Debunking the Rapture Myth | Tomorrow’s World — July/August 2024

Debunking the Rapture Myth

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What most people call the “Rapture” will never happen—and you can prove it with nothing but the irrefutable evidence from you Bible.

A vast portion of professing “Christianity” is obsessed with a myth—a myth that clouds their understanding of the end times, obscures many other doctrinal truths of the Bible, and provides an insidious false hope concerning the Great Tribulation and the days before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is a myth widely believed. I have traveled to various cities giving public Tomorrow’s World Presentations concerning the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and what to expect before Christ’s return, and some of the most common questions I have been asked have been centered around this myth.

It is about time to put the myth to rest. In this article, we will debunk the Rapture myth, straight from the pages of the Bible.

If I had a dollar for every question I’ve been asked about the Rapture, I might be able to write this article from the comfort of a limousine. When is it coming? Is it before the Great Tribulation? Is it during the Tribulation? Is it after?

At the heart of most of these questions is a more fundamental one that, sadly, I haven’t been asked nearly as often: Is the common belief in the Rapture actually biblical?

Not to give away the ending, but the short answer is, No, it is not. But if you’re tempted to stop reading now, don’t stop yet! Give us an opportunity to prove this in the pages of your own Bible.

What Is the Rapture Myth?

We should begin by being as clear as we can. Before we can address what the Bible does or does not say about the “Rapture,” we must first define what we even mean by that word—because the word rapture is used to refer to many different things.

Most use the word to indicate their belief that—before Jesus Christ returns to rule the world, and before the time of trouble and suffering known as the Great Tribulation—Christians all over the planet will be “raptured” into thin air and taken to Heaven. Those who are not Christians, according to this belief, will be shocked to see that many people have suddenly vanished without explanation; planes will plummet to earth as their Christian pilots disappear, and non-Christian husbands or wives will despair as they wonder where their Christian spouses have disappeared to. And, supposedly, as the world sorts through the mass disappearance, the Great Tribulation will be unleashed on those who are “left behind,” as the book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins worded it. Then, three or seven years later—depending on who’s explaining—Jesus Christ will supposedly begin His reign on planet Earth.

This idea of the Rapture as a mysterious event whisking Christians away from the earth is often associated with the words of the Apostle Paul, who tells us that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

This is an important passage for those who believe in the Rapture, because in the Latin Vulgate translation of verse 17, the word translated “we shall be caught up” is rapiemur, from rapere. Thus, the “Rapture.”

But is Paul here describing what many think of as “the Rapture,” or is he talking about something else entirely?

God wants us to read His word carefully, putting the details together to get the most complete picture we can—and doing so takes diligence. As Paul told his most famous student, the evangelist Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Similarly, the prophet Isaiah asked, “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:9–10).

Let’s do what God expects—let’s “rightly divide the word of truth” and put the whole of God’s word together to help us see the truth about the Rapture theory and to truly understand what to expect of the end-times.

And, since ideas differ so widely in their details concerning the Rapture and what it really means, we will focus on biblical passages that help us clarify the most common elements that are central to most people’s beliefs about the Rapture. So, as you keep reading, bear in mind these three crucial questions:

  • Will Christians suddenly vanish around the world without explanation?
  • Will Christians be caught up into the air years before Jesus returns?
  • And will Christians spend the Great Tribulation in Heaven?

Whether the Rapture is fact or fiction hinges upon the answers to these questions. And as we look into what the Bible says will actually happen to true Christians at the return of Jesus Christ, we will see each of these questions answered clearly and simply in God’s word. When we do, we will see that the popular idea of the Rapture is nothing more than a popular myth.

The Bible Describes a Resurrection, Not a “Rapture”

So, does the Bible teach that years before Jesus returns in visible glory to rule the earth, Christians around the world will vanish and secretly be carried up into Heaven right before the time of global horrors known as the Great Tribulation?

No, it doesn’t. We can begin to see this if we go back to 1 Thessalonians 4, where we read:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).

Too many are so “enraptured” (pun intended) with seeing the Rapture in this passage that they skip right over key elements proving that Paul is not talking about their idea of a Rapture.

For instance, Paul refers to the time of the resurrection of those who have died in Christ—those he describes as “asleep”—saying, “the dead in Christ will rise first.” He also says that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”

Does that really seem like a quiet, mysterious vanishing? Not at all. In fact, it seems a lot more like a triumphant event announced to the world by the returning Christ.

But personal opinion on this subject doesn’t matter—not ours, and not yours. Instead of settling for opinion, let’s see how the Bible describes this event elsewhere—as we read earlier, “precept upon precept… line upon line… here a little, there a little….”

For example, the Apostle Paul describes this exact same event in another passage:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50–53).

We should notice a few important details from this passage: Not only are the dead raised in incorruptible glory, but the living will also be transformed at that time, just as we saw in 1 Thessalonians.

But will this be done quietly? Not according to the Bible—again, just as we saw earlier, this will happen with the sound of a mighty trumpet: “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Please read that again carefully: This will happen not just at any trumpet, but at the last trumpet. This implies that there will be a sequence of trumpets, with the resurrection and glorification of the saints occurring at the last of those trumpets.

So, we find ourselves with a question to ask: Is there any passage of Scripture that describes a series of trumpets in the end times? If there is, then we have just identified the time of this resurrection and transformation of faithful Christians.

And the answer? Yes, in fact, the Bible does describe such a sequence of trumpets. We don’t need to guess, theorize, speculate, or debate about it, because the Bible makes it plain. And in doing so, it reveals the clear answers to our three original questions.

The Real Sequence of Events Before Christ’s Return

The book of Revelation reveals a specific sequence of events leading up to Jesus Christ’s return and the commencement of the Kingdom of God. Revelation 6 reveals the Seven Prophetic Seals of Revelation, which the Apostle John sees in a vision, opened in order by Jesus Christ to reveal the end-time events ahead. The first four seals represent the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, symbolizing global religious deception, warfare, famine, and disease. Verse 8 says that “power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”

The prophetic series of events continues with the fifth seal, describing a martyrdom of many true Christians. In Matthew 24:21, Jesus describes this time, saying that “then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” This is a time so terrible that no time before nor after will ever compare.

After two-and-a-half years of this tribulation, the sixth seal will be opened, and the Heavenly Signs will take place: a great earthquake, the sun being darkened, the moon becoming as red as blood, the stars falling from the sky, and every mountain and island on earth being shaken. These announce that God is about to personally intervene in world affairs. That time is described by the prophet Isaiah as “the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8).

This year-long Day of the Lord will begin when the seventh seal of Revelation is opened. We read of this in Revelation 8:1–2: “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.”

With this, we can see in Revelation where a sequence of trumpets appears in end-time events—exactly what Paul’s description told us to expect. After the end-time rides of the Four Horsemen, the Great Tribulation, and the Heavenly Signs, we come to the series of trumpets of which the Apostle Paul wrote.

And the first six trumpet blasts will be devastating. A third of earth’s vegetation will be burned up, a third of the seas will become blood, a third of ships and marine life will be destroyed, a third of the planet’s waters will become bitter, and a third of the sun, moon, and stars will cease to shine. Then, in the most destructive military exchange in history, a third of mankind is obliterated. Scripture calls the Day of the Lord “great and very terrible” (Joel 2:11)—and does so for a reason. This year-long series of catastrophes will represent God’s wrath unleashed on unrepentant mankind. (See our article on escaping Armageddon, beginning on page 5 of this issue.)

Yet these terrors are only the first six of Seven Trumpets. The seventh and last trumpet is described in Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”

Paul writes that at this trumpet—the seventh, declaring the authority of the Kingdom of God over the world—the Resurrection will occur, as faithful Christians, past and present, are gathered, glorified with immortality, and brought to meet Christ in the air. Once they are resurrected as immortal Spirit beings, they will become His Bride, and then they will join Him in vanquishing His enemies and inaugurating the reign of God’s kingdom.

What does all of this prove? That there will be no secret “vanishing.” In fact, Jesus Christ personally described this moment to His disciples to make the public nature of this event as clear as crystal. You can read it yourself in the famous prophetic discourse Christ gave on the Mount of Olives:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:29–31).

Surely we can see that these passages should not be considered in isolation from each other. Their descriptions of end-time events are consistent and in perfect sequence: The Great Tribulation, the Heavenly Signs, the Seven Trumpets, Christ returning to the earth at the Last Trumpet, and the resurrection, gathering, and glorification of true Christians as the Kingdom of God commences its beautiful and healing reign.

And where will that reign begin? Not in Heaven. Rather, those glorified Christians will have been made kings and priests to their God and they shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10).

No one will vanish into thin air as unsaved loved ones wonder where they went. All eyes will see the return of Jesus Christ, and all ears will hear it. The “Rapture” is a tragic misunderstanding that conceals the magnificent truth of Scripture.

Who Will Be Protected During the Great Tribulation?

If you’ve been paying attention, you probably recognize that we’ve now answered our original three questions.

Will Christians vanish around the world mysteriously and without explanation? We see the answer in the pages of the Bible: No, they will not. Christians will be resurrected or changed to join their Savior at the first resurrection—at the same time when all the tribes of the earth will see Jesus Christ returning.

Will Christians be carried up into the air years before Jesus returns to rule? Again: No, they won’t. The resurrection of true Christians will occur at the very last trumpet, the seventh, when Christ will be inaugurated as Ruler of the world—only days before Satan will be bound for a thousand years, as described in Revelation 20.

Finally, will Christians spend the years of the Great Tribulation in Heaven? Again, the “Rapture” doesn’t line up with Scripture. True Christians will rise to meet Christ at the commencement of His reign, after the Tribulation. Indeed, from that moment on, they will reign alongside Him as His submissive Bride—ruling on this earth, with Him, for a thousand years.

At first, that might leave some worried: Does this mean that every Christian must go through the Great Tribulation?

No, it doesn’t. Some Christians will endure that terrible time, while others will be protected—though not by a “Rapture.” They will be protected here, on planet Earth. While God reserves many details that only He knows, He makes this plain in a number of passages.

For instance, in Revelation 12, we read of the Church in the end-times, symbolized by a woman and persecuted by the devil, who is symbolized by a dragon-like serpent. Starting in verse 14, we read that “the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” The “time and times and half a time” are the three-and-a-half years that comprise the two-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation and the year-long Day of the Lord we read about earlier.

This passage makes very plain that while a portion of the Church will be protected, this protection will not be in Heaven. Note that the passage says “the woman” is protected in “the wilderness”—a word that the Bible never uses to describe Heaven, but that it does use to describe locations here on Earth.

If we’re going to let God interpret His own word—which is always the best idea—then we must agree that some Christians will be protected during the Great Tribulation, but that their protection will not be in Heaven, as many fans of the Rapture would have us believe. That protection will be made available right here, somewhere on planet Earth.

But we should also notice that not all Christians will be protected. As we read in verse 17, “the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Yes, some Christians—“the rest of her offspring”—must endure the trials of the Great Tribulation and the anger of Satan, the devil.

The distinction—one group protected and another sent into the Tribulation—is reflected in Christ’s comments to the two prophetic end-time Churches of Revelation 3. The zealous Christians of Philadelphia are told by Jesus that He will “keep [them] from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world” (v. 10), while the lukewarm Christians of Laodicea are told that they must “buy from [God] gold refined in the fire” of persecution, and that they need His chastening (vv. 18–19).

For more on the tremendously important letters to the seven Churches of Revelation 2–3, you can read Mr. Gerald Weston’s “Seven Letters to Seven Churches” in our November–December 2023 issue, available online at The Apostle John describes Laodicean Christians who must go through the Tribulation as unable to see their need to repent and to change—they are too self-satisfied with what they think they already know and too willing to compromise their active obedience to God.

There is a reason why Jesus Christ says to all of us concerning the times to come, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

Yes, there will be protection during the climactic, earth-shattering events of the end-times—not in a “Rapture” off to Heaven, but in fact right here, somewhere on earth—for zealous, faithful Christians who are unwilling to compromise on the truth God has shown them.


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