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Many earnest Christians believe that Christ will have a secret, invisible coming to rapture His people. They expect that the faithful will suddenly disappear worldwide, sparking a desperate search for these mysteriously missing friends and relatives. Finally, after piecing together the evidence, those remaining on earth will recognize that the “missing persons” all had one thing in common-they were consecrated Christians. and they have been raptured! Then will begin a seven-year period of tribulation during which the Jews will labor to convert the world to Christianity against the raging opposition of a Hitler-like antichrist striving with demonic fury to stamp out all religion. At the end of these seven years of horrific tribulation, Jesus will come back openly and visibly to establish His kingdom on earth.

The secret rapture theory is based on premises which have been widely embraced, yet few believers have carefully examined the Bible as to their validity. Our only safety is to search the scriptures to see what the Bible says on this subject.

Does the rapture take place seven years before the glorious, visible second coming of Jesus?

Matthew 24:27, 30, 31. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming [parousia] of the Son of man be. And they shall see the Son of man coming [parousia] in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

  • This Bible text clearly places the gathering of the elect at the same time as the visible glorious second coming.

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. 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 [Greek barpazo, Latin rapio] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

  • Here we find the saved being “caught up” to be with the Lord under strikingly visible and audible conditions: “a shout,” “the voice of the archangel,” “the trumpet of God,” all accompanied by the worldwide resurrection of the dead in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52-54; 2 Thes. 1:7-10). The event described in these related passages is the very antithesis of silence and secrecy

Does the term “haipazo” mean secret rapture?

The word “rapture” appears as a form of the word "rapio" in the Latin Bible in 1 Thes. 4:17, as a translation of the Greek word "harpazo."

"Rapio" simply means to be “caught up.” “Harpazo” conveys the same meaning, and also “pluck” -Jn. 10:28, 29; “take” -Mt. 11:12; Jn. 6:15; Acts 23:10; and “catch” -Jn. 10:12.

The way “harpazo” is used in these texts clearly shows that it does not mean “secret rapture.” There is nothing in the words “rapio” or “harpazo” to denote or imply secrecy. See also the note under 1 Thes. 4:16, 17 above.

Will God's saints be spared the tribulation?

Speaking of the antichrist, Rev. 13:7 says, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints.”

During the seven last plagues Christ says, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth. and keepeth his garments, ... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial ...” Rev. 16:15-17.

  • Jesus is talking to the church while the seven last plagues are failing just prior to the battle of Armageddon, and He has not yet come as a thief.

Acts 14:22. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. See also Heb. 11:36-38.

  • In every age from Abel to the present, the true followers of God have endured persecution and death to champion God's cause, demonstrating they have a faith worth dying for. Christians in Rwanda, India, Indonesia, and Turkmenistan, are being burned, butchered and persecuted today! Yet Christians in America maintain that, “God loves us too much to allow us to go through the tribulation.”

Psalm 91:7, 8, 10. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

  • Something even greater than a miraculous escape from tribulation occurs for God's people at the end of time-it is a miraculous deliverance through the most severe tribulation this world has ever known. Like Job, God's people will demonstrate before the universe that their loyalty to their Lord is based on His everlasting love.

Matthew 24:13. He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

  • Concealed beneath the doctrine of the secret rapture there often lies a hidden fear of having to face the mark of the beast. True Christians don't need to be afraid, for our Savior has promised, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mt. 28:20.

Will the wicked have a second chance to be converted after the rapture?

1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3. 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, ... and they shall not escape.

2 Peter 3:10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

  • In these two texts the Lord's coming as a thief is paired with the destruction of the wicked and the destruction of the world.

Luke 17:26-30, 36. And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Compare with Mt. 13:30, 38, 40; 25:31-34, 41.

  • There are only two groups described here, those taken and those left. The parallel account of the flood makes it clear what happens to those two groups; one is saved and the other is destroyed-not one saved and the other given a second chance.

2 Corinthians 6:2. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Hebrews 9:27. It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.

  • The Bible says nothing about anyone's getting a second chance. This life-time is one long series of chances; we all have thousands of chances every day to respond to the goodness and truth of God. But the Bible makes it clear that if we do not receive God during our allotted period of probation, we will receive no second chance.

Will the rapture take place before the antichrist is revealed?

The Bible directly refers to the antichrist in four texts, where we learn that:

1. There are many antichrists. 1 Jn. 2:18.

2. They come from inside Christianity. 1 Jn. 2:19.

3. They were already in the church in John's day. 1 Jn. 2:18.

4. Every spirit that denies that Jesus is the Christ and denies that He came in the flesh is antichrist. 1 Jn. 2:22; 2 Jn. 1:7.

5. This spirit was in the world in John's day. 1 Jn. 4:3.

  • These texts plainly teach that antichrist is in the world now; is not just one person, and comes from within Christianity. There were, are, and will be many antichrists.

The term has quite appropriately been applied to the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2, the little horn power of Daniel 7, and to the beast power of Revelation 13. In each of these places it is clear that antichrist comes before God's people are delivered from this earth . See also “The Beast Revealed” in this magazine.

Does the term “parousia” mean “secret rapture?”

Some have contended that the Greek word “parousia,” translated “coming,” means “secret presence.” That idea is disproved by the following texts in which the word “parousia” is used: 2 Thes. '2:8, 9; 1 Cor. 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6, 7; Phil. 1:26.

Does prophecy foretell the conversion of the nation of Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple?

Daniel 9:24. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

  • After the Babylonian exile, seventy prophetic weeks (i.e. 490 years) were given to Israel to prepare all nations for the Messiah's first advent. But, as a nation, they rejected Him and their divinely ordained role as God's chosen ambassadors. See Mt. 21:33-46; 22:1-14.

Romans 2:28, 29. For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit.

Galatians 3:29. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. See also Rom. 9:7; Gal. 3:7.

  • The Christian church is spiritual Israel, and God will fulfill His promises to them.

Matthew 27:50, 51. Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

Hebrews 9:26,28. But now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.

Hebrews 10:10, 12. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.

  • When Christ died on the cross, He fulfilled the requirements of the law so that animal sacrifices are no longer necessary. Should anyone rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and again offer animal sacrifices they would deny the sacrifice of Christ. This temple could never be God's temple.

Does the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 predict the seven years of the tribulation?

There is no justification, linguistic, logical, or exegetical, for detaching the last week of the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9 and hurling it like a lance to the end of time. This is one of the most powerful Messianic prophecies, pinpointing the exact time of Christ's ministry. The final week of the prophecy refers to the seven-year period beginning with Jesus' anointing as the Messiah at His baptism, continuing with His crucifixion in the midst of the week, and concludes with the termination of Israel's probationary time granted to fulfill their commission as God's chosen people. See Dan. 9:24-27, and “Discover the Time,” p. 9.

When scripture mentions the day of the Lord coming as a thief doesn't that indicate a secret rapture?

2 Peter 3:10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

  • On the contrary, it will be the most visible and strikingly audible event ever to occur in the history of this world.

1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4, 6. The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. ... But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. ... Therefore let us not sleep, as do others: but let us watch and be sober. See also Rev. 16:15; Mt. 24:42-44.

  • Christ's coming as a thief points not to secrecy but surprise. Despite the worldwide advance proclamation of His return, most will not be watching. Thus His coming will be as unexpected as if they had never heard anything about it.

The secret of the secret rapture is that there is no secret rapture. It is a complete fiction!

Champions of Truth

The Reformers from Wycliffe to Wesley maintained that the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are a symbolic portrayal of the entire course of church history. Labeled the historicist view, this was, for Protestants, the primary method of interpreting prophecy from the Reformation to the late nineteenth century, and it has accordingly been called “the Protestant” interpretation.

Among adherents of this interpretation were: the Waldenses, the Hussites, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melancthon; Baptist theologian John Gill; the martyrs Cranmer, Tyndale, Latimer, and Ridley; as well as John Wesley, Joseph Mede, Isaac Newton, William Whiston, J. A. Bengel, Jonathan Edwards, and Henry Alford. None of them was a futurist; the idea of a pretribulation rapture had no place in their interpretation of prophecy.

Alford says that it was the view “held by the precursors and upholders of the Reformation, by Wycliffe and his followers in England, by Luther in Germany, Bullinger in Switzerland, Bishop Bale in Ireland, by Fox the martyrologist, by Brightman, Pareus and early Protestant expositors generally . . .” George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 1956 ed., p. 33.

Unlike the futurist view of a single personal antichrist at the end of time, those who hold the historic view see in the antichrist prophecies of Daniel 7, Revelation 13, and 2 Thessalonians 2 a perfect picture of the Roman Papacy in history. See “The Beast Revealed,” in this magazine.

“Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer; in the seventeenth century, Bunyan, the translators of the King James Bible and the men who published the Westminster and Baptist confessions of Faith; Sir Isaac Newton, Wesley, Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards; and more recently Spurgeon, Bishop J. C. Ryle and Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones; these men among countless others, all saw the office of the Papacy as the antichrist”-Michael de Semlyen, All Roads Lead to Rome, p. 205.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) -“We are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real antichrist.”-Sammtliche Schriften, vol.15, quoted in L. E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2, p. 256.

John Calvin, Presbyterian (1509-1564) -“Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge against Paul himself, after whom we speak.” -Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 2, 1561 ed., p. 410.

John Knox, Scotch Presbyterian (1505-1572) -the papacy is “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.” -The Zurich Letters, p. 199.

Roger Williams, First Baptist pastor in America (1603-1683)-“ The pretended Vicar of Christ on earth, ... speaking against the God of heaven, thinking to change times and laws; but he is the son of perdition.” -The Bloudy Tenet of Persecution, quoted in L. E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 3, p. 52.

Cotton Mather, Congregational theologian (1663-1728)-“The oracles of God foretold the rising of an antichrist in the Christian Church: and in the Pope of Rome all the characteristics of that antichrist are so marvelously answered that if any who read the Scriptures do not see it, there is a marvelous blindness upon them.” -The Fall of Babylon, pp. 18, 19.

John Wesley, Methodist (1703-1791)-Speaking of the papacy he wrote, “He is in an emphatic sense, the Man of Sin.” ... “And he is too properly styled the Son of Perdition ... claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone.” -Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms, p.110.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) - “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God.” - Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christiandom, With a History and Critical Notes, vol. 3, pp. 658, 659, ch. 25, sec. 6.

A History of Error

When the Reformers accurately identified the place and work of the papacy in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, Rome commissioned its counter-reformationist theologians, at the council of Trent, to develop a new theory of prophecy. They applied all the symbols of Daniel and Revelation to the past or crowded them far into the future, As this futuristic interpretation of prophecy gained prevalence, it took the spotlight off the papacy and projected it instead on some indeterminate antichrist power that would arise just before the close of time.

The secret rapture theory is based on a system of prophetic interpretation originated by Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), a Jesuit scholar. He took the position that the first three chapters of Revelation applied to ancient Rome, and the remaining prophetical parts indicated a literal three and a half year reign of an infidel antichrist, who would brutally oppose God's people just before the second advent. He taught that antichrist would be a single individual, who would rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, abolish the Christian religion, be received by the Jews, pretend to be God, and conquer the world, all in the space of three and a half literal years.

Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), an Italian Cardinal, and renowned Jesuit scholar insisted that the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation bore no reference to the papal power.

It is clear that the theory of futurism in the interpretation of Daniel and Revelation was thoroughly rooted in Jesuitical theology, specifically developed to deflect the glaring spotlight of prophecy from the Church of Rome.

Manuel de Lacunza (1731-1801), a Jesuit priest, had a futuristic interpretation of many of the prophecies in Revelation. Under the pen name Rabbi Ben-Ezra, he expounded his views in a book, The Coming Messiah in Glory and Majesty, that reflected Ribera's interpretations.

Edward Irving in England, much influenced by Lacunza's futuristic views, translated and published his book in 1827, giving it wide distribution.

In nineteenth century England, the futurist concept was revived by Samuel Maitland, James Todd, William Burgh, and John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. Their writings on this subject repudiated the Protestant Reformation and the historicist school of prophetic interpretation upheld by all the great Reformers. Darby spread his futuristic views to late nineteenth-century America, where they were received with enthusiasm.

John Henry Newman, influenced especially by Maitland's writings, left the church of England to found the Oxford Movement, which disavowed the Reformation and exalted the Papacy.

C. I. Scofield, an American pastor, lecturer and author, picked up Darby's ideas and based his Bible reference notes on futurism. The Scofield Reference Bible, published by the Oxford University Press in 1909, quickly gained a popularity that has steadily increased and set its pervasive impress on evangelical thought ever since.

In 1970 Hal Lindsey released a book based on dispensationalism and futurism, teaching that the antichrist was a godless “future fuhrer” and that there will be a pre-tribulation secret rapture (enabling Christians to escape the final persecution), after which the Jews will evangelize the world for seven years, and then Christ will visibly return. Its numerous predictions for the 1970s and 80s never materialized.

In 1995 the authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their twelve-part series of novels, Left Behind, gave fresh impetus to these ideas.

Joseph Tanner in his book, Daniel and Revelation, (1898), wrote: “It is a matter for deep regret that those who hold and advocate the futurist system of the present day, Protestants as they are for the most part, are thus really playing into the hands of Rome, and helping to screen the papacy from detection as the antichrist. It has been well said, 'That futurism tends to obliterate the brand put by the Holy Spirit upon Popery.'”

Indeed, it was the insightful and morally courageous understanding of antichrist in prophecy that added strength to the Reformation, leading the Reformers to separate from the established church.

This theory, while holding the attractive promise of escape from the tribulation, overlooks some major Bible truths. God's word presents a continuously unfolding panorama of events from the days of the prophets till the close of time.

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Created: 11/18/02 Updated: 6/1/04