Acts 15 and the Rapture


Acts 15:13  And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14  Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15  And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16  After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
17  That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
18  Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
The above verses are part of the Biblical evidence that the Rapture of believers must precede the start of Daniel’s 70th week.
The Jerusalem Councel of Acts 15 took place about 20 years after the crucifixion. The council was called to settle the issue of whether Gentiles had to be circumcised before they could be accepted as full-fledged members of the church. All the believers knew that salvation was by faith in Jesus death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. But perhaps one question nagged the Jewish Christians: “What would become of Israel?”
The Pharisees held that the path of salvation, for Jew and Gentile, lay through circumcision. No doubt, faith in Jesus’ saving death was the most important pre-condition but after that, whoever was not already circumcised must be circumcised so that Jews and Gentiles would be on the same footing in their covenant with God. And the Pharisees expected that with circumcision would come obedience to the Law, and following the traditions of the sages.
Paul and Barnabas held the opposite view.  They argued that, on the basis of the fact that the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles before circumcision, therefore, circumcision was not a pre-condition to be included in the family of God.
The Scripture passage above gives the outcome of the discussions in the council.
What James was saying, in effect, was that God was visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His Name.
By this time, sixty nine of Daniel’s seventy weeks of years had already passed and been fulfilled. But clearly the seventieth week of years had not yet begun. This meant that the prophetic clock had stopped after the cross, while God was taking a people for His Name from out of the Gentiles. Jerusalem and the Temple had not yet been destroyed, but the Lord’s prophecy was known that they soon would be.
Also there were signs (recorded in the Talmud) that all was not well as far as the Temple was concerned. (Talmud Mas. Yoma 39b)

1.  In the Yom Kippur service two goats were brought to the High Priest, one was to be “for the Lord” (the peace offering) and the other was “for Azazel”, also known as the scape goat.  They were chosen by lot and the lot for the Lord’s goat had always come up in the High priest’s right hand.  After the cross it never did again.

2.  A scarlet cord tied the scape goat to the door of the temple during the service.  After the High priest symbolically placed the sins of Israel on the head of the scape goat, he cut the cord leaving some on the goat’s horn and the rest on the Temple door.  Then it was led to its death in the wilderness.  Previously,  the portion on the Temple door had always turned white when the scape goat died.  This was seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow” indicating Israel’s sins had been forgiven.   After the cross the cord never turned white again. 

3.  The westernmost light on the seven branched Menorah would no longer stay lit. The number seven signifies divine completion, while man’s number is six.  The seven lights meant that together with God,  Israel was complete and brought light to the world.  But now, with only 6 lights that would burn, it was obvious God had left them.

4.  The main Temple doors began opening by themselves.  The priests saw this as a warning that Zechariah 11:1 would soon be fufilled.  “Open your doors, O Lebanon, so that fires may devour your cedars.”  

During the conquest of Jerusalem the Romans set fire to the Temple.  Its roof was made of cedar from Lebanon covered in thin sheets of gold.  The intense heat from the fire melted the gold and it ran down the walls into the cracks between the stones.  After the fire had burned out, the Roman soldiers dismantled the Temple stone by stone to get the gold.  When they were finished the Lord’s Palm Sunday prophecy had been dramatically fulfilled. “They will not  leave one stone on another because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:44) .

When James referred to Peter speaking of the Lord taking from the Gentiles a people for His Name, the Greek words he used for “to take out of” were lambano ek.  These two words, as a phrase, mean to take (something) with the hand in order to carry (it) away from a certain time and place.  In this case the something is the Church (the people for His Name), and the certain time and place that they  would be carried away from is the restoration of Israel in the Land for the final seven years of her covenant with God.  We know this because the first two words of Acts 15:15, which talks about rebuilding the Tabernacle of David, are “after this”, after the Church is gone.  Whether he knew it or not, James was saying the rapture of the Church would precede the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week. 

In Acts 15:15-18 James quoted from Amos 9:11-12

Amos 9:11  In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
12  That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.

James understood from this that when the house of the Lord the architectural plan of which was given by God to confirm his understanding that, after the Lord has taken the Church, He will cause the Temple to be rebuilt. 

The apostles knew the Temple would soon  be destroyed, but James used a prophecy from Amos that was already 800 years old to show the Temple will be rebuilt when the Lord has finished with the Church.  After that the gentiles who will have missed the Rapture will have one final chance to be saved as well.  This settled the issue of Israel’s future.

From the prophecy of Seventy Weeks, in Daniel 9:24-27, we know that the Temple (sanctuary) was to be destroyed (verse 26), yet it was foreseen to be standing in the seventieth week since in the middle of the week the ruler of the evil prince will cause sacrifice and oblations to cease. This tells us a Temple will have been erected and sacrifices offered again beginning sometime earlier. Thus the rebuilding of the Temple will be a sign that Israel has returned to its covenant relationship with God and the remaining 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy is under way.  In fact, the only reason for a Temple to exist  in that week is to allow Israel to conduct Old Covenant rituals and sacrifices.

So here’s the scope of the passage.  Following the cross, Israel was set aside while God began His redemptive work among the Gentiles, taking out from them a people for His Name. His first work was to build His Church, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail (Matthew 18:18). But thid did not mean that Israel was set aside permanently.


Romans 11:25  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

This was in line with what Jesus said in Luke 19:41-45, the fact that their long awaited Messiah had visited them would henceforth be hidden from their eyes (verse 42). 

Paul said in Romans 11:25 that this would be the case throughout the time the Lord was focused on the Church.  The fact that some say more Jews have come to Jesus in the past 19 years than in the previous 1900 years may be an indication that their time of temporary blindness is drawing to a close.  

Paul used the phrase “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” The Greek word translated fullness means “full number” and was often used in a nautical sense to refer to the number of crew members necessary for a commercial ship to set sail.  Because of the dangers involved in being caught short-handed during a storm at sea, ships could not leave port until they had the full number of sailors aboard.  Also the word translated “come in” meant to arrive at a scheduled destination. In Romans 11:25 Paul used these metaphors to describe the fulness of the Gentiles being on board the church, and the church leaving Earth and arriving at her Heavenly destination before Israel’s heart is softened.

When the full number of the Gentiles has been reached we’ll be whisked away to our Father’s house (John 14:2-3), and God will turn His attention back to Israel.  At that time, the prophetic clock will be restarted and remaining seven years of Daniel’s prophecy will be fulfilled.

By means of the most devastating judgments ever visited upon Earth, Israel will be purified to prepare for the coming Kingdom Age, and the remnant of the Gentiles will get their final chance at salvation.

If you stop to think about, it these few verses in Acts 15 answer several important theological questions.   They show the New Covenant did not replace the Old Covenant, but merely interrupted it.  They prove that God did not intend the Church to replace Israel in His plan forever, but that He just set Israel aside temporarily so the door of salvation could be opened to the Gentiles.

In Isaiah 49:6 the Father said to the Son:


Isaiah 49:5  And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.
6  And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
With the additional understanding provided by Romans 11:25 it is clear that Israel and the Church are like oil and water: they don’t mix. For one to be here the other has to be gone.  The two systems are theologically incompatible.  One is a covenant of faith evidenced by obedience to the Law complete with daily animal sacrifices. The other is a covenant of grace through faith alone with no other requirement than to believe in the one He has sent (John 6:29).

Therefore the Church is not the next point on a straight horizontal line from Creation to Eternity.  It’s a right angle that takes believers upwards to a unique and exclusive destiny  that no other believers will share, and allows the Lord to fulfill His promises to Israel at the same time. 

We think the only reason for the Rapture is to get the church out of the way of the End Times judgments. But this shows us there’s another reason why the church can’t be on earth during Daniel’s 70th Week. We have to leave so that national Israel can come back to God. 

From the signs of the times, our departure is coming soon. 

You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.


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