by Paul Benson
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20-21
In this modern generation much unneeded squabbling is taking place among the people of God over a question unmistakably answered in the Scriptures: The timing of the catching-away of the Church to meet Christ in the air.
For over 18 centuries the leaders and teachers of the Church were of a like-mind that the Resurrection of the Dead, and the joining of Christ to his Church, will take place at his Second Coming to Earth! And that prior to that blessed hope of the Resurrection at the Last Day the believers will face the onslaught of Antichrist’s war on the Saints. This is an undeniable historic fact!
Though world-wide this remains the majority position, regrettably in this day there are a great many who, having allowed themselves to be swayed by the wayward theories of man, have departed from the historical belief of the catching-away at the Second Coming, and have turned aside to embrace teachings that are merely fables.
Because the Western Church has let down its guard, and allowed itself to be inundated with unbiblical teachings that ‘turn from the truth’, there is now a divisive doctrine among us that the Church will escape the trials, tribulations, and persecutions of the final years in a ‘pre-trib’ rapture.
But though a multitude are stubbornly claiming the Bible truly teaches it, the Scriptures themselves give no such ‘pre-tribulation’ timing to the Coming of Christ for his faithful ones. In fact: Just the opposite!
I recently came across a page on a website that listed the top ten arguments supposedly proving a ‘pre-trib’ timing of the catching-away of the Church, BUT… Their arguments were all merely theoretical in nature!
They did not give any scriptural reference clearly showing any specific timing; but instead were just stating notions they were theorizing about the Bible. Not one argument cited even one verse that actually gives such a timing! Typical pre-trib preaching. But as I have pointed out time and time again:
Stating what you believe does not prove what you believe. Quoting facets of your theory as proof of your theory is no proof at all!
What we need to concern ourselves with is not the theories and presuppositions of man about this ‘timing issue’, but: What does the Bible plainly speak when we actually do read (and take to heart) what is written there for us?
I love the way the truths of the end-times must be pieced together like a jig-saw puzzle to get a proper picture. I believe the Lord did this to intrigue us, and keep our interest in his Return alive. It is not only interesting and exciting when that picture takes shape and comes to life through our studies; it is also a blessing and edification to our spirit-man to be diligently immersed in the Word of God!
Although some truths about end-time matters are hidden away and not so easy to find, and others are deliberately vague, we CAN ferret-out many firmly stated truths and piece them together to paint a picture that speaks forth the true timing of this event we are awaiting. We cannot yet clearly see all aspects of the complete picture, but the basic tenets of eschatology ARE there for us to find. And piecing together a biblical picture of the timing of the catching-away in relation to the other end-time events is definitely a can-do!
So let’s look at some of the various passages from which we can glean clearly stated facts (facts – not just theory!) that we can join together and get a firm understanding of exactly at what point in the end-time scenario the event in question will actually transpire.
As we focus on this timing issue let’s lay some foundation for a proper view of the Resurrection. The Resurrection of the Just at the last day is not a merely New Testament teaching. The people of God have been anticipating this event from antiquity. Daniel prophesied of that day.
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:1-2
Notice Daniel’s words ‘at that time’ in the beginning of this chapter. The ‘that time’ he is referring to was just described at the end of the previous chapter. It is speaking of the reign of Antichrist at the end of days. Daniel ties 1). the reign of Antichrist, 2). a time of great trouble such as never was up to that time, and 3). our Resurrection (every one that shall be found written in the book) all together in a common time-frame.
This is not just the resurrection of the Jews, but ALL who are written in the Book! A Dispensationalist will try to claim this is not talking about the Body of Christ but only the Jews. But Paul clearly taught in Romans 11, Ephesians 2, and Galatians 3 that we, the Gentile believers, have joined the remnant of Jewish believers in Christ in their election as ‘one new man in Christ’. We are today just as much Daniels people (thy people v.1) as the Jewish believers are! We are all one ‘elect’ new man in Christ.
Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. John 11:24
The Jewish nation was awaiting and anticipating the hope of a resurrection of the dead at the last day just as we do today. There is nowhere the Bible presents the notion of a separate resurrection for Jew and Gentile believer. Nowhere! The Resurrection of the Righteous is ALWAYS portrayed as a singular event!
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Acts 24:15
And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. Luke 14:14
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20:5-6
The claim the righteous Jews have a separate resurrection apart from the righteous Gentiles is a fictional fabrication of modern invention. And it flies in the face of the words of our Lord Jesus who, speaking to Jewish believers (v.14 above) still living under the Law of Moses, told them they would be recompensed at the Resurrection of the Just like we also will be. And Paul clearly tied this Resurrection at the Last Day to the catching away of the Church to meet Christ in the air!
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 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: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1Thessalonians 4:14-17
This is obviously one of the most frequently quoted passages on the resurrection and catching-away; but I would like to point out something most people miss that relates to the Jews not having a separate resurrection of their own (pre-trib theory dictates they do). Notice the words ‘them also which sleep in Jesus’ in verse 14. Who all would you include in that number? Would you exclude the Old Testament Saints from those who are asleep in Jesus, and exclude them from the Resurrection and catching-away like Dispensationalists do? Are they not now resting in the completed work of Christ? According to the Bible they are!
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? Ephesians 4:8-9
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 1Peter 3:18-19
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 1Peter 4:6
Those who died prior to the Cross had to hear and receive the message of the Cross in order for the Blood of Christ to be applied to their sins. There is no other way to be saved than to be redeemed through faith in the work of the Cross (John 3:3). Period! If you believe folks can be saved by any other method you are believing heresy.
And because these O.T. believers, having received the Gospel by Christ himself, are now ‘asleep in Jesus’ they also will be resurrected along with the rest of Christ’s redeemed. This wonderful truth of Christ’s redeemed (all of them!) being caught up to him all at the same time is further validated by Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 15:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 1Corinthians 15:22-23
The only way to be resurrected unto eternal life is to be ‘asleep in Christ’! You must be ‘in Christ’ to be redeemed from the curse of sin. The event (and the ONLY event) that undoes the death which came upon man through sin, and transforms the believers into an eternal glorified state, is the resurrection of the dead. This singular event happens when? At Christ’s Coming!
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, John 5:28
How could anyone believe that when Jesus descends in the air and gives a shout (1Thess.4:16) to resurrect his faithful that the Old Testament believers will not hear his voice? Will that shout be: ‘Rise up all you N.T. believers; you O.T. believers ignore this summons. I’ll holler at you guys in 7 years!’? That is what Dispensational / Pre-trib theology teaches! How bogus is that? Jesus said we will ALL hear his voice! That settles it for me. How about you?
Understanding that the Resurrection of the Righteous is one event that transpires at one time for both Jew and Gentile is a must. It closes the door on the distracting falsehoods that will fog up your picture of end-time timing.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Act 1:9-11
According to these angels (and contrary to pre-trib theory that teaches an invisible coming NOT described anywhere in Scripture) this return of Christ we are to be looking for will be just the reverse of his departure! He will appear visibly in the clouds and then descend to Earth. This jives perfectly with Paul’s description of the event in 1Thessalonians.
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: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. … …1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1Thessalonians 4:16-5:3
Notice that the sudden destruction of the wicked follows right after the catching-away in this contextual discussion. The timing associated with the catching-away is the Second Coming when Jesus returns in a wrathful anger. This jives perfectly with the ‘same day – sudden destruction’ warning Jesus gave about his Second Coming in Luke 17:26-30 using the example of the days of Noah and Lot.
The so called ‘rapture verse’ (v.17), so often misused to promote pre-trib teaching, is actually part of a context which is specifically speaking of the Second Coming of Christ. Don’t let the chapter break fool you. When this context is read in its entirety (1Thess. 4:13 thru 5:11) the timing is unmistakably the Return of Christ to rescue the righteous and recompense the wicked with his wrath.
When Jesus descends and appears in the clouds with a glory that every eye shall see (Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24:27) we will be caught up to meet him in those clouds of the air, and then descend to Earth with him as he wages war upon those who have rejected and opposed him. It is now the time of God’s wrath upon the wicked. And just when does the Bible teach this all happens?
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Mark 13:24-27
According to our Lord himself this gathering unto him of his elect Church (Yes, the Church is God’s elect spoken of here) will take place AFTER the tribulation; as is also clearly stated in Matthew 24:29-31.
I know myself and others have pointed to these verses a myriad of times to show the incorrectness of pre-trib teaching (and I will continue doing so as it is the truth presented by the Word); but I wanted to do so once again to set the stage for examination of some other less frequently discussed passages on this timing question.
And you might be shocked to learn how many there are!
In their efforts to push the notion of a pre-trib rapture as ‘the great mystery God revealed only to the Apostle Paul’ the pre-trib crowd insists there is no mention of the catching-away of the Church prior to Paul’s writings on the matter. They are WRONG!
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. 5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. 6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah. Psalm 50:3-6
In spite of this claim that ‘there is no mention of the rapture before it was revealed to Paul’, not only did Jesus speak of it multiple times, but here also in Psalms we have a vivid description of the Lord Jesus returning in fiery indignation and his followers being gathered unto him at that time! (No, this is NOT a later judgment that takes place after a pre-trib rapture. I’ll fully explain in my next article why the Resurrection and the judgment of the believer have to be one and the selfsame event.)
And this description in Psalms of Christ’s Coming in judgment and our being gathered unto him sure matches the description we just saw in 1Thess. 4:16-5:3 and Mark 13:27-29 above, doesn’t it? And now let’s compare it to a passage from one of the most overlooked chapters in the New Testament.
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 2Thessalonians 1:4 -10
This description of the coming of Christ also gives us the timing of 1). rest being given to a persecuted Church (in case any may not catch it – this is a description of the Church in the tribulation!), 2). reward (recompense) being given to the Church (behold I come quickly and my reward is with me… Rev. 22:12), 3). the recompense (wrath) upon those who have been persecuting the Church prior to his Return, and 4). Christ revealed to the world in all his glory.
This passage vividly details a persecuted Christian Church being rescued and rewarded as Christ returns to Earth to exact vengeance upon the wicked who have been persecuting them! The timing plainly shown in this chapter is so out of accord with pre-trib teaching that you will rarely hear a Dispensationalist expound on these verses; and that is why this is one of the least frequently discussed portions of the Bible in the Western Church.
Here in 2Thessalonians we have another example of a context severed in two by a chapter break. The entire context of discussion here is 2Thess. 1:4 thru 2:12, and the subject focus is upon the Second Coming. Read it all together as such, ignoring the chapter break, and you will get a clearer picture of what Paul was really teaching.
Let’s get it right: The timing of the Resurrection, the rescue of the persecuted Church, the reward of the believer, and the catching-away of the Church are all tied together. The timing of one is the timing of all. You can either accept it, reject it, twist the passage to speak something else, or just plain ignore it. The choice is yours. But the fact remains: the timing is clearly there! Here is another passage that gives a clear image of timing:
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time… …7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:… …9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:… …13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1Peter 1:4-13
The timing of this passage in 1Peter could not be clearer. It is the day Christ will appear (v.7) to the world at his Revelation (v.13)! The Revelation of Jesus Christ will bring us the realization of our blessed hope: the end of our faith and the salvation of our souls (v.9). As we read in our opening verses (Philippians 3:20-21) the grace we are awaiting is the transformation of our mortal bodies into a glorified eternal state. That will transpire at the Resurrection. The timing given here for that resurrection in 1Peter is the Second Coming of Christ.
Resurrection (our blessed hope) must precede the catching-away to meet Jesus in the air. If the Resurrection takes place at this time Peter is describing there is no way the catching-away could happen at any previous time. And common sense dictates that if ‘the rapture’ happened 7 years earlier we would not still be awaiting our blessed hope at the Revelation of Christ! Any teaching that would put a rapture before what is described here by Peter is completely out of accord with God’s Word.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. Job 19:25-27
This passage found in the book of Job (one of the earliest mentions of the resurrection of the believer) is oft quoted by most Christian preachers. But in nearly forty years as a believer I have never heard a pre-trib promoter expound upon the following mention of the resurrection from the very same book. Why? Because it gives a firm statement on timing that is catastrophic to pre-trib theory!
But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: 12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. Job 14:10-12
In nearly twenty places the Bible mentions the major celestial events that happen prior to the Return of Christ. Included in this montage are many various descriptions of the vanishing of the stars (Isaiah 51:6, Isaiah 34:4, Rev. 6:12-14, Psalms 102:25-26, Matt. 24:35 etc.). A thorough study of the matter shows this disappearance of the stars from the sky happens just prior to or in conjunction with the Second Coming. Since Job prophesied the Resurrection will not happen before the stars do this vanishing act we cannot expect any ‘rapture’ event before this point.
I have much to say about 1Corinthians 15 (AKA The Resurrection Chapter), but a thorough discussion of that chapter would make this writing a bit much to chew at one sitting. So I will save that for the next article. So for now let’s touch briefly upon some other passages that would give us a piece of the timing puzzle concerning the gathering of the Church unto Christ.
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, … …7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. … …9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. … ….11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. … …14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. … …15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Revelation 19:1-15
In Revelation 18 we are given a lengthy description of the destruction of Babylon. Then, in chapter 19, after the Judgment of the Whore (v.2) a call goes out to rejoice over the fact the Bride of Christ has now ‘made herself ready’ for her union with him. Then the Heavens open and Christ, accompanied by all his angelic host (angels – NOT the Church that has been previously raptured) comes to earth to wed this Bride, and then descends to wage war upon his enemies.
This is the same scenario and same timing we have seen in example after example so far in this article: The Church caught-away to meet Christ at the Second Coming followed by the destruction of the wicked
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20:4-6
I have seen such ridiculous lengths gone to in order to get around what is plainly shown in this passage. Included in what the Bible calls the First Resurrection are those who will be martyred during that reign of Antichrist. Common sense should tell us that a resurrection that includes those killed during the time of tribulation could not precede that tribulation.
Many pre-trib teachers (such as Thomas Ice) even DENY that there is a resurrection and catching-away at the Second Coming! But as I have proved repeatedly in my writings: since the Scriptures clearly do teach a resurrection and catching-away at the Second Coming, any theory that teaches a rapture event prior to the Return of Christ is in truth teaching TWO Resurrections and also TWO catching-aways of the Church! And there is ZERO mention of either multiple comings of Christ in the end-times or multiple raptures of the Church to be found anywhere in the Bible.
As we shall continue to show in the next article dealing with ‘the Resurrection Chapter’, the ONLY timing given in the Bible concerning the resurrection of the faithful ones and their gathering together unto their Lord is at the Second Coming of Christ.
Anyone who claims differently can feel free to make a liar out of me by submitting the verses that plainly teach any pre-trib timing. I have been waiting nearly 40 years for a response to that request, but no one ever obliges.
There are no such verses!
(This is part 1 of a series on the timing of the catching-away of the Church to meet Jesus. You can find part 2 HERE.)
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