By Tim Osterholm · www.SoundChristian.com
"All truth goes through three phases,
First, it is ridiculed
Second, it is violently opposed
Third, it is accepted as self-evident"
Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. Israel's role: keys to understanding prophecy and world
1. Clarifying the confusion of Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27
2. Clarifying the confusion of Matthew 24:9-13
3. Clarifying the confusion of Acts 3:21
4. Clarifying the confusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
5. Clarifying the confusion of the teaching of the rapture before
6. Clarifying the confusion of the word "rapture" being
found in the Bible
Bible prophecy is not a prediction of the future, rather a
promise about the future. The Bible contains hundreds of specific
prophecies that have been fulfilled in specific ways, all with
100% accuracy. There is no denying that truth. Prophecies of
Jesus Christ, Israel and world empires are found throughout the
Old and New Testaments.
Fulfilled prophecy is one of the most powerful proofs that
the Bible is truly the Word of God. Since all of the prophecies
that were to be fulfilled in the first coming of Christ were
fulfilled to the finest detail, we can be sure that the Bible
itself is God's revelation to man since no human writer could
be 100% accurate.
"For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but
men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
2 Peter 1:21
The most studied prophecy topics are those of the Messiah (Jesus
Christ), Israel, the Church and last-days events (including the
rapture and tribulation period). Sadly, few pastors or church
leaders are interested in teaching Bible prophecy. The result
is that prophecy is not a popular topic in churches today. For
that reason, many Christians are no longer passionate about the
return of Jesus, are lacking in faithful obedience, often prayerless
and less interesting in reading Scripture.
As churches become self-absorbed or otherwise apostate, their
congregations no longer remain interested in truth. In fact,
simple teaching on prophecy subjects is often the first to be
shelved, because it is too convicting. Scholars note 27% of the
Bible is prophecy, which sparks a fire within when complacent
Christians consider the ramifications of their lukewarm lives
before a just God. However, few congregations are aware of the
last-days events described in the Bible. Many pastors don't understand
prophecy, or won't study prophecy, so they don't speak on the
subject. Others are confused over the debate amongst scholars
and theologians as to the timing of the rapture. While the majority
of scholars agree with the pre-tribulation view (the rapture
happens prior to the tribulation period), many others suggest
the Church will go through the tribulation (post-tribulation
view). There are other views, too, which hold little support.
Prophecy topics can be difficult to understand, particularly
the book of Revelation. As prophecy scholar Dr. Patrick Heron
says, it can seem like "a conundrum wrapped in an engima
surrounded by a paradox!" Below is an understandable presentation
of how Israel, the Church (Body of Christ), and the rapture are
presented in Scripture. Included are self-evident truths for
the pre-tribulation removal of the Body of Christ (the Church).
The purpose here is not to be contentious towards those with
a post-tribulation perspective (meaning the rapture takes place
a the end of the tribulation period). While I am a student of
the Bible and Bible prophecy, these are not my conclusions only,
but that of hundreds of theologians, scholars and students of
Those who consider prophecy and end-times events as mostly
allegorical (symbolic) or non-literal are more likely to have
a post-tribulation rapture view. The belief is that the rapture
of the Church will take place after the tribulation period (Daniel's
70th week) has completed. The suggestion that the Church will
go through the tribulation period is an argument based primarily
on Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, and Matthew 24:9-13 (explained
below). This logically leads Christians to a critical view of
their role in society, and the necessity of preparedness for
the inevitable. Christians are advised to store food, isolate
from society (or governments), and plan to protect their families.
The focus is on the coming antichrist, not the coming of Jesus
Christ. Such notions are contrary to what Jesus commanded believers,
and thus hinders the Christian from winning a lost world.
Where did the allegorical view of the Bible originate? One
of the earliest documented attempts to allegorize Scripture began
with the scholar Philo Judaeus. Philo (20 B.C.54 A.D.)
started the Alexandrian School in Alexandria, Egypt. Philo was
a Jewish philosopher, well educated in Greek philosophy. He was
of a noble Jewish family, and being a dedicated scholar, Philo
acquired knowledge in literature, philosophy and the sciences.
Himself and other learned Jews were the first to promote the
allegorical interpretation of Scripture, a principle well established
in Greek learning and used widely in the study of the ancient
Greek legends. Philo and his colleagues sought to defend the
Old Testament to the Greeks and, even more so, to fellow Jews
by accommodating the Scriptures to Greek philosophy as a tool
for reinterpreting confusing passages.
The first attempts to reinterpret Scripture were rooted in godless
human philosophy and an education system based on Greek understanding
of the times. This philosophy was continued by other scholars
early in Church history, often called the "Hellenization
of the Scriputures." Of the early Church fathers, many followed
Philo's arguments. The first prominent scholar of that period
who applied Philo's approach to New Testament passages was Clement
(150 A.D.215 A.D.), a Greek who was educated at the Alexandrian
School in Egypt. In fact, Clement regarded many elements of Greek
philosophy as not necessarily in opposition to Christianity.
Next was Origen (185 A.D.254 A.D.), a Roman scholar and
writer from the Alexandrian School. Considered one of the most
brilliant of the Alexandrian scholars, he was the first noted
teacher of the allegorical method of interpretation.
The allegorical interpretation of the Bible and Bible prophecy
gained broad acceptance by the third century A.D. Eusebius (260
A.D.339 A.D.), an early Roman priest, accepted this erroneous
theology, and coupled with Philo's and Origen's interpretive
approach, later influenced Augustine (354 A.D.430 A.D.).
Augustine, a brilliant theologian, became a strong proponent
of allegorical interpretation. He is known as the father of Catholic
doctrine, and had great influence on those who would follow.
Sometimes called the Augustinian Corruption, his views were endorsed
by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.
Augustine's allegorical interpretation of the Bible, particularly
the book of Revelation, became known as Alexandrian Theology,
and dominated the understanding of prophecy during the Medieval
Period and Middle Ages (500 A.D.1500 A.D.), which some
scholars call the "dark ages" of the Church. Prophecy
was reduced to insignificant symbolic events of the past. Augustine
had a huge impact on the Church in this regard. He found acceptance
with the Roman Catholic church and later among leaders of the
Reformation. In fact, most Catholic and many Protestant believers
today adhere to Augustine's views on prophecy (whether they know
it or not). Since Augustine, Greek philosophy has dominated Christian
teaching on prophecy, rather than the Word of God itself.
Other early Church fathers, including Irenaeus, Tertullian,
Lucian and Chrysostom rejected Philo and his contemporaries on
the non-literal approach to Scripture, but their views were eventually
censored. Not until the 1600s were theologians again freely rejecting
the teachings of Augustine and his followers. Today, nearly 500
years after the start of the Reformation, many denominations
continue to endorse allegorical teaching. Regretfully, this has
led to a vast misunderstanding of Bible prophecy and prophetic
events now occurring.
Those who deem the Bible's description prophecy and end-times
events as literal, a pre-tribulation rapture view is likely to
be held, meaning the Church will be removed before the tribulation
period. That logically leads to a sense of urgency for the believer
to win as many souls as possible. Preparation is understood as
reaching the lost, knowing that Christ could call His faithful
home at any moment. A student of prophecy, or anyone who desires
to understand the last-days events, must consider a literal interpretation
of Scripture. The reasons are self-evident, as are the truths
given in Scripture for the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
Israel's role in history: keys to understanding prophecy and
The book of Daniel is an important starting point for understanding
Bible prophecy. Why? Daniel was given a vision by an angel sent
from God, detailing Israel's future and subsequent world events.
The angel spoke of two distinct futures which dealt with both
Israel and the Gentile (non-Jewish) world. These future events,
prophetically speaking, are related to events of the holy city
of Jerusalem. When studying prophecy, we find events in the world
are directly related to events in Jerusalem. That is why Daniel
was given a chronology of future events pertaining to Jerusalem
and the world. At that time, Daniel and the Israelites were captives
in Babylon, and the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. God
chose to give Daniel the remaining "time" alloted to
Israel (future), including Jerusalem's role (Daniel 9:24-27):
1. A specific amount of time (years) was determined for Israelites/Jews
2. There would be a decree to rebuild Jerusalem.
3. Jerusalem and the Temple would be rebuilt.
4. An Anointed One (Messiah) would be "cut off" (meaning
"rejected" or "killed").
5. Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed again.
6. A peace covenant over Jerusalem will be offered by the antichrist
then broken mid-way.
7. The anitchrist will be an abomination that desolates Jerusalem,
but he is detroyed in the end.
First, the Jewish future was laid out in a specific time line:
"Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your
holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins,
to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting
righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint
the Most Holy." Daniel 9:24
That passage is a summary of Jewish history, from Daniel's day
to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the tribulation
period. Exactly what is meant by "seventy weeks?" The
word "week" literally means "seven," and
modern prophecy scholars agree that "seventy weeks"
are "seventy sevens," measured in units of years. Since
a "week" is 7 years, the overall time "determined"
to Israel was 490 years (70 x 7). Thus, a total of 490 years
is all God is giving to Israel. As we will see, those 490 are
broken up, with the final 7 years to be completed in the very
near future. When does the final 490 years begin? When a decree
is issued to rebuild Jerusalem (next verse):
"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree
to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the
ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens' (or weeks), and sixty-two
'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in
times of trouble." Daniel 9:25
The "issuing of the decree" that authorized the rebuilding
of both the city of Jerusalem and the Temple was given by Artaxerxes
I Longimanus of Persia in 445 B.C.see The Chronology Of
The Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, p. 207. That is the
starting point of the prophecy, and Nehemiah 2:1-20 provides
As the prophecy continues, Daniel describes the first 483 years
or 69 'sevens' (seven 'sevens' plus sixty-two 'sevens') until
the time Jesus was crucified. Scholars note that Jerusalem and
the temple were rebuilt over a period of seven years (seven 'sevens'),
then there was a break before the next sixty-two 'sevens' were
fulfilled (Jesus on the cross). Together, there were 69 'sevens.'
After the 69 'sevens' (or 483 years), it was prophesied the Messiah
would be "cut off." That happened exactly as prophesied.
We know that 483 of those years (or 69 "weeks") have
been fulfilled as promisedthe decree was given, Jerusalem
and the temple were rebuilt, and the Annointed One (Jesus Christ)
was crucified. Yet, only 483 of the 490 years has completed.
Though there are 490 years of Israel's history to be fulfilled,
there is a break in those years. That leaves one more "week"
or 7 years to be fulfilled at a later time:
"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut
off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to
come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will
come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations
are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many
for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop
to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations
will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction,
one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
Now we see 483 of the 490 years decreed for the Jewish (Israeli)
people to put an end to sin (Jesus died in our place) and anoint
the most holy (Jesus Christ now sits at the right hand of God)
have passed. They were the years up until the Messiah (Jesus
Christ) was cut off, or crucified. Though Daniel is receiving
tremendous insight, he does not understand Israel's ultimate
rejection of the Messiah, and thus is not told of the Church
Age to follow.
What is the Church Age? The Church Age is the period of time
between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th
week (the time break between the 483rd and 484th yearsthe
time when God uses Gentiles to spread the Gospel to an imperfect
world before dealing with Israel again):
"So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are,
brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery:
a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number
of the Gentiles has come in." Romans 11:25
The Church Age is a perpetual mystery (something hidden) to Israel
and will remain so until the beginning of the 70th week (the
tribulation period). During the Church Age, a certain "number"
of Gentiles must come to Christ before the Lord will deal with
Israel again. The Church Age is also called "The Time of
the Gentiles" or the "Age of Grace," and began
at Pentecost when Jesus had risen from the dead and the disciples
received the Holy Spirit. That happened in the year 30 A.D. (exactly
483 years after Daniel's prophecy of the issuing of the decree
to rebuild Jerusalemsee The Chronology Of The Old Testament
by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, p. 220) and will conclude with the
Church being removed from the earth:
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even
so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with
him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we
that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall
in no wise precede them that are fallen 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 that are alive, that are left,
shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet
the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore,
comfort one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.
Bible scholars concur the above passages describe the rapture
of the Church, ending the Church Age. After the Church is caught
up (raptured), God will then turn His focus back to the Jewish
people for the final "week" or 7 years, called Daniel's
70th week, completing the 490 years decreed for the people of
Israel (Jews). As previously noted, we are now living in the
Church Age, a period of time between the end of the 69th week
and the beginning of the 70th week.
So how do we know when the end of the Church Age will come? Jesus
gave us a guarantee, and He uses the fig tree as an example.
In fact, Jesus said the generation which sees this "blossoming"
will be the one that witnesses the events of the last days:
"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as
its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer
is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that
it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation
will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass
away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels
in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the
days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the
ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the
flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at
the coming of the Son of Man." Matthew 24:32-39
Some have misread this to mean that the fig tree is a symbol
for the nation of Israel and that the Lord is saying that when
Israel shows signs of life as a nation, then the end is near.
Luke said this is not only about the fig tree, but also of "all
the trees" (Luke 21:29).
Everyone knows that when trees begin to put forth their leaves,
summer is near. Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour
of the end of the Church Age, though we can know when it is near.
Jesus specifically notes events leading up to the end of the
Church Age: "blossoming" and "things as usual"
on the earth. Jesus was speaking to the disciples (Jews) here,
so the generation Jesus speaks of is a reference to Israel. Since
Israel did not exist again as a nation until 1948, we can conclude
present-day Israel would be the "generation" or "people"
Jesus was speaking of in the last days. When it becomes apparent
that the world is heading toward the conditions Jesus described,
then we can be very sure that His coming is near. The world is
quickly reaching the stage Jesus mentioned, and the possibility
of the coming of the antichrist looms on the horizon. The majority
of people are ignorant of these coming events, continuing to
live "as usual." We are truly living in the last daysno
doubt very, very close to the end of the Church Age.
The end of the Church Age will be evident by the removal of
the Church, which will produce global economic chaos and fear.
The world will be in a state of shock, not understanding that
God's focus has turned toward Israel's 70th week, a horrifying
time of judgment on earth.
There is no way to know exactly how much time there will be
between the rapture of the Church and the beginning of the 70th
week; it could be weeks, months or years. The final 70th week
(7 years) is also called the "tribulation period,"
of which the last 3½ years are referred to as the "Great
Tribulation"culminating the worst seven years of human
history. The Church will not go through that period, as it is
called a time of "Jacob's trouble:"
"Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it;
and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved
out of it." Jeremiah 30:7
That prophecy is for Israel, not the Church, though the rest
of the world will be affected by it. The name Israel comes from
Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham. Jacob was renamed Israel,
and twelve of his sons established of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Throughout Israel's history its disobedience of God's commands
led it to become captives in foreign lands; however, God promised
Israel would never lose it's identity. The Jews (specifcially)
are the only people group in history to have maintained their
identity, language and heritage without being absorbed into the
communities or cultures of their foreign hosts and nations. God
promised to return them to their homeland and revive their nation
status (which happened in 1948, as prophesied). Even so, Satan
attempted to destroy the Jews several times in recent history,
simply to prevent God's promise to Israel.
For example, in Europe the Jews were massacred time and again
on religious, economic and racial grounds. Thousands were slaughtered
during the 11th and 12th century crusades. In the 14th century
they were falsely accused of causing the Black Plague by poisoning
wells, and were subsequently massacred. Many were burned at the
stake during the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th century. Still
others murdered by the Cossacks in the Ukraine during the 17th
century. Following World War I, hundreds of thousands of Jews
were also killed during the Russian civil war. Then came the
infamous Holocaust of World War II. Is it any wonder the Jews
dreamed of going home as God promised?
God's promise to Israel is significant in the last days, as
described in Revelation the promised land plays a key role. Israel's
refusal to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah brought about the Church
Age, and the coming week of "Jacob's trouble." There
is no need for anyone, Jew or Gentile, to go through the terrible
sufferings of the time of Jacob's trouble, for God has made a
way of escape. All who accept His way of escape by faith will
be delivered. This is not a "secret" event as some
like to call it. Jesus made clear the condition of the world
just prior to this event. A disbelieving world will remain, and
sadly, as many denominations (churches) become self-absorbed
or otherwise apostate, their congregations no longer remain interested
in that truth (described as the wealthy last-days Laodicean church
of Rev. 3:14-19).
The following are six key arguments by post-tribulationists
used erroneously to support a post-tribulation rapture:
1. Clarifying the confusion of Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27
(passages used by post-tribulationists):
"Immediately after the distress (tribulation) of those
days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its
light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies
will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will
appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.
They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky,
with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with
a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the
four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." Matthew
"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will
be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars
will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens
will be shaken. Then they will see the son of man coming in clouds
with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels,
and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from
the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven."
The above passages, according to post-tribulationists, are describing
the Second Coming of Jesus and simultaneous rapture of the "elect"
who survived the tribulation period. The term "elect"
is used to represent (1) chosen, and/or (2) holy people committed
(by their free will) to Jesus Christ. The terms elect, election
and chosen are used many times in the Bible and applied in several
different ways. The Bible even mentions some angels as "elect"
(1 Timothy 5:21).
We can agree the passages in Mark 13:24-27 describe the Second
Coming of Jesus with angels gathering the "elect" after
the tribulation period. The understanding of who are the "elect"
is an important lesson. Who are the "elect," and why
are they gathered (Greek: epistrpho) by angels instead of being
caught up/raptured (Greek: harpazo) to Jesus? The answers are
given to us in those passages. The elect here are those new believers
(left behind after the rapture) alive on earth who survived the
tribulation period, still in their natural physical bodies. If
the elect are raptured at this time (Second Coming) then no one
would be left to populate the earth during the new millennium;
that is not what the passages describe!
The Lord is returning with angels needed to gather and separate
the elect (sheep) from the evildoers (goats) who are scattered
all over the earth. There is no mention of a resurrection, being
caught up, raptured or translated in the verses above. Angels
don't resurrect people when they gather them for judgment.
Those who would argue that the rapture is described in the
above passages are misinterpreting the depicted events, and/or
ignoring other passages regarding the rapture. Let's briefly
look at examples showing why the above passages can't be describing
a rapture event:
The Lord returns with the angels and ten thousands of His
Saints (Jude 1:14). The Saints can't be on earth and return with
Him at the same time.
The elect who have come through the tribulation period (70th
week) will populate the earth during the millennial reign of
Christ. If the elect are raptured (instead of gathered), then
there would not be anyone left to populate the earth during the
new millennium. Remember, evildoers are gathered, judged and
bound with Satan at this time. The elect must be separated from
When studying other passages that describe being "caught
up" (Greek: harpazo), there are no angels involved because
there is no judgment. There can't be angels involved during a
rapture event because they have no power to translate our bodies,
and angels would have no need to gather our translated bodies,
since believers immediately go up to Christ. The rapture is for
believers only, yet the gathering described in the above passages
includes both the elect and the evildoers, since the evildoers
are mourning (they know judgment is coming).
The movement of the Body of Christ at the rapture is from earth
to heaven; at the Second Coming it is from heaven to earth. At
the rapture, the Lord comes for His Saints (1 Thess 4:16), while
at the Second Coming the Lord comes with His Saints (1 Thess
3:13, Jude 1:14, Rev 19:14). Again, the Saints can't be raptured
at the end of the tribulation period if they are already with
What about preparation of the Saints? When comparing other Scriptures
regarding preparation (John 14:2, John 14:3, Luke 7:27, 1 Cor
14:8the Lord preparing a place for us, preparation for
battle, etc), there can't be purification and preparation of
the Saints in heaven if they are raptured and concurrently coming
back with Him at the end of the tribulation period. For example,
Rev 19:14 describes Jesus returning with the Saints as an army
on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean (Jesus
must have already purified the Saints; these aren't angels wearing
white linens). Earlier in verse 8 we are told the fine linen
is the righteousness of the Saints. There can be no argument
that the Saints have previously been raptured to heaven, made
clean and prepared to return with Jesus to wage war on the antichrist
at the Second Coming. Verse 19 states that the antichrist and
his armies are gathered on earth to prepare to make war against
Jesus and His returning righteous army. There are many Scriptural
examples of how the Lord plans and prepares each set of events
in a perfect, timely and master fashion.
Scripture plainly teaches that when Jesus Christ who is our life,
shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory"When
Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear
with Him in glory." Colossians 3:4. Christ has bound us
to Himself so strong that we must appear with Him at the Second
Coming. We are His body. Just as our physical bodies function
as one, so shall the Saints (body of Christ) with Jesus at His
2. Clarifying the confusion of Matthew 24:9-13 (passages used
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put
you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's
sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and
hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead
many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's
love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved."
Those passages describe the persecution of the elect during the
tribulation periodnot the Church which has already been
raptured. Again, the elect are those tribulation Saints (millions
of whom will be Jews) who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ
and reject the antichrist. Scholars note that other passages
describe those events as being attributed to the Jews firstly
(generations of Abraham's descendants), the time of Jacob's [Israel's]
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your
people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as
has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But
at that time your peopleeveryone whose name is found written
in the bookwill be delivered." Daniel 12:1
We see the true followers of Jesus during the tribulation period
are being handed over to those in authority. Scholars point out
the persecution will be on a global scale, as indicated in several
other passages. That will be a perilous time unlike any before
or after. During the present age (Church Age), believers will
see tribulations, but not the tribulation period.
Before the antichrist (man of sin/lawless one) is revealed and
begins to persecute believers all over the world, the Church
(restrainer) must first be removed:
"He [anitchrist] will oppose and will exalt himself over
everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets
himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don't
you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these
things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he
may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness
is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue
to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless
one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with
the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming."
2 Thessalonians 2:4-8
The continuity of passages with respect to the Church Age and
Jacob's trouble (tribulation period) are explicit. The tribulation
period is meant for an unbelieving and unrepentant world, in
an effort for God to show Himself sovereign over His people Israel,
and every tongue, tribe and nation.
3. Clarifying the confusion of Acts 3:21 (passages used by post-tribulationists):
"He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God
to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy
prophets." Acts 3:21
The above passage is a reference to Christ's Second Coming and
subsequent millennial reign. After the tribulation period ends,
Jesus will set up His kingdom on earth, which is the beginning
of the restoration of Israel. Because Jesus must remain in heaven
until the time for restoration of Israel begins, post-tribulationists
propose the rapture of the Church can't happen until the end
of the tribulation period. That is to say Jesus can't come for
the Church before the tribulation period begins since He must
remain in heaven until that period ends to restore Israel to
That argument fails to (1) comprehend of the purpose and timing
of the rapture of the Church, and (2) identify where Christ meets
the Church at the rapture. We know at the rapture only the Saints
see Him (we go up to Him). The world does not see Him, as he
has not yet left heaven. The question to be asked is this: At
the rapture, is Jesus leaving heaven (as described at the Second
Coming), or is He only coming down (not coming out of)descending
from heaven (not leaving), appearing in clouds to the Church
At the rapture, Scripture points out Jesus doesn't leave heaven
to come to earth. He comes down from heaven, descends into the
clouds, where we are caught up "in the air" to Him.
In contrast, passages that speak of His Second Coming see Him
leaving heaven and touching down on the Mount of Olives; again,
a different event from the rapture/resurrection of the Church.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians:
"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.
And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage
each other with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
So where is Jesus meeting us at the rapture? When Jesus Christ
"comes down from heaven," where is He? Paul, speaking
of himself, gives us further explanation in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:
"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years agowhether
in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know,
God knowssuch a man was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know how such a manwhether in the body or apart from
the body I do not know, God knowswas caught up into Paradise
and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to
speak." 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
The apostle Paul states that he was seized (Greek: harpazo) into
the third heaven to paradise. That is what will happen when we
are seized or raptured, when Christ "comes down from"
(not out of heaven; still in the third heaven) to meet us in
the clouds. What is the third heaven?
When Paul was describing events of his time, he did not have
the scientific knowledge that we take for granted, so he did
not think of the world in scientific terms or descriptions. Instead
he, and others, attempted to conceptualize the world in terms
of what they knew, and usually described it visually. So, when
they considered the universe, they constructed a multi-layered
view, sort of like a large onion composed of various layers with
the physical world in which human beings lived at the center.
These layers were called "firmament" (Hebrew: raqiy
or shamayinskies or heavens) in the Old Testament, or "heavens"
in the New Testament era. There are many other non-Biblical books
and writings that also illustrate these "layers."
A study of the Scriptures reveals the first heaven is what
we see by day (the sky in which birds fly), the second heaven
is what we see by night (outer space where the stars and planets
dwell), and the third heaven is what we see by faith (where God
lives). The third heaven is the dwelling place of God and His
attendant heavenly beings whom He sends to protect Israel and
the righteous. The third heaven is beyond the sight of humans,
but by faith we believe that Jesus has gone before us to prepare
for us a mansion there. So when Paul claims to have seen the
risen Christ he is describing his experience in terms that he,
and others, would readily understand. In that cultural context,
he would have assumed that God had taken him to the place where
it was possible to see spiritual beings, and the risen Christ,
in the third heaven.
Understanding that takes nothing away from Paul's own testimony
of an encounter with God. His point was not to tell us how many
levels of heaven there are. His point was to tell us that he
had powerfully encountered the presence of God, in fact that
he had been physically seized/raptured (Greek: harpazo), and
seen the risen Christ, just as we will at the rapture.
Remember the first two heavens are visible to man, but the third
is divine. When we are raptured, we will meet Him in that place
where no one else will see us. So we can conclude the pre-tribulation
rapture event described in 1 Thess. 4:16 "For the Lord himself
will come down from heaven" does not contradict Acts 3:21
where Jesus "must remain in heaven until the time comes
for God to restore everything." Jesus does not leave heaven
but remains above the earth in clouds when the rapture takes
place. He comes in the clouds of the sky where we are taken up
to the third heaven, where only we will see Him, out of sight
from the rest of the world.
One of the foremost ways in which God has displayed His glory
has been in the form of a cloud. For example, when it was time
for the Israelites to begin their exodus out of Egypt, the glory
of God took the form of a pillar of fire enshrouded within a
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of
a cloud, to lead them in the way; and by night in a pillar of
fire, to give them light, to go by day and night: He took not
away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night,
from before the people." Exodus 13:21-22
What a glorious event it will be when we meet Him in the clouds
to be with Him forever!
A final note on Acts 3:21. We know the verse is referring to
the restoration of Israel. The Church is not being spoken of,
and therefore the rapture has no relationship to that passage.
However, there is another Scripture about the restoration of
Israelspeaking of the ascension of Jesus and Israel's rejection
of Him until the tribulation period ensues, made by Hosea:
"I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge
their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly
seek Me." Hosea 5:15
Hosea confirms why the Church only will see Him at the rapture,
not Israel or the unbelieving world. The application is to the
Jews who are addressed; they are informed that when their nation
as a collective body embraces Jesus as the Messiah, then He will
come to them and set up His earthly kingdom, restoring them to
4. Clarifying the confusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 (passages
used by post-tribulationists):
"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our
being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily
unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed
to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already
come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will
not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness
is revealed, the man doomed to destruction." 2 Thess. 2:1-3
Post-tribulationists argue that Paul said in those verses that
the coming of the Lord and our being gathered to him would not
happen until after the "man of lawlessness" was revealed.
That disqualifies the verse to mean a pre-tribulation rapture,
so the passage must be about the Second Coming.
Did Paul really say that? Certainly not. Remember, there are
already many believers in heaven from times past, since we know
to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We
need to take a look at the passages immedately following so we
don't take the intended meaning out of context, which is what
post-tribulationists have done.
For example, take a look at the word rebellion in the verses
above, "...until the rebellion occurs." The word rebellion
(or "falling away") is an English translation of the
Greek word apostasia. What if the word "rebellion"
was not the most correct English translation of that word? The
Greek translation of the word apostasia here is a reference to
a physical departure or removal, not a falling away or rebellion.
Let's look at the word apostasia as departure in the entire context
of verses 3-8 that now make sense together:
"3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will
not arrive until the departure comes and the man of lawlessness
(sin) is revealed, the son of destruction. 4He opposes and exalts
himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as
a result he takes his seat in God's temple, displaying himself
as God. 5Surely you recall that I used to tell you these things
while I was still with you. 6And so you know what holds him back,
so that he will be revealed in his own time. 7For the hidden
power of lawlessness is already at work. However, the one who
holds him back will do so until he is taken out of the way, 8and
then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy
by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the manifestation
of his arrival." 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8
Verses 3-5 above provide a description of the order of events:
1. The removal of the Church
2. The revealing of the antichrist
3. The antichrist presenting himself as God
And then again in verses 6-8:
1. The Church is holding the antichrist back, though he is
still at work now
2. He is to be revealed in the right time
3. The One who holds him back (the Church) is taken out of the
4. The lawless one (antichrist) is revealed
5. The Lord returns to destroy the antichrist (Second Coming)
When using the word "departure" or "removal"
in verse 3 above, the subsequent verses coincide and restate
the same events. We have three similar statements on the removal
of the Church first, and then the revealing of the antichrist.
Even so, we can turn to modern Greek scholars who can give us
a clearer understanding as new advances in language and etymology
studies often reveal:
We should be intrigued by those Greek scholars who have looked
at the etymology of the word apostasia as it relates to the Greeks
and the Jews. The recent English translation of the word has
generally been accepted as a "falling away." Apostasia
is most theologically debated when referring to 2 Thess 2:3,
specifically noting events that must precede the Day of the Lord
In that passage there are at least four views on the meaning
of apostasia: (1) a designation for the Man of Sin (Chrysostom,
Theophylact, Augustine, Alford, Moffatt); (2) the religious apostasy
that will precede the Second Coming of Christ (Calvin, Chafer,
Walvoord, Ryrie, Gundry); (3) the religious-political rebellion
against Christ that will culminate in the Battle of Armageddon
(Hogg, Vine, Moore, Morris, Bruce); and (4) the rapture of the
Church, in the sense of physical departure from the earth (English,
Wuest, House, Ice).
What is important to know is who were Paul's listeners and
what they understood by the term apostasia. Acts 17 says that
Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica where there was a synagogue
of the Jews. We know Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
and some of them believed and joined themselves to Paul and Silas,
and of the devout Greeks there were a great multitude. These
Thessalonians, both the Jews and the Greeks who went to the synagogue,
were well exposed to the Old Testament, which they would be familiar
with, and would have regarded apostasia to mean Jewish religious
defection, abandonment, or total removal from the faith (not
just a "falling away").
The expression or meaning of the word was more than a "falling
away;" rather it was a removal or complete departure. According
to Dr. Thomas Ice, that meaning is correctly given in the first
seven English translations of the Bible where apostasia is translated
as either "departure" or "departing." They
are as follows: Wycliffe Bible (1384); Tyndale Bible (1526);
Coverdale Bible (1535); Cranmer Bible (1539); Breeches Bible
(1576); Beza Bible (1583); Geneva Bible (1608).
Dr. Ice notes apostasia appears just twice in the New Testament.
In addition to 2 Thess. 2:3, it occurs in Acts 21:21, where,
speaking of Paul, it is said "that you are teaching all
the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake (aspostasia) Moses."
The core meaning of the word in that verse is "defection"
or "departure." The Lidell and Scott Greek Lexicon
defines apostasia first as a defection or revolt, then secondly
as departure or disappearance. When considering the context of
the surrounding passages of 2 Thess. 2:3-8, we can see the word
apostasia truly means departure or disappearance. More evidence
is given by Jerome's Latin Vulgate from around the time of 400
A.D. which renders apostasia as "discessio," meaning
departure. Why was the King James Version the first to change
the established translation of "departure?" There is
no reason, other than reformation scholars of the time were attempting
to transliterate (applying a certain meaning), which unfortunately
continued in all following English translations.
Dr. Allan A. MacRae, Ph.D., a noted Greek scholar and translator,
and president of theology schools, speaks of the striking parallel
between verse 3 of 2 Thess 2, and verses 7-8. Verse 3 mentions
the departure of the Church as coming first, and then tells of
the revealing of the man of lawlessness. In verses 7 and 8 we
find the identical sequence. Verse 7 tells of the removal of
the Church; verse 8 says: "And then shall that lawless one
be revealed." Thus close examination of the passage shows
an inner unity and coherence, if we take the word apostasia in
its general sense of "departure," while a superficial
examination would easily lead to an erroneous interpretation
as "falling away" because of the proximity of the mention
of the "man of sin."
Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, LL. D., (Doctor of Laws), a noted Greek
scholar, New Testament translator, Greek word-study author and
professor, adds further contextual support for taking apostasia
as a physical departure. He notes apostasia of which Paul is
speaking (verse 3), precedes the revelation of antichrist in
his true identity, and that which holds him back (verse 6) also
precedes his revelation. The apostasia, therefore, cannot be
either a general apostasy in Christendom, nor can it be the particular
apostasy which is the result of his activities in making himself
the alone object of worship. Furthermore, that which holds back
his revelation (verse 3) is vitally connected with verse 7, He
who holds back the same event. Dr. Wuest is driven to the inescapable
conclusion that the apostasia in verse 3 refers to the removal
of the Church which precedes the Day of the Lord (Second Coming),
and holds back the revelation of the Man of Sin who ushers in
the world-aspect of that period.
The English word departure certainly fits the conext (or coherency)
of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8. Most post-tribulation theologians refuse
to address the entire context as it is given, and thus insist
the lexical evidence does not suggest a physical departure. But
that is exactly what the lexical evidence does suggest. Dismissing
the obvious coherence in those passages would be simple ignorance
or a stubborn refusal to consider the Scriptural evidence. Remember,
if we take a word out of context and apply a dissimilar meaning,
we have then created a new pre-text. Likely that happened in
the translation in the King James and later versions.
5. Teaching of the rapture, specifically the pre-tribulation
rapture, was never taught before the Reformation.
A common argument is that none of the early Church fathers
acknowledged or taught the pre-tribulation rapture, and thus
the idea of a "rapture" is a relatively new concept.
That argument is not only false, but lacks an understanding of
Church history. For example, not until after the Protestant Reformation
did people get copies of the Bible and once again adopt a literal
interpretation, and thus begin to understand prophecy as it was
intended. This is when the concept of the pre-tribulation rapture
was revived, not invented.
Remember, since Augustine, a literal interpretation of Bible
prophecy was prohibited. Prior to that, we have numerous examples
of early Church fathers writing about the rapture. Specifically,
these writings were pertaining to imminency (meaning the return
of Jesus Christ for the Church can happen at any moment). Imminency
is especially prominent in the writings of the apostolic fathers
(up to the third century A.D.). They had no reason to conclude
otherwise, as they relied on the strength of the literal fulfillment
of prophecy in the Old Testament.
In the first century A.D., Clement and Ignatius wrote frequently
of the imminent return of Jesus Christ for the Church. Other
early Christian texts, such as the Didache (Greek: teaching),
also known as the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,"
written about 50 A.D.100 A.D., provided clear teaching
on imminency. Another early text, the Shepherd of Hermas (or
Pastor of Hermas, 110 A.D.) contained a pre-tribulation rapture
concept regarding the tribulation period: "If you then prepare
yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord,
it will be possible for you to escape it [tribulation period]."
The Epistle of Barnabas (131 A.D.) is yet another early text
describing imminency. This continued throughout early Church
Ephraim the Syrain (306 A.D.373 A.D.) of the Byzantine
Church wrote about the Lord's return as being imminent. He stated,
"All saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the
tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they
see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our
Many early Church fathers understood the concept of the Lord
returning for His own before the tribulation period. They exhorted
Christians to live a life of purity and faithfulness. However,
with the adoption of Augustine's allegorical views by the Catholic
Church in 431 A.D., the concept of a pre-tribulation ratpure
was shunned. A revival of the concepts of imminency and the rapture
didn't happen until after the Protestant Reformation, when people
again got copies of the Bible and began interpreting it literally.
The earliest post-Reformation writings began in the 1600s. The
concept of the pre-tribulation rapture was first revived by Increase
Mather (16391723), a Puritan leader. He endeavored to prove
"the Saints would be caught up into the air beforehand,
thereby escaping the final conflagration [tribulation period]."
Another Church leader, Peter Jurieu, taught that Christ would
come in the air to rapture the Saints and return to heaven before
the battle of Armageddon (from his book, Approaching Deliverance
of the Church, published in 1687). Another publication on the
subject came from Spain in 1812, entitled The Coming of Messiah
in Glory and Majesty, written by Emmanuel Lacunza in 1790. Lacunza
was a Jesuit priest from Chile (Chilean theologian of Spanish
descent) writing under the assumed name of Rabbi Juan Josafat
Ben-Ezra as a converted Jew. The book was later translated into
English by Presbyterian minister Edward Irving and published
in England in 1827.
John Nelson Darby (18001882), scholar and founder of
the Plymouth Brethren, was influenced by Lacunza's book. After
the Reformation, Darby was the first scholar to refine the pre-tribulation
rapture doctrine, and many have incorrectly thought Darby conceived
the pre-tribulation rapture (or "secret" rapture) in
the early 1800s. Rather, he would be one of many scholars to
come who would recognize prophetic Scriptures as accurate descriptions
of past, present and future promises. Even so, little understanding
of prophecy, the rapture, Church Age or Israel existed within
Christianityit had to be learned again. Few theologians
wrote about it, and those who did were often influenced by humanistic
Alexandrian theology. The literal interpretation of prophetic
passages soon gained acceptance around the world. Author William
Blackstone wrote Jesus is Coming (1878), taking rapture doctrine
to the prophetic forefront, as did the Scofield Study Bible in
1909. Since then hundreds of scholars, theologians, pastors and
teachers have written on the topic.
The freedom to interpret the Bible literally allowed for a
comprehensive system of pre-tribulational/pre-millennial theology
to be developed. This could not have happened until modern times.
Of course it is also true that no comprehensive systems of eschatology
(study of last things) were developed until modern times. Why
might this be so? The doctrine of the Trinity was known, yet
not embraced by Christians until well after the first century
A.D. Why would eschatology have waited until modern times for
Christians to seriously work on it systematically and comprehensively?
Simply put, there was no freedom to do so. Freedoms and discernments
within Christendom were kept in check prior to our modern era.
The rapture doctrine was revived after the Reformation by those
who could freely accept prophecy as literal. Even today, many
denominations (Catholic and Protestant) continue to adhere to
the false doctrines of Augustine, and thus refuse to acknowledge
Bible prophecy (27% of the Bible). Unfortunately, it has been
estimated that nearly 100 million American church members (about
63% of church attendees) have very little or no understanding
of Bible prophecy, or the significance of Israel and events surrounding
the Middle East. This is the result of Alexandrian theology.
Prophetic truth has been suppressed for generations; even so,
we are promised victory.
6. Clarifying the confusion of the word "rapture" being
found in the Bible:
Is the word "rapture" found in the Bible? Yes, in
the original Greek. The Greek "harpazo" means "to
seize upon with force" or "to snatch up." Harpazo
was rendered in Latin as "rapere" or "rapiemur;"
both verbs meaning "to seize." In the fourth century
A.D., the Latin Vulgate used "rapiemur," as translated
by Jerome. Other verb forms in the Latin Vulgate are "raptum",
"raptus" and "raptura or rapturo." The Latin
"rapiemur" (or rapturo) is root of the English and
French term "rapture." The French meaning is literally
"abduction" or "to carry off." The English
meaning is "caught up," equivalent to the Greek "harpazo,"
and the Latin "rapiemur."
Described precisely in the original Greek, living believers
will be "caught up/raptured/rapiemur/harpazo" in the
air, translated into the clouds, in a moment in time to join
the Lord. It's a sudden, rapid change. Other Latin words had
similar meanings. For example, the English word "rapid"
comes from the Latin "rapidus," meaning "hasty,
snatching," which is from the Latin "rapere,"
meaning "hurry away, carry off, seize, plunder," where,
again, we get the English term "rapture."
The word "rapture" is unquestionably a Biblical
term. For those who say the term "rapture" is not in
the Bible, they are saying the term is foreign to the Bible itself,
which it is not. That also leads to the wrong conclusion that
the doctrine itself is not Biblical since they suggest the term
is entirely foreign to the Word of God. The truth is that the
term is there, in plain Greek, Latin and English!
Almost all words in our English Bible are translations of
Greek or Hebrew expressions, and are not always in the form we
know them. For example, "Jesus" is a good translation
of His name "Yeshua" ("Joshua," "The
Lord Saves," in Hebrew). In the same way, the English word
"rapture" which means "caught up" is an excellent
translation for the Greek "harpazo." Because God's
Word was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, one could say
that all English words are not in the Bible.
The removal of the Body of Christ before the tribulation period
(Daniel's 70th week) is a self-evident promise in Scripture.
If we study and comprehend the differences between the Church
and Israel, and the differences between the rapture and the Second
Coming, then other prophetic passages will be more understandable.
BIO: Tim Osterholm has a BA in Business Administration &
Human Resources Management, and enjoys studying Christian apologetics,
eschatology and theology. With the belief that we are truly living
in the "last days", his goal is to reach the "scoffers
of the last days" (2 Peter 3:3-7), those who are convinced
their own education and knowledge is enough:
Down through history, God has increasingly revealed information
that allows us to know more about the things we read in the Bible;
and now irrefutable evidence as to many of the accounts described
in Biblical records. We can now see with our own eyes the evidences
that human wisdom requires as proof of these events. The sad
thing is that even though there is overwhelming evidence as to
the accuracy of the Bible, many people still believe that Biblical
accounts, such as that of Noah's Ark, are only fiction. We are
told that would be a sign of the last days.
I enjoy your comments (I get a lot on this topic)
Dr. Dave Reagan
The Origin of the Concept of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, From
Man or the Bible?
Dr. Thomas Ice
The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3
Defending the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Bible Prophecy Study: Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Four Views of End Times Prophecy
Reasons Why The Church Will Not Be In The Tribulation Period