The Rapture and the Old Testament

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I was inspired to start a thread on the rapture here because of the discussion in Noah’s Lounge on the possibility that the rapture may happen on or around June 25th of whatever year it does occur.

Some time ago, I put up a thread in the Revelation forum called “My Questions to Premillenialists”. It is on page 5 of the forum at the time of my typing this. In that thread, I asked questions of Premillenialists (Christians who believe in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ and believe we are not yet in that time period. These would include pre-trib, post-trib and mid-trib premills and dispensationalists) which they had never been satisfactorily been able to answer or explain. One responder to my thread latched on to a scripture I quoted, the often quoted passage from 1 Thess 4 which Christians believe describes the rapture. He reasoned “there exists no historical record that Jesus Christ descended from heaven with a shout (that raises the dead) with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God as verse 16 states.” He further reasoned that if those who are raised are the dead in Christ, and people today are still dying in the Lord, that this also proves that the rapture and second coming of Christ have not occurred.

The reason I think the above argument is so worth looking at here is that it supposes that if we have not literally, visibly seen Jesus coming down from heaven, heard Him shouting as He descended, heard the voice of an archangel and of a trumpet with our natural ears, then 1 Thess 4:17 cannot be fulfilled. This is John Darby’s hermeneutic and the premise on which most teaching today regarding the rapture is based: if there has been no literal, visible fulfillment, then the event remains in our future.

As I side note, I wonder how this squares with the pre-trib dispensationalist teaching of a "secret rapture" in which Jesus comes to take His church from the earth but no one notices anything except that all the Christians instantaneously vanish. With all that shouting and blowing of a trumpet, how can the rapture be kept secret?

A very good point is made in that if we were to discuss the “catching up” of the saints (which was not specifically the topic of that other thread, I was looking at the “day of the Lord which comes as a thief”) that we should also look at verse 16. Here is the whole last part of 1 Thess 4:
13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Adherents to an imminent future rapture teaching point to three things in verse 16 which have not visibly or audibly happened:
1.) The Lord descending from heaven with a shout
2.) The voice of the archangel
3.) The trumpet of God.
If these things visibly, audibly happened, we’d all have seen and heard them.

In the “My Questions to Premillenialists” I did not address this because the point of that thread was not to discuss why fulfilled eschatology is more Biblically correct, but how premillenialism is not able to reconcile and harmonize various prophetic passage from which its beliefs are taken. Furthermore, I looked at the premise of the “rebuttal” offered and thought “Where do I even start with this?” But in this thread I want to go to square one with this and look specifically at the rapture.

How did Paul know these three events in verse 16 would happen? Did God supernaturally reveal this to him? If so, we really don’t have grounds to believe him, since anyone can claim to have been given some supernatural vision. Even anointed men of God today claim to have visions which later are proven false.

These things closely parallel things which Jesus described in Matthew 24. OK, that’s a better source. Paul may not have been there when Jesus gave His Olivet Discourse, but Paul seems to be familiar with what Jesus said in it.

But we have a more sure word. The word of prophecy. Paul knew these things, as did Jesus, because they are written in the scriptures. “The scriptures”, to a 1st century Jew, being the law and the prophets.
The Psalmist wrote: Ps 47
5God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Here is the whole Psalm:
Psalm 47
1O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
2For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
3He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
4He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.
5God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
7For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
8God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.
9The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.
Clearly 1 Thess 4 and Matthew 24 allude to this Psalm. And clearly the imagery that the Psalmist used is apocalyptic. The saints reigning, receivig their inheritance, God’s kingdom reigning over the earth, and the “princes” gathered together. All are themes brought out in eschatological passages in the new testament.
Joel wrote in chapt 3 of his prophecy:
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
This verse is aso being alluded to in Paul's description in 1 Thess 4 of the Lord descending from heaven with a shout.

Here’s some of the context: Joel 3
13Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
14Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
15The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
16The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
17So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
In this passage from Joel 3, we read about the reaping of the harvest, the winepress of God’s wrath, the day of the Lord, the sun , moon and stars darkened, the Lord coming with a shout, the heavens and earth shaking, and a holy Jerusalem. All are later expanded upon in the Revelation and other passages of the new testament.

So what did Joel mean by all this? This post is long enough. I will resume this topic in my next post and look at the book of Joel. I believe Joel’s prophecy played a key role in forming the early church’s eschatological understandings. They derived a lot of knowledge about what they expected would happen in the last days (which they believed they were in) and at Christ’s coming from Joel’s prophecy. We miss it when we look at new testament passages about the second coming of the Lord and fail to look back at the law and the prophets which were being referenced in those new testament passages.

The law and the prophets were the foundation of the early church’s beliefs. Nothing new was being taught. The message of the early church was merely “We are living in the day of the fulfillment of all that has been written in the law and prophets”. So to understand what was being fulfilled, we must look at the law and prophets. We’ll look at Joel’s prophecy shortly.