WILL ALL BELIEVERS BE CAUGHT UP IN THE CLOUDS?
As the title indicates, this paper will not be about when believers will be caught up in the clouds, but who will be caught up.
This paper will address the following subjects:
THE GATHERING OF ISRAEL
WHEN WILL GOD’S WRATH BE POURED OUT?
WILL GOD’S WRATH BE WORLD WIDE?
THE GATHERING OF ISRAEL
Let us begin by setting the sequence of events in so far as they relate to the question at hand. I believe that when Christ appears in the clouds, believers will be caught up. The millennial reign will begin after that, i.e. when Christ returns to earth. So we have first the rapture, and then Christ will return to earth for the millennial reign.
There are several passages that tell us that Israel will be gathered. The Scriptural evidence that the gathering of Israel will be at the beginning of the millennium is found in Zeph. 3:19-20, where we read, “Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord”. It will be in the millennium that God will make Israel “a praise among all people of the earth” and it is at the same time that He will gather Israel to the Land.
Having seen from Scripture when Israel will be gathered, let us consider who of Israel will be gathered. Let us consider Ezek. 20:34-38. In verse 34 we read, “and I will bring you out from the people and will gather you out of the countries where in ye are scattered….”. Verse 38 tells us of a judgment which will determine who of Israel will be allowed entrance into the land of Israel for the millennial reign, :”…I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel……”.
We have seen that at the beginning of the millennium all Israel will be gathered from the countries to which they had been scattered. We have also seen that those who are gathered will be judged. Note that some will be purged out. That suggests that both believers and unbelievers will be gathered. That is to say, if only unbelievers will be gathered, there is no one from whom they will be purged. We must conclude therefore, that believers will be included in the gathering of Israel for the millennial reign.
The point is that if all believers from all over the world will be caught up in the clouds before the millennial reign, there would be no one left to gather from the countries. That being the case, we must conclude that not all believers of the world will be caught up in the clouds.
I believe that Is. 66:20 makes the point even more clearly. “And they (the Gentiles) shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to My holy mountain Jerusalem…..”. The scene as depicted in Is. 66 is certainly not a picture of being caught up in the clouds. It is the picture of Israel being brought to Jerusalem. Who of Israel will be brought to “My holy mountain Jerusalem”? As we learned from Ezek. 20, only believers will be allowed entrance into Israel. We must conclude therefore that at least some of these about whom Isaiah speaks are believers.
Once again, if all believers were raptured, there would be no believers left to be gathered and brought to Jerusalem.
I suggest therefore, that not every believer in the world will be caught up in the clouds. The question remains then, who will be raptured? That question will be answered as we consider the reason for the rapture.
WHEN WILL GOD’S WRATH BE POURED OUT?
It is clear from I Thess. 1:10 that the rapture will rescue believers from God’s wrath, “And to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, Which delivered us from the wrath to come“.
Rev. 6:17 tells us of God’s future wrath. “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Verses 12-13 tell us the signs of this wrath to come. “And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth…..”. As we compare the signs of the wrath of God to come with the signs of the day of the Lord, we shall see that they are the same signs, proving, of course, that the day of the Lord is the day of God’s wrath. We read in Joel 3:14-16, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake….”.
We have learned by comparing Scripture with Scripture that God’s wrath will be poured out in the day of the Lord.
WILL GOD’S WRATH BE WORLD WIDE?
Having determined that God’s wrath, from which believers will be rescued by the rapture, will be poured out in the day of the Lord, we must ask the question: will the events of the day of the Lord be world wide? That is to say, will those events effect every person in the world?
The phrase “the day of the Lord” occurs 16 times in the Old Testament. I will quote only the sixteen passages in which the Hebrew reads, “yom Jehovah”, i.e. the day of the Lord. There are four passages in which the Hebrew has “l” as a prefix which, according to the Companion Bible, means “for” or “to” Jehovah. Those four passages are: Is. 2:12, Ezek. 30:3, Zech. 14:1 and 17. The context will show that all of these passages are prophecies given directly to Israel or to nations neighboring Israel. Let us search these passage for the verity of that statement.
Is. 13:6 and 9, “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand, it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty”. Let us consider the context. We read in verse 1, “The burden of Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see”. Babylon is a city in the modern day Iraq.
Is. 13:9 is in the same context and, of course also refers to Isaiah’s vision of the burden of Babylon.
Ezek. 13:5, “Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord”.
Joel 1:14-15, “Sanctify ye a fast….gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God and cry unto them. Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come”. The phrase “inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God” points to this message being addressed to Israel.
Joel 2:1-2, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains…..” In this passage the phrases, “in Zion” and “in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land” also points to the message being sent to Israel.
Joel 2:11, “And the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executeth His word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” This verse comes in the same context as the passages quoted above from Joel 2 and therefore is directed to Israel.
Joel 2:31, “The sun shall be turned unto darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come”. This verse comes in the same context as the passages quoted above from Joel 2 and therefore is directed to Israel.
Joel 3:14-16, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake.…”. Again, let us consider the context. Verse 4 tells us the countries to whom this prophecy is directed, “yea, and what have ye to do with Me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine?”
Amos 5:18-22, 18) “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. 20), “Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light” even very dark, and no brightness in it” Verse 22 points to the message as being directed to Israel, “Though you offer Me burnt offerings….”.
Obadiah 15, “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head”. Verse one reads, “The vision of Obadiah, Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom.….”.
Zeph. 1:7-8, “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, He hath bid his guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel”. Note verse 4, “I will also stretch out Mine hand upon Judah.…”.
Zeph. 1:14-15, “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, and day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness”. This comes in the same context as verses 7-8 which is a message directed to Judah.
Mal. 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”. We read in verse 4, “Remember ye the Law of Moses….”. The Law of Moses was, of course given to Israel to remember
I have given all the Old Testament references to the day of the Lord, it is clear that they all have to do with Israel and neighboring nations. And the paper on this web-site The Tribulation Is Not World Wide proves from Scripture that the tribulation is confined to the area of Israel and surrounding nations. In other words, there is no Scriptural evidence to suggest that the day of the Lord will be world wide.
As we have seen above, the day of the Lord is when God’s vengeance will be poured out. Because that vengeance will come upon a limited geographic area that, in my opinion, suggests that only those who need rescuing from the day of the Lord will be caught up in the clouds. That is to say, it is only those in a limited geographic area that will need to be rescued, and only those in that geographic area will be caught up.
Let us summarize what we have seen from Scripture thus far.
1) Zeph. 3 tell us that Israel will be gathered at the beginning of the millennium, i.e. after the rapture.
2) Ezek. 20 tells us that both believers and unbelievers of Israel will be gathered from the nations to which they had been scattered. That shows us that there will be some believers who were not caught up in the clouds.
3) I Thess. 1 tells us that believers will be rescued from the wrath to come.
4) The wrath to come will be poured out in the day of the Lord upon a limited geographic area..
5) Only those in that limited geographic area will need to be rescued from God’s wrath and only they will be caught up in the clouds.
“And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”. The “sound of the trumpet” tells us that this is in reference to the rapture for we read in I Thess. 4:16-17, “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: Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds….”.
Matt. 24:31 seems to say that every believer in the world will be caught up in the clouds. That is to say the phrases, “gather His elect from the four winds” and “from one end of heaven to the other” seem to tell us that the rapture will be for all believers world wide. On the other hand, as we have learned in the sections above, not every believer will be raptured. We know that there are no contradictions in the Word of God. I suggest, therefore, that we look more closely at the two Greek prepositions translated “from” in Matt. 24:31.
In the phrase “from the four winds” the Greek word translated “from” is “ek”. The Companion Bible definition of “ek” is “out from”. So the elect will be gathered “out from” the four winds. Before we draw any conclusions from that let us also consider the Greek word translated “from” in the phrase “from one end of heaven to the other”. That Greek word is “apo” and the Companion Bible says of “apo”, “it is used of a motion away from a place…..”.
Because we know that some believers will not be raptured, I believe that the two prepositions discussed above tell us that those who are raptured will be gathered to Christ out from the four winds and will be gathered to Christ from one end of heaven to the other to where Christ will be.
Let me try to make that a bit clearer. Let us imagine Jesus Christ appearing in the clouds. We know from I Thess. 4 that at the time of His appearing believers will be caught up with Him in the clouds. But Matthew 24:31 doesn’t tell us of believers being caught up, it tells us that once they have been caught up they will be gathered to Christ. In other words, step one is explained in I Thess. 4, i.e. they will be caught up; and the second step is explained in Matt. 24, i.e. once caught up, they will be gathered to Christ.
I realize of course, that this is not how most think of Matt. 24:31. But, as mentioned above, there are no contradictions in the Word of God. Because other scriptures do make it clear that some believers will not be raptured, I believe that we must consider more carefully the two prepositions used in this verse.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org