ZEPHANIAH’S PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE

It is a fact of Biblical scripture that there is coming an event so momentous and beyond human expectation that it staggers the imagination to even contemplate it.  This event, as many true Christians already know, is called the rapture.  The rapture event will see millions of people worldwide disappear off the face of the earth and ascend into Heaven to be with the very one who was the center of their faith.  For those left behind, an untold nightmare of seven years of divine judgment will strike the earth.  The below two scriptures are the two most quoted and recognized verses in the biblical text that affirm this fact clearly …

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, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

In addition to the plain surface reading of some biblical text such as quoted above that there will be a rapture, many do not realize that the Old Testament contains additional hidden prophecies indicating a pre-tribulation rapture of all born again believers.  The book of Zephaniah is one such hidden prophecy found in the Old Testament. Zephaniah, a descendant of King Hezekiah, wrote during the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.), shortly before the Babylonian invasion of Judah.  His book occupies ninth place among the twelve minor prophets.  Though there are only three chapters to his work, his theme concerns God’s judgment upon all nations in the “great day of the Lord.”  The context lifts us out of the generation that experienced the Babylonian captivity and carries us into the future – to the very days in which we now live – to the concluding days of the sixth millennium …

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 there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers” (Zephaniah 1:14-16).

The terminology used to describe the impending “day of the Lord” is indicative of the Tribulation period.  God’s judgment is about to fall upon an unbelieving world.  Among terms such as “wrath, … trouble,” etc., Zephaniah speaks of the blowing of a trumpet.  Though he tells us that the trumpet represents an alarm against fenced cities and high towers, we can be sure that the trumpet signals the beginning of God’s day of judgment.  It is not a mid or post-tribulation trumpet.  Three verses later, Zephaniah gives an unusual message to a nation comprised of Gentiles.  His admonition contains the heart of what the Bible refers to as our “blessed hope” – a pre-tribulation rapture …

Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord‘s anger come upon you.  Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord‘s anger” (Zephaniah 2:1-3).

First of all, take notice of the language used in the very first sentence of this prophetic passage … “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together O nation not desired …” (verse 1).  This gathering together is the same language used in the rapture passage found in 2 Thessalonians 2 which states the following …

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him … ” (2 Thessalonians 2:1).

This is yet more evidence that confirms and solidifies the fact that there will be a “gathering together” or a “pre-tribulation rapture” of every born again individual within the body of Christ in the end times.  Second of all, this message is directed to a “nation” not desired.  This is not Israel.  The Hebrew term used here is HaGoy, used exclusively of Gentiles.  Furthermore, they are described as “not desired.”  Again, these people are not the Jews, they are the Gentiles.  This changes the complexion of Zephaniah’s message.  It is to the Gentiles that the prophet says, “Seek ye the Lord.”  More specifically, these Gentiles are believers.  Zephaniah’s continuing description leaves no doubt.  The prophet is not discussing a few Gentile believers in this verse, he uses the terms “all” and “earth.”  They are “all … [the] meek of the earth.”  Having just told us in the earlier verses that the time of this prophecy points to the “great day of the Lord …,” there can be no doubt that he is addressing all of the Gentiles on planet Earth who meet his criteria of “righteousness” and “meekness” (See the “YOUR ESCAPE” section at the end of this article).  To all believing Gentiles, Zephaniah promises a special dispensation – they shall be “hid” in the “day of the Lord’s anger”  Not only does Zephaniah promise that we shall be “hid,” but he emphasizes the time of our hiding in verse 2 …

“Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord‘s anger come upon you” (Zephaniah 2:2).

When shall we be hid?  The answer is made clear … “Before the decree bring forth.”  The term “bring forth” is also translated is also translated “birth.”  These are birth pangs – pains that bring judgment as the seventh millennium is birthed.  When shall we be hid?  The answer is again made clear – “… before the day pass as the chaff.”    This is a harvest term in which the chaff is separated from the grain by the winds of judgment.  When shall we be hid?  The answer is yet again made clear – “… before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you.”  The Hebrew text עֲלֵיכֶםיוֹם אַף־יְהוָה   בְּטֶרֶם לֹא reads literally  “before yet” [בְּטֶרֶם] “not” [לֹא] “comes“[יָבוֹא] “on you” [עֲלֵיכֶם] “the day of” [יוֹם] “the anger of” [אַף] “Jehovah” [יְהוָה].  In the Hebrew text, [לֹא] translated “not” precedes [יָבוֹא] translated “comes.”  I understand the rendering as “The day of the anger of the Lord will not come upon you.”  When shall we be hid?  “… before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you.”  

Here we are told that we shall be hid “before the day … comes.”  This further emphasizes a pre-tribulation rapture.  Though the term translated “before” is used three times in the Hebrew text, there is a fourth description in which “before” is implied and is, therefore, added to the KJV – four descriptions of the timing of our hiding:

  • before the birth pangs
  • before the winds blow the chaff
  • before the fierce anger
  • before the day comes

It could not be any clearer that Zephaniah, while addressing the time when the day of the Lord is near, promises all Gentile believers throughout the earth that we shall be spared the wrath of God.  We will be “hid” as verse 3 predicts!  Among Zephaniah’s many signs that let us know when the day of the Lord is near, two are pertinent.  The first concerns the revival of a dead language …

“For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9).

With the return of the Jews to their ancient Promised Land in this century, special interest has been placed on the revival of Hebrew, a language considered to be dead for centuries.  The man accredited with reviving the language of Hebrew is Eleazar ben Yehuda, who moved his family to Palestine around the turn of the century and spent the rest of his life restoring the ancient Hebrew language.

ELIZER BEN YEHUDA

He published a dictionary of Hebrew words, adding new words for terminology used in modern society, but not available to ancient civilizations.

The other prophecy concerns a return of Jews from Ethiopia …

“From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my supplicants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering” (Zephaniah 3:10).

Zephaniah was the son of Cushi (the Ethiopian).  It seems significant that an Ethiopian Jew would be the one to predict the return of the Ethiopian Jews.  This prophecy came to pass from 1984-1991.  The offspring of Moses and his Ethiopian wife are back in the Promised land today.  Therefore, we can be certain that Zephaniah was writing about the very generation in which we are living.  The “day of the Lord” is near.

YOUR ESCAPE

In order to accept the offer of God’s grace and his salvation, you must take the crucial three steps of …

1. Agreeing – A belief and agreeing with God in all that he says in his word, the Bible, about the fact that you are separated from God, as every man and woman on the face of the earth are before accepting his salvation.  The Bible reveals that all are separated from him in a spiritual state of death, or in another way that the Bible puts it, in a state of sin, that will result in eternal damnation.  Agreeing with God in your heart that you are in need of his salvation.  The Bible reveals that God looks upon the heart of a man, and thus, responds accordingly to the man or woman who comes to him for salvation in recognition of his inability to save himself.  The Bible makes these facts very clear – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  The Bible describes these three kinds of death:  physical death (the state experienced when life leaves our bodies); spiritual death (spiritual separation from God caused by our state of spiritual death, or state of sin that results in outward acts of sin on a daily basis as the Bible also puts it – the state of sin is received from the first man Adam); and finally eternal death (the fixed state entered into by the individual who dies physically while he or she is dead spiritually).  It is eternal death, in particular, which is the horrible result of receiving the wages of sin.  The Lord Jesus Christ frequently described such a death as being eternal (without end) in a destiny which he called Hell.  He described Hell as a literal place of judgment (Matthew 13:42); a place of everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8); a place of torment (Luke 16:24,28); a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50); a place of remorse (Mark 9:44-48); of bitter memory (Luke 16:25), and a place originally prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  In fact, Jesus more often warned about Hell than he spoke about Heaven.  It is not God’s will or desire that any person should be consigned to perish in Hell (2 Peter 3:9), but rather that all should come to repentance of unbelief toward him and believe on him for the salvation of the individual’s soul.  But God’s justice requires that the “soul who sins” (remains in it’s state of death or state of sin) is the one who will die eternally (Ezekiel 18:4).  So, agree with God, admitting that you are unable to save yourself and in a state of sin under God’s just condemnation for that sin and that you are in need of his salvation.

2. Believing – Then, believe that God does not want you to perish eternally in the torment of Hell because of your sin.  Believe that God loves you so much that he provided a way whereby he could still be a just, holy and righteous God, and yet pardon you.  Believe that God did not just overlook sin, but that he sent his only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to provide salvation by personally paying the penalty for sin.  Believe that Jesus Christ, whose life, death, burial and resurrection is the best-attested fact of antiquity, did come to earth to live, die, rise again and ascend to Heaven in order to provide justification and salvation for all who trust him.  Believe that he, and he alone, can save you because he has fully satisfied the just demands of God.  Believe that you can’t become righteous in God’s sight by your own effort.  Believe that he wants to save you and that he will save you.  The Bible provides a solid basis for such belief …

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). 

“But God demonstrates his love toward us in this:  while we were yet sinners,  Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). 

God presented him (Jesus Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man or woman who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26). 

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures … ” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 

“Jesus answered, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out [drive away]” (John 6:37).

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

3. Calling – It is not enough to agree with God, admit your need, and believe that Christ can and will save you.  You must act upon those facts.  You must repent of the sin of your unbelief toward him and actively call upon him for the salvation of your soul based on the fact that you cannot save yourself because of your sins.  You must be willing to completely turn from your own efforts to save yourself or from any other hope.  You must come to Christ, calling upon him for salvation and counting on the fact that he will do what he has promised.  This means simply taking the gift of pardon and eternal life which he offers.  Merely believing about Jesus Christ without coming to him makes as much sense and is as effective as believing that a medication can successfully treat a fatal disease, but failing to take it.  Yet again, the Bible emphatically and authoritatively provides the basis for such statements:

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). 

The word translated “believe” here means to “rest one’s entire weight and trust on the object or person in which the belief is placed.”  It requires action in keeping with the intellectual assent of that belief.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

” … but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The logical question you may be asking at this point is:  “how do I come to Christ and call upon him?”  The answer is that “calling upon the Lord” is just another term for praying, or talking to God.  To talk to God is not a complicated process, dependent upon some special rituals.  God has invited people to approach him through his Son in simple, straightforward terms.  In fact, Jesus approved of the dishonest, despised tax collector who simply prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  While the exact words of your prayer to God are not of vital importance (since God sees and knows the attitude of your heart), the following is the kind of prayer that you could pray in calling upon God for salvation …

“Dear Lord Jesus:  I realize that I need you.  I admit that I have sinned and that I deserve your just, eternal punishment for that sin.  But I am sorry for my sin and I am turning to you and asking for forgiveness.  I believe that you died and rose again to pay sin’s penalty on my behalf.  I come to you and open my heart to you.  I ask you to come into my life, forgive me for all of my sin and make me your child.  I invite you to take control of my life and to cause me to be the kind of person you would have me to be.  I thank you for doing this because you have promised that whosoever calls upon you, as I am doing now, shall be saved.  I pray this in the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, I urge you to sincerely and genuinely express it to God as your prayer.  The Bible makes clear that when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in our heart, God forgives our sins and counts us righteous, and that when we openly confess with our mouth what we have done in our heart,  God gives us assurance of that salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7).

Questions or comments can be left by scrolling down at the very bottom of this page.

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