THE SECRET RAPTURE
Many Evangelical Christians today believe that the present “dispensation” (phase of God’s activity) is the “time of the Gentiles.” They teach that those who are faithful Christians now will be secretly “raptured”—that God will take them to heaven before the great tribulation. This is supposed to be followed by a seven-year time of trouble which will be God’s dispensation for the conversion of the Jews and those “Gentiles” who were not converted and raptured before the time of trouble.
This theory has been popularized by books and movies such as the “Left Behind” series which portray a sudden disappearance of Christians, snatched away from the driver’s seat of cars, from airplanes or out of their beds. The sealing of the 144,000 is, according to this theory, the conversion of Jews, who then become witnesses during the time of trouble. Those who were true and faithful Christians will have been raptured and will look on from the safety of heaven.
While this is a nice theory, and most Christians would love to escape the great tribulation, the Bible does not teach this anywhere. First of all, Jesus clearly taught that there will be a great tribulation at the end of time: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matthew 24:21). Jesus said that there would be increasing turmoil leading up to the great tribulation: wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes, persecution and hatred directed at believers, deceptive false prophets, widespread lawlessness, and finally the “abomination of desolation” and then the great tribulation (Matthew 24:4-21). But Jesus did not say that at some point before things get too bad the true Christians would be taken away; He said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:6).
The Greek word for tribulation is thlipsis, which is used in the New Testament to describe the difficult experiences that God's people will endure in this world, not those that they will escape. For example, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Paul assures us that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). John himself, while writing the book of Revelation, was a “companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9). Paul goes so far as to say that “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope” (Romans 5:3,4). There are no scriptures that hold out the promise that Christians will somehow avoid tribulation.
This is the main problem with the theory of the secret rapture: there are no scriptures that clearly teach it. Rather than emerging as a doctrine from the clear teaching of the Bible, the theory of the secret rapture is presented and then texts are given which supposedly support it. Many of these texts actually teach the exact opposite of the secret rapture
Among the favorite “rapture” texts are those like Matthew 24:40, 41: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left.” The scenario that is presented is that people will be going about their everyday activities when some will be “taken” to Heaven and the others “left” behind to experience the time of trouble.
However, a careful reading shows that the story of those “taken” and “left” is another way of emphasizing the previous verses—“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage [going about their everyday activities] until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left” Matthew 24:38-40. It was the flood that took them all away to destruction, not the ark taking them to a place of safety. In the Genesis account it is clear: “Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark” (Genesis 7:23 NIV).
This understanding is in harmony with the parallel passage in Luke 17: 34-37. Jesus again said, “Two men will be in the field, the one will be taken and the other left". The disciples wondered where they would be taken to—“And they answered and said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ So He said to them, ‘Wherever the body [dead body, NIV is, there the eagles [vultures, NIV] will be gathered together.” In other words, the ones taken are those who are destroyed, whose bodies become food for the birds, as described in Revelation 19:17,18, which portrays the Second Coming of Christ and the “feast of the birds.” The ones who are left are “we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, NIV).
Rapture theorists insist that Christ’s coming is in “two installments,” first in secret before the time of trouble (which they claim will coincide with the resurrection of the righteous) and then visibly at the end of the time of trouble. They point to texts like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 as being “rapture” texts and Matthew 24:27-31 as being a “visible coming” text. But a simple comparison of these three texts shows that 1) the rapture happens at the same time as the resurrection of “those who sleep in Jesus,” 2) the resurrection, far from being secret, is a very audible event with “a shout,” “the voice of the archangel,” and “the last trumpet,” and 3) the last “loud trumpet call” takes place when Christ appears in His visible glory. There is no place in these texts for a secret rapture.
Moreover, Revelation 20:4,5 teaches clearly that the “first resurrection” (which, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15: 50-54 coincides with the rapture of the living righteous) takes place at the Second Coming of Christ and the beginning of the millennium, not secretly seven years earlier. A study of the other “rapture passages” shows that none of them teach that the righteous will be secretly taken to heaven before the time of trouble.
The Book of Revelation provides the most comprehensive outline of the developments at the end of the age, and believers in the rapture theory have tried to find the “rapture event” in Revelation. They have focused on Revelation 4:1,2, “After this I looked, and behold, a door was open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet talking with me, which said, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.' Immediately I was in the spirit; and behold, a throne was set in heaven.”
Just reading the text, it seems like there is nothing to discuss; the obvious meaning is that John in vision was invited to see and hear the scenes in heaven that he wrote about in Revelation. But rapture theorists point out that there is movement from earth to heaven in the command, “Come up here,” and that the church, which was the focus of chapters 2 and 3, is not mentioned in the rest of Revelation. Therefore, according to their reasoning, this text must mean that the church will go to heaven before the time of trouble.
We should notice first of all that the church is not mentioned in these verses, so it is speculative to maintain that the church is being raptured here. In fact, even in chapters 2 and 3 there is no mention of the universal church, only of the specific churches (of Ephesus, Smyrna, etc.). According to the historicist method of interpretation, these churches represent the progressive history of the church through the centuries, ending with the lukewarm Laodicean Church, and Laodicea is certainly not going to be raptured!
This book has taken the position that chapters 4-7 represent the investigative judgment that takes place in heaven before the “close of probation” and the seven last plagues. Individuals cannot be taken to heaven until they have been judged, so Revelation 4:1,2 which introduces the preliminary events before the actual judging takes place in chapter 6, could not be the rapture event.
Furthermore, the church does appear in later chapters: it is called “the saints” (Revelation 13:7,10, 14:12). Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:33 mentions “the churches of the saints,” which shows that wherever the saints are, there the church is. And the saints are very much on earth in the Book of Revelation until they go to heaven at the Second Coming and spend the Millennium there (Revelation 20). This is the rapture that Paul talked about in 1 Thessalonians 4:17; there is no mention of a rapture 7 years earlier in Revelation or anywhere else in the Bible.
This is not just an academic matter. No doubt during the chaos of the beginning of the time of trouble many Christians will believe that the rapture has already taken place and they have been left behind. Satan will exploit their belief that their faith was inadequate, tempting them to either give up in despair, or to try to follow the “road map” of the left-behind scenario, which he will manipulate.
THE RAPTURE AND THE PROPEHCY OF DANIEL 9 (70 WEEKS)
Actually, much of the confusion concerning the time of trouble, the role of the Jews, and the so-called secret rapture has to do with a misunderstanding of the prophecy of seventy weeks of Daniel 9. This prophecy was an explanation given by the angel Gabriel to Daniel to help him understand the prophecy of 2,300 days found in Daniel 8 that he had seen earlier, and specifically to understand a cryptic conversation that he had heard—“How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices, and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot? And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days (literally evenings- mornings), then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” (Daniel 8:13,14). This prophecy is explained in 14: When in History and in Appendix 5. Briefly, Daniel understood the 2,300 days to be 2,300 years, and, believing that His beloved city would not be restored for thousands of years, he “fainted and was sick for many days” and was “astonished by the vision” (Daniel 8:27). Gabriel came later (Daniel 9) to explain the vision, but did so indirectly with the prophecy of seventy weeks.
In answer to Daniel's earnest prayer, the angel Gabriel was sent to Daniel so that he could “consider the matter, and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:21-23). “Seventy weeks [490 days] are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (v. 24). In other words, Daniel’s people, the Jewish nation, were being given a 70 week period of “probation” to turn from their sins and “to anoint the Most Holy,” Jesus. The 70 weeks were “determined” (literally, cut off) from the total 2,300 days.
This time period was to start with “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem” (v. 25), which was given by the Persian king Artaxerxes in 457 BC (Ezra 7:12-26). The time was divided into three periods. “From the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering" (Daniel 9:25-27). Seven weeks is apparently the time in which “the street shall be built again and the wall”, in other words, the rebuilding of the city. Then there would be sixty-two weeks, in which to carry out the requirements of the probation (to finish transgression, etc.), which would take place “even in troublesome times”. Then during the final week “the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself”. The physical impossibility of carrying out all of this in seventy literal weeks suggests the use of the day-for-a-year principle, which when applied provides one of the most strikingly accurate prophecies of the Bible.
The “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” “until Messiah the Prince,” (49 years plus 434 years for a total of 483 years of prophetic time), when added to 457 BC reaches to the year AD 27, and indeed in that year John the Baptist lowered Jesus into the waters of the Jordan river “to anoint the Most Holy” vs.25,24. This signaled the beginning of the seventieth week (the final seven years), and the prophecy specifies that “in the middle of the week” which would be 3 1/2 years later, “He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering,” being “cut off, but not for Himself.” Right on cue, in AD 31 Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice, bringing to an end the sacrificial system which had been a “shadow” of the “one sacrifice for sin forever” (Hebrews 10:1,12). The end of the sacrificial system was marked when “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51), signifying the end of the temple ministry with its sacrifices.
The Jews still had half a week of probation, the time that the apostles preached exclusively to the Jews. But in AD 34 the Jews sealed their rejection of Jesus by stoning Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and the disciples “were scattered and went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Just a few years later the prophecy was fulfilled; the Romans, “the people of the prince who is to come” did come in AD, and because of “the overspreading of abominations” they did “destroy the city and the sanctuary” and “[made] it desolate” (Daniel 9:26,27).
This remarkably accurate prophecy is an amazing testimony to the divine origin of the Bible. But many dispensationalist commentators, rather than accepting the application of the seventieth “week” to the ministry of Jesus, instead insert a 2,000 year gap and apply it to the antiChrist! They insist that the final “week” will take place at the end of time, a seven-year time of trouble during which the Jews will be saved.
The prophecy reads, “And after the sixty-two weeks messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Daniel 8:26,27). Those who believe in the rapture and the end-time role for the Jews insist that the “He” who “shall confirm a covenant with many for one week” is “the prince who is to come”—the anti-Christ. Since this anti-Christ appears in the last days, and the seventy weeks began over four hundred years before Christ, obviously there would have to be a gap somewhere (they say between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week) and a part of the time “determined” for the Jews would be at the time of the end. However, this view disregards the fact that the whole passage has been about the “Messiah.” Jesus is the “He” who confirmed the “everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5), and the mention of “the prince who is to come” is parenthetical.
Unfortunately the Jews did not fulfi the terms of their "probation." As a nation they rejected the Messiah, and as a result they were rejected as being the chosen people to bring the gospel to the world (although Paul makes it clear in Romans 9-11 that individual Jews can be saved like anyone else).
The “prince who is to come” is obviously a Roman, since it is his “people” who were to “destroy the city and the sanctuary” (which the Romans did in AD 70). It was the Roman Catholic papacy which headed the church during the apostasy of the Middle Ages, and although the papacy received a “mortal wound” (Revelation 13:3), “the mortal wound was healed” (See chapters 13 and 17 for details of the recovery of the papal supremacy). In chapter 17 it is clear that Satan himself will be the final manifestation of the anti-Christ power, and he will personally lead the struggle to destroy God’s people in the Battle of Armageddon. All of this is prophesied to take place, but it has nothing to do with the final “week” of the seventy-week prophecy, which was fulfilled with the life and sacrifice of Jesus.
This analysis of the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9 shows that the 70 "weeks" have all been completed. There is no 7-year period (the “last week”) left to be fulfilled for the Jews. Individual Jews can be saved just like anyone else, but they will never again be the chosen people, and the church will not be “raptured” away to heaven leaving the Jews behind to convert the world. The 144,000 who will do that work are spiritual Israel (See 7:4-8, The Tribes of Israel). They are sealed before the time of trouble and they will be protected by God (although they will suffer many trials and tribulations and some will be martyrs). They will be raptured along with those who have accepted their message when Jesus comes “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30,31).
 Dispensationalists point to texts such as Luke 21:24, “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” as evidence that God has different plans for saving the Gentiles and the Jews. According to this theory, God’s plan for the Jews during the Old Testament was that they would be saved because they were obedient in keeping the law. During the “dispensation” for the Gentiles people could be saved by grace through faith. The Jews would have another chance to be saved during the time of trouble after the “rapture” of the church. During this time the converted Jews would preach the gospel to the other people who had been “left behind.”
 The Greek for took (“the flood came and took them all away”) is airo, which means “take up, raise up.” Thus in the original language it is obvious that it is the wicked who are “taken up” (and destroyed), not the righteous.
 The Hebrew for left (“only Noah was left”) is shaar, which means “to remain, be left behind.” Thus in the original language it is obvious that it is the righteous who, like Noah, are “left behind” (to meet Jesus), not the unrepentant or the Jews.
 “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.” (Revelation 19:17,18).
 This is a favorite “rapture” text, supposedly referring to the Jews and undecided who will be converted during the time of trouble. But note that Paul included himself and those who are faithful among the “we who are alive and remain.” He gives no indication that there is another group more faithful who went to heaven first.
 So-called rapture passages include John 14:1-3, Romans 8:19, 1 Corinthians 1:7,8, 15:51-53, 16:22, Philippians 3:20,21, 4:5, Colossians 3:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:19, 4:13-18, 5:9, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 1:7,13, 5:4, 1 John 2:28-3:2, Jude 21, Revelation 2:25, 3:10, 4:1,2. This list is cited in Revelation Unveiled by Tim LaHaye, (Zondervan 1999). None of them say that the righteous will be taken to heaven before the time of trouble.
 See Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids, MI) 1973, P. 579. A number of historical and archeological sources identify the first year of the reign of Artaxeres as 464 BC. His decree was enacted in the seventh year of his rule (Ezra 7:8).
 There were actually three decrees given. The first by Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4) allowed for the building of “the house of the Lord God of Israel”. The second decree by Darius (Ezra 6:1-12) again allowed for the building of the temple after it had been halted by opponents. Third decree was by Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11-26). However, it was only under the decree of Artaxerxes that provision was made for the building of the walls and city, as specified by the prophecy of Daniel 9:25 (See Nehemiah 2:1-9)
 The inter-testament period was a very “troublesome time” for the Jews as they were repeatedly overrun by the Hellenistic Seleucid and Ptolemy kingdoms (the King of the North and King of the South) and finally conquered by the Romans.
 The baptism of Jesus is dated by Luke as “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” Luke carefully gives several other historical events to define this date (See Luke 3:1,2.). Although there are some disagreements, the most likely dating is the fall of AD 27 (See SDA Bible Commentary on Luke 3:1, Hagerstown, MD Review and Herald, 1980).
 Although the Jews were disqualified by their rejection of Christ to be the chosen people of God, salvation is still available to any individual of the Jewish race in the same way it is for all other people: by faith in Jesus (See Romans 11, esp. vs. 23,24).
 Shortly afterward God directed Peter to preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his family, who became the first baptized gentiles, and the apostles realized that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” Acts 11:18.
 Jesus gave the parable of the vinedressers (who represented the Jews) who refused to give the fruits of the vineyard to the owner (God), mistreating and killing His servants and finally His Son. He ended the parable with the statement, “Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:33-46).
 It should be kept in mind that the 144,000, who are sealed in their foreheads and protected in the midst of the trumpet plagues (Revelation 9:4) are not Jews who have rejected Jesus and are converted during the time of trouble. 1) They are sealed before the plagues begin (Revelation 7:1-8) whereas the rapture theorists contend that the Jews will be converted during the time of trouble. 2) They “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (Revelation 14:4), which indicates that they have not been involved in false religious systems (See chapter 14:1-5). 3) They are sealed out “of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation7:4), whereas the Jews are descendents of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi (1 Kings 12, esp. verses19-24, 2 Kings 17, esp. v. 18). In chapter 7 we saw that Israel is now spiritual Israel, and includes all who are true “children of Abraham,” having the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:9-16). Paul makes it clear that many Jews will be saved (Romans 11), along with “the fullness of the Gentiles…and so all [spiritual] Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25,26). But there is nothing in scripture to indicate that the Jews will ever again be God’s chosen people.