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The Rapture of the Church

Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six    Part Seven    Part Eight


Introduction

In Part One we looked at the definitions of the following terms: the Rapture, the Second Coming, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, the Millennium, and the Church. We saw that prophecy is very important to God, and therefore we should not dishonor Him by considering Bible prophecy to be a waste of time or impossible to understand.

In Part Two we examined Daniel's "70 Weeks" prophecy, and we learned that 69 of those "weeks" (483 years) have already been accomplished. The 70th "week" is still in the future, and it will be the seven years of the Tribulation. When God put His 70 Weeks plan for Israel on hold after the Triumphal Entry, almost immediately He began a new and separate plan which we call "the Church." There is only one view of the Rapture which preserves this separation between God's 70 Weeks plan for Israel and His plan for the Church, and that is the pre-trib view. All of the evidence indicates that God has intended for those two plans to be kept separate and distinct from each other, with no mixing whatsoever. Therefore, it is unScriptural to claim that the Church will go through any part of the seven-year Tribulation period.

In Part Three we saw that there will be several blackouts during the seven-year Tribulation. We also looked at the Seal Judgments, the Trumpet Judgments, and the Bowl Judgments, and we saw that God's wrath will start to be poured out onto the earth with the very first judgment at the beginning of the Tribulation period. God is not pouring out His wrath during the present Church Age (e.g. through hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.). Since the Church was not appointed for God's wrath, and since the entire seven years of the Tribulation will be the time of God's wrath, this means that the Church will not go through any part of the Tribulation period. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which has the Church being raptured before God's wrath starts to be poured out at the beginning of the Tribulation, which fits all of the Scriptural facts.

In Part Four we examined several different reasons why the Rapture will not happen at the seventh Trumpet Judgment, which disproves a common post-trib argument. We also saw why Matthew 24:29-31 does not refer to the Rapture, which disproves another common post-trib argument. We looked at some possible interpretations of what Paul meant when he said that the Rapture will happen "at the last trumpet," and we saw that the Rapture is the likely fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. In addition, we saw that the seven-year Tribulation period (ending with the Second Coming) is the likely fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. The Feast of Trumpets takes place before the Day of Atonement on the Jewish calendar, which strongly indicates that the Rapture will take place before the seven-year Tribulation begins. There is only one view of the Rapture which fits this scenario, and that is the pre-trib view.

In Part Five we saw that the Day of the Lord will begin when the seven-year Tribulation period begins, and it will continue through the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, and Judgment Day, and the destruction of heaven and earth. The Bible doesn't specifically tell us if the Day of the Lord will include the creation of the new heaven and the new earth. In addition, we saw that the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which explains why Jesus will not be in heaven to open the sealed scroll in Revelation 5:1-4. When we examined 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:5, we saw that the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which is consistent with Paul's encouragements concerning the deceased Christians in Thessalonica. We also saw that the pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for the Church to take part in the Millennium but not in the Tribulation (as Paul described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:5). When we examined 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, we saw that the post-trib interpretation results in an unrealistic situation. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which results in a consistent and reasonable interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5.

In Part Six we examined almost two dozen New Testament passages which describe the Rapture as being imminent. Apart from some of the Gospel writers, every single author of the New Testament (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) mentioned the nearness of the Lord's return, which is a significant amount of testimony. The pre-trib view is the only view of the Rapture which allows for this imminency of the Lord's return for the Church. We also saw that some of "the early church fathers" echoed what the New Testament says about the imminency of the Lord's return, which only fits with the pre-trib view of the Rapture. In addition, we saw that the context gives us an indication of which coming of the Lord is being described in a particular passage.


In Part Seven we'll look at "the judgment seat of Christ" and "the bride of Christ."


The Judgment Seat of Christ

In the following passages, Paul tells us that all Christians will give an account of ourselves to Jesus, and that we will be judged and rewarded according to our labor on earth. Paul says that "we" must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and that "we" will receive our rewards. He is speaking of every member of the Church, including himself:
"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:10-12)

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor." (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)
According to the above passages, if you are a Christian then you will be judged by Christ, and you will give an account of yourself to Him, and you will receive what is due to you for the things that you did on earth (whether good or bad). This judgment is not for salvation because everyone who takes part in the judgment seat of Christ will already be saved. Instead, the purpose of the judgment seat of Christ is to reward us for our obedience to the Lord while we were on the earth.

All of our unrighteous works will be burned away at the judgment seat of Christ as if they were made of wood, hay, or straw. All of our righteous works in obedience to the Lord will be refined and purified like gold, silver, or precious gems at the judgment seat of Christ:
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
This tells us that our earthly works will be "tested in the fire," and then we will receive rewards (or we will suffer loss) based on the quality of our works. Therefore, we should examine ourselves while we still have time to "store up treasures in heaven." Will we have any "gold, silver, and costly stones" (e.g. actions of faith and obedience) which will survive this fire?

The judgment seat of Christ will take place soon after the Rapture:
"Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5)

"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:4)

"Behold, I [Jesus] am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Revelation 22:12)
The above passages tell us that when Jesus returns for the Church then we will receive our rewards, which indicates that the judgment seat of Christ will happen soon after we are raptured.


We Will Reign on Earth with Jesus

One aspect of our rewards concerns our individual positions of authority in the Millennial kingdom (Christ's thousand-year reign on earth). Notice that we will reign on earth with Jesus:
"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!" (1 Corinthians 6:1-3)

"Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us" (2 Timothy 2:11-12)

"To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations -- 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father." (Revelation 2:26-27)

"with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10)

"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)

"Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)
So when Jesus returns at the Second Coming to physically reign on the earth for 1,000 years, we will reign with Him. Many Christians believe that we will spend eternity in heaven, but the Bible says that we will be on earth during the Millennium!

After the Second Coming, Jesus will set up His government on earth. This government will not be a democracy, it will be an absolute monarchy and it will last for 1,000 years (which is why it is often referred to as "the Millennium," as we saw in Part One). It appears that during this time, each Christian will have a certain level of authority as we reign with Christ in His government. This means that even though we will all be sinless and we will all be immortal, we will not all be equal in authority. For example, notice that Jesus said that there will be those who are "least" and those who are "greatest" in the kingdom of heaven:
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19)

"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:11)

"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:4)
The above passages tell us that in the kingdom of heaven there will be those who are "least" and those who are "greatest." We will not all be equal in authority.

In fact, even the twelve apostles were not all equal, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.59) points out that there was an "inner circle of disciples." For example, when Jesus was about to be transfigured He specifically took three of the twelve apostles with Him up to the top of the mountain to witness the event:
"After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them." (Mark 9:2)
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave these three apostles orders not to tell anyone what they had seen, so they kept the matter to themselves:
"As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves" (Mark 9:9-10)
The Transfiguration was not the only incident in which Peter, James, and John were singled out from the rest of the Twelve:
"While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?" Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. ... He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat." (Mark 5:35-43)

"They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled." (Mark 14:32-33)
The twelve apostles were not all treated equally by Jesus, and Jesus said that there will be those who are "least" and those who are "greatest" in the kingdom of heaven. We will not all be equal in authority.

To summarize, after the pre-trib Rapture we will take part in the judgment seat of Christ. The purpose will be to judge our earthly obedience and to give us our rewards (if any), as well as to establish our positions in the Millennial government. We have no guarantee how long we will be here on earth, and when we step into eternity then our positions of authority will be locked in.


The Bride of Christ

Who are the bride and the bridegroom in these passages?
"Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast."" (Matthew 9:14-15)

"The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice." (John 3:29)

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"" (Revelation 22:17)
Revelation 19:7-9 tells us that the bridegroom is Jesus:
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7)
The bridegroom is the Lamb (Jesus), but who is His bride? There are several ways in which we are told that the Church is the bride of Christ:

  1. Paul told the church at Corinth that he had promised them to one husband, meaning Christ:
    "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (2 Corinthians 11:2)
    In the above passage, Paul said that the Church will be presented as a pure virgin to our husband, Jesus. Obviously we are not yet perfect or pure because we all have a sin nature, but by the process of sanctification and by the cleansing of the Word of God we are being made holy for Christ:
    "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
    The Church will be as pure as a virgin when she is presented to Jesus at the wedding because Christ gave Himself up so that she could be cleansed. We will be without stain, without wrinkle or any other blemish, and holy and blameless.

    Paul was specifically referring to the Church in both of the above passages, and he said that the Church will be presented as a pure bride to Jesus Christ. We are the bride of Christ.
  2. Paul said that Christ and the Church will be united in marriage:
    ""For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:31-32)
    It's a profound mystery, but Christ and the Church will be united in marriage. We are the bride of Christ.
  3. At the wedding of the Lamb, the bride of Christ is described as wearing fine linen, bright and clean, which symbolically represents the righteous acts of the saints:
    ""Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" (Revelation 19:7-8)

    [Note: The parenthetical comment, "Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints," is part of the Scripture passage.]
    Notice that at the wedding of the Lamb, the only thing showing on His bride are her righteous acts (symbolically represented as fine linen). At this point the bride has already been purified and all of her unrighteous acts have been burned away, making her pure and ready to be presented to Jesus for marriage. Recall that the judgment seat of Christ will take place just after the Rapture, and it is there that all of the righteous deeds of the bride will be purified and all of her unrighteous deeds will be burned away. These unrighteous acts are symbolically represented as wood, hay, and straw (which are flammable and will burn away in a fire):
    "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
    The judgment seat of Christ is only for the Church. We are the bride of Christ.
To summarize, we (the Church) are the bride, and Jesus is our bridegroom. The judgment seat of Christ and the wedding of the Lamb will take place in heaven after the pre-trib Rapture.


The Jewish Marriage System

The Jewish marriage system in the first century involved several stages, and all of these stages were "foreshadowings" of the marriage of Christ and the Church:

  1. In the first century, the father of the groom made all of the arrangements for the marriage, and there was a bride-price that had to be paid. After the covenant of marriage was made, the man and woman were considered to be "set apart" for each other, and they were regarded as husband and wife. For example, Matthew 1:18-19 says that Mary was pledged (but not yet married) to Joseph, and Joseph considered divorcing her when he learned that she was pregnant.

    The book, Manners and Customs in the Bible (Victor H. Matthews, p.72-73), describes the Jewish custom of paying a bride-price. This book explains that David had to slay Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25) and present 100 Philistine foreskins to King Saul (1 Samuel 18:25) as the bride-price for Saul's daughter. David paid the bride-price in the form of blood and death.

    God the Father has made all of the arrangements for His Son's wedding, and Jesus paid the bride-price with His own blood. The first step in the marriage ceremony of Christ and the Church was completed at the cross after Jesus came to His bride's "house" (the earth) and established a "new covenant" with her.
  2. Another step in the ancient Jewish marriage system was "the fetching of the bride." Here's how it worked:
    "After the marriage covenant was established, the groom left his bride at her home and returned to his father's house, where he remained separated from his bride for approximately 12 months. This afforded the bride time to gather her trousseau and prepare for married life. During this period of separation, the groom prepared a dwelling place in his father's house to which he could bring his bride later.
         At the end of the period of separation, the groom came usually at night to take his bride to live with him. The groom, best man, and other male escorts left the groom's father's house and conducted a torch-light procession to the home of the bride. Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the time of his coming. As a result, the groom's arrival was preceded by a shout, which forewarned the bride to be prepared for his coming." (Maranatha Our Lord, Come! Offsite Link, Dr. Renald E. Showers, p.165)
    Just as a first-century Jewish bride and groom were separated for a period of time before the wedding, Jesus and His bride have been separated for a period of time. Just as a first-century Jewish bride was "set apart" for her husband and had no idea when he would return to "fetch" her, the New Testament says that the Church is "set apart" for Christ, and we don't know when Jesus will return to "fetch" us.

    Concerning the fetching of the bride in a first-century Jewish marriage, notice how this sheds new light on a well-known passage of Scripture:
    "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:2-3)
    Jesus is preparing the new home for His bride, and in the above passage He promised to return to "fetch" us and take us back to His house with Him. Notice that the Lord's bride (the Church) is so important to Him that He will come to "fetch" her Himself. He will not send anyone else (such as His angels) to get us, He will come for us personally. The Greek word which is translated as "take" in the above passage is the same word which is used in Matthew 1:20 and 1:24 when Joseph "took" Mary home as his wife. Notice that when Jesus comes to "fetch" us, He is not coming to stay where we are (the earth), but instead He will "take" us so that we may be where He is (heaven, where He has prepared a place for us). Therefore, this is a coming of the Lord in which He will not actually be returning to the earth, so it is not the Second Coming of Christ. This "fetching of the bride" is what we call "the Rapture":
    "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
    This passage says that the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, and then we will meet Him in the air and be with Him forever. Notice that Jesus will not simply drop us off in heaven and then return to the earth, because the above passage says that we will be with Him forever. As we have seen throughout this series, the above passage describes the Rapture, and it exactly fits with what Jesus promised us in John 14:2-3 (above). Christ will come unexpectedly to "fetch" His bride, and we will be "caught up" to meet our bridegroom in the air, and then He will take us back into heaven to the place which He has prepared for us.

    So the pre-trib Rapture will be the fulfillment of this step in the marriage ceremony of Christ and the Church.
  3. Another step in the ancient Jewish marriage system was the wedding ceremony. The wedding of Christ and the Church will take place in heaven after we are raptured and after the judgment seat of Christ:
    "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" (Revelation 19:7-8)
    As we saw earlier, the bride's righteous acts (done on earth) were purified at the judgment seat of Christ, and all of her unrighteous acts were burned away. By her righteous acts on earth, the bride had made herself ready for the purification at the judgment seat of Christ.
  4. The final step in the ancient Jewish marriage system was the wedding feast:
    "After the marriage was consummated, the groom came out of the bridal chamber and announced the consummation of the marriage to the members of the wedding party waiting outside (Ps. 19:5; Jn. 3:29). Then, as the groom went back to his bride in the chamber, the members of the wedding party returned to the wedding guests and announced the consummation of the marriage. Upon receiving this good news, the wedding guests remained in the groom's father's house for the next seven days, celebrating with a great wedding feast.
         During the seven days of the wedding feast, the bride and groom remained hidden in the bridal chamber (Gen. 29:21-23, 27-28) for "the seven days of the huppah." Afterwards, the groom came out of hiding, bringing his bride with him, but with her veil removed so that everyone could see who she was." (Maranatha Our Lord, Come! Offsite Link, Dr. Renald E. Showers, p.165)
    With this in mind, notice that the following passage mentions the wedding of the Lamb, and then the wedding supper of the Lamb, and then the Second Coming:
    "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." (Revelation 19:7-15)
    In the above passage we see the wedding of the Lamb, and a mention of the wedding supper, and then the Second Coming of Christ. Just as a first-century Jewish bride and groom remained hidden for a period of time, Christ and the Church will remain "hidden" in heaven while the Tribulation period rages on earth. Just as a first-century Jewish bride and groom came out of hiding together after the seven days were over, Christ and the Church will come out of "hiding" together at the Second Coming (above). In the above passage, notice that the bride is wearing fine linen, bright and clean (the Greek word for "bright" has the meaning of "radiant white"), which symbolizes the righteous acts that we did while we were on the earth. Now notice what "the armies of heaven" are wearing in the above passage as they follow Jesus out of heaven down to the earth. They are wearing fine linen, white and clean, which is what the bride was wearing just a few verses earlier. God does not do anything haphazardly, so there is a reason why God showed this to the apostle John. This indicates that since we are the bride of Christ, we are also the armies of heaven. Therefore, we will come down from heaven (out of "hiding") with Jesus at the Second Coming, just as a first-century Jewish bride and groom came out of hiding together after the wedding feast. In fact, we will not become the armies of heaven because we are the armies of heaven on earth, as Ephesians 6:10-18 and other passages make clear. Since we will come out of heaven with Jesus at the Second Coming, this means that the Rapture will take place before the Second Coming.
These were the basic stages of an ancient Jewish marriage (as described by various Bible scholars). For a more detailed and fascinating description of ancient Jewish marriage traditions and their parallels with the Church, see Ancient Jewish Marriage Traditions and Their Fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah Offsite Link.

The pre-trib view and the mid-trib views of the Rapture preserve the parallels between the ancient Jewish marriage system and the marriage between Christ and the Church.


Jesus Must Remain in Heaven Until the Time Comes to Restore All Things

People in the post-trib group sometimes use the following passage to disprove the pre-trib and mid-trib views of the Rapture:
"And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution [restoration] of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:20-21, KJV)
According to the pre-trib and mid-trib views, Jesus will come down out of heaven at the Rapture, and then He will go back up into heaven with all of the Christians whom He has "snatched" off of the earth, and then later He will come down out of heaven again at the Second Coming. The post-trib argument is that if Jesus will come down out of heaven twice (as the pre-trib and mid-trib views claim) then this means that Jesus will not remain in heaven until the time comes to restore everything, which seems to contradict Acts 3:20-21 (above).

In order to see the flaw in this post-trib argument, let's look at some passages which describe "the restoration of all things." What does the Bible mean when it says that all things will be restored, and when will this restoration take place?

First, recall that after Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the ground and all of creation:
"To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field." (Genesis 3:17-18)

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21)
The above passages describe the curse which God placed on all of creation as a result of the Fall. Romans 8:19-21 (above) says that this curse will someday be removed, which will happen when the time comes to restore everything (Acts 3:20-21, above).

Here are some things that Bible commentaries say about "the restoration of all things":
"restitution of all things--comprehending, probably, the rectification of all the disorders of the fall." (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Offsite Link, Acts 3:21, emphasis added)

"as the grace of the Gospel was intended to destroy the reign of sin, its energetic influence is represented as restoring all things, destroying the bad state, and establishing the good - taking the kingdom out of the hands of sin and Satan, and putting it into those of righteousness and truth." (Clarke, from http://www.e-sword.net/commentaries.html Offsite Link, Acts 3:21, emphasis added)
As these Bible commentaries point out, "the restoration of all things" in Acts 3:20-21 (above) will include the removal of the curse which God had placed on all of creation as a result of the Fall.

Here's an interesting effect of this restoration. As the following passages show, all humans and animals were plant-eaters until after the Flood:
"[before the Fall] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. ... Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-- everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." And it was so." (Genesis 1:27-30)

"[after the Flood in Noah's time] Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything."" (Genesis 9:1-3)
So before the Fall, all wild animals on earth were vegetarian. Now notice that wild animals will one day be restored to that harmless, vegetarian, pre-Fall state:
"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:6-9)

""The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD." (Isaiah 65:25)
As we have seen, God cursed all of creation after the Fall, but someday He will remove that curse and restore nature to its pre-Fall condition.

So the question is, when will it be time for the restoration of all things?

To answer this question, notice in one of the Bible commentaries quoted above that God will first take the kingdom out of the hands of the devil, and then He will put it into the hands of "righteousness and truth" (i.e. into the hands of Jesus). In Part Three we saw that before Jesus returns to take possession of the earth, He will first evict the devil beginning with a series of 21 judgments on the earth. So when God restores all things to their pre-Fall state, the first part of that process will be to evict the devil from the earth. As we have seen throughout this series, the Rapture will take place before those 21 judgments begin. In other words, when God says that it's time for the restoration of all things to begin, then Jesus will first come down as far as the clouds and rapture all of the Christians, then He will take them back into heaven. Next, the 21 judgments will take place on earth during the seven-year Tribulation period in order to begin evicting the devil from the earth. Then Jesus will return at the Second Coming to take possession of the earth.

What it boils down to is that Jesus will come down out of heaven for the pre-trib Rapture when the Father says that the time has come to restore all things, exactly as Acts 3:21 describes:
"He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." (Acts 3:21)

Conclusion

In this article we saw that the Church will go through the judgment seat of Christ in heaven shortly after the Rapture. This judgment is not for salvation because everyone who takes part in the judgment seat of Christ will already be saved. Our earthly works will be "tested in the fire," and then we will receive rewards (or we will suffer loss) based on the quality of our works.

We also learned that when Jesus returns to the earth at the Second Coming and sets up His thousand-year government, we will reign on earth with Him. We have no guarantee how long we will be here on earth during this lifetime, and when we step into eternity then our positions of authority will be locked in.

In addition, we examined several reasons why the Church is the bride of Christ, and we saw that the stages of the ancient Jewish marriage system were "foreshadowings" of the marriage of Christ and the Church. Since the wedding of Christ and the Church will take place in heaven while the seven-year Tribulation is raging on earth, and since the Church will return to the earth with Christ at the Second Coming (to reign on earth with Him), this is further evidence that the Rapture will take place before the Second Coming.

Finally, we saw that Jesus will come down out of heaven for the pre-trib Rapture when the Father says that the time has come to restore all things, exactly as Acts 3:21 describes.


All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!


Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six    Part Seven    Part Eight
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 12/15/2009 - Shortened the article a bit.
  • 07/23/2004 - Added a new section called "Jesus Must Remain in Heaven Until the Time Comes to Restore All Things."
  • 03/03/2004 - New article.