The rapture of the church is probably the most absurd of all Christian doctrines. The very idea that Christians will be taken up into heaven before God releases His wrath upon the earth seems just too far out, and hard to believe. Yet, it has solid footings in Scripture, maybe even more than other views on the end times scenario. Some discount the belief in the rapture as an attitude of escapism from the horrors of the Tribulation, motivated by fear, or spiritual weakness.
It is strange that the Bible is silent on a matter of such magnitude, or is it? Does it mention any precedent for the rapture, either directly, by prophecy, pattern, or shadow? It is well known that all major doctrines of the Bible have roots in Genesis — the book of beginnings. These shadows contain the principles that underpin the doctrines associated with them. Genesis is a treasure trove that reveals beautiful detailed truths about the important doctrines of the New Testament.
The quote above, attributed to St. Augustine, confirms the view that binds the two Testaments together as a single, integrated message from God to us. New Testament doctrines are not actually new — they were were hidden in Old Testament shadows, types, and symbols, as mysteries to be uncovered in the church era.
The first precedent of a rapture is Enoch who was taken up into heaven by God. Enoch didn’t die; he went to heaven bodily. The only reason given for this very unusual event is that he pleased God — a little detail of great importance. (Hebrews 11:5)
So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:23,24
A familiar Old Testament shadow is Noah’s rescue from the flood. Noah found a place among the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:7) as a man who condemned the evil world of his time, and becoming an heir of righteousness which is according to faith. He is described as a just man, perfect in his generations, and someone who walked with God. (Genesis 6:9) Noah lived in such a wicked generation that God decided to destroy them all, but before He did so He brought Noah into the ark, and removed him and his family from the judgment that was about to fall on the earth.
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Genesis 6:11,12
Sin returned to the earth after the flood, and, once again, kindled the wrath of God. He told Abraham of His plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham, knowing the character of God, immediately interceded for them:
Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25
There were not enough righteous people in those two cities to spare them from the wrath of God, but He removed Lot and his family before He rained brimstone and fire upon them. God did not “slay the righteous with the wicked,” but led them out of the city before His judgment fell on them.
…and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) — then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment… 2 Peter 2:7-9
Elijah the prophet was taken up bodily into heaven, just like Enoch — the second rapture of a person that was taken up into heaven, now not such a unique event anymore.
Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 2 Kings 2:11
The seven years of tribulation that the world is about to enter will be a time like no other. While it is called the time of Jacob’s trouble for the Jews, its horrors will not be felt by them only. The wrath of God will be released as described by the seals, trumpets, and bowls in the book of Revelation. (See chapters 6, 8, 9 &16) These will not just be difficult times — the wrath of God will be released on the sin, violence and corruption down here. Will God punish the righteous with the wicked? If He didn’t in times past, why will He do so now? It has been His character to remove the righteous from the wrath of His judgments.
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
How can there be any comfort in the expectation that we will have to endure the tribulation that is coming as the judgment of sinners? No! As Paul wrote to Titus, we are looking forward to the blessed hope that will save us from the wrath of God:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… Titus 2:11-13
The shadows, types and symbols of the Old Testament become the substance of the New Testament, and are given to us for learning, says the apostle Paul. (See Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 10:1, 1 Corinthians 11:10, Romans 15:4) These “shadows” were, so to speak, rehearsals of events that were to become reality in the New Testament era.
Paul describes the church as the bride of Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:22-32 — one of the mysteries that he often spoke about. This mystery has a shadow in Genesis 24 with Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and Eliezer, (Abraham’s servant) as players.
Please read Genesis 24 now. Abraham (in the role of God) called Eliezer (Holy Spirit) to find a bride (the church) for his beloved son Isaac (Jesus). The bride had to be from his own family, and not from the Canaanites, (idol worshippers and unbelievers) and she had to agree to follow him willingly to become Isaac’s bride. Also, Isaac was not to be taken to her — she had to come to him. (Genesis 24:5,6)
Eliezer went to Abraham’s family, not really knowing who to look for. He asked God for a sign: a woman who would be willing to give a drink of water to him and his ten camels — an arduous task as she had to draw it from a well. (A camel can drink 200 litres/53 gallons of water) This is a picture of the church working hard to bring the water of eternal life to the thirsty.
When he found such a woman, (Rebekah) he began to describe his master’s son to her — just as the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us in such a way that we fall in love with Him, without having seen Him. She agreed to follow Eliezer back to his master. Before they arrived, she saw Isaac from afar — not at his house, but in the field.
Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:64-65,67
The church fell in love with Jesus purely on the revelation of the Holy Spirit, and agrees to be His bride. He will meet His bride, not at His Father’s house, but at some distance from it.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9
As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples, He made this promise to them:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14:1-4
“I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Will Jesus send His bride through the tribulation? Will you?
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you… 2 Thessalonians 2:1
“Our gathering together to Him” is about to happen. The belief that He can come at any moment inspires holy living and obedience to His call, in stark contrast to postponing things that must be dealt with until the Tribulation. We know the season of his coming by the signs that He gave us in the Word, but we don’t know the day. He will come at an unexpected time, like a thief in the night, and for that reason we keep our lamps full, ready to meet our heavenly Groom. You cannot go wrong by being rapture ready!
When God called on Abraham to sacrifice his son, He provided a ram to spare Isaac from death. This, in itself, is a shadow of God offering His son on our behalf. After Abraham offered the ram, he left the mountain and went back home, but Isaac is not mentioned in the text. He must have been there, but he is not mentioned. The first time that we read about Isaac again, is when he meets his bride – a beautiful picture of Jesus’ death on the cross and His ascension to heaven, to be seen again for the first time to receive His bride.
The church will be removed from the wrath of God that is about to be released upon the earth because she walks with God in a pleasing way, just like Enoch did, is clothed in righteousness that comes by faith, like Noah, and because He loves her as His bride, as Isaac loved Rebekah.
Look at the promise that Jesus made to the faithful church:
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 3:10
The rapture may sound preposterous to some, but so are many other events documented in the Bible. The pages of our Bibles are filled with stories that don’t make sense to the human mind. There is a difference between mental- and spiritual understanding!
The time to make things right with God is now; don’t put it off, or plan to do so when things get really tough in the Tribulation period. Live in daily expectation to be ready when the trumpet will sound — a sound that only the righteous will hear!
Be rapture ready!
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