There is a controversy concerning verse 5. Some expositors argue that the verse 5 “caught up” wording represents the rapture of the Church.
Revelation 12:5 states:
5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
The greatest obstacle to discovery of God’s truth in Scripture is not the lack of education or even ignorance, but it is the illusion of knowledge and understanding which opposes God’s truth, the light of His doctrines. This illusion is often rooted in pride and conceit when God desires to teach us in our humility and modesty.
Some biblical expositors have suggested that the figure of the man child, is the body of Christ being “raptured”. They argue that this event is the Church’s departure because of the usage of the word “harpazo”. This view is rooted in the belief that the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 doctrinally represent Christian churches throughout this Age.
Doctrine is a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by God in His Book. Doctrines necessarily require division. Timothy 2:15 clearly says that God’s truth requires division. That means that not all truth should be doctrinally applied to all groups in the Scriptures. The Scriptural doctrines are either focused at the Jew in Tribulation or the Church during the Pentecostal Age. This is why there are so many divisions in the churches. The works doctrine plainly alluded to in the Gospels, Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Jude and Revelation are doctrinally applicable to the Jew should not be applied to the Church, Christ’s own. You may make an application, a spiritual or inspirational application, but not a doctrinal application. All Scripture is profitable for “instruction in righteousness”. You may apply Jewish doctrine to a Pauline Christian for “instruction in righteousness”. Just do not make a member of Christ’s body keep the commandments, keep the feast, etc. as a necessary component of salvation.
If we were to attempt to prioritize God’s view on His doctrine we would look to 2 Timothy 3:16. The verse states:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
There are four listed purposes for all Scripture. Doctrine is first on the list. God is very concerned with teaching knowledge and making us understand doctrine. Studying God’s words and doctrines is laborious. In the future, Israel will finally understand God’s doctrines. Presently, they are confused. They continue to be steeped in tradition, not knowing the Scriptures.
There is only one true doctrinal application for these Revelation churches. There are only two doctrinal choices before us: (1) Jewish doctrine, or (2) Church doctrine. One doctrinal application and one inspirational application. If the churches are Jewish assemblies, then the Christian churches may draw an inspirational application and rightly so. If the churches are Christian assemblies, may the Jew draw an inspirational application? Why would they?
We must study the word clues in Revelation 1-3 in order to learn which doctrinal application is intended by Jesus, the revelator of this prophetic book. The Jews were often astonished at Jesus’ doctrines. God accused the Jewish leadership in Isaiah 28, a great chapter on the Crowns of Pride and Glory, as being doctrinally incompetent.
The doctrine of the coming Messiah, the sure foundation stone, the precious cornerstone to be laid in Zion. He was one of the major topics of this chapter. The “covenant of death” described in chapter 28 was the law, not some 20th century mythical peace treaty with the Antichrist. Paul clearly sets out God’s doctrine on this “covenant of death” law in 2 Corinthians 3. The “covenant of death” was buried with Jesus in Daniel 9:26. Jesus fulfilled the law in perfect submission to the Father. These mythological fantasies are the type of scholarship which permeates our “end of days” culture where people run to and fro from one wind of fanciful doctrine to another. God help us.
As Harry Ironside (1876-1951) said, in his book of lectures titled, “Revelation”, “if the interpreters are wrong as to the woman and the man child, it necessarily follows that they will be wrong as to many things connected with them.” Ironside asserts that the churches of Revelation 2 and 3 are Christian. Based on his doctrinal view, he concludes that Revelation 12:5 is the rapture of the Christian Church. I doctrinally disagree with Ironside.
The Scriptures should always be analyzed from three views: (1) historical, (2) doctrinal, and (3) inspirational or spiritual. If we err in doctrine, our understanding of the Scriptures will oppose God’s truth.
The Book of Revelation is principally a Jewish revelation by the Jewish Messiah to Daniel’s people, the Jews. Revelation 1:1 says that Jesus gave the revelation to show his “servants” the “things which must come to pass”. The Jew is the servant of God. Paul, while using this term from time to time , principally refers to “Christ’s own” as sons, not servants. The apostles are called servants until the resurrection, then called friends. Paul clarifies that Christ’s own is are “no more a servant, but a son”. The term “servant” begins to flavor the revelation with Jewish terms. In verse 13, John refers to Jesus as the “Son of Man”. This is another Jewish term given to Israel’s Messiah. Paul’s epistles never refer to Jesus by this Jewish title. He is the Son of God.
While the first three chapters of Revelation use the term “churches” they are, most probably Jewish assemblies from a doctrinal view. Surely, from an inspirational view, we may characterize them as Christian churches throughout the ages. But doctrinally, the seven assemblies are linguistically flavored with Jewish terms suggesting the differing factions of Judaism struggling to find the “faith and testimony of Jesus” during the Tribulation period. In fact Jesus, speaks, as the root and offspring of David, to these seven “churches” in the last chapter of Revelation. The reference to these churches is followed in the next verse by the statement, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” to the churches. If the churches are Christian, as many commentators insist, then who is the bride in verse 17? Whomever is being addressed needs the “water of life”. The bride’s life is eternal in Christ, and has no need for the water of life.
Each of these revelations about the assemblies contain clues to their Jewishness. For example: Revelation 2:8 someone will eat from the tree of life. No Christian will be required eat of this tree for life because we have Jesus and eternal life in Him, not a tree. Revelation 2:9 refers to Jews in the Church of Smyrna. In Revelation 2:10 someone gets “a crown of life”. No Christian who gets saved is promised a “crown of life”. The verse says “if someone is faithful unto death” he will earn this crown. Our eternal life is in Jesus, based on His faith. There are no Christians in these assemblies.
This speaks to the Jewish tribulation salvation doctrine. The examples continue. My point is that the Book of Revelation is doctrinally written to Jews with a view that they (1) keep the commandments of God, (2) have the faith and testimony of Jesus, (3) endure unto the end, and (4) do not take the mark of the beast. This is the doctrine of Tribulation salvation.
When the Tribulation begins, there will be no true Christians on Earth. Christ’s own will have departed. Christ’s own are members of the body of the Judge. The Judge is not going to judge his own body. All of God’s judgment has been committed to Jesus. Christ’s own, upon receiving Jesus in their heart’s, had their sins forgiven by Jesus’ atoning self-sacrifice. There is no partial forgiveness. For all you who think Christians will miss the rapture because they have not attained a sufficient state of sanctification are in error not knowing the Scriptures. A person is either saved or not. Jesus did it all.
I am in agreement with Dr. Bullinger’s view that the Churches of Revelation 2 and 3 are fully Jewish based on the Scriptures, their Jewish terminologies, doctrines and facts found in the Old Testament describing each one. Bullinger sets forth a complete analysis of each of the seven assemblies leaving the reader with one conclusion. The assemblies are fully Jewish. This, however, does not exclude an inspirational Christian era church application. It is clear that such an application can be made to suit many of the characteristics of the seven assemblies. This does no violence to the Jewish doctrine, which then can lead an interpreter into a correct doctrinal application of Revelation 12. Remember the central goal of these seven years is the calling out of a Jewish remnant nation which acquires the testimony and faith of Messiah Yeshua Jesus. A group gets judged and a group gets protected, fed and ultimately saved.
This judgment and salvation work of these seven Tribulation years was emphasized by a material omission in the Scriptures. Omissions are important for what they do not say. Matthew 21:5 tells about Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on Nisan 10, the week of His death and resurrection.
Matthew 21:5 states:
“Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.”
Many jump to conclusions and say that Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on Nisan 10 fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. That is partially true. What Matthew omitted were the words, “he is just, and having salvation”. Doctrinally, this is Jewish national salvation which had not been included purposefully. National salvation is reserved for Christ’s Second Coming. Surely Jesus came and offered the free gift of salvation in the Pauline sense. The Book of Tribulation is not dealing with individuals, but the nations. Now, is the day of salvation where God is dealing with individuals, but that day ends at the “fullness of the Gentiles and the removal and departure of Christ’s own at the rapture event. Surely, God is going to judge the world and those Jews who will have rejected Christ as their personal saviors during this Age. God is principally going to save a remnant Jewish nation which possesses the faith and testimony of Yeshua Jesus.
At His First Coming, the nation of Israel rejected Him and manipulated His Roman execution. They did this because of envy. The patriarchs did the same thing to Joseph, an earlier type of Christ. They sold Joseph into Egypt for envy. This Zechariah omission tells us that just judgment and salvation have been reserved for His Second Coming as the Judge and Savior of Jacob.
The male child of verse 5 certainly speaks to Jesus in His Lord of Lords and King of Kings role. Jesus ascended to the Father the first day of His resurrection. Jesus ascended to heaven on Day 40 following His resurrection. The Scriptures speak of two returns, one for Christ’s own at the rapture and at the end of Daniel’s 70th week .
Prior to Jesus’ ascension we are given some additional information. Jesus ascended to Heaven immediately following His resurrection. This was not the Day 40 ascension. We know that there were three events: (1) Jesus was resurrected from the grave in the tomb, (2) then immediately following His resurrection, He ascended to Heaven, but returned, and (3) He ascended on Day 40 of the Omer count prior to the Feast of Pentecost.
Resurrection Ascension: Wave Sheaf Offering of First Fruits
John 20:17 states:
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
Harpazo: Caught Up or Taken by Force
Some commentators have opined that the use of the word “caught up” in verse 5, the Greek word “harpazo”, implies that the “catching up” meaning “taken by force” matches the same words used in the two principal rapture verses. Does the “catching up” mean “taken by force”?
1 Corinthians 15:52 uses the term “raised” or “egeiro” for the dead in Christ and “changed” or “allasso” for the living in Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 uses the term “raise up” or “anistemi” for the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the term “caught up” or “harpazo” to describe the rapture of living in Christ.
The usage of “harpazo” according to Strong’s Greek is “catch up”. It is used four times in the New Testament. Harpazo has another translation usage which is “take by force”. That phrase is used three times in the New Testament. The literal reading and understanding of the verse 5 leads the reader to the conclusion that the man child “harpazo” references Christ being “caught up” from Earth following his resurrection.
Commentators who favor an interpretation of the man child “harpazo” as the rapture of the Christ’s own argue that Christ was never “taken by force”. They describe the rapture as a “taking by force” only. They simply substitute their own words for they say that Jesus ascended with the implication being that it was a peaceful voluntary ascension. Which of the three events are they referencing. They are correct reading the Scriptures literally. Christ was resurrected once and ascended twice. Once on the Feast of First Fruits following His resurrection from death and a second time immediately following His resurrection and finally when He departed to the Father ten days prior to sending the Holy Spirit.
It should also be noted that the argument using “harpazo” as “taken by force” in a purported verse 5 rapture completely ignores the resurrection of the dead in Christ.
In the interest of settling the controversy we will dissect and analyze the language. Personally, I believe that the English is clear. The correct choice of words is “caught up” and not “taken violently”. I know many people prefer to study the Greek and arrive at an interpretation which is consistent with their doctrinal biases. My Book of Revelation bias is rooted in a Jewish doctrinal view not a Church doctrinal view.
Table 1. Resurrection of Righteousness
This table will compare the terms used in the two principal rapture verses of the New Testament. The Greek terms are the root form from Strong’s Greek Lexicon. It should be noted that the Blue Letter Bible indicates that the Greek root forms are identical between the KJB and the NIV.
Bible Verses Dead in Christ Living in Christ
English Greek English Greek
1 Thess.4:16-17 Shall rise Anistemi G450 Caught up Harpazo G726
1 Cor. 15:52 Shall be raised Egeiro G1453 Changed Allasso G236
A review of the terminology associated with the two principal rapture verses clearly demonstrates that there are four different Greek words used to described the resurrection of righteousness, one of which is “harpazo” and it is confined to the living in Christ and not the resurrection of dead in Christ.
Table 2. Christ’s Ascension
This table sets forth the words used for Christ’s ascension as a type of rapture of Christ’s own. The word “harpazo” is not used. The two Greek words “anabaino” and “epario” differ from all of the rapture related words in the two principal rapture verses above. The John 20:17 verse is the post resurrection ascension and the Acts 1:9 is the Day 40 ascension. There is no biblical record concerning the nature of Jesus’ resurrection from death to life in the tomb as a harpazo type event. This, by the way, is the event which most closely resembles the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the rapture of the living.
Bible Verses First Fruits Day 40
English Greek English Greek
1 Cor.15:3-5 Rose again Egeiro G1453 N/A N/A
John 20:17 Ascended Anabaino G305 N/A /A
Acts 1:9 N/A N/A Taken up Epario G1869
N/A: Not Applicable
In the context of the resurrection of righteousness, the subject matter of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes Jesus’ resurrection as “he rose again”. This word “egerio” Paul used to describe Jesus’ raising up is the same word Paul uses to describe resurrection of the dead in Christ in verse 52.
The ascension following the resurrection is described as “ascended” or “anabaino”. Anabaino is used ten times in the New Testament. When Christ departed on day forty, he used the term was “taken up” or “epairo”. This term is used once in the New Testament. There is nothing suggesting that Jesus was “caught up” in the nature of a forceful act. Neither is there any suggestion that the rapture verses speak about any “taking by force”. There is more in common with the “ascending” and “taking up” concepts of Jesus’ ascensions with the two rapture verses’ words, “rise”, raised, and “caught up”.
There is nothing in the translation in Revelation 12:5 to even suggest a “forceful taking” is relevant. Harpazo is never used in its “take by force” usage. The commentators who prefer this interpretation are crafting a private interpretation in order to craft a result which favors their interpretation. We search for God’s truth, not our preferred truths. If our beliefs are not aligned with God’s truth, the our beliefs will be irrelevant and erroneous. This must be the intellectual honesty to which we all aspire and submit. God’s truth first and foremost or nothing at all.
If one attempts to interpret the “harpazo” of Revelation 12:5 as the rapture of the Church, the argument is significantly weakened when comparing verse 5 to the two rapture verses above. Their proposition omits the dead in Christ. This is, without redefining the term “harpazo” to mean “take with force” as they assert, the distinguishing element.
Taken by Force
Strong’s Lexicon states that “harpazo” G726 has been translated into six English words any number of times. The following words, along with their frequency of usage, is as follows: catch up (4x), take by force (3x), catch away (2x), pluck (2x), catch (1x) and pull (1x).
The one rapture verse which uses the term “caught up” “harpazo” was not translated as “taken by force”. This is an important distinction.
The translation committees, which, in the case of the KJB translation work, were comprised of 47 Hebrew and Greek scholars of unparalleled intellectual stature. The translations which produced the 1611 KJB were subject to no less than fourteen independent reviews before word choices were adopted from the Textus Receptus manuscripts. Personally, I am inclined to defer to their word choices, not only in deference to their learned stature, but most significantly, because of God’s express promise to inspire and preserve His words. In no case, had the phrase “take by force” been used in conjunction with the two principal rapture verses.
The three New Testament verses which translated the word “harpazo” in its “take by force” characterization are:
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
These three examples all share one common theme. The object of the force objected to being taken. This theme is diametrically opposed to any notion that the “catching up” action could be associated with the rapture. Would anyone object to being “caught up” to Christ? Is this not the “hope of glory”? The proposition that the Revelation 12:5 “caught up” term represents the rapture of Christ’s own, must fail for lack of any logical support in the Scriptures.
Now, if you must insist that the translators erred, then your word choices may be substituted to craft a private interpretation to suit your particular doctrinal viewpoint. This is what Eve did in Genesis 3. She deleted the word “freely”. She added the phrase, “shall not touch”. Satan simply questioned God’s authority with the smug phrase “Yea, hath God said”. Satan did lie in Genesis 3:4 telling Eve she would not die if she ate the fruit. Questioning the words of God’s voice, adding words, deleting words, is where the whole problem began. If we are permitted to do these things, then we shall necessarily become “as gods”. I choose to believe that God was able to cause His Hebrew and Greek words to be accurately reflected in one English translation under the doctrines of inspiration and preservation. Is anything too hard for our God?
This refusal to take the Scriptures literally, as they appear in writing, is sign of the times when people will not endure sound doctrine. Doctrine is the foremost purpose of the Scriptures. And accordingly, this same 2 Timothy verse necessarily implies the first doctrine of Scripture is that “All Scripture is God breathed”. All means all, not some and not multiple versions of the voice of God’s words. God has established ideological rules for each of His doctrinal jurisdictions, a set for the Jew and a set for Christ’s own. If you do not learn to rightly divide God’s doctrinal jurisdictions , you will fall into error and believe in heretical doctrines. God forbid, doctrines of devils!
The Feasts of the Lord as Metaphors of Spiritual Resurrection
Symbolism of Christ’s First Fruits Resurrection
Let’s consider the symbolism that God chose to use for the resurrection of Christ as a witness to His form of ascension rapture. On First Fruits, when Jesus was resurrected, Sunday morning, the Temple priests had prepared the “wave sheaf offering of grain”. This sheaf of grain offering represented the first fruits of the harvest, but in God’s symbolic speech, it represented the spiritual harvest, the begotten Son of God. Jesus taught this doctrine in John 12:24 where He said:” Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Jesus was the corn of wheat, the first fruit of the resurrection of righteousness.
The Threefold Order of the Resurrection of Righteousness
Paul describes the three orders of this first resurrection. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24:
“23But every man in his own order: (1) Christ the firstfruits; afterward (2)they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh(3) the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. [Numbering added]
Jesus, the first order of the resurrection, was resurrected at the First Fruits festival when the Temple priests were waving up in the air the “sheaf of grain” offering to God. This offering represented Christ’s post resurrection ascension into heaven as the first fruits of the resurrection of righteousness. The sheaf of grain represented a sample of the greater harvest to come at Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Conclusion. Christ’s own, the second order of the resurrection, will follow Christ at His appearing as the greater harvest.
On the Feast of Pentecost, the Temple priests were concluding the Spring harvest offerings. God had instructed the priests to bake two loaves of bread with the fruit of the grain harvest and offer two loaves of bread baked up to God. This called the “wave loaf offering”.
Pentecost represents a two-stage transaction involving Christ’s own at His appearing. Now Christ did not appear at the first Pentecost. He had to depart before the Holy Spirit could come to his disciples. The first stage of Pentecost was the “earnest deposit” of the Spirit of God into and indwelling the believers. The second stage is the Pentecostal Rapture.
One of the Holy Spirit’s works is to show Christ’s own “the things to come”. We are studying, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the “things to come”. What then, does Paul mean when he describes the second order of the resurrection of righteousness? Christ did not appear at the first Pentecost when the purchase deposit was made. The second stage of Pentecost is the redemption of the body. The third order of the resurrection occurs at the end of Daniel’s 70th week. This is “the end” prior to the Millennial reign. Revelation 20:5 days, “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”. This third order concludes the three orders of the first resurrection to life. The third order of the resurrection resurrects the tribulation saints who will be included in the Millennial population.