Do we find the rapture in the writings of the Old Testament prophets? Yes. In this article we will look at two passages in the Book of Isaiah which seem to be referring to the rapture of the church. Isaiah had an interesting writing style. It takes a little getting used to. In his prophecies he jumps around a lot from one time period to another and back again. So while writing about a prophecy against Babylon, for example, he will intersperse prophecies that are about the millennial kingdom, or about the coming of the messiah, and then jump back again. Once you get into the groove with him it gets easier to follow, but new Bible students should certainly have a good commentary to guide them along through Isaiah. I would recommend Halley’s Bible Handbook, Pastor Chuck Smith’s Word for Today Study Bible, or the audio files at the Word for Today which can be accessed at: http://www.twft.com/?page=C2000.
Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer. NIV
This passage refers to God’s people being protected, and hidden, for a short period when God’s anger is manifested upon the sinners who inhabit the earth. Notice how God’s people are completely out of the way, shut in “their rooms” with the doors closed behind them, during this time. So there is no way that God’s people are mixed up with the sinners in this judgment. The passage is quite clear about that.
The main question here then is: Who are God’s people? This can only refer to two possible groups, and I believe it refers to both of them – Israel and the Church. While Israel has always been identified as God’s people, the church is identified as the bride of Christ. However within Israel there has always existed a rebellious faction who has received God’s judgments upon them. But those who repented and turned back to God have always been welcomed with open arms and protected.
It seems to me that the above passage has a double-meaning. This is common in scripture. The church will be raptured. When the anti-christ stands in the rebuilt temple, stops the sacrifices, and demands to be worshipped as God (committing the abomination of desolation), a large number of Jews will have their eyes opened and see him for what he really is and realize that Jesus was the messiah. Those Jews will then quickly flee from Israel, with the help of God, to the rock city of Petra in Jordan. There they will be protected by God for the remainder of the tribulation period, when God’s wrath is unleashed upon the earth. So both the repenting Jews and the raptured church will have “entered their rooms, shut the doors, and hidden themselves” waiting for God’s wrath to pass by.
The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. NIV
This passage is apparently making reference to both the rapture of the church and the tribulation era saints. Righteous men are both taken away and experiencing death. But the unbelieving, unrighteous do not understand what is happening and do not even consider that they are being removed to be spared from the evil that is coming. You would think that they would notice all the good guys are leaving. They are probably too caught up in stubborn unbelief, rebellion, and/or catering to the flesh to care or even notice.
At first the rapture removes the church, that is, those saints whose heart is right with God. All who remain and are salvageable are then converted and removed systematically through physical death, many at the hands of the anti-christ, before the tribulation judgments begin (these occur in the final three and a half years before the second coming of Christ). When we are removed we enter into peace and find rest. But, as Isaiah reiterates several times in his writings, there is no peace for the wicked.