Left Behind? The Truth About the Rapture

October 22, 2018

By David Brandt Berg

Audio length: 9:42
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Matthew chapter 24 provides detailed information on the subject of Jesus’ Second Coming when He will return to gather all those who have received Him as their Savior and take them with Him to heaven—an event commonly referred to as “the Rapture.” That’s why for over 1,800 years, Christians virtually unanimously believed that Jesus would come back after the period He referred to as “Great Tribulation,” a three-and-a-half-year period of intense persecution of Christians.

Only in the last couple of hundred years have people like C. I. Scofield (1843–1921) taught the erroneous doctrine that Jesus would return before the Tribulation, to take the believers out of this world so they wouldn’t have to suffer. Naturally that became a very popular doctrine. Christians who believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture have come up with their own interpretation of the Scriptures to support this teaching. But the Bible specifically says, “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.”1

In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples ask Him what the sign of His return will be, and Jesus answers with not one but a number of signs—wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, a proliferation of false prophets, lawlessness, a pervading lack of love, and the gospel being preached in every nation. “Then,” He says, “the end will come.”2

Jesus tells us what we can expect during the time of the “Great Tribulation,” the last three and a half years leading up to His return, which is the last half of the Antichrist’s reign. He says, “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place... 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.”3 We find out in the book of Revelation that this “abomination of desolation” is an image of the Antichrist.4 Both Daniel and Revelation tell us that this image will be set up in the holy place at exactly the midpoint of the Antichrist’s seven-year reign.5

When does Jesus return? “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.”6 Jesus does not say that when we see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, He’s about to rescue the believers out of this world, away from the Antichrist and the trouble to come. He warns His followers to head for the hills.7 In other words, Christians will still be here during the Great Tribulation.

And why did the Lord and the prophets go into such detail to tell us exactly how long the Great Tribulation would last—the exact time in terms of days, months, and years—if we didn’t need to know these things, if God’s children won’t be here, counting the days and the weeks?8 Jesus told us these specifics because He wants the saved to be able to take heart in knowing that the Tribulation isn’t going to last forever, and that every passing day is bringing us closer to the glorious end.

During the Tribulation, things will get so bad that many people will think it’s time for Jesus to come, especially Christians who were taught that He was supposed to come before the Tribulation. They’re going to expect Him to come any day. But Jesus warns us not to expect Him sooner than has been foretold. He also warns us to not be deceived either by false Christs who will try to deceive us into thinking that they are Christ, or by false prophets who will try to tell us that Christ’s coming is imminent or that He’s already here somewhere.9 He tells us that when He comes, we will know it!

Some people who teach a pre-Tribulation Rapture go so far as to say that it’s going to be a secret rapture—that nobody is going to see Him except the saved. All of a sudden, all the faithful are just going to disappear, and those who are left behind won’t know what’s happened to them.

If the Rapture is supposed to be a secret, why will the Lord make so much noise and put on such a show when He comes? His Word tells us that He’s going to “come in the clouds with great power and glory.”10 The sky will light up from one end to the other, and there will be such signs in the heavens that we couldn’t possibly mistake the fact that Jesus is coming. In fact, it says that “every eye shall see Him.”11

Everyone will also see the dead in Christ—all the saved people who have already died—rising to meet Him in the air as He comes. They’ll hear Jesus, too, because He’ll “descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and a great sound of the trump of God.”12 It will be the greatest spectacle the world has ever seen.

The Bible tells us that after the Tribulation shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens. After the Tribulation, then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn. After the Tribulation they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. After the Tribulation He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather His elect.13 Clearly Jesus is going to come after the Tribulation, and not a day before!

Jesus is going to return to gather His “elect,” the eklektos in Greek, the chosen ones, the saved. There will be many Christians on the earth when He will return. Many Christians will have been preaching the gospel and winning multitudes to the Lord in this time of tribulation. Those Christians who have been deceived into thinking that Jesus is going to rescue the faithful out of this world before the three-and-a-half-year Great Tribulation are going to be unprepared for the Tribulation, and it’s going to shake the faith of some.

We know the Great Tribulation is going to be difficult, or it wouldn’t be called a time of tribulation. But still, we shouldn’t look ahead to it with trepidation, expecting defeat with nothing but persecution and suffering. It’s going to be a time of great victory over the forces of Satan and the anti-Christ. It’s going to be a time of terrible and awesome events, but God will protect, deliver, and defend His children, and keep them going right to the end.14 We don’t need to worry or fear, because God is going to take care of His own.15

Another false teaching about the Rapture is that it’s only for the “best” Christians. What a terrible thing to teach people, that even if they love Jesus and are saved, if they’re not good enough or if they commit sin, they’re not going to be ready for Jesus when He comes, and they’re going to miss the Rapture.

Nobody is ever good enough. Nobody can ever love God enough or be perfect enough or holy enough except by the blood of Jesus Christ, and that work is done the instant you receive Jesus as your Savior. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re good enough. If you belong to Jesus, He is going to take you to be with Him when He comes, no matter what.

Nobody who has received Jesus is going to be left behind. Jesus promised to send His angels out to gather the faithful from everywhere, from the four winds, from all around the world, and He won’t leave one behind. He won’t forget anyone—not a single one!16

If you have accepted the Lord as your Savior, you’re prepared! And it’s our job as Christians to help others get ready. Pass on the good news of God’s love and salvation in Jesus to as many as you can. Tell your friends and family and everybody you meet so they may also be ready for the Great Tribulation, the Rapture, and an eternity with God. Don’t let one be left behind because you failed to tell them!

Compiled from the writings of David Brandt Berg. Adapted and republished October 2018. Read by Simon Peterson.

1 2 Peter 1:20.

2 Matthew 24:4–14.

3 Matthew 24:15, 21.

4 Revelation 13:14–15.

5 Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matthew 24:15–21; Revelation 13:5.

6 Matthew 24:29.

7 Matthew 24:16.

8 Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:6; 13:5.

9 Matthew 24:23–26.

10 Mark 13:26.

11 Revelation 1:7.

12 Matthew 24:27, 30; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

13 Matthew 24:29–31.

14 Daniel 11:32; Revelation 12:7–11; 17:14.

15 Revelation 3:10; 7:1–3; 12:6.

16 Matthew 24:31.

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