Will the church really be raptured away before the Great Tribulation as many believe and teach today? We will explore that question and more in this article.
Podcast Transcript: Click HERE to listen
I don’t know about you, but I have always really enjoyed epic movies. From Star War movies from when I was a kid to the Lord of Ring series of movies that came out when I was a young adult and everything in between there is nothing like vicariously living through a character in a coming of age movie combined with a quest with a noble cause – like the annihilation of evil from the universe.
I believe these epic movies are powerful because they get at the heart of what it means to be human and our intuitive understanding of good and evil in the world. We are in fact moral agents after all. And because of that we all must by our very nature wrestle with our conscience over these issues of justice, power, and self-control And it is these issues the hero must wrestle with on his journey to completing his mission.
There are no easy roads on this journey – in fact if the movie is any good the way becomes more difficult and filled with danger the closer the hero gets to the end.
Interestingly the Bible echos this same type of language when describing our spiritual journey to heaven.
Notice some of these verses that comes to mind…
““Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14 NKJV)
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV)
“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. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21–22 NKJV)
Now these are just a few verses that I chose out of many possibilities, and so the questions is, what is God trying to say to believers who read these texts?
– Expect the good life here on earth?
– Trial and tribulation are only for those living out of harmony with God’s word?
I think not.
Just like the epic movies we all know and love – God is saying the prize he offers involves a lifetime journey fraught with danger, intrigue, and betrayal – but if we don’t give up – a crown of life awaits us at the end.
So then where did this idea that believers are raptured before the tribulation begins come from popularized through the Left Behind books and movies? And what are the implications for those who believe it?
Well, to answer those questions we have to go back the study we began in episode 34 entitled “the Longest Time Prophecy”– so if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it I highly recommend you check it out as soon as you finish listening to this episode.
If you remember in that episode we began looking at a prophecy in Daniel 8:14 that foretold an event described as the Cleansing of the Sanctuary that would take place at the end of the 2300 days or years of the prophecy. Now we already discovered that the Cleansing of the Sanctuary was actually the end-time pre-advent judgment that takes place just before Jesus comes that determines who is ultimately saved and who is ultimately lost.
Now what we didn’t have time to figure out yet was the exact beginning and ending date of the prophecy and to do that we actually need to go on Daniel 9 to find the answer.
Even Daniel himself doesn’t understand the vision in Daniel 8 after he received it and so in Daniel 9 we see him begging and pleading with God in prayer to give him understanding of the vision. And so we pick up with him now beginning in Daniel 9:20
“Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:” (Daniel 9:20–23 NKJV)
So, as you can see, Gabriel has now come to provide Daniel with the missing pieces of information that were needed to understand 2300 days and the cleansing of the Sanctuary
So let’s keep reading in verse 24.
““Seventy weeks 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.” (Daniel 9:24 NKJV)
In Hebrew this text literally reads, 70 weeks are cut-off for your people and your holy city. So the obvious question is from where are those 70 weeks are cut off from? 2300 days?
Here we see that God is extending grace to the nation of Israel by 70 prophetic weeks or 490 literal years. God had already punished Israel through the nation of Babylon (destroying their temple, capital city, taken the people captive) for all there years of unfaithfulness, but now they are soon to return, God is giving them another chance to repent and prepare for the promised Messiah.
We know that because Gabriel specifically mentions the Messiah in the next verse
““Know therefore and understand, That 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.” (Daniel 9:25 NKJV)
Could this time prophecy – one that was cut off from the larger 2300 day prophecy actually be predicting the exact year he would begin his ministry?
Well, one thing is for sure – we are now for the first time given a starting point to the prophecy and once we figure that date the prophecy states it would be 69 weeks or 483 years until Messiah shows up
So the obvious next question we need to ask is when was the decree given to restore and rebuild Jerusalem? Interestingly in Ezra 7 we discover that this decree was actually issued by the Persian King Artaxerxes in the 7th year of his reign and when we go back into our history books we can learn that the 7th year of his reign was the 457 BC
Interestingly it may have been Sir Isaac Newton that first arrived at the beginning date of this prophecy. Whatever the case now it only takes simple math to arrive at the date where we can expect to see the Messiah come on the scene. Adding 483 years to the start date of 457BC takes us to the year 27AD.
Of course “Messiah” is a Hebrew would that simply means “anointed one” and in Greek that word is translated as “Christ.” Hence Jesus Christ or Jesus the Messiah.
But the question now is – when did Jesus become the Messiah? In other words when was he anointed? Thankfully the Bible tells us the exact date of his anointing in Luke 3. Interesting it didn’t take place at his birth but at his baptism
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea…When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”” (Luke 3:1, 21–22 NKJV)
The 15th year of Tiberius Caesar was 27AD! This marked the beginning of Christ’s ministry as prophesied by the prophet Daniel and is what brings us into the 70th week of the prophecy
Now it is important to note exactly what the Bible records Jesus teaching and preaching after his baptism. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”” (Mark 1:15 NKJV)
What time is he referring to here? The beginning of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy!
Ok, so now this is where the Prophecy gets very detailed.
“Then he (the Messiah) 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 9:27 NKJV)
So now that we already know that the beginning of the 70th week is 27AD we can easily conclude through simple math that the end of the week is 34AD
Now, Notice what happens in the middle of the week – which would be by dividing 7 in half – 3 ½ years.
The messiah would bring an end to sacrifice and offering. This would bring us to the spring of 31 AD. Now what could Gabriel be referring to here? How did the Messiah – Jesus bring an end to Sacrifice and offering after 3 1/2 years of ministry?
Well of course this is referring to Jesus once and for all sacrifice of himself on the cross for the sins of the world – forever putting an end to animal sacrifice as way to forgiveness as had been the case under the old covenant.
Now in case there was any doubt the the earthly sanctuary and all of its services became obsolete after the death of Jesus – one only needs to read Marks gospel to discover this:
“And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:37–38 NKJV)
Not only did Christ die in the right year, but he died on the right day, Passover…which was the 14th day of the 1st month of the year in the Jewish Calendar.
Christ, our Passover lamb, died on Passover.
Ok – well what about the last 3 1/2 years of the prophecy?
So even after Jesus had been put to death, was buried, and raised form the dead, the grace off God was still reaching out to the nation of Israel to repent and to accept the Risen Christ as their Savior.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus had been very specific and intentional about the preaching the gospel first to the Jews before taking it to anyone else. If you remember he said,
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” (Acts 1:8 NKJV)
The Jews were still to be favored but only until the end of the 70th week. Then the gospel was to to go the world and sure enough as the 70-week prophecy drew to a close in the year 34 AD a significant event took place in Jerusalem. Stephen was arrested and condemned by the Sanhedrin and through his testimony God tried one last time to break through their hard hearts with the gospel truth. But they rejected it again – once and for all.
“And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep…Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 7:59–60; 8:4 NKJV)
As you can see the 70 week prophecy is both bitter and sweet in that it predicted with precision both the year of the advent and rejection of the messiah by the people he came to save reminding us of the words of the apostle John in the first chapter of his gospel:
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:11–12 NKJV)
And the rest as they say is history…
But what about the 2300 days?
Well now that we have a starting point – we simply add the 1810 days that leftover from the prophecy to the year 34AD and it brings us to the year 1844. We will have more to say about that in our next episode.
But for now I want to go back to this idea that is out there today that somehow Christians in the last days won’t have to experience their own epic. That rather than journeying through the Great Tribulation together with Jesus to victory and translation at his coming, they are instead somehow mysteriously secretly raptured away before it all begins?
Literally mystically disappearing out of thin air – learning only their clothes and loved ones behind?
Well if you haven’t figured it out by now – the reason I am connecting the rapture to the is study in Daniel 9 is that many in the Christian world today have taken this 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy and disconnected it from the first 69 weeks. Instead of applying it to Jesus Christ they instead apply it to the antichrist.
As you can see this both unnecessary and destructive to the Biblical text.
No where in scripture do you find a seven-year tribulation described. No where in the Bible do you find a description of a secret 2nd coming of Jesus.
Friends the Bible is clear that Jesus coming will be visible (every eye will see him) audible (the shout of an archangel, and literal (as you have seen him go so he will come back)
In fact this points so unmistakably to Jesus of Nazareth as the true Messiah that the Jewish Rabbi’s later pronounced a curse upon any Jew who would study it for themselves.
“May the bones of the hands and the bones of the fingers decay and decompose, of him who turns the pages of the book of Daniel, to find out the time of Daniel 9:24-27, and may his memory rot from off the face of the earth forever.” Talmudic Law, p.978, Section 2, Line 28.
So then why is the 70th week of Daniel’s Prophecy used as the basis for teaching the an unbiblical and unnecessary doctrine.
The short answer is people are simply afraid of anything that sounds hard in their Christian walk and so charlatans come along telling people what they want to hear quoting Bible texts along the way.
The truth is people want to believe they won’t have to go through tribulation and they also want to believe if they miss out on the the Secret Rapture they will have a second chance to be saved. (Did the people in Noah’s day or Sodom and Gomorra have a 2nd chance?)
Unfortunately, what many don’t realize when they buy into these false doctrines is they are robbing themselves of the epic God wants for them.
Jesus went to the cross to show us the way – to walk where he walked with the strength he received from his Father. This same strength he wants to give to us. The greatest victory also comes through the overcoming the greatest obstacles.
The Apostle Paul warned us all in his final letter to Timothy.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:3–8 NKJV)
Clearly Paul lived his own epic because he was willing to follow the way of Jesus.
At his departure he warns us to be careful of those who tell us what we want to hear. If we are not being challenged and disciplined by our teachers and are only being told smooth things then watch out.
There was nothing smooth about Jesus’ life, there was nothing smooth about Paul’s life – but in the end one was able to give and the other ro receive a crown of life for keeping the faith and finishing the race.
You may not want to hear this, but it is true, if you are on the right path you will experience tribulation. And in the last days you will go through difficult experiences that will test your faith and trust in God (that is why Adventology exists) – but just like all the great epics at the last minute your escape will come and victory will be grasped out of the claws of defeat.
Jesus said these words…
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21 NKJV)
Stop looking for the get out of Jail free card. It doesn’t exist in the battle against self and Satan.
Until the controversy is ended we are in a war zone and every live our life on a battlefield.
On the cross Jesus won victory for us all but he didn’t take away test.
Don’t buy into the wide path of an easy Christianity that the majority of Christians are on today. Now is the time to get ready for Jesus. To get ready for the tribulation. To get ready for the rejection from the ones you love as Christ was rejected by the ones he came to save.
Are you living up to everything you know the Holy Spirit has convicted you though the word of God to do? If not then now is the time to repent and live for truth even if if hurts because if it hurts now imagine how much more later when all the powers in this world will be trying to influence you to do the opposite.
Friend, The prophecies of the Bible are true.
The 70 week prophecy literally foretold the exact year and day Jesus was going to die – and the 2300 day prophecy literally foretold when the final judgement would begin – so how much more time do you really think this earth has?
All the signs and prophecies point to a very soon coming of Jesus.
Are you ready?
Are you ready to leave everything in this world behind to be faithful to him before he comes if that is what is needed?
A true Christian can not serve God and money – and he also cant serve God and himself.
Let me encourage you today to make that full surrender you have been putting off.
Now is the time – now is the day of salvation