The Kingdom, by Witness Lee

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Other Christians consider that the rapture will occur with all Christians simultaneously. They think that when the Lord Jesus comes back, all of the real believers will be taken suddenly from the earth into the air at the same time. This concept fully neglects the principle of the harvest. The principle of the harvest is that fruit is harvested as it becomes ripe. Some of the crop ripens first, and is reaped as the firstfruits. This is a minority. Then comes the harvest of the majority of the crop. Finally, comes the reaping of the gleanings or the remainder. These are at least three different stages of harvest. This picture in the Bible is an exceedingly clear type. In kindergarten classes many pictures are used to teach the little ones. In the same manner the Lord uses the picture of the harvest to clearly portray the matter of the rapture. If we only pick up the clear words in the New Testament, we may not understand the rapture so well; but if we look at the pictures, it is very clear. We have a clear picture of the rapture of the believers in the type of the reaping of the harvest. This is a type in the Old Testament, and it is fulfilled in the New Testament. In Matthew 13 there is the harvest, and in Revelation 14 there are both the firstfruit and the major part of the harvest. Eventually, the major part of the crop will become mature, and the harvest time will come. Very close to this time, a few will become mature early. They will become the firstfruit. The major part will then ripen later and will be the general harvest. However, some who are at the corner or the edges of the field will still be green and need a further time to become mature. These are the gleanings or the remainder.

Why has the harvest time of the Lord not yet come? According to the situation today, there is hardly any possibility for the Lord Jesus to come back because the major part of the crop is still green and not ripe. We need to be desperate with the Lord to be saturated and to be matured. When the major part of the crop is ripe and ready for the harvest, that will be the time for the Lord Jesus to come and reap. Just before this reaping, some who are matured early will be reaped as the firstfruit.

It is very clear, from Matthew to Revelation, that the New Testament teaches that the rapture will occur not merely once but several times. The rapture of the firstfruit will be a short while before the tribulation. The tribulation will be mainly a period of seven years. In the book of Revelation are seven seals, and the last of the seven seals consists of seven trumpets. The last of the seven trumpets will be sounded quite close to the end of the tribulation. By reading Revelation carefully we can realize that the great tribulation will probably begin from the first trumpet. It will not begin from the time of the first seal. The first seal has nearly been fulfilled already. The second, third, and fourth seals have begun to be fulfilled and are still being fulfilled. Once these four seals are completed, the fifth and sixth seals will come, and after these are finished, the seventh seal will come. The seven trumpets are the content and the totality of the seventh seal. Remember that the great tribulation will begin with the first trumpet and will continue until the last trumpet.

(The Kingdom, Chapter 40, by Witness Lee)