The rapture is one of the most hotly debated aspects of the Lord’s Prophetic Word. There are many different views of what it is and when it will happen, and I happen to find this fact to be deeply unsettling. If believers would simply learn to read the Scriptures and let the Lord’s Word testify for itself, there would be little room for debate. Why? Because the Scriptures are actually pretty clear as to when the rapture happens. The only reason there is debate is because too many believers keep trying to force the teachings of men on top of the Lord’s Word (see, ‘the man of lawlessness’). I know that this will be difficult for many, but, if you will try to erase everything you have learned about the rapture and give me a few minutes of your time, I think I can actually prove this to you. Will you do that? Will you give me your sincere, open-minded attention long enough for me to make my case? If so, then I invite you to keep reading. Otherwise, I humbly beg that we part in peace now, lest we cause an unnecessary rift in the Body of Christ.
Original Word: ἀπάντησις, εως, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (ap-an’-tay-sis)
Definition: a meeting
Usage: the act of meeting, to meet (a phrase seemingly almost technical for the reception of a newly arrived official).
To keep the explanation as short as possible, an ‘apantesis‘ is when the people go out to meet a king or high official as they approached the city. The people would go out to meet him while he was still several miles from town, but they did not stay out there. The reception committee would return to the city, singing and dancing as they escorted the king or official back to town. We have three well known examples of an ‘apantesis‘ in Scripture. When David goes out to meet the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6:12-15) and when the people went out to meet the Lord during His triumphant entry to Jerusalem (John 12:12-23). The third well known but seldom recognized ‘apantesis‘ is the event we call the rapture (1 Thess 4:17).
This was the whole point of this little discussion: to demonstrate that the rapture is a form of ‘apatesis.’ The imagery of the ‘apantesis‘ is part of how we are meant to understand the rapture It tells us that, not only will we go up to meet the Lord in the sky when He returns, but we will then turn around and immediately accompany Him back to earth — just the same way the people did when they met Him as He rode into Jerusalem on the donkey colt.
[NOTE: the image of the ‘apantesis’ is also reflected in the bridal party going out to meet the groom as he comes to take his bride. Once again, this is reflected in the imagery of Christ, the Bride Groom, coming for His bride, the Church. We will go up to meet Him in the sky, then immediately turn around and come back to the wedding party.]
Now that we understand what the rapture is, let’s look at what Scripture tells us about when it happens. We’ll start with the passage most central to the issue at hand:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 New American Standard Bible
The rapture will happen with the Trumpet of God. OK, so, what is the Trumpet of God and when does it sound? Well, luckily for us, we have another passage that talks about the events that happen at the time of the rapture:
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 New American Standard Bible
Hopefully, we can agree that 1 Cor 15:51-52 and 1 Thess 4:16-17 describe the events that take place at the time of the rapture. If so, then we can now conclude that the Trumpet of God is the same as the Last Trumpet. The question now is, how many ‘last trumpets’ can there be? Is there a last before the last? Or is there only one last trumpet? I submit that there is only one last trumpet, which is why Scripture calls it the Last Trumpet.
OK, so, we know what the rapture is, and we know it happens at the Last Trump. The last thing we need to figure out is when the Last Trump sounds. This is probably the part that is going to cause the most anxiety for many believers, so I will go slow and be thorough. I just pray you will stay with me, please. This is very important. We start here. Read carefully, and have the faith to believe what you read:
Matthew 24:21 New American Standard Bible
29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet blast, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Dear friend, do you see the order of events there? First, the Great Tribulation takes place. Then, Christ returns with a great trumpet blast — the Last Trump. How do we know it is the Last Trump? Because He returns to gather the elect. This is the Rapture! Which means the rapture clearly happens after the tribulation, at the point where the Messiah returns for His bride.
I know this is not what many have been taught to believe, so let me give you a second witness to this fact that the tribulation comes before the rapture. Once again, we look to Scripture. I start here:
Revelation 1:9 New American Standard Bible
Do you see what John just told us? At the time he writes The Book of Revelation, he is already in the tribulation! But, in addition to that, he is in the kingdom — the millennial reign! I know, I know: this is not what we were taught. But is it not what John just wrote? Then how else are we to understand this? Or do we look for some other passage to prove John a liar? For, if we do so, then we break Scripture. But Scripture cannot be broken. So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with the unavoidable conclusion that the tribulation had started in John’s lifetime, that he is already in the millennial reign, and that the rapture comes after the tribulation ends.
We’re not done yet. I ask you to look carefully at this next passage:
This is a poor translation, and it is the cause of much confusion. The Greek word, translated here as ‘delay,’ is ‘chronos.’ It means time, not delay:
Original Word: χρόνος, ου, ὁ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (khron’-os)
Usage: time, a particular time, season.
The Holy Spirit lead John to write, ‘chronos,’ time. The Greeks had an entirely different word for ‘delay,’ so, had the Holy Spirit meant to say delay, then He directed John to use the wrong word! The Holy Spirit does not make mistakes, so John used the correct word, and, therefore, correct translation says: “there will be no more time!” Time, as we know it, ends with the blast of the Last Trumpet!
But we’re still not finished. How do we know time ends with the Last Trump? Read:
Revelation 10:7 New American Standard Bible
Again, read carefully — and think! First, we are told that, in the days when the seventh Trump is about to sound (the Last Trump), the mystery of God is finished: the mystery God announced to the prophets. It does not limit which prophets, so it means all prophets. This means all prophecy is fulfilled: there is nothing left.
Next, we are told that the nations are no more. They have become the eternal Kingdom of God, and the Messiah will rule forever and ever. This is the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; when the stone carved out without human hand strikes the statue (a representation of human kingdoms) and becomes a mountain (God’s Kingdom) which spreads throughout the entire world.
Brothers and sisters, the Scriptures could not be more clear: The tribulation started in the time of John. After it ends, the Last Trump will blow, time will end and the rapture will occur. It is at that point that we enter into eternity. The real question should be, why has this caused so much division within the Body? Why do we struggle so much with simply reading and accepting the Word of Lord for what it says? Granted, there are some things in the Lord’s Word that are difficult to understand. Still other things we are not meant to understand. But those things that are as clear as this issue should be accepted — as a child accepts the word of his or her Father.