8 Raptures in the Bible
The rapture of believers is mentioned nine times in the Bible. In addition to the rapture of the Church, there are various biblical accounts where one or two individuals were taken up. This has occurred in both the Old and New Testaments, demonstrating that God can indeed take individuals up to Himself. Moreover, when we study these other instances of rapture in the Bible, we gain valuable insights into the rapture of the Church. Many events in the Old Testament serve as foreshadows of the life of the Lord Jesus and what will happen in the future (Colossians 2:17). Initially, these Old Testament stories happened literally, but secondarily, they point to future events. Many of these future events were fulfilled by the Lord Jesus during His first coming, while others are yet to occur. The Bible records the following individuals who were taken up:
- The Church of Christ
- The Two Witnesses
- The Male Child (symbolic)
Enoch and Elijah's raptures occurred in the Old Testament, while Jesus, Philip, Paul, John, the Church, the Two Witnesses, and the Male Child are found in the New Testament.
1 Enoch: Walking with God
The Bible doesn't provide extensive details about Enoch. Aside from genealogical records, the Bible mentions Enoch's life three times: once in the Book of Genesis, once by Paul, and once by Jude. Let's examine these passages.
“Enoch lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begot Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after he begot Methuselah three hundred years; (…) So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:18-24)
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:5-6)
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 1:14-15).
These Bible verses reveal that Enoch was a remarkable individual. It was said of him that he walked with God, signifying that he was a righteous man who had a living relationship with God. In Genesis, it is stated that Enoch was suddenly no more because God took him. This was not a euphemism for death because in Genesis 5, everyone else was said to have died, but this was not the case for Enoch. Furthermore, Paul wrote in Hebrews 11: "By faith, Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death." Enoch did not die; he was taken alive by God, serving as a foreshadowing of believers who will experience the Rapture of the Church, for they too will not experience death. Because Enoch walked with God, he received revelations about God's judgment. Jude wrote that Enoch prophesied about God's judgment upon the ungodly.
In Genesis and Hebrews, the term used is 'taken away.' Genesis was written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew word for 'taken away' is 'kî-lāqaḥ,' meaning to take, receive, carry away, fetch, and receive. Hebrews was written in Greek, and the word 'taken away' is derived from the Greek word 'meta-tithēmi,' signifying to transfer, transport, and change. Enoch did not experience death and was transferred from Earth to another place. Why was Enoch taken away? The answer is clear: because he pleased God. Who will be taken in the Rapture of the Church? Those who please God, those who believe in Him, and those who believe that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Furthermore, some Bible scholars suggest that Enoch was taken away before the Flood, escaping God's judgment. However, this was not the reason for Enoch's being taken. He was taken because he pleased God, and nowhere does it say that he was taken to escape earthly judgment. Enoch was not taken just before the Flood. In Genesis 5, it states that Enoch was taken at the age of 365, and the Flood occurred 669 years later. God did not take Enoch to escape the Flood's judgment; he could have peacefully passed away as the oldest person in the Bible, reaching 969 years.
- Enoch was taken by God.
- Enoch pleased God and walked with Him.
- Enoch prophesied about the judgment of the ungodly.
- Enoch is a type or foreshadowing of the Rapture of the Church.
2 Elijah: Whirlwind
The next instance of being taken up in the Bible is the account of the prophet Elijah. We find his story in 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2. Elijah was a prophet of the people of Israel (the ten northern tribes) and prophesied during the reigns of Kings Ahab and Ahaziah. Elijah proclaimed the Word of God and brought about a drought in Israel for 3.5 years. He is also known for his showdown with the prophets of Baal. Elijah said:
"I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God."(1 Kings 18:22-24)
The prophets of Baal couldn't make their god, Baal, answer with fire. However, the God of Elijah answered with fire, leading the people of Israel to honor God. The prophet Elijah was an extraordinary person who did what God asked of him. Nevertheless, we read in James:
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit." (James 5:17-18)
Elijah was an ordinary human, and God used him to accomplish great things. The things Elijah did may seem miraculous to us, but to God, they are not. Later, Elijah had a disciple who would succeed him when he was no longer on Earth. This disciple was Elisha, who spent a long time with Elijah. Let's examine the last day of Elijah on Earth.
"Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" And he said, "Yes, I know; keep silent!" (2 Kings 2:3).
"Then the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" So he answered, "Yes, I know; keep silent!" (2 Kings 2:5)
"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?" Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." (2 Kings 2:9)
The sons of the prophets, Elijah, and Elisha knew that Elijah would be taken away that day. When God decides something, He always reveals it to His prophets. He discloses His mysteries to them.
"Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)
This was the case with the sons of the prophets. The apostle Paul also received wisdom about a mystery of God. Paul was given insight into the Rapture of the Church and the transformation of the living.
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
The significant difference between Elijah's taking and the Rapture of the Church is that the prophets knew that Elijah was going to leave Earth that day, while no one knows when the Church will leave Earth.
The prophets prophesied to Elisha, and afterward, Elijah and Elisha continued walking together. They were talking, and suddenly, the taking happened.
"And so it was, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!" So he saw him no more." (2 Kings 2:11-12)
Elisha and Elijah knew that Elijah would be taken away, yet Elisha was startled when a chariot of fire with horses of fire appeared and separated them. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Subsequently, Elisha returned to Jericho, and it is evident that Elijah was taken up to heaven and not relocated to another area on Earth.
"And they said to him, "Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley." And he said, "You shall not send anyone." But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, "Send them!" Therefore they sent fifty men, and they searched for three days but did not find him. And when they came back to him, for he had stayed in Jericho, he said to them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not go'?" (2 Kings 2:16-18)
Elijah was not found on Earth until the Lord Jesus appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, we see Elijah conversing with Moses in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Elijah returned to Earth for a brief period.
"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus." (Mark 9:2-4)
Lastly, let's examine the term 'taken up.' In Hebrew, this word is 'ʿālâ,' meaning to go up, ascend, climb, or be taken away. This indicates that Elijah ascended to heaven. Additionally, the prophets used the word 'kî-lāqaḥ.' This word was also used in the account of Enoch's being taken in the Book of Genesis.
- Elijah was a human being like us.
- The prophets knew that Elijah would be taken.
- Elisha witnessed Elijah being taken up to heaven.
- People could not find Elijah on Earth.
- Elijah returned to Earth for a brief period.
3 The Lord Jesus: Ascension
After Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to various people for forty days, it was time for Him to return to God the Father. The ascension of Jesus is significant for the topic of "The Second Coming of Christ," as angels proclaimed about His ascension, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). This indicates that we can learn much about Jesus' Second Coming by studying His ascension. The main difference is that Jesus will not be traveling from Earth to heaven but from heaven to Earth. In our modern times, air travel is not exceptional, given that we have airplanes, spaceships, and jetpacks. However, in the time of the disciples, only birds could travel through the air. Suddenly, they saw Jesus ascend into the sky and not return to Earth. They stared up at the sky in complete astonishment, not understanding how this was possible, until two angels stood beside them and asked, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?" Can you imagine someone ascending into the sky? Let's examine the Scriptures that speak about the ascension.
"So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen." (Mark 16:19-20).
“Then He (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Luke 24:50-53)
"Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)
In these passages, we read that the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven without the need for any external aids. He could do this because He is the Son of God and possesses a glorified body that is not bound by the laws of nature. After His resurrection, Jesus had a glorified body that retained the scars of His crucifixion. He invited Thomas to touch His wounds to prove that He had truly risen from the dead (John 20:27). Additionally, in Revelation 5:6, John describes Jesus as a Lamb that had been slain, which signifies the ongoing impact of Jesus' sacrificial death. Simultaneously, Jesus has a glorified body, which believers will receive in the future:
"Who (Jesus) will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." (Philippians 3:21)
According to 1 Corinthians 15:20, Jesus is the first to possess a glorified body, which He obtained during His resurrection. Believers will receive this same type of body at the time of Jesus' Second Coming. Based on the appearances of Jesus on Earth between His resurrection and ascension, we can see what He was able to do differently from a normal earthly body. Here are some examples:
- The Lord Jesus could change His appearance (Mark 16:12).
- The Lord Jesus could disappear from sight (Luke 23:31).
- The Lord Jesus could appear suddenly (Luke 23:36, John 20:19, John 20:26).
- The Lord Jesus could ascend into the sky (His ascension).
- The Lord Jesus lives and will live forever (Revelation 22:13 and Hebrews 13:8)
When our bodies are transformed to be like Jesus' glorious body, it will not be difficult for us to be caught up to heaven or to disappear from sight. We will be able to do new things that are currently impossible without God's intervention.
The location of the ascension is also interesting. The book of Luke mentions that the ascension took place near Bethany. In the book of Acts, it specifies the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12). Since the angels declared, "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11), does this mean that Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives during His Second Coming? Yes! This is foretold by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 14:4). Jesus will return to the same place to complete His work and receive the kingship of the world (Revelation 20). This will be further explored in Part 2.
Lastly, let's consider the reason for the ascension. Why did Jesus need to leave Earth? The first reason is that Jesus was exalted (and still is) by God the Father. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God. All angels, powers, and authorities are subject to Him (Philippians 2:9, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 Peter 3:22). The second reason is that the Holy Spirit could only come to Earth after Jesus returned to God the Father.
- Jesus had and has a glorified body.
- We will receive the same type of body as Jesus.
- Jesus was taken up into heaven to be glorified.
- Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives during His Second Coming.
4 Philip: Earthly Relocation
Philip was an evangelist who preached the Word of God in Samaria, where many miracles and signs occurred (Acts 8). Many people were delivered from unclean spirits, and the paralyzed were healed. One day, an angel said to him, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26). Philip followed this road and saw a chariot approaching. In the chariot was an important Ethiopian court official serving the queen of Ethiopia. The court official was reading the scroll of Isaiah, but didn't understand its meaning. The Holy Spirit instructed Philip to approach the court official, who then asked for an explanation. Philip explained the text's meaning, and based on the passage from Isaiah, he preached the gospel of God. The court official came to faith, and then we read:
"Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities until he came to Caesarea." (Acts 8:36-40)
After Philip baptized the court official, his mission was completed. The Holy Spirit needed him in another place to continue preaching the gospel. The distance between the water and Azotus is about 20 miles (ca. 32 kilometers). This was not a spiritual but a physical relocation of Philip because the court official could not see him, yet the people in Azotus could. Philip was a man who lived closely with God and listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He preached the gospel in many places because he was attuned to the Holy Spirit. The reason he was taken away had to do with proclaiming the gospel. Apparently, the Holy Spirit wanted to expedite reaching Azotus and found it would take too long if Philip were to walk. Philip is proof that human relocation in space and time is possible.
How might the court official have reacted after Philip was taken away? First, they were in conversation, and suddenly he was alone. How will people left behind during the Rapture of the Church react when suddenly millions of people have disappeared? I fear there will be chaos and panic. However, some Christians may have mentioned the Rapture with unbelievers, and the concept may click for some. They missed the Rapture, but by God's grace, they can still be saved by believing in Jesus Christ.
In the book of Acts, the phrase 'caught away' is used. In Greek, the author Luke used the word 'hērpasen,' which is a conjugation of the verb 'harpazō.' We encountered this word in Chapter 2, and it means to seize, snatch, or quickly take away. Just as Philip was taken away by the Holy Spirit, we will be taken away from the Earth during the Rapture.
- Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel.
- Philip was taken away by the Holy Spirit and placed approximately 20 miles away.
- Philip did not have a glorified body at that time, whereas the Church will during the Rapture.
- The court official was left alone.
5 Paul: To Paradise and Back
The next individual who experienced being caught up is the Apostle Paul. Paul was a prominent evangelist to the Gentile nations and authored many of the New Testament books. He himself was unsure whether he had a physical or spiritual experience of being caught up. Just as Paul was caught up to heaven, the Church of Christ will also be caught up to heaven. He recorded his experience in a letter to the Corinthian church.
"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. … Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, …" (2 Corinthians 12:2-7)
Initially, it may seem that Paul was writing about someone else. However, we can assume that this experience happened to Paul because in the final sentence, he spoke about his own revelations. Paul wanted to prevent people from praising him for his extraordinary revelations and experiences, as others did in his time. Paul had received many revelations, and it is highly likely that many of his revelations are not recorded in the Bible.
This revelation in the Corinthian letter demonstrates that people (whether spiritually or physically) can come into the presence of God in heaven. Paul was caught up to the third heaven, with the first heaven being the atmosphere with birds, the second heaven being the cosmos with stars and planets, and the third heaven being the dwelling place of God. Enoch, Elijah, and the Lord Jesus were also caught up to heaven. In heaven, there is a distinct place called Paradise, where the departed who are in Christ reside. Paul states that he was in Paradise and heard inexpressible words. Paradise is a peaceful place where the departed are awaiting the Rapture of the Church. It is not a vague dream-like state, but a place where experiences are consciously known. According to Paul's revelation, he heard words that were so extraordinary that they couldn't be expressed in either the Greek or Hebrew languages. He couldn't convey them because they wouldn't be comprehensible on Earth. In heaven, a unique language is spoken, and what Paul experienced might somewhat resemble the tongues spoken by believers on Earth. When the Lord Jesus was on the cross, two criminals were crucified alongside Him. One criminal repented and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus replied:
"And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." " (Luke 23:43)
This implies that the Lord Jesus is present in Paradise. We do not know exactly what Paradise looks like or what activities take place there. What is certain is that it is a beautiful and peaceful place. Paul was temporarily caught up to this place. The Greek word for 'caught up' is 'harpazō,' which is used twice in Paul's revelation. Paul was snatched away to the third heaven and into Paradise, just as the Church will be caught up to the third heaven in the Father's house of God (John 14:1-3). The teaching of the Rapture is not meant to instill fear, but to let us know that a day will come when we will forever be with the Lord Jesus. It is intended to comfort us and give us courage when we experience pain and sorrow on Earth. After receiving this revelation, Paul returned to Earth and reached many people with the gospel of God.
- Paul was caught up to the third heaven (Paradise).
- Paul saw and heard inexpressible things.
- Paul did not know whether it was a physical or spiritual experience.
- Paul returned to Earth after this experience.
6 The Two Witnesses: Ascending Above
The next event to take place is the Rapture of the Church. After the Church is raptured, God sends two witnesses to the Earth, and they live during the Great Tribulation.
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire." (Revelation 11:3-6)
The witnesses prophesy for 3.5 years in Jerusalem and are granted extraordinary power and authority from God. Their enemies are consumed by fire from their mouths, and they have the power to bring various plagues upon the Earth. For 3.5 years, they are protected by God, and no one can overcome them. During the Great Tribulation, God continues to extend His mercy and calls for repentance. The witnesses are described as the two olive trees and the two lamp stands. Olive trees produce oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Lamp stands give light, symbolizing Jesus, who brings light to the world. The two witnesses are filled with the Holy Spirit and bring light to the world. They bear witness and prophesy about the Lord Jesus (Zechariah 4). However, many will not listen to them, persist in their sins, and fail to recognize the Lord Jesus. Even today, followers of Jesus are called to bring His light into the world by bearing witness about Him.
"And when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." (Revelation 11:7-10)
After they complete their testimony, the ruler of the Earth, known as the beast, engages in a war against them, overpowers them, and kills them. Their dead bodies are left lying in the street of a great city, symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, where the Lord was crucified. As trophies, their bodies are not allowed to be buried, and people on Earth celebrate, make merry, and exchange gifts because the two witnesses have been killed. Firstly, it is a torment for the wicked to hear about the Lord Jesus. They may be open to discussing anyone or anything except Jesus; His name is uncomfortable for them. Secondly, the witnesses have brought about 3.5 years of drought and various plagues on Earth. Finally, the torment is over.
"Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake, seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven." (Revelation 11:11-13)
For three days, the two witnesses lie dead on the ground while people on Earth rejoice. Suddenly, life returns to them, and they stand on their feet. Instead of being buried, they remain as trophies, demonstrating their loss of power to the world. Then, the witnesses are called by God and ascend to heaven, just as the Church is called by Jesus to meet Him in the air. Like Jesus ascending into the sky, the two witnesses rise, and people on Earth witness this event. It serves as a powerful testimony to those living on Earth. After the Church of Christ is raptured, people do not know where the Church has gone. It is likely that the media will spread lies and concoct a story. Now, everyone sees that God is calling the witnesses, and they ascend into the sky. Following this event, a judgment comes upon the city of Jerusalem, resulting in a massive earthquake.
- The two witnesses prophesy for 3.5 years in Jerusalem and are endowed with extraordinary power from God.
- The witnesses are killed by the ruler of the Earth.
- After three days, the witnesses are raised from the dead.
- The witnesses ascend into the sky.
7 The Male Child: Escape
The next rapture in the Bible is the rapture of the male child in the book of Revelation. Revelation is a challenging book to read. John saw things happening that he had never seen before, and many of these events were far in the future from his time. How, for instance, would someone from the years 50-100 AD describe helicopters, airplanes, or tanks? In chapter 12 of Revelation, John wrote about a heavenly sign with three key characters: the woman, the child, and the dragon.
"1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days." (Revelation 12)
Let's begin with verse 1, which speaks of a great sign in heaven. John saw a woman with attributes reminiscent of the people of Israel. Joseph, the son of Jacob, had a dream in which the sun (Israel), the moon, and eleven stars (the twelve tribes of Israel, excluding himself) bowed down to him. Joseph was the twelfth star. The woman represents Israel. Verse 2 tells us that Israel is pregnant and crying out in pain. This imagery has been used before to describe Israel (also referred to as the daughter of Zion).
"Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor. Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in birth pangs. For now you shall go forth from the city, you shall dwell in the field, and to Babylon you shall go. There you shall be delivered; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies." (Micah 4:9-10)
The above text describes the Babylonian exile, which is in the past. God compared Israel to a woman in labor, signifying impending trouble. One chapter later, Micah speaks of Israel's future.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:1)
Micah 5:1 speaks of the birth of the Lord Jesus in Bethlehem. Herod wanted to know where the Messiah would be born, so he could kill Him. The scribes told him that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, citing this verse (Matthew 2:6). This prophecy has been fulfilled.
"Therefore, He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth." (Micah 5:2a)
Afterward, the One who has ruled from ancient times, the Lord Jesus, will give them up. The Israelites did not believe that Jesus was their Messiah, so they were removed from the land and scattered among the nations. This will continue until the woman gives birth. I believe this is referring to the woman in Revelation 12. Until she gives birth, the eyes of most Israelites will remain closed, and they will live among the nations. Today, we see Jews slowly returning to Israel, although many are still scattered among the nations and do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah. When the woman gives birth, there will be a turning point, as prophesied by Micah.
"Then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel." (Micah 5:2b)
When the woman in Revelation 12 gives birth, the brethren of the Lord Jesus, the people of Israel, will return and become part of the true sons of Israel—those Jews who believe in the Lord Jesus. Israel will come to faith in Him, as spoken of by Micah and in the book of Romans.
"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob." (Romans 11:25-26)
Today, there is a partial blindness over Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (the rapture of the Church). When the Gentiles have come in, all of Israel will be saved, as prophesied by Micah and the book of Romans. I believe the child being born is the Church of Christ.
In verse 3, a new character emerges: the dragon with seven heads. According to verse 9, this dragon is the devil. Verses 4 and 5 tell us that Israel gave birth to the child, and the devil attempts to devour this child. The child is the Church of Christ. Just before the devil is released to deceive and devour people, the Church of Christ is caught up into the sky, to God and His throne. The Church does not have to go through the great tribulation, as it is protected by God, and the devil cannot harm the Church. The word 'caught up' is in Greek 'harpazō,' which we encountered in the study of the rapture of the Church. We are not devoured on Earth by the devil; we are caught up to Heaven just before this event. Verse 5 can raise four questions. Let's look at these questions.
Question 1: Is the Church of Christ born out of Israel?
When we read the book of Acts, we see that the first Christians were Jews. The Church originated from the Jewish people, and through Paul, the Gentiles became acquainted with Christian doctrine. The Church was “born” out of the people of Israel. Secondly, Paul tells us that everyone who believes (the Christians) is spiritually born out of Abraham. Abraham is the patriarch of the Jewish people, and through him, many descendants were promised.
"Just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:6-7)
"That he (Abraham) might be the father of all those who believe." (Romans 4:11)
Believers are the spiritual children of Abraham, and Abraham is the spiritual father of believers. Furthermore, Sara, the wife of Abraham, is compared to the heavenly Jerusalem. Sara and the heavenly Jerusalem are likened to the mother of those who believe. We have become children of the promise, just as Isaac was a child of the promise (Sara). We have become children of the free woman Sara through our faith.
"For it is written that Abraham had two sons: one by a bondwoman, and one by a freewoman. (...) These things are symbolic, (...) the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (...) Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. (...) So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free." (Galatians 4:21-31)
Question 2: Who will shepherd the Gentile nations with an iron rod?
To identify the child in verse 5, it speaks of shepherding the Gentile nations with an iron rod. The book of Revelation mentions this event three times. Let's read the other two texts from Revelation.
"And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." (Revelation 19:14-15)
Firstly, it is the Lord Jesus Himself who will shepherd the Gentile nations with an iron rod, and the armies in heaven (the angels and possibly the believers) will follow Him. Additionally, believers will also shepherd the Gentiles with this rod, as stated in the following text in Revelation:
"And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father;" (Revelation 2:26-27).
The overcomers, all followers of Jesus who persevere until the end and keep the works of Christ to the end, will shepherd the Gentile nations with an iron rod. They are those who receive authority from Christ to do so.
Question 3: Why is the woman ready to give birth just before the Great Tribulation?
Question 1 was answered by stating that the church is spiritually born from Israel. So, why is it said that the woman is ready to give birth just before the Great Tribulation? Let's examine what happens just before the Rapture.
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
A millisecond before the Rapture of the church, the dead are raised, and all followers of Jesus receive new bodies. We are 'born again' into new bodies. During conversion, the spirit is born again. During the Rapture of the church, this spirit receives a new body. Furthermore, the body of Christ is only completed when everyone who 'must' be converted is converted. The body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) includes all believers and is ready when all believers are added to this body. Afterward, this body is 'born' and united with the head of the body, the Lord Jesus. This happens during the Rapture of the church.
Question 4: Does the Church of Christ go to the throne of God?
The Church of Christ is taken to the throne of God. Not only that, they will sit with the Lord Jesus on the throne.
"He who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."(Revelation 3:21).
Finally, let's address verse 6. Verse 6 talks about Israel fleeing from the devil to the wilderness (or a solitary place). In the wilderness, God will provide for and protect the Israelites from the devil for 1,260 days. 1,260 days correspond to 3.5 years and coincide with the most challenging period of the Great Tribulation. The wilderness is not an unfamiliar place for the people of Israel, as they spent 40 years there after the exodus, and God supernaturally provided for them. There was food from heaven and water from a rock. During the Great Tribulation, God will care for them again. God calls the Israelites to flee so that He can protect them.
"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (...) For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matthew 24:15-21)
When does this 'abomination of desolation' stand in the holy place? It occurs three years and seven months before the return of Christ (Daniel 12:11). At that time, the Israelites are called to flee to the mountains, where God will care for them.
- The woman represents Israel.
- The male child represents the Church of Christ.
- The dragon symbolizes the devil.
- The Church of Christ is raptured to the throne of God before the tribulation.
- Israel is protected and cared for by God in the wilderness.
The Bible indeed speaks of the rapture of believers. Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, Philip, and Paul experienced a form of rapture, and the two witnesses and the Church are yet to be raptured. The rapture of believers is not a human invention but is found in both the Old and New Testaments.
This chapter is in the book A Revelation of the End Times. Read this book right now, so that you don't miss anything about the end times, live in expectation and your faith is increased. The rapture of the church is a special prophecy from the Word of God. Due to the many theories and ideas about this event, many no longer know what is and what is not Biblical. Timo Groot takes you through the Biblical data about the rapture and why the rapture is more relevant today than ever before. The rapture is the hope of escaping the terrible things that are going to happen on earth and is the moment when the church will see the Lord Jesus face to face in the father's house of God.