Everyone wants to know when Jesus will return or when the Rapture is, but few do. Understand the timing details in the Bible pinpointing the year, month and even day of these events.
Introduction - When Is the Rapture or Return of Jesus?
Without a doubt, the number one question among End Times Bible prophecy students is when is the rapture or return of Jesus / Second Advent. For some these are two separate questions because they believe the rapture occurs before the Second Advent. For others, the questions are interchangeable because in their understanding both the rapture and return occur simultaneously. For still others, they see not just one rapture in Scripture, but two raptures. Who is right?
What this highlights is that not only is there the question of the absolute timing of things, but also what is the relative timing or sequential timeline of the correct number of fixed prophetic events. The absolute timing is definitely the hardest of the questions to answer. However, Christians seem to have real trouble just with discerning the relative timing on a timeline, or agreeing on the number of events. It seems reasonable to conclude that if you cannot get the relative timeline of fixed events straight then you probably do not have enough understanding to get the actual day, month and year right for anything, either.
After years of looking into these questions without satisfying answers, we may begin to wonder if any of this is even possible to know with any useful certainty. Didn't Jesus say no man will know the day or hour? Doesn't asking this question at all show a wrong motivation or at least lead to a colossal waste of time in studying that which we cannot know?
Can We Understand Prophecy? Daniel 12 says Our Generation Can
I believe that there is definite hope for this situation, for a few reasons. Number one, there are volumes of timing and sequence details given in the prophecies of Jesus, John and Daniel. And while Daniel was specifically told that he would not understand the sealed words he was given, he was told that in the end time when many would go to and fro and knowledge would increase, that the wise would understand. That is pretty clear promise to those of us who live in the day of internet, computers, car and jet travel and burgeoning population that at least a few of us will figure these things out and then be able to teach those who would listen (Daniel 12:10,3; 11:33).
So what is the missing knowledge to be given to allow these prophecies to be understood by wise men, prophecies that stumped even the wise prophet Daniel? Obviously, without the Book of Revelation and most of the rest of the New Testament writings, Daniel was severely handicapped. Jesus himself gave key explanatory commentary on Daniel's own prophecies that I'm sure Daniel would have loved to have known. Yet we today have all of these prophecies and we still do not seem to have unraveled the puzzle. What then do we still lack? What would make us wise enough to understand?
Neglected Torah Prophecies Key
This leads to my second reason I am certain this puzzle can be solved. I believe I see the specific cause for our confusion over the prophetic timing clues. It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding and even disregard for the Old Testament and specifically the Law, or Five books of Moses called the Torah in Hebrew (which is best translated "instruction" not "law"). Christians in their reading, devotions, and study generally focus on the New Testament. If you asked a Christian what a Firstfruits, Sukkot or Tabernacles was, they would probably be unable to answer. Once you explained to them they were part of the instructions given to Israel in the Torah, they would feel relieved at their ignorance, explaining, "Oh, well those things are unimportant now as we have the reality in Christ." But are these things really so unimportant if they were written down and preserved for thousands of years? Could ignorance of or lack of expertise in the Old Testament have anything to do with us not being able to understand the prophecies? It's quite interesting that the Torah calls itself "wisdom" (Deuteronomy 4:6). Could that be it? Let's see what Jesus said:
Matthew 5:17-18 —
17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
This is one of the most important things Jesus ever said, recorded at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount. Yet it is one of the most misunderstood of all of "the difficult words of Jesus." Notice that it says explicitly that these "unimportant" Old Testament things all had to be fulfilled, meaning they were prophetic, not just ritualistic. Somehow this has come to be read that he already fulfilled all the Torah in his First Coming. Yet this idea is shot down right in verse 18 where it says that Heaven and Earth will pass away before one could say that the Torah is fulfilled. This makes sense when you consider that in Isaiah 65 we are promised that a New Heaven and New Earth will come. Clearly this has not been fulfilled yet so Jesus could not have fulfilled everything written in the Torah and Prophets in his First Coming!
More specifically, we shall explore later that Jesus only fulfilled the Torah's festivals of Passover and Firstfruits in his First Coming. The remainder of seven special days given in Leviticus 23 have yet to be fulfilled. As it turns out, the mysterious Book of Revelation is a telling of the fulfillment of these very five Biblical Feast days. Once you understand that and the Hebrew calendar that these feasts are reckoned by, the mysterious Book of Revelation reads as plainly as a roadmap. How many Christians who find Revelation difficult have been taught and really understand the Biblical calendar?
No Wonder We Have Not Understood
Can you begin to see how crippling this erroneous "Old Testament is unimportant and already fulfilled by Jesus" paradigm is to understanding the question at hand, the timing clues of the rapture? Is it any wonder why it has been so hard to put together all the prophetic Biblical timing clues for the End Times when we have not understood the foundation of all Bible prophecy?
As sad as this situation is, it really is a bit ironic too, when you think about it. Paul said that the Jews have an advantage over the Greek (or Western Gentile Christian heavily influenced by Hellenism) in that they have received the "oracles of God" (Romans 3:2). They have lived and understood the Torah to a great extent and this should have given them the proper foundation to understand the New Testament. However, they reject New Testament leaving them unable to understand the Old Testament completely, just as Daniel admitted he could not. Meanwhile the Christians who accept the New Testament downplay the Old Testament and fare not much better. So both only have half the story and neither can solve the rapture timing riddle convincingly.
The Different Approach Of These Lessons
This series on the Rapture and the Return will correct that dichotomy by laying the proper foundation of the Old Testament concepts first and then going on to interpret the New Testament prophecies by them. It will enable you to at last understand much of Bible prophecy including the End Times timeline and even tell you which years the rapture or return can and cannot come. It will do this through covering these important missing lessons in Bible Prophecy:
- The Biblical Hebrew Calendar based on the Aviv Barley
- The Seven Prophetic Festivals on that Calendar
- Daniel's Seventy Weeks Are Sabbath Years Cycles
- The 70th Week - The Messiah Returns Only in a Sabbath Year
- Fitting Revelation's Great Tribulation in the 70th Week
- The Next Sabbath Year Is...?
These Lessons Will Help You Regardless of Your Rapture Timing Position
And by the way it does not matter if you are pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib or pre-wrath. If you can grasp the many verses teaching us that the Messiah must return to reign in a Sabbath year, you can work backwards from that to determine the year of the rapture based on your currently held position: post, pre, mid, or pre-wrath. That revelation about the Seventy Weeks as Sabbath Year Cycles is probably what sets this series apart from all the other end time timelines out there. The Messiah simply cannot come back just any year, but only every one in seven years. By factoring that aspect in, you eliminate 6/7 of all rapture year candidates and thereby increase your chances greatly in determining the right year.
For example, this helps us say for certain that the rapture cannot be in 2006. With all the rapture dates already proposed for 2006, wouldn't it be nice to have the proof from the Bible (and historical Sabbath year cycle data) that you do not have to waste any time considering any of them? It literally can save you some serious problems resulting from incorrectly having a short term focus when you should have a long term one for making proper decisions in planning your life.
The Rapture's Biblical Basis
First, for the uninitiated, what is the rapture? The rapture in popular use refers to the Christian belief that the righteous will be taken alive by God from Earth to Heaven. This is to be differentiated from the common belief that when the righteous die that their soul goes directly to Heaven. The hope of the rapture for Christians is commonly to escape from the frightening End Times events described in the Book of Revelation which precede the return of Jesus Christ the Messiah to set up his reign.
Where does the term rapture come from? Rapture is from the Latin rapio meaning to be seized by force, caught, taken. It is sometimes pointed out by critics that the word rapture does not appear anywhere in the Bible. This is partially true. Rapture being a Latin word of course it does not appear in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. However, it does appear in the Latin Vulgate translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the central rapture proof text in the Bible. The Greek manuscripts have the word harpagesometha a form of the word harpazo which like rapture means to be taken or seized.
So what verses is the rapture based on? The Rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Rapture as God resurrecting all the righteous who have died, giving them glorified bodies, and then departing the earth with those righteous who were still alive, who have also been given glorified bodies. "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).
If you read these verses you can see the Bible explicitly describes a catching away to the sky when Jesus comes. It is hard to deny.
The big debate is not really whether there is a rapture, but what is the timing of it. It would seem from this debate that it is impossible to know for sure. However, we could agree that most poeple in the debate do not have a proper foundation in the bible and how to carefully read it for its plain consensus meaning or literal interpretation.
Jesus when he spoke about the rapture in the Olivet discourse made specific mention to the prophecies of Daniel. He mentioned the abomination of desolation. Most people have not a clue what that is and they are trying to figure out the timing of the rapture through various other means other than finding out what Jesus was talking about.
This rapture series will teach how to read the Bible for its face value meaning and how to make sense of all the timing prophecies such as Daniel's that Jesus highlighted.
I've continued the series in a new study on Interpreting Revelation Jesus' Way
Receive Tim's Prophecy Updates By Email
Join 30,000 subscribers receiving Tim's new articles and updates by email. Understanding Bible prophecy better will dispel your end time fear and bless you (Rev 1:3).
Tim is the author of this site (since 1999) and the book Know the Future that explains Revelation literally at last--including the key event of Wormwood (Rev 6-8). To read more from Tim and not miss a single new article, sign up for his free newsletter above.