Biblical Forensics©

What Did Jesus Christ Say About the Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

Part 3

One of the least obvious Rapture passages in the Bible is John 14:1-6. As a pastor, I opened my Scripture reading at a funeral with the words of Jesus Christ from John 14:1-6. Now we are going to be looking at this passage from a different perspective that is not traditionally understood as a Rapture passage.

Although I never attended a seminary that taught Dispensationalism, I have been a believer in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture for fifty-two years. I came to that view through my own study of the Bible. I graduated from a non-denominational seminary with a Wesleyan orientation. The academic institutions that I attended and graduated from, their official view of eschatology was Amillennial. This meant they did not believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, nor did they ascribe to the Millennial view that we would live and reign with Christ Jesus on earth for 1,000 years as noted in Revelation 20:4. In fact, the related surrounding verses of Revelation 20, the phrase “1,000 years” is mentioned a total of six (6X) times. Repeatedly my professor who taught the book of Revelation argued with me claiming that the words “1,000 years” in that context, did not mean a literal “one thousand year”, but simply was a term of great length or an undefined period. The word for “1,000” is “Chilioi”, and it means exactly what it says: “1,000 years”. Other references in Revelation 20 describe the length of Satan’s confinement, and specifically the Millennial Dispensation period.

I always opened a funeral service with the passage from John 14:1-6, but not once did I ever consider it as a reference for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. It was only in later years as I continued my Greek language studies that I came to understand John 14:1-6 as a foundational passage about the Rapture. In my opinion, those critics of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, are greatly deceived by the fact that very few have a grasp or working familiarity of Greek and its nuances. When I was writing my notes and thoughts on this subject, I decided to leave my comments on this text for last.

The context and setting of John 14 provides us a backdrop to the nature of the disciples’ understandable trepidations and concerns pertaining to His leaving them. The chapter opens by describing the circumstances that were depressing occurrences for them to think about:

  1. Jesus told them He was departing from them –(John 13:33)

  2. He implied that He would suffer death by crucifixion –(John 12:32-33)

  3. He said all would forsake Him and Peter would deny Him –(John 13:38)

  4. He pointed out that one of their group was resolute in His decision to betray Him –(John 13:21)

  5. They noted that the betrayal had troubled Jesus though they were unable to interpret it correctly –(John 13:21)

  6. He told them they could not follow Him until later –(John 13:36)

The eleven apostles were in desperate need of the encouraging discourse of the next three chapters -(John 14-16).

In John 14:1, Jesus used the word “heart” in the singular tense, indicating the collective sense and making the admonition appropriate to each member of the group. “Heart” is used as the location of the deepest recesses of the soul. It usually signifies the emotions, which reflect the attitude and will of the entire person. To be troubled through adverse circumstances is a human reaction. It is not a sin to be troubled or else our Lord would not have been troubled –(John 13:21). Furthermore, His emotions of being troubled were due to His imminent betrayal and the burden of sin which He, our Holy Sacrifice, was about to assume.

John 14:2 gives substance to the need of believing commanded in verse 1. Faith is never without a foundation, invoked by strong evidence. God asks no man to trust without evidence. –(Hebrews 11:1). The Father’s house is what we call “heaven”. It is where Jesus came from and where He was returning to –(John 13:33). It is impossible to locate the position of heaven in space, but Jesus assured us that the Father’s house exists. The term “Mansions” indicates permanent places. The word is derived from the word “remain”, “many mansions”, and “a place for you”. The first two descriptions condense down into the third explanation – a personal designation or ‘locality’ for the individual.

There was no uncertainty about His departure. “A place for you” is the specific and complementary reason for going and preparing. Jesus promised to go and He did! He promised to prepare a place for each believer and He is doing exactly that! He promised to come again and He will! His coming cannot be fully realized until the Second Advent at the end of the Tribulation. It is then, and only then, that His people will enjoy the benefits of His full and complete redemptive work.

  1. He speaks of “my Father’s house”

  2. He pointed out that there were “many mansions” (dwelling places)

  3. He assured the disciples of “a place for you”

  4. With rapturous finality, He promised He Himself would receive them that “where I am, there ye may be also”

Jesus spoke both in public and in private concerning His departure –(John: 6:62; 7:36; 13:33, 36). The disciples knew where He was going; He had just revealed to them that He was going to the Father’s house and that was His destination.

In John 14:4-5, the word “know” shows the close relationship of these two sentences. He was going to the Father’s house, and they would follow afterward, Jesus was their way to the Father’s house because He was the revelation of the Father –(John 1:4, 12; 10:7, 9; 11:25).

Thomas is noted for his skepticism and his questions, yet he should be remembered also for his amazing confession of faith –(John 20:28). The question he asked was doubtless in the minds of all the disciples. Thomas was not much different from any scholars’ critical inquiry. Today, we still do not know where heaven is. Thomas was not alone in his question. The other disciples also wished for more definite knowledge about heaven and the way to get there.

Had it not been for Thomas’ question, we might not have this precious statement from our Lord in John 14:6. Jesus’ response revealed a triple “I am”–(see John 1:51). “The way” means the road on which one travels to the Father’s house. Jesus is like a bridge/road spanning the gulf between earth and heaven. “The Truth” and “The Life” are eternal aspects of Christ’s nature. Christ Jesus stated the temporary aspect before the eternal. Thomas and the disciples had hoped to satisfy their curious minds, but Jesus wished to promote their safe arrival in heaven.

John 14:7 uses the term “had known”; it is a perfect tense verb meaning a knowledge that often comes from personal experience. It was by seeing Jesus that the Father was known, for Jesus was the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. –(Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1;15; 1st Timothy 6:16).

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going”. –(John 14:1-4).

John 14:3 where Jesus Christ tells His disciples, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself,” is an expression that is never used of death anywhere in the entire Bible. So what does He mean when He says “I will come?” The Greek word here is “erchomai”, and this is a problem for the Rapture view because it is in the present tense. People will say, if this is the present tense how could it be a reference to a future rapture? But in the Greek, what we discover is that there is something called the “futuristic present tense”. This implies some things that are going to happen in the future are presented in the present tense because the eventual outcome is so certain that they’re going to happen, or it is as if the result has already taken place. That is what is known as the “futuristic present tense”. The present tense may be used to describe a futuristic reality. In fact, the present tense may describe an event wholly, yet after the time of speaking, as if it were taking place in the present. Only an examination of the context can one determine whether this use of the present tense stresses immediacy or certainty.

To summarize my Greek explanation, Christ Jesus will return to remove believers from earth’s environs and take them with Him. And that takes us to our final word in verse 3: the word “where”. Notice what Jesus says, “that where I am you may be also.” The Greek word translated “where” is the Greek word hopou”, referring to a specific location in the present and is used in conjunction with the designation of a specific place.

To summarize it this way: Jesus will return to take believers to the place where He is. This can hardly be the earth since there would be no need for Him to build the heavenly dwellings spoken of in the prior and preceding verses.

Commentators on this passage simply declare their view, without establishing proof or competent evidence that this is to be so. Yet, many times, various Biblical texts speak of Christ Jesus coming in reference to His Second Coming, such as: -(Matthew 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 42-44, 46; 25:31; John 21:23; Acts 1:9-11; 1st Thessalonians 4:15; 2nd Thessalonians 1:10; 2:1, 8).

The Bible never speaks of death as an event in which the Lord comes for a believer. Instead, Scripture speaks of Lazarus “carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” –(Luke 16:22). When Stephen was about to be martyred, he saw “the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” -(Acts 7:56).

This error is clearly refuted by the fact that elsewhere in the New Testament the Spirit of God explains that the believer’s death is not describing the Lord coming to the dying believer, but rather the death of a Christian believer means that he goes to be with the Lord as Paul cites in 2nd Corinthians 5:8. Angels accompany the soul to their heavenly abode –(Luke 16; Jude 9; 1st Thessalonians 4; and Hebrews 1:14). Angels are like real estate agents showing us to our new homes.

The late Bible scholar Arno Gaebelein tells us that Jesus Christ is unveiling a new revelation about the Rapture of the Church in this passage:

But here in John 14 the Lord gives a new and unique revelation; He speaks of something which no prophet had promised, or ever could promise. Where is it written that this Messiah would come and instead of gathering His saints into an earthly Jerusalem, would take them to the Father’s house, to the very place where He is? It is something new. And let it be noticed in promising to come again, He addresses the eleven disciples and tells them, “I will receive you unto Myself, that where I am ye may be also.” He speaks then of a coming which is not for the deliverance of the Jewish remnant, not of a coming to establish His kingdom over the earth, not a coming to judge the nations, but coming which concerns only His own.”

Several scholars have noted closely that looking at our Lord’s statements in John 14:1-3 they harmonize with another New Testament passage of 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. Renald Showers, J.B. Smith, Tommy Ice, all point out a relationship that parallels the two passages.

John 14:1-3

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18


vs. 1


vs. 13


vs. 1


vs. 14

God, me

vs. 1

Jesus, God

vs. 14

Told you

vs. 2

Say to you

vs. 15

Come again

vs. 3

Coming of the Lord

vs. 15

Receive you

vs. 3

Caught up

vs. 17

To myself

vs. 3

To meet the Lord

vs. 17

Be where I am

vs. 3

Ever be with the Lord

vs. 17

Dr. Smith noted the following observations as a results of these comparisons:

In light of comparing Scripture with Scripture, it appears obvious that Jesus’ teaching in John 14:1-3 and Paul’s revelations in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 speak of the same event. Dr. Smith concluded, “It is but consistent to interpret each passage as dealing with the same event – the rapture of the church. How else does one explain the progression of eight specific words or phrases in exactly the same order, in two different passages, by two different spokesmen? It is clear that these passages refer to a single future event – the Rapture of the church. We learn that the church’s Blessed Hope was first revealed by our Lord on the eve of His crucifixion to His disciples as they grieved over His departure. Later, the doctrine to the Thessalonians who were faced with a similar problem of departing loved ones that Jesus dealt with in the Upper Room for His disciples. Now, 2000 years later and half-way around the world, today’s church can be comforted by the Blessed Hope that in the next moment of time we could be face-to-face with our Lord, in the Father’s house, via the Rapture of the Church. May it be today. Maranatha!”

Over the years, I have officiated at 150 funerals, and in every one, I opened with John 14:1-4. I never thought of this text as a Rapture passage, not until I began a study of the Gospel of John in the Greek text and the work of the late Dr. J.R. Church. Twenty years ago, he did an extensive multi-issue study in his magazine ‘Prophecy in the News’. It seems to me that there is a lot more evidence in John 14:1-4 to support the Rapture, and that Jesus was describing the characteristics of the event, without ever using the term “Rapture”.

The matter of belief is a central theme and is significant in John’s Gospel. The verb form of “believe” is used nearly 100X in the Gospel of John. The adjective form is only used twice, and the noun form “faith” is not found at all. Of all the New Testament writings, John, by far uses the word more than any other book. The book directs one to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah sent to redeem His people. The Gospel of John records about five trips Jesus made to Jerusalem. John records seven signs that Jesus gave during that period of time and these are recorded in the Gospel of John. The first sign is the transformation of the water into wine at Cana of Galilee and the last sign was the resuscitation of Lazarus. One cannot escape the point John was writing with an emphasis of belief!

Jesus’ words were not intended for outsiders but to instruct His disciples and those who had or would come to belief that He was the Messiah. What do we learn about Jesus’ coming?

Followers of the Lord must be ready and watchful, lest we be lulled into spiritual lethargy by the progress of life from one generation to the next and assume that Jesus won’t return after all – that there must have been some mistake. The Apostle Peter issues such a warning for us. –(See 2nd Peter 3:3-4, 8-13).

As long as God was holding the door open for Israel, the full scope of His plan for the Church could not be fully revealed. Blessings like salvation by grace through faith alone, eternal security, and especially the Rapture, never have and never will be offered to Israel. They are exclusive blessings applied to the “Born-Again” believer in Christ Jesus’ ‘Bride/Church’ made up of Gentile and Jewish believers. Those who fail to grasp the significance of this point risk serious consequences that accompanies “Replacement Theology” as taught by Roman Catholicism and much of Protestant denominations.

Israel’s prophecies are not being fulfilled in this Dispensation, and for many reasons. We live in a “mystery” Dispensation where the operation of God on the Earth is significantly different than it was during the Dispensation of his prophetic purpose to Israel. Below are reasons that Israel’s prophecies concerning the coming judgment and Earthly kingdom will not be fulfilled during this Dispensation.

As the better Bible scholars, have said, to resolve the confusion of the “signs of the times” we must understand first the “times of the signs”. It is not until the time of this “mystery” Dispensation is complete that the time of prophetic signs and fulfillment will continue per God’s word.

  1. The mystery was kept secret
    If the mystery of Christ was kept secret during every prophetic utterance since the world began, then prophecy cannot be what is happening during the “mystery” Dispensation -(Acts 3:21, Romans 16:25). What God hath separated let no man put together.

  2. What is foretold is not kept secret
    The end time events of judgment, kingdom, and prophetic fulfillment were foretold. If those prophesied days speak of days during the “mystery” Dispensation, then these days were spoken about before. This is contrary to the Scripture when it speaks about what is hidden and revealed.

  3. God’s gospel is different
    The gospel of the Grace of God is free justification with no accompanying works. The kingdom gospel pertains to the New Covenant which has required works of law written on their heart.

  4. God’s operation is different
    Some prophecies are about unbelievers, yet others require God’s intervention. The way He intervenes in prophecy per the promises and covenants. Yet, today God is not operating with humanity, per by covenants but by his grace.

  5. God’s people are different
    The church in prophecy was the obedient nation of Israel. Today, the people of God are made up of Israel and Gentiles. There is neither Jew nor Greek. These are mutually exclusive.

  6. God’s representation is different
    Revelation and prophetic books talk about the priests of the Lord being the promised people of God. A characteristic of this Dispensation is that there are no priests of the Lord. The church today as members of his body was not prophesied.

  7. God’s purpose is different
    The prophetic purpose was to set up God’s dominion on the Earth. That is not God’s purpose in this Dispensation which is to build a new creature to inhabit heavenly dominions.

  8. Israel is fallen in this Dispensation
    Romans 9-11 describe Israel’s spiritual fall. Prophetic fulfillment requires that Israel be given the position of spiritual and political prominence.

  9. Salvation is sent to the Gentiles
    Acts 28:28 tells plainly that salvation is sent to the Gentiles. Yet, per prophecy, the Jewish nation would be the evangelists of God’s salvation during the Tribulation.

  10. We are delivered from wrath to come
    Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that we are delivered from wrath to come. The prophesied wrath on the Earth was a result of the broken covenant relationship between God and his people.

  11. We are children of the day, not the night
    1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 says that those in the “night” time are looking for signs. We are not in that time, but are rather children of the “day” time in history. We are not appointed to the coming judgment.

  12. God is not imputing sins
    The coming judgment on the earth is justified by the imputation of trespasses on the world. However, at this time God is not imputing trespasses to anyone -(2
    nd Corinthians 5:19).

  13. It is the dispensation of God’s grace
    The only events remaining on God’s prophetic calendar refer to his declaration of war upon the world that declared war on Him 2000 years ago, you cannot offer terms of peace in the Dispensation of Grace while at the same time declaring war.

  14. Prophetic signs are global
    Some think the prophecies contain only specific prophecies such as the mark of the beast or the antichrist, when they include the whole earth. The worldwide nature of some of the prophecies indicates that the prophesies would directly affect any church that was on Earth.

  15. Prophecy is on a timetable
    This hidden Dispensation has no prophetic timetable associated with it. Paul declares the beginning of his message as being
    “out of due time”. Prophetic fulfillment is foretold to the month and year.

  16. Prophecy is for Israel
    Prophecy was a privilege to the nation Israel who required signs -(1st Corinthians 1:22). There is no Israel today. It will be Israel’s prophets that will be sent to witness to the world during that time.

  17. Israel today is not God’s Israel
    Most point to 1948 creation of the state of Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy. However, these people who were gathered together by geopolitical forces reject the Messiah. Their national flag is that of Lucifer. Though they could, many choose not to be saved by God’s grace without the law. Indeed, that message remains an offense to them. They are not the remnant of Israel that began at Pentecost.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why Israel’s prophecy is not being fulfilled today, but it emphasizes the doctrine of the difference between what was prophesied and what was kept secret (mystery). Prophetic fulfillment will happen as literally as the Bible declares it to be. Many tell stories of prophetic fulfillment and use exaggerated language to ascribe Bible proof texts. This is not proper Bible application and should be avoided.

Even under their version of the New Covenant, and its specifications will be different from the way it is for the Church. A temple, daily sacrifices for sin, and mandatory observance of Holy Days will still be the order of the day, although they will be somewhat different from Old Covenant requirements.

But having waited long enough for Israel, God has now determined to implement His plan for the Church first and Israel would have to wait until later for Him. Prior to the completion of Daniel’s 70th week and during the Church age, individual Jewish believers receive all the blessings intended for the Church but the nation of Israel would cease to exist in a covenant relationship with God until He had first removed the Gentiles as a people for Himself. Therefore, the Apostle Paul said Israel has been blinded in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in –(Romans 11:25).

Paul was present at the Council of Jerusalem when he learned that Israel was being set aside while the Lord built His Church. Shortly thereafter he became the first person on earth to present a clear teaching on the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church, repeating what the Lord told him. Paul explained that in doing so he was revealing a secret.

When people claim Jesus did not say anything about the Rapture, they err in ways that elude their understanding of Jesus Words. We can counter with the statement that He did not OPENLY speak about the Rapture. As noted before, the Greek text is insufficiently translated in the John 14:1-4 passage. But that is just part of how Jesus was misunderstood, even by those disciples closest to Him.

The death of Jesus was to be Satan’s ultimate victory, so he thought. It would be the removal of man’s only hope for freedom from complete and eternal separation from God. As recorded in Isaiah 14:13-14, it would have also fulfilled Satan’s stated ambition to “Become like the Most High”. All mankind would owe their allegiance to Satan. In an earlier attempt to gain Jesus full loyalty, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth in return for His worship, but Jesus had refused. Now He would get nothing, Satan must have smugly thought to himself.

But at the cross something Satan had not anticipated took place. While Satan stood there at the foot of the cross celebrating with his minions, a long list appeared over the Lord’s head and was nailed to the cross with Him. It was a list of all our sins and His death was providing payment for all the sins of humanity throughout the ages. His death was going to allow anyone desiring to be granted a full pardon and the chance to be reunited with God. Immediately, Satan’s assumed ultimate victory backfired and became a total failure –(Colossians 2:13-15).

Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians clearly indicates that the Rapture will take place before the Day of the Lord and before the appearance of the man of sin, but did Jesus teach that there would be a Rapture before the Tribulation? The answer is a definitive Yes!

When Jesus spoke of the Church He referred to it in the future tense, “I will build my Church” –(Matthew 16:18). While the Church began at Pentecost its character as the body of Christ was progressively revealed to Paul –(Ephesians 3:5) and recorded in his epistles. On this basis one would not expect to read of the Rapture of the Church in the Gospels since the Church was still a “mystery…hid in God” from the beginning of the world –(Ephesians 3:9).

However, since the sudden disappearance of millions of Christian believers must by their sheer numbers have a global impact, it would be surprising if mention of it were not included in the signs of the end of the age. The fact is that it is cited among the signs delivered to Israel relating to the end of the age, and which precedes the return of Christ Jesus who is destined to establish His universal kingdom.

When the disciples asked the Lord, “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus listed many events that would indicate that His coming was “near, even at the door” –(Matthew 24:33). One of those signs was a global disappearance of individuals. He could not say that it was the Church because the Church did not exist at that time and the truth of the Church awaited special revelations to Paul years later, so Jesus said, “As the days of Noe were, so shall the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, UNTIL the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son be. THEN shall two be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left” –(Matthew 24:37-41).

In the context of the Lord’s words this can only mean that the Tribulation is likened to the flood of Noah’s day and just as God removed the righteous before judgment fell, so there would be the sudden removal of individuals before the Tribulation began. This would be a sign to Israel.

The words used in the Greek text confirm that those who disappear are blessed for the word “taken” is “paralambano” meaning, “to receive to one’s self”. The word translated “left” is “afeeaymee” meaning to “go away” and is used whenever a man is divorcing or “putting away”, his wife –(1st Corinthians 7:11).

Luke’s Gospel recorded the Lord’s words on another occasion when He gave the signs of the approaching kingdom and likened the end of the age to the days of Noe and Lot. He said, “The same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be when the Son of man is revealed” -(Luke 17:29-30).

Jesus again remarked concerning what would be occurring saying, “and one shall be taken and the other left” -(Luke 17:34-36). When the disciples asked, “Where, Lord?” Jesus answered, “Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together” -(Luke 17:37).

The word used for “body” is “Soma” meaning “a living body”. The word comes from “sozo” meaning, “to save”. A different word is used in Matthew 24:28, where it is “ptoma”, meaning “a rotting carcass”. The context of Matthew 24:28 is Armageddon where the carrion birds will devour the flesh of the slain. The context of Luke 17 is the sign of missing persons at the end of the age.

When Jesus explained that the eagles will be gathered to the living body He was indicating that those who were taken would rise like eagles ascending higher and higher in the sky, just as eagles do. His response answered the question about where those who disappear would be taken. They would be received to Himself.

There is no doubt the disciples could not have understood the Lord’s answer at the time but we ought to remember that much of Bible prophecy was sealed until the end times. Daniel was told: “The words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end… but the wise shall understand” -(Daniel 12:9-10). The Scriptures have undergone progressive revelation, as knowledge and understanding of the Bible, particularly so since I first entered pastoral ministry in 1965. Scripture states that knowledge and understanding would increase –(Daniel 12:4).

Finally, subtly but quite profoundly, Jesus taught that He would return to establish His kingdom “after the wedding–(Luke 12:36). Since the Church is the wife of the Lamb –(Revelation 19:7-8; Ephesians 5:32) she must be in heaven BEFORE the Second Coming. The Old Testament always identifies Israel as the wife of God, not Christ Jesus. There can be no wedding in heaven without a Bride, meaning Christ Jesus came for His Bride in advance. The Bride/Church could only have gotten there in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture!

Critics of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture would have us believe Jesus said nothing about the Rapture; however, that is a shallow claim with little substance backing it up. As I have shown, Jesus did say more than what anyone would initially think. It becomes a matter of discerning His nuanced words!

It was an unbelievable manifestation of God’s love. If Satan had known before what was coming, he certainly would have made it a priority to do everything in his power to prevent the crucifixion from ever occurring –(1st Corinthians 2:7-10). For that reason alone, the Rapture could not be revealed on Earth until it was too late for Satan to do anything about it. But there was more. Jesus came to offer a Kingdom to Israel, and His primary focus was in convincing Israel to receive it. It was for that reason that He rarely spoke of the Church in the first place. If you study the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25, you will find that in Jesus definitive teaching on the end times, He did not mention the Church even once.

I am suggesting that within the Gospel writings, that record Jesus own words, He could only allude by inference and innuendo. This approach may not be all that easy to comprehend or even identify, yet all the same, with regards to the Rapture Jesus was saying more than we tend to realize or appreciate. This is one of those occasions where the English translation inadequately conveys the breadth and depth of the Greek Textus-Receptus.

Pastor Bob