This is Part 3 in the Beginning and End Rapture Series.
The Rapture, the supernatural gathering of all born again Christians, both dead and alive, in the clouds to meet Jesus Christ and go to Heaven is one of the most debated topics in the Christian church. While most agree that it is described in Scripture, the timing has been a mystery that has provoked hundreds of thousands of debates and discussions as to when during the end times will it happen. This article will show Biblically, that the purpose and timing of the Rapture can be explained based on scripture alone and offers a different interpretation from the 3 major Rapture models that are most popular today.
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. — Amos 3:7.
In Parts 1 and 2 of the Beginning and End Rapture Series, we detailed the significance of the Day of The Lord, the end times outpouring of supernatural judgments poured out by God on the unbelieving world. Part 2 showed that God has demonstrated all throughout the Bible that He secures and removes His faithful followers before a supernatural judgment is unleashed. The Rapture is the final such gathering that will take place before the end times: the final 7 years on Earth before the Second Coming of Christ. The “Red Moon Rapture” a name created and popularized by Bible scholar and author Peter Goodgame, accurately details the timing of the Rapture. (B&E – We strongly recommend reading Parts 1 and 2 of the Rapture series if you have not as this article was written with the assumption that the reader has knowledge of both).
The Rapture in Scripture – An Escape and a Wedding
Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. – 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
In order to properly understand the Rapture we must examine its purposes. The Rapture serves as an escape for the Church – those who are true born again believers in Jesus Christ, from the devastating, supernatural catastrophes and punishments that will be sent on the world in the Day of The Lord. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that Day of The Lord will punish the unbelieving world:
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 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. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. – 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6.
The Day of The Lord, described repeatedly in Old Testament Scripture is the event that starts the end of the world. It is critical to understand the Biblical passages on the Day of The Lord to truly grasp the timing and purpose of the end times themselves and the Rapture (we detail this is in our Part 1 article, The Day of The Lord – The Event That Starts the End of The World). The Apostle Paul confirms this by writing, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the Day of The Lord comes as a “thief in the night.” He describes the world as thinking it has just achieved global peace and safety. Things are not only okay in the world, it sounds like the nations are moving to be at complete peace with each other. Clearly no end times event has taken place yet. And then, as if out of nowhere, The Day of The Lord commences.
Also note that Paul makes the distinction between the Church (whom he calls “ye”, which is the plural of “you”) and the unbelieving world that has rejected God (“they”). This distinction is critical to understanding Bible prophecy as Jesus Christ employs the same language in the prophecies in the Gospel (which Paul is purposely repeating). Paul reassures the church in Thessalonica that yourselves, meaning the Church, “know perfectly” that the Day of The Lord will come unexpectedly. At that point “they”, meaning the unbelievers of the world, will suffer “sudden destruction” and “they shall not escape.” Paul then says in the very next verse “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” The word overtake, which is katalambanō in Greek, means to “lay hold of” or “possess.” Christians will not be destroyed or suffer in the Day of The Lord. We will escape. And that escape is the Rapture.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. — Isaiah 26:19-21.
The verse above from Isaiah 26 outlines the exact description of the Rapture given in 2 Thessalonians: ” Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. ” — the dead will resurrect and receive their new bodies first.
“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” The implication here is that the believers in God are instructed to “shut thy doors” and “hide” until the “indignation” be overpast. The language of a shut door is used several times in Scripture to indicate signify The Lord removing and hiding His people before pouring out a judgment on the sinning world. At the Rapture, believers will be hidden in their “chamber” in Heaven once the Day of The Lord, referred to several times in Scripture as “the indignation” is finished.
Notice verse 21 states: “For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” This again alludes to the Day of The Lord – the time when God Himself will arise to punish the sinful world with the trumpet and vial judgments described in the book of Revelation. Understanding the Day of The Lord and the numerous Old Testament Scriptures regarding it is essential to understand the end times. Once that is known, the timing of the of the Rapture is much clearer.
The 5th Seal Martyrs – Prelude to the Rapture
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. – Revelation 6:9-11.
The souls of the believers under the altar at the 5th Seal give an important insight into the timing of the Rapture. Here we have another critical point of Biblical interpretation – the group of saints under the altar are not the raptured church, nor are they all believers who have died up until that point in history. The Scripture is clear that this particular group of people are martyrs – believers who had been killed for their faith throughout time. And they cry out to God to ask “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” The Day of The Lord is a time of the Lord’s vengeance on the Earth for its sins and within that, the murder of those who believe in God. At the opening of the 5th Seal it has not started yet, because the Saints are still asking, “how long?” before God will start to judge the world. This is very important – at this point – any rapture model or theory that proposes that the end times starts before the 5th Seal fails. We see further confirmation of this in the Gospels from Jesus who said in describing the first several seals of Revelation 6:
And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. — Mark 13:5-7.
Jesus describes the first 2 seals of Revelation 6 and confirms that “the end shall not be yet.” The end times starts at the Day of The Lord which is at the 6th Seal. Thus the traditional pre-tribulation, or “pre-trib” model, which places the start of the Day of The Lord (which it calls the ’7 year tribulation’) and the Rapture at the opening of the first seal, is not correct for this one point. Additionally, the pre-wrath position which also places the start of the end times judgment of God at the opening of the first seal, is incorrect. Joel chapter 2, which is a description of the Day of The Lord, confirms the 6th Seal as the time the ends times commence: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” (Joel 2:31). The signs of the moon turning to blood and the sun turning black only occur together at one point in the entire Bible – the 6th Seal.
The martyrs under the altar confirm that the Day of The Lord has not yet commenced at the opening 5th Seal. These martyred Christians are told by God to wait a “little longer” until the final saints to be martyred in the Church Age have been killed for their faith. However they are given white robes afterwards, which is a sign (as will be shown) of the Rapture. And then we see the Rapture:
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. – Revelation 7:9-14.
The 6th Seal’s earthquake is the start of the Day of The Lord and the moments before it is the point where the Rapture of the church takes place. The martyrs of the 5th Seal are given their robes, which represent the raptured church, first – because the dead in Christ rise first at the Rapture. Then the 6th Seal is opened, the red moon and the black sun all manifesting to people on the Earth and the start of the Day of The Lord, with God’s earthquake judgment.
The Multitude of Revelation 7 – The Raptured Church
Throughout Revelation, the Apostle John’s perspective moves from Heaven to Earth. In describing the 6th Seal, John details Earthly events (the sun turning dark, moon turning red, earthquake, etc.). In the very next passage in Revelation 7, John describes the 144,000 Jewish witnesses who are sealed and witness the Gospel in the Earth. Then his perspective moves back to Heaven. And the very next thing John sees in Heaven is the multitude of Revelation 7: “that no man could number.”
This racially, ethnically diverse, innumerable group, standing before the throne of Jesus is the Raptured Church. Many authors and websites suggest that this group are “saints killed by the Antichrist during the tribulation” but the Scripture does not say this. Just verses earlier, John readily identified martyrs who have been killed for their faith and yet when the multitude in Revelation 7 appears out of nowhere (hence, the language “and lo, I beheld..” which indicates a sudden surprise), John has no idea who they are. This is worth examination:
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. – Revelation 7:13-15.
“Great tribulation” is another term for the Day of The Lord. As this series has already stated, the terms are interchangeable in Scripture. Bible scholar Peter Goodgame writes:
The adjective “great” is necessary to create a distinction between the end-times “great tribulation” and the “tribulation” that began for the Church the moment that it was formed in the first century AD. That the Church was promised “tribulation,” and has endured “tribulation” from the very beginning, is proven in a number of texts (all from the KJV):
Acts 14:22 – “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Romans 5:1-3 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience…” ….
Believers must understand that they will continually face “tribulation” for maintaining and proclaiming their faith. However, the Bible offers no evidence whatsoever that believers must be prepared to enter into the end-times “great tribulation.” In fact, the opposite is true.
There are only three instances of the term “great tribulation” found in the Bible. Studied together these passages make it clear that the “great tribulation” applies to the entire Day of the Lord and that believers are promised to be kept from it.
The first passage is Matthew 24:15-21 (KJV),
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains… For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
Some prophecy scholars conclude that Jesus meant that the term “great tribulation” should be reserved to apply only to the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel. It is true that Jesus referred to this time period descriptively as a time of “great tribulation” but he immediately modified his description of that time to be the period of “greatest tribulation.” The entire Day of the Lord will be a period characterized by “great tribulation” but the second half of the seventieth week will be the time of “greatest tribulation.” (source).
Additionally, the term “came out of Great Tribulation”, used by the angel who is speaking to John, indicates a sudden escape. In Greek the term erxomenoi, is given a special qualification of its tense in Strong’s concordance:
“5774 Tense – Present
The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense. Some phrases which might be rendered as past tense in English will often occur in the present tense in Greek. These are termed ‘historical presents,’ and such occurrences dramatize the event described as if the reader were there watching the event occur. Some English translations render such historical presents in the English past tense, while others permit the tense to remain in the present.”
In other words, the phrase reads as if John is watching people who are just coming out of the Great Tribulation as it starts, as opposed to seeing saints who were killed during the Great Tribulation (and remember Scripture never says that the saints of Revelation 7 were martyred, or that they died at all). This interpretation lines up with Jesus’ description of the end times in Luke 21:
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. – Luke 21:36.
As we have shown in Part 2 of the Rapture Series, Believers Shall Escape – Foreshadows of the Rapture, throughout Old Testament Scripture, God has previewed the Rapture with the pattern that believers escape just before His judgment on the unbelieving world comes down. When the Raptured multitude appears in Heaven, they have not only escaped the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation, but are indeed standing before the throne of God the Father and Jesus.
Wrath on Earth – Salvation in Heaven
“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand.” — Revelation 6:15-17.
At the 6th Seal, the entire Earth is devastated by a global earthquake. The Bible goes out of its way to make it clear that every single person on the planet is on the run in fear of God at this event. But if there were Christians on the Earth at this time, why would they be scared? Why would they scream out in fear of the wrath of God? The answer is because there are no Christians on the Earth at this moment. This is another confirmation that the Rapture has just taken place because Christians would never run in fear or worry about who is able to “stand” in the face of God’s wrath because they are saved from God’s wrath through Jesus Christ. Chapter 2 of the Book of Thessalonians addresses this very point. This church was deceived into believing they missed the Rapture and were now living in the Day of The Lord, and were frightened. The Apostle Paul wrote to them to reassure them that they had not missed the Rapture (for more on this see
However, as the unbelieving world runs and hides for fear of God’s wrath, the Raptured Multitude in Heaven is singing of its salvation in Jesus:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number…And [they] cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
This group has just escaped from the Great Tribulation and are shouting “salvation” before the throne of Jesus. Just as described in 1 Thessalonians 5, destruction has come upon “them” (the unbelievers) but “we” (believers) are not overtaken by the Day of The Lord. The Apostle’s Paul concludes this section on the Day of The Lord and the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 5 with:
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, – 1 Thessalonians 5:10.
The unbelieving world is screaming “wrath!” while the Christian Church that has been raptured in Revelation 7, is in Heaven before Jesus and is shouting “salvation!”
The Rapture in Matthew 24 – The Bridegroom Comes For His Bride
But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.. — Matthew 24:40-48.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…” – 2 Peter 3:10.
“Behold, I come as a thief.” – Jesus Christ, Revelation 16:15.
Noah’s escape of the flood in the ark, a foreshadow of the Rapture, was one of the examples Jesus used in this passage to describe the Rapture. Notice Jesus references that in those days before the flood, which no one in the world expected that judgment from God (it had never even rained before that day), “they” meaning the unbelieving world, were carrying on with sinful life as usual. But like a thief, the flood came unexpectedly, punishing the rebellious world while righteous Noah and his family escaped safely in the ark. Jesus’ coming in the clouds for His church is an event that will not be expected and is a different event from His Second Coming, which will be expected as the Antichrist and his armies will be waiting in Megiddo for Jesus to arrive at the Battle of Armageddon. The Day of The Lord is also described as a “thief in the night” by the both Peter and Paul. These events are described similarly because the Rapture directly precedes the Day of The Lord.
Jesus then refers to “two in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” This is a description of the Rapture. The word for taken in this verse is paralambanō in Greek. This is a different Greek meaning from the word “taken” from the general understanding of the word. The translation is “to take to, to take with one’s self, to join with one’s self.” The Greek word paralambanō is the same word Jesus used for “receive” in John 14:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive [paralambanō] receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John 14:1-3.
The word consistency is no coincidence. Jesus is again referencing the symbolic Hebrew wedding ceremony of Himself to His Bride, the Church. All born again believers are going to be wed to Jesus as His Bride. This symbolic spiritual union is confirmed in Ephesians 5:
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:22-32.
This “mystery” which is only being revealed in the church age is that marriage itself is a type and shadow of the spiritual relationship between Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom and His Church, the Bride of Christ.
In this light, it now makes sense that the references in the John 14 passage are with respect to the ancient Hebrew wedding in which the groom would first depart to prepare a bridal chamber for his bride in his father’s house. Once the chamber was complete and at a time that the father approved, the groom would return at an unexpected hour to “snatch” his bride and commence the wedding ceremony. Jesus explains this in detail in Matthew 25 with the parable of the Ten Virgins. This snatching or seizing is also depicted in Judges Chapter 21, when the Tribe of Benjamin, who had been cut off from the nation of Israel, were permitted to “snatch brides” as a way to re-enter the nation and start a new lineage:
Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.
Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin…And the children of
Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. — Judges 21.
The men literally “caught” their unsuspecting brides foreshadowing the Church, the bride of Christ, who will be “caught up” at the Rapture and brought to the chamber in Heaven.
But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. — Matthew 24:43-44.
Jesus refers to Himself as a thief again signifying the arrival for the groom. The Groom in the ancient wedding arrived unexpectedly and thus the bride had to be prepared and watching for his arrival. The groom would then arrive with his groomsmen who would give a loud shout to signal his arrival (a tradition still practiced at Orthodox Jewish weddings today — something this author had the pleasure of witnessing first hand). The arrival of the groom at an unknown day and hour, the shout, the catching of the bride — these are all of the elements mentioned in the passages regarding the Rapture in Scripture and Jesus makes this even clearer with the parable of the Ten Virgins, which is about the Rapture.
Jesus Christ Is The Bridegroom
The Jewish marriage ceremony is a type and shadow of the union of Jesus Christ with His church:
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. – Matthew 9:14-15.
Jesus Christ used the marital ceremony to indicate it is a foreshadow of His own marriage to His bride the church. John the Baptist understood this Old Testament foreshadowing as well:
John [the Baptist] answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
Again, there is a reference to Jesus as the bridegroom. In traditional Jewish marriage, the groom-to-be presented a payment to the bride’s father as a commitment to marry her in the future. This was demonstrated by Abraham’s servant, who, when looking for a bride for Isaac, gave expensive jewelery to Rebekkah as a dowry for her marriage (and of course this tradition is still done today in Western cultures in the form of an “engagement ring” which the bride receives before the wedding as a sign that the groom has committed to marrying her in the future). Jesus paid for His Church with His shed blood on the cross. The next step of the marriage was for the groom and bride to share a cup of wine as a symbol of their betrothal. During the Last Supper feast, just before Jesus Christ was crucified, he lifted the cup of wine for the Passover Seder and made a powerful illustration:
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:28-29.
The groom then goes to prepare a bridal chamber in his father’s house for his new bride. Jesus clearly describes this when He stated that His Father’s House (Heaven) had many mansions and “I go to prepare a place for you..”
The Church is the Bride
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 11:2.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; – Ephesians 5:25.
The church is clearly the “bride of Christ.” The bride’s duty at this point was to prepare herself with a white gown and have herself ready for the groom’s return to receive her. The bride did not know the time the groom would come and thus watching out for him was critical. When the groom returned there would be a shout as he approached to signal his arrival. Again we see this as a type and picture of the Rapture:
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: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
The shout will precede the Church, the bride of Christ, being snatched into the clouds where Jesus Himself will meet us, and take His bride back to Heaven to remain in the marital chamber until “the indignation” or the punishment of the unbelieving world, has passed. Paul in verse 18 says that the Thessalonians were to “comfort one another” because they were not going to suffer the Day of The Lord, which is the very next thing he describes in chapter 5. Jesus at the Rapture and the Day of The Lord are both described with the term “thief in the night” because they are virtually simultaneous events.
Symbolism of The Bridal Gown – Some “Christians” Will Miss The Rapture
The letters to the 7 churches of Asia Minor in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 were sent to real churches that existed at the time of the writing of Revelation but they contain messages that apply to churches all the way into modern times. The messages apply words of encouragement and promises of reward for faithful believers in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, there are warnings of judgment and punishment for false believers who may profess to be Christian but really are not. And one of the main punishments is missing the rapture and being overtaken by the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation.
The Church of Pergamos is warned:
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. – Revelation 2:14-16.
Jesus fights the Antichrist and the unbelieving world with the “sword of his mouth” at Armageddon in Revelation 19. The warning is that if those in the Pergamom church do not cease from mixing with false religions and occult practices (something many churches are doing today) they will be left behind for the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation. But Jesus tells them to repent to avoid this punishment.
The Church of Thyatira is warned:
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. – Revelation 2:20-22.
Again, those who are involved in other spiritual practices and serving idols are told that if they do not repent and truly believe in Jesus Christ, they will be cast into “great tribulation.” This is the only other time Jesus uses the term “great tribulation” outside of Matthew 24 when He is describing the events of the Day of The Lord. So again, it is clear that false believers, who may claim to be Christian but hold to non-Biblical spiritual beliefs, will suffer in the Great Tribulation. They will miss the Rapture. Also of importance is that like the other warnings to the churches in Revelation, the punishment is conditional. It is clear that if this church repents, they will not experience the great tribulation. And that escape is provided by the Rapture. The point here is to emphasize one of the 2 main purposes of the Rapture – to provide an escape for the church from the outpouring of God’s wrath at the opening of the 6th Seal of Revelation chapter 6.
The Church of Sardis is praised and warned:
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. – Revelation 3:1-4.
This letter references many of the symbols and themes discussed in this article already. If the false believers in this church do not watch or repent, Jesus will “come on thee as a thief, and thou shall not know what hour I come upon thee.” Being caught off guard by the end times is the sign of being an unbeliever (contrast this with Paul who specifically said believers will not be caught off guard by the end times and will “escape”).
Jesus then praises the faithful believers in the church of Sardis who “have not defiled their garments.” Jesus declares that those faithful believers will be “clothed in white raiment.” This is a reference to the white linen gowns of the Raptured church. And the two groups in Revelation who are wearing them are the martyrs of the 5th seal (“And white robes were given unto every one of them”) and the Raptured multitude of Revelation 7 (“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude… clothed with white robes”).
Once again the symbolism of the Rapture, the snatching of the bride and the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation all go back to the opening of the 6th seal, which is preceded by the martyrs for Christ being given robes (the dead in Christ shall rise first) and followed by the multitude suddenly appearing in Heaven in their white robes. This is because the Rapture takes places at the opening of the 6th Seal of Revelation Chapter 6.
The Church of Philadelphia is praised:
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” – Revelation 3:10.
This faithful church of genuine believers is told that they will be saved from the “hour of temptation” that the whole world will experience. Rather than experience the 7 years of Great Tribulation, they will escape and be “kept” from it.
Psalm 27 offers an insight into God’s practice of protecting His believers from His wrath:
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. – Psalm 27:4-5.
The book of Zephaniah goes into a lot of detail about the Day of The Lord (and is definitely recommended for an understanding of the severity of God’s wrath on unbelievers at this time). And the prophet, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, echoes the message of salvation and escape from the wrath of God during the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation:
Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. — Zephaniah 2:2-3.
For those who seek God, believe in Him and are forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ, God promises that they will be “hid” during the day of His wrath on the unbelieving world. These passages refute the idea of a “post-tribulation rapture” in which the church is forced to suffer the wrath of God in the Day of The Lord for 7 years. Even this time period is symbolized in Scripture by the 7 day betrothal process of a Hebrew bride. (This is symbolically pictured in the book of Judges during the wedding of Samson which lasted 7 days before it was complete, during which time the bride was in her chamber.) All these passages are clear that The Lord will protect His faithful believers in the day of His wrath.
The Church of Laodicea is warned:
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” – Revelation 3:17-18.
This church is being told it will not be included in the Rapture. Jesus says that He is going to “spew” the members of this church from His mouth. This is a very frightening comment to a group of people who believe they are Christians.
Laodicea, which received no praise from Jesus Christ is encouraged to buy “white raiment” so their nakedness, or sin would not condemn them. The white raiment is again referenced because it is what the raptured church will be wearing in Heaven. This particular letter is urging the Laodicean church to truly have saving faith while there is still time.
Jesus Christ gives a final warning to all readers of Revelation in Chapter 16:
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Revelation 16:15.
Notice the warning is not about hell. These warnings are about missing the Rapture and having to suffer through the Day of The Lord. Having a spotless garment is the symbolism of those who will escape this. And it all comes back to the start of the Day of The Lord, the 6th Seal and the multitude of Revelation 7:
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. – Revelation 7:13-14.
The Marriage Supper
After the 7 years of the Great Tribulation, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb takes place. This is also in line with the symbols and prophetic language of this study:
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: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand… And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 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. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 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. – Revelation 19:1-9.
Notice the sequence of events in Revelation 19. The trumpet and bowl judgments have now finished. Mystery Babylon has been destroyed. And in verse 2 we read that God has “avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.” The 7 days of the marriage week are fulfilled in the 7 years the Raptured church have spent in their chamber during “the indignation” which is about to come to an end at Armageddon. (B&E: an interesting study is of the word “week”, or shbua in Hebrew which means both 7 days AND 7 years. See Genesis 29 when Jacob is told to work for a “week” to marry Leah).
The bride of Christ, the Church, who is now called the “wife” because the ceremony has started, is again described as being in clean, white linen – which is specifically linked to the saints. The Raptured church, having been in Heaven and consecrated, is now going to return to Earth with Jesus Christ for the Battle of Armageddon:
“And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Revelation 19:14).
This is the Raptured Church returning to Earth with its King. The Book of Jude confirms the same: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,” (Jude 1:14).
The marriage supper is a time when the Bride is presented to the guests of the wedding. And this will be when the Raptured church is presented to those new believers from the Great Tribulation at the resurrection of the just in Revelation 20:4. And thus the judgment of the unbelieving Earth is complete. The Raptured Bride has been preserved and saved from the wrath of God, the Bride and Groom are ready to be presented to the “guests” and the Millennial reign of Christ on Earth commences.
Do Not Miss The Wedding
There are many ideas and theories on the Rapture, and Lord willing, this article will be seen as a Biblically-based explanation that rightly divides Scripture. But regardless of one’s view on the timing of the Rapture, it is clear that the key to eternal salvation is faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. There will be a marriage supper one day and belief in Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah and the Coming King of this world will ensure that you will be there.