The Sixth Seal Rapture of the Church
By Peter D. Goodgame
There are several important New Testament passages that connect the rapture of the Church with the Day of the Lord. We are already familiar with the statement given by Jesus:
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)In this passage Jesus describes the rapture as an escape from the terrible events of "that day" which can only refer to the Day of the Lord. In Paul's explanation of the rapture and the Day of the Lord it seems that he was intimately familiar with the teachings of Jesus on the same subject:
"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9)Jesus taught that the Day of the Lord would come "unexpectedly like a trap," and He warned to avoid drunkenness and to always be on watch. Paul also emphasizes the sudden onset of the Day of the Lord, he mentions drunkenness, and he explains that faithful Christians are "sons of the light and sons of the day" who, figuratively speaking, are always on watch and never fall asleep. While Jesus said that faithful believers will "escape all that is about to happen," Paul speaks of unbelievers saying "they will not escape."
In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul refers to Jesus as the One who "rescues us from the coming wrath." The purpose of the rapture is to protect the Church and to be the avenue of escape from the wrath that will fall upon the world during the Day of the Lord. With this relationship between the Church and the Day of the Lord in mind, it should be clear that there will hardly be any amount of time between the rapture and the onset of the Day of the Lord. The rapture comes first and then once the Church is protected the wrath of God will fall. After the rapture there will be no reason for a delay and Paul and Jesus both teach that judgment will come swiftly and suddenly.
The question now arises, if the Day of the Lord begins within the sixth Seal, and if the Church is rescued away from the Day of the Lord's wrath in the nick of time, then shouldn't we be able to find evidence of the rapture in connection with the sixth Seal? We can even go one step further. We can use our own God-given common sense and combine it with our Biblical knowledge to come up with a hypothetical description of what it might look like in heaven immediately after the resurrection and rapture. Here is how I think it might look like:
I think the focus will be on Jesus Christ, first and foremost. He is the foundation of the Church and His unselfish sacrifice is what makes eternal life for all humanity possible. I can't imagine a post-rapture scene without Him in it. Surrounding Jesus will be a huge throng of people, an unimaginable number, from every racial stock and nationality, and from every generation from the past two thousand years. This is what the eye might be expected to behold after the rapture, and the ear will probably be hearing things that are just as fantastic. I can only imagine that the triumphant Church will be praising and worshiping Jesus, and doing the same for God the Father. There will be joy to such a great degree that it brings tears to my eyes just trying to imagine it.
Now I hate to burst a major bubble, but I know that it must be done. This scene does not occur anywhere in the book of Revelation prior to the sixth Seal. The Pre-Trib conclusion is that the heavenly post-rapture scene is unreported in Revelation, and we must assume that it takes place sometime prior to Revelation 4, after which the 24 Elders "represent" the Church in heaven, with Jesus gone missing and causing poor John a long moment of unnecessary and unexplained distress! This simply can't be the truth. The truth is that the post-rapture scene in heaven is described in Revelation and the description, as brief as it is, matches up perfectly with our expectations. Here is how that description begins:
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' " (Revelation 7:9-10)This is the group that Jesus said would "escape" the Day of the Lord to "stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36), and this is the group that Paul said would be "rescued" by Jesus from "the coming wrath" (1 Thessalonians 1:10) that would then "be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the raptured and resurrected Church from all places and times from throughout the two thousand years of the Church Age.
If the Day of the Lord begins within the sixth Seal, as we have determined, and if the rapture precedes the Day of the Lord, then we must conclude that the rapture of living believers from off of the face of the earth must take place either at the same time as or just before the initial sixth Seal events. My belief is that after Jesus breaks open the sixth Seal He will instantly enter into the earth's atmosphere and call up the saints, first the dead and then the living, and then we will meet the Lord in the air, just as Paul teaches in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18. The sign of the blood red moon is a unique sign found only once in Revelation, and I imagine that the rapture will probably take place at the same time as, or just before, the blood red moon becomes visible. That is why I gave the title of "Red Moon Rising" to both my book and my website. In my book I also refer to this particular rapture scenario as the "Red Moon Rapture" to distinguish it from the commonly taught Pre-Trib model as well as the Pre-Wrath and Post-Trib scenarios. It is a Sixth Seal Rapture, yet it is also a Pre-Trib Rapture model, which will be explained when we move forward into the timeline issues. For now we must still examine more of the evidence that supports a Sixth Seal Rapture.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Paul is clear that the resurrection of the dead will precede the rapture of the living. We find evidence for just such a resurrection, or at least evidence of preparation for a resurrection, at the very end of the fifth Seal (Revelation 6:11) when the martyred souls are given a gift of white robes. From the beginning of the fifth Seal to the situation after the sixth Seal we see that a change takes place to believers in heaven. In chapter five of my online study I write, "Certainly the change from existing under the altar to standing in front of the throne, and from at first not possessing white robes to finally wearing white robes, is evidence of a profound transition, a transition that can only be explained as the rapture and resurrection."
Further evidence for a Sixth Seal Rapture comes from the descriptions of the aftermath of the shaking of the earth. From what Revelation describes it seems that every single person on the face of the earth reacts in fear and terror to the onset of the Day of the Lord. The point is that when the Day of the Lord begins there are are no believers present on the earth. This observation is supported by the subsequent saving and sealing of 144,000 men from the twelve tribes of Israel. In Revelation 14:4 this group is described as "firstfruits" who were "purchased from among men." Characterizing them as "firstfruits" makes sense only if they are the very first human beings led to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ during that brief window in time immediately after the rapture when the world is populated entirely with unbelievers. This new emphasis on Israel that comes on the heals of the sixth Seal also makes sense if the Church Age has just been completed with the rapture and resurrection of the Church.
Viewing the rapture as occurring within the sixth Seal helps to clarify the relationship between the Church (in heaven) and Israel (on earth), and it also perfectly highlights the profound difference between believers and unbelievers and the different fates that each group can expect as a result of the Day of the Lord. Recall that Jesus said that faithful believers will "escape" the terrible events of "that day," while Paul says that unbelievers who are unprepared for the Day of the Lord "will not escape." Paul continues in this line of thinking by saying, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Paul implies that the Day of the Lord will bring wrath to unbelievers, but true believers will receive salvation, so that "whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him" (5:10). In other words, whether believers are dead or alive we will all be taken up into heaven to be with the Lord.
The warning from Paul is that unbelievers will "not escape" and the implication is that they will "suffer wrath," while the promise to believers is that they will "receive salvation." Now read again the different statements made by each of these two groups in the aftermath of the shaking of the earth that marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord:
"Wrath" for the unbelieving world: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17)
"Salvation" for believers in heaven: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count... And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' " (Revelation 7:9-10)