Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



Psalm two from the American Standard Version:

"Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing?

"The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, {saying},

"Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us.

"He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision.

"Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, And vex them in his sore displeasure:

"Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion.

"I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee.

"Ask of me, and I will give {thee} the nations for thine

inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

"Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

"Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

"Serve Jehovah with fear, And rejoice with trembling.

"Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him."

The Psalmist spoke of a time coming when the Lord would rule a kingdom on earth. There will be much said of this kingdom before the end of this study, however there is an item of prophecy which the Old Testament is silent on. Indeed, much of the New Testament is also silent on it. The rapture or the taking out of the church is the next topic of study.

As we begin, we want to make known that the term "rapture" is not found in the New Testament. It is a Latin translation of the term "caught up" in I Thess. 4:17 which means "seize" or "snatch". The Latin term is "rapare". (I Cor. 15:50-58; II Cor. 12:1-4; Rev. 12:5)

The Greek term is "harpazo" which is translated "take," "catcheth," "pluck," "caught away," and "pulling" in the New Testament. There is a bit of irony in this snatching away in that the meeting of the raptured saints both dead and alive will be in the air, the domain of Satan himself. (Eph. 2:2) The end result of this catching away will be "so shall we ever be with the Lord." (I Thess. 4:17)

John 14:1-3 mentions that the Lord went to prepare a place for us and that he would return for us. It is that return for us that we are speaking of. He will come to take us home to be with him during the tribulation period, and then we will return with Him at the Second Coming to assist in the kingdom.

I Cor. 15:51-52 mentions that Paul shared a mystery with the believers at Corinth. "Behold, I show you a mystery:" A mystery in the New Testament is something that has not been revealed before. Rom. 16:25 shows that Christ is a mystery that was "kept secret since the world began,"

Our text shows that the living believers will be changed and the dead will be resurrected. The Old Testament saint knew about the coming resurrection, but what Paul shows here in I Cor. is something new. (Job 19:25, Is 26:19, and Dan 12:2 indicate that the Old Testament person knew of the resurrection.)

We need to look at some texts that may cause some confusion in the area of the rapture:

Acts 1:11 "...This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." This is speaking of the 2nd Coming and not the Rapture, for the Lord will not return to the earth as such at the Rapture. It is mentioned that he will return in the air, but the second coming speaks of Him returning to earth.

Matt. 24:40-41 seems to be the rapture however it fits much better at the end of the tribulation when some will be taken in judgment and others are left on the earth to enter into the Millennial kingdom. The rapture relates to New Testament saints only, as is very evident in I Thess. 4:10, "in Christ".

One other text which may need clarification is I Thess. 3:13, "at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." (Also I Thess. 4:14 is a similar verse.) These verses speak of the fact that the souls and spirits of the New Testament saints that have been in the presence of the Lord will return with Christ at the rapture and will be reunited with the new bodies, while the living saints will be changed. The great meeting of the saints will be in the air.

The question that is prevalent in most theologians minds is when does this occur? Some throughout history have attempted to set dates for the coming of the Lord. Recently the Sword Of The Lord printed the following about one of our popular evangelists. "Promoting his new A.D. 2000 - The End? video, Van Impe says, `For the first time in my life and ministry, I'm willing to declare that this decade of destiny will bring us into close proximity to the return of Jesus Christ.' He went on to say. `The year 2000 holds special significance in terms of time left for mankind!'" (Sword of the Lord, Vol. LVII, No. 22; October 25, 1991)

The scripture does not give us a time table for the end times so we must deduce when the different events happen. Scripture gives us a great deal of information which can help us to have a general picture of what is going happen, but we must not fall into the trap of setting dates for the beginning of these events. Indeed we should not assume, as some have, that we can bring about the beginning of these events by works that we can accomplish.

Rev 4:1 states, "After this I looked and, behold, a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice that I heard was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." Many believe this refers to the rapture of the church. The rapture will occur at this juncture in the chronology of Revelation even if you don't view this reference as speaking of the event.


1. Israel's prominence in the tribulation demands a rapture: Israel is the focal point of the tribulation time and there is no reason for the church to be present. (Rev. 4-20 shows the tribulation.)

Rev 4:1-2, mentions, "After this I looked, and, behold, a door [was] opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard [was] as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne."

The first three chapters speak of the church and 4:1-2 is a transition to the tribulation period which is contained in the following chapters. Through out this section the Jews are in focus, though the gentiles are also present.

2. The distinction between Israel and the church demands a rapture: There is always a distinction between Israel and the church throughout the New Testament. Why would the church be mixed together with Israel for seven years through the tribulation? It does not seem sensible.

Points to ponder: a. There is no mention of the church in the tribulation. b. Would Christians worship in a temple? No. c. Rom 11 shows Gentiles being grafted in for a time, but also they will be set aside and the Jews grafted back in indicating the absence of the church as the Lord draws to a close His dealings with Israel.

3. The immanent return of Christ demands a rapture: The doctrine of the immanent return of Christ requires an unexpected return, not one that is announced by seven years of trouble and destruction. (I Thes 5:1-2 shows the immanent return.) I Thes 5:11 tells the believers to encourage one another. If the tribulation was what they were to face, how could they encourage one another with the fact that terrible times were coming.

4. The government of the tribulation demands a rapture: During Daniel's 70th week the earthly government comes under the control of Satan. The New Testament teaches that the believer is to be subject to the government placed over them. (Rom 13) This would place believers under the control of Satan which is inconsistent with the teaching of the New Testament.

5. The silence of the New Testament demands a rapture: The New Testament writers never mention how the believer was to react to the terrors of the tribulation. The New Testament writers knew of the terribleness of that period of time. They knew texts such as, Joel 1-3; Jer. 30 7, and the other writings of the prophets. If they knew these terrible times were coming, why did they not help us understand what to do, and how to react to these times.

6. A promise of the Lord demands a rapture: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Rev. 3:10 God through John promises deliverance to the church of Philadelphia from a ruff time, that was yet future. If he is delivering them, then He will most likely deliver all church age believers, unless you like the partial rapture theory.

7. God's actions demand a rapture: God always delivers the righteous before a judgment. Let me just list three examples of such delivery. Noah from the flood. Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah. Joshua and Caleb from death in the wilderness.

8. The removal of the Holy Spirit during the tribulation demands a rapture: Take a moment to read II Thess. 2:6-10. Most view the "he" in verse seven as the Holy Spirit, and He is to be taken out. In case you didn't know, where the Holy Spirit goes, I go, for my Bible tells me that the Holy Spirit is my guarantee of resurrection. It is illogical to think that the Holy Spirit will be taken out of this world, and the New Testament believers be left behind. This would contradict the promises of Scripture that tell us that the Holy Spirit will indwell us always.

9. Christ's army demands a rapture: Rev. 19:11-16 tells of the second coming of the Lord with His army. Verse eight states of this army, "...arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." Verse fourteen tells us, "...clothed in fine linen, white and clean." If you relate this terminology to the letters to the churches you will see a close similarity. (Rev. 3:4; 3:5; 3 18; Indeed 4:4 shows the elders in the same clothes, in heaven. That is another indication of a rapture before the tribulation.)

If the church is to come with Him at His second coming, then they must be removed at some time. The logical time would be before the tribulation when the trouble begins.

10. Our appointment to salvation, not wrath, demands a rapture: I Thess 5:9, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." We aren't appointed to wrath, indeed why would God want to send His peculiar people through such a terrible time?

The question comes to mind, "Did Paul know of and teach the rapture, or did he understand only a second coming?" Reread the "rapture" texts of Paul's with this question in mind and see what you come up with. It may be that he saw a second coming and was teaching it, but at the same time, unknown to himself, was prophesying a rapture.

The Old Testament prophets wrote down many things they did not clearly understand, thus this would be consistent in Paul's case, and this does not detract from Paul in any way, shape, or form.

Indeed, did Paul even know of the tribulation? It would seem doubtful that he did. If he did, he certainly kept quiet about it. It would seem that had he known of such a mess coming, he would have mentioned it in some of his writings.

The rapture is seen from our vantage point, but I'm not sure it was from Paul's. Had he had revelation on the subject, I would think that he would have mentioned it.

The rapture and tribulation are really a revelation of Christ through John in the book of Revelation, though the events were prophesied previous to that revelation.


I Cor. 15:51-57: In reading this text, I wonder if Paul from his good Jewish perspective was looking at the second coming when the living would be translated, and the dead would be raised to serve with the Lord in the kingdom. His entire being was filled with the gospel of the kingdom. He was still preaching it in the last chapter of Acts (28:31), which was late in his career.

I Thess. 4:16-17: This verse mentions that we will meet Him in the air, indicating that the Lord does not come down to the earth. Zech. 14:5 shows Christ touching down on the earth. It would seem to some that Paul was speaking of some occurrence other than the second coming. I don't think there is any reason to feel that Paul was inconsistent with Zechariah, in that he just did not mention all of the details of the return. He is interested in the fact there is a resurrection and it will happen when the Lord returns.

John 5:25-29: May we observe several things here?

a. There is no indication of a time frame. We have no idea when John is speaking of. It could be the rapture, but he did not know of the tribulation until many years later when he was given the Revelation.

b. Since vs 28-29 mention righteous and lost both, it would seem that this is a general reference of the resurrections. Indeed we have judgment in the context, which would also indicate that this is a general statement of all that will go on in the end times.

c. It is a distinct possibility that this is a reference to the resurrection just prior to the Great White Throne. Many believe there will be some righteous that die in the Millennium and that this would be a fitting passage to show these righteous ones being raised with the lost of all time. Some to life and some to damnation.

d. Actually vs. 24-25 are speaking to the living that are lost when Christ was speaking and then He shifts gears to the judgment in the end time.

John 14:1-3: Christ will return for the apostles. When? Most view this dwelling place as the New Jerusalem which is in Rev. 21 1-2. The New Jerusalem comes down between the tribulation and the millennium.

Again if we see Paul speaking of a rapture we have some problems. It seems that John, when he wrote the gospel also viewed all things as centered on that second coming rather than a rapture. We see here a general statement of Christ coming for His own with no real statement of when in relation to end times events. Indeed it is quite possible that the New Jerusalem is ready at the rapture and that we will dwell in it till it descends.


Rom. 8:19-23; II Cor. 5:1-9; Philip. 3:11, 20-21; Heb. 9:28; II Pet 3:4.

Did Paul know of the tribulation and of the rapture? I suspect that he did not, even though there was an element of prophecy that related to these events in what he said in scripture.

We know, teach and understand the principle of progressive revelation, yet at times we fail to understand scripture in light of it. Adam did not know Christ. Adam did not know of the second coming. Adam did not know of the Church. They acted and lived under what they knew. Each dispensation lived as they had knowledge. Scripture was revealed over many hundreds of years.

Adam and Eve were the first drops of melting snow to form a pool in the mountains. Cain and Abel were the first trickle down the mountainside. Seth made it into a small stream running through the rocks. Noah made it into a small river running into the valley. Abraham made it into a river coursing through the land. Moses was a new river which merged into the main stream. Christ added another stream to the larger flow. Paul added another tributary. John was the final addition to the flow of Scripture. He led the flow into eternity, the ocean.

What Paul knew may be questioned, but as you attribute information to him consider carefully the thought of progressive revelation and just what had been revealed to him.

Some conclusions:

1. Looking backward a rapture seems very evident.

2. Looking forward from Paul's time the hope was a kingdom set up by the Messiah. The Messiah accepted!

3. Paul, the apostles, and many Gentiles had accepted the Messiah. They wanted all to turn to the Messiah so that He would come to set up the Kingdom.

4. Paul knew the Old Testament. He knew that the nation of Israel would have to turn to God for the kingdom to be set up. He was looking for the kingdom to come soon. He knew Zeph. 3:20 and its teaching of a regathering near the time of the kingdom. He was looking for a kingdom and looking for it soon.

5. Believers of Christ were looking for a kingdom next. Acts 1:6

6. The Jews that crucified Christ did so because He was claiming to be offering the Kingdom.

7. Christ spoke of the second coming. Matt. 24:27-31

8. The Corinthians and Thessalonians needed this soon coming concept for proper Christian living.

9. Paul may have been knowledgeable of the rapture, or taking out of the Church, however this is doubtful for he taught doctrine. This would have warranted more writing had he known.

10. Paul used the term "Church." Church is the Greek word ekklesia. Acts 7:38 uses the same term in reference to Israel as a group. Paul did not think of a building when he used "church." He was thinking of a group of God's people. Man has given Church the concept of building, of something special over and above Israel. We are a kingdom in mystery form (Matt. 13:11). Paul was shifting Judaistic beliefs to conform to a Messiah that had come. He did not switch from Judaism to some new concept of "Christianity." They are the same. One looks for Messiah and the other worships the Messiah come. There is a difference between the two in that the church will not have the physical blessing.

11. John was privileged to give us hint of a new prophetic occurrence in his construction of the book of Revelation through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

12. Paul may have put all of the Old Testament together and seen a need for coming trouble, then surmised that God would take the righteous out, however we do not have indication of this. Paul had in mind the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, to set up His kingdom.

I stated before that Paul's writings might have centered on the second coming yet held a prophetic aspect as well. Is there Bible basis for a prophecy - that is, a man talking of something in His own day, but also referring to other things future? Yes. Let's list some examples.

When Ezekiel mentions the king of Tyre and Isaiah mentioned the king of Babylon, most realize there was information concerning the Devil as well. (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14:4ff)

John's revelation to the churches of Christ's message, was of a certainty for his day, but he knew nothing of its obvious prophetic nature known now due to church history and hindsight.

In Ps. 16:8-11 David speaks from his time, situation and experience and it is identified as prophetic in Acts 2:24ff.

In Acts 28:26-27 Paul quotes the Old Testament (Isa. 6:9,10). Isaiah was giving prophecy to the Jews concerning their future. He did not know Paul. He did not know Paul would use this thought to apply to another generation of Jews in rebellion.

Job 19:25-26 Seems clearly to be looking to the end times yet Job was speaking to three men about the fact that he would be vindicated in the situation he was in - he would be proven righteous. Job did not have end times in mind, nor did he even know of the end times.

There is no indication that Paul taught the rapture, or indeed knew about it. Even the church fathers of the first and second centuries knew nothing of the rapture as far as I can see from history. Indeed compare Zech. 14:5-9 with I Thess. 4:13-18 and you see that the latter may have been drawn from the former.

If you are interested in the church fathers see EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES"; J.N.D. Kelley; Harper and Row: San Francisco, 1978, p 462 ff. See also "THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES"; by Louis Berkhof; Baker Book House; 1937; Grand Rapids.

Feel free to disagree, but if you do you must prove that Paul knew of the rapture, that he was looking for it, and then explain how we can tell what he was talking about, for there would be great difficulty in determining which coming he is speaking of in his writing if he spoke of both.