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The Coming Rapture

Lyn Mize

Rev 3:8 (KJV) I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

God has promised a special “open door” to the faithful Christians of the Philadelphia church in Revelation. This open door is the promised Pretribulation Rapture that will keep these faithful Christians from the “hour of temptation.”

Rev 3:10 (KJV) 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.

A few verses later in Revelation 4:1 the Apostle John looks up and sees this open door into heaven.

Rev 4:1 (KJV) After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.  

This is the Pretribulation Rapture of the church as seen by the great majority of Christians today, but most overlook that this open door was promised only to the faithful Philadelphia Christians. Other Christians such as those in the church of Thyatira are told that they will be cast “into great tribulation” if they do not repent. They do not receive the open door:

Rev 2:22 (KJV) Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

The timing of the Rapture is one of the most controversial issues in the Church today. The student of Bible prophecy should ask himself why so many faithful Christians believe in a Midtribulation Rapture if the Pretribulation Rapture of the entire Church is the correct view. The answer is simply that there are Scriptures that confirm a Midtribulation Rapture. Christians on both sides of the issue fail to consider that the Bible teaches both a Pretribulation Rapture and a Midtribulation Rapture.

It is interesting that the pretribulation rapturists expend great efforts in trying to rebut the Scriptures that confirm a Midtribulation Rapture, and the midtribulation rapturists do the same thing with the Scriptures that confirm a Pretribulation Rapture. An honest and forthright exposition of Scripture reveals teachings for both. The Firstfruits Rapture (i.e., the taking out of faithful, mature, Philadelphia Christians) is pretribulational, and the Main Harvest Rapture (i.e., the final taking out of the remaining Christians who have been refined and purified by the tribulation) is midtribulational. This is confirmed both doctrinally and typologically throughout the Scriptures, as will be seen.

The Pretribulation Rapture is the most popular view held in the Church today, but popularity is not an accurate measure of Scriptural truth. If popularity determines truth, then we should all convert to Islam, since that is the fastest growing religion in the world today. The very popularity of the sole Pretribulation Rapture mitigates against its truth. The fact that pretribulationists refuse to take a close look at the Scriptures on the rapture should also raise a warning flag for sincere seekers of truth from the Word of God.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Pretribulation Rapture is the most popular view is that it requires the least accountability in living the Christian life. It is very comforting for the average Christian to believe that he can sit back and enjoy the pleasures of life and dabble in the things of the world, while all the time believing that he will be miraculously removed before any hard times or persecution sets in during the tribulation. Any teaching that Christians might experience hardship, persecution or maybe even martyrdom is resisted by the majority of Christians today. It is difficult for Christians to understand that our present comfort is not the primary goal of our heavenly Father, in accordance with the following Scripture:

1 Pet 1:7 (KJV) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

God the Father promised to meet all of our physical needs if we seek the Kingdom of God (i.e., the millennial kingdom) (Matt. 6:33), but the Scriptures are replete with examples of faithful followers of Christ suffering the most horrible circumstances imaginable. The first news that Paul received after his conversion was that he was going to have to suffer a great deal for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Church in America today does not really grasp what suffering is all about, and many consider it suffering to drive a used car and live in a modest house.

Prosperity is a difficult test that God has provided for the Church in America, and the great majority of Christians are failing miserably and pastors are among the casualties. Some are even preaching a gospel of prosperity, which states that financial success is a sign of being a faithful Christian. This false doctrine is so far removed from what the Scriptures teach that no rebuttal is necessary. The primary point to be made is that the Church is not exempt from persecution and hardship. In fact, the Lord even allows the ones He loves the most to go through fiery trials in order to purify them and increase their heavenly rewards.

In the final analysis, Christians will be ever so thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ for the three and one-half years of suffering during the tribulation after they see the rewards for faithfulness that will be received at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The tribulation will be a final period of refining and purifying for those Christians who have not allowed themselves to be cleansed and purified during the present time.

The truth is that only a small segment of Christians are preparing themselves for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The majority of the Church is concerned with building large churches with gymnasiums, plush seats, carpets, stained glass windows and numerous other superficial accoutrements designed to impress our fellow Christians and other local churches. This describes the church age called Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-19. In verse 20 Jesus says He stands and knocks at their door, but most Christians do not open their door to Him. Jesus Christ rejects this church at the Firstfruits Rapture. The Philadelphia church, however, is given an “open door” in verse 8, and this is the Firstfruits Rapture. The Sardis church and the church of Thyatira will also be rejected by Jesus Christ at the Firstfruits Rapture.

Faithful Christians can see why the Pretribulation Rapture is so popular, since the largest segment of Christianity today is made up of Christians in churches typified by Sardis, Thyatira, and Laodicea. Sardis is represented in the world today by the Protestant churches, Thyatira is represented by the Catholic churches and offshoots from the Catholic Church, and Laodicea is represented by the charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Philadelphia is represented by the numerous but small and weak home churches. Christians in Sardis, Thyatira and Laodicea are the unwatchful, the doctrinally weak, the backslidden and the lukewarm Christians who are opposed to any suggestion that faithfulness will be the criterion for reward, let alone a special rapture prior to the tribulation. Pointing out the numerous Scriptures that clearly depict a Firstfruits Rapture is not convincing to many lukewarm Christians, since searching the Scriptures to see if these things are true is not a part of their lifestyle.  They simply quote the Scriptures that point to a Pretribulation Rapture and glibly say that salvation is by grace and not works. For them, everything good in the Bible is for the saved, and everything bad is for the lost.  They even use Revelation 3:10 as a proof text for the Pretribulation Rapture, but they overlook that the promise of being “kept from the hour of trial” is only directed to the faithful Philadelphia Christians (Rev 3:7). The churches of Laodicea, Sardis and Thyatira are often labeled as mere professing Christians, tares, the false church or some other tag that relegates them to the ranks of the lost. The fact that Jesus himself clearly identifies these groups of believers as part of his Church apparently makes little difference.

In consideration of the above, this is not written to the great majority of unteachable Christians who have their minds made up, and are not really interested in searching the Scriptures for the meat of the Word. This is written to Christians who are open to the Word and who are hungry to learn. The reader should study and pray for understanding about what the Scriptures have to say about the rapture of the Church. The Bible is the only test for the truths in this message and ignorance of the Bible will not be an excuse at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Not a New Idea

Many of the great men of God in the Philadelphia church age of the 18th and 19th centuries understood and taught the doctrine of the Firstfruits Rapture.  They were men like J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, John Wilkinson, founder of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, and Joseph A. Seiss, one of the greatest prophecy scholars who ever lived. Dr. Seiss’ book on the apocalypse is the classic on the book of Revelation, and is quoted by virtually every Bible scholar who has written a book on Revelation. Once the doctrine of Firstfruits Rapture has been explained in detail to a person who is truly desirous of knowing what the Scriptures teach, that person is typically converted to a belief in the phased rapture of the Church. The teaching is clear.

The remainder of this article will be presented in three sections with the first section providing an exegesis (i.e., interpretation) of the Scriptures addressing the rapture.  The second section will present the argument from a typological standpoint of the Old Testament. The third section will address the criticisms from some of the more famous prophetic scholars of what they call the “partial rapture theory.” The term partial rapture is not appropriate for describing the Firstfruits Rapture, since it implies that only a portion of the Church will be raptured.  The term phased rapture is more descriptive, since the entire Church will be raptured in two phases. This section will point out how the opponents of the Firstfruits Rapture use the straw man as a technique in their attempts to refute the phased rapture position.

Section I—Why a Special Rapture?

An excellent starting place for pretribulation rapturists to understand the concept of the Firstfruits Rapture is the variety of resurrections and raptures in the Bible. Enoch and Elijah were both translated into heaven without seeing death. The Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, has already been resurrected and is currently in heaven performing his function as our High Priest (Heb. 3:1-2). These easily understood truths pave the way for a more detailed understanding of the two phases in the rapture of the Church.

The doctrine of the Firstfruits Rapture is closely related to the doctrines of Grace and Works. The doctrine of Grace pertains to the salvation of the spirit, and the legal term justification is the most descriptive term of what took place at the moment of salvation.  Positional sanctification has also been used to describe the believer’s position in Christ as a saved individual. By contrast, the doctrine of Works is related to the believer’s spiritual growth and maturity, and the most frequently used term for this process is sanctification or progressive sanctification. 1 Peter 1:9 calls this progressive sanctification the “salvation of the soul.”

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to “rightly divide” the Word. The difference between Grace and Works is one of the most fundamental divisions in Scripture. By grace our spirits are saved by faith in Christ. We then have positional sanctification. Our souls are being saved by obedience to Christ. We are being progressively sanctified. This progressive sanctification will determine our reward and final standing in the Kingdom of God. The following Scriptures refer to this process of progressive sanctification:

Phil 1:6 (KJV) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 4:19 (KJV) Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing as unto a Faithful Creator.

James 1:21 (KJV) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

The biggest question in this process of sanctification is the cooperativeness of the believer. Those Christians who cooperate with the Holy Spirit in their progressive sanctification will receive greater reward. Those Christians who are uncooperative will lose their reward and will suffer great anguish at the Judgment Seat of Christ because of their shame and the contempt of the Lord Jesus Christ.  An excellent analogy from Scripture is Peter when he wept bitterly when the Lord Jesus Christ gave him a soul-piercing look of judgment after Peter had denied the Lord three times.

The Firstfruits Rapture can probably best be described as a special entrance into heaven before the trials of the tribulation start. It is an exemption from the final exam for those Christians who have already demonstrated their Christian maturity during the course of this life. The following Scriptures describe this exemption:

2 Peter 1:10-11 (KJV) Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke 21:36 (KJV) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

In the 2 Peter 1:10-11 passage we see again a reference to an “entrance” or door offered to those mature Christians who “give diligence” as characterized by the Philadelphia Church. Luke 21:29-36 is a scripture addressed to the Church. This Scripture is an exhortation for believers to pray that they would be accounted worthy to escape all seven years of the tribulation. The word “watch” refers specifically to a state of readiness or preparation for the Lord’s return.

Christians today should be watching for the return of the Lord, and they should be praying to be accounted worthy of the Firstfruits Rapture. It is doubtful that many Christians are following this exhortation from the Lord Himself. It is the height of arrogance to assume that one will automatically be accounted as worthy to escape the tribulation. Even Paul said he was “pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling” in Philippians 3:14. The following Scripture describes the Firstfruits Rapture of the watchful Christian, but it is often misinterpreted as referring to a saved and an unsaved individual:

Mat 24:40-42 (KJV) Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

This Scripture is in the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse, and it is a warning to Christians that they need to be in a state of readiness if they are to participate in the Firstfruits Rapture of the Church. This Scripture is not an exhortation to get saved for the rapture. It is a warning to believers to get ready so they will be taken with the Firstfruits. Verse 42 confirms the subjects of the warning. It is absurd to think that this warning is to depraved unbelievers, since it would be an exhortation to watch for someone whom they believe is dead, buried and returned to dust.

The Ten Virgins

The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 is one of the clearest proof texts for the Firstfruits Rapture. The text is as follows:

Mat 25:1-13 (KJV) Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.  10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and  they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

The ten virgins represent the entire Church. The number ten is the number of ordinal completion, so it represents all of whatever is in question. The term virgin is in reference to the Church rather than Israel, since Israel is pictured as the adulterous wife of God the Father. See the book of Hosea, which pictures the history of the nation of Israel.

Verse 5 above is grossly mistranslated from the original manuscripts. The correct translation is as follows:

Matthew 25:5 (Literal Translation) While the bridegroom tarried, they all beckoned or slept.

The Greek word incorrectly translated “slumbered” is the word nustazo (noos-tad'-zo), and it literally means to nod, beckon, or signal for something to occur. Christians beckon for Jesus to return every time they say “Maranatha”, which means “Come! Lord Jesus.”

The Greek word translated “and” is the word kai (kahee). It is a copulative or coordinating conjunction that can be continuative or adversative. Since the words it connects are adversative (i.e., beckoning or sleeping), the correct translation is “or”. Therefore, verse 5 confirms that the entire Church “beckoned or slept,” and this means that the entire Church was divided between those looking and beckoning for the Return of the Lord, and those who had fallen asleep. The doctrine of the Second Coming was lost to the main body of the Church during the Pergamum church age after 312 A.D., and it was not revived until the Philadelphia church age in the eighteenth century. The end-time Sardis or Protestant church is unwatchful (Rev. 3:3) and is definitely asleep with respect to the Return of the Lord for his bride.

All ten virgins had oil in their lamps, which is a picture of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Unbelievers are not indwelled by the Holy Spirit. All ten virgins trimmed their lamps, and this is a picture of getting sin out of the life through confession and turning from sin (1 John 1:9). All ten virgins had their lamps burning, and this is a picture of the outward confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures could not be any clearer that the ten virgins represent born again, blood-bought, justified Christians, but there is a division between the foolish and the wise.

The only difference between the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins is the extra measure of oil, signifying maturity, which the wise virgins took with them.  The abundance of oil represents the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the five wise virgins. They are Christians who are continually filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. The five wise virgins have matured in the faith, and they have advanced greatly in their progressive sanctification.

It is important to note that in the original Greek the lamps of the five foolish virgins were “going out”—not “gone out”—and the five wise virgins told the foolish virgins to “go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” This clearly teaches that the extra measure of oil is related to works, since it had to be bought. Grace can not be bought. The indwelling Holy Spirit is a free gift of grace, but the filling of the Holy Spirit is clearly a work involving our submission to the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18). The five wise virgins had made preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom, and they were given the open door. The five foolish virgins had not prepared themselves, and they were turned away.

Verse 10 is a clear and concise description of the Firstfruits Rapture of those Christians who had prepared themselves for the coming of the Bridegroom. The Bridegroom came while the foolish virgins were out buying oil. The wise virgins went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.

The reference to “the door” is the same door that is promised to the Philadelphia Christians in Revelation 3:7-8, and that John saw in heaven in Revelation 4:1. The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures in Revelation 4:4-6 represent the same group of Christians as the five wise virgins and the Philadelphia church. This is the Pretribulation Rapture of mature, progressively sanctified believers. These are the ones who have “renewed their minds” with the mind of Christ according to Romans 12:2.

Verse 11 confirms that the five foolish virgins came to Jesus later calling Him “Lord, Lord,” and asked Him to open the door to them. Jesus stated that He did not know (i.e., recognize) them. Jesus then summarizes the parable with a warning to “Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”  The lesson of this parable is for Christians to be alert and prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus, so they will be able to go into the wedding. The necessary preparation is to be filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit day by day and moment by moment. One of the primary signs of a maturing believer is a daily watching for the return of Jesus Christ. Worldly believers are busy with their own plans and life goals. Mature Christians need to be faithful to the Lord and consciously looking for His return.

Two Raptures Prophesied in the Feasts

Another important teaching tool from the Bible that will help explain the two phases of the rapture is the seven feasts of God in Leviticus 23. The type of the harvest is probably the clearest presentation of the Firstfruits Rapture, since it involves degrees of maturity and successive reapings. In addition to providing an outline of what the Christian life should be, the seven feasts of God provide a prophetic overview of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The seven feasts are a clear presentation of this type. The following chart provides a brief overview of the feasts that the Jewish nation celebrates to this day:
Feast Scripture Reference Prophetic Fulfillment
#1 Passover John 12:24 Death of Jesus--Seed Dies
#2 Unleavened Bread John 6:51; 1 Cor 5:7-8 Burial of Jesus--Seed Planted
#3 Firstfruits 1 Cor 15:20 Resurrection of Jesus-Sheaf of Grain
#4 Pentecost-Day of Firstfruits Luke 21:26, Rev 4:1 Firstfruits Rapture-Two Loaves with Leaven
#5 Trumpets
1 Thess 4:16-17; 1 Cor 15:51-52 Rev. 7:9-17
Main Harvest Rapture-All Remaining Christians Raptured
#6 Atonement
Dt. 4:30-31; Zec 12:10; Jer 8:20
Reaping of Corners-Israel Saved in the Tribulation
#7 Tabernacles
Mt. 25:32
Gleaning-Gentiles Saved in the Tribulation

Bible scholars have been curious as to why there are two feasts that celebrate Firstfruits. The Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:10-13) was celebrated in the late spring by offering one sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest before the Lord along with a meat (i.e., meal) offering of unleavened bread and wine. Leaven in the Bible has always been used to symbolize sin or that which is evil or corrupting. Jesus lived a sinless life, and He was resurrected from the dead on this feast day as a fulfillment of prophecy.

The next feast that the Israelites celebrated in early summer was Pentecost, also called the Day of Firstfruits. Pentecost was when the Israelites could start eating the grain from their field that had matured early. It was celebrated by offering two loaves of bread baked with leaven.  “They are the Firstfruits unto the Lord” (Lev. 23:17). This feast represents the pretribulational rapture of mature believers who, though forgiven, are not sinless. These are the Philadelphia believers “clothed in white raiment” who are given the “open door” of the Firstfruits Rapture (Rev. 4:1-4).

At the end of summer, the next feast was the Feast of Trumpets to celebrate the main harvest when all believers in the Church will be raised at the last trump. Now, all the grain has matured from the heat of the summer sun. This feast represents the main harvest of all remaining believers who “have washed their robes” and have matured during the trials of the first half of the tribulation (Rev. 7:9-14).

If the reader can understand these three feasts, two firstfruits and the main harvest, then he will be able to clearly see that there is a Firstfruits Harvest of the Church in addition to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the first of the firstfruits. Jesus is the one sheaf of grain offered without leaven, and the two loaves of bread baked with leaven are the firstfruits of the Church.

The following Scriptures are often used as arguments against the Firstfruits Rapture since they clearly refer to the entire Church being raptured. It is true that these Scriptures are referring to the entire Church still on the earth since they are describing the Main Harvest Rapture of the Church.

1 Th 4:13-18 (KJV) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Cor 15:51-52 (KJV) Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Paul is teaching about the Main Harvest Rapture in both of these passages. In 1 Thessalonians 4:14 Paul emphatically states that belief is all that is required for this rapture of both dead and living believers. The faithfulness of believers is not the issue in focus here. Those that understand the Firstfruits Rapture have no problem with these verses, since all believers who “remain” will be raptured regardless of faithfulness in both of these passages of Scripture.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 & 17 above, Paul is referring to the living believers who will be translated without seeing death. The word alive is sufficient to show that these believers are not dead, but Paul adds another descriptive word for these living believers. The Greek word is perileipo, and it literally means to be left behind. This word is almost universally understood as referring to people who were left behind by the ones who had died, but this is a redundancy, since the word alive is sufficient to establish that they are not dead. Since the word is repeated in verse 17 after it has already been stated in verse 15, the word carries a special emphasis from the Holy Spirit. Not only are these Christians alive, but they have been left behind by other believers. In this Scripture, Paul even alludes to the Firstfruits Rapture when he is teaching about the Main Harvest Rapture.

Earlier in the chapter Paul writes about the Thessalonians who were faithful Christians and had the “work of faith,” the “labor of love,” and the “patience of hope.” Many of the Thessalonians were candidates for the Firstfruits Harvest.  Unfortunately, there were also Christians in the Church of Thessalonica who were caught up in the sins of the flesh (1 Thess. 4:1-12). The Thessalonians were concerned about these relatives who were believers but had fallen away to unfaithfulness and died. Paul was assuring them that every believer would be resurrected from the dead at the return of Jesus. It is a truth that every Christian will be resurrected or translated before the wrath of God falls on the earth, and faithfulness is not a criterion for this Main Harvest Rapture. Belief in Jesus Christ is the only criterion for the Main Harvest Rapture of the Church.

It is important to note in the above passage of Scripture on the Main Harvest Rapture that Jesus “shall descend from heaven” to rapture the Church. It will be seen next in Revelation that “the open door” rapture is directly into heaven. This is only one of several significant differences between the Firstfruits Rapture and the Main Harvest Rapture. The Scriptures are just as clear about the Firstfruits Rapture as they are about the Main Harvest Rapture. The book of Revelation provides a clear chronological sequence of both raptures for those Christians who are willing to understand the plain meaning of Scripture without changing literal statements into figurative language. There are also numerous types depicting a Firstfruits Rapture of faithful Christians.

Firstfruits Rapture in Revelation

The following Scripture could not express the Firstfruits Rapture any clearer:

Rev 3:8 (KJV) I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Rev 3:10 (KJV) 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.

This Scripture is addressed to the Philadelphia church, and it clearly links works with the promise of being kept “from the hour of temptation.” The other three churches in existence at the time of the return of Jesus were specifically excluded from this promise to be kept from the hour of trial. The only way to be kept from the hour of trial is to be taken to heaven. It is one thing to be protected or sealed from the persecution, but it is an entirely different matter to be kept “from the hour.”  Removal from the earth is the only way for this to be accomplished. After the promise to the Philadelphia church in chapter 3, John sees the fulfillment of the promise of an “open door” in Revelation 4:1:

Rev 4:1-2 (KJV) After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

It is important to note in chapters 4 & 5 of Revelation that two groups of redeemed individuals are now in heaven around the throne of God. The 24 elders are all wearing crowns and they are all seated upon thrones. The four living creatures were in the midst of the throne, demonstrating a more intimate relationship to the Lamb than even the 24 elders. These 24 elders and 4 living creatures are redeemed individuals who are in heaven around the throne worshipping God at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period. This clearly establishes a Pretribulation Rapture of Christians, but it is equally clear that all of these Christians have received crowns and thrones. It is also clear that these are the Philadelphia Christians who were promised the open door. The Main Harvest Rapture of the Church is described in detail in Rev. 7:9-17.

Numerous other Scriptures clearly establish that not all Christians will receive crowns and thrones. These Christians make up the churches of Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea, and these are the churches that will go through the first three and one-half years of the tribulation. Thyatira was specifically told that she would be cast into “great tribulation” (Rev. 2:22). Sardis was told that she would not even know the hour that Jesus had come (Rev. 4:3) because she had been unwatchful. Watchfulness is the same thing that Jesus cautioned the ten virgins about, and it is not an exhortation for unbelievers. The five foolish virgins missed the opportunity of the “open door,” and they faced a door that had been closed. The five wise virgins went through the open door before it was shut since they were prepared.

A careful and prayerful study of the above texts should reveal that the 24 elders and the four living creatures (i.e., Christians worthy of crowns and thrones) represent the five wise virgins and the Philadelphia church. This is the Firstfruits Harvest of faithful Christians who have prepared themselves for the return of Jesus Christ. They are the faithful Christians who have matured early before the time of the hot summer sun (i.e., the fires of the tribulation) which would ripen or mature Christians for the Main Harvest Rapture in the middle of the tribulation. This period of ripening is not a punishment for unfaithfulness, but it is an opportunity and a blessing from God to allow the remainder of the Church to be purged and purified, so they will also receive reward and positions in the Kingdom of God the Son. Three and one-half years of persecution and refinement will be nothing compared to the glory and reward for faithfully enduring the time of testing. The period is not a purgatory where a person works out or pays for his sins so he can enter heaven. Each Christian is guaranteed entrance into heaven based strictly on his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, but he must work very hard to enter in at the strait or narrow door. The tribulation has nothing to do with earning spirit salvation, but it has everything to do with earning reward in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus counseled the church of Laodicea “to buy of me gold tried in the fire” and to “repent.” This is an allusion to the tribulation period since Jesus had already told them that he would reject them because they were lukewarm (Rev. 3:16). In spite of their apathy and indifference, Jesus loves the Laodiceans, so He will rebuke and chasten them during the three and one-half years of tribulation. Jesus wants them to be “rich” and to have “white raiment” (Rev. 3:18) to wear. The term rich refers to spiritual rewards, and the term white raiment refers to reigning and ruling in the kingdom because of righteous acts or righteous deeds (Rev 19:8). Once a Christian has been raptured, he can no longer perform any good works for the purpose of reward. This is why a Christian can not buy gold refined in the fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but he can buy this gold during the tribulation period.

Chapters 5 & 6 of Revelation describe the scene in heaven for the first three and one-half years of the tribulation. It is during this time that the four horsemen of the apocalypse wreak havoc on the earth and one-fourth of the world population dies because of war, famine and pestilence. The seven seals do not represent or pertain to the wrath of God. The first half of the tribulation is the period in which Antichrist is given complete authority over the earth without intervention by God. The wrath of God is not unleashed upon the earth until the middle of the tribulation when the trumpet Judgments begin (Rev. 6:16,17; 8:1ff).

The seven-sealed scroll is little understood by the great majority of theologians. The dramatic opening of the seven-sealed scroll is analogous to a closing (i.e., the final steps of a legal transaction where property is exchanging hands) when a house has been purchased in today’s economy. This has its type in the Old Testament when a person would redeem another person or a piece of property. Jesus has already paid the purchase price for redeeming the earth from Satan, but the closing has not yet taken place. After Jesus has finished opening the seven-sealed scroll—a strictly legal transaction—in the middle of the tribulation, He begins the process of taking possession of the earth.

Prior to moving in and setting up His kingdom, Jesus is going to do a little housecleaning for three and one-half years in order to cleanse, disinfect, and remove some of the pests that have accumulated during the six thousand years that Satan has maintained possession. First, Jesus is going to take out the remainder of his heavenly family (i.e., the remainder of the Church), and seal and protect his earthly family (i.e., elect Jews and Gentiles) before he thoroughly fumigates his acquired property. Please excuse the slightly humorous analogy, but this is a quick way to explain a complex sequence of events.

During the opening of the seven-sealed scroll, Satan is not thrilled about his future prospects. He knows that Christians under the leadership of Jesus Christ will be moving in to take over the rule and reign of the earth. He also knows that he only has 42 months left, so he takes his vengeance out on the Church left from the Firstfruits Rapture. When the Church is completely removed in the middle of the tribulation, Satan then turns his vengeance upon God’s earthly people, the Jews. The last half of the tribulation period is called the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, since Satan spends his time persecuting the Jews. At the end of the tribulation, Satan gathers the armies of the earth to fight against the Lion of the tribe of Judah in his last attempt to prevent Jesus Christ from taking over the earth. The result is the battle of Armageddon, which is referred to as the winepress of the wrath of God. It should be no surprise that Jesus Christ on his white horse wins this battle. Coining a phrase from Saddam Hussein, the battle of Armageddon will truly be the mother of all battles. One-third of the world’s population will die in this battle.

No Christian or member of the Church will be on the earth during the last half of the tribulation period. The last half of the tribulation period is the Day of the Lord. It is the time that God’s wrath will be unleashed upon the earth in the trumpet and vial judgments described in Revelation. There will be saved people on the earth during this terrible time of judgment from the Lord, but they will be sealed and protected from the judgments of God just like Noah was sealed in the ark and protected from the judgment of the flood. All saved people on the earth during this time will have been saved during the tribulation period. None are members of the Church and will dwell upon the earth in bodies of flesh and blood.

“Falling Away” in the Last Days

2 Th 2:1-4 (KJV) Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (i.e., apostasia) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

The Greek word apostasia (ap-os-tas-ee'-ah) translated  “falling away” is used twice in the New Testament in the feminine gender. Its other use is in Acts 21:21 and it is translated “to forsake.”  The word means departure, taking away, or separation. The best translation for apostasia in the context of the above Scripture is “separation”. Thus, this passage of Scripture simply states that the day of the Lord cannot occur until the separation takes place and the man of sin, Antichrist, is revealed and sets himself up in the temple and claims to be god. The Greek word translated “Christ” is Kurios (koo'-ree-os), and is correctly translated as Lord.

The sequence of events is that the separation (i.e., Firstfruits Rapture) will take place, the Antichrist will be revealed, and then three and one-half years later he will set himself up in the temple and claim to be god. It is at the time that Antichrist sets himself up in the temple that marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord upon the earth. This is the time that the Seventh Seal is opened and the judgments and wrath of God are unleashed upon the earth. This is also the time that the Main Harvest Rapture takes place. The Church must all be in heaven before the seventh seal is broken, and the trumpet judgments of God begin upon the earth. The opening of the seven seals is not the judgments of God. It is during the opening of the seals that Antichrist is given unchecked authority upon the earth, so any hint of God’s judgment would be against equity and good conscience on the part of God. Jesus Christ was given 42 months authority upon the earth for his ministry, and Antichrist will be given 42 months of authority, as confirmed in the following Scripture:

(Rev 13:5 KJV)  And there was given unto him (i.e., Antichrist) a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
The above sequence of events is why mature Christians should not be looking for the revealing of the Antichrist. He will not be revealed until after the Firstfruits Rapture takes place, so the hope of the Christian is to be gone at the time Antichrist is revealed. This does not mean Christians cannot know the identity of Antichrist, since numerous prophecies will be fulfilled about him before he is revealed. God gave a detailed description of him, so Christians could identify him and prepare themselves even more for the Firstfruits Rapture.

Unfortunately, most Christians are not anxious for Jesus Christ to return, and they are unwatchful.  The Bible prophesied this as the condition of the Church at the time of the return of Jesus Christ for the Firstfruits. The word firstfruits means hasty fruit or that fruit which matures early. The great majority of the remainder of the Church will be ready for the Main Harvest Rapture by the time it happens in the middle of the tribulation. The persecutions of the tribulation period will do wonders in the sanctification of those members of the Church who are left on the earth for the express purpose of maturing in the faith. The following Old Testament passage of Scripture in Daniel describes how these Christians are turned over to Antichrist for three and one-half years.

The Main Harvest Rapture Prophesied in Daniel

Dan 7:25 (KJV) And he (i.e., Antichrist) shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time (i.e., 1+2+1/2 = 3 ½ years).

Many theologians teach this is referring to Jews, but the verses that follow prove that these “saints” are Christians, since the Church is the one that will receive the kingdom of the heavens and reign with Jesus Christ:

Dan 7:27 (KJV) And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

The kingdom of heaven was taken away from the Jews after they had rejected Jesus Christ, according to the following Scripture:

Mat 21:43 (KJV) Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you (i.e., the Jews), and given to a nation (i.e., the Church) bringing forth the fruits thereof.

The references to saints in the following Scriptures in Daniel are also referring to Christians for the same reason:

Dan 7:18 (KJV) But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.

Dan 7:21 (KJV) I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;

Dan 7:22 (KJV) Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.

The book of Daniel does refer to Jews, but they are referred to as “thy people” according to the following Scriptures:

Dan 9:15-16 (KJV) And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

Dan 9:19 (KJV) O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.

Dan 9:24 (KJV) Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Dan 10:14 (KJV) Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.

Dan 11:14 (KJV) And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.

Dan 12:1 (KJV) And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Please excuse the numerous references, but it is important for the student of Scripture to be able to distinguish between the Jews and the Church in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  It should be clear now that Daniel 7:25 states that Christians will be turned over to Antichrist for three and one-half years during the first half of the tribulation.  The Jews will be persecuted by Antichrist during the second three and one-half years, which is called the time of Jacob’s trouble.

It would not be proper to conclude this first section without addressing the primary Scripture describing the Main Harvest Rapture of the Church. The following passage of Scripture is the most detailed in regard to this phase of the rapture. It picks up right after the sealing of the 144,000 Jews in preparation for the time of Jacob’s trouble, which begins in the middle of the tribulation period:

Rev 7:9-17 (KJV) After this (i.e., after the sealing of the 144,000) I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 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. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

According to Revelation 7:14 these “came out of great tribulation” but they have now “washed their robes.” Salvation in the evangelical sense is referred to in the Bible as taking a bath but not as washing defiled garments. In Revelation 3:4 the church of Sardis (i.e., Protestant Christians) had defiled their garments, but they washed their garments in the blood of the lamb before the Main Harvest Rapture.

Revelation 7:9-17 is clearly taking place in the middle of the tribulation, and the judgments of Jews and Gentiles do not take place until the end of the tribulation. The sheep and goat judgment is the judgment of the Gentiles and it takes place on the earth and not in heaven, which is the location of the events in this passage of Scripture. The 144,000 Jews do not even preach the gospel of the kingdom until the last half of the tribulation.

The description of the saints in Rev. 7:15 as being before the throne of God and serving him night and day in his temple (i.e., priestly service) is a picture of the Church and not Israel as a nation, nor a group called the tribulation saints saved during the tribulation period. The entire section of Revelation 7:9-17 is a picture of a “great multitude,” the churches of Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea, cleansed and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb. They were already saved at the time the tribulation began, but they had not yet matured to the point of being ripe for harvest.

Section II—The Firstfruits Rapture in Typology

The study of typology is extremely helpful in understanding prophecy by providing pictures that help the student see more clearly the meaning of some of the more obscure doctrinal statements.  This is also true in regard to the Firstfruits Rapture. In addition to clear doctrinal statements about the Firstfruits Rapture in the New Testament, the Old Testament contains teachings about the Firstfruits Rapture in types such as Enoch and Elijah.

Also in the New Testament, Philip, the man who disappears with the spirit (Acts 8:39), is a type of the individual raptured as he was seeking the lost. Elijah is a type of the individual raptured as he was busy establishing the saints. Both were about the Lord’s business exercising their gifts in using the talents given them by the Holy Spirit. Philip and Elijah were side by side with saved individuals who were yet immature believers, but only Philip and Elijah were taken leaving the immature believers behind. These are clear types of the Firstfruits Rapture of mature believers.

Elijah and Elisha

The primary Old Testament type for the Firstfruits Rapture is Elijah and Elisha walking along together when a fiery chariot—a picture of judgment—separated them and Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. It is important to note that Elisha immediately rent (i.e., tore) his clothes, which is a symbol of repentance. It is also highly significant that Elisha refused to talk about the coming rapture of his mentor, Elijah. This is like a great majority of the Church today who refuse to talk about the fulfillment of prophecies and the soon-coming rapture. Thus, they are failing to watch for the return of Jesus, and they will be left behind just like Elisha.

The details of Elijah’s translation contain very important truths about which Christians will be taken and which will be left at the Firstfruits Rapture. In Elijah, we have a model of readiness for the Lord’s return. Step by step he walked with God:  “the Lord hath sent me to Bethel”; “the Lord hath sent me to Jericho”; “the Lord hath sent me to Jordan” (2 Kings 2:2). In the midst of apostasy, Elijah was creating nurseries of devotion and study in the schools of the prophets. He was boldly witnessing for God without fear, and he was waiting for God without fainting. Suddenly, in a moment of time, Elijah was separated from Elisha, the fledgling prophet, and he was carried into heaven by a whirlwind. In the miracle of translation and the holiness that made that miracle possible, Elijah did more for the maturation of Elisha and the sons of the prophets than he had done in his whole life.

It is important to note that the Lord told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor before Elijah was raptured. When Elijah found Elisha, he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Thus, Elisha was a very rich man, which is an indication of where his heart was at the time of his commission as a prophet. It is also significant that the sons of the prophets at both Bethel and Jericho attempted to talk to Elisha about the coming rapture of Elijah, but Elisha said “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2 Kings 2:3,5). Elisha is telling them not to speak about it. Both of these facts about Elisha give a picture of the Christian who will be left behind at the Firstfruits Rapture. Numerous Christians have spent their lives seeking after wealth and material possessions instead of the things of God. They are uncomfortable in studying or talking about Bible prophecy, and especially the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The refusal to speak about the rapture is the norm in the Church today. Christians do not want to hear about Bible prophecy and the return of Jesus Christ. Three and one-half years in great tribulation will likely change this attitude among the majority of Christians. The hot summer sun will cause the wheat left for the main harvest to die from the roots up, and the golden pods of grain will mature rapidly. Numerous Christians still have their roots sunk deeply into the earth, and no pods of grain have yet appeared. The fires of the tribulation will mature those Christians who are still babes in Christ, with the result that many will reign and rule with Jesus Christ in His kingdom.

When Elijah was raptured, he and Elisha were walking along two together when “there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” ( 2 Kings 2:11). It is not coincidental that the “evil servant” in the Olivet discourse who was not interested in nor concerned about the coming of the Lord was also “cut asunder” at the time of the Lord’s return (Matt 24:50-51). The following verses describe the difference between watchful Christians and unwatchful Christians at the time of the Firstfruits Rapture. The unwatchful Christians do not want to speak about the Firstfruits Rapture just like Elisha did not want to speak about it:

Mat 24:40-42 (KJV) Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

Mat 24:48 (KJV) But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

It is important to know that wheat dies from the roots upward as it becomes mature. As the roots die, the heads become ripe with grain (i.e., fruit) and bow as though in prayer to the heavenly Father. The tares remain stiffly erect, and they are easily distinguished from the wheat. Scripture confirms that harvest takes place when the grain is ripe and not before according to the following Scripture:

Mark 4:29 (KJV) But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

The Scriptures also confirm that Israel is not saved (i.e., harvested) until after the main harvest is over as shown in the following Scripture:

Jer 8:20 (KJV) The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.

Numerous Scriptures compare the redemption of mankind to the agricultural harvest in Israel established and ordained by God as to the order and methods of harvesting. Much can be learned from a study of the type of the harvest.


Enoch is another great type of the Firstfruits Rapture. In the firstfruits feast called Pentecost, it was celebrated by offering two wave-loaves of bread baked with leaven as a firstfruits offering to the Lord.  The two loaves symbolized both Jews and Gentiles who would make up the Church. Therefore, Elijah is the type of Jewish Firstfruits while Enoch is a type of the Gentile Firstfruits who will be offered to the Lord at the time of the Firstfruits Harvest of the Church.

A study of Enoch reveals the characteristics of the Christian Gentile who will be accounted worthy to participate in the Firstfruits Rapture.  It is significant that we know absolutely none of the physical facts of his life. There is not one single outstanding event recorded in the life of Enoch. He was raptured out of profound obscurity into heaven. The following Scripture says it best:

James 2:5 (KJV) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

It is those who are unimportant in this life who will be the greatest in the kingdom. Many of those Christians who are in positions of power and authority in the Church now are going to be greatly disappointed in the coming kingdom. D. M. Panton stated it this way, “The Church knows nothing of her brightest stars, for she moves beneath the range of their heavenly orbits.”

Enoch’s one testimony was that he preached about the Second Coming of the Lord to execute judgment upon all people (Jude 14-15). The only other recorded characteristic of Enoch was that he walked with God (Gen 5:22, 24), and this was recorded twice for special emphasis by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the type of Enoch is in agreement with the numerous Scriptures that confirm that looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the single most important factor to be accounted as worthy of participation in the Firstfruits Rapture. In many verses God admonishes the faithful believer to watch. The constant expectation of the Lord’s return is the greatest incentive to ensure a close walk with the Lord. It was true at the time of Enoch, and it is true today. Thus, the Firstfruits Rapture is peculiarly linked with testimony to the Lord’s return.

Enoch is listed in the great hall of fame chapter on faith in the book of Hebrews. The following Scripture clearly states that Enoch was translated long before the judgment of the flood because he pleased God. It also confirms that his translation was a reward for diligently seeking the Lord:

Heb 11:5-6 (KJV) By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Paul Striving for the Prize

This faith in Hebrews chapter 11 is not the one point in time saving faith that all Christians have when they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is the daily living faith that bears fruit for the kingdom and earns an important position in the coming millennial kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul talks about this daily fellowship faith of progressive sanctification. It is a mature faith that will attain to a special out-resurrection that Paul worked hard to achieve, as stated in the following Scripture:

Phil 3:7-14 (KJV) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might  attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word for “resurrection” in verse 11 above is the word exanastasis and it means out-resurrection or resurrection out from among the dead. This is the only place in the Bible this word is used. It is clearly a resurrection that Paul was attempting to attain by works. This is the Firstfruits Rapture that will occur pretribulational, and all that participate in this resurrection will have crowns and sit on thrones as shown in Revelation chapter 4. Verse 12 above confirms that the requirement for this out-resurrection is to be “perfect” which is a word in the King James Version meaning mature in the faith.

The Firstfruits Rapture is more than an escape for saints from the tribulation period. It is a guarantee of great reward and entrance into the kingdom with a position of authority in the reign and rule of Jesus Christ. Thus, participation in the Firstfruits Rapture is clearly related to works and reward for faithful service to the Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, all Christians should be striving for this goal in accordance with the following Scripture, which is repeated for emphasis:

Luke 21:36 (KJV) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.  

Section III—The Firstfruits Rapture-Rebuttal of Criticisms

All criticisms of the doctrine of the Firstfruits Rapture stem from a failure of theologians to distinguish between the doctrines of grace and works or between justification and sanctification, as explained earlier. Therefore, the main criticism of the Firstfruits Rapture is that Christians who hold this view are guilty of legalism or Galatianism, which is a mingling of works and grace to accomplish salvation. This criticism is completely unjustified, since Galatianism adds works to grace for the purpose of spiritual rebirth or the legal term for spirit salvation, which is called justification.

The Firstfruits Rapture is not related to the justification of the believer, but it is related to the progressive sanctification of the believer. Attainment of spiritual maturity is not a prerequisite for or direct result of spiritual rebirth. Failure to attain to the Firstfruits Rapture does not affect the fact of spiritual rebirth in any way. Consequently, it is unjustified and even absurd to think that the Firstfruits Rapture is a legalistic doctrine. It is simply a reward for faithful service in the Lord’s work. Numerous Christians will lose their reward, but they can not lose their salvation, since it is a gift from God, and not related to works in any form or fashion.

Salvation is by grace, but rewards are according to works. This is a fundamental division in the Bible, since works have nothing to do with spirit salvation. It is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that a person is saved. However, after an individual is born again, he is admonished to walk, seek, strive, follow, obey, serve, labor, learn, do, etc. to earn reward.

The Firstfruits Rapture also should not be explained as the reward of resurrection, since all believers—unbelievers too for that matter—will experience resurrection. The fact of resurrection before the millennium is for all believers, and no one will be left behind in their graves. Thus, the fact of resurrection is directly related to grace and the salvation experience. However, the timing of resurrection is definitely related to works and progressive sanctification. As stated above, Paul was working very hard in order to attain unto the out-resurrection.

All Christians will be raptured in either the Firstfruits Rapture or the Main Harvest Rapture. The Firstfruits Rapture will take only those Christians who are mature in the faith. The Main Harvest Rapture will include numerous Christians who have matured during the tribulation, but it will include all Christians whether they are mature or not.

Another common criticism is that the phased rapture rends or divides the body of Christ, which is the Church. If this criticism is valid, then the Church is already in deep trouble, since the Head has been severed, and He is currently in heaven. In addition, the body has already been divided since more than half of the body of Christ is already in heaven with the Head while the remainder of the Church is still on the earth. It only takes a moment of reflection and common sense to see the shallowness of this criticism. The Firstfruits Rapture does not divide the Church any more than the fact that the Head is currently in heaven along with the great majority of the Church. The fact that some of the Church will receive their resurrection bodies sooner than others is also applicable in this argument, since the Head already has His resurrection body.

The Church is a unit and will not be divided. However, God the Father uniquely works in the life of every Christian to bring them to maturity in the faith. Some mature earlier than others, and unfortunately, some never mature in this life. Therefore, the doctrine of reward assures that faithful Christians will be richly recognized for their efforts to cooperate in the sanctification process. Many Christians’ lives will have been a total waste when they arrive in heaven, and they will have earned no rewards, which pertain to a position in the kingdom of God the Son. Other Christians will receive rich rewards for the lives they have lived, and they will have important positions in the kingdom of God the Son.

Christians are left on earth after salvation so that they might grow and follow the example of Jesus Christ. Christians are to serve now so that they might reign later (Matt 25:21; John 12:26). All Christians are members of God’s heavenly family, and all will be present in the kingdom of God the Son. Unfortunately, numerous Christians will be subject to an enforced sanctification process at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and they will be saved according to the following Scripture:

1 Cor 3:11-15 (KJV) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

After this enforced sanctification, the lives, personalities and character of these Christians will be totally different, since they will then be perfect. Their lives (i.e., souls) will have been lost in the judgment fires of the Judgment Seat of Christ. In their new lives, personalities and character, they will be greatly ashamed for their failures to live faithful lives while on the earth, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is a common belief that these Christians will experience this shame intermittently throughout the millennium. At the end of the millennium when Jesus turns the kingdom back over to God the Father, all shame and tears will be wiped away as all Christians enter into the eternal bliss of a sinless perfect life with Jesus Christ in the New Jerusalem. The Jews and Gentiles will dwell forever on the restored and perfected earth in their bodies of flesh and blood. The sin nature and death will be completely obliterated at the end of the millennium.

An understanding of the Firstfruits Rapture will explain passages of Scripture that are typically avoided by both pretribulation rapturists and midtribulation rapturists. The Firstfruits Rapture also reconciles the arguments between these two opposing camps of prophetic scholars.

Both groups are correct in that there is both a pretribulation and a midtribulation rapture. It will be a great honor to be part of the pretribulational Firstfruits Rapture. For those faithful Christians whom the Lord finds watching, He has promised an “open door.”