May 12, 2008

Pentecost and the Rapture of the Church

By Jack Kelley

Let me begin by saying that I don't believe the Rapture must necessarily fall on any Jewish Holy Day because I believe that the Rapture is a number specific event, not a date specific one. From my studies I have concluded that the Rapture is not connected to any other end times event, nor is it "scheduled" to take place on a given day, and certainly not on a Jewish Feast Day, which have so far been fulfilled in a manner significant to Israel, and which are easily identifiable in advance.

The key to the Rapture's occurrence is in Romans 11:25 where Paul used what I think were two carefully selected phrases in writing, "Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in."

The first phrase is "full number". It was a nautical term that described the number of soldiers and sailors that had to be contracted and on board before a ship could set sail. As soon as the full number was accounted for the ship could leave the harbor, but not before. The last few crew members were often obtained in suspicious ways, so the ship set sail the minute all were on board. In effect, no one knew the exact day or hour of departure, and the ship often stole away in the middle of the night, before the most recently "contracted" crew members woke up from their drunken stupor to discover what had been done to them.

The other phrase is "has come in." It was another nautical term that meant "to arrive at its destination". You've probably heard someone say, "I'm waiting for my ship to come in" meaning he's waiting for his fortune to arrive at its destination, in this case his bank account. It's a play on words that came from this term.

When I put it all together, I think that Paul was telling us that the Rapture is a number specific event not a date specific one, and that's why no one will know the day or hour. There is apparently a "full number" of members in the Church and when the full number has arrived at its destination, heaven, then the Lord will turn again to Israel, their blinders will come off, and He'll fulfill the last seven years of Jewish history, Daniel's 70th Week.

That being said, since no one knows the full number, no one can guess the day and hour of the Church's departure. But as soon as the full number of born again believers is reached the Church will set sail for it's destination no matter what day or hour it happens to be. Then the scheduled End Times events can begin to happen, because they're all geared toward accomplishing 2 things for God. One is disciplining Israel and the other is completely destroying the unbelieving world (Jer. 30:11) and the Church has no part in either. But since Pentecost is celebrated by much of the Western church this weekend and since I get a lot of questions about the Rapture occurring on Pentecost, here's why if it was scheduled for a Jewish feast day, Pentecost would be the most likely.

What's Pentecost?

Pentecost comes in the early summer (May-June). It's the only Holy Day between the 3 Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits) which were all fulfilled in the 1st Coming, and the 3 in the Fall (Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles) which will all be fulfilled in the 2nd Coming. Its Hebrew name is Shavuot. Pentecost is a Greek word that means "50 days" since it comes 50 days from the Sabbath after Passover. The Feast of First Fruits (Resurrection Morning) is celebrated on the day following the first Sabbath after Passover and Pentecost on the day after the Sabbath seven weeks later, (Lev. 23:15-16) giving rise to its nickname "Feast of Weeks." Since the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, both these Holy days are Sundays, although Pentecost has become a 2 day event.

Jews celebrate Pentecost (I'll just use its Greek name to avoid any more confusion than necessary) as the day Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai in the wilderness and the nation Israel was born. (Exodus 19-20) Christians celebrate it as the day the Holy Spirit fell on the Disciples in Jerusalem and the Church was born (Acts 2). If you agree with my view that the parables of Matthew 13 describe the church on Earth and that the parable of the yeast predicts there will be sin in the church, you'll be interested in the fact that unlike all the other Jewish Feasts that call for unleavened bread, Pentecost requires bread baked with yeast (Lev. 23:17). Pentecost also began the annual wheat harvest, perhaps pointing to another of Matthew's Kingdom parables, the Wheat and the Tares.

The Pentecost ceremonies reveal a subtle link to the coming church. In synagogues, the Book of Ruth is read on Pentecost. The story of Ruth has been called "The Romance of Redemption" where-in Naomi, a Jewish woman from Bethlehem loses land and position and is forced into exile in a foreign country where her husband soon passes away leaving her penniless and alone. She decides to return to Bethlehem and is accompanied by Ruth, a gentile woman who has sworn never to leave her. Ruth is a Moabite who had married one of Naomi's sons who also died, making her Naomi's daughter-in-law and, like her, a destitute widow.

Once back in Bethlehem Naomi's relative, a prominent Jewish man named Boaz, falls in love with Ruth and marries her, in the process redeeming Naomi's land and position according to the law. (Lev 25:25 & Deut. 25:5-6). The modeling here is dramatic, with Naomi in the role of Israel, destitute and alone; Ruth as the Church, the gentile bride; Boaz as the Kinsman Redeemer (Messiah) and the story a prediction of the relationship between the three of them. On His way to redeeming Israel, the Kinsman Redeemer takes a gentile bride, saving both from destitution and restoring Israel's land. The identification of the Church with Pentecost began in the prophecies of Ruth.

By the way, Boaz was the son of Rahab, the supposed harlot from the Book of Joshua, and 3 generations later his great-grandson David became King of Israel. Rahab and Ruth both show up in the Genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:5), and one of the pillars at the entrance to the Temple was named after Boaz. There's a tradition that the shepherds of Bethlehem, who were the first to be informed of the Lord's birth, were tending their sheep in fields that once belonged to Boaz and Ruth.

When Is Your Birthday?

But there's more. Another tradition holds that Enoch, one of the patriarchs from Genesis 5, was born on the day later to be known as Pentecost. Enoch's name means "teaching" a primary function of the Church and so many scholars see him as a "type" of the church as well. Genesis 5:21-23 indicates that Enoch was very close to God and was actually taken live (raptured) into Heaven some time before the Great Flood.

Pre-Trib scholars see this event as hinting of a yet future disappearance of the Church just before the Great Tribulation, especially since the Lord said that the day of His coming would be like the days of Noah. In the Days of Noah the unbelieving world was destroyed in the judgment, a believing remnant was preserved through the judgment and Enoch disappeared before the judgment. If these conditions repeat themselves as the Lord indicated, then preceding the 2nd Coming, the unbelieving world will again be destroyed in the judgment, a believing remnant of Israel will be preserved through the judgment, and the church will disappear sometime before the judgment.

These same traditions also hold that Enoch disappeared from Earth on his birthday. So here's a model in Genesis of a man identified with the church being born and raptured on the day that would become Pentecost, the day the church was also born. And that's why of all the Jewish feasts, Pentecost is the most likely Rapture Day. All this of course is merely an accumulation of circumstantial evidence. The Rapture is a secret event, and as such it's exact timing is known only to God. And if, as I believe, it will happen as soon as the full number has come in, then it would be impossible for anyone on Earth to know the day or the hour in advance.

Soon And Very Soon

One day soon now, all who are in Christ, having heard and believed the Word of Truth, the Gospel of our salvation, thereby receiving the mark of the promised Holy Spirit, will suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth. Included among them will be all children and those mentally incapable of making informed choices. An unknown number of instantaneous deliveries will temporarily leave the world without a single pregnant woman at the same time. In one instant we will have been going about our daily routines and in the next we'll be standing in the presence of our Redeemer, our sins forgiven and forgotten, and all our imperfections gone. Joining us will be all the faithful dead, reunited with their perfected bodies and restored to eternal physical life. Together we will begin the most incredible journey of exploration and realization ever dreamed of.

Neither we, nor the unbelieving world, will have received any advance warning of the timing for this event; it will have come totally by surprise. Maybe it will happen on Pentecost, maybe not. But one thing is certain, when it does happen, none us will care one whit whether we had predicted it's timing accurately. We will only express in unimaginable joy our gratitude for being there.

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephe. 2:8-9)

As it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him – but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-10).

You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.