Is a Secret Rapture in the Bible?
Millions believe in a secret rapture, when Jesus will unexpectedly take Christians to heaven. Is this what the Bible teaches? God does promise protection. But where? On Earth—or in heaven? And can we know?
Civilization is on a collision course with unprecedented world trouble. Global problems will soon grow much worse, and culminate in the prophesied Great Tribulation, followed by the Day of the Lord—and concluding with Christ’s Return. Horrific prophecies will soon be fulfilled. Great numbers will perish. Some will be spared—but who?
The masses are blissfully unaware of—and therefore unprepared for—any of what is coming. This includes most who think they are. You can be an exception!
What does God expect of His servants? All who care had better know.
According to fundamentalist Christians, a rapture is coming. “Believers”—those who have “accepted Jesus”—are scheduled to be whisked away without notice—no matter where they are or what they are doing. All “unbelievers” will be left behind to suffer under the antichrist, and through the supposed seven-year Tribulation—when war, disease, famine and religious deception explode worldwide. These missed being “vacuumed” to the safety of heaven at Christ’s secret coming. The antichrist will permit the Jews to build another temple in Jerusalem, which he will attack and destroy three and a half years later.
Recognize there are two major competing positions among rapturists. It occurs before, or in the middle of, the seven years. But the sudden disappearance of millions, it is said, will “shock the world.” After the Tribulation, Christ returns—this being His visible, and, in effect, third, coming—and defeats the antichrist and his army.
This future worldwide vanishing act has generated movies, books and even board games about its aftermath! One group created a “Rapture Index” it terms a “Dow Jones Industrial Average of end-time activity” and a “prophetic speedometer.” Supposedly, by calculating world conditions, the index closely forecasts Christ’s Return. “The higher the number,” the group’s website states, “the faster we’re moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.”
Another group has prepared a “post-rapture” email to automatically be sent to family and friends. It states in part, “Dear Friend, This message has been sent…by a friend or a relative who has recently disappeared along with millions of people around the world. They chose to send this letter because they cared about you and would like you to know the truth [of] where they went. This may come as a shock, but the one who sent you this has been taken to heaven…there will be a lot of speculation as to what happened to [everyone]. The theories of some scientists and world leaders will have so much credibility that most of the world will believe them. It will sound like the truth!”
Have you accepted the rapture, because it also “sounds like the truth”? Great numbers of sincere people have been captured by this idea! Have you placed your hope in this belief without Bible proof?
Much is at stake. In fact, your life depends on it!
So then, we ask: will Christ come one or two more times?
History of the Idea
While many believe a rapture has always been the Bible teaching, the idea was unknownbefore the 16th century.
Some important history: During the 15th and 16th centuries, reformers John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther, and John Huss campaigned against the dominance of the Catholic Church. These men shook Catholic theology to its core—even calling that church the antichrist! Previously, Rome would have forced its beliefs and traditions on those who disagreed. However, support for the reformers quickly mounted. This publicly undermined Catholic authority.
Rome called for reconciliation, and convened the Council of Trent in 1545. From this council sprang the “counter-reformation” teachings of three Jesuit priests—Francisco Ribera, Luis de Alcazar, and Cardinal Bellarmine.
Ribera followed with a commentary on the book of Revelation. To dispel the church’s label of antichrist, he created the belief of futurism. This declared that the prophecies of Revelationonly applied to the last seven years preceding Christ’s Return!
Recognize that the Catholic Church openly admits it creates beliefs—as well as traditions—entirely apart from the Bible. This is why Ribera could invent a completely non-biblicaltheory. Notice: “A rule of Faith, or a competent guide to heaven, must be able to instruct in all the truths necessary for salvation. Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practise…” (Faith of Our Fathers, James Gibbons).
Catholic leaders make no attempt to hide their belief that tradition outweighs Scripture. In fact, this has become its own tradition. Yet most are unaware of this. The Council of Trent gave tradition—in this case, the humanly invented futurism—equal authority to the Bible.
It was Ribera’s idea that opened the door to the rapture theory.
Here comes the irony. Almost 300 years later, Protestants adopted Ribera’s “futurism” invention. Thanks to the Catholics, John Nelson Darby, the Anglican preacher who is called the “father of the rapture,” could pick up where Ribera left off with his own invention—dispensationalism. Unlike any need the Catholics felt, Protestants—in this case, Darby—needed a way to get the Bible to say what they wanted to believe about a rapture. His way of interpreting the Bible taught that Christ would first secretly collect His followers and later return to defeat the antichrist. This teaching continued through Darby’s disciple, Cyrus Scofield, who assembled the Scofield Reference Bible.
John A. Anderson records more history of what was originally “counter-Protestantism”: “The Catholic Apostolic Church had its beginning in 1830. It was founded in Britain by…men and women who claimed divine inspiration. They said the Holy Spirit revealed to them that the last days had come [this proved false], that the Lord was about to return [also false], that first He would rapture the believers…at a secret coming…after which Christ would come in manifested power” (Heralds of the Dawn).
Countless millions have blindly accepted the rapture theory—fearing what would happen if they did not. But grasp this. The doctrine began in the minds of Catholic priests, then continued development in the minds of the reformers—not God’s mind, as revealed in the Bible! The Protestants simply bought in and picked up later.
Now think. Disagreeing theologians—remember rapture theorists do not agree—found different ways of interpreting the Bible to present the rapture. Which should one listen to? The answer? None—because the belief is not in the Bible. Inventing theologies such as futurism or dispensationalism will not unlock God’s Word! By letting the Bible interpret itself—the greatest rule of Bible study—one can understand all the events surrounding the Tribulation and Christ’s Second Coming.
What Will Really Happen?
So let’s understand. Matthew 24 is a prophecy describing the end-time events preceding Christ’s Return. Jesus describes a period when society becomes “as the days of Noah were” (vs. 37). That time was “filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11), yet people were going about their daily business, pursuing pleasure and gain. This is when disaster fell on them.
People are again foretold to be so immersed in their lives that the Tribulation will take the world by surprise. Jesus warned, “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35). Solomon added, “For man also knows not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time [in this case, the end-time], when it falls suddenly upon them” (Ecc. 9:12).
However, the Bible also warns, “There shall come in the last days scoffers…saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers [the patriarchs] fell asleep, all things continue as they were from…creation” (II Pet. 3:3-4). Beware of those who scoff at all end-time prophecy.
Matthew 24 primarily deals with the final destruction of Jerusalem, possibly including a restored temple. This destruction is referred to as “the abomination that makes desolate” inDaniel 12:11. (Notice Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14.) While many Bible prophecies have dual fulfillments, “the abomination of desolation” has three.
The first occurred in 167 BC, when Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes offered a pig to the Greek god Zeus on the Temple altar in Jerusalem. The second fulfillment is a type of what Christ referred to in Matthew 24:15, when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. The third fulfillment—the main one—is now imminent!
Before Christ returns, armies will again surround Jerusalem. God’s people are warned to flee.
Matthew 24:16 states, “Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.” At the third and final fulfillment, immediately before the Tribulation, God states in Revelation 12:14 that His people will literally flee. (To learn more about world conditions preceding Christ’s Return, read my article What Is the “Abomination of Desolation”? and my bookletAre These the Last Days?.
The coming Great Tribulation is real—as is God’s promise to protect His people. But, unlike the rapture theory, the Bible reveals there is a designated place on Earth—not heaven—where His Church will be safe during the three-and-a-half—not seven—years of Tribulation. Matthew 24 also reveals that the surrounding of Jerusalem by foreign forces is the event that signals when God’s people should flee to safety!
Jesus was concerned for His people. He warned of what was coming, and of the need to escape invading armies and escalating war. He knew three problems would be apparent. First, those with small children, and especially nursing babies, would have particular difficulty escaping (vs. 19). Second, God’s people should pray that the time of flight not be in winter—meaningwintry conditions, because a related prophecy points directly to a wintertime flight. The third had to do with the Sabbath (vs. 20). Obedience to the sanctity of God’s seventh-day Sabbath—which God’s Church has always observed, and would therefore still be faithfully observing right to the end—could make flight more difficult.
Consider: why would Christ instruct to pray concerning the time of flight if His servants were going to be supernaturally sucked away? Rapturists ignore this by incorrectly focusing on, “Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house” (Matt. 24:17; Mark 13:15). Such misrepresentation bypasses any need for personal responsibility!
Christ wants His Church prayerfully involved in their escape—not self-assured, lazing back, expecting a heavenly vacuum cleaner to do it all for them! See through not only the false—but irresponsible—rapture theory.
Rapture “Proof Texts”
Supporters cite five verses as “proof” of the rapture.
First is Daniel 9:27, which they believe sets the table: “And He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
Adherents claim the phrase “one week” refers to society’s last seven years. This is false!
This verse actually references the abomination of desolation, when occupying forces stop the Jews’ daily sacrifice at the Temple. It also addresses the final week of the 70 weeks prophecyabout the Messiah and that Jesus Christ would be cut off in the middle of the week, after three and a half prophetic “days”—three and a half years—of His earthly mission. Daniel 9:27 is not a prophecy about how the antichrist will turn on the Jews halfway through the Tribulation.
Second is Matthew 24:36 and 24:40-42: “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only…Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.”
Comprehending any difficult scripture begins with knowing its context. Beginning in verse 40, Jesus explains the condition of society in the last days. People will be “in the field” and “at the mill,” carrying on daily activities. They will also be “eating and drinking” and “marrying and giving in marriage.” In other words, life will seem normal just before destruction—just before the snare. Verse 42 confirms that this will come unexpectedly. Famine, pestilence and military invasion will together claim two-thirds of the population of the modern nations of Israel. Read Ezekiel 5:12. Captivity—enslavement!—will take the remaining third. Before this, God’s people will certainly be “taken” to safety.
Next is John 14:2-3: “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
The question becomes: where will Christ be?
One of the greatest problems with the rapture is that heaven is not, and has never been, the reward of the saved. Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). He was quoting Psalm 37:11, which says the same thing. Now add this passage: “And has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we [Christians] shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). These verses explain why He also said, “No man has ascended up to heaven” (John 3:13). So then, not only are God’s people not raptured to heaven before Christ returns, they are not going there later. Further, no one is in heaven now.
Christ’s coming again in John 14 will be to Earth. He will be here. The word translated “mansions” means “rooms,” “abodes” or “residences.” The Temple held rooms for various priests who administered there. Different rooms signify differing positions of authority. Christ’s parable of the pounds, in Luke 19:11-27, makes these positions over cities easy to understand. “Mansions” simply refers to offices—or positions of authority.
You will want to read my booklet Do the Saved Go to Heaven?—then the book, The Awesome Potential of Man. The millions who worry about being “left behind” never hear thetruth about salvation. This inspiring book brings it.
True salvation is infinitely greater than going to heaven. John 14 reveals that, after His Return, Jesus’ faithful servants will work under Him as kings and priests. Just the truth of salvation—rulership over cities beside Jesus Christ on Earth—reduces the rapture to a pile of scrap.
Fourth is I Corinthians 15:50-52: “…Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
There is no proof—or even hint—of a rapture here! Notice the phrase “last trump.” This refers to the seventh trumpet, which announces Christ’s Return to the whole world. This last trumpet is also referred to in Revelation 11:15 and I Thessalonians 4:15-16. It sends a piercing—immense—and reverberating—sound that all inhabitants of Earth will hear.
Notice this in Matthew: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man [nothing secret here] coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet [this has to be the last], and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (24:30-31). This references the saints wherever they are, either buried or alive on Earth. This becomes more clear.
Nothing “secret” is being described! This trumpet blast announces Christ’s Return, and it isthen when He gathers His people. At this point, His true followers will be changed into perfect, immortal beings. This is the time of the Resurrection, when the “dead in Christ” are raised to spirit-born immortal life. They first meet Him in the clouds, not as a rapture—so that they can U-turn with Him back to heaven—but so they can return with Him to begin rule of the Earth. Get this!
The final passage is I Thessalonians 4:15-17: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God [nothing secret here]: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air [not heaven]: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Where? The prophet Zechariah answers: “And [Christ’s] feet shall stand in that day [not seven years later] upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…and the Lord my God shall come [recall John 14], and all the saints with [Him]” (Zech. 14:4-5).
What could possibly be plainer?
These verses obviously describe Christ’s only additional Coming. To state He will return a secret additional time suggests He misrepresented His Second Coming to Earth! The rapture makes Jesus a liar—and the perpetrator of confusion!
The above supposed “proof texts” actually prove the deceptiveness of this doctrine!
“Astrape” and “Parousia”
Revelation 1:16 describes Christ’s appearance as “the sun [that] shines in [its] strength.” That is bright! Jesus Himself describes His Coming this way: “For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:27).
Two Greek words should be noted here. These are altered and misapplied by rapturists to change Jesus’ intended meaning.
“Lightning” comes from astrape, meaning “lightning,” “glare,” and “bright shining.” Would any suggest that people could not see lightning occurring worldwide? Some do suggest this about Christ’s Return, even though it is foretold to be as a glare and bright shining that goes from the east to the west.
The word translated “coming” is parousia, meaning “being near,” “coming,” and “presence.” Rapture supporters claim this does not really mean “coming,” but instead, a “secret nearness” or “invisible presence.” This is plain dishonesty with Scripture! Jesus said what He meant. Had He meant “secret nearness,” He would have said this to His disciples—and to all who would read ever after.
Parousia is used in many other scriptures. All of them (Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; I Cor. 15:23,16:17; II Cor. 7:6-7, 10:10; Phil. 1:26, 2:12; I Thes. 2:19, 3:13, 4:15) refer to the same meaning—not some mysterious “secret nearness.” Look them up. Remember, rapture theorists speak of Jesus’ secret Coming and His visible Coming. The secret one is fiction, fantasy, invention—pure imagination. It may be real in its author’s minds, but it is not in the Bible.
Recall that God’s Word reveals a future last fulfillment of the “abomination of desolation,” when a religious-political-economic-military force stops the daily sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Soon after, the Tribulation will strike the world—to the complete surprise of all its inhabitants. The apostle Paul wrote, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (I Thes. 5:2). The apostle Peter underscored this: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…” (II Pet. 3:10).
While no one knows when a thief is going to come, homeowners certainly do know when he has broken and entered their house. This worst time of trouble in history will last three and a half years—the duration of the reign of the Beast and False Prophet. No one will—orcould—miss it.
Revelation 1:7 declares, “Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him [again, nothing secret here]…and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” Also, how could anyone miss such a verse? It practically screams off the page! Jesus further confirmed in Acts 1 that He will return in the clouds.
Sadly, most just do not read their Bibles, choosing to trust deceived ministers instead.
Let’s repeat from Matthew 24: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn [this would be closely connected to wailing. Why? Notice…], and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (vs. 30). This should be impossible to misunderstand.
Now consider this powerful warning from Christ—and how it applies to the rapture: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets [what follows should sober you], and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before [this is then a repeated warning]. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:23-27).
The events preceding Christ’s Return are certainly horrible to contemplate. How to get through them naturally engenders more than worry—it begets great fear. So, it is also natural to want to escape what is coming. The rapture is merely a humanly devised path for escaping the horror of the Tribulation. The problem has always been that it is not what Godsays!
Jesus warned that many false teachers would arise. Deception about His Second Coming would not be an exception. Peter warned: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables [the Greek means: a tale, fiction, myth], when we made known unto you the power andcoming of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (II Pet. 1:16).
While this verse refers to accurately representing Christ’s First Coming, the principle applies to His Second. The rapture is a tale—a myth—aimed at giving what is false hope to the unwitting and unsuspecting!
Reject the fiction—and accept the truth of what God really promises in your Bible.
You will want to read our booklet Promised Protection – Secret Rapture or Place of Safety?You will be shocked at the passages that rapturists ignore!
Jesus Christ built His Church—the true Church—the only one He built—2,000 years ago. This Church believes and teaches the truths of the Bible—all of them—not human ideas—any of them! The people of this Church have always stood in the plain certainty of what God doespromise for those alive at the end—not the false hope of human inventions.