What is the Rapture?
Issue No. 315
Under the Old Covenant, people understood that the Messiah would come just once, even though the law prophesied many times of two comings of Christ. As I explained in The Laws of the Second Coming, the two doves in Leviticus 14 and the two goats in Leviticus 16 prophesied of two comings of Christ, each having its own distinct purpose.
Likewise, the two occasions in which the law was given hint of two comings of Christ. The law was given in Exodus 20 under the Old Covenant, but that law was broken. It was given a second time in Exodus 34, this time with Moses coming as a manifested son to prophesy the New Covenant.
It took the New Covenant to understand the prophecy in the law. Until then, the people had little understanding of the feast days and how they prophesy of Christ’s two comings.
Christ came the first time to fulfill the law of Passover and Pentecost, for He died on the cross at Passover and sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He must yet come the second time to fulfill the law of the feast of Tabernacles.
There were two sets of feast days in the law. The first set began at Passover and ended with Pentecost. These were fulfilled in Christ’s first coming. The second set began with the feast of Trumpets and ended with Tabernacles. These feasts have yet to be fulfilled historically.
While Christians have always understood that Christ will return to earth a second time, the Church lost the revelation of the feast days quite early in history. By casting out the law in the early centuries, the feast of Tabernacles became largely a lost feast day. They understood Passover and Pentecost, having fulfilled those feasts both historically and personally (salvation and baptism of the Holy Spirit); but they ceased to study the law, which included the feasts. As a result, they forgot the revelation that provided the main details about the second coming of Christ.
Worse yet, in the 1850’s a new doctrine began to be taught about the second coming of Christ, whose teachers had little or no understanding of Tabernacles. Hence, they developed a theory of eschatology devoid of any serious understanding either of Scripture or of soon-coming events in history that would set the stage for Christ’s second coming.
They called it “the rapture,” from the Latin word rapto, “to catch away.” The term itself is simply a reference to 1 Thess. 4:17, where Paul says that “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up” (Gr., harpazo), or caught away to meet the Lord when He comes. The problem is not in the word rapto, but in one’s understanding of the catching away, along with the events before and after it happens.
In order to rectify this situation, we must study these lost feasts, for they give us the context for the catching away. This study, then, begins with the feast of Trumpets.
Trumpets: The Resurrection
The blowing of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month (Hebrew calendar) prophesies of the resurrection of the dead. The Jews traditionally called it “The Day of the Awakening Blast,” and they often go to cemeteries to commemorate this day, because they have long understood this to prophesy of the resurrection of the dead.
Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4:16 that “the dead in Christ will rise first.” This is the first event in the sequence of events fulfilling the Autumn feasts. Paul also says in 1 Cor. 15:52,
52 in a moment (atomos, an atomic change), in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
In those days the trumpet was blown to signal the beginning of each month when the witnesses caught sight of the first crescent moon on the horizon at sundown. The first day of the seventh month was a special trumpet called “the last trumpet,” because it was the final month of the original Mosaic feast days.
As for the timing of Christ’s return, Paul seems to say in 1 Thess. 4:16 that the Lord will “descend from heaven” at the time of the resurrection—that is, when the trumpet is blown on the morning of the first day of the seventh month. But that is not the case. Paul was not giving all the details, but only telling us that the resurrection will be part of the sequence surrounding Christ’s second coming.
The Head must yet be joined with the Body, but He cannot do so until the living saints are changed in their atoms and made immortal and incorruptible. That change is prophesied to occur on the first of Tabernacles, which is two weeks after the trumpet of resurrection is blown.
So the first day of the seventh month, the day of Trumpets, prophesied of the raising of the dead. But contrary to much modern teaching, not everything is to occur on this day. This is only the beginning of end-time events.
The Day of Atonement: Repentance
The blowing of trumpets began a 10-day time of repentance and introspection that culminated on the Day of Atonement on the 10th day of the 7th month. When the dead are raised, many will repent, including many in the Church itself, because many Christians will be shocked and frightened when they see resurrected saints but think that they were “left behind.”
Some major adjustments in their eschatology will have to be made very quickly, because the living saints will not be caught away on the same day that the resurrection takes place. The catching away is scheduled for Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles: Transformation
Five days after the Day of Atonement is the beginning of the feast of Tabernacles (7/15). It extends a full week and ends with a final ceremony on the eighth day (7/22). This feast prophesies of the “change” that will occur in the bodies of those who are alive at the end of the Age. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:51,
51 Behold, I tell you a secret: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
The “change” in the living saints will occur on the first day of Tabernacles. This change from mortal to immortality and from corruption to incorruption will allow the living to be united with those who were raised from the dead two weeks earlier. At this point, they will have the same kind of “flesh” as those raised from the dead, for they will have the same type of flesh that Jesus had in His resurrection. The two groups cannot be united until they have the same body.
The Birth of Christ in You
This is also the time of birthing the “Manchild,” which is “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Believers are impregnated with Christ by the Holy Spirit, following the same pattern as Jesus and His mother. Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), making Jesus the product of a Heavenly Father and an earthly mother.
He was thus both Son of God and Son of Man, having two parents. This was necessary in order for the law to be fulfilled in giving Him dominion in both heaven and earth.
It is the same with the believers in Christ, for we are co-heirs with Him (Rom. 8:17). The great secret (“mystery”) of the Church is “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27). That holy seed in us is the spiritual fetus having a heavenly Father and an earthly “mother.” In that sense, we are all part of the Bride company, whether we are male or female in the natural.
When we experience the feast of Passover (justification), we are impregnated by the Spirit. Pentecost prophesied the growth of the child (sanctification). Tabernacles prophesied of its birth, and the eighth day of Tabernacles prophesied of its “circumcision” and presentation to God, which by law must occur on an eighth day.
This holy seed, “Christ in you,” is not Jesus Christ Himself. It is a new generation, “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). It is an extension of Christ, for it is His Body. Yet it is also “us,” because it is “the real you.” We are becoming that next generation, so to speak. Our “natural man,” like Rachel, “dies” in childbirth (Gen. 35:18), and we take on a new form of existence, immortal, incorruptible, perfected, and complete.
When the living saints are changed and the Manchild brought to full birth on the first day of Tabernacles, they will enjoy the same kind of perfected body that the dead had already received two weeks earlier at the blowing of the trumpet. At that point, they will be united in perfect harmony into one Body.
However, this Body will still be incomplete until the Head is joined with the Body. The Head cannot join with the Body until the Body itself is united as one, and for this reason the joining of the Head with the Body must come in the midst of Tabernacles. This must occur some time after the first day but before the eighth day, because this New Creation Man (having both Head and Body) must be presented to the Father in its perfected state.
The Midst of Tabernacles: Christ Comes
The biblical pattern for the middle of Tabernacles is seen in John 7, the only account where Jesus kept the feast of Tabernacles. We read in John 7:2,
2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths [Tabernacles], was at hand.
Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem ahead of Him in verses 6-8,
6 Jesus therefore said to them, “My time is not yet at hand; but your time is always opportune . . . 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast, because My time has not yet fully come.”
But once He had sent the disciples ahead, He went to the feast in secret. We read in John 7:10-14,
10 But when His disciples had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as it were, in secret. . . 14 But when it was now the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.
This highly prophetic story gives us the timing of His second coming. The “temple” is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 3:16). Though He “comes” prior to his Temple appearance, it remains “secret” until the middle of the feast of Tabernacles. This prophesies, I believe, of the fact that Jesus Christ will come secretly (or invisibly) when the dead are raised, but will not be in contact with His disciples (the true temple) until the middle of the feast of Tabernacles.
In the story in John 7, He had to separate Himself from the disciples for a time in order to rejoin the Head with the Body in the midst of the feast. So also in the second coming of Christ, the Head cannot join the Body until after the two groups have become “one flesh” on the first of Tabernacles. He must join with them before the eighth day when the complete Body must be presented to the Father. Hence, He comes in the midst of the feast.
Meeting Christ When He Comes
It is also important that we understand the purpose of meeting the Lord in the air. The Greek word that Paul uses is apantesis, which is specifically a word used to describe welcoming delegations going out to meet visiting dignitaries.
In Matt. 25:1 the virgins went out “to meet the bride-groom.” The story shows that they were welcoming the bridegroom to their house and were not expected to return to the home of the bridegroom.
He was not welcoming them. They were welcoming him to the wedding. No one expected the bridegroom to take these virgins back to the place from whence he had come.
The word is again used in Acts 28:15 when the brethren from Rome came to meet Paul as he was being taken to Rome.
15 And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us [apantesis]; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Once again, the brethren in Rome considered Paul to be a visiting dignitary, and honored him by coming “to meet” him and escort him to Rome. At no time did they consider turning around and returning to Jerusalem with Paul.
Likewise, when Paul used the term apantesis in 1 Thess. 4:17, he was not intending to imply that the saints would meet Christ in the air and then return to heaven with Him. The Lord descends to earth here, and the saints go out as a welcoming delegation to meet Him in order to escort Him to earth with honor due to Him.
The divine plan is not for the saints to go to heaven to live with Him, but rather that Christ is coming to earth to dwell with men. Rev. 21:3 says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them.”
The purpose for the manifestation of the sons of God are to reveal Christ to rest of mankind on earth, so that the Kingdom of God will begin to grow rapidly as men see Christ in them and desire to enter into the same experience. Soon all nations will come to learn of His ways (Isaiah 2:2-4), because the greatest era of world evangelism will begin with the manifestation of the sons of God.
The Catching Away
Paul used the Greek term harpazo in 1 Thess. 4:17 to describe the translation of the saints, when they are caught away to be presented officially as the first-born sons of God.
It follows a specific sequence of events that qualify this New Creation Man for such a presentation. First the dead must be raised on earth in order to be united with the living saints as one body. But they will not be able to join as one with the living saints until they have been transformed (or brought to birth) on the first day of Tabernacles.
Once they are united as the body of Christ, then they lack only the Head to be complete. The Head must join with the body in the middle of the feast of Tabernacles, so that this New Creation Man can be presented to God on the eighth day, according to the law in Exodus 22:29, 30.
Once they have been presented and accepted before God, then they can return to be manifested sons of God. Their manifestation is not before God in heaven, but before men on earth. Manifestation follows the presentation.
1 Thess. 4:16-17 focuses upon the first and last events in the sequence of feast day fulfillments. Resurrection and presentation of the Sons are all that Paul mentions here. It is by no means a complete treatise on the subject. Paul does NOT say that both the resurrection and the “catching away” of the living saints must occur at the same time. He is merely giving us the order of events.
We know from the law that the entire time frame will take three weeks, even as it took just over seven weeks to fulfill all the prophetic events from Passover to Pentecost.
The Eighth Day of Tabernacles (Presentation)
This “New Creation Man” is not allowed to be presented to the Father until the eighth day. This law is found in Exodus 22:29 and 30,
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
The “birth” of this corporate Son occurs on the first day of Tabernacles. The presentation of this corporate Son occurs on the eighth day, according to the law (above). Any and all presentation of sons to the Father can only occur on an eighth day. After His birth, Jesus was presented to the Temple on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). After His resurrection-birth, Jesus had to present Himself to the Father on the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:11), commonly known today as “Easter Sunday.” It was the eighth day.
Likewise, insofar as the corporate Son is concerned, the presentation must occur on the eighth day of Tabernacles, and this is why there are eight days associated with Tabernacles (Lev. 23:39). So also in the story in John 7:37-39, Jesus prophesied of the glory-fire of God coming on the eighth day of Tabernacles.
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
There are some who believe that the great day of the feast was the seventh day of Tabernacles. Other scholars say it is the eighth day.
Manifested Glory on the Eighth Day
The issue is resolved when we understand that it prophesies of the glory of God being manifested through the Sons of God. This is prophesied in the story of the priestly consecration in Lev. 8:35 to 9:1,
35 At the doorway of the tent of meeting, moreover, you shall remain day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that you may not die, for so I have been commanded. 36 Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the Lord had commanded through Moses. 1 Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.
So the priests in that day were consecrated for a full seven days and then emerged from the tabernacle on the eighth day. The main event of the eighth day is expressed in Lev. 9:4, “for today the Lord shall appear [manifest Himself] to you.” Verse 6 adds to this revelation, saying, “the glory of the Lord may appear to you.” The actual fulfillment is found in verse 24,
24 Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Thus, the fire (glory) of the Lord was manifested to all of the people, and “all the people saw it.” This prophesies of the results of the manifestation of the Sons of God after their presentation on the eighth day. For this reason, I believe that the priests of God must be consecrated to God for a full seven days before being manifested on the eighth day. Rev. 20:6 says that “they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” The eight days of Tabernacles is the time of their consecration, and then the glory of God is manifested to the world through them.
The Church developed the “Rapture” theory in the 1800’s without understanding the feast days and how they prophesied of both comings of Christ. They attempted to fit it into the time frame of Daniel’s 70th week, which they disconnected from the first 69 weeks. Not understanding that the 70th week of Daniel ended with Christ’s death on the cross, they thought that “God’s clock stopped” and that the final seven years would be fulfilled in the future.
They identified this 70th week with The Great Tribulation in which time an Antichrist would arise either at the beginning or the middle of the Tribulation. When one has been indoctrinated for many years in these false assumptions of eschatology, it is difficult to re-wire our minds and re-learn the Truth of Scripture. But a study of the feasts of the Lord has the power to change our thinking.