Chapter 8 — The Pre-wrath Rapture:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7)
The Holy Spirit is calling people into a deeper knowledge of the prophetic word. However, there are those who are fighting this instruction by staunchly adhering to end-time doctrines established in the last century. Many Bible-professing Christians are sure there is no need to adjust their theology; but what if this is not the case? In this chapter strong reasons are presented to show that certain aspects of today’s popular, yet dated, eschatology need to be revised.
Now is the time to look into Revelation’s hidden mystery and see it appear as clear as water:
“But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished.” (Revelation 10:7)
Please note, a mystery was mentioned. This mystery has to do with what God promised his servants through the prophets: an early resurrection from among the dead and eternal life for the faithful. We see this same mystery mentioned in a well-known and accepted Rapture text:
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
Understanding Revelation’s mystery is simple. Just connect the two mysteries in our texts, then add the qualifying factor that puts it all together:
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet.” (Revelation 11:15)
A few verses before the seventh trumpet sounded, the very thing God promised his servants comes to pass with the words:
“And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.” (Revelation 11:12)
People have missed the significance of Revelation 11:12 for years because they have failed to realize that in Revelation’s figurative language, the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 are depicted as the end-time Church.
Revelation’s Figurative Language:
Speaking of the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:5, in the original Greek language which Revelation was written in, and in literal bibles, the verse speaks of the Witnesses’ mouth (singular) not mouths (plural); this is an indication that what we are seeing is the body of Christ, the Church, in figurative language:
“and if anyone may will to injure them, fire proceeds out of their mouth, and devours their enemies, and if anyone may will to injure them, thus it is required of him to be killed.” (Revelation 11:5, Literal Standard Version)
The same principle applies when speaking of the Two Witnesses’ bodies. In the Greek language and also in bibles which are literal translations of the Greek language, the word body is used (singular), not bodies (plural):
“and their body [is] on the street of the great city that is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” (Revelation 11:8, Literal Standard Version)
This is an illustration of the universal body of Christ, the Church:
“so we, who are many, are one body in Christ …” (Romans 12:5 NASB)
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body …” (1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB)
Another point to consider: Jesus Christ was not crucified in Sodom and/or, Egypt. Egypt is an illustration of the world. Yet Revelation 11:8 claims that it was in Sodom and Egypt where the Lord was crucified. Figurative language such as this indicates the passage should not be understood literally.
Two Witnesses—What They Are and What They Are Not:
Understanding that the word usage in Revelation is figurative leaves open the possibility that Revelation’s two witnesses are symbolic of something other than two literal men or women. Revelation itself tells us who the two witnesses are:
“These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11:4)
Earlier in the same book, Jesus was seen standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands. Was Christ standing among seven men?
Not according to Scripture:
“The seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)
Understanding that in Revelation chapter 1, Jesus is seen standing among lampstands which represent churches, in chapter 11 of the same book, it’s only reasonable to surmise that lampstands would still represent churches.
Of the seven churches Jesus addressed in Revelation’s letters to the churches, the last two were the church of Philadelphia and the church of Laodicea. Christ praised the first church and gave a strong warning to the second. These assemblies existed at the time John was penning Revelation. Yet they are symbolic of the men, women, and children who will be alive at the end of this age.
Olive Trees in the Book of Romans:
The two witnesses of Revelation 11 are also called two olive trees. The Apostle Paul explained in a letter to the Romans that the descendants of Israel, which are likened to a natural olive tree in Scripture, have now had a wild olive shoot spliced in—which represents the Gentile or non-Jewish believers. Paul was no doubt addressing this subject because many of the faithful in Rome were of non-Jewish heritage. Paul wrote,
“Some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root.” (Romans 11:17)
That tree represented the nation of Israel. In this dispensation, all nations have been grafted into the symbolic tree that God planted and Christ cultivated. Olive trees throughout Scripture represent God’s people. Churches contain people from both the original lineage of Israel and also from less noble descendants.
Some ministers and authors teach that Moses and Elijah will be resurrected from their graves and that they are the two witnesses/prophets of Revelation. However, let’s consider that millions of people still living at the end of time who answer the call of God to abstain from Antichrist’s mark and become witnesses for Christ may fit Revelation’s illustration of prophets/witnesses.
A Witness for Christ:
Speaking of the nation of Israel, God said,
“You are my witnesses.” (Isaiah 43:12)
In the New Testament, Jesus said:
“And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Understanding that Revelation’s two witnesses may represent a worldwide assembly of men, women, and children of both Jewish and non-Jewish descent who profess Jesus to be the Christ is the key to unlocking Revelation’s mystery, because it’s the two witnesses/prophets who ascend up to heaven in a cloud, when the angel speaks the command,
“Come up here.” (Revelation 11:12)
Yet much of orthodox theology scoffs at the idea of the church still being on earth deep into the days of Revelation’s prophecies! Probably the greatest reason people believe that the Rapture will occur long before the plagues of Revelation fall is due to a misunderstanding of Revelation’s symbolic language. While studying end-time theology, many theologians have their entire eschatology thoroughly established through reading the words of Christ and the apostles long before they research Revelation. To further complicate things, by the time they do peruse Revelation’s pages, their doctrinal positions have gained enough weight to steam-roll over Revelation’s meaning. Any illustration that appears to run contradictory to their established eschatology is simply reinterpreted.
The problem with this approach to biblical study is that it’s exactly opposite from where one should begin. People should start with Revelation because it’s the framework upon which every piece of end-time prophecy hangs. When Revelation’s structure is used as a pattern, prophetic Scripture comes into harmony.
Trumpets Are Given:
We see 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.”
Let’s consider these verses and this depiction of the angels receiving seven trumpets, paying attention to Revelation’s time frame. Among the most popular theories of Revelation’s time frame is that the tribulation lasts seven years, with the Rapture occurring at the same time, or shortly before Revelation’s first seal is opened. Yet the trumpets aren’t given to the angels until the seventh seal is opened, which could be years later.
The Last Trumpet:
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)
In this text, which is the hallmark of all Rapture texts, a trumpet call is mentioned. When we examine a well-trusted parallel account of the Rapture, we discover that the trumpet spoken of in our Thessalonians text is called the last trumpet. It is written:
“We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
There’s no question that this last trumpet is connected to the Rapture of the church, consisting of both living and dead Christians, because this is spelled out. Yet Bible teachers over the years have rejected the idea that this last trumpet in 1 Corinthians and the last trumpet to sound in Revelation are the same trumpet. Because the implications of a seventh-trumpet Rapture are staggering. If it were true, that would mean Christians would still be on earth deep into Revelation’s plagues.
This would also mean we would be living on earth during most of Antichrist’s reign. Many books on end-time events teach that Antichrist will be revealed to Christians right before the Rapture. In other words, we will know who he is, but we will be caught up before he rules the world. All of those who are certain they will be snatched from this earth seven years before Armageddon may suffer great disappointment if they are not. Many could fall from the faith entirely, not being prepared to face persecution.
Surely God has a path for his elect to follow, but it’s not always an easy one. Look at what Christ went through during the crucifixion, and the Scriptures affirm that Jesus is our example. When Jesus prayed,
“May this cup be taken from me.”(Matthew 26:39)
Our Father’s will was for Christ to go through that suffering. Speaking of Jesus again, the Scriptures state:
“He learned obedience from what he suffered.”(Hebrews 5:8)
Our Father’s will is for us to learn obedience also:
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.”1 Peter 4:12-13)
Bible scholars shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Christians will suffer persecution under the coming Antichrist system, especially when there is strong Scriptural evidence indicating that Christians will still be on earth when Antichrist is in the world:
1. “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.” (Revelation 20:4)
This group of faithful believers had delivered a testimony; this same word testimony is used to portray the actions of the two witnesses:
2. “Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them” (Revelation 11:7)
This word testimony is also used to describe the actions of Christians in Revelation 12:11, where it is written:
3. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)
In any legal proceeding, the purpose of the witness is to deliver a testimony. This word testimony means “to witness in a legal sense.” There’s another general word for testimony the Apostle John could have used that was not a legal term. God inspired John to record the legal term because all of creation is in a legal battle over a mortgage scroll. Our witness is a binding legal testimony that will be reviewed before the great white throne judgment of the Most High. Revelation’s two witnesses die for the testimony they deliver, but not every Christian dies. In Revelation the church is seen from different perspectives, two witnesses are only one facet of her character.