By Merrill Olson
What is unique about the Book of Revelation is to see how the different parts fit together in a chronological order. What is also distinctive is that Jesus gave the divine outline for the book in its very beginning. He said, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things that will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19).
First, “the things that you have seen” is the vision that John has just experienced and recorded (Rev. 1:9-18). Next, “the things which are” has to do with the letters to the seven churches as Jesus addresses each one in chapters 2 and 3. Thirdly, John was to write “the things that will take place after this,” and this involves the prophetic events that unfold in chapters 4-22. These recorded revelations are still future and will begin at the beginning of the seven year Tribulation period.
During this horrific time there will be three devastating and intensifying judgments: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. The first two will take place in the first half followed by the third occurring in the last three and a half years.
Before the breaking of the seal judgments, chapters 4 and 5 describe the praise that first takes place in heaven to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Then as recorded in chapter 6, the Lamb begins to break the seven seals one at a time. Each of these seven seals represents a divine judgment that is sequentially poured out on the earth. When the seventh is opened (Rev. 8:1-5), there is first “silence in heaven” (v. 1). It is like experiencing calm before a storm. At this time it is a quiet preparation for God’s wrath in unleashing His seven trumpets.
All of the seven trumpet judgments are literal and not symbolic as they point to real events. They are by God’s supernatural judgments upon a wicked world. Each of them unleashes a specific judgment of greater intensity than the first six seals.
The first four destroy the earth’s ecology (8:6-12). The devastation will be of a great magnitude by a direct act of God. In the sounding of the fifth trumpet hordes of demonic forces from the abyss will swarm the earth like locusts from hell and torment humanity (9:1-12). Their tails will be like the “sting” of “scorpions” (9:10) as they torment people with pain. God will only allow it for “five months” (v. 10) and will limit the demonic forces to torment but not kill. The sixth trumpet will signal a second wave of demonic invaders, a massive cavalry to assault the earth (9:13-19). The results are beyond imagination.
When the seventh trumpet sounds (11:15-19), heaven rejoices that the long rebellion of the earth against the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are about to end.
Therefore, the seven bowl judgments (Rev. 16) will soon after be poured out on a godless world and will be relentless and devastating. The sixth bowl will bring in the War of Armageddon as the armies of the world converge on the Middle East (16:12-16).
Tragically, in spite of these judgments, people will refuse to repent and will instead “blaspheme the name of God” (16:9, 11, 21). What a wretched picture of the unsaved!
By Merrill Olson
Who are the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8? There are many views as to their identity that has been expounded over the centuries. For instance, certain groups such as the Seventh-Day-Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they have a part in this number. There are others who deem this figure as symbolic of the church. Therefore, the 144,000 have been the subject of much speculation, a mysterious group that has been the focus of a great deal of controversy.
Nevertheless, all guesswork needs to be rejected when the biblical text is examined literally as God intends it to be. God’s Word distinctly states that they are “one hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (v. 4). The next four verses names each of these tribes. As a result, the members of each one are Jewish. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to understand this.
This scriptural understanding throws out the belief that they are Seventh-Day Adventists who are faithfully observing the Sabbath when the Lord returns and are taken to glory. If this is the teaching of the text, then every Adventist would have to be Jewish.
Neither are they Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the beginning of this religious cult, the leaders claimed that all members of their group were part of the 144,000. Consequently, when the membership grew beyond this number in 1935, the door was closed and this assertion had to be revised. The Jehovah’s Witnesses now believe that 144,000 make up the “Anointed Class” that goes to heaven. This, too, is a total distortion of the textual passage because it has nothing to do with this strange interpretation or any reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead, it involves Israel by listing the twelve tribes making up that nation.
Another twist of this passage of Scripture is to make it symbolic of the church. However, the 144,000 do not have any connection with the church. God’s Word is explicitly referring to those who are racially descendants of Israel, or Jacob. In addition, it also does not include the great host of Gentiles in Revelation 7:9-18 as some claim it to be. As a result, any teaching that relates the 144,000 to the church is false and must be counted as such.
Who are they? They are 144,000 Jewish men who are saved in Christ and “sealed” by God during the Tribulation. They will carry out their ministry of witnessing and teaching throughout this terrible period. They appear again in Revelation 14:1-5 as they meet Christ on Mount Zion (Jerusalem) at His Second Coming.
Therefore, God preserves them and keeps them safe through all the judgments and persecutions. Not even the Antichrist will be able to harm them. They will be young Israelite men, not married, who maintain sexual purity throughout their ministry (v. 4).
When we are redeemed in Christ, God’s Word says that we are also “sealed” and this is “for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). What a wonderful assurance for the future!
By Merrill Olson
Just as Satan will have two men to promote his evil agenda, God will have two men who will speak His truth amidst the darkness and devastation of the Tribulation. Their work and supernatural ministry is described in Revelation 11:3-13.
God says, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth” (v. 3). This duration of time is for three-and-a-half years. In the Tribulation there are two periods as such. Which one will involve these messengers of God? Prophetic speakers are divided into one or the other and state good reasons for their views. However, the biblical focus seems to point to the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week of seven years (Dan. 9:24, 27).
The reasons for this understanding are clear from Scripture. The ministry of the two prophets runs through much of the six trumpet judgments (Rev. 8:6-9:21; 11:1-14) in the first half of the Tribulation. The sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15) will be the mid-point of the seven years (Dan. 9:26-27) and will begin the second half that is known as the “Great Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21). Therefore, the execution of the two witnesses by the Antichrist (Rev. 11:7-10) and their resurrection by God (vv. 11-12) will trigger the Great Tribulation. It will also be initiated by the occurring of the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15) referred to by Jesus.
The two prophets will be divinely protected from “harm” during the three-and-a-half years (Rev. 11:5). They will be immortal until their judgment work is done. According to verse 11, three supernatural weapons will be at their disposal: (1) Drought. “These have power to shut down heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy.” (2) Death. “They have power over waters to turn them to blood.” (3) Disease. “And strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.”
Therefore, these two witnesses will be given by God authority over nature and to destroy by “fire” those who come against them until their ministry is finished (v. 5). Not even the Antichrist will be able to hurt them. As the world experiences the disruptions of nature, the two prophets will proclaim them as God’s judgments. In turn, many people will hate them but “a great multitude” will “learn righteousness” (Is. 26:9) and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation which will lead to their martyrdom (Rev. 7:9-17).
When their prophesying is completed, God will lift his protection and the Antichrist will “kill them” (v. 7). Unsaved Jews and Gentiles will gloat over their dead bodies as TV newscasts focus their cameras on them as they “lie in the street” (v. 8). As people view their remains, the world will celebrate like an international Christmas party (v. 10). However, this rejoicing will suddenly end as life enters the lifeless bodies of the two witnesses and “they ascend to heaven” as “their enemies [see] them” (v. 12).
Who are they (v. 4)? Even though there is much speculation as to their identity, God’s Word does not name them. Someday, the whole Tribulation world will know! Accordingly, be aware of those who spiritualize the text in order to explain them away.
By Merrill Olson
As there is a divine trinity, so there is an evil trinity. The Book of Revelation distinctly teaches this satanic trinity in the end times. The third person is the “beast” from the earth (Rev. 13:11) called “the false prophet” (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). As the “dragon” or Satan is the counterfeit father (Rev. 12:9; 13:4), the first “beast” or “Antichrist” is the counterfeit Christ, and the false prophet is the counterfeit Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:14), so the “false prophet” will cause worship to be given to the “Antichrist” (Rev. 13:12). Therefore, people will be compelled to worship Satan through this “man of sin…the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3).
Jesus warned that there will be “false christs and false prophets” (Matt. 24:24), but the “false prophet” of the Tribulation period will be the greatest. The Lord also said that these “false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (v. 24). In the same way, the future false prophet will be energized by Satan and will “perform great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast [the Antichrist]” (Rev. 13:13-14).
Nevertheless, what is interesting about the false prophet is that he comes on the scene “like a lamb” (v. 11). This suggests that he will be less overpowering and terrifying than the Antichrist. Thus, he may come on the scene as a harmless lamb; but he is really a wolf in “sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15). He will not appear as a conquering dictator but will be a gentle deceiver and a person of hell (Rev. 20:10). Along with his false miracles, he may appear as professing supernatural inspired messages to mankind. However, his prophecies will not be from God but from Satan.
On the other hand, this façade of gentleness will end as he becomes empowered by Satan and as his masterpiece, will speak “like a dragon” (v. 11) and will “cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (v. 15). For the martyrs mentioned earlier in Revelation (6:9-11; 7:13-14), many of them are those who will be executed during this terrible time.
After his worldwide success and because “he exercises all the authority of the first beast” (Rev. 13:12), his plan will also include that “both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:16-17).
Who is the false prophet? There has been much speculation over the centuries as to his identity. As a false prophet, he is obviously a religious spokesman of some kind who will combine the world religions into a universal one. Many true followers of Jesus will not be part of it and will be killed. Therefore, two questions need to be asked to everyone individually and personally: Where do you stand with Jesus? Will you be part of the “Rapture” (1 Thess.4:16-17), or experience the appearance of the two beasts?
By Merrill Olson
No one can fully comprehend what the world will be like under Satan’s future CEO who will rule the entire world (Dan. 7:23-25). Even though the Bible gives different titles to him, the most common understanding is “the Antichrist” (1 John 2:18).
Nevertheless, Scripture associates various character qualities to him that helps in a comprehension of him as a person and world leader. Bible Scholar A.W. Pink said, “Across the varied scenes depicted by Bible prophecy there falls the shadow of a figure at once commanding and ominous. Under many different names, like the aliases of a criminal, his character and movements are set before us.” For instance:
(1) He is not Jewish but Gentile. Even though he makes a covenant with Israel for seven years (Dan. 9:27), he will break it after three and a half years and turn against Israel by desecrating the rebuilt Jewish Temple (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:4). If he were Jewish, he would not turn against his own people. Besides, Gentiles have always led the way in being the persecutors of Jews. Neither is he Muslim for people will worship him (Rev. 13:4, 8) as he considers himself to be God (Dan. 11:37; 2 Thess. 2:4). His OT prototype was the evil and vile Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes IV (Dan. 11:21-35).
(2 He is a person of great intellect and power. In order to rule the world as other leaders submit to his authority (Rev. 17:13) means that he has to have great intellectual ability. He has to have a commanding personality for Satan is the one who energizes him and gives him his power and authority (Rev. 13:2, 7).
(3) He will rise from obscurity in steps with great political knowledge. He is seen as just a “little horn” but emerges among the ten (Dan. 7:7b, 8, 23-25). He comes out of what is considered the European Union (EU) that many view today as the reuniting, or reviving of the Roman Empire.
(4) He will not only have political abilities but also governmental. Therefore, he will rule a global economy. Everyone in the world will be forced to take his mark or they will not be able to “buy or sell” (Rev. 13:16-17). Anyone who refuses in allegiance to Jesus Christ will be subject to death (Rev. 20:4).
(5) He will rule by deception. Daniel 8:23-25 describes Antiochus Epiphanes lV, the Old Testament Antichrist, but it looks beyond to the Antichrist. It says that “His power shall be mighty…And shall prosper and thrive…He shall cause deceit to prosper…and he shall magnify himself in his heart.” As Satan is the great deceiver (Rev. 12:9), so will be the one that he empowers to rule the world (Rev. 13:2).
(6) He will have charisma and speak with eloquence (Dan. 7:8; 11:36; Rev. 13:5). The world will be mesmerized by him. When he speaks, they will listen.
For the redeemed in Christ, we are to “look up and lift up [our] heads, because [our] redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). Our future is bright! Are you looking up?
By Merrill Olson
One of the most intriguing issues in Bible prophecy has to do with the mark of the Beast (Rev. 13:16-18). No biblical truth regarding prophecy has brought more sensationalism, speculation, and trivialization than the one regarding this mark. Many questions have been asked regarding its meaning and even how it may be in some way connected to modern technology.
Futilely, some people in history have even attempted to connect the number 666 (Rev. 13:18) with some political figure. They have sought to calculate it in a particular way and were sure that it pointed to a specific individual. Therefore, a number of rulers have been suggested like the Roman Emperor Nero, Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mikhail Gorbachev. There were those that were sure that Saddam Hussein was the one connected with the number. Others tried to connect it with an American president. Nevertheless, their computations turned out to be a wasted effort because those they named have long disappeared from the scene even through death.
On the other hand, there are scholars who hold the preterist (past) view regarding the Book of Revelation. They believe that Caesar Nero was the Beast, and the mark of the Beast was completely fulfilled during his reign (AD 54-68). For the preterist, the Beast has already appeared on the scene and has been defeated by Christ. Therefore, it is not a future foe but one that has been on this earth and is gone.
However, the preterist view is a false understanding of the Book of Revelation. It is reading into something that is not there. It tries to make Scripture say what it is not. The biblical truth is that the Beast is still future, and no one will know the person connected with the number until the Antichrist is revealed. The 666 is the numerical value of his name. The mark of the beast, therefore, has never been fulfilled. It is still something that lies in the future, and any calculations beforehand are merely useless efforts.
According to the Bible, the second beast (Rev. 13:11-17), who is the false prophet, is the Antichrist’s loyal enforcer during the Tribulation. He will head up the operation as he requires people to take the mark (vv. 16-17). It will be a time when he will force people to declare their loyalty and allegiance to the Antichrist or to Jesus Christ. No one will be allowed to remain neutral or to have time to think about it. It will be an immediate decision for them when they are presented with it. For those who refuse the mark in allegiance to Jesus Christ, many of them will be “beheaded” (Rev. 20:4).
All people who express their commitment to the Antichrist will willingly receive the mark on either “their right hand or their forehead” (v. 16). It will be required because without it, they will neither be able to “buy or sell” (v. 17).For anyone who chooses the mark, there will be no turning back. Once it is given, it seals one’s eternal destiny in Hell.
However, before the Tribulation begins the Rapture of all Christ’s redeemed (1 Thess. 4:13-17) will happen. No wonder we have the promise: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
By Merrill Olson
The coming worldwide great tribulation will be time of unparalleled turmoil that God will use to accomplish His sovereign purposes. It is going to be the darkest time in human history. Jesus describes it, “For then there will be great tribulation such as not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).
There are those that claim that this was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman General Titus invaded Jerusalem. However, this cannot be because no time or events in the history of Israel or the world fits the horrific description of occurrences that Jesus gives in this entire passage. What He describes isolates them from any inquisitions, purges, genocides, or massacres in history. What He portrays is still futuristic and will be ended by His Second Coming (Matt. 24:27-31).
As stated before (previous article), this ordained time will be a seven year period of unimaginable distress for the whole world. It is expressed distinctly in Revelation.
Sometime soon after the Rapture with the end of the church age, this seven year period will begin with a treaty between Satan’s CEO, the Antichrist, and Israel (Dan. 9:27). This will apparently usher in a temporary peace in the Middle East that encompasses the whole world for a brief time when people will be speaking of “peace and safety”
(1 Thess. 5:3). The Antichrist will allow a Jewish Temple to be built for Jews to offer sacrifices once again. This is something that they have longed for and will actually see it happen. Nevertheless, it will only be short lived because at the midpoint of the treaty the Antichrist will break this covenant (Dan. 9:27).
Jesus explained this rescinding as “the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matt. 24:15). The apostle Paul expresses this “abomination of desolation” as the time when the Antichrist “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). This last three and one half years will be a dreadful experience for the Jews. God’s purpose will be to bring the Jewish people into submission to Him as He prepares them for the coming of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (Zech. 12:10).
For the Gentiles, the entire Tribulation period will be to punish the godless Gentile nations and the people for their sin and rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior and despising Him and worshiping the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rev. 13:4; 16:2). It will be a horrendous time when God pours out His wrath upon a God forsaking world (Rev. 6:12-17). It will be so terrible that people will literally long to die and it will not happen (v. 16).
All the way through the Book of Revelation from Rev. 6:1-19:6 reveal this outpouring of God’s judgment upon a God rejecting humanity. However, it will also be a time when a “great multitude” will deny the Antichrist and will come to saving faith in Christ (Rev. 7:9-17). Even though they experience martyrdom, heaven will be their eternal home. As it will be then, so it is now. Salvation is found only in Jesus (Acts 4:12).
By Merrill Olson
Many people today are illiterate as to Bible prophecy. An interesting study is to look at the opinions of many people regarding this important but neglected area that has to do with 27 percent of the whole Bible. One pastor said that he did not preach on Bible prophecy because “prophecy distracts people from the present.” Someone responded, “Then there is certainly a lot of distraction in the Scriptures.”
It is estimated that 28.5 percent of the Old Testament is prophetic and the New Testament is 21.5 percent. From Genesis to Revelation, there are over one thousand predictive prophecies. Of the 31,124 verses in the Bible, 8,352 refer to prophetic issues. In Scripture, there are 66 books; and 62 of them contain predictive information.
In regard to Christ, there are approximately 333 biblical prophecies pertaining to His First and Second Coming. In relation to these two advents, one-third deal with His first and two-thirds relate to His second. In reference to His First Coming, there were none left undone. Therefore, if prophetic Scripture was accomplish literally to the minute detail in His first advent so it will be when He comes again.
Previously, articles were written on two events: the Rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema. These are the next two in God’s prophetic calendar in connection with His redeemed church (only born again believers). There is a third one before the Lord’s Second Coming and it is the “Marriage of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7) that also takes place in heaven. While the Great Tribulation and the rule of the Antichrist is taking place on this earth, heaven is experiencing events all its own. The last one before He returns will be the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
In Revelation 19:7-8 the “wife” (bride) is the redeemed church and is “arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (v. 8). These are works flowing out of righteousness, believers who are now intrinsically righteous.
The Lord Jesus, by His death upon the Cross, has made it possible for believers to be sanctified and cleansed so “that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Therefore, this is their position before Him. They are saved by His cleansing work, and together they are His “wife,” His bride.
Then the angel that had been speaking with the apostle John said to him (v. 9), “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” These guests are the Old Testament saints and all others in heaven than the redeemed church.
As the bride of Christ, the church will have a special relationship with Jesus. This will be alongside Him as He comes in His Second Coming (Rev. 19:14) and as He reigns in His eternal Kingdom, first for 1000 years on Earth, and then throughout eternity in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2-27). God’s Word assures us of this (Rev. 19:9b). In a world headed for God’s wrath, judgment and an everlasting hell, look up true believers!
By Merrill Olson
Daniel Webster, the great American statesman, was once asked what he considered to be the greatest thought that ever entered his mind. He stated, “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind is ‘my accountability to God.’” Therefore, what gripped his mindset was the acknowledgment that one day he would stand before God.
To stand before God will be a humbling experience. No one will be exempt. Every person of the human race from the beginning of Adam and Eve will experience the judgment of God to give an account of one’s life on this earth.
Outside of the sheep and goats judgment of the Gentiles (Matt. 25:31-46) and of the Jews (Ezekiel 20:33-38) after Christ’s Second Coming, there are two other main judgments. There is the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10) and the “Great White Throne” judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). This “Great White Throne” judgment takes place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, before the eternal ages. All unsaved people from all the ages of time will have to stand before this judgment to be judged (v. 12). There will be no grace. All of them will be consigned to “the lake of fire” (v. 15). This judgment will determine the degree of punishment and suffering they will endure based on the nature of their evil actions while living on this earth.
The “judgment seat of Christ” for all born again believers takes place in heaven immediately following the “Rapture” (1 Thess. 4:11-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). The Scripture says, “For we [all born again believers saved from the Cross to the Rapture] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
This judgment is called the “bema.” This is the Greek word for “judgment seat.” In the ancient world, it referred to a raised step or platform. In New Testament times, a bema was used for three reasons. One was that it was the stand at athletic games where rewards were given and rules were enforced.
Someday all born again believers will stand before the Bema seat of Christ. The purpose of this judgment is not to determine whether a person will enter heaven or hell. He or she has settled this at the Cross. Instead, the Bema will be the place to judge the motives and essential character of the Christian. The Bible says “each one’s work will become manifest” (1 Cor. 3:13).
Thus, as believers, our works and how we have lived our Christian lives will be brought into judgment, called “the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). In other words, the Bema of Christ is not to determine what is ethically good or evil, but rather to manifest that which is acceptable or worthless/unprofitable to the work of Christ Jesus and one’s service for Him.
Therefore, in the evil age in which we are living, it is important to live a committed life for Christ (1 John 3:2-3), knowing there will be a day of reckoning for us.
By Merrill Olson
In April 2009 Newsmax magazine after laying out all the polling results of Americans’ end time views concluded, “So the idea that creation’s clock could strike midnight at any time turns out to be as American as apple pie, pink slips, and debt collectors. If you mix the morning headlines into the average American’s eschatology, you stir up quite a powerful, angst inducing brew.”
Nevertheless, even for those who are true believers in Christ, many of them still lack a clear understanding of Bible prophecy. They know some of the events, but how they all fit together is like a puzzle to them. Many of them say, “The way the world is becoming more evil each day, Jesus has to be coming soon.” Yet, to explain the unfolding of the biblical events of Bible prophecy remains limited for them.
However, regarding Bible prophecy, two extremes must be avoided. The first has to do with sensationalism. This includes such things as date setting and trying to identify the Antichrist. It also involves seeing every disaster, earthquake, flood, international conflict as a sign of Christ’s soon return. The other extreme is scoffing. There are those who even profess Jesus who scoff. To mention anything about the end times and its signs draws a negative reaction. Even to suggest a coming “Rapture” causes some to respond with scorn toward anyone who would believe in such a thing.
Nonetheless, the “Rapture” still remains a biblical truth. Even though many may also treat it as a mystery, this does not negate what the Bible clearly and distinctively says about it. It is specifically described in 1 Thess. 4:14-17. It is based on three foundational truths: (1) the death of Jesus – “For if we believe that Jesus died” (v. 14); (2) the resurrection of Jesus – “and rose again” (v. 14); (3) the revelation of the Lord – “for this we say to you by the word of the Lord” (v. 15).
The apostle Paul’s teaching on the Rapture is not his own mere speculation. Neither is it found in any part of the Gospels that he could allude to. Instead, it was directly revealed by the risen Christ to him. This revelation is that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Our English word “Rapture” is derived from the Latin word “rapio” which means “to catch up, to snatch away, or to take out.” When Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into Latin, the Latin word meant the same as the Greek word “harpazo.” “Harpazo” occurs thirteen times in the New Testament. In those times it is variously translated as “to take by force,” “snatch,” or caught up.” Thus, v. 17 describes being “caught up” “to meet the Lord in the air.” Christ’s redeemed will be “caught up.”
To understand the Rapture is not for the purpose of building one’s eschatological chart. Instead, it is to bring “comfort” (v. 18) to those who are in Christ, who await His return.