(Versus the idea of an any-moment, secret rapture of the Church)
Regarding our Lords return we are told in Scripture to watch, work, and wait.
When we think of watching we have usually been taught to watch for an any-moment,
secret rapture of the Church an event which is said to occur without any identifiable
signs whatsoever. Two of the five New Testament Greek verbs translated watch give
us a different understanding verbs which refer specifically to our Lords return. These
two verbs, agrupneo and gregoreo carry the meaning of spiritual or moral
wakefulness rather than watching for a specific event. Agrupneo carries the
meaning of to be sleepless or wakeful thus to be vigilant. Gregoreo, carries
the meaning to be awake -- a verb from which we derive the name Gregory.
Consequently, to watch, as it refers to our Lords return, has everything to so with our
spiritual and moral wakefulness and nothing to do with an any-moment, secret rapture of
the Church. To support this we need to look at the actual usage of these two verbs in
I Thessalonians 5:1-11:
Please note: the context of this passage has to do with the day of the Lord. According to
pretribulational thinking, the day of the Lord refers to Christs coming to judge at the end
of the Tribulation; therefore, it could not possibly refer to the Rapture. Yet, believers are
told in v. 2 that our Lord will come like a thief in the night in the day of the Lord.
This is strange indeed if his coming like a thief in the night is only supposed to happen
when the Rapture occurs. Emphasis on the words like a thief in the night is one of the
main pretribulational arguments to prove the any-moment, secret Rapture. Why then is
this phrase used to describe Jesus coming when many identifiable signs have already
happened according to the biblical context?
Also, please note that it is unbelievers who will be surprised by the coming of Christ in
the day of the Lord not believers! For them, his coming is no surprise at all! But you,
brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you life a thief. You are all
sons of 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 (gregoreo) and self-
controlled. For those who sleep, sleep in the 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., vv. 4-8.
II Thessalonians 2:1-3 explains there are identifiable signs after which our Lord will
come: Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him,
we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy,
report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying the day of the Lord has already
come. Dont let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the
rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
Therefore, getting back to I Thessalonians 5:1-11, believers are not surprised by the day
of the Lord because they are spiritually awake and are aware the Antichrist must appear
first. It is only the unbelievers who are surprised by our Lords coming as a thief in the
night. Consequently, the use of gregoreo, to be alert, in I Thessalonians 5:6 really
had nothing at all to do with an any-moment, secret Rapture of the Church; rather
believers are to be alert spiritually awake so that Christs coming in the day of the
Lord as a thief in the night will not be a surprise at all! Whenever Jesus comes, true
believers will be ready!
Behold, I come like a thief in the night. Blessed is he who stays awake (gregoreo) and
keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.
Please note the context. Christ is coming like a thief at the time of the sixth bowl well
into the Tribulation. Again, it is believers who will be spiritually alert when the Lord
returns for his own dressed in the righteousness of Jesus. It is unbelievers who will not
be ready not clothed in the righteousness of Christ totally surprised by the One who
comes like a thief in the night. Again we see that the use of gregoreo has nothing to do
with a secret, any-moment Rapture of the Church because events have already progressed
well into the Tribulation.
Matthew 24:42-51; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:34-36; (see also Luke 12:35-46)
Again we see the context of each of these passages -- which use both agrupneo and
gregoreo does not describe a secret, any-moment Rapture; rather, we see the Rapture
and the Coming of Christ as one event after the Tribulation is under way. Believers are
repeatly exhorted to watch, to be alert and to be ready. They will be faithful
servants who are consistently obedient; therefore, they will not be ashamed at the coming
of their Lord. They know his coming is imminent because certain signs have already
taken place, (Matthew 24:15-34; 32-34), but as to the exact day and hour they do not
know, (Matthew 24:36).
Consequently, the main emphasis of agrupneo and gregoreo is spiritual wakefulness, i.e.
living the Christian lifestyle so as to be ready whenever the Lord will come -- near the
end of the Tribulation. Again, there is no connection between the use of these two verbs
and a secret, any-moment Rapture.
According to pretribulational teaching, the context of these Bible passages (our Lords
Olivet Discourse) teaches nothing about the Rapture of the Church. It would seem very
strange indeed that Christ would tell us to watch for an event which -- in the
pretribulational scheme of things -- is not even mentioned! Actually the highest
concentration of watch words is found right here in Jesus Olivet Discourse (Matthew
24; Mark 13 and Luke 21). I would be strange indeed for our Lord would not tell us in
this important end-time passage what it is He wants us to watch for! But that is precisely
what our pretribulationalist friends would like us to accept! I believe our Lord does tell
us to watch for his Second Coming which is one event encompassing the Rapture of the
All this leads to the conclusion that watching for our Lords return is not related to a
secret, any-moment Rapture of the Church. Believers do not watch for our Lords return
in some sort of suspense as though He were going to surprise them in the middle of night
like a thief. No, it is inbelievers who will be sadly startled in their their state of moral
slumber when Christ returns like a thief in the night. True believers will be faithfully
serving their Master as they always have in a watchful state of moral wakefulness. There
will be discernable signs of Jesus coming which believers will be able to identify, but the
exact day and hour will not be known. For true believers, however, Jesus return will be
the realization of their blessed hope a Return of Christ that will not find them either
unprepared or surprised. On the contrary, their watching (i.e. their spiritual
wakefulness) will find them eagerly anticipating the joy of face-to-face rejoicing with the
Savior as He raptures them, pours out his wrath on the earth and then returns with them in
victory to the earth.
Bibliography: George Elden Ladd. The Blessed Hope. Wm. M. Eerdmans Publishing