Let’s rejoin Dr. Kaplan and his students, Josh, Matt, and Sarah, as they conclude their discussion on the rapture:
(For the previous post click here: What is the Rapture? Part II)
“Hi Dr. Kaplan. It seems like an eternity since our last meeting although I know it’s only been a week. I’m just so excited about the rapture. I have a hunger to know more about it,” said Sarah.
“Yes, Dr. Kaplan. I feel the same way,” said Josh.
“Me too,” said Matt. “Can we read the relevant verses in 1 Thessalonians again, Dr. Kaplan?”
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ESV
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.
“I’m so glad the three of you are here today. This is exciting stuff!” said Ben. “Now if my memory serves me we have established that according to the Bible the rapture is imminent. Jesus could return at any moment but that moment is not necessarily soon. We do not know just when Jesus will return for us. However it could be today. We know that, because Jesus told us to always be ready. I’m going to read Matthew 24:44 again.
Matthew 24:44 ESV
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
“Now remember that an even better translation for the Greek word ready is prepared. We must always be prepared because Jesus will come for us at an hour we do not expect,” said Ben.
“And to be prepared means to be saved or born again, right?” said Josh.
“And that means to be in Christ, right Dr. Kaplan?” said Matt.
“And that means to be in the Body of Christ which is the Church, the true Church. Right?” said Sarah.
“You are all correct!! So, are we agreed that the rapture is imminent, and that Jesus could come today?” asked Ben.
The 3 students all nodded their heads in agreement.
“So, what about those believers who say that the Church must go through part or all of The Tribulation? If the rapture is imminent, does that prove these believers wrong?” said Josh.
“It does prove them wrong, Josh. Those who insist that the rapture must occur in the middle of The Tribulation, or later on during The Tribulation, or after The Tribulation, destroy the imminence of the rapture, and that can’t be correct because the rapture is imminent. Do you all understand?” said Ben.
“I think so, Dr. Kaplan. The mid-tribulation rapture theory would require that the rapture occur around the time of the abomination of desolation and we know when that will be. It will be after three and one-half years of The Tribulation, meaning the midpoint of the seven year Tribulation. So if the rapture can’t occur until then, it can’t be imminent,” said Sarah.
“And the pre-wrath rapture theory requires that the rapture must occur even later than the midpoint of The Tribulation, so that theory also directly conflicts with an imminent rapture,” said Josh.
“And the post tribulation rapture theory mandates no rapture until The Tribulation is finished which will be at the end of the seven years. That also conflicts with an imminent rapture,” said Matt.
“Right! I think all four of us are on the same page. Because the rapture is imminent, any theory that requires the rapture to occur after The Tribulation starts cannot be correct. In the language that we sometimes use to describe medical test results, an imminent rapture rules out any mandatory mid-tribulation, pre-wrath tribulation, post-tribulation, or any other variety of rapture that requires the Church to enter The Tribulation. This even includes any theory that has yet to be put forth by some future theologian,” said Ben. “We’ll lump all these theories together and for ease of discussion we’ll put them all in a basket labeled Post-Tribulation Raptures,” said Ben.
“Dr. Kaplan, I think I’m clear now on how imminence rules out mandatory Post-Tribulation Raptures. But I’m confused about two passages in Matthew 24 and I’m not sure how these two passages bear on the question of imminence. It almost seems as if Jesus is describing two separate second comings. What’s going on there?” asked Josh. “May I read the verses?”
“Sure, Josh. Please go ahead and read the first of the two passages,” said Ben.
Matthew 24:29 ESV
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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
“Some key words in this passage are immediately after the tribulation. We will know when The Tribulation begins because the signing of a treaty between Israel and the Antichrist begins The Tribulation and that will surely be a very public event. The Tribulation is 7 years long, a known length of time. Immediately after The Tribulation, awesome cosmic signs appear and then Jesus, the Son of Man, comes on the clouds of heaven. This is the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth and everyone on earth will see Him coming. He does not tell us to be ready for this event because 7 years’ notice will have already been given. This is well described in the Bible and anyone living during The Tribulation can read all about it as Bibles will be widely available and, in addition, the Gospel will be preached again, loud and clear, to all earth dwellers during The Tribulation. The Bible tells us that too. So, if a person is not prepared when He, Jesus, comes on the clouds, there will be no time to do so then. It will be too late,” said Ben. “Notice also that there is no mention of Jesus snatching or taking anyone up from the earth to meet Him in the clouds. No rapture is described here. Again, this is the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth,” said Ben.
“OK, I think I see that, Dr. Kaplan. But what about the last verse in this passage. Let me read it,” said Matt.
Matthew 24:31 ESV
31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
“What is Jesus referring to here?” asked Matt.
“I believe He is referring to the final regathering of Jewish people to the land of Israel. This is described all the way back in the book of Deuteronomy where the LORD speaking through Moses said:
Deuteronomy 30:4 ESV
“If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.”
“Josh, please read the second passage in Matthew 24 now,” said Ben.
Matthew 24:36 ESV
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
“Dr. Kaplan, this sounds like an entirely different event than the Second Coming, doesn’t it?” asked Sarah.
“It sure does Sarah. We cannot know the day and hour of this event. And this event is not going to be immediately after The Tribulation because that is an incredibly horrific time. The time before this event is a time of normal life, as in the days before Noah’s flood. Unbelievers at that time will be blissfully ignorant of what is to come,” said Ben. “Jesus is talking about the rapture in this passage.”
“Dr. Kaplan, why is it that so many excellent Bible teachers, pastors, and theologians, say that this passage does not refer to the rapture. They say that it refers to what happens following the second coming and that the men and women who are taken are unsaved people taken away to be judged,” said Sarah.
“Thanks for that question. I think the reason is that the folks who do not believe that this passage refers to the rapture are taking this whole chapter, Matthew 24, as being in strict chronological order. But I don’t believe that is the case. Note that Jesus says “But concerning that day and hour …..”. I believe that the “But” indicates that Jesus is now turning to another topic, the topic of the rapture,” said Ben.
“This all makes sense, Dr. Kaplan, but an idea has just occurred to me and I’d like your input on it. Imminence rules out any mandatory Post-Tribulation Raptures. I definitely see that. But does imminence rule in a pre- tribulation rapture?” asked Josh.
“What a wonderful question, Josh! Almost nobody ever asks that question and it is an important question to ask and the answer is a most important one to understand. The answer is that, although imminence rules out Post-Tribulation Raptures, imminence does not rule in a pre-tribulation rapture. There is something else that rules in a pre-tribulation rapture,” said Ben.
At the same time, all 3 students exclaimed. “What is that, Dr. Kaplan!?!”
“A pre-tribulation rapture is ruled in by 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8a:
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 (NASB) 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed …
He who now restrains is the Holy Spirit in the Church. The lawless one, who is the Antichrist, cannot be revealed until the restrainer, the Church, is removed. That can only occur by the rapture of the Church. The Tribulation cannot begin until the Antichrist is on the scene to sign the 7 year covenant with Israel. So, the rapture must occur BEFORE The Tribulation begins.
But there is another reason too. You know that I’m Jewish and I know that God loves His Chosen Nation Israel and His Chosen People, the Jewish people, with an everlasting love. But I also know something else. God loves His Church, His Son’s bride, just as much, and Jesus will not allow His beloved bride to enter The Tribulation. But not only that, there is simply no reason for the Church to enter The Tribulation because, by definition, the Church, and by that I mean the true Church, is saved. That includes every member of the true Church. Another name for the true Church is the Bride of Messiah,” said Ben. “It is made up of every believer, both Jew and Gentile, from the time of the crucifixion until the time of the rapture.”
“But, Dr. Kaplan, God loves Israel, His Chosen Nation and the Jewish people, His Chosen People, just as you said. So why would Israel have to go through The Tribulation? Why isn’t Israel raptured?” said Matt.
“Once again, the answer is the character of God. His plans for the Jewish people and Israel are so great that we can’t even imagine how great they are. But in order to bring those plans to pass, the Nation of Israel and the Chosen People must be pure. The Chosen People must be saved, all of them,” said Ben.
“I’m confused, Dr. Kaplan. Are you telling me that the Chosen People are not all saved?” said Sarah.
“That’s right, Sarah. They are not all saved. Remember that not long ago you weren’t saved and you’re Jewish. You had to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and then He saved you. And the Nation of Israel, as a Nation, cannot be saved until every member of that Nation accepts Jesus. There is no other way, for anyone, whether he or she is a Gentile or a Jew. There will come a time when The Chosen People, and the All Israel of Romans 11:26, will be coextensive and then all Israel will be saved. That is one major purpose of The Tribulation. God will accomplish this by breaking the will of His Chosen People as He tells us in Daniel 12:7. At the end of The Tribulation, all Jews who have not been killed will accept Jesus, and so all Israel will then be saved. God will then be able to fulfill all of the promises that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thousands of years ago. That is part of the character of God. He always keeps His promises,” said Ben. “And the love of God for His Chosen People is very much a part of all this. God loves Israel and the Jewish People and He always will,” said Ben.
Josh spoke. “So, Dr. Kaplan, you’ve made a very strong case for the pre-tribulation rapture and you’ve ruled out all Post-Tribulation Raptures. You’ve explained why the Church will not enter The Tribulation and you’ve explained why Israel will enter The Tribulation. Now, do you think the case for the pre-tribulation rapture is strong enough? Do you believe it? Is faith required to believe it?”
“I do believe it Josh, I most definitely have faith that Jesus is coming to rapture us, and I look forward to it everyday,” said Ben.
“Now, we’ve talked about the rapture for 3 sessions now, but I think there are still a few loose ends such as who are the elect of Matthew 24:22 and 24:24? These elect people are the Tribulation Saints. You see, as we are told in the book of Revelation, there will be a world-wide revival during The Tribulation. Gentiles will be saved as well as Jews. God knows exactly what He is doing.
“And we also haven’t talked much about Daniel’s 70th week, discussed in Daniel chapter 9. And I’m sure there are a few other loose ends too. But I think that for now, we can move on to additional things of importance in the Scriptures. In the meantime, please look into these “loose ends” yourselves and if you have questions I will try to answer them,” said Ben.
“Would you please join hands with me now as we give great thanks to our awesome God who has saved us and who is returning soon to snatch us up as He tells us in John 14:3?” asked Ben.
John 14:3 ESV
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Ben asked Sarah to lead as all four joined hands together and prayed.