Let me start by saying this is a highly speculative article that I have written to spark consideration and discussion of a potential Ascension Day Rapture. I don't see any smoking-gun proof that Ascension Day is the date. What I do see is a considerable amount of convergence around the three different potential dates for Ascension Day. The topic of ascension surely sounds like Rapture, it is close to Israel's 70th birthday and it is 10 days before Pentecost.
But wait, did I hear you ask how there could be three potential dates for Ascension Day? Read on to find out!
What is the Ascension? We are talking about the Ascension of Jesus after the Resurrection and after spending 40 days with the disciples.
Let's read Acts 1:1-11.
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
How can there be three ascension days? Ok, three is my statement and I'll explain in a moment. However, there are definitely two of them on the church calendar. First, let's do some math because I know everyone liked my recent post on Biblical math!
The church calendar (Liturgical year) includes 6 - 8 different seasons depending on your denomination. Some churches don't follow a liturgical calendar, but for all who do the season of Easter (Eastertide) lasts 50 days. It starts at sunset on Easter Eve and it continues through Pentecost Sunday. Why sunset on Easter Eve? Because Easter is based on the lunar calendar (just like Passover) and it follows the tradition of Hebrew holidays that are measured from sunset to sunset and they start on sunset of the evening before the calendar day.
Ascension Day (also known as the Feast of the Ascension) is celebrated 40 days after Easter, meaning it always occurs on a Thursday. In the Roman Catholic church Ascension Day was originally a Holy Day of Obligation (Catholics were expected to attend mass) and it has apparently been celebrated since around the 4th century AD. A traditional service would include dispensing of Holy Communion or the Eucharist. With Easter falling on April 1, 2018, Ascension Day 2018 is 40 days later on Thursday, May 10. By my count, this is the first of three potential Ascension Days.
Since Ascension Day is not a public holiday in most countries, the Catholic Church and other denominations optionally allow the Feast of the Ascension to be moved to the following Sunday for pragmatic reasons. If your church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension they may have the option to celebrate it either on Thursday or Sunday, it depends on the denomination. When celebrated on Sunday the day is known as Ascension Sunday. Ascension Sunday 2018 falls on May 13 which is also Mothers Day in the U.S. This is the second of the three potential Ascension days by my count.
Finally, Gary @Unsealed.org put together a compelling case that the actual crucifixion of Jesus occurred on April 3, 33. If correct, then the actual Resurrection (the first Easter) occurred on April 5, 33. That would mean the Ascension occurred on what day? Why, May 14 of course. Does the date May 14 sound familiar? If not, let me remind you. May 14, 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of the State of Israel! If as Psalm 90:10 states, "the years of our life are seventy", then the fact that the 70th birthday of Israel occurs on exactly the same calendar day anniversary as the ascension of Jesus is a pretty interesting convergence of events! May 14 is the third of the possible Ascension days as I am referencing in the article, although it is not an official Feast of the Ascension celebration on the church calendar.
In the Fall of 2017 there was a heavy focus by the watchman community on correlating the Rapture of the Church with one of unfulfilled Jewish Feasts of the Old Testament. Since the Great Sign of Revelation 12 that appeared on September 23 occurred just after the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) many in the watchman community (myself included) felt strongly that the Rapture would occur around this time. When it didn't, the watchmen re-calibrated their projections to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and then the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot) and then on to other minor holidays, festivals and stellar alignments. Clearly the Rapture didn't occur on any of these dates, so obviously it is not God's time yet. But what if there is something else as well? What if the Rapture doesn't occur during a Jewish Holiday?
Now, I'm not saying the Rapture definitely won't occur during a Jewish Holiday. I'm simply asking the question is it possible that it doesn't? I understand that the Crucifixion and Resurrection fulfilled the Spring Jewish Feasts and it is expected that Jesus will eventually fulfill the Fall Jewish Feasts. I'm just wondering if perhaps the Rapture fulfills a Church Feast instead of a Jewish Feast?
As background for this discussion, let's talk dispensations for a moment. Dispensationalism is the theology that God interacts with humans in different ways during different eras in human history. Covenantalism is an alternative theology and the two are compared here. Dispensationalism says that Israel and the Church remain separate with separate promises from God. Covenantalism says that the church replaced Israel in God's salvation plans for the world. Or, a better way to say this might be that God's plan for Israel was incorporated / assumed / assimilated into God's salvation plans for humans through the Church. In summary, if you believe that God is not yet done with Israel, that He still has plans to redeem Israel in the future, that we should interpret the Bible literally whenever possible and you believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, it's fairly certain you believe in Dispensationalism even if you didn't know what it was before now!
We live in the dispensation (period of time) known as the Church Age or Age of Grace. Prior to the Church Age was the dispensation of the Law and after the Church Age (interrupted by seven years of tribulation) will be the dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom. The Church Age began with the arrival (dispensing) of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and it will continue until the Rapture of the Church.
Pentecost occurs 50 days after Easter. The word Pentecost is a Greek translation of the name for the Jewish festival of Shavuot and the word was originally associated to that Jewish festival. Both words, Pentecost and Shavuot, literally mean "fiftieth day". Like Pentecost, Shavuot (or the Festival of Weeks) occurs 50 days after another holiday. According to the description in Leviticus 23:10–11, 15–17 Shavuot occurs 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits which occurs on the next day after Sabboth (Saturday) following Passover; meaning Sunday. Just to be clear, this means Jesus was resurrected on the same day as the Feast of First Fruits. Cooincidence? Not a chance!
Shavuot was originally a celebration to give thanks for the grain harvest. These days Shavuot celebrates God's giving of the Law to the ancient Israelites. In the language of the church Pentecost refers to the church feast celebrating the giving of the Holy Spirit. If Easter and Passover cooincide (which doesn't always happen) then Pentecost and Shavuot occur on the same Sunday, Some Jews may still refer to Shavuot by the name "Pentecost", but otherwise the word Pentecost is more commonly used these days to refer to the Church celebration of the dispensing of the Holy Spirit.
But that's not the end of the connection between the two. Shavuot is an important backdrop to the story of the Church because it is likely that the Disciples were in Jerusalem waiting when the Holy Spirit arrived. Shavuot is one of three pilgrimage festivals (Passover and Sukkot are the others) where Biblical era Jews were expected to travel to Jerusalem for the celebration. Jerusalem was filled to the brim with "devout men from every nation under heaven" who had traveled in for the festival. Through divine providence, the arrival of the Holy Spirit during the Shavuot provided the first opportunity to share the Gospel to the masses in Acts 2:1-12.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Peter then launched into his first public sermon to the gathered crowd with great success in Acts 2:14-40 exclaiming the Good News of what Jesus had done for Israel. About 3,000 souls were added that day in Acts 2:41:
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Because of the story Acts 2, Pentecost has traditionally been celebrated by Christians as the birth of the Church. However, Scott Clarke and a few others have recently suggested that Pentecost celebrates the conception of the church and that the time between Pentecost and the Rapture represents the gestation of the church. When the church is Raptured, Clarke believes this will be the true birth of the church because the church will be born into perfection. Let's call that idea "To-Be-Determined". If Scott Clarke's idea is correct, then a Pentecost Rapture would fufill the church version of the holiday, right?
Ok, so that was a really big tangent trying to explain Dispensationalism, Easter & Pentecost, Passover & Shavuot and how they are related. Let's get back to the three Ascension days and the other important dates around it.
If we look at the Ascension, how it related to Easter and Pentecost, I would personally rate (read as "my best guess") that the likelihood of Rapture occurring on any of these dates is as follows.
In addition to these dates, Daniel Matson from watchfortheday.org Indicated in his blog post here that May 12 is the anniversary date of Noah exiting the Arc on day 371 of his journey. Maybe his is another example of convergent timing? Hard to say for sure. Jesus referenced the "days of Noah" in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, although he seemed to be referring to the time before the flood as opposed to the time after the flood. Here's the reference in Matthew 24:37-39:
37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
In the end I think all we can say for sure is that the days from May 10 - May 20 certainly looks like they are worthy of being a high watch time. Will the Rapture occur somewhere during these 10 days? Unknown, but I think there is a better chance that the Rapture occurs somewhere during these 10 days than that it would occur on any other random day.
What do you think?
P.S. If you liked this post, please read my most recent one, First Things First - Where Do We Go After the Rapture? for a review of what happens after the Rapture!