What is the Rapture? Part II

(For part one of this series, click here: What is the rapture? Part I )

Matt, Josh, and Sarah, Ben Kaplan’s medical students, were excited. The time of their weekly meeting with Ben had finally arrived.

“So, Dr. Kaplan, we’re raring to go! Tell us more about the rapture, please,” said Sarah.

“Sure, Sarah,” said Ben. “Let’s start with a short recap. Let me read again the 3 verses in the Bible that most obviously talk about the rapture:

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (ESV)

“As we said last time, because they happen so closely together in time, we’re going to refer to the raising up of both groups, the dead in Christ and the we who are alive, as the rapture. And because the rapture and the tribulation are closely related, we are going to talk about the tribulation today.

“There is coming a time of great tribulation on the earth. The tribulation occurs after the rapture. So when believers are raptured they are saved from entering the time of the tribulation. Although the world has one heck of a lot of tribulation now, The Tribulation will be much worse than any tribulation that has ever happened so far. It will last 7 years and it will be a time during which God pours out His wrath on this planet. The wrath and accompanying judgements will be concentrated and extremely severe. The 7 years of The Tribulation are divided into two equal periods of three and one-half years each. The second half of The Tribulation is even worse than the first half. For that reason it is sometimes called The Great Tribulation and another name used to describe this second half of The Tribulation is The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah.

“Jesus talked about The Great Tribulation in the 24th chapter of Matthew. Matt, please read verse 21, spoken by Jesus,” said Ben.

“Sure, Dr. Kaplan.”

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 (ESV)

“Dr. Kaplan, hasn’t there ever been a time like this already on the earth? What about all the natural disasters and mass murders that have occurred right up to the present time and are still occurring? What about Hitler’s Holocaust and other episodes of genocide since then? ” asked Matt.

“Matt, The Tribulation has not yet occurred and we’ll prove that a little later in our discussion when we talk about something called The Abomination of Desolation, but for now, I’d like you to just keep in your minds the idea that The Tribulation will be bad beyond anything we can even imagine right now. We, the 4 of us here together today, do not want to go through that period of time and, praise God, He has ordained that we will not go through it. He will catch us up from the surface of the earth to meet Jesus in the air, along with our dear departed brothers and sisters who accepted Jesus when they were alive. They will be resurrected, ” said Ben. “Let me read that to you again from the Bible,” said Ben.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (ESV)

“All of this will happen in the blink of an eye, essentially instantaneously,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, how do we know when the rapture will occur? I know that you read 2 other verses last time, telling us that God is going to deliver us from future wrath. The Tribulation is that future wrath, right?” asked Josh. “But if that’s the correct interpretation, can you prove that to us?”

Sarah spoke up. “Amen, Dr. Kaplan. I’d also like to have proof of this timing, proof that the rapture occurs before The Tribulation. I’m already reading, in various books and articles, that many people believe that the dead in Christ and the we who are alive, of 1Thessalonians 4:16-17, will be raptured after The Tribulation, not before. So how do we know for sure that we will be caught up in the clouds before The Tribulation starts?”

Matt spoke up too. “I agree with Josh and Sarah. I’d like proof that the rapture is before The Tribulation, that it’s pretribulational. Can you give us that proof, Dr. Kaplan? Because if you can, that’s going to be something! What an incredible thing it would be if I can know that I won’t be on earth during the time of The Tribulation. And one other thing, Dr. Kaplan. I’ve come across articles that refer to this 7 year Tribulation as the 70th week of the prophet Daniel. What is that all about? Does that fit in with our current discussion?”

“I cannot believe how much the 3 of you are learning! It’s fantastic! And you’re asking great questions! Matt, Daniel’s 70th week surely does fit in with what we are talking about, and thanks for asking about it! We will get to that a little bit later on,” said Ben. “But getting back to what the 3 of you are asking for. You are asking for proof that the rapture occurs before The Tribulation. I believe that the Bible furnishes that proof. In order to understand that proof, we need to talk about something called imminence. A standard English dictionary will tell us that imminence is a state or condition when something is about to happen. But from Matthew 24, we derive a slightly different definition of imminence. Imminence refers to a thing that is going to happen suddenly, at an hour that we cannot know, with no preconditions required in order for it to happen. If we believe that Jesus could come today to catch us up to meet Him in the clouds then we believe that the rapture is imminent. He doesn’t have to come today but He could. We cannot know the day or the hour. But when He comes it will be sudden. That’s what imminence means,” said Ben.

“So the Biblical definition of imminence is a definition deduced from what Jesus said in Matthew 24?” asked Josh.

“Exactly, Josh, and it’s not just from Matthew 24 but for now we’ll stick to Matthew 24. We’ll take this in bite sized pieces,” said Ben.

“So the rapture is imminent and that word is not actually in Scripture but is deduced from Scripture?” asked Matt.

“That’s exactly right, Matt,” said Ben.

“And a Biblical definition of imminence speaks of an event that could happen at any time, of an event that when it occurs will occur in an instant , and of an event that requires no preconditions that have to occur first. Is that right?” said Josh.

“Beautifully summarized, Josh!” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, why is it important to know if the rapture is imminent or not?” asked Sarah.

“Sarah, you have just asked the most important question of the day, or perhaps of the year. Thank you! It is important to know if the rapture is imminent because if it is imminent then we cannot know the hour and if we cannot know the hour, then we must be ready at all times! And as I hope to show you soon, if the rapture is imminent, that means that any theory that requires the rapture to occur after The Tribulation has started has to be incorrect. So our next task is to prove that the rapture is imminent and I believe that we can do that from what Jesus said in Matthew 24,” said Ben.

“OK, Dr. Kaplan. I’m all ears and I can’t wait to hear the proof. But one more question first, please,” said Josh.

“Sure, Josh,” said Ben.

“You said that an imminent rapture means we must be ready at all times. Are you referring to Matthew 24: 44? Can I read that verse to you?” said Josh.

“Please do, Josh,” said Ben. Josh read.

44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 (ESV)

Ben spoke. “The Greek word for ready in this verse is hetoimos. It means prepared. So Jesus is telling us that we must be prepared for his coming for us, that we must be prepared for the rapture. It means, Josh, that we must know Jesus, that we must be born again, that we must be saved. Because if we’re not, we won’t be raptured. If we’re not, provided we don’t die first, when the rapture happens we’ll be left behind and we will enter the time of The Tribulation.”

“Is this ever getting exciting, and serious, Dr. Kaplan!” said Sarah. “But you still haven’t given us the proof, from Matthew 24. I have no doubt that you will though.”

“God has indeed provided us with the proof, Sarah, and we’ll get to that right at the beginning of our next session,” said Ben.

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