The Rapture in Revelation
on Jerusalem, in its continuing endeavor to make available interesting and
doctrinally sound articles associated with Bible Prophecy offers this very
insightful article on the subject of the Rapture by Dr. Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib
Research Council Ministry. Dr. Ice is one of the foremost authors on the often
criticized rapture topic. The subject of a Biblical rapture is perhaps the most
contested topic pertinent to the study of Eschatology. FOJ hopes that this
presentation will inspire your further interest in the wonderful study of the
amazing prophetic world of the Holy Bible, and the glorious majesty of our
Coming Lord. (02-01-2008)
The Rapture in Revelation
By: Dr. Thomas Ice
Our Lord Yeshua said in John 14:3:
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and
receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
At our Lord's ascension into heaven, two men in white apparel said: "Ye men
of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken
up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go
The promise of the Second Coming of the Messiah, our blessed Lord
Yeshua, is clearly established. The Apostle Paul had made this matter quite
clear in his words to Titus, his "own son after the common faith (Titus
1:4)" when he wrote in Titus 2:13:
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the
great God and our Savior Jesus Christ."
In Philippians 3:20-21, Paul wrote: "For our conversation is
in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who
shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious
body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto
Himself." In Colossians 3:4 Paul wrote: "When
Christ, Who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in
The Apostle Peter wrote in I Peter 1:7: "That the trial of
your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be
tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing
of Jesus Christ." In II Peter 1:11 he wrote: "For
so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting
kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
The Apostle John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, also
wrote in I John 3:2-3: "Beloved, now are we the sons of
God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He
shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man
that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."
In our desire to be accurate about the details concerning the
Second Coming of our blessed Lord, may God help us to rejoice in His promise,
and be watching and waiting!
THE USAGE OF THE WORD "RAPTURE" IN THE
Among those who do not believe that the Second Coming of our Lord
will be in two phases, they often point out that the word "rapture" does not
appear in the English Bible. But, as we all know, the New Testament was written
in Greek, not English. The word which is used in Greek to give us the
understanding of the Rapture is harpazo - translated in I
Thessalonians 4:17 with the English words "caught up." Additional
usages of harpazo include Matthew 11:12; 12:29; 13:19; John 6:15; 10:12,
28-29; Acts 8:39; 23:10; II Corinthians 12:2, 4; Jude 23; and Revelation 12:5.
Our English word "rapture" is a transliteration of the Latin translation
of I Thessalonians 4:17 which uses the word "rapturo."
Some use Acts 8:39 as a reference to the Rapture where we read:
"the Spirit of the Lord CAUGHT AWAY Philip." However, it is clear from
verse 40 that this verse is not referring to the Second Coming of our Lord. Some
see a connection in II Corinthians 12:2 where Paul refers to "such an one
CAUGHT UP to the third heaven." Again, in verse 4 he repeats: "How that
he was CAUGHT UP into paradise." While interesting in the usage of the word
harpazo, it does not specifically refer to the Second Coming of our Lord.
The primary passage is, of course, I Thessalonians 4:17 which
reads: "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."
The word harpazo is also found in Revelation 12:5 where
the "woman clothed with the sun" gives birth to a son, and the text says
"and her child was CAUGHT UP unto God, and to His
THE RAPTURE IN REVELATION
The Book of Revelation is primarily an unveiling of the majesty
and glory of the Messiah of Israel, our blessed Lord Yeshua. Certainly the event
of His Second Coming is a powerful message of this book. Revelation 1:7 says:
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which
pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so,
Most Bible teachers believe that this verse refers to His Second
Coming at the end of the Tribulation (often called "The Revelation") which is
described powerfully in chapter 19 of this book.
In Revelation 1:19 we have an outline of the book given to us:
"Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things
which shall be hereafter." This threefold outline includes the vision of our
resurrected Lord in chapter 1 as "the things which thou hast seen"; the
messages to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 as "the things which are"
(meaning - existing in John's day); and from chapter 4, verse 1, to the end
of the book - "the things which shall be hereafter." The word
"hereafter" (Greek: meta tauta) or "after these things"
(following the "things which thou hast seen" and the "things which
are") is an important clue to the order of things in this book.
We read in Revelation 4:1: "After this" (Greek: meta
tauta) and at the end of the verse the word "hereafter" (Greek:
meta tauta). It would appear, therefore, that the third part of the outline
of the Book of Revelation begins with Revelation 4:1 and continues to the end of
the book. These events follow the "things which are" or the messages to
the seven churches existing in John's day.
The following issues seem to be at the heart of the question
concerning the Rapture in the Book of Revelation:
1. The Promise to the Church of Philadelphia - Revelation
2. The Problem of any Gentile believers surviving the
cf. I Thessalonians 4:17 with Revelation 6:11; 7:9-17; 11:7;
13:7, 15; 14:13; 15:2; 16:6; 18:24; 20:4
3. The Place of John in heaven - Revelation 4:1
4. The Presence of 24 elders in heaven during the
judgments on earth - Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:6, 8-14; 7:11-14; 11:16-18; 19:4
5. The Proclamation of a new song by the 24 elders -
THE PROMISE TO THE CHURCH OF
Revelation 3:10Ö."Because thou hast kept
the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation,
which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
It is this one verse that gives the primary understanding of the
pre-tribulational rapture of the Church. The debate over this verse between Pre-tribulationalists
and Post-tribulationalists seems to center on whether it is a promise of
immunity from the judgments of the Tribulation or a promise of removal from this
awful period of time known as the "Day of the Lord." One thing is for
sure, it is the promise of our Lord Himself - "I also will keep thee." A
few things must be kept in mind concerning the meaning of this verse:
1. The definite article in Greek appears in front of the word
"hour" and the word "temptation." It is not referring to any
particular period of trial, but to a specific one that is obviously still in the
future at the writing of the Book of Revelation. It speaks of "THE hour of THE
2. The specific trial is global in impact, not a local situation.
John says concerning this coming trial: "which shall
come upon ALL THE WORLD."
3. The purpose of this "temptation/trial" is to
"try them that dwell upon the earth."
In the Book of Revelation these earth-dwellers appear to be
non-believers, NOT believers! Consider Revelation 6:10; 11:10; 13:12, 14; 14:6;
4. The preposition following the word "keep" is ek
whose primary root meaning is "out of" - teaches removal, not immunity.
THE PROBLEM OF GENTILE BELIEVERS SURVIVING THE TRIBULATION
The words of I Thessalonians 4:17 say: "Then we which are
alive and remain." It appears from the words of I Thessalonians 2:14-16 that
the church in Thessalonica was composed primarily of Gentiles. I Thessalonians
4:17 implies that when the Lord comes, there will be Gentiles alive when it
happens (Paul also uses the editorial "we" and includes himself!). But,
in the Book of Revelation, it appears that the Gentile multitude of chapter 7
who are saved during the tribulation, do NOT survive the wrath of the dragon and
his "beast." The false prophet also adds to this terror against the
Gentile believers (Revelation 13:15) and causes as many as do not take the mark
and worship the beast to be killed. Revelation 13:7 says that this beast will
"overcome" the believers, and comparing this with Revelation 11:7 (in the
case of the two witnesses) it appears that to "overcome" them means to
kill them. Revelation 20 then describes the martyrs of the tribulation being
resurrected at the end of the tribulation (along with Old Testament saints, cf.
Daniel 12:1-3, 12-13). The "first resurrection" refers to believers being
resurrected; it appears to be in two phases, one at the Rapture, and secondly,
at the Revelation, or the end of the tribulation. The "second resurrection"
refers to all unbelievers being resurrected to stand before the great white
throne judgment to hear the verdict of the Lord Himself - this occurs 1000 years
after the "first resurrection."
THE PLACE OF JOHN IN HEAVEN
Revelation 4:1Ö."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.'"
Revelation 4:2 adds: "And immediately I was in the spirit."
The definite article "the" is not in the Greek text. John simply says
that he was "in spirit." The same thing is found in Revelation 1:10. By
some means of spiritual transference, John was ushered into heaven where he
could view the events that would transpire on the earth in the future. He
also heard a voice like a "trumpet" talking with him; The words of I
Thessalonians 4:16 include "the trump of God."
The very fact of this detail would point to a possible Rapture
that would precede the coming tribulation. John, both as an apostle and as a
believer, would certainly picture such an event.
THE PRESENCE OF 24 ELDERS IN HEAVEN
DURING THE JUDGMENTS ON EARTH
There is no doubt that the issue of the 24 elders is critical to
the whole argument of Pre-tribulationalism. George Eldon Ladd, a Post-tribulationalist,
admits that very fact in his commentary on the Book of Revelation. Here are the
facts about the 24 elders:
1. They sit on thrones around the throne of God in heaven -
2. They are clothed in white raiment - Revelation 4:4b
3. They have crowns of gold on their heads - Revelation 4:4c
4. They are pictured as ones who fall down before God and worship
Him, casting their crowns at His feet - Revelation 4:10-11; 5:14.
5. They are also pictured as falling down before the Lamb, and
have harps and bowls of incense representing the prayers of the saints -
6. The sing a new song about the worthiness of the Lamb -
The very fact that the 24 elders are seen in heaven, NOT on earth
during the judgments of the Tribulation forces us to connect them with the
1. They refer to angels.
2. They refer to all believers who have died and are now in
3. They refer to Gentile believers who are saved during the
Tribulation and are martyred.
4. They refer to church-age believers only.
The 24 elders cannot refer to angels
because they are identified separately from them in Revelation 5:11 and 7:11.
They cannot refer to the Gentile multitude who are saved during the tribulation
on the basis of the discussion of Revelation 7:13-14. The description of these
24 elders in Revelation 4:4 connects them with the promises to church-age
believers in Revelation 2 and 3. The words about them sitting on thrones remind
us of Revelation 3:21; the reference to them being clothed in white raiment
connects us with the words of Revelation 3:5; the picture of them with crowns of
gold on their heads reminds us of Revelation 2:10 and 3:11.
These 24 elders are not called "priests" or "saints"
but rather "elders." That is a specific description of church leaders
as well as the "elders" who acted as judges and administrators of justice
among the children of Israel. However, the "elders" of the Sanhedrin who
are often connected with the priests and the scribes are not treated as genuine
believers in the New Testament. They are the ones who condemned our Lord to
death and delivered Him to the Romans for crucifixion. The use of the number
"24" is also very instructive. There have been many attempts by Bible
teachers to divide this number into the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles
of the Church. But, there is no Biblical warrant for that kind of exegesis. The
number is found in I Chronicles 24 and 25 and refers to 24 divisions of priests
and musicians for the Nation of Israel. But, these are not called "priests"
but rather "elders."
THE PROCLAMATION OF A NEW SONG BY THE 24
ELDERS IN HEAVEN
"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."
It is interesting that we have in Revelation 1:6 these words:
"And hath made US kings and priests unto God," and there is no variation in
the manuscripts supporting any other translation. It would appear that
Revelation 5:10, therefore, should support the reading of Revelation 1:6.
CONCLUSION: It would appear that the Rapture is indeed pictured
in Godís word and stated in the Book of Revelation that church-age believers
will be removed from the judgments of the great Tribulation upon the earth!