What is the rapture?

In recent years the rapture has been brought to popular attention through the Left Behind series of books and movies. The rapture is a doctrine that has caught the public’s attention time and time again since the mid-1800’s. Though some opponents claim the rapture is a recent theological development, church history reveals the rapture was believed and taught very early in the second century just decades after the death of John, the last living apostle.

The rapture is the event when Jesus resurrects the bodies of believers who have passed away and carries off the earth all living believers. The rapture is the next event of world history that has been foretold in Bible prophecy. When the rapture happens every Christian on the earth will suddenly be gone. Some teach that the rapture will take place in waves, with faithful Christians going up at the beginning and others at later times during the Tribulation depending on how faithful they have been. The Bible gives no hint of a partial rapture. In every place it discusses the catching away of Christians the promises includes all believers. None of God’s children will be left behind. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together”. All living believers will be caught up with the Lord when He comes for His church. This is indeed a great comfort to Christians.

Three passages in the New Testament speak of the rapture: John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15: and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Two of the three passages are intended to give comfort to Christians and the third encourages faithfulness in Christian service. As a result, many questions about the rapture cannot be answered from direct Biblical teaching, Those who think about the rapture make many deductions based on other Bible doctrines and logical reasoning. When describing the rapture, great care needs to be taken to separate deduction and speculation from Biblical teaching.

The Bible describes the rapture as taking place with the shout of an archangel and the sound of an angelic trumpet. Jesus will descend from heaven into the earth’s atmosphere, but He will not descend all the way to the earth. All believers, living and dead, will then ascend into the air to be united with Jesus. At the rapture, all the saved will be transformed. Their physical bodies will be replaced with glorified, spiritual bodies. The change will happen more quickly than the eye can see. The raptured saints will then be taken into heaven and begin to enjoy eternal joy with the Lord.

Is Everything about to Change?

According to a handful of teachers about Bible prophecy the series of lunar eclipses that started last year is a sign from God that something significant is about to happen in the world, probably in relation to Israel. This predication is based on the idea that when the Bible says the moon will be turned to blood it is referring to a full lunar eclipse, also called a blood moon. A quick online search of the Bible reveals the phrase blood moon is not found anywhere in the Bible. The phrase is a modern one that possibly originated in the 1800’s. Though the blood moon is not found in the Bible, the question still remains, does the “moon be turned to blood” refer to a full lunar eclipse or a special series of eclipses?

The moon being turned to blood is most likely not intended to teach that the moon will change its substance to become actual blood. Instead, the phrase seems to be describing an event which causes the moon to take on a deep red color like that of blood. Though the phrase blood moon is descriptive of the appearance of the moon during the lunar eclipse, the assertion that it is descriptive of a lunar eclipse tetrad is uncertain at best. The coloration of the moon during a full eclipse is not that different from the deep orange of a moonrise occuring just after sunset. Why are harvest moons not on the prophetic booksellers table? Despite the efforts of modern authors, no evidence exists to suggest that the writers of the Bible or the original readers would have understood “moon turned to blood” in terms of an eclipse. We cannot today make a passage mean something it never meant.

The Bible teaches that something will happen which will cause the moon to take on a deep crimson hue. To understand if this most recent series of blood moons is a fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies, one must look to the Bible. The reference in Joel 2 declares the moon being turned to blood will be associated with the sun be darkened and wonders of fire and smoke in the skies. Revelation 6 expands on these events teaching that at this time the stars will begin to fall from the sky. Most importantly for our understanding, and most destructive to the theories devised by blood moon speculators, is the timing of the moon being turned to blood. Revelation 6 describes these horrible cosmic events as taking place during a time called The Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven year period of intense suffering unlike anything ever seen before. The catastrophes of that time will not be natural but supernatural. The violence and destruction of those seven years will be unmistakably different from the earthquakes, hurricanes and tragedies happening today. The moon will not be turned to blood before the tragedies begin but in the middle of a series of horrific events. Since the world is not engaged in another world war, and since the world is not stricken with near universal famine, and since a quarter of the earth’s population has not been struck down in painful death, and since the sun has not been blotted out of the sky, and since the world has not been shaken with an earthquake that moves the mountains and islands out of their place, and since the stars are not falling out of the sky, then I can say with Biblical certainty these lunar eclipses are not fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. (Revelation 6:1-17) The moon being turned to blood is a horrible happening preceding the day of Jesus. It is not a sign given for speculation, but one part of the wrath of God being poured out on mankind. God has already communicated in His Word all that mankind needs to know about the return of Jesus. He is not using eclipses to reveal special information about the end of the world.

Will everything change as one author foretells? I have no doubt that significant events will continue to happen in the years ahead. Those looking for proof of their conjectures will find ample evidence in the normal wars, catastrophes and political upheavals of the world. Those looking for Biblical truth will find the lunar eclipse is a sign that the celestial bodies are still spinning as God has ordained. When the moon is turned to blood mankind will know already know something is happening and God’s wrath is being poured out on humanity.

Does the Bible talk about blood moons?

On the evening of September 27, the last of four “blood moons” in a will occur. The term blood moon is relatively modern and used by some to describe a full lunar eclipse. During a full lunar eclipse the moon takes on a deep orange color which has prompted the creative designation “blood moon”. Much attention has been given recently to the lunar eclipses, and especially the phrase blood moon, due to the conjunction of four lunar eclipses in a row, called a tetrad. Each of these four eclipses also coincide with a Jewish festival day. Since the death of Jesus a series of eclipses that also coincides with Jewish feasts has happened a handful of times.

The unique series of eclipses has prompted several men of different Christian denominations to publish books about the prophetic significance of these blood moons. The authors claim that the blood moons of 2014-2015 are significant signs regarding the end of this age and portend major, possibly catastrophic events that probably also indicate the soon return of Jesus. These teachers make such claims because of the uncommon occurrence of a sequence of lunar eclipses each falling on Jewish feast days and because several prophetic passages refer to the moon being turned to blood as a key event taking place shortly before the return of Jesus.

The original Biblical passage is Joel 2:31 which says, “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Just before the Messiah comes as King to judge the earth, the moon will be turned to blood. In Acts 2 Peter quotes the prophecy of Joel and proclaims it was partially fulfilled in Jesus. The fulfillment was partial because Jesus is the promised Messiah who sent His Spirit upon men as He promised and Joel prophesied. The entire prophecy of Joel has not yet been fulfilled because Jesus has not yet come as a conquering king to establish His worldwide kingdom. Revelation 6 contains the last prophecy about the blood moon. Revelation 6 prophesies that the moon will be turned to blood during the final judgments just before Jesus returns. Because this is an event has not yet happened, some men are seeing great significance in the current series of lunar eclipses.

The Bible does not use the phrase blood moon, but it does describe the moon being turned to blood. To understand the Bible’s teaching on this subject, two questions have to be answered. First, is a lunar eclipse what the Bible is talking about when it says the moon will be turned to blood? Second, can we learn anything about when Jesus will return from normal astronomical events? The next article will attempt to address these two questions.