Thoughts On The Rapture

The following is was originally posted in May 2017 on another forum.

This morning, I happened to notice the OP by our brother G——, entitled “2 Thessalonians 2:3 has a different interpretation”. Having read it, and having totally misconstrued our brother’s remarks, thinking he was saying the opposite of what he was in fact saying, I felt deeply burdened, and I felt it’d been laid upon me to make some remarks on the truth as to the rapture. Now that I read the post again, I see that his remarks are both truthful and helpful. Nonetheless, I feel it might be profitable to continue on the line of teaching our brother has begun on, and reinforce this vital truth. I hope to be simple in what I say, and brief as possible, because being complicated and lengthy will defeat the object I want to accomplish, which is to set before the brethren an easily digested presentation of very important truth.

Before I go on that, I just want to make a brief remark regarding our brother’s point as to 2 Thessalonians 2 v 3 (“Let not any one deceive you in any manner, because it will not be unless the apostasy have first come, and the man of sin have been revealed, the son of perdition…” (New Translation by J.N. Darby)). The “it” in the phrase “it will not be” refers, here, to the day of the Lord, the day in which He will come in judgment, bringing an end to the great tribulation and ushering in the millennial period, which is not the same event as the rapture of saints, which, as the scriptures amply show, will occur before the tribulation. Now, I have no difficulty with anyone translating aphestimi as apostasy, or falling away, or rebellion, or departing. They mean the same thing. We must be clear in our minds, brethren, that any departure from truth once received is apostasy in character. If I get light as to a certain aspect of the truth, and then I turn around and deny that truth, having had light as to it, that has the character of apostasy. It is rebellion against God, and a serious matter. This character of things is developing now – “For the mystery of lawlessness already works…” but is held in check while the Holy Spirit is here indwelling the saints: “… only there is he who restrains now until he be gone, and then the lawless one shall be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and shall annul by the appearing of his coming…” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). When the Spirit is gone, the lawlessness which is in development (although restrained) in Christendom now will be unchecked, and there will be “the apostasy” or wholesale departure from the truth. Having said that, I’ll happily continue to the main thrust of what I feel has been laid upon me.

That scripture, 2 Peter 1 v 19-21, comes to mind when considering the subject of the rapture: “And we have the prophetic word made surer, to which ye do well taking heed (as to a lamp shining in an obscure place) until the day dawn and the morning star arise in your hearts; knowing this first, that the scope of no prophecy of scripture is had from its own particular interpretation, for prophecy was not ever uttered by the will of man, but holy men of God spake under the power of the Holy Spirit.” Every true prophetic utterance throughout the history of time has been spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit. Therefore, as Peter says here, the scope of no prophecy of scripture is had from its own particular (or discrete, separate) interpretation – it is all part of one divine utterance, from one Source. We cannot pick up isolated parts of prophecy and expect to understand the scope of them by looking at them in isolation. This is as true of the prophetic scripture regarding the rapture as it is of any other prophetic word of scripture.

We all know, from scriptures like 1 Corinthians 15 v 51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4 v 16-17 that there will be a rapture of the saints, and the form that this rapture will take. Nothing is said here in these scriptures as to the timing of this rapture in relation to other events. Many believers (myself included) have been convinced that the Spirit of God places the prospect of the rapture before us as something to be expected at any time, something which keeps our gaze fixed on the heavens and the One who sits at the right hand of God in the glory, and our affections for Him stimulated and engaged. The apostle writes to the Thessalonians, “we, the living who remain”: he (or the Spirit, rather) places the rapture before them as a present expectation: they, saints of the 1st century, should expect the Lord to come at any time, just as we, saints of the 21st century, should expect the Lord to come at any time. The language of the Lord is, ” Yea, I come quickly” (Revelation 22 v 20). However, God in His wisdom and grace, has not left us to speculate about the timing of the rapture in relation to other future events. The scope of prophecy shows it clearly.

Our brother, in his OP, has referred to Mr J.N. Darby and the recovery of the truth as to the rapture, which had been lost sight of for so many centuries. In first half of the nineteenth century, a number of influential writings as to prophecy aroused a great deal of interest in the subject in general. This general interest resulted in what were called “The Prophetic Meetings”, occasions for study of the prophetic scriptures which were held in Albury, Surrey, England, and in Powerscourt Castle, Wicklow, Ireland. At first these meetings were attended by a number of clergyman and laymen, but latterly the attendants were mainly of that movement which was popularly called “the Brethren”, of which Mr J.N. Darby was a part. It was during this time of general inquiry into prophetic subjects that the truth of the rapture, and its timing in relation to other future events, was recovered and widely embraced. The fact that this truth was recovered in the course of a study of the wide scope of prophecy, in the restoration of Israel to their own land, and the glory of the millennial kingdom, is highly significant.

What I would like to draw particular attention to in this OP is how the prophetic scriptures concerning the remnant of Israel are of great importance in relation to the truth as to the rapture.

First, we must be clear that there is to be a remnant of Israel which will be restored to a place before their God, recognised as His people and owned of Him, after passing through the tribulation. Regarding the Jews, what they must pass through and their restoration is spoken of in Zechariah 13 v 8-9. They will be brought into the land, and there the remnant will be separated out. Then there’s the ten tribes of Israel, scattered throughout the nations now: they’re spoken of in Ezekiel 20 v 33-38. They will be brought “into the wilderness of the people”, not into the land immediately as the Jews are, and the rebels from amongst them will be separated out and removed. The final consequence, the end result of this sifting and refining process, is that both will be united into one in the land – see Ezekiel 37 v 11-28.

The process of the restoration of the Jews to the land – in unbelief – has already begun. The state of Israel has been created through divine providence, and Jews have been returning to the land. The place has been prepared, we might say, the scene has been set. After the Church is taken from the earth at the rapture, that process of the restoration of the Jews to the land will be rapidly accelerated, and the period of tribulation will commence, during which the remnant will be brought to light, refined, kept through the time of “Jacob’s trouble”. What must be carefully noted about all this is that it marks the resumption of God’s direct dealings with Israel – dealings which have been interrupted for 2,000 years. When God takes up the Jews and the ten tribes, He resumes dealings with His earthly people. There will be a testimony to Him on the earth in the form of the remnant of Israel. There is a testimony to Him now on the earth – that is the Church, Christ’s assembly – the testimony lies with the assembly now, and not with Israel. When the Church is taken away out of this scene, God resumes His dealings with Israel, in the form of the remnant, and they are His testimony on the earth. If we’re to believe those who teach that the Church will remain on earth during the tribulation, while all the events described in the prophetic scriptures referred to above take place, then that would mean that God would have two centres of testimony on the earth. That is clearly confusion and disorder, and God is not a God of disorder but order.

However, some would challenge the statement that the centre of testimony on the earth is now the Church, and that God has broken off His dealings with Israel at the current time, until He resumes them again when the Church is taken away. Everything must be tested by scripture, and I will now test this statement by scripture. We can see the breaking off of God’s direct dealings with Israel as a nation in the Book of the Acts.

The Church was formed on Pentecost (Acts 2 v 1-4) with the coming down of the Holy Spirit for the first time. At this time, Peter gives his extraordinary gospel preaching (Acts 2 v 14-36) and who is he preaching to? “Men of Judea, and all ye inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v 14), “Men of Israel” (v 22). This preaching is to the Jews and to Israel – things were not yet opened up to the Gentiles. Peter preaches from the prophecy of Joel which describes the conditions which will prevail in the millennium. If all Israel had accepted that gospel message, if they had, as a nation, repented of their wickedness in rejecting the Messiah, then He would have come again immediately, and these conditions prophesied of by Joel would have been fulfilled immediately. But, in a sense, it’s not profitable to speculate about what might’ve been: God knew full well that the many would continue in hardened unbelief, and the salvation would be opened up to the Gentiles. In the next chapter, Peter and John go up to the temple, and Peter preaches again: “Men of Israel” (Acts 3 v 12) – God is still appealing in patient grace to Israel. The Spirit has come, the Church is formed, yet God is still speaking in grace to Israel. In chapter 4, the opposition of the religious element comes to the fore: the priests, the captain the temple, and the Sadducees come and arrest the apostles. Then they’re brought before the rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the high priestly family – the whole religious establishment of the Jews. Peter preaches again… I’ll let the brethren follow through these scriptures for themselves, for the sake of brevity. I’m sure the point I’m trying to make is becoming obvious. The opposition of the religious element continues and grows in intensity. In Acts 6, we have “Stephen, full of grace and power”, who is seized and brought before the council of the Jews. Stephen preaches to them, a full witness; “they were cut to the heart, and gnashed their teeth against him.” It brought out nothing but opposition. “But being full of the Holy Spirit, having fixed his eyes on heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…”, and when he spoke of this, they rushed on him, cast him out of the city and stoned him. He saw Jesus, standing. We have references elsewhere in scripture to Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, but here Stephen sees Him standing. We see in this the movement of the testimony – the testimony was moving on, away from Jerusalem, away from unbelieving and rebellious Israel. Saul was standing by, consenting to Stephen’s being killed – he didn’t know it yet, but he was being prepared as a vessel for this great movement of the testimony – he was to be the apostle of the Gentiles. In the stoning of Stephen, the Jews had rejected the testimony. Stephen saw Jesus in heaven, not enthroned in Jerusalem – the glory of God had departed the city. And yet still, God is speaking in grace to Jew first, and then to Gentile, securing individuals as material for the Church, for the assembly. There is still a going on with things Jewish, Paul still going into the synagogues on the Sabbath and reasoning with the Jews. We have another landmark moment in Acts 21 v 30: “And the whole city was moved, and there was a concourse of the people; and having laid hold on Paul they drew him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.” The doors of the temple were shut. After that, we have no more mention of believers going up to the temple to pray or worship. That order of things was definitively closed. God in His grace had appealed to Israel, again and again, but finally that avenue was shut off, His dealings with them were broken off. There could not be two centres of testimony on the earth: the Church was the centre, a body composed of Jew and Gentile, with no difference made between the two.

So, for the centre of testimony on the earth to be Israel once more, the Church must be taken out of the way. This will occur at the rapture, then God will resume His dealings with Israel on the earth, first in judgment and trial during the tribulation, then in blessing during the millenial period. The prophetic scriptures regarding God’s dealings with the remnant of the Jews and Israel show that this must be the case – unfamiliarity with these scriptures is what has led to some falling into the error of a mid- or post-tribulation rapture. We must look at the whole scope of prophetic scripture in order to interpret it correctly. These errors lead to further confusion: lowering the heavenly hopes, promises, and expectations of the Church to the level of the earthly hopes, promises, and expectations of Israel, or even losing sight of the thought of there being a Jewish remnant altogether. I feel that this important truth has only been touched on very lightly above, and the abundance of prophetic scriptures only very briefly and selectively referred to. I would encourage every one of us (myself most of all) to study these scriptures in dependence on the Holy Spirit, so that the scope of prophecy might be had by each one of us, and we might have a clearer and fuller personal understanding of the purposes of God. Considering the above has impressed me very strongly (and like never before) with the need to apply myself to the study of the length and breadth of scripture, and not to take scriptures in isolation. Broad-ranging study, even in the limited way which led me to gather up these impressions, has embedded so much more firmly in my soul the truth of the rapture and its imminence, and that can only be a good thing.