In the previous blog, I mentioned that halfway through the seven-year tribulation period, right when the great tribulation period begins, is when we see Christ rapturing up His church. Also, as stated in the last blog, this is technically not His second coming, as that comes later. Therefore, I want to first show you what I mean when I say rapture and show you where we see it taking place in scripture. Then I will describe to you what I believe its purpose is in God’s grander plan.
In Matthew 24:29-31, we see Jesus describing His return in the same way that the angels told the disciples He would come back. Particularly here, He notes when that coming will take place, which is at the sound of a trumpet and that during that time that He will gather up his elect.
Matthew 24:29–31 “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. 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. 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.
He later says, in Matthew 24:40-41, that two will be in the field and one will be taken and one left.
Matthew 24:40–41 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
Now watch how the Apostle Paul interprets this and what detail he adds that obviously the Holy Spirit had to reveal to him.
1 Corinthians 15:50–52 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
In both passages, the Apostle Paul notes the trumpet that the Lord spoke off, and in the first passage, he added that it will occur at the sound of the last trumpet. In the second passage he adds that at that time, the saints will be caught up together with the Lord in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. This is the rapture of God’s church. Where at the sound of the last trumpet, He will return in the air and call up His people. So, when is the last trumpet?
In the book of Revelation, beginning in chapter 6 we see the seven seals being opened up, followed by the seven trumpets, which we see beginning in chapter 8. And according to the Apostle Paul it is at the sound of the last trumpet, that the saints will be called up. Now let’s jump to Revelation 11:11 to help you see this timeline a little clearer.
Revelation 11:11–12 (ESV) — 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
Here Jesus is calling up the two witnesses, and it is right when the seventh trumpet is about to be blown, but notice the timeline that is called out in Revelation 11:3, as to how long they will be witnesses. Also, notice the time noted in verse 2, which means I hope you have your Bible open while reading this because I don’t have every verse here. Then in verse 15, we see the seventh trumpet being blown. Then in Revelation 12 and 13 it is if the story being told is put on pause for a moment and now the story of Satan is being told in order to fill in what is taken place from that perspective. Then in Revelation 14 the story picks back up with Christ calling up His church, and it is during the blowing off the seventh trumpet.
Revelation 14:14–16 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
And this vision that we are given here looks very similar to what Jesus said it would look like in Matthew 24:30-31. Now it is important to note that some will say that this is a book of prophecy, and it can’t be interpreted literally, and I would add that I don’t interpret it all literally, and neither does anyone else who holds to this view that I know of. However, that does not mean that there isn’t anything in it at all that shouldn’t be interpreted literally, in the same way, that we interpret much of the gospels literally, but not every verse; otherwise we would all be walking around with our hands cut off since we have sinned with them. I also would remind you that within the book of Revelation, not only do we see exact months being called out, but we see exact days, and there is nothing that should cause us to have to take that metaphorically. So, when does the rapture occur as I see in scripture? After the first three-and-a-half years of the tribulation period and before the great-tribulation period begins, at the sound of the last trumpet being blown. At that time, God will call up His church to remain with Him throughout the remainder of the great tribulation.
So, to summarize, the tribulation period begins with the seven seals being opened, followed by seven trumpets, and the rapture takes place during the last trumpet being blown. That covers the first three-and-a-half years. The second three-and-a-half years begins the great tribulation period, which is when the seven bowls of wrath are poured out. At the beginning of the great tribulation period is when the anti-christ will also begin to claim he is god, which I believe is the abomination of desolations and will mislead many.
Now the question is, how does this fit into the grander purpose of God’s plan? In Romans 11:25, we see that God has hardened the hearts of Israel to open the door for Gentiles to be saved. Gentiles refers to everyone that is not a descendant of Israel.
Romans 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Earlier God’s Word says that He was going to use another nation to make them jealous in order to draw them back.
Romans 10:19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
As of right now, the Jews as a whole do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but if God calls up the Gentiles in the rapture and leaves the non-believing Jews, then this could be the event that He uses to show them that they were wrong and to make them jealous knowing they were left behind. This is vital to understand, because it speaks to God fulfilling His promise to draw Israel back to Himself, and that He will not let His people go. Again, as we think about what the rapture teaches us about God, it shows us much about His character and that He is faithful to His Word.
Therefore, let’s stop and praise Him now and thank Him for who He is. Then let’s continue to study and to ask Him to help us understand. God doesn’t want us to be confused and to not be able to understand these things. Sure, there is much we will not know now, but there is also much that we can begin to know about our Lord and His plan to call up His people. And remember Jesus gave us signs to watch for which means much of it has to be taken literal.
Be on the lookout as we talk more about what happens after the rapture and as we begin to discuss the literal second coming of Christ where He will crush His enemies and establish His Kingdom forever.