OTHER COMPELLING EVIDENCE OF A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE
The life of Joseph
The idea of the rapture occurring before the Tribulation is also supported by the typology of the life of Joseph. Typology has prophetic significance, in that an event or a person in the Old Testament points to a future event or person. An example would be Abraham’s offering of Isaac as a sacrifice, that act is a type, a foreshadowing of the future reality of God the Father offering God the Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. The prophecy of Isaiah 53 predicts that a man must suffer and die for the sins of mankind. This prophecy is literally fulfilled during the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. The typology of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice is a confirmation of the literal interpretation of Isaiah 53. God uses typology as powerful prophetic confirmation of His will for the future; a confirmation from an all-powerful God of His plan and purpose for the world.
There are more than 20 aspects of Joseph’s life that are prophetic pointers to the life of Jesus. We are presently at the stage in the prophetic story of Joseph’s life, where he was elevated from the underground dungeon to the right hand of the Pharaoh and all authority was given to him (Gen. 41:14-44). We can determine this by comparing his life with that of Jesus. Jesus was elevated from the tomb to the right hand of God (Acts 7:56) and all authority has been given to Him. The story of Joseph does not stop there. Joseph receives a Gentile bride before the seven years of famine, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (Gen. 41:45). To match the typology of the life of Joseph, Jesus will receive a predominantly Gentile bride (the Church including messianic believers) at the rapture before the seven years of Tribulation. To emphasise the prophetic significance of the typology of Joseph’s life, a study of the seven years of famine reveals that Joseph’s brothers are forced to go to Egypt to buy grain. When they arrive in Egypt, they do not recognise Joseph at first; they are blinded to the true identity of the saviour of their family, just as the Jews are blinded to the true identity of Jesus as their Messiah (Rom. 11:7-10; 25). Just as the Jews will recognise Jesus by His nail marks – the covenant wounds in His hands and his feet (Zech. 12:10) – when He returns to earth so, too, did Joseph have to “reveal” himself the only way his brothers would recognise him, and that was to lift his garment and reveal his circumcision. At the sight of the covenant wound, Joseph’s brothers immediately knew that the man before them was their brother. At the return of Jesus, the Jews will have similar emotions: there will be great joy in their hearts at their unification with their Messiah, but there will also be mourning in their hearts at having rejected Jesus (Zech. 12:10).
God uses typology as powerful prophetic confirmation of His will for the future; a confirmation from an all-powerful God of His plan and purpose for the world, and the typology of Joseph is confirmation from God of a pre-Tribulation rapture.
The fact that Judaism and Christianity are inseparable is wonderfully revealed in the feasts of Israel. In Leviticus 23 the Lord speaks to Moses and commands the establishment of the feasts, which are to become sacred assemblies for the Jewish people. God has carefully planned the timing and order of the seven annual feasts, which take place over seven months. The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) means “appointed times”. The feast days are not only a historical record of the Jews’ relationship with God but they also reveal God’s prophetic plan (appointed times) for mankind, which would involve God’s redemptive plan through the work of His son Jesus. In Bible numerics, the number seven is the seal of God and represents perfection and completeness. Just as a week is a seven-day cycle so, too, are the seven feasts over a period of seven months a complete cycle, which reveals the work of God on earth.
The order of the seven feasts reveals God’s master plan of salvation for mankind. They are a powerful revelation; a step-by-step explanation of God’s plans to restore His relationship with mankind through His son, Jesus. The feasts clearly distinguish between the coming of Jesus as the Saviour, the Lamb of God who will take the sins of mankind upon Himself and His return as the Lion of Judah, the conquering King. Four feasts occur during the spring in Israel, and are all prophetically linked to the appearance of Jesus as the suffering Messiah:
- Passover – pictures the sacrificial death of Jesus (the Lamb of God) on the cross.
- Unleavened bread – pictures the burial of the sinless body of Jesus.
- First fruits – pictures the resurrection of Jesus.
- Shavuot (Pentecost) – pictures the sending of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.
There is then a large time-span between the spring feasts and the feasts that occur in the autumn. The complete season that passes between the spring feasts and the fall feasts is the Church period. The last three feasts are yet to be fulfilled, so they remain prophetic in nature. These three feasts point to the return of Jesus as King:
- Yom Teruah (Trumpets) – pictures the call for the Bride of Christ to assemble at the rapture.
- Yom Kippur (The day of Atonement) – pictures the return of Jesus, the King and Judge to Jerusalem.
- Feast of Tabernacles – pictures the start of the Millennial Kingdom where Jesus will tabernacle with His people.
Paul, in Colossians 2:17, points out that the feast days are “a shadow of the things that were to come”. Roger Foster in his article What do the Holy days Mean for Christians Today? (1) emphasises that Paul is confirming the prophetic value of the feasts when he explains that: “Paul says [the holy days] ‘are a shadow of things to come’. The phrase to come is a present active participle in the Greek. It means ‘things coming,’ referring to the future, not the past. Any theologian who claims that Paul is referring to the Holy Days as a shadow of things in the past is not being honest with the Greek grammar. The Greek requires it to point to the future. The Sabbath and the Holy Days foreshadow things to come – future events. There is no doubt about what Paul is saying. The Holy Days still represent future events in the plan of salvation.”
A study of the Autumn feasts indicates that the first holy day, The Feast of Yom Teruah (the day of the loud shout), points to a rapture prior to the return of Jesus at the end of the Great Tribulation. Evidence that the rapture will occur during Yom Teruah (the Feast of Trumpets) is:
- The four feasts that occur during the spring had their prophetic event fulfilled on the exact day at the time of Jesus’ first coming. Therefore, all three autumn feasts will also have their prophetic event fulfilled on the exact day. The rapture will, therefore, occur during the Feast of Trumpets, the first of the autumn feasts.
- Yom Teruah, is the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar. All of Israel must hear the sound of the trumpet blast. Just as at the rapture all believers will hear the trumpet call of God, so Paul in both 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 writes of the blast of a trumpet at the rapture. This is a clear indicator that the rapture will occur during the Feast of Trumpets.
- The Feast of Trumpets is the only festival that no-one knows when exactly it will occur. It is the only festival starting on the first day of the Hebrew Lunar month. As the feast begins at the time of the new moon, which is 29,5 days after the last new moon, so the new moon may occur on the 29th or the 30th day of the month. No one can be sure. Yom Teruah is, therefore, always celebrated for two days because no one can be sure of the exact timing of the feast. So, these two days are celebrated as though they are just one long day of 48 hours. The fact that “no one knows about that day or hour” (Matt. 24:36) directly refers to this feast, which links this feast to the rapture.
- As no man knows the hour or the day of the new moon, a reliable man was assigned to wait and watch for the appearance of the smallest sliver of the new moon. Once spotted, a second reliable man would be called to confirm the sighting. They would then shout back to the Sanhedrin gathered on the Temple Mount, and the trumpet would be sounded to inform all that the new moon had been sighted. So, the Feast of Trumpets is when the “last trump” of the rapture of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is blown.
- As discussed in the chapter on the Jewish wedding celebration (Part 6), “none knows about that day or hour… but only the Father” was an expression used by the Jewish groom when asked when his marriage would be. The Father of the groom would continually inspect the work being done by the groom on the bridal chamber, and only with the final approval from the father that the home was satisfactory would the wedding be able to take place. Jesus, when answering the disciples’ question on the timing of the last-day events (Matt. 24:3) combines two well-known Jewish customs in His explanation. Just as in the Jewish wedding it will be the Father who decides the actual time of the rapture, when “the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25). Also, just as at Yom Teruah when no one knows the exact day or hour of the feast so, too, no one will know the exact time of the rapture. The disciples would be able to clearly glean from the use by Jesus of these two well-known Jewish customs that they would be able to discern the season, but not the day or the hour of His return.
- The Jews believe that the gates of heaven are opened on Yom Teruah so the righteous may enter in (Isa. 26:2, Ps. 118:19-20). God gives Ezekiel a vision of the Millennial Temple and He explains to Ezekiel that the gate to the inner court of the Temple must remain open on “the day of the new moon” (Ezek. 46:1). As the Millennial Temple is a copy of the Temple in heaven, it follows that the gates of heaven are also opened on the day of the new moon, which would include Yom Teruah. The “door standing open in heaven” (Rev. 4:1) that John sees before he is raptured up to heaven is, therefore, symbolic of the Feast of Trumpets.
- The Jews also associate Yom Teruah with the day of Judgement (Yom Hadin). It is a day when the righteous are to be separated and they will dwell with God. The rapture is a day when the righteous are taken from the earth to be with God, and it signals the start of God’s seven years of judgement during the Tribulation.
- The association of the feast with judgement links Yom Teruah to another reason why the Jews blow the shofar at the start of the feast. It is blown to proclaim the resurrection of the dead. The sounding of the shofar is a call to repentance, a call to rise up and live again, to wake up from sin and be transformed through repentance. The resurrection of the righteous dead occurs during the rapture at the sound of the trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52). The resurrection of the righteous dead, and the transformation of the living from a sinful body to a sinless one will therefore take place on Rosh Hashanah. One of the traditional beliefs is that Yom Teruah is likened to the removing of soiled garments, which has a wonderful parallel in the rapture.
- Finally, the Jews also believed that the sounding of the shofar was to confound and confuse Satan, who the rabbis believe uses the day to accuse the nation before God, bringing up all the sin they have committed during the past year. The rapture results in the Bride appearing in heaven ready for the marriage supper. Satan, as the accuser of the brethren, is the unwanted guest at the wedding feast. There is war in heaven and Satan is cast down to earth (Rev. 12:7-8). So, yet another facet of the Feast of Trumpets matches with the rapture occurring on that feast day.
(For those who are interested in a more in-depth study on the prophetic significance of the seven feasts, the series Feasts of The Bible was the first study covered by this blog).
The title “Rosh Hashanah” should not be used for the Feast of Trumpets:
The Jews commonly refer to the Feast of Trumpets as Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “head of the year”. It is the Jewish New Year’s Day, and is celebrated on the first two days of their month Tishri. Now this can cause confusion for Christians studying the feasts of Israel, as scripture clearly says that, “the Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month (Nisan),” the first of Nisan is then the start of the sacred year. How can Rosh Hashanah be the head of the year, when God ordained the first of Nisan as the start of the year, and scripture clearly states that “the tenth day of this seventh month (Tishri) is the Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 23:26)?
The answer is simple – mankind is adept at contaminating Gods Word. There are two reasons for why Rosh Hashanah was made the start of the new year:
- The Sages did not understand the prophetic significance of Yom Teruah, as it seemed to be just designated as “a day of rest,” so they gave the day significance by making it Rosh Hashanah – the head of the year.
- Then, because the Jews are to contemplate their sins of the past year during the ten days of awe between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur, the sages while in captivity in Babylon, made the first day of Trishi – Yom Teruah – the start of a new year, having received forgiveness for the sins of the past year.
There is a Jewish tradition of giving apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, as the Jews of the Babylonian captivity believed apples had healing properties, and the honey signifies the hope that the new year will be sweet. Christians however, should not refer to Yom Teruah as Rosh Hashanah, as the God ordained sequence is lost when that is done, and therefore the prophetic significance is also lost. This is why God so hates man’s interference with His word. Any believers being offered apples and honey by Jewish work colleagues, or friends, should use the opportunity to witness to them about the true significance of Yom Teruah.
Explanation on Imminence
Many pre-Tribulationists believe in the doctrine of imminence, which holds that the return of Jesus can happen at any moment, with no signs to occur and no prophecies needing to be fulfilled. As the doctrine of imminence holds the belief there will be no warning signs of the soon return, the doctrine strongly supports a pre-Tribulation rapture. The idea that Jesus is indicating that the rapture will occur only over one of the days of the Feast of Trumpets conflicts with a firm belief held by these Christians in the imminent return of the Lord. It is, therefore, necessary to pause and study this doctrine, as it contradicts the evidence that the rapture will occur at Yom Teruah.
Scriptures that the supporter of the doctrine of imminence will use as evidence that Jesus can return at any moment are:
- Matt. 24:42-44 and 1Thes. 5:2-4: which refer to the return of Jesus for the Church at the rapture as His coming “like a thief in the night”.
- Mark 13:33-37: is the parable where the servants are warned to be on the watch for the unexpected return of their master.
- Heb. 10:37: where the author warns that Jesus will not delay.
- Jas. 5:7-8 and 1 Pet. 4:7: warn that the Lord’s coming is near.
- Rev. 3:11, 22:7 and 22:20: in these scriptures Jesus continually encourages the Church by saying, “I am coming soon.”
The analogy of the house-owner being on the watch for the thief in the night (Matt. 24:42-44; 1 Thess. 5:2-4) and the servants expectantly waiting for their master (Mark 13:33-37) both relate to Yom Teruah, where the Jews are required to expectantly watch and wait for the crescent moon to signal the new month and the commencement of the celebration. The Church is also required to be expectantly watching and waiting for the rapture, as it is our great hope (Titus 2:13). Just as the Jews would pray “next year in Jerusalem” at every Passover feast during their dispersion so, too, should the Church have the same hope and longing for the return of Jesus and be praying that the next Feast of Trumpets will be the rapture. Jesus wants His Church to be like the Jewish Bride longing for the call of the Bridegroom to join Him and travel to the wedding feast. The “blessed hope” of the Church is “the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The analogy of the “thief in the night,” is clarified when one understands that a thief steals that which is valuable and there is a true sense of loss. Jesus, by using this symbolism, is underlying the loss the world will experience when that which is valuable, the Church, is raptured.
With regards to the scriptures announcing that the return of Jesus is near, this cannot be, as it is now over 1 900 years since the Bible was completed. The idea that Jesus is coming soon cannot, then, be literally interpreted. James 5:8, which is used by the supporters of the doctrine of imminence that “the Lord’s coming is near,” actually starts with an admonition in verse 7 for believers to be patient regarding “the Lord’s coming,” saying that they should follow the example of the famer who “waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm.” James uses the analogy of the farmer waiting for the rains, as the rains match the Jewish feast days. The KJV refers to the rains as “the early and latter rain.” Just as the Jews had to wait patiently for their Messiah, who fulfilled the feast day prophecies of the spring rain, so will the Church have to wait for the return of Jesus who will fulfil the feast day prophecies of the autumn rain. The nearness of the Lord’s return must, therefore, be in relation to the whole period of prophecy. Genesis 3:15 holds the first prophecy that God gives, predicting that Satan will be defeated by Jesus. The scripture prophesies that Satan will inflict a mortal wound, but his power will be broken by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Ultimately the serpent, Satan, will only be totally defeated at the end of the Millennial period after he is released for a short while just before the end of the thousand years. When Daniel interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (2:24-49), he reveals that Jesus will return to destroy all the nations of the earth and establish His Kingdom. So, what was distant to Adam and Daniel is now near. In comparison, the return of the Lord is soon and is in the process of being fulfilled.
Further evidence that the return of Jesus could not be imminent is given by Jesus Himself. In answer to the question by His disciples – “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming at the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3) – Jesus describes several events that will precede His return for the Church. The fact that Jesus gives more than one statement, revealing that there are prerequisite events that must occur before His return, must mean that the rapture could not then be imminent. Examples of these qualifying statements are:
- In Matthew 24:6 Jesus is implying an expected increase in the number of conflicts as a precursor to the last days when he says, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed for such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (emphasis added). The centuries since the time of Jesus have seen continual warfare; with man’s increasing inhumanity against man played out in all parts of the world, which is evidence of the accuracy of this prophecy. When Jesus issued the warning in Matthew 24:6, He gave a prerequisite to the timing of the rapture. The rapture cannot be imminent if there must be an increase in world conflicts before it occurs.
- “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines [and pestilences (KJV)], and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:7-8; emphasis added). There have always been famines, plagues and earthquakes, but as the population of the world increases the effects these three catastrophes have on mankind will intensify. Jesus uses the example of a woman giving birth to reveal that these disasters will increase in intensity over time until His return, just as a woman’s labour pains intensify until the birth. The birth of the baby brings an end to the suffering and a wonderful new life. So, too, will the return of Jesus bring an end to the suffering of the Church and a wonderful new life in heavenly bodies. The analogy of the catastrophes occurring with increasing intensity, like a woman in childbirth, must mean that the rapture cannot be imminent.
- “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). This is a definitive statement from Jesus about the timing of the rapture. It will not occur until all nations have received the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus is returning to bring righteousness to the earth. The Greek word used for nations in this scripture is ethnos which means ethnic or cultural groups. So, Jesus is clearly stating that the rapture cannot occur until all cultural groups have received the message that He is returning to set up His Kingdom. This revelation relates to Paul’s mystery (a mystery being a hidden truth now revealed) in Romans 11:25: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” The mystery that Paul is revealing to the Church is that God is waiting for the complete number of Gentiles to be saved before the rapture. With our understanding of Matthew 24:14, this complete number will only be reached when all cultural groups have heard the gospel. Therefore, the rapture cannot occur until this prophecy is fulfilled.
- Jesus uses the story of Noah and the ark as an example of what it will be like in the Last Days saying, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark” (Matthew 24.37-38). Noah took 120 years to build the ark. The flood could not occur until all the various parts of the building of the ark had been completed, all the animals God ordained to be in the ark had entered in and all the supplies and equipment the inhabitants of the ark would require during their voyage had been stored. The story of Noah and the ark is used by Jesus to compare with His return at the rapture. Just as the flood could not take place until all the preparations for the ark had been completed so, too, the rapture cannot occur until all the prerequisite events have taken place.
Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians gives another prerequisite event that must be fulfilled before the rapture can take place: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thess. 2:3). “That day” Paul is writing about is the “Day of the Lord,” which begins with the rapture. He is instructing the Thessalonians that the rapture will not occur until the Antichrist, the “man of lawlessness,” is revealed. The Church, through an understanding of Biblical prophecy, will be able to identify the Antichrist in his rise to power on his quest for world domination. The Church will know that the rapture is near, even at the door, when preparations are being made for the Antichrist to be a part of a seven-year treaty that will bring peace to the Middle East and will allow the Jews to build the third Temple.
Both Jesus and Paul give prerequisite events that must occur before the rapture can take place. The belief that the return of Jesus is imminent could not then be a reality. However, the desire for the soon returning of the Lord will be in the heart of the Bride who longs for His appearing.
The harvest of wheat and barley in Israel was collected in stages, and matches the three stages of the resurrection of the saints selected to reign with Jesus during the Millennium. At the start of the harvest, the very first portion was taken as a wave offering before the Lord in the Temple (Lev. 23:14-15). The harvest of the grain would then take place, with a small portion being left for the poor. The poor would follow after the harvesters and glean the remains of the grain crop for themselves. This command of God to show charity to the poor is wonderfully illustrated in Ruth 2:2, when Ruth goes into the barley fields of Boaz to glean barley for Naomi and herself.
We are now able to compare the three stages of the grain harvest with the resurrection of believers as a harvest unto the Lord:
- Believers who died prior to the crucifixion of Jesus were raised from the dead with Jesus on the day of the Feast of First Fruits. Matthew 27:52-53 records that “they came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people”. The resurrection of these saints proved that Christ’s power over death was not limited to Himself. These saints were at some stage after the crucifixion presented to God the Father as the “first fruits” of the labour of the Lord Jesus. What a celebration there would have been in heaven as the victorious Saviour, the Lamb of God, presented the “first fruit” of His labour to his Father.
- John 4:35 gives the symbolism of fields “ripe for harvest,” being those ready to be reaped for the Kingdom of Heaven. The second and main harvest is the rapture, with both dead and living believers being taken up to heaven (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). This would include all the saints who died after the crucifixion up to the time of the rapture. They are resurrected in body, and those believers who are alive on earth at the time of the rapture are also taken up to heaven.
- The gleaning will be the believers who die or are martyred during the Tribulation period, the Tribulation saints (Rev. 7:14; 20:4). These believers are required to go through the Tribulation, as their decision to accept Jesus only came after the rapture. The harvest of these believers is done in a time of adversity and suffering, well symbolised by the poor and destitute who would be collecting the gleanings at the end of a harvest.
We need to pause for a moment to analyse a seeming contradiction to the symbolism of the stages of the harvest representing the stages of resurrection of the saints. Revelation 20:5 says “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years… this is the first resurrection.” Post-Tribulation believers point to this scripture as evidence that the rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, because the scripture reveals that “the first resurrection” includes believers who have gone through the Tribulation. This cannot be a post-Tribulation rapture for two reasons:
- The rapture cannot be “the first resurrection,” as Matthew 27:52-53 clearly shows that there were believers resurrected at the death of Jesus.
- The scripture in Revelation 20:5 is speaking specifically about those who died during the Tribulation period and that they will be included with the Church, as saints who will reign with Jesus during the Millennium period. The word ‘first’ that John uses in “first resurrection” is the Greek word protos which does not necessarily mean first in a sequence of events, but rather first in rank or position, a superior resurrection. John is making a contrast between two different types of resurrection. One is a resurrection of the righteous (the superior resurrection), for all those who will rule with Jesus during the Millennium Kingdom. The other (the second, inferior resurrection), is a resurrection of those who will be required to stand before the “White Throne” of judgement. Because those of the second resurrection do not have forgiveness of sin, they are judged “according to what [they] had done (their sins)” (Rev. 20:11-15). They have rejected the grace of God and have the shame of attempting to justify themselves according to their own self-righteousness before a holy God. Ultimately, those of the second resurrection are condemned to the Lake of Fire.
The Light of the World
The Tribulation period throughout scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, is described as a time of darkness, both symbolically (Amos 5:18; 5:20; Zeph. 1:15) and literally (Isa. 13:10; Joel 2:31; 3:15; Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20). With this in mind, we can look at another scripture that indicates a pre-Tribulation rapture. This is when Jesus says in John 9:4 “I must work the work of Him who sent me, while it is still day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (KJV). While I concede that Jesus is referring to his crucifixion and that He had a short time left to complete the work of His Father before his crucifixion, we must also see that Jesus literally is the Light of the world (Luke 1:78-79; John 1:4-5; 8:12). The literal end to the ministry of Jesus is the peshet interpretation of the scripture, but there is an underling meaning that is referred to as the pesher. The work of the Lord is passed on to His followers, who are to be a light to the world (Matt. 5:14). So, when the rapture of the Church occurs and all Christians are taken up to heaven, the “light” of the world will go with them, leaving the earth in darkness. The Church will no longer do the work of the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20), because they will be called away. The Church is called by Jesus to do His work until the rapture, for we will not be on the earth to do His work in the time of darkness.