Secret and Silent Rapture?
In I Thessalonians 4: 13-17, introduced in our last posting, the rapture is supposed to be that secret and silent event that pre-tribbers describe. Yet, the fact that a trumpet sounds, and the voice of the archangel roars, Christ gives a shout, and lightning shines from the east to the west, and other such events, shows that the rapture is no such thing as pre-tribbers describe. Further, the Apostle John says:
"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." (Rev. 1: 7)
It is hardly a secret event that the world will not see.
The word “meet” in this verse is is from the Greek word apantesis and literally means to greet or to welcome. According to the pre-trib view, the saints who meet Christ in the air return back to Heaven with Christ where they remain throughout the seven year tribulation described in Revelation chapters six through nineteen. But, the meaning of apantesis will not allow that interpretation. The word rather carries the idea of meeting one with the purpose of accompanying the one coming on the final leg of the jouney. The Greek word is used in two other passages which we will now consider.
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom...And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” (Matt. 25: 1, 6)
In Jewish marriage ritual the groom is here viewed as journeying to the home of the bride. The bride, with her escort, are exhorted to go out to greet the groom when they see him nearing the home. They meet him, not to go back to where he came from, but in order to escort him the rest of the way to the home of the bride.
“And so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns...And when we came to Rome...” (Acts 28: 14-16)
Again, we notice how Paul is journeying "to Rome." On the way to Rome "the brethren" meet Paul at the "Appii forum," at the "three taverns." Do they then leave with him and go back to where he started or do they meet him for the purpose of accompanying him the rest of the way to Rome?
Likewise, when the saints "meet" Christ in the air, it will not be for the purpose of going back to Heaven with him, but in order to accompany him the rest of the way to the earth. Christ is coming to the earth, not to the air. But, just before he reaches the earth, the saints will be caught up to meet the Lord and descend with him the rest of the way to the earth. This is what we see happening in Revelation chapter nineteen where we see Christ descending from heaven on a white horse and the saints with him on their own horses, prepared to execute judgment. (See Psa. 149: 9)
In The Air
According to Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest there are two different Greek words for "air." He says:
"The Greeks had two words which meant “air,” aer and aither. Aer was used to designate the lower air, the thick air or haze that surrounds the earth. Aither was the name given the pure, upper air as opposed to the thick lower air. The pure upper air started at the mountain tops for the Greeks of the ancient world, since they had no way of exploring the regions above these. The word aer referring to the lower atmosphere, namely, that below the mountain tops, is used in the NT. Aither is not used, although it must have been in common use in the first century." (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
In I Thessalonians 4: 13-17 the Greek word is "aer" which denotes the atmosphere below the tops of the mountains. This hardly seems to be consistent with the pre-trib paradigm. It is not an event that is therefore not visible to men on earth.
Coming for and with Saints
Those who teach a pre-trib rapture of the church (body of believers) split up the second coming of Christ into two separate comings, or as some of them say, "one coming in two stages." They insist that the second coming (or its first stage) is where Christ comes solely "for" his saints while the third coming of Christ (or the second coming's second stage) is solely "with" his saints. They argue that he cannot come with them until he has first come for them.
However, looking at the chief rapture passage (I Thess. 4: 13-17), we see how the same instant in which Christ comes for believers finds him also coming with them. Paul says of those believers who now "sleep in Jesus" "will God bring with him." Christ returns "with" all the saints who have died and yet he comes "for" their bodies and "for" those saints who are still living.
It was indeed prophesied in Zechariah 14: 5 - "the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." Some will argue that this prophesy speaks of coming with "all" the saints, and not with only those who have died. And, they argue, he could not come with them unless he has first come for them. But, to this it is replied:
1) Granting the truth of the argument, it still does not prove that there is any significant gap in time between Christ's coming for the saints and his coming with them. Christ comes for the saints, they meet him in the air, and then immediately come with him all the way to the earth. Same coming!
2) The prophecy may not be referring to redeemed human beings at all. The word for "saints" may be simply translated as "sanctified ones" and may just as easily be a reference to the holy angels, and we know that the Scriptures say that Christ will come "and all the holy angels with him." (Matt. 25: 31)
Thus, it is an argument of no proof for the pre-trib paradigm to say that Christ's coming for his saints must be separated from his coming with his saints.
There is only one second coming of Christ. Yet, according to the pre-trib view, Christ not only comes a second time, but a third time. He comes before the seven year period of tribulation and wrath, and he also comes after it. Some will even argue that the coming before the tribulation is properly his coming (parousia) and his coming after the tribulation is properly his revelation (apocalypse).
The Parousia is the Apocalypse
There are three Greek words that are used by the new testament writers in speaking of the Lord's return. They are parousia, apocalypse, and ephiphany. These three words describe the same thing, though many pre-tribbers attempt to make them to refer to different comings of Christ. They will say that Christ comes (parousia) at the time of the rapture, but that this coming is not the same as his apocalypse or epiphany. Yet, if one studies the Scriptures he will see that this is an arbitrary distinction and not one the Scriptures make.
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation (apocalypse) of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 1: 13)
"So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming (apocalypse) of our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 1: 7)
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." (II Thess. 2: 8)
The brightness of his coming. "Brightness" is from the Greek word epiphaneia and literally means his "appearing." "Coming" is from the Greek word parousia and literally means presence. A good translation would be "the appearing of his presence."
Christians are said to receive grace at the apocalypse, which grace must involve their meeting Christ and being transformed when he comes. Christians are waiting for the apocalypse and not just for the parousia. Further, Paul places the destruction of antichrist at the parousia, but pre-tribbers say that this does not occur at the parousia, but at the apocalypse or epiphany. Who can believe that Christ comes without an epiphany or apocalypse? Only the pre-tribber who is blinded by his bias.
Further, in II Thessalonians 1: 7-10, Paul speaks of that time "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed (apocalypse) from heaven" and says that this is the same time "when he shall come to be glorified in his saints." (vs. 10). Thus, again, the coming and the revelation refer to the same thing.