Two Phases of the Rapture of the Saints of God
Biblical Research Monthly — by Dr. David L. Cooper
According to Isaiah:
And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. (22) And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall they be visited. (23) Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for Jehovah of hosts will reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem; and before his elders shall be glory. (Isaiah 24:21-23)
O Jehovah, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, even counsels of old, in faithfulness and truth. (2) For thou hast made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin, a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. (3) Therefore shall a strong people glorify thee; a city of terrible nations shall fear thee. (4) For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. (5) As the heat in a dry place wilt thou bring down the noise of strangers; as the heat by the shade of a cloud, the song of the terrible ones shall be brought low. (6) And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. (7) He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:1-8)
The Rapture of the Church Before the Tribulation
In I Thessalonians 1:9,10 we see that Jesus is coming to deliver His saints, the body of Christ, from “the wrath to come.” Unquestionably this wrath referred to consists of the judgments of the great Tribulation, which is spoken of by the Old Testament prophets as “the day of wrath.” Zephaniah speaks of this day of wrath in the most lurid language (Zephaniah 1:14-18). For Jesus to deliver His church from that wrath is for Him to deliver it so that it does not enter into this period of judgment. In other words, the Christians are not affected by it, having been removed from the world before these judgments begin to fall upon the earth. This language is confirmed by what the Apostle tells us in I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. The theme in this block of Scripture is the rapture of the church. Concerning the times and seasons of the rapture the Thessalonians did not have need that anyone should teach them regarding it, since they had already been given that information by the Apostle when he first visited their city. They were therefore perfectly aware that the day of the Lord, the Tribulation, would come upon the world as a thief in the night. It will burst forth upon the world at the time when men in general are saying that everything is safe and secure, and that now we have entered a period of peace, plenty, and prosperity. Speaking further concerning this period of wrath, Paul declared that we are not appointed unto this wrath; but, on the contrary, to the obtaining of salvation, that is, deliverance, from this wrath. The language is clear and explicit, needing very little comment.
The Great Revival During the Tribulation and the Rapture of His Tribulation Saints
God said to Abraham that it was His intention to bless the entire world in and through him and his seed, his literal descendants. In keeping with this primeval promise the Apostle John showed how God will bless all nations in this manner. This information is found in Revelation, chapter 7. Here we see the sealing of 144,000 Jewish servants of God. Being servants of God, they are acceptable to Him and are serving Him in His own appointed way. Immediately after the vision of this group of servants we see the results of the evangelistic efforts of certain ones, namely, a vast host of people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and language, who come up out of the Tribulation, and who wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. From these facts it is quite evident that there will be a, mighty revival — the greatest of all the ages — which will take place during the Tribulation Period, especially during the first part of it, since during the first three and a half years conditions will be more favorable for the proclamation of the truth than during the latter half of it. These Tribulation saints will be raptured at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord Jesus descends from the heaven to the earth in flaming fire, taking vengeance on all who know not God. This is clearly seen in Matthew 24:29-31. At the time of the coming of the Lord in glory, He will send His angels and gather together His elect from the four corners of the earth, from one part of heaven to the other.
The Rapture of the Tribulation Saints as set forth in Isaiah 25:8
“He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth; for Jehovah hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8). A text apart from its context is a pretext, so we are told. This verse must be understood in the light of its immediate context. It, of course stands forth in all of its glory and sublime majesty when studied in the light of its larger context, the “Little Apocalypse” of Isaiah, chapters 24-27. But we can, in this study, only look at it in its immediate context.
In Isaiah 24:1-20 we have one of the most graphic descriptions of the Tribulation judgments and of their effects upon the earth and the people who will be living in the world at that time. In verse 24:21 we are informed that, at the end of the Tribulation, the Lord will incarcerate all the host of the high ones on high — the evil, wicked spirits that inhabit the air — together with the kings of the earth upon the earth. Both evil spirits and the kings of the earth (together with the wicked ones, their aides) will be gathered together in the pit of the abyss where they will be confined for many days (vs. 22). After this period of “many days” which, as we learn from Revelation, chapter 20, is the thousand years during which our Lord will reign upon the earth, these evil, wicked spirits, who are led by Satan, and wicked men will be punished.
According to verse 23 when our Lord mounts the throne and reigns in glory in Jerusalem, “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed.” Of course these words constitute the figure of personification. Just as a person is confounded, made ashamed, or embarrassed, because of the greater influence, intellect, and talents of others, so the sun, moon, and stars are, by personification, thought of as being ashamed and confounded because of the greater glory that will emanate from Jehovah, who will at that time begin His reign in Zion. Thus this verse tells us about the glorious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns to this earth.
A Song of Praise
Isaiah 25:1-5 constitutes a song of worship and praise, that is injected into this prophecy. When Jehovah, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ will have come, will have bound Satan and all evil spirits and wicked kings in the pit of the abyss, and will have set up His glorious reign, then this song of praise will be used by worshipers in gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His having banished sin and evil from the world and for His having established His reign of righteousness.
In the first twenty verses of chapter 24, the prophet describes very vividly the destruction, the complete annihilation, of the civilization which man has built up during the centuries. Every hamlet, village, town, city, and metropolis will be leveled to the ground. All the works of men will have been destroyed. The wrecking of human civilization thus in the Tribulation will be the carrying out of the counsels and plans of the Almighty which He had made known from of old — as is stated in verse 1 of chapter 25. The counsels of old carried out in faithfulness and truth, which the Lord thus performs are His having “made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin, a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.” The Lord will have made heaps of every city upon the face of the globe. Moreover, all fortified cities — and there are fortified cities as opposed to open cities — in modern warfare — will be made heaps of ruins. Also “a palace of strangers” will become no city; it shall never be built. What is meant by “palace of strangers”? When this passage is read in the light of other scriptures bearing upon this subject, it will be seen that it is a reference to Babylon of the end time. When it is thus rebuilt, it will be reconstructed by strangers, that is, those who are not natives of Mesopotamia. In other words, rich capitalists from other sections of the world will move into the country, will build a model city that will be reconstructed upon the most magnificent scale of any city built by man. It will be such a magnificent city that it will be described as “a palace of strangers.” Even this magnificent modern metropolis, the capital of the world of this future time, will be completely destroyed — annihilated. It will never be built after that time. It was the proud capital of the neo-Babylonian Empire and continued a dominant factor in the Near East through centuries and finally was hidden behind the curtain of obscurity, passing into oblivion. But, according to prophecy, it is to be rebuilt. Study carefully Isaiah, chapters 13 and 14, and Jeremiah, chapters 50 and 51, on this point. Also study Revelation, chapter 18. All of these chapters are speaking about literal Babylon rebuilt in the end time. When all the cities, towns, and villages have been destroyed, and when God will have proved a stronghold and a tower into which the poor and seedy of Israel have fled for refuge, He will deliver them and will take the world situation in hand. These are the thoughts and teachings which are echoed in this song constituting Isaiah 25:1-5.
Realizing that 25:1-5 is a song and constitutes a literary parenthesis in this prophecy, we see then that the thought which is dropped with 24:23 is resumed in 25:6. We can see clearly the connection by my quoting those two verses:
Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for Jehovah of hosts will reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem; and before his elders shall be glory. ... And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” (Isaiah 24:23, 25:6)
In what mountain will Jehovah of hosts make a feast of fat things for all the peoples of the earth? There is but one answer, which is this: Mount Zion, in which He comes and reigns. This mountain (Mount Zion) is that mountain which is called an oblation in Ezekiel, chapter 48. This is a mountain which will be fifty miles from north to south and fifty miles from east to west. The city of Jerusalem will be built on the southern part of it. In this mountain the nations of the world who survive the Tribulation, and who are allowed to enter the Millennial Age, will go up from year to year to worship Jehovah of hosts, the Great King. They will go up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah and to partake of the feast of fat things, a spiritual banquet such as man has not enjoyed thus far.
According to 25:7 in that same mountain God will destroy “the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” What is this veil and covering over the minds and hearts of the nations? Most obviously it is the veil of blindness and hardness of heart which Satan pulls over the eyes of those who do not accept the truth. But in Mount Zion Jehovah will destroy this veil. How can that be? The literal facts here presented are simply these: Jehovah who comes to Zion will incarcerate Satan, who spreads this veil over the minds of the people, and will put him in the pit of the abyss for a thousand years. In incarcerating Satan and his evil spirits, Jehovah the Messiah will destroy this veil that covers the minds of the people.
From verse 8 we learn; “He hath swallowed up death forever ...” What is the significance of this statement? In the original the verb is in the perfect tense, which fact denotes completed action. At the time here foreseen, when Jehovah is reigning in Zion and banqueting the peoples of the world upon His spiritual feast of rich things, He, Jehovah, will have swallowed up death forever. In what sense will Jehovah have swallowed up death? Satan is the minister of death, executing the wrath of God against all unrighteousness and at the same time being prompted by his God-hating venom. Nevertheless, he carries out the will of God in that he is the administrator of death. As proof that he is the minister of death, see Hebrews 2:14, which indicates in the marginal reading of the Revised Version that Satan is the one who has (present tense) the power of death. When Christ binds and incarcerates him in the pit of the abyss, he can no longer administer death. In incarcerating Satan, Christ swallows up death. Death will no longer be an institution from that time and onward, because it is swallowed up. The only exception to this rule will be death that is administered by special decree of God upon those born during the Millennium who reach their hundredth birthday, and who will not have accepted the Lord and His salvation. They thus will be slain by special decree of the Almighty.
But there is more involved in the expression, “He hath swallowed up death forever,” than that which I have just mentioned. Proof of this position is found in I Corinthians, chapter 15. In discussing the translation of the saints, the Apostle declared, “But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is, written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54). Paul said Isaiah's prophecy, “He hath swallowed up death for ever,” will be fulfilled in the great change that will take place in the bodies of the saints when they become immortal. In other words, Paul said that the rapture of the saints is included in death's being swallowed up forever. But when is death swallowed up forever, according to Isaiah 25:8, interpreted in the light of its context? As I have shown already in Isaiah 25:6-8, the prophet is talking about those events which occur at the glorious coming of the Lord at the end of the Tribulation. Paul said that Isaiah's prediction concerning the swallowing up of death is fulfilled in the rapture of the saints. Since this swallowing up of death and the rapture of the saints as foretold by Isaiah occur at the end of the Tribulation, there is a rapture of saints at the end of the Tribulation. From this conclusion there is, absolutely no logical escape. Who are the ones raptured at that time? The one answer is: the Tribulation saints, those who turn to the Lord during the Tribulation.
But we have already seen that there is to be the rapture of the saints constituting the church of God, at the time when Jesus descends from heaven to the air before the Tribulation. The church will in no wise enter the Tribulation, for it is not appointed unto believers to enter into that time of wrath, but to be delivered from it. Concerning the pre-Tribulation rapture of the saints there can be no reasonable doubt. This teaching is biblical. But there is also to be the rapture, the immortalizing, of the Tribulation saints at the end of the Tribulation, when our Lord returns in glory to take over the kingdoms of the world and to establish His reign of righteousness.
May the Lord lead each of us into a clearer and a fuller light on this subject of the two phases of the rapture is my sincere, earnest prayer.