As those who read my blog may know, I do not adhere to the Pre-trib view, I believe what the Scriptures teach, that the rapture will happen at the last trump, when the mystery of God is finished. The question in this article is, who will be in that rapture and why?
Knowing that the rapture is not only after the great tribulation is cut short (and it would seem unlikely that many would survive that), but that it also comes after the six trumpets in which many die, it would seem unlikely that many would reach that point having survived. Especially considering that the people being killed in the worst holocaust ever are the Christians. In spite of that, it seems that many pre-wrath and post-trib people believe that nearly all Christians will make it to the rapture. At least they always believe that they themselves will. When reading their articles and comments it seems that they have the idea that God is going to protect all Christians through all of this and that there will be a great host of people being raptured at the Lord's Coming. Nothing could be further from the truth. The number of Christians that come out of the tribulation and are seen on the sea of glass is a great multitude. There will be much death, hence the greatest tribulation since the beginning of the world.
Most Christians do not bother with the book of Revelation. They believe, erroneously, that it has nothing to do with them, and was only written for the Jews or those who would be "left behind." They make a grave error, for this is the only book in the Bible that has a blessing attached to it. Revelation 1:3 "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." Some who do teach this book say that people will be blessed for reading it, but that is not the entire truth of the matter. You not only have to read it, you have to hear the words of the prophecy. Read it and heed it. In other words, you have to accept what it says, and not cling to a preconceived and comfortable belief that does not line up with what it says. And once you understand what is said, you have to keep the things that are written. In other words, any directives given (especially to the seven churches) must be obeyed. I believe a good part of what the blessing is, is to understand what is coming and to understand what God requires of those whom He will choose to escape it.
Another blessing follows in Revelation 22:7 "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." A second time we are told that we will be blessed for not just reading or hearing, but keeping the words of prophecy. And again in 22:14 we are told "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." As we shall see below, a part of meeting the requirements to be one of the chosen to be raptured is to keep the commandments. That will be discussed further. So three times there is a blessing attached to this book as far as understanding and keeping it. This is an important thing to pay attention to. Obviously God wanted us to read and study and keep the things written in this book.
When the disciples asked Jesus what the signs of His coming were, He said to "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass." Luke 21:36. The first thing He did was give some instructions on making it to the rapture. You have to pray to be worthy to escape the tribulation and what follows it. That requires three things. First you have to pray, and second you have to pray specifically to be worthy, and third you have to strive to be worthy, for in this case it is not about salvation, for which we will never be worthy no matter how much we strive. Salvation only comes through Jesus' worthiness. This is about escaping tribulation, or the wrath of Satan, or the chastisement of God, for as Peter said, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17. This is more than Satan's wrath, this is about God's chastisement on an apostate Bride. Judgment will begin with us, for we have strayed far from God. That is what the seven letters to the churches in Revelation are all about. Two of those churches pass His inspection, but even one of those is destined for martyrdom. The other five must be purged and refined. Daniel 11:35 "And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed." So what you are striving to do is to be living in such a way that you do not need God's chastisement.
The next verse is one that pre-tribbers like to grab onto to show that they won't be here during the tribulation, but that is not what it says. Revelation 3:10 "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." First of all to keep us from something does not mean to remove us from it. It means to keep us through it. Jesus said this in John 17:15 "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." If there is any question as to whether "keep them (or thee) from" means to take out of, Christ clearly is stating here that He does not mean to take them out of the world. He wants them kept safe while in the world. So we can see that this promise is to keep us safe within that time of temptation or the tribulation, for the same exact words are used in both passages, and the one passage defines what is meant by those words.
The next thing that most people seem to miss, because they are so busy being hung up on the phrase "keep them from" is that this says the "hour of temptation", not wrath. The temptation is a testing. God has a practice of testing our faith, for our faith needs testing. This is not an uncommon thing to have happen. And especially when the Church has become apostate and has fallen away as mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition," and in the letters to the churches in Revelation. So only one out of seven churches qualifies. That is only 14% of the churches, and it does not necessarily mean everyone in that church either, for only those who keep the word of God's patience, are given the promise. What does that mean, keep the word of God's patience? I believe it means to keep and hold to the truth of when the rapture really is going to occur, at the Second Coming at the last trump. It will require patience to wait through all of this and stay faithful in the face of the persecution. This is verified by two verses later in Revelation 13:10 "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." and 14:11-12 "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." The patience of the saints is to not take the mark, and watch others be killed when they don't, and be willing to be killed yourself.
So far we have that we must 1) read and heed the book of Revelation, 2) pray, 3) pray that we are worthy to escape, 4) strive to be worthy by living in holiness and faithfulness and, 5) hold to the truth of the Scriptures that we must go through this and endure to the end.
The last instruction having to do with the survival guide for the tribulation is found in the previous verse of Revelation 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." It is specified that not only is keeping the faith in Christ alive and patience necessary, but keeping the commandments of God is also a requirement. It is mentioned also in Revelation 12:17 " And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Satan is going to go after those who keep the commandments of God who are also followers of Christ. It is not Jews this speaks of, but Christians who follow the commandments.
So many Christians these days say that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant, or that Christ reduced them to two, so only love is necessary, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Much is said about us keeping the Commandments of God in the New Testament.
Matthew 5:19 "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Christ is talking about the kingdom of God, the one over which He shall be king. And that is the kingdom which all the Old Testament and New Testament saints expect to be living. And what does He say? He does not say that the Old Testament saints had to follow the laws, but by grace through faith in Him the commandments are now irrelevant. He says that if you break even one (and there are ten, not nine) of these commandments and teach someone else to break them, He will not be shut out of the kingdom, but he shall be the least in the kingdom. So for Christians who teach that we are not under the law (and especially that the Sabbath is not required anymore), that is not true. God's moral laws are eternal. However God will forgive the breaking of the commandments, because of Christ's sacrifice and their faith. They will not lose their salvation over breaking them as long as they repent. Their loss however will come in the way of protection and rewards. Protection because only those who keep the commandments will run in the competition to be among the protected, and rewards because those who do not keep them or teach others to keep them will not be important in the kingdom. On the other hand, those who do keep and teach that the commandments must be kept, will be great in the kingdom.
Matthew 19:17 "And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Here Christ is telling someone that following Him is not enough, but if this man wants to enter into eternal life, he must keep the commandments.
Mathew 22:40 "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
In this verse, Christ says that all the law is summed up in the word "love", love to God and love to others, but He does not say that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid. It is merely that the Ten Commandments detail the important command, that we love God and others. They are the rules that we follow to be able to love God and our neighbor in the proper way that is acceptable to God. Love simply summarizes what they represent. Christ did not mean just to have fuzzy feelings toward God and others. We are to act out our love by following the rules in the Ten Commandments, for faith without works is dead.
John 14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
Again, Christ is speaking of the entire Ten Commandments, (not nine) not just to have warm fuzzy feelings of love toward people. The verse where Christ reduced the Ten to two is not a new idea, for He is quoting the Old Testament which says the same thing. Yet even though the two commandments were given to love God and love your neighbor in the Old Testament, it did not do away with the Ten.
John 14:21 "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
We are told again to keep the commandments. Keeping them is the sign that we love God. But wait, if just love was necessary, this verse would not make sense, for love can't be the sign of love. Something else has to be a sign or the evidence of love. In other words, there is some action that must be done, that will be the evidence that the person is motivated by love. Love the feeling is not an evidence of love. There has to be a tangible something for people to see, an action that proves that love is behind the action. The Ten Commandments are the behaviors which exemplify love, and keeping them are the evidence of our love for God and our neighbor.
John 15:10 "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."
Again, we are told to keep the commandments to be able to abide in Christ's love.
1 Corinthians 7:19 "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."
Here it is made plain by Paul that it does not matter if you are Jew or a Gentile, keeping the Commandments is for everyone. If it were just for the Jews, Paul would not have said what he did.
1 Corinthians 14:37 "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."
Now not only are we told that the Ten Commandments are incumbent upon us, but Paul says that the things which he has taught them are as much behaviors to be observed as the Ten Commandments.
1 John 2:3 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments."
We can know whether or not we have a real relationship with Christ by self-examination to see if we are keeping the Commandments. If we are not, then we need to consider that we do not really know Him.
1 John 2:4 "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Again, keeping the Commandments is a sign that we know Christ. If we are not keeping them, then we are liars about our relationship with Him.
1 John 3:22 "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
Keeping the Commandments results in having a more effective prayer life.
1 John 3:24 "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."
Once more we are told that if Christ dwells in us, we will be keeping the Commandments. It is how we and others know that we truly have a relationship with Him for the Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to keep the Commandments.
1 John 5:2 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments."
How many times must Christians be told that keeping the Commandments is the evidence that we are the children of God.
1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
Need I say it again?
2 John 1:6 "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."
Love is the reason we are able to keep the Commandments. Love makes us want to obey the Commandments. Love is the source, but the behaviors showing obedience to the Commandments is the evidence of that love.
So now we see there are a list of requirements that must be met to even qualify to be in the running to be in the group that is able to forego the testing or time of tribulation. But is there any indication that many will not be doing that? Well, yes and some of them have already been mentioned. In 2 Thessalonians we are told that there will be a falling away or apostasy of the church. Then the letters to the churches show Christ's displeasure with the state of the churches and their sins, and He rebukes five of them and tells them they had better repent or else. In fact Thyatira is told that He will throw them into the Great Tribulation. He is very specific about that. Even the Smyrnans with whom He has no issue are told they will be martyred for Him. Then there is that very large group on the sea of glass in Revelation 7:14 "And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." As the rapture comes later and those who make it to the rapture are seen on the sea of glass later in Revelation 15, we know that these have not come out of the tribulation by rapture. They have come out of it through death, and they are a great multitude which no man can number. Millions upon millions will be killed in the tribulation. It will far surpass the holocaust of Hitler. The martyrs in the fifth seal were told that they had to wait for those who had to be killed as they were, before God would begin His wrath, and then here we see that group whom they have been waiting for soon after. If there is any doubt, we are told in Revelation 12:11 "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." People will redeem themselves from their apostasy by giving their lives for Christ. This is not about salvation, this is about disobedience and making the Bride pure, for she has made her garment very dirty. She needs cleaning up, because she has dirtied the clean garment she was given upon accepting Christ.
Christ also told us that "then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." in Matthew 24:21. If this holocaust is worse than any other holocaust in the history of the world, and the only people being killed are basically Christians who will not take the mark, guess what, there are going to be a whole lot of Christians being killed. That means that very few will be left to make it to the rapture. In fact Christ says He has to cut short the length of time of the tribulation, as if He let it run the entire three and a half years, there would be no flesh saved at all, for everyone who did not take the mark would be killed, and those who did would go to hell, so there would be nobody left to go into the millennium.
So we can see that very few Christians will make it to the rapture. Jesus even asked, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:7-8. There will have been so much apostasy, and so few true faithful and obedient believers left that Christ was wondering if anybody will be left to be raptured when He returns.
If you want to be in the running to be in that elite, tiny group of believers that find themselves on the sea of glass in Revelation 15 singing the song Moses and the Lamb (notice that they obey the 10 Commanments - Moses - and the Lamb - are Christians) having had victory over the beast, then you must at least be doing what is required to get onto the team. 1) Read the book that tells you what is coming and puts a blessing upon you for heeding what is written therein, 2) Pray that you might be worthy to escape. 3) Strive to be worthy by obeying the Ten Commandments (which includes the Sabbath-read my article on that here -
http://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2011/02/sabbath-or-sunday.html) and 4) keep the patience of God - remember that you must have enormous faith and patiently endure through not only the tribulation, but the six trumpet judgments and wait for the Second Coming of the Lord. You must have extra oil for your lamp, as in the parable of the Ten Virgins. The first five did not expect to have to persevere and wait an inordinately long time, so did not prepare adequately for that. The last five knew they would have to have patience and had prepared in advance to do so. That is what this parable is all about. Most people interpret it in an entirely different way and miss the very point of what it is teaching - the same thing that Christ taught in Matthew 24 and in the letter to the Philadelphians in Revelation when He said to pray to be worthy and keep the patience of God. And also what He and the apostles taught throughout Scripture, that we must keep the Commandments of God. Even then there is no guarantee you will be in that elite group. You can only pray that you may be worthy.
So who gets to go in the rapture? Nobody can know if they are going to make it to that point, but you can make sure that you are in the qualifying heat, as they say in races. At least you should try to be in the running by following the instructions. Those who are not following the instructions, figuring that they are destined to escape it either because they are pre-trib or they don't think God will let any Christians suffer can probably figure that they are going to be one of the first group on the sea of glass, who come out of the tribulation long before the rapture. And the only way that is happening is through death. For those who are striving, the good news is, the number of people you are competing with to get on the team seem to be a small number, so your odds are good. May God bless your striving and may you find yourself a Philadelphian who overcomes.