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Secret Rapture
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Secret Rapture

 

What does the Bible teach about Christ’s Second Coming and the rapture of believers?

Does it teach a secret rapture? Will the rapture of believers be unseen and unheard by unbelievers?

 

Let’s search the Scriptures to find the answer to this important question.

A popular teaching exists that Christ will come to gather His Church in a “secret rapture,” but is this teaching scriptural? The rapture is a term applied to the Church being “caught up” in the air to meet Jesus at His Second Coming (1 Thess. 4:17). But how will this occur? As far as the unsaved are concerned, will the rapture of the Church be secret? In other words, does the Bible describe the rapture as being secret and unperceived by the world?

Since the Second Coming and the rapture of believers are the consummation of our salvation, we risk being unprepared for that great event if we believe false views concerning this vitally important subject. Therefore, with Bible in hand, let us “search the scriptures” as the Berean Jews did (Acts 17:11) and “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). Every person’s deepest beliefs, including our own, must stand the test of Scripture.

Let us consider five scriptural proofs which show that Jesus will not come to rapture His Church secretly and under cover of darkness to hide what He does, but openly and gloriously.

 

Proof #1. Jesus Himself cautioned us not to believe those who attach secrecy to His coming because it will be as difficult to hide as flashes of lightning on a dark night.

In the context of Jesus’ teaching about the rapture, He warned, “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, . . . behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:26,27). Has anyone here ever seen a private thunderstorm or a secret lightning bolt? What could be more visible and less secret than lightning?

 

Proof #2. Our Lord’s coming will be heard by all.

First Thessalonians 4:16,17 is one of the most frequently quoted passages concerning the rapture. It reads, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: 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: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Surely, if Jesus’ coming were intended to be secret and invisible, He would not “descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.”

On that day, there will not only be noise, but a great noise. Jesus said that His coming will be announced by “a great sound of a trumpet” (Matt. 24:31). A trumpet is designed to make noise. This instrument’s intense, piercing sound is used to publicize or to herald; it certainly is not soundless. At His coming, “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised” (1 Cor. 15:52).

But our Lord is coming not only with “a great sound of a trumpet,” but also with “a shout” (1 Thess. 4:16). A shout is a sudden, loud cry to command attention. On that day, according the clear teaching of Jesus Christ, “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28,29).

Truly, our Lord’s coming will neither be secret nor silent. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence” when He shall gather His saints together (Psa. 50:3,5).

 

Proof #3. Our Lord’s coming will be seen by all.

Jesus’ coming to gather His Church will be an event too glorious to be hidden. He Himself said that He is coming “with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). He is coming in His own glory, in His Father’s glory, and in the glory of all His holy angels to receive His glorious Church (Luke 9:26; Eph. 5:27). Truly, “all the people [shall] see his glory” (Psa. 97:6).

Also, Scripture tells us that our Lord shall “appear” (Col. 3:4) or “be revealed” (2 Thess. 1:7), which means that He will be seen, not hidden. In fact, three passages of Scripture describing our Lord’s coming and the rapture mention the fact that our Lord will appear or be revealed.

First, let us again read the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:30,31: “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 coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect.”

Now, let us read His words in Luke 17:26-30: “The day that Noe entered into the ark, . . . the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise . . . the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Yes, when Jesus returns to gather His own, He will be revealed—not concealed.

The revealing of Jesus Christ at His coming for His saints is also seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 10: The apostle Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus shall be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. . . . When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”

Each of these three passages of Scripture clearly teach that Jesus will "appear” or be “revealed” when He returns to gather His Church.

In Revelation 1:7 we read, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” Yes, when Christ comes, every eye shall see Him. This will include those responsible for His death, such as Caiaphas, the high priest, who condemned Him. This truth is clearly seen in Matthew 26:64. Jesus said to him, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Indeed, Jesus’ coming to gather His Church will be an event too glorious to be hidden.

 

Proof #4. Jesus’ coming to rapture His Church will be accompanied by catastrophic, cosmic events that will signal the actual end of the world—an event that absolutely cannot be silent or hidden.

In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus said, “The sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: . . . And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect.”

When describing Jesus’ coming, the apostle John also mentioned these catastrophic, cosmic events, but with added details. Revelation 6:12-14 says, “And I beheld . . . and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

John again described our Lord’s return in Revelation 20:11: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the heaven and earth fled away; and there was found no place for them.”

Moreover, the apostle Paul also linked the rapture of believers with the end of the world, that is, with Day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night (1 Thess. 4:16-5:2). Listen to the apostle Peter’s description of that day: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10).

Truly, heaven and earth being shaken to its very foundations and passing away is an event that absolutely cannot be hidden.

 

Proof #5. The coming of Jesus to be “glorified in his saints” is an event that cannot be hidden—it will affect both saint and sinner.

Jesus taught that just as the flood did not come secretly and unnoticed upon the world, neither will the destruction be secret that will occur when He comes to gather His Church. He clearly stated, “The day that Noe entered into the ark . . . the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matt. 24:38-40). Yes, as in the day Noah entered into the ark, one shall be taken to be with the Lord, and the other will be left for immediate and eternal destruction. See also Luke 17:26-30; 2 Pet. 3:7,10.

According to 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, the Lord Jesus shall be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” When? When will this happen? “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”

Clearly, then, the coming of Jesus to rapture His people is an event that cannot be hidden—just as in Noah’s day, it will affect both saint and sinner.

 

 

In review, we have considered five scriptural proofs:

Proof #1. Jesus Himself cautioned us not to believe those who attach secrecy to His coming because it will be as difficult to hide as flashes of lightning on a dark night.

Proof #2. Our Lord’s coming will be heard by all.

Proof #3. Our Lord’s coming will be seen by all.

Proof #4. Jesus’ coming to rapture His Church will be accompanied by catastrophic, cosmic events that will signal the actual end of the world—an event that absolutely cannot be silent or hidden.

Proof #5. The coming of Jesus to be “glorified in his saints” is an event that cannot be hidden—it will affect both saint and sinner.

 

In conclusion, we have considered five scriptural proofs that clearly demonstrate that Jesus will not come to rapture His Church secretly and under cover of darkness to hide what He does, but openly and gloriously. Actually, there is not a hint of a secret rapture in more than ten major passages of Scripture that relate to Christ’s return and the gathering of the saints. Thus, it is clear that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for which we are to be ready will not be a secret coming. Rather, it will be the most dramatic, glorious event in the entire history of the universe and will seize the attention of both saint and sinner.

Glorified saints will joyously shout, “Lo, this is our God; . . .we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25:8,9).

But sinners will mourn and cry to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).

 

In spite of all this evidence, some of you may be asking another question:

What about the passages that speak of Christ coming as “a thief in the night”? Don’t they confirm a separate, secret rapture?

Sensational preaching about the secret rapture often depicts Jesus coming quietly as a thief to snatch away His Church. Autos with Christian drivers, trains with Christian conductors, and aircraft with Christian pilots will crash. Newspaper headlines will announce that multitudes have disappeared.

The public will be filled with fear and confusion. Sinners will cry out for their Christian mothers, wives, babies, or other loved ones who are gone. They will be in anguish, knowing that the Lord came secretly as a thief and stole away His Church. They will have to face the Antichrist and the mark of the beast without the Church and the Holy Spirit.

Such preaching may be well-meaning, but is it scriptural? Contrary to what many believe, Jesus’ coming “as a thief in the night” will not be a secret, quiet event. We have already seen that Jesus isn’t coming “to snatch away” His Church secretly and under cover of darkness to hide what He does. When He comes, “every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7). But He is coming as a thief in the sense of bringing sudden destruction upon the unprepared. In Matthew 24:43, we read, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” For this reason Jesus warned, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (v. 44).

Consider also Paul’s instruction on the subject. When teaching about our Lord’s return and the rapture, he illustrated the same truth of the thief’s coming with “sudden destruction” and overtaking the children of darkness, not the children of light. First Thessalonians 5:2-6 says: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light.”

According to the apostle Peter, Jesus’ coming “as a thief in the night” will not be a secret, quiet event because on that day—the Day of the Lord—“the heavens shall pass away with a great noise” (2 Peter 3:10). Then too, he referred to that day as the “day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (v. 7).

Clearly, then, Jesus will not come as a thief to secretly rapture His Church, but to bring sudden destruction upon the unprepared. Many of our listeners may be surprised to learn that there’s not one scripture in the entire Bible that links Jesus’ coming as a thief to secretly “snatch away” His Church. Instead He will bring sudden destruction upon the unprepared.

 

Perhaps others may be asking this question:

Isn’t Enoch an Old Testament type of believers being raptured secretly?

In the New Testament, Enoch is mentioned three times, but not once with reference to a secret rapture (Luke 3:37, Heb. 11:5; Jude 1:14). If Enoch was a type of believers being raptured secretly, apparently Jesus and the apostles would have told us. But rather they spoke of Noah and Lot as types of believers being gathered when Jesus comes to judge the world.

This truth is seen in four passages of Scripture. To illustrate, let me read the words of Jesus in Luke 17:26-30: “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. See also Matt. 24:37-39; 2 Pet. 2:5-9; 3:5-7.

 

Let’s address one more question:

According to Matthew 24:36, Jesus warned us to “watch” because no man knows the day and hour of His coming. Doesn’t this imply an any-moment secret rapture of the Church before the Tribulation?

It is of utmost importance that we interpret Scripture in the light of its context. If we pull Scripture verses out of its context, one from this chapter and another from that chapter, we can make the Bible say anything that we want it to say.

Please observe that Jesus warned believers to “watch” for His coming in the context of His glorious appearing at the end of the Tribulation. This is seen by comparing verse 36 with its context—verses 29-31. According to the words of Jesus, “immediately after the tribulation” He “shall appear . . . and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn [beat their breasts in anguish], and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect.”

We see, then, that while no man knows the day and hour of Jesus coming, we do know that it will be not be an any-moment secret rapture before the Tribulation.

Likewise, in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, the apostle Paul exhorted believers to “watch” not with reference to a secret return, but with reference to Jesus’ descending “from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” to rapture His Church and to punish the wicked with “sudden destruction” on the climatic Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17-5:6).

How can we “watch” with regards to the Day of the Lord if we are to be raptured seven years before that day?

Obviously, then, once again we see that the coming of our Lord for which we are to be ready will not a secret coming, but rather, it will be a glorious, noisy event. We know, therefore, that the teaching of a secret rapture before His appearing opposes God’s Word.

 

Radio listener, will the sudden coming of our Lord be a day of gladness and rejoicing for you, or will it be a day of mourning and regret? Are you ready for the rapture? Are you ready to meet Jesus, the Judge of the earth, face to face? Now is the time to repent, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to accept Him as your Savior.

 

This message is available by tape. For your free copy, write to Agnes Macdonald, 2948 Creekwood Drive, Salem, Virginia 24153. Ask for tape #103—Will the rapture be secret?

 

Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at this same time. God willing, I will be answering the question, “Does the Bible teach that the time of Great Tribulation is the time of God’s wrath, as many claim?” Don’t miss this all important subject. Invite a friend to listen with you. Until tomorrow, may God bless you and be with you.