Focus On Jerusalem


The Rapture


Focus on Jerusalem, in its continuing endeavor to make available interesting and doctrinally sound articles associated with Bible Prophecy offers this very insightful article on the subject of the Rapture by Arlen L. Chitwood of the Lamp Broadcast Ministry. ( FOJ hopes that its presentation will inspire your further interest in the wonderful study of the amazing prophetic world of the Holy Bible, and the glorious majesty of our Coming Lord. (06-07-2006)

The Rapture

As Seen in the Old Testament Word Picture, Formed from the Types

By Arlen L. Chitwood

The complete Old Testament word picture pertaining to the removal of Christians at the end of the present dispensation, commonly called "the rapture," encompasses a number of types. It begins with the account of "Enoch" being removed from the earth preceding the Flood (Gen. 5-8) and progresses from that point through other types such as the accounts of "Lot and his family" (Lot, his wife, and his two virgin daughters) being removed from Sodom preceding the destruction of the cities of the plain (Gen. 18, 19), "Rebekah" being removed from Mesopotamia following the search for and procurement of the bride for Isaac but preceding Abraham's remarriage (Gen. 24, 25), and "Ruth" appearing on Boaz's threshing floor, followed by the redemption of the inheritance (Ruth 3, 4). Each type presents a different facet of the matter, showing a different part of the complete Old Testament word picture, with the complete picture being seen only through viewing all of the types on the subject together, comparing Scripture with Scripture in this respect.

In the type dealing with Enoch in Genesis chapter five, the genealogy in this chapter moves through ten generations -- from Adam to Noah. Within this genealogy, Enoch was the seventh from Adam, and Noah the tenth. "Seven" and "ten" are two of several numbers used in Scripture to show completeness, with each showing a different aspect of completeness. "Seven" shows the completeness of that which is in view, and "ten" shows numerical completeness. In each case, at the completion of each of the two sets of generations -- seven generations extending to Enoch, and ten generations extending to Noah -- Divine intervention into the affairs of man is seen.

At a terminal point in the first set of generations, a man was removed from the earth alive; then, at a terminal point in the second set of generations, a man (along with his family) passed safely through a time of destruction, with the remainder of the world perishing during this time.

That to which this introductory, overall type points (the antitype) is simple and easy to see, though this type only presents particular facets of the complete picture. "Enoch" being removed from the earth preceding the Flood typifies Christians being removed from the earth preceding the coming Tribulation; and "Noah" passing safely through the Flood typifies Israel passing safely through the coming Tribulation, with Gentile world power, in the end, destroyed (cf. Luke 17:26, 27, 30).

The things seen in Gen. 5-8 form a foundational type upon which all subsequent Scripture dealing with the subject must rest (similar to Gen. 1:1-2:3 forming a foundational framework upon which all subsequent Scripture rests). And, in complete accord with that established in this foundational type, the things foreshadowed by events in the type will occur in the antitype when matters have been brought to completion relative to both the Church and Israel.

The Church at this time, typified by "Enoch," the seventh from Adam, will be removed; and Israel at this time, typified by "Noah," the tenth from Adam, will pass safely through the worldwide destruction which will follow the Church's removal. At a future time, God will intervene in the affairs of man once again, supernaturally bringing matters foreshadowed by events in this type to pass.

This is the first part of the picture presented in Scripture. Then, from here, to complete the picture, an individual has to move to subsequent types dealing with the subject. Each subsequent type presents a different facet of the picture and further adds to that which, in the end, sets forth a complete word picture, given to shed light upon and help explain the antitype.

Lot and his family were removed prior to the destruction of the cities of the plain in Gen. 18, 19; and in Gen. 24, Rebekah was removed following a successful search for a bride for Isaac (a search and removal which followed Sarah's death [ch. 23] but preceded Abraham again taking a wife [ch. 25]).

The first type clearly reveals Christians being removed prior to the destruction of Gentile world power (cf. Luke 17:28-30), and the second type clearly reveals Christians being removed prior to God's restoration of Israel (cf. Rom. 11:25, 26).

Some students of the Word, going no farther than this in the types, working from an incomplete word picture, have concluded that the Church is destined to pass through most or all of the Tribulation. They look upon the future destruction depicted by the Flood and the destruction of the cities of the plain as foreshadowing a destruction occurring at or near the end of the Tribulation. And, understanding matters in this respect, they look upon Enoch's removal preceding the Flood and Lot and his family's removal preceding the destruction of the cities of the plain as typifying Christians being removed at or near the end of the Tribulation, preceding a destruction occurring at this time. Then, the antitype of Rebekah's removal preceding God's restoration of Israel in Gen. 24, 25 would be understood in a similar sense, for God will not actually restore Israel until the Tribulation has run its course.

However, when the typology from the Book of Ruth is added to the word picture, showing Ruth appearing on Boaz's threshing floor prior to the redemption of the inheritance, viewing this type in the light of the antitype (I Thess. 4:13-5:10; Rev. 1:10ff), additional light is cast upon particularly the timing of events shown by the previous types. And this additional light, a vital and necessary part of the complete word picture, will show, beyond question, that any interpretative ideology which uses the previous types to teach that the Church will go through any part of the Tribulation is erroneous.

The type in the Book of Ruth and the antitype in the Book of Revelation clearly show exactly the same chronology -- the Church appearing on Christ's threshing floor (at His judgment seat) prior to the redemption of the inheritance (a redemption which, in the Book of Revelation, can only have to do with all of the judgments occurring throughout the seven-year Tribulation, not with just those occurring at or near the end).

And it should go without saying that harmony must exist in the chronology of events seen in the types in the Books of Genesis and Ruth. The chronology of events seen in these types must be in complete agreement with one another, along with that seen in the antitype in the New Testament -- an agreement which will show the Church being removed preceding any part of the Tribulation, necessitating the whole of the Tribulation being in view through the destruction depicted by events during both Noah's and Lot's day. In this respect, Enoch's and Lot's removal, preceding respective destructions during their day, foreshadows the removal of Christians preceding the coming Tribulation.

And, along with the preceding, viewing matters from the standpoint of the complete word picture, along with the antitype, this removal must be seen as one which will include all Christians, faithful and unfaithful alike (e.g., not only those having walked with God, as Enoch, but also those having involved themselves in the affairs of the world, as Lot).

Scripture plainly states,

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord [Where? Note the context. This terror occurs at the judgment seat (cf. Heb. 10:30, 31)], we persuade men..." (II Cor. 5:10, 11a).

The division of Christians relative to matters surrounding faithfulness or unfaithfulness, according to Scripture, occurs at the judgment seat following the removal of Christians from the earth, not by a supposed selective resurrection and/or rapture (a companion erroneous teaching pertaining to Christians going through the Tribulation [not all Christians in this case, but many]). And it is plain from the chronology of events set forth in the type in the Book of Ruth and in the antitype in the Book of Revelation (the same chronology is seen in both) that events surrounding the judgment seat must occur at the end of the present dispensation, preceding the Tribulation.

Thus, a complete word picture on the one hand and that which the word picture foreshadows on the other hand is the way in which God has structured His Word; and through this structure, God has revealed all the numerous things which He would have man know about His plans and purposes.

Accordingly, to arrive at a proper understanding of the things which have been revealed, man must study the word after the fashion in which it has been structured. He must set the complete word picture from the Old Testament alongside the antitype in the New Testament and run all the checks and balances, comparing Scripture with Scripture, in order to find out what the Scriptures themselves teach. That which man may have to say about anything within the whole of the matter -- either about the things which God has revealed or the way in which He has revealed them -- is of no moment. Only that which Scripture has to say is of any moment whatsoever, and that which Scripture has to say is of infinite moment.

The Rapture

As Seen in the New Testament Antitype in I Thessalonians 4, 5

In I Thess. 4:16, 17, the Lord Himself is seen descending from heaven, though not coming all the way to the earth. Christ, after descending to a place above the earth, will "shout [lit., 'issue a command']." The voice of the archangel (Michael) will then sound, a trumpet will be blown, and "the dead in Christ" from throughout the dispensation will come forth.

Resulting from Christ's command, "the dead in Christ" will be raised. Christ, who is "the resurrection, and the life" (John 11:25) -- must be present to give the command in order for the dead to be raised (cf. John 5:28, 29; 11:25, 43). Then, living believers, those Christians alive at the end of the present dispensation, will be caught up together with resurrected believers to meet the Lord in the air.

The One New Man

Near the end of the past dispensation, God interrupted His dealings with Israel seven years short of completion, set Israel aside, and called an entirely new nation into existence. This new nation is not Jewish; nor is this new nation Gentile. Rather, this new nation is comprised of believing Jews and believing Gentiles, who have become new creations "in Christ" (II Cor. 5:17); and these new creations "in Christ" form one new man (Eph. 2:11-15).

During the present dispensation, God is dealing with this new man, not with Israel. And this new man, referred to as a nation (cf. Matt. 21:43; I Peter 2:9, 10) is exactly as Scripture describes. It is a nation completely separate from all other nations on earth, separate from either Israel or the Gentile nations (Gal. 3:26-29). And God has set aside an entire dispensation in which He will deal solely with this new man.

(In the preceding respect, there is absolutely no place in Christendom for distinctions to be made between saved Jews and saved Gentiles. Both are new creations "in Christ," part of the one new man, wherein distinctions between those comprising this new man cannot exist [Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 2:11-15; 3:1-6].

But in Christendom today, completely contrary to Scripture, certain individuals from both groups [from saved Jews, and from saved Gentiles] attempt to form distinctions between the two groups. For example, there are congregations of saved Jews calling themselves "Messianic Jews" or "completed Jews" [both misnomers], distinguishing themselves from saved Gentiles. And there are groups comprised of saved Gentiles who look askance at saved Jews, somewhat forcing saved Jews to meet together in separate places, often referred to as "Messianic congregations," distinguishing themselves from saved Gentiles. All of this, by saved Jews or by saved Gentiles, forms no more than vain attempts to build up a middle wall which has been broken down by Christ Himself [Eph. 2:14].

And, as well, there is absolutely no place in Christendom for the new creation "in Christ" to go back to the old creation in Jacob [cf. Isa. 43:1, 7; II Cor 5:17] and attempt to bring things from this old creation over into the new [cf. Matt. 9:16, 17]. God has set Israel aside for a dispensation; and He is, today, dealing with the one new man "in Christ," not with Israel. And for the one new man to go back to Israel [a nation set aside] and bring things having to do with this nation over into things having to do with the one new man [the Law, forms, ceremonies, etc.] is not only completely out of place but it serves to break down distinctions which God established between the two creations, adding to an already existing confusion.)

The Spirit of God is in the world today searching for a bride for God's Son, with the search being conducted among those comprising the one new man. And once the Spirit has completed this work, the one new man will be removed, with a view to this new man being dealt with in relation to the reason he had been called into existence. Then God will resume His dealing with Israel (during seven unfulfilled years, completing not only Daniel's unfulfilled Seventieth Week but Man's Day as well).

God's dealings with both Israel and the Church (the new nation, the one new man "in Christ") must be kept separate and distinct from one another. To have God dealing with either Israel during the present dispensation or the Church once God resumes His dealings with Israel is completely foreign to the way in which Scripture sets forth God's dispensational dealings with man.

Israel has been set aside, and God is presently dealing with a new nation; and, following the completion of God's present dealings with this new nation, He will remove this nation, turn back to Israel, and complete His dispensational dealings with Israel. The whole of the matter is that simple.

The one new man -- comprised of those "in Christ," all Christians -- will be removed at the end of the dispensation. And this will be for reasons surrounding two nations -- both the one new man and Israel. God will complete His dealings with one nation (the one new man), in the heavens, in relation to this nation's calling; and God will complete His dealings with the other nation (Israel), on the earth, in relation to this nation's calling.

The former nation possesses a heavenly calling and the latter an earthly calling; and it is only fitting that God will complete His dealings with each in the place to which they have been called.

The preceding is the clear teaching seen in both the Old Testament types and the New Testament antitypes. Biblical distinctions surrounding both Israel and the Church must be maintained, and Scripture must be allowed to speak for itself in that which has been revealed about both.

In the Lord's Day

If the entire one new man "in Christ" (comprised of both faithful and unfaithful Christians living throughout the dispensation) was not removed at the end of the dispensation (as seen in I Thess. 4:13-18), Paul could not have written that which is recorded in the verses which immediately follow (5:1-9). These verses have to do with both faithful and unfaithful Christians, removed from Man's Day and placed together at the same time and place in the Lord's Day.

Man's Day has to do with man upon the earth throughout a 6,000-year period. It has to do with that time when matters have been allowed to remain under Satan's control, with man having his way and sway in the kingdom under Satan.

On the other hand, the Lord's Day has to do with the Lord conducting affairs in His kingdom throughout a 7,000-year period. The Lord's Day runs concurrent with Man's Day, though not encompassing affairs on the earth during Man's Day (when fallen man finds himself associated with Satan's rule and reign). Only when Man's Day ends, will the Lord's Day encompass affairs on the earth; and it will do so for a succeeding 1,000 years (for Christ and His co-heirs will then rule and reign over the earth, in the stead of Satan and his angels).

Note that Abraham, following death, saw the Lord's Day (John 8:56). This was almost 4,000 years ago, in the middle of Man's Day, as it existed upon the earth. This could be true because Abraham, following death, no longer had a connection with Man's Day upon the earth. Rather, he then found himself removed from Man's Day and placed in the Lord's Day.

And exactly the same thing would be true relative to Christians, whether following death during the present time or when Christians are removed from the earth at the time of the rapture. Events surrounding the rapture show this to be the case in no uncertain terms, with Christians removed from Man's Day and placed in the Lord's Day (while Man's Day continues on the earth).

Christians removed from the earth at the time of the rapture will find themselves in the Lord's Day (I Thess. 5:1-4), though Man's Day will still have at least seven years to run upon earth. And I Thess. 5:1ff clearly shows that the rapture (4:13-18) will include both faithful and unfaithful Christians. Both are seen together in the Lord's Day, with faithful Christians experiencing "salvation" and unfaithful Christians experiencing "sudden destruction," "wrath" (vv. 3, 9). (There is a common but fallacious interpretation of I Thess. 5:1-4 which relates these verses to individuals left behind at the time of the rapture, to go through the Tribulation [with the advocates of this teaching referring to the Tribulation as "the Day of the Lord," or "the Lord's Day"].

This though cannot possibly be correct, for the Lord's Day will not begin on earth until after Man's Day has run its course. It cannot begin until the Tribulation is over. Scripture is quite clear concerning the time when the Lord's Day begins on earth. The Lord's Day begins on earth in connection with judgments at the time Christ returns to the earth [not at some point in time during the Tribulation, preceding Christ's return], and the Lord's Day will continue as long as this present earth exists. Time in relation to the succeeding new heavens and new earth, following the Messianic Era, is called "the Day of God," when God will be "all in all" [Joel 2:27-32; 3:9-16; Mal. 4:5, 6; I Cor. 15:24-28; II Thess. 2:2, 3; II Peter 3:10-13].)

Only when Man's Day ends, at the end of the Tribulation, at the end of Daniel's Seventieth Week, can the Lord's Day replace Man's Day upon the earth. At that time, Man's Day will end on earth, and the Lord's Day will begin on earth. This change will occur because the Lord will then reign supreme over the earth, with the whole of God's affairs in His kingdom being brought under the scope of time referred to by the Lord's Day.

The Rapture

As Seen in the New Testament Antitype in Revelation 1-4

Christians at the time of the rapture will be removed to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. And events of the judgment seat will occur between the removal of the Church before the Tribulation and the return of Christ following the Tribulation. Christ is not judging today. Rather, He is ministering as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary on behalf of Christians. And He will not act in the capacity of Judge until He completes His present high priestly ministry, which will last throughout the present dispensation.

Thus, Christians will not be judged until the present dispensation has run its course and Christ returns for His Church. Once these things occur, the judgment of Christians will ensue; and this judgment must be completed prior to the time Christ returns to deal with Israel and the nations at the end of the Tribulation.

Christ as Judge

In Rev. 1:13, Christ is seen dressed in the type garments worn by both a priest and a judge; but the position of the girdle about the breasts rather than around the waist indicates that Christ, in this passage, is exercising a judicial rather than a priestly role. A priest would be girded about the waist, signifying service; but the girdle placed about the shoulders or breasts indicates a magisterial function (cf. John 13:2-5; Rev. 15:6).

Aside from the preceding, the entire scene is judicial, not priestly. Brass, fire, and a sword are mentioned in connection with Christ's appearance, which speak of judicial activity. And Christ's countenance is described by the expression, "as the sun shineth in his strength," which has to do with His glory, to be manifested during that coming day of His power (a 1,000-year period of judging those upon the earth [cf. Psa. 2:1-9; Rev. 2:26, 27]).

Then, more information is given, which will help to ascertain exactly what is being depicted by the scene at hand. The Apostle John was transported into "the Lord's day [the Day of the Lord]" (v. 10), and the vision of Christ which he saw depicts Christ as He will appear following the completion of His high priestly work, anticipating His long-awaited regal work. The entire scene in Rev. 1:13-18 is prophetic, depicting Christ as Judge in the midst of the seven Churches at the conclusion of the present dispensation, anticipating that coming day when He will exercise governmental power and authority over the earth.

The chronological arrangement of events opening the Book of Revelation sets forth the fact that God will deal with the Church in judgment before He deals with Israel and the nations after this fashion (cf. I Peter 4:17-19). The Church will be removed from the earth and will be placed in the heavens; and the Church will be dealt with during a period of time before the Tribulation begins on earth.

A review of the first five chapters of the Book of Revelation reveals that there will have to be an interval of time between the removal of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation. That is, the present dispensation will run its course, the Church will be removed, and certain events will then transpire in heaven (while the Church is in heaven) before the Tribulation begins on earth (which, when it begins, will fulfill seven uncompleted years of the previous dispensation).

These events, occurring while the Church is in heaven, preceding the beginning of the Tribulation on earth, concern the Church coming under judgment (as revealed in chapters one through three); and these events also concern the relinquishment of crowns which Christians will wear during the Messianic Era (ch. 4), along with preparations to redeem the domain over which Christians will rule at this time (ch. 5).

(The event marking the beginning of the Tribulation on earth is not the removal of the Church, as is often taught, but the ratifying of a seven-year covenant between the man of sin and Israel. The Tribulation, which will ensue following the ratifying of this covenant, will last exactly seven years, completing the full four hundred ninety years of Daniel's prophecy concerning Seventy Sevens "determined" upon the Jewish people [cf. Dan. 9:24-27].)

The Complete Church

The seven Churches in the presence of Christ in Revelation, chapter one depict the Church as a whole coming under judgment at the conclusion of the present dispensation; and the fact that this judgment will occur in heaven and has to do with issues surrounding the judgment seat of Christ becomes evident as one studies the opening chapters of this book.

"Seven" in Scripture is God's number. It is a number showing completion. It is used more specifically to show the completion of that which is in view, and in this case, the Church is in view, with "seven Churches" showing the complete Church (all Christians, faithful and unfaithful alike).

The seven Churches named in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, though referring to seven existing Churches in the Gentile world (in Asia [1:4]) during the first century, depict completion in relation to the Church. These seven Churches represent Christianity as a whole, both on earth during the present dispensation (chs. 2, 3) and in heaven at the conclusion of the dispensation (chs. 1-4, as a whole).

Chapter one introduces the matter at hand, (judgment awaiting all Christians); chapters two through four then form a commentary on chapter one; and chapter five leads into that section of the book covering the Tribulation (6:1ff).

The trumpet beckoning to John in Rev. 4:1 can only be synonymous with the trumpet in Rev. 1:10. In this respect, because of the revealed events which follow in each instance, the trumpet in these two sections is apparently the trumpet which will be heard when the Church is removed from the earth at the end of this dispensation, subsequently appearing in the presence of Christ to be judged, as revealed in chapters one through three (cf. I Cor. 15:52; I Thess. 4:16-5:9). Then, a sequence of events, revealed throughout the remainder of the book, begins to unfold.

John, transported into the Lord's Day, at a future time, in chapter one, was instructed to record that which he saw and send the record to seven existing Churches in Asia. These Churches, along with a brief description of each, are seen on earth in chapters two and three; but the scene back in chapter one, as well, has them in the presence of Christ in heaven, at the end of the dispensation, about to come under judgment.

An overcomer's promise is listed for each Church in chapters two and three, and in chapter one the Churches are seen as they are about to be judged relative to these overcomer's promises. Chapters two and three not only furnish the background material to show why and on what basis the judgment set forth in chapter one will occur, but these chapters actually have to do with that judgment.

Note the structure of each of the seven epistles to the seven Churches. All seven are structured exactly the same way: 1) I know thy works, 2) judgment is then seen to be on the basis of these works, and 3) this judgment is with a view to showing whether the Christian has overcome or has been overcome. There is an overcomer's promise concluding each epistle, and these overcomer's promises are millennial in their scope of fulfillment.

Christians will be judged on the basis of works, with a view to showing whether they have overcome or have been overcome; and this will be with a view to their realizing or being denied regal promises and blessing in the Messianic Era which follows.

As previously seen, John's experience of being transported into the Lord's Day in chapter one is synonymous with his being removed from the earth at the beginning of chapter four. Thus, events about to be revealed in chapter four begin at exactly the same place events in the previous three chapters began, with the removal of the Church to be judged. But this judgment is not repeated in chapter four. Rather, events surrounding the judgment seat shift to related events which will immediately follow this judgment.

The scene in heaven throughout chapter four provides additional details concerning the seven Churches in the presence of Christ in chapter one. All Christians, comprising the complete Church in the presence of Christ in that future day, will not only see that which John saw in chapter one, experience that depicted in chapters two and three, but also see that which John saw in chapter four (along with, it would appear, the things which John saw in the remaining chapters of the book as well). By way of summation, to grasp exactly what is being taught in these opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, keep several things in mind:

1) The main tenor of thought throughout these chapters is "judgment," first upon the Church and then upon Israel and the nations. The book begins with events occurring in that future day when Christians will be judged, after being removed from the earth; and the book then leads into the judgments of the Tribulation which are to come upon the earth-dwellers. These things (affecting the Church, Israel, and the nations) will come to pass at the conclusion of the present dispensation, preceding the Messianic Era.

2) All seven Churches are seen in Christ's presence during this time, even the lukewarm, naked Church of Laodicea which had shut Christ on the outside (1:12, 13, 20; cf. 3:14-21). The seven Churches, denoting completeness both upon the earth (chs. 2, 3) and in heaven (chs. 1-3), reveal that every Christian will be removed from the earth at the termination of the present dispensation to appear before Christ in judgment.

This is completely in line with any Scriptural teaching on the subject. The widespread teaching that either all or part of the Church will remain on earth during the Tribulation has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. The Scriptures teach, unequivocally, that the complete Church -- all of the saved from the entire 2,000-year dispensation, will be removed before the Tribulation begins; and that the complete Church will, at this time, appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven, a judgment which, as previously seen, will apparently be completed before the Tribulation even begins on earth.

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