There is a consensus amongst many evangelical Christian churches today that the second coming of Jesus will be in secret? They base their teaching on 1 Thessalonians 4 15-17:
"According to the Lords own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and wit the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And se we will be with the Lord forever." NIV
Before I expand on this and related scripture, I would like to take the reader back to the person or persons who originated this belief in a secret rapture of the saints to heaven.
The Protestant Reformation had begun. The Papal authority was accused of being the Anti-Christ referred to in the books of Daniel and Revelation. This was a massive blow to her ecclesiastical authority. What could she do to combat such a potent force against her influence in the world?
In 1540, the Roman Church created a new order "The Society of Jesus (Jesuits)" with its first General Superior - Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish Knight who came from a Basque noble family. He was also a hermit priest and theologian and staunch Roman Catholic. By creating this monastic order, Rome hoped to regain her lost influence and re-establish her authority where the influence of Protestantism had wounded her. The Jesuits would be the major force in the Counter Reformation. From its ranks three stalwarts arose to remove the label of antichrist from Rome.
Fransico Ribera (1537-1591). In 1590, Ribera wrote a commentary denying the Protestant accusations the Pope was the antichrist. Unfortunately, Ribera died at the age of just fifty-four which halted any further commentaries on the subject. His commentary, although revised over several years after his death, remained firm to basic thesis which were:
a. the Apocalypse was ancient Rome at the time of John.
b. the antichrist was some infidel that would reign during a literal three and a half years prior to the second coming of Christ.
c. This infidel antichrist would rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. Abolish the Christian religion and deny Christ's deity. He would be received by the Jews.
Pretend to be God and conquer the world all in the space of three and a half years.
Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). Martin Luther initially had reservations about the Apocalypse and its application to the Pope; consequently Bellarmine capitalised on this and centred his assault on the "year-day" principle when interpreting prophecy.
The basis of Bellarmines' thesis was to deliver a clever albeit plausible and deceptive work to trick the reader into believing that the antichrist was an individual Jew and not an apostate Christian system. Consequently the length of the antichrist's time on earth had to harmonize with the exploits of one man during a period in his life , i.e. three and a half years, and not 1260 years the time period given in prophetic scripture.
Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613) Another Spanish Jesuit born in Saville wrote a 900 page thesis called "Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse". The following is a short summary of its main theme:
Revelation, Chapters 1-11. Here he describes the rejection of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. He states that the Roman Emperor Nero is the antichrist and all the seals, trumpets and vials took place before the end of 70AD.
Revelation Chapters 12 19. Here he identifies Roman paganism being as the mystery Babylon, the great harlot being overthrown and the setting up of Rome as the universal Christian faith.
Revelation 20. Alcazar describe the final persecutions by the antichrist, whom he identifies as Nero (54-68 A.D.), whose burning of Rome and persecution of Christians he infers was God's judgment on Jews and Jerusalem and was in 70AD.
Revelation 21 -22. He describe the triumph of the New Jerusalem, the Roman Catholic Church as the preterist climax of the millennial kingdom that began in 70AD.
Although these men were accredited with both Preterism and Futurism, Alcazar continued the allegorical interpretations of the Gnostic Origen and the Platoist Augustine. He rejected any connection of prophecy identifying the Catholic Church as the great whore and the daughters as Protestant children. Consequently, the Holy Scripture, which was becoming available to the masses, in particularly the prophetic writings, was interpreted to favour Romanism. Because these men were so successful in putting forward their deceptive ideas, they deeply infiltrated Protestantism. Consequently, Futurism in particular, is alive and flourishing in most evangelical churches today as the Rapture teaching.
What Does the Bible Say about the Rapture?
I would like to look at several Scriptural passages concerning the second coming of Jesus. However, before I do this I would like the reader to know that a belief in the Rapture teaching is dangerous. Why? because it was designed to give believers a false sense of security and to prepare them for Satan's final deception. He knows that his time on this earth is short because of the imminent return of Jesus (Revelation 12:12), he has to pull off his greatest masquerade to impersonate Christ on this earth. As the Churches and other religions look towards 'Unity of Faith', lowering Christ's position to that of only a prophet amongst the prophets of other religions, Satan is preparing himself to be the 'universal Christ' 'the Maitraya', which all the world is waiting for. He will come in the appearance of the Christ pictured on Hollywood movies. Jesus warned us that Satan would be so convincing that if it were possible he would even deceive the elect. Matthew 24:23,24. "And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" 2 Corinthians 11:13,14.
Now let us search the Scriptures to see more reasons to show the Secret Rapture teaching is false.
Jesus said: "Take heed that no man deceive you, for many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ and shall deceive many. Matthew 24:4,5. After this he explains to his disciples the manner in which He will return. It is important to remember this so that when Satan comes to deceive the world, those who know the manner in which Christ Himself is to return, will not be fooled by this deception.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, it states the saints will be caught up in the air to meet Jesus. Therefore at his second coming he will not stand upon the ground but will receive the saved that fly up to meet him in the air.
In Matthew 24: 26,27, Jesus warns us not to look for him in the desert or the secret inner rooms. He goes on to say that His appearance will be loud and audible.
"For as the lightning flashes from the east to west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be."
Jesus knows that Satan will not be able to replicate his coming. Therefore by seducing many Christians into believing there will be a secret coming, millions of faithful believers will believe his lie.
There will be a rapture (that is a carrying away to heaven with Christ), but as we have seen there will be no silent rapture. The sudden disappearance of people from the earth leaving others behind to go through a seven year tribulation with a second chance of redemption, is the secret rapture believer's hope. If believers cannot make it the first time, there is always a second chance?
A Literal, Visible Ascension and Return When Jesus left the earth he was literally taken up into the clouds. As the disciples watched in awe, two angels stood by them and one asked them why they were standing gazing up into heaven. He then told them that this 'same' Jesus would come in the same manner in which He had ascended. Acts 1:9-11. It is plain from this Scripture that the Christ that will return will be the same Christ who was crucified upon the cross of cavalry and not another. "Behold, he comes with the clouds and every eye shall see Him." Revelation 1:7,. For as the lightning flashes from the east to west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be." Matthew 24:27. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven,
and all the tribes on earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30
I have already mentioned Matthew 24:26.27, which shows that Jesus return will be loud. The very Scripture passage used by those who advocate a silent secret rapture states:
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thesselonians 4:16,17.
Both Jeremiah and David knew that God's return to this earth at the end of the age would be loud when they wrote:
"The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation, he shall mightily roar upon his habitations; he shall give a shout." Jeremiah 25:30
"Our God shall come, and not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." Psalm 50:30
When Christ returns there will be those whose hearts fail them from fear (Luke 21:26,27) and those who will rejoice (Isaiah 25:9).
Opening of Graves. There can be no silent opening of the graves of the saints and those that pierced Christ. The dead in Christ will rise from their graves when the loud trumpet sounds. Angels will carry children to the parents who lost them through early death. Loved ones will be reunited. There will be rejoicing and lots of noise and singing as the redeemed ascend to the waiting Christ. The faithful who are left alive on the earth with be caught up into the air with those who have come from their grave. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16:17
What happens to those remaining on the earth during this scene of rejoicing? Many are fleeing from Christ. Buildings come crashing down around them as great thunderstorms occur along with great earthquakes causing super tsunamis' around the earth. As it was in the days of Noah when the earth was flooded, no-one can escape the destruction. As all the saints are moving towards heaven with Jesus and the angelic host, all man's achievements are brought to the ground. Every lofty tower is smashed to pieces and every human left on earth dies.
"And there were voices, and thunders and lightning's; and there was a great earthquake such as was not seen since men were upon the earth, so might an earthquake and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts and the cities of nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give to her the cup of the wine of wrath. And every Island fled away, and the mountains were not found." Revelation 16:18-20
"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof will be heavy upon it, and it shall fall and not rise again." Isaiah 24:19,20.
"And the heavens departed like a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island was removed out of their places." Revelation 16:4
Thief in the Night. In 2 Peter 3:10 it says: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens will pass away with great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the world also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Is this describing a secret return of Jesus or is it describing an unexpected return? Here Peter is warning those who continue in their sin that they will be taken by surprise. Jesus will come at a time when they do not expect him to come. The passage itself shows that Jesus return will be in power and the earth and all its elements will be consumed with fire. It would be impossible for this to happen in secret. Luke says: "If the good man of the house had known what hour the their would come, he would have watched and not suffered his house to be broken into. Be you ready also that the Son of man comes at an hour you do not expect him." Luke 12:39:40
Another Scripture paragraph used to support a silent secret rapture is in Luke 17: 34:36.
"I tell you, in that night, there shall be two men in one bed, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together, the one taken and the other one left. Two men shall be in the field, the one taken and the other one left.
Jesus always uses symbols to make a simple point. At the end of time there will be only two classes of people left on the earth the saved and the lost. Hence in his story there are two people. Two in one bed. A bed means someone is sleeping and sleep is a symbol of death. At the end of time there will be two people in their graves, the saved and the lost. Two women denote two Churches and grinding grain is sharing the Word of God. There will be one righteous church and one false church at the end of time preaching truth and error. A field is representative of the world in which there will be two kinds of missionaries in the field the true and the false. Jesus will say to many who say: Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you, depart from me you that work iniquity." Matthew 7:22,23
I have already stated earlier that those which are left behind at Christ's second coming will be destroyed. No-one will remain alive, except Satan and his angels. They will be bound to this earth for a thousand years. Not one living creature will be left alive to tempt and cause to sin. The dead shall lay upon the earth with no-one to bury them:
"And the slain of the earth shall be on that day, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, they shall not be lamented, nor gathered, nor buried: they shall be dung upon the ground." Jeremiah 25:33
"Behold the Lord makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down and scatters abroad the inhabitants thereof." Isaiah 24:1,3
Tribulation Period. According to the secret rapture there will be a time of trouble during a seven year period when the antichrist is supposed to be upon the earth. During this period, the saved have been raptured to heaven leaving behind those who will be given a second chance to be saved.
At this point you should have come to the realisation that the secret rapture is false and Jesus return will be plain for all to see. However, if you are still not convinced let me give you more scripture to show you that ALL people living on the earth (including the righteous), during the final events of earth's history, will have to go through the tribulation.
Christ prayed to his father: "I pray not that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." John 17:15. And Paul states in 2 Tim 3:12: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." He also said in Acts 14:22: "We must through much tribulation, enter the kingdom of God."
God saves his people through tribulation, not from it. God could have extracted Noah and his family from the earth and just flooded it. The three Hebrews put into the flames by Nebuchadnezzar were not saved from the flames but went through them. The children of Israel were not saved from Egypt before the plagues fell but went through it. God does not promise our lives to be easy but that he will always be with us, especially when we go through trials. By going through trials in this life, we grow in Christ. "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13.
A belief in the Rapture teaching giving everyone a second chance to be saved maybe comforting to believe in but it is a false teaching designed to lull God's people into a sense there is plenty of time to repent and be saved. Those who cling to this belief will find themselves caught out unexpectedly when Christ returns to collect his saints and take them to heaven. It is my hope and prayer that you diligently study the Word of God and be ready for his noisy return in the clouds.