Although the church is dominant in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, whereby the Trinity pens letters to seven existing churches, there is no mention of the church until the last chapter; Revelation 22. A plausible explanation is the Rapture, in which all living church believers are caught up to meet the Lord in Heaven before the Tribulation. Of course, if this is valid, then the Bible should contain additional proof texts. This article, then, is an analysis of those corroborating verses.
The Prophetic Sequence
Before I begin, however, it may be helpful to recall the prophetic sequence of future world events and present a perspective on why examining this may be worthwhile.
The Bible foretells The Rapture, an event where all living Christian believers will be caught up to join the Lord Jesus in Heaven. This is followed by a Seven-Year Tribulation period of God’s Wrath on earth, followed by a One-Thousand-Year Millenium of peace and rest. There are other concurrent and subsequent events, but for our purposes, this should suffice.
Why study this? For believers, all knowledge of God’s word is profitable “that the man of God may be complete,” according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. For non-believers, salvation only comes by faith, and according to Romans 10:17, “…faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Accordingly, not my words, but the word of God is powerful enough to save you. It is in that hope that I write all that I write.
Please note I have abridged the scripture verses in this article to highlight their most essential elements. I would encourage you to not only read the entirety of the verses but to read them in context.
The Biblical Proofs of the Rapture
We start with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 which describes the Rapture with the promise that we should be comforted with this revelation.
- “…the Lord Himself will descend from heaven
- …with the trumpet of God,
- and the dead in Christ will rise first.
- Then we who are alive, …will be caught up [Latin “rapturos” or transliterated as “rapture”]
- …to meet the Lord in the air,
- and so we will always be with the Lord.
- …comfort one another with these words.”
To forever be with Christ fulfills His promise in John 14:3.
- “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 refers to the Rapture as a mystery which is a spiritual truth that is progressively revealed. This mystery is that not all will die, yet they will still receive their glorified bodies.
- “…I am telling you a mystery;
- we will not all sleep [die],
- but we will all be changed,
- …in the twinkling of an eye,
- at the last trumpet;
- …the dead will be raised imperishable,
- and we will be changed.
- For this perishable must put on the imperishable,
- and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Titus 2:13 portrays this event as the “blessed hope.”
- [we are] “looking for the blessed hope
- …the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,”
1 Thessalonians 5:9 promises to deliver or spare believers from wrath. Not only the wrath of eternal hell but God’s wrath during the Tribulation.
- “God has not destined us [believers] for wrath,
- but for obtaining salvation [deliverance] through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Revelation 6:16-17 describes the wrath of the Tribulation and the fact that no one is able to withstand it.
- “…hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne,
- and from the wrath of the Lamb,
- for the great Day of the Wrath [the Tribulation] has come,
- and who is able to stand?”
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 sequences the removal of the church, the cessation of the Holy Spirit’s restraint of evil through the Church, and the revealing of the Antichrist at the beginning of the Tribulation.
- “…you know what [the Holy Spirit through the Church] restrains him [the Antichrist] now,
- so that he will be revealed in his time…
- …whom the Lord will eliminate with the breath of His mouth…
- by the appearance of His [Christ’s] [second] coming;
Zechariah 12:3 shows that because the Holy Spirit’s restraining power is removed and the Antichrist is revealed, this instigates the 70th week of Daniel and the fulfillment that the whole world will gather against Israel.
- “It will come about on that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples;
- …And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.”
Daniel 9:27’s 70th week is the Seven-Year Tribulation leading up to the Second Coming of Christ and shows how the Antichrist will first make a seven-year peace agreement with Israel, which it will violate halfway through that period. This accord will allow Israel to again make sacrifices at the Temple Mount.
- “Then he [antichrist] shall confirm a covenant with many [Israel] for one week [seven years];
- But in the middle of the week [three and one-half years], He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 refers to the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ accompanied by “all His saints” at the end of the Tribulation. It is the Rapture that explains how all the saints are in heaven in order to accompany the Lord Jesus on His Second Coming.
- “…may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love…
- at the [second] coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
Revelation 19:11-14,19-21 is the passage that describes Christ’s Second Coming along with the Saints referred to in 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 above, and Christ’s victory over the rebellion.
- “Then I saw heaven opened,
- …a white horse, and He [Jesus] who…is called Faithful…
- He judges and wages war.
- the armies [saints and angels] which are in heaven…were following Him on white horses.
- …the beast [antichrist] and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war with Him [in Jerusalem] who sits on the horse…
- …the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet
- …These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire…and the rest were killed…”
Are there other instances of deliverance from wrath and going to heaven without dying in the Bible?
The Bible does have other examples of deliverance and going to heaven without dying, as follows. Additionally, Luke 1:37 claims, “…nothing will be impossible for God.”
- Noah was delivered from the flood, which was God’s wrath on the world in Genesis 7:7.
- Lot was delivered from God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:29.
- Enoch went to heaven without dying in Genesis 5:24.
- Elijah went to heaven without dying in 2 Kings 2:1.
What happens to children and babies in the womb at the Rapture?
The Bible never declares explicitly that children under the age of accountability or persons intellectually incapable of understanding the gospel will get to heaven; yet, a number of verses support this conclusion.
In 2 Samuel 12:23, King David refers to his dead son and states, “I will go to him….” Since we know that King David was a believer and the Bible is the inspired word of God and truth, it can be assumed David would join his son who is in heaven. Many passages, such as Matthew 18:1-6 “become like little children,” affirm Christ’s love of children. Finally, verses such as John 12:48, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My words, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him on the last day,” require a specific rejection of the gospel for a judgment of eternal punishment. This is impossible for children under the age of understanding and individuals with mental inabilities.
It is credible, then, to conclude that young children, including those in the womb and mentally incapacitated individuals, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the Rapture.
Is salvation still possible for those left behind?
The Bible speaks of two witnesses in Revelation 11:3, who are protected for three and one-half years, an angel in Revelation 14:6 circling the globe while declaring the gospel, and 144,000 Jewish evangelists in Revelation 7, who will all share the gospel of salvation. As such, there will be a great revival of new believers worldwide, including one-third of the Jews, according to a prophecy in Zechariah 13:8-9 which states, “…in the whole land…one-third will be left…[and] I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
It is easy to see that the Rapture will be an instantaneous yet worldwide cataclysmic event. If you are “caught up,” it will be a glorious affair. If you’re bypassed, there is still hope of salvation; however, it will be followed by a time of great trials and profound sorrow.