When will the Rapture Happen?

The Bible prophecies several things that will happen at the end of the world. I am a premilliennialist who believes Jesus will rapture the church, the antichrist will rule the world for seven years, those seven years will be a time of massive natural disasters and great tribulation, the seven years of tribulation will end with the return of Jesus to the earth, and when Jesus returns He will judge the wicked and establish His kingdom. The kingdom of Jesus on earth will last for one thousand years. At the end of the thousand years Satan will stir up a final rebellion against God. That rebellion will be smashed, the unsaved will be condemned to eternal suffering in the lake of fire, the entire physical universe will be destroyed and a new heaven and new earth will be created.

Those who hold to postmillennial and amillennial views arrange these events differently and do not believe the church will be raptured. However, the timing of the rapture is an important question for those with a premillennial perspective. Those who believe the church will be raptured are divided on when they think it will happen. A minority group believes the church will be raptured in the middle of the tribulation. The two most popular views on the rapture are pre-tribulational and post-tribulational. The post-tribulationist believes the church will be raptured at the very end of the tribulation when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on earth. The pre-tribulationalist believes the church will be raptured at the beginning of the tribulation at or before the start of the antichrist’s reign.

A pre-tribulational rapture seems to fit best with the Biblical prophecies, primarily because of one compelling reason. Revelation 19 describes the return of Jesus to the earth in power and victory. Just before the description of Jesus’ triumphal return Revelation 19 describes a scene of great praise in heaven. The saints in heaven praise Jesus for His justice and mercy. The great multitude praises God for His powerful rule and they then say, “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.” This marriage supper of the Lamb is the wedding feast for the bride of Christ- the church. The wedding feast of the church and Jesus takes place in heaven before Jesus returns to the earth. Therefore, the rapture cannot take place at the end of the tribulation when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on earth.

The pre-tribulational rapture seems to be the best interpretation of the Biblical prophecies regarding the church, but the Bible does not give a definitive statement on the timing of the rapture. Faithful Christians who uphold Biblical truth reach different conclusions on the timing of the rapture. This matter is of great interest, but should not be a cause for controversy or division in the church.

Does God Change His Mind?

Theologian Roger Olson says God changes “in relation to creature’s prayers and needs. I have long believed that God does change- voluntarily and only in His experiences and intentions.” How can Christians understand the changeless God described in the Bible who is also revealed to have emotions and answer prayers by intervening in circumstances. Does God change? Does my sin create a new grief in God that was not there before I sinned? Does God start out on one course but change His plans when I pray? These are not easy questions, but understanding God’s relationship with humanity and the Christian’s relationship with God is important.

The Bible teaches that God does not change. In God is no variation or “shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.” (1 Samuel 15:29)

The Bible also says that God repented. “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Genesis 6:6) “The Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35) In Exodus 32 God told Moses to leave Him alone and He would destroy rebellious Israel. Moses pled with God to not destroy Israel, “And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” (Exodus 32:14)

How does the Christian make sense of this? Does God repent, or is He unchanging? Do my prayers cause God to change His mind? When the Old Testament says God “repents” the Hebrews word nacham, translated “repent” in English, reflects an emotional state. Depending on the context the same word is used for having pity on someone or for regretting an action. We can legitimately say, as the NASB translates it, “The Lord was sorry that He had made man.” (Genesis 6:6) God’s being “sorry” does not imply God erred. Instead, the repentance of God shows His tenderness and justice. God is moved with compassion by our need and moved with sorrow by our sin.

Examining the passages that describe God as “repenting” reveals that God Himself is not changing, only His dealings with man are. From the beginning of the Bible God is shown to change in the way He deals with men. He dealt with Adam differently afer sin than He did before man sinned. He dealt differently with Abraham than Moses, the apostles or Christians today. God acts in accord with His changeless character in all His interactions with man, but the expression of His unchanging nature does not always stay the same.

The ability of God to respond to the actions of man does not mean God is taking a new direction different from what He planned. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Acts 15:18 says, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” God knows all that He will do and He also legitimately and actually answers the prayers of people. He makes what appear to men to be changes in His plans, but in fact God knows all that He will do. Before He created the world, God knew He would destroy the earth in a flood. Before God called Saul to be king, He knew He would take the kingdom from Saul. Before Moses prayed for Israel’s protection, God knew He would not destroy the nation. God has always known all things He will do.

When the Bible says that God does not change it is emphasizing that God always does what He says. (Hebrews 6:17-19) God does not ever go back on His promises. His character, knowledge, nature and being are eternally unchanging. He is exactly the same God today that He was in the eternity before He created all things.

Is the Bible based on oral traditions?

The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books written over a span of nearly 2,000 years. The first five books are five of the six oldest books in the Bible and were written by Moses nearly 1,500 years before the birth of Jesus. In Genesis Moses wrote about creation an event that took place 3,500 years before he wrote about it. How did Moses know what happened? One possible answer to these questions is that Moses relied on oral traditions passed down from Adam through Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob until they eventually reached Moses. Oral tradition has also been suggested as the source material of other portions of the Old Testament and of the New Testament gospels. Is this what happened? Is the Bible based on stories that were passed down from one generation to another before finally being written down?

Some believe the Bible relies on oral traditions because they want to discredit the accuracy of Scripture. They argue that if Moses relied on stories passed down from generation to generation then no one can be certain those stories were not exaggerated or changed over the years. The game of telephone illustrates this problem. Get a group of people together and whisper a simple sentence into the ear of the first person who then whispers it to another person. By the time the last person hears the message it has changed completely. “I like fuzzy, red dogs” becomes “I drink large beverages.”

In the case of the four gospels the supposed use of oral tradition is offered as an explanation of how the legend of Jesus grew from a story about a famous teacher to become the story of a great miracle worker and the Son of God. In this case, the correction to that assertion is clear. The authors of the gospels did not rely on oral traditions passed down from previous generations. Matthew and John declared they were writing what they knew from their own experience with Jesus. Luke specifically states he “had a perfect understanding of all things from the first.” (Luke 1:3) Luke compiled eyewitness testimony to put together his gospel and Mark hints that he was an eyewitness of the crucifixion and the resurrection. The gospels were not based on generations of oral traditions, but were eyewitness accounts of those who were there.

The Gospels are not the only eyewitness records in the Bible. Most of the historical books of the Bible are first hand records written by people who lived through the events they describe. This still leaves the problem of events like creation that the authors could not have witnessed. In cases like those, the author may have relied on some sort of tradition handed down through the generations. However, some things must be revealed by God. Adam was able to tell what happened after he was created, but only God can tell what happened on the days before He created man.

We know some portions of the Bible rely on source materials. Luke points to his use of eyewitnesses as the source material for his gospel. Places in the Kings and Chronicles indicate reliance on non-Biblical sources for their information. The use of outside sources, including oral tradition, is not a problem. Nor does it require the material to be full of error, myth or legend.

The Bible is the inspired Word of God. God was moving through human authors to write His Word. He guided any use of source material so the apostles and prophets only wrote what is completely accurate. The use of oral tradition in the Bible, does not occur frequently and it does not mean the Bible is in error. “Thy Word is true.” (Psalm 119:160)

Does praying repeatedly for something show a lack of faith?

Biblical faith is believing God’s Word and trusting Him to do all He has promised. Faith relies on God. A strong faith gives peace in difficult times and comfort in afflictions because it trusts God to do what is best for His children. Faith is most evident when circumstances are unpleasant or when we do not understand why things happen like they do. If a Christian is trusting God in a difficult situation does that mean he will not have to keep praying about it? Will the peace that comes from trusting Him forego the need of continuing to pester God about the problem?

Luke 18 records Jesus’ parable about a widow who had been wronged. She went to a judge to seek judgment against the one who wronged her. The judge was not interested in justice, but the widow persisted in bothering him demanding for justice until he finally issued judgment on her behalf. Jesus told this parable to teach, “that men ought always to pray and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1) If an unjust judge will do right because of someone’s persistent pleadings how much more will the Christian’s heavenly Father answer the prayers of His children?

Jesus Himself prayed and prayed earnestly. Did He lack faith? Jesus prayed earnestly because He trusted His Father. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed intensely and repeatedly because He was relying on His Father to strengthen Him for the brutal task ahead. Jesus prayed when He already knew His prayer was answered. (John 11:41-42; 12:27-28) Jesus prayed at all times because He trusted His Father.

The consistent pattern in the Bible is that God delights in those who pray with fervency, intensity and tenacity. He is never annoyed by persistence in prayers. One danger to avoid is willfulness is prayers. God is not pleased with those who insist on praying for something they should not have. Those who make improper demands of God may find themselves like the Israelites in the wilderness. They were given quail to fill their bellies but it came at a great spiritual cost. “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:15) The Christian who asks rightly for right things can ask with boldness and persistence, knowing God is pleased when we trust Him enough to never quit asking Him to supply our need.

Absence of prayer is an absence of faith. The one who relies on God for all things is one who will pray continually. Faith filled prayers trust God to work. Those who trust God are quick to lay their requests before God. The absence of prayer is not a sign of spiritual strength but of spiritual immaturity. A lack of prayer indicates the person either does not care enough to pray or is trusting something else to supply the need. E.M. Bounds said, “Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.” Those who truly trust God “pray without ceasing.”

Can people be saved after the rapture?

The rapture is an event that takes place at the end of this age when living Christians are taken out of the world by Jesus. They do not die, but are “caught up” into the air and taken directly to heaven. After the rapture a horrible seven year time period will begin. This time is called the Tribulation. During the tribulation the Antichrist will come to power, every person on the planet will be forced to worship the Antichrist and terrible catastrophes will unfold on the earth resulting in the death of billions of people and widespread destruction of the earth’s surface. At the beginning of the rapture there will not be a single genuine Christian on the planet (though there will be many who claimed to be Christian.)

The time of the Tribulation will be a time of intense religious oppression. The antichrist will seek to crush every religion but the worship of himself. The Holy Spirit will be less active in the world and Satan is given freedom to be more active. The antichrist and his chief of staff, the false prophet, will be great deceivers (Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:14). Satan is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44) During the tribulation he will be even more aggressive in attempting to keep men from the truth of salvation. On top this, the Bible teaches in 2 Thessalonians that God will send a strong delusion on those who live during the Tribulation. With all that the Bible says about the difficulty of coming to saving faith during the Tribulation, it would seem that none can be saved after the rapture.

But the book of Revelation specifically describes certain ones who will be saved. Revelation 7 and 14 speak of 144,000 Jewish men who will be specially marked out as servants of God during the Tribulation. These men will stand firm for the Lord in a world that is going mad with hatred for God. On top of this, the book of Romans says that all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:26) The prophet Zechariah says that during the Tribulation many Israelites will be put to death, but God will be at work in the survivors to bring them to faith in Him. (Zechariah 13:9)

Despite great difficulties against faith and great persecution against Christians many in the Tribulation will trust Jesus as Savior. The terrible time of the Tribulation reminds us today of God’s wrath against sin. The Almighty God will bring to judgment all who persist in rebelling against Him. God will graciously forgive those who cry out to Him for mercy and salvation. Those who trust Him will not have judgement, but eternal life and eternal joy.