Is It The Rapture or the Second Coming?
By Ron and Nathele Graham
There are very few subjects that are more controversial than the Rapture. Many say it will occur prior to Daniel’s 70th week, some believe it will happen halfway through that week, some think it will happen at the end of the week, others believe there will be multiple Raptures, and still others say it won’t happen at all. It can be confusing. I believe Scripture says that the Rapture (also known as the harpazo) will occur just prior to the 70th week (seven year Tribulation period) prophesied by Daniel. At the end of that seven year period Jesus Christ will return to put an end to the war of Armageddon.
Daniel’s 70th week refers to the 70 week prophecy given to Daniel by Gabriel. In this case, a week is a period of seven years, so 70 weeks would total 490 years and the 70th week is the last 7 years of that prophecy. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make a reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Daniel 9:24. This summarizes the 70 weeks. Daniel, of course, was Jewish and so are “thy people” and Jerusalem is “thy holy city”. After 69 weeks, the Messiah (Jesus) would be “cut off”, and so He was. He was crucified. We are now living in the age of grace, which is a time period between the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the start of the 70th week. After the Rapture the age of grace will be over and God will once again focus His attention upon the Jewish people. This commentary is not an in depth study of the 70 weeks prophecy, nor is it an in depth support of the pre-trib Rapture. I hope it will get you interested enough to do your own research, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, and come to your own conclusions.
The Rapture was a mystery, a hidden thing, until Paul began to explain it in his letters. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Corinthians 15:51-52. This change that Paul mentions is the Rapture. We don’t know when this awesome event will occur, but Paul does give a clue in his letter to the Romans. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” Romans 11:25. The mystery Paul mentions here is the mystery of the ekklÄ“sia (the called out body of Christ). Fullness refers to the specific God ordained number of born again believers in Christ that must be accomplished before the Rapture. When that number is reached, all Christians will be removed from planet earth in the twinkling of an eye. There is nothing other than that specific number standing in the way of Christ removing His followers. Keep in mind that this could happen with the very next person you witness to, so get busy!
The Rapture is completely separate from and prior to Christ’s Second Coming. The Rapture will happen before Daniel’s 70th week begins, but the Second Coming is at the end of the 70th week. Much of the confusion regarding these two events is caused by a misunderstanding of Matthew chapter 24. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3. These were specific questions to which Jesus gave specific answers. First they wanted to know when “these things” would take place. What things? They were concerned about a previous statement Jesus had made regarding the Temple. “…and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:1b-2. Jesus was referring to a future event that would take place in 70 AD. Titus, the Roman general, took siege of Jerusalem and killed every man, woman, and child there and utterly destroyed the Temple.
The second and third questions were “and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?” The word “world” is translated from the Greek word “aion”, and various translations say “age” instead of “world”. Jesus goes into more detail and discloses more of the events of Daniel’s 70th week. The questions the disciples asked were from Jewish men asking questions about Jewish concerns. One big clue that this has nothing to do with Christians is Jesus’ statement “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. Today when a person truly accepts the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only atonement for their sin, their salvation is assured; it is a free gift from God. Jesus can’t be referring to pre-rapture Christians when He talks about enduring to the end to be saved. Justification (salvation) is instantaneous when we first believe, so enduring to the end isn’t a requirement for salvation today, just faith in Jesus. Jesus said “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36. Jesus would not contradict Himself by saying we have to endure unto the end to be saved. No, the disciples had asked about the end of the world (Daniel’s 70th week) and Jesus answered accordingly. At that point the ekklesia (the called out body of Christ) was still a mystery. Today we can certainly see the events which Christ described approaching rapidly as we occupy these last days, but today’s Christians will not go through the Tribulation or face God’s wrath.
Earlier Jesus had spoken to the Pharisees and Sadducees, and explained to them that they should have been able to read the signs of His first coming. “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Matthew 16:2-3. They should have known the signs of the time they lived in because the time of His first advent was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Daniel’s prophecy was very specific. “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” Daniel 9:25. I won’t go through the math, but this pointed to the exact day Christ rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as Messiah. Born again believers in Christ should certainly be able to discern the signs of the times we live in. Birth pangs are increasing and they indicate that we are very close to the end, but we are not living in the prophesied 70th week of Daniel. We are in the period after the 69th week, when Messiah was cut off, and before the 70th week.
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” Matthew 24:15. Daniel the prophet said this will occur in the midst of the week. The so called Anti-Christ will have come into power looking like a hero, but will soon show his true colors. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:27. The sacrifice and oblation, as well as the abomination of desolation, can only occur after the Temple is rebuilt, which will happen after the Rapture. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has everything ready to rebuild the Temple. If you pay attention to the signs, the rapture is very near.
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Matthew 24:21-22. This is the last half of Daniel’s 70th week…the Great Tribulation, also called the time of Jacob’s trouble. God’s wrath will be poured out upon those who remain on earth after the Rapture. This was touched on by Daniel, expanded upon by Jesus, explained in more detail by John in Revelation, and our understanding is increasing today. To live through the Great Tribulation will be near to impossible. Accept Christ as your Saviour now, today, this very minute. Nothing that is stopping you from accepting Christ is worth facing the Great Tribulation. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. Only born again believers in Christ are not appointed to God’s wrath. There will be people during the Great Tribulation period who will accept Christ, but that choice will be much more difficult then than it is now. People will be forced to take the mark of the beast, and if you do you will forfeit any hope of salvation…you will not have endured to the end. If you refuse the mark you face being beheaded. Enduring to the end won’t be easy. Today, Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and our salvation is secured by God’s seal. Not so for those who accept Christ after the Rapture. Not having the Holy Spirit sealed within means you will have to make a moment by moment choice to follow Christ. It will be quite possible to fall away and not endure to the end of the earth’s last seven year period.
“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.” Matthew 24:30. If you lived through the Great Tribulation and endured to the end of the aion, this is when you will see the Second Coming of Christ. Again, this is not the Rapture, but is the Second Coming. The people described in this verse will see Him coming, but Pre-Trib Christians will have met Him in the air long before this so we won’t be standing around watching Him coming in the clouds.
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Daniel 12:4. Much was revealed to Daniel, but from his view of the future he could not understand it. Nor could many generations after him. Daniel was told to seal the book until the end and knowledge would be increased. Throughout time people have tried to interpret Daniel’s prophecy but it has been impossible to fully understand. We still don’t have full understanding, but our knowledge has greatly increased. We can go back in time and study many of the great expositors of God’s Word, men respected throughout the ages, and as we do we find that in some instances they’ve erred in their interpretations. Why? Because the knowledge they needed to fully grasp prophecy was sealed up until the last days. Today, God is unsealing the book for those who will diligently seek His truth. It’s exciting to study these end times in which we live using God’s word as a guide. I have hardly touched on the subject in this commentary.
Every Christian should feel an urgency to share the Gospel. Don’t miss any opportunity to tell someone about Jesus and salvation. It could be that if you don’t tell them nobody will. “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:14. God wants everyone to come to Him for salvation, and so should we.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
This commentary was started by Ron Graham before his death on March 14, 2013, and finished by his wife, Nathele Graham.
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