Left behind in the Rapture
The concept of “rapture of the Church” and “left behind” cannot be found in the Scripture, not without preconceived ideas and doctrines that surfaced and were inserted much later into it.
Where did the “secret rapture” come from?
There was no such a thing as a “secret rapture of the Church” before 1830 until a teenage Scottish girl, named Margaret McDonald (1815-1840), started uttering a vision (she claimed) she had that Jesus would return back to take up His Church to heaven.
Note: a dream must occur twice to be established by Elohim (Gen 41:32). Read more.
Thence, the doctrine of “the secret rapture of the Church and left behind unbelievers” was credited to her.
But the pre-tribulation rapture theology was popularized extensively in the early 19th century by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and further popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the Scofield Reference Bible, and in the mid and late 20th century by Hal Lindsey who suggested that the rapture was likely to occur in the 1980s.
The source for Darby’s pre-tribulation was believed to be from Margaret MacDonald’s 1830 vision of the end times. But when Margaret MacDonald’s rapture vision is examined closely, it appears to present a post-tribulation rapture, rather than Darby’s pre-tribulation rapture. Also, his theology appeared first in January 1827, three years prior to the 1830 vision of Margaret MacDonald, therefore, John Nelson Darby is to be credited for the doctrine of “rapture of the Church and the left behind”.
“Rapture” is a Latin word from Vulgate: the Latin edition of the Bible translated from Hebrew and Greek mainly by St. Jerome at the end of the 4th century and adopted as the official text for the Roman Catholic Church.
According to the Christian belief dated as early as 19th century, the “rapture of the Church and left behind” is an event in which all [evangelical protestant] Christians will be caught up in the air, that is to say, taken away from the world before the second coming of Christ. Thus, they will be saved from the coming tribulation, while those who are not in Christ will be left behind to go through the tribulation.
In other words, “rapture of the Church” is a futurist Christian doctrine of the event when Christian believers will be suddenly removed from the Earth (beamed up) in mid-air in the so-called pre-second coming of the Messiah and the unbelievers will be left behind in the tribulation.
We should note here that not all Christians believe in the “rapture of the Church and left behind” doctrine. The Catholic Church does not adhere to this doctrine, nor the Eastern Orthodox Church. Moreover, not all Protestants believe either, even though it is a Protestant doctrine.
Put simply, according to the doctrine of “rapture”, the evangelicals will be saved from the coming tribulation or as it is called in the Scripture: Jacob’s trouble, and the rest will be left behind.
But even those who believe in “rapture of the Church” are not on the same page. Most of the rapture proponents believe that the “rapture” will occur seven years before the coming of Christ; this type of “rapture” is called “pre-tribulation rapture”.
Others, however, believe in “mid-tribulation rapture”: when the Church will be taken up just before the beginning of the tribulation, three and a half years before the coming of Christ.
And there is a minority that believes in “post-tribulation rapture”: when the Church is believed to be taken out at the end of the seven-year tribulation with or just before the coming of Christ. Evidently, this view does not include the “left behind in the rapture”.
Even though these three doctrines of “rapture of the Church” differ substantially in the timing, they all have one in common: the Church will be taken up in heaven.
As we will study below none of these doctrines can be found in the Scripture.
So, who does not want to be raptured?
But what one wants simply does not matter. What matters is: Are there such things as “rapture of the Church” and “left behind”, and if there are, what do they really mean?
What is “rapture”?
Much has been written about in support and against the doctrine of “rapture”—especially the “pre-tribulation” and “mid-tribulation raptures”.
But we will not follow the beaten path and will try to see into the matter of this mystery from a different perspective.
First, what is the source of the rapture proponents? The most quote source is 1Co 15:51-52, and we will not make an exception,
Look, I speak a secret to you: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1Co 15:51-52)
Then, 1Th 4:13-18,
Because the Master Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of archangel, and with the trumpet of Elohim, and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we, who remain alive, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air. And so shall we always be with the Master. (1Th 4:13-18)
As we said, “rapture” is a Latin word. The Greek word in 1Th 4 that is interpreted as “rapture” is ἁρπάζω arpazo, and it means to seize (in various applications), to catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take by force.
It seems from the verse above that the apostle indeed speaks of the believers in Yeshua who will be caught up (raptured) in the air to be always with Him.
So, is there “rapture”? Yes, in this sense there is, but what does this verse really mean.
The confusion in the “rapture and left behind” dosctrine comes from the misunderstanding of the subject of arpazo (rapture) and its destination.
To clear up any confusion we need to first understand something very important to know, not only in this study but in general.
The key point to understand “rapture”
YHVH very clearly has stated that He does nothing except He has first revealed it to His prophets,
For the Master Yehovah does no matter unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. (Amo 3:7)
This verse must always be in mind when interpreting the hidden things in the Scripture.
For instance, if a teacher or a preacher comes and tells that Jesus has abolished His Father’s Law on the cross, the first thing that must come to mind is Amos 3:7. And we need to ask the question, “Who is the prophet to whom this secret was revealed”?
And if there is no such a prophet, then everything we read in the Apostolic Writings concerning the Law, should be and must be interpreted through the very words of YHVH concerning His own Law and through Amo 3:7, and not through the prism of man-made theologies.
Likewise, when interpreting the Latin word “rapture” the first thing, before we even come to Amos, is to ask: “What is the Hebrew word for “rapture”, where can it be found, and what is the immediate context in which the word is used?
In Time of Reckoning Ministry (TORM) we always follow this principle of studying the Scripture: Hebrew language, plain meaning of the text, and most importantly the context.
The Hebrew for rapture
The corresponding Hebrew word for “to catch up” is נָצַל natsal which is used in the Scripture more than 200 times. Natsal literally means to snatch away something, like from the hands of someone; figuratively: to deliver (self), escape, preserve, recover, rescue, and save.
In other words, natsal means to be saved by snatching away from a danger. Very often natsal is used in combination with the phrase “from the hands of”, hence this word means deliverance or rescue. This literal meaning of natsal we find in Gen 32:11 and elsewhere.
Therefore, it is implied that natsal does not mean “eternal salvation” but “rescue”, because it has always been used in the sense of physical deliverance.
With that being said, we see that the subject and destination of natsal and, therefore, of the real rapture are totally misunderstood.
For instance, the Flood story, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Exodus are good types of natsal or deliverance.
In these types of rapture, we see that the wicked people are taken away, not the righteous. The righteous ones were preserved here on the earth, while the wicked were taken away: either by water, fire, or plagues.
The other misunderstanding is in the destination of natsal. According to the Christian doctrine of “rapture of the Church”, the Church is taken up in heaven, while the rest are left behind in the rapture to go through the tribulation.
The real rapture of the faithful
The goal of this study is to prove that no one goes anywhere but we all stay here on the earth before the actual return of Yeshua the Messiah of YHVH.
And indeed, Noach preached to many but eight were chosen and remain alive on the surface of the waters while the rest were taken away.
In Sodom, the whole family of Lot were told to leave the wicked city, but four left and only three made it to a safe place, and when they were saved, they committed incest.
All Israelites were told to leave Egypt, many chose not to and perished in the plagues, and from those who left 3,000 died, because of the disobedience. Please, refer to the corresponding article: The Exodus from Israel’s whoring in Egypt.
In other words, natsal does not mean “eternal salvation” as the term “salvation” is understood in the Christianity, but a physical deliverance from the hands of evil.
A related word to natsal is yasha meaning to set free, and the noun is yeshuah, deliverance or rescue. These two Hebrew words do not mean eternal salvation. Another related word is geula, redemption, which is the actual salvation.
Therefore, we find this correlation: (1) Israel was taken out of Egypt (snatched away from the slavery), (2) led to the wilderness (set free), and then (3) they were redeemed to YHVH (bought back), only after they came into Covenantal relation with Him. Hence we see the Hebrew words natsal, yeshuah, and geula, in the proper sequence and use in context.
Now, we may ask the question as to why Elohim did not lead the Israelites directly to the Promised Land, but led them to a place where they were trapped between the see and the enemies. This key moment is closely related to the subject of our study and should teach us that there is no short cut to the Promised Land, there is no short cut to salvation, and there is no short cut to anything.
But, people who believe in the “rapture of the Church” want no trials, no tribulation, just a short cut to heaven.
No one is left behind in the rapture
Yeshua has explicitly told us that when we become His followers, this is where the problems begin, contrary to what is preached in the churches today.
His disciples went through tribulation: Shimon Kepha (Peter) was crucified upside down, Shaul beheaded, others either skinned or sawn in half alive, burned on the stakes, or thrown to the beasts on the arenas.
Who wants tribulation? Such tribulation cannot be sold to the general public; who will buy it?
But an easy and quick access to heaven is something easy to sell and quick to buy. And there are a lot of sellers out there, according to the law of demand and supply.
Many “preachers” sell the repeat-after-me prayer, “Jesus, I made you my Lord and Savior”, then they ask ten percent “religion tax”, and you are “born again”. Wait for the rapture and have no worries!” Thus, they have destroyed the soul when the trial indeed comes and people see they are still around left behind in the “rapture”.
And the trials have begun!
The tribulation has already started and no one is left behind in the “rapture of the Church”.
For proof one should not look any farther than the Middle East! The Middle Eastern Christians have been living in hell for years: raped, sold into sex slavery, beheaded, burned alive. Where are those “rapture” preachers to tell them that this is not the Tribulation? Or, even worse: left behind in “rapture”. Or for instance, the persecution of the Chinese and North Korean Christians.
Only the western Christians feel “safe” in the cozy air-conditioned churches, content in their lives. And this is why they do not believed or rather do not want to believe they could possibly go through the Tribulation and be left behind in the rapture. To such people the “rapture” to heaven is not an option, and “left behind” is unthinkable.
But where does the misconception of the “rapture of the Church” come from? It comes from the misconception of tribulation.
In Christianity, tribulation is seen as a seven-year period before the return of the Son of Elohim. This seven-year period is divided into two halves of three and a half years, where the first half is a period of peace, while the second half is the actual tribulation.
There is no clear explanation in the Christian theology as to why the whole period of seven years is called “tribulation” since only the latter half is the actual tribulation. Because, the misconception of tribulation comes from the misconception of the Prophecy of the 70 Weeks of Daniel, in which the last week is divided into two halves. But the confusion also comes from the misinterpretation of identity of the “one who shall confirm a covenant with many for one week”.
The truth of twinkle of the eye
So, what did Apostle Shaul mean when he said,
Look, I speak a secret to you: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1Co 15:51-52)
These verses have been misinterpreted and misused to refer to the “rapture of the saints”. But what do they actually say?
First, the language and the context. The Greek word ἐγείρω egeiro, means to raise, to waken literally from sleep, from sitting or lying, from disease, or from death. In other words, egeiro can be used for resurrection from death, as seen in the following verses: Mat 11:5, Mat 16:21, Mat 17:23, and as it is used in the context of 1Co 15:51-52.
With that being said, we should note here the following moments in the prophecy of 1Co 15:51-52: (1) the apostle speaks of a secret; (2) this secret will come momentarily, (3) at the sound of the last trumpet; (4) then the resurrection of the incorruptible bodies.
What secret the apostle speaks of but the secret of resurrection of the Son of Elohim and then of those who are of Him. In other place, Shaul speaks of a secret ordained before the ages, which no one of the rulers (the demons) of this age knew. For if they had known, they would not have crucified the Messiah (1Co 2:7-8).
The apostle also speaks of the resurrection of the Son of Elohim that was kept in secret ordained before the ages. When the satan had Yeshua crucified to reverse the curse of Gen 3:15, he could not have possibly known that He would be resurrected from the dead. Satan thought that he succeeded with the death of the promised Seed of the woman.
But what was his surprise when in three days and three nights, the Seed of the woman was raised from the dead to fulfill His own words.
So will it be with those who are of the Messiah: at the sound of the last trumpet all that has been written will come to completion. A secret administered at the completion of time to gather together in one all in Messiah, both who are in the heavens and who are on earth, in Him (Eph 1:9-10).
The sound of the seventh trumpet
Then the apostle continues to the next revelation that this secret of the resurrection will come at the blink of the eye, at the sound of the last trumpet.
What last trumpet did he mean because it was impossible for him to know what would be revealed to Yochanan in the Revelation from Elohim: the Book of Revelation is one of the last books written in the Scripture.
Therefore, when Shaul referred to the “last trumpet” in 1Co 15:51-52, it is evident that he must have meant the great trumpet revealed to Isaiah (see Isa 27:13).
This great trumpet we know is the seventh last trumpet in the Book of Revelation, which we studied along with the seven letters to seven churches in the series The Revelation from YHVH.
The resurrection in the blink of the eye
1Co 15:51-52 is begging us to read them in the proper context. In 1Co 15:50, Shaul says that flesh and blood is unable to inherit the kingdom of Elohim, neither does corruption inherit incorruption. For this corruptible has to put on incorruption, and this mortal to put on immortality. (1Co 15:53)
And when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then what was written will come true, namely, that death will be swallowed and there will be no more death (1Co 15:54-55) rephrase of Hos 13:14.
Whether the secret of the seventh trumpet was revealed to Shaul when he was taken in spirit in heaven, it is impossible for us to know, but most definitely the apostle knew the prophecy revealed to Baruch the disciple of Jeremiah,
And it will happen after these things when the time of the appearance of the Mashiach (Anointed One) has been fulfilled and he returns with glory, that then all who sleep in hope of him will rise. 2 Baruch (Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch) 30:1
Also, Shaul must have been very familiar with the prophecy in 2Enoch 8:1-6, because they both experienced the same event: being taken up to heaven,
I know a man in Messiah who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, Elohim knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, Elohim knows, that he was caught up into garden* and heard unspeakable words, which it is not right for a man to speak. (2Co 12:2-4) *paradise in KJV
Like Enoch, the apostle was taken up into heaven, whether in the body or in the spirit, he did not know. And he was given to hear words that could not have been possibly spoken by a human. What “unspeakable” words did Shaul hear in heaven?
May we suggest that the apostle of Yeshua heard the words which he put in writing, namely, those words in his letter 1Corinthians 15.
May we also suggest that under “unspeakable words” the apostle did not mean words he was forbidden to speak, but words that man in his finite perception and amazement of the seen pictures in heaven were hard to express. What did he see that made him say these “unspeakable words” but the massive resurrection of the dead in incorruptible bodies?
Therefore, we may state with confidence that Baruch the disciple of Jeremiah and Shaul the disciple of Yeshua spoke of nothing else but the resurrection from the death at the return of the Master.
In support of this suggestion is the letter of the apostle to the Thessalonians, with which we are coming to the other most quoted verse concerning the “rapture of the Church”. Now, we will read it in the broader context,
Now, brothers, we do not wish you to be ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you be sad as others who have no expectation. For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, so also Elohim shall bring with Him those who sleep in Yeshua. For this we say to you by the word of the Master, that we, who remain alive at the coming of the Master shall in no way go before those who are asleep. Because the Master Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of archangel, and with the trumpet of Elohim, and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we, who remain alive, shall be caught away together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air. And so shall we always be with the Master. So, then, encourage one another with these words. (1Th 4:13-18)
It is more than evident that these verses speak of no “rapture” or “left behind” but of the resurrection of the dead, as he did in 1Co 15:51-52, namely, that at the shout and the voice of archangel with the [last seventh] trumpet of Elohim, the faithful will rise first. Then, those who survive in the War of Gog of Magog will rise next to meet the coming of the Son of Elohim and be always with Him. See also Rom 8:22-23.
But if one says that the apostle meant the “rapture of the Church” and those “left behind” in the tribulation, we will ask for clarification of the following warnings from Shimon Kepha,
Beloved ones, do not be surprised at the fiery trial that is coming upon you, to try you, as though some unusual matter has befallen you, but as you share Messiah’s sufferings, rejoice, in order that you might rejoice exultingly at the revelation of His glory. (1Pe 4:12-13)
Because it is time for judgment to begin from the House of Elohim. And if firstly from us, what is the end of those who do not obey the Good News of Elohim? And if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where shall the wicked and the sinner appear? (1Pe 4:17-18)
Why would the apostle want to warn of the coming fiery trial and judgment in which “the righteous one is scarcely saved”, if the “rapture” is to beamed them up into heaven just before the trial?
And why would the Messiah Himself give us the signs of His coming in Mat 24 (aka “the mini Book of Revelation), but to warn us of what is to come?
And why do we need to have the Book of Revelation, if not to experience it? The Revelation is a warning of what is to come before the return of Yeshua the Messiah. It is in the Scripture for a good reason, namely, to get prepared for His return.
Therefore, according to all we said, we will ask the question: Where is the trial-free-easy-to-sell short cut to heaven “rapture” in which the Church will be beamed up in heaven and the rest will be left behind?
Such a “rapture” is nowhere to be found in the Scripture. The apostle Shaul clearly speaks of the resurrection or the restoration of the dead in incorruptible bodies.
Three scenarios of rapture
In the Scripture we find three types of snatching away or “rapture”, as they will be explained below.
The righteous Noach and his family were chosen to be saved from the pending judgment of the world through water. Only eight people were found worthy of deliverance, and this we studied in As in the days of Noach. They did not suffer the waters of the Flood, because they were hidden in a special place well preserved and protected: in the ark.
The Noach rapture may well be the type of future assembly of righteous people—the assembly of Philadelphia—the only type of believers that will not suffer the tribulation. They will be preserved and protected, as promised in the most prophetic book in the Scripture. Read more in the article The hidden remnant.
For more insight into the seven letters to the seven churches, refer to the series The Revelation from YHVH.
Lot removed but not saved
The whole family of Lot was called to leave before the coming tribulation through fire on Sodom and Gomorrah and other wicked cities, but only four actually left, and just three made it to the safe haven.
And even though they were saved from destruction, they did not remain righteous, but committed incest.
It is not accidental at all that Yeshua has warned us: “Remember the wife of Lot!” Concerning what He meant by this, the reader will need to read in the article As in the days of Lot.
There are only two humans who were actually “raptured” or taken up in heaven. They are the prophets Enoch and Elijah; they were taken up in heaven alive (really raptured) and are still in the presence of the Ancient of days.
And Chanoch walked with Elohim. Then he was no more, for Elohim took him. (Gen 5:24)
See also Heb 11:5 that Enoch was taken alive and did not die.
And it came to be, as they continued on and spoke, that see, a chariot of fire with horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Eliyahu went up by a whirlwind into the heavens. (2Ki 2:11)
However, they too have to die.
The Apostle Shaul teaches that no one can stay in the presence of the Creator in a corruptible body. Let us return to the Resurrection chapter of 1Corinthians 15.
But someone might say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” You fool! What you sow is not made alive unless it dies. (1Co 15:35-36) … And this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood is unable to inherit the kingdom of Elohim, neither does corruption inherit incorruption. (1Co 15:50)
What the apostle teaches us is this. It is foolish to think that a man can be in the Presence of the Ancient of days in a corruptible body. As the seed first must be sown in the ground, die, and then made alive in a new body of ear of wheat, so must the old man die and be resurrected in a new body in order to inherit the kingdom of Elohim.
Therefore, the righteous men Enoch and Elijah must die too in order to be resurrected in incorruptible bodies. This is why they will be the two witnesses in Revelation who will be sent back to the earth, preach repentance and be killed in three and a half years in order to be resurrected. This we studied in the corresponding article.
The Enoch rapture is a type of the righteous ones who will be alive at the time of coming of the Son of Elohim. But, they too must die, even at the twinkle of the eye as the apostle says, and then immediately resurrected in new bodies like the two prophets will be.
This group of believers may well be the assembly of Smyrna in Revelation who along with their brothers and sisters from the hidden Philadelphia will have to die in order to be resurrected for the kingdom of Elohim.
As it appears, the assembly of Smyrna will have to go through the tribulation for a reason that could not be much more different than the reason for sending of the two prophets on the earth. But, this reason may well be hidden from us in their mission during this dark period.
In conclusion, we came to the key moment in our study to define the true rapture—and this is the resurrection of the dead.
Until then … May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.