Over the years, we have seen movies or read books regarding the Rapture, or the Greek term “Harpazo”. Most Christians have imagined that the world will not be much different after the events as they are described. That is not possible, however, especially if one considers the effects of millions or billions of believers being resurrected from every place on this earth where they may have perished. It was with this thought in mind that we concluded Part Seven of this series. I am reminded of a passage of Scripture in 1 Thessalonians:
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3
It is interesting to note that the Greek word for ‘sudden destruction’ used by the Apostle Paul in describing sudden destruction in 1Thessalonians 5:3, is the very same word (aiphnidios) used by Jesus when telling His disciples about the sudden coming Day of the Lord. In Luke 21:34.
34 But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life and that Day “come on you unexpectedly.” 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:34-36
The Bible makes an obvious delineation between those who are caught off guard, as by a thief, and those who are not. True believers and followers of Jesus should live in expectation of His imminent return for His own. That Day, when it comes, will reveal our Messiah Jesus, and it will bring with it catastrophic events patterned after what happened in both the days of Noah and of Lot.
24 “For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” Luke 17:24-30
Many people who know that Jesus is going to return to the earth, are not expecting to see Him return until His foot touches on the Mount of Olives when He comes to set up His millennial kingdom. However, Jesus Himself presents us with a contrasting account in which His appearance to catch true believers up will happen as quickly as lightning flashes from one part of the sky to another. The Apostle Paul corroborates this with his description of the “catching up” event happening “in the twinkling of an eye.” Luke 17 provides us some hints as to what to expect.
- In the Luke 17 passage above, Jesus said His coming would be like in the days of Noah. The world went on as usual until the day Noah entered the ark. The world continued as usual and there was no reason for panic. Of course, as soon as it began to rain, earth dwellers knew they had a problem. The violent changes on the earth killed them all. The day overtook them “like a thief”, the planet underwent catastrophic changes and no one outside of the ark survived. Jesus said it would be the same when He returns in the air for His followers.
- Jesus also reminded them about the days of Lot when the sudden destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the result of a supernatural meteor storm. Jesus then added it will be the “same” when He returns.
After reading what Jesus said, one automatically would wonder if there is a special significance to His using the examples of Noah and Lot in Luke 17. Both Noah’s family and Lot and his two daughters represented the righteous remnant that will completely escape the destruction that will take place at Jesus’ return for his own faithful followers.
The accusation is sometimes made that this is “escapism”, but is it really? Any human being would want to escape such horrific events, but that isn’t the point. This “escape” is a provision of our Savior! It is Jesus who is the author of “the escape” at the cost of His own blood! It would be the ultimate insult to Him if I were to say that I could serve God in a much more worthy way by trying to hold out to the very end and survive the Apocalypse on my own. Those not taking the escape provided will find themselves trapped! This is, in fact, the very word used in Luke 21:34: “Take heed lest…that day close down on you suddenly like a trap (“aiphnidios”).
God’s promises to us are clear concerning this issue. We find these words when Jesus is speaking to the Church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3.
8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it, for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—9 indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Revelation 3:8-10 (emphasis mine)
Although this study series is not specifically about the “Rapture / Catching Up / Harpazo” of the Church, I do believe that the “Catching Up”, as already referenced, is part of the series of events within the scope of the opening of the Sixth Seal. Jesus was the One who promised the “escape”! What is it that makes one worthy of the escape He has promised in Luke 21:36? All it takes is recognizing and proclaiming one’s personal belief in Jesus as Messiah and Savior. Romans 10:9-10 makes it simple and clear:
“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The Scriptures provide us with several proofs that help us make the determination that the Rapture / Catching Up does not happen until after the 6th Seal has been opened. We can find the first proof in the last half of the 12th verse in Revelation chapter 6:
…the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
We can point to several Scriptures in the Old Testament that comment on the fact that the sun and moon have had their light somehow shaded or restricted in some way. This can happen as a result of geological events that the earth periodically experiences. There is, however, only one Old Testament reference that mentions the moon turning blood-red. This passage is found in Joel 2:31:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. (emphasis mine)
If we look at Acts 2, we find the Apostle Peter quoting this same passage from the second chapter of Joel.
19 …I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Acts 2:19-21 (emphasis mine)
The only other reference is found in Revelation 6:12 within the unfolding of events during the opening of the 6th Seal. This makes it clear that the prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled upon the opening of the 6th Seal, not before. This of course does not negate the significance of the blood moons we have witnessed in the past few years, especially since Israel became a nation once again in 1948. The most notable of these happened on specific Jewish feast days in 2014 and 2015. These blood moons, however, were harbingers. The main event is still to come.
I want to emphasize that the prophet Joel said this event would happen “before the Day of the LORD comes—that Great and Terrible Day.” This contradicts the traditional understanding that the Day of the LORD will begin with the opening of the First Seal, because this Blood Moon is part of the 6th Seal events. If the opening of the seven Seals are “judgments” during the Day of the LORD’s Wrath, as is traditionally taught, then Joel’s prophecy of the blood-red moon would be fulfilled after the Day of the LORD begins—resulting in a contradiction between Joel and Revelation. Joel, however, makes it clear that the blood-red moon occurs before the Day of the LORD begins. This of course also tells us that the opening of the first six Seals must also occur before the Day of the LORD’s wrath, not after.
Volcanic explosions of ash and gasses can cause the sun to appear blood-red, but also the moon. We have seen this with some of the forest fires in the past few years. Consider a worldwide mega-quake that causes innumerable volcanoes to explode all around the world. It’s not hard to see how this prophecy could be fulfilled. Volcanoes will most definitely be part of a massive worldwide shaking in which all mountains and islands are moved due to the disturbance of the magma underneath. The prophet Joel went on to mention fire and columns of smoke on the earth that would precede the Day of the LORD.
30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. Joel 2:30-31 (emphasis mine)
Our planet is experiencing many geological and cosmic changes that are quickly destabilizing the earth science of our planet. Many of the more disturbing changes are pointing to catastrophic events in the very near future, but these are not being publicly disclosed in order to avoid giving rise to panic. The monumental changes being seen in the earth and cosmos cannot have anything to do with man’s activities, and “real” science proves this conclusively. Geologists now speak of the very real possibility of a worldwide quake.
Several possible causes for such an unusual event are being discussed but one that is not recognized by the scientific community is a massive resurrection event that violently upends the delicate balance in and on the surface of the earth. A colossal resurrection / transformation event that would involve many millions—if not billions of human bodies resurrected and changed from mortal to immortal beings, and the amount of energy needed to effect such an occurrence would certainly add to the catastrophic nature of this event. This would unfold simultaneously all around the globe; every continent, every ocean, every lake, every mountain, and every island. Can you imagine??
A second proof that the Sixth Seal signals the end of the Age of Grace and that the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week is about to begin is found in panicked statements made by those on the earth at the time. Let’s take another look at verses 13-17 in Revelation 6, paying special attention to verse 17:
13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand?
The passage makes it clear that those on the earth—not just a special class of people—but people from all walks of life, recognize that the Great Day of God’s Wrath has come. As the events embedded within the opening of the Sixth Seal are unfolding upon the earth, mankind has such fear of what they are seeing that they would rather have the mountains come down and crush them to death than to face the God whose wrath they are about to experience. The Old Testament prophets saw and described this special time of wrath in great detail. So here in this passage, we once again have proof that the Day of the LORD’s Wrath begins somewhere within the series of events connected to the opening of the Sixth Seal, either at the beginning of its opening, somewhere during the unfolding of the different events, or maybe even directly afterward. What is clear, is that the opening of the Sixth Seal coincides with the closing of the Church Age—which cannot be at the opening of the First Seal at the beginning of Revelation 6. An examination of the Seventh Seal, which we will do a little later in this series, will bring more clarity to the chronology of both the close of the Church Age and the actual beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week, or John’s Apocalypse.
There are some theologians who have attempted to make the chronology work by separating the Apocalypse into two parts; the first being the “Wrath of the Lamb” and the second, the “Wrath of God.” This argument, however, brings other confusion and does not hold up under close examination of the Scriptures. The wording we find in verses 16-17 above makes it clear that there are two entities involved in this time of wrath, not just one. Verse 17 says: …”for the great Day of His wrath has come.” The context speaks of God on the Throne in the singular, but the previous verse makes it clear that ‘GOD’ is being described in the form of two entities, ‘Him’ that sits upon the throne and ‘The Lamb’ at His side.
As to the fearful statement made by the world’s occupants, could it be that the “opening of the heavens like a scroll being rolled up” removes the veil between our 3-dimensional reality and that of the Heavenly dimension in which God’s Throne is located? Could God be using this revelation to expose to humans an indisputable view of Almighty God and His Redeemer whom they have rejected.
Some theologians insist the Seals must be interpreted symbolically. To some extent this partially works for the first four Seals. The Horses and Riders are definitely spiritual beings. To human eyes they would look like phantoms since they are not confined to our 3-dimensional world. The consequences of their tasks they are commissioned to perform are, of course, very literal. The Fifth Seal, however, has nothing symbolic about it. The people described in the Fifth Seal are very real people. They have become very real martyrs who are now literally located under the Throne of God, in God’s literal Throne Room in Heaven. There is also nothing symbolic about the opening of the Sixth Seal; neither are the effects of this event symbolic. The earth will experience enormous widespread catastrophic destruction. This destruction will come from a variety of sources.
In Part Nine, we will look closer at the different phases of the Sixth Seal opening and what humanity likely experiences with each.
–To Be Continued In Part Nine–