separate existence to become his “bride” or “wife.” Since Christ is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 5:14), the Church is symbolically a last Eve. So the relationship of Christ and His Church is akin to the relationship enjoyed by Adam and Eve. Thus the Church like Eve can be viewed both as the body (before separation) and the wife (after separation) of her husband. A composite term describing this relationship would be bride-body. Israel never enjoyed such a relationship. She was and will be Christ’s wife after the flesh, more like a concubine than a full wife. (Notice how Paul compares Israel to Hagar and the Church to Sarah in Galatians 4:22-31.)
But pre-tribs claim that the Church cannot pass through Daniel’s 70th week and be exposed to martyrdom lest “the body of Christ suffer dismember-ment.” But if martyrdom dismembers the body of Christ, what about the martyrdom of Paul himself and early Christians? Does the death of a single
Christian or an entire congregation of saints somehow dismember the body? If so, then the church has been suffering perpetual dismemberment for almost 2000 years! But let us only admit that the Church is the figurative body of Christ and not His literal body. Then all difficulties and need for a secret return of Christ disappear.
It is somewhat humorous to what extent pre-tribs will go to divorce the trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1Corinthians 15 from the trumpet of Matt-hew 24 and Revelation 11 which must be one and the same. We will now discuss three of these “bones of contention.”
1. CHRIST BLOWS THE LAST TRUMP: WHEREAS AN ANGEL BLOWS THE SEVENTH TRUMPET.
The “archangel” or “chief messenger” of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is misconstrued to be Jesus Christ. Yet it is ironic that the original Greek here trans-lated “archangel” occurs only one other time in the entirety of the New Testament and there it clearly refers to the archangel Michael (Jude 9). One modern translation prompts its readers by capitalising Chief Messenger in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, yet using lower case for chief messenger in Jude 9[The Concordant Literal New Testament, by A.E. Knoch — LG]. This method of translation is clearly interpretive. Special capitalisation is unknown in the original Greek New Testament.
The seventh angel of Revelation is most likely the archangel Michael, the angelic prince of Israel. (Compare the exalted description of the seventh angel in Revelation 10 with Daniel 12:1.) Thus an archangel will blow the seventh and last trumpet at Christ’s coming.
2. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH AND CANNOT ENTER THE TRIBULATION.
The fact that God has not “appointed us to wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9) refers to our ultimate deliverance by a resurrection and not our intermediate sufferings. Paul was not “appointed to wrath” either, but he apparently died as a martyr at the hands of Nero. Thus he directly suffered the fury of man’s wrath.
At Christ’s post-trib coming, He will dispense “wrath” to the wicked and salvation to the righteous. But God’s wrath (Revelation 6:17) must be distin-guished from man’s wrath and Satan’s wrath (Revelation 12:12). Satan’s wrath will be vented against the righteous “remnant of the woman’s seed”
(Revelation 12:17); God’s wrath will be poured out only upon the wicked. Both 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 are referring only to God’s wrath (2
Thessalonians 1:7-10). Paul’s own martyrdom is proof positive that saints are not necessarily exempt from man’s and Satan’s wrath. Also, if a Christian becomes an evil-doer, he is subject to being turned over to Satan’s wrath “for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). God will not prevent any present suffering that is necessary for our ultimate perfection.
3. CHRIST RETURNS FOR THE SAINTS SECRETLY: AND THEN SURPRISES THE WICKED AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.
Christ gave us the principle of His coming being likened to that of a “thief in the night.” “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:43,44).
Interestingly this statement is directed to believers, and not unbelievers!
Christ also warns the saints at Sardis that if they don’t watch He will come on them as a “thief in the night” (Revelation 3:3). The world of unbelievers will not believe in a literal coming of Christ; so obviously His return will be as surprising to them as that of a thief in the night. But for the saints that heed Christ’s admonition to WATCH, His coming will be expected. These “wise saints” will understand the chronology of the 70th week, and be like the good man who knew in what watch the “thief” was coming (Daniel 12:10).
The coming of Christ as a thief is not a separate coming seven years after His secret coming for His saints. The problem has to do with two separate
points of view: (1) The wicked and also the foolish saints will not be watching, and Christ’s coming will be like a thief in the night from their point of view. (2) The wise saints will be watching and expecting Christ’s coming. They will be walking in light despite the gross darkness around them. Light and darkness is referring to a spiritual state of mind and not to physical conditions. Notice how Paul concurs with this principle:
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh
as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, ‘Peace and safety;’ then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day [same day] should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us WATCH and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken be drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8).
To Paul, both darkness and light were present in his day. It all depended upon one’s knowledge of God and application of such knowledge. Thus the singular coming of Christ would be in darkness to the wicked and also the foolish saints; yet in light to the wise saints.
But even though Paul, as well as Christ, admonished the saints to WATCH, foolish saints who do not watch will not forfeit their salvation as a result of such negligence. They simply may have a rougher time in the flesh (Revelation 16:15).
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Who died for us, that, whether we wake [WATCH] or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9,10).
This exposition is only a brief survey of the essential scriptures on this subject. The major key in resolving the whole matter is the recognition that the prophetic “trumpets” mentioned in various parts of the New Testament refer to a single event after the Great Tribulation period. Anyone reading the Bible in a straight-forward way, and without theological hairsplitting, would certainly understand the information this way. Indeed, this is the way all New Testament scholars and theologians have understood it (as far as we have record) until the year 1830 A.D. saw the birth of the modern Rapture theory. The two-phase second coming of our Lord, with trumpets being sounded at different times, is a modern reading into the text of what is simply not there!