What is the rapture?

I Corinthians 15:23
Acts 1:9-11
I Thessalonians 4:18
Matthew 24:3

Think about what happened when Christ rose from the grave. What was left behind? All they found in the tomb was Jesus’ grave clothes. You may be asking yourself, “What’s the significance of that?”.

In I Corinthians 15:23, it says, Christ is the “firstfruits” of the Resurrection. Could this be any simpler to understand? The passage goes on to explain that afterward, or later, “those who belong to him” will follow. It’s there in God’s Word. The passage is saying that since His clothes were left behind, ours will be also.

Those that belong to Christ at the time of His coming will be bodily translated into heaven just as Jesus was – leaving behind the rags of sin for new robes of righteousness provided by Jesus Christ himself.

When Jesus Christ comes to call us home at the Rapture, He will come exactly as He left. How did He leave? He left bodily into the clouds. Acts 1:9-11 says, “After he (Jesus) said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
In other words, if He went bodily, then He’s coming back bodily. Why? Because the Bible says He’s coming back exactly as He left. Read Acts 1:9 again if you missed this.

How did He leave? After spending three days in the grave, He rose and stood on the earth in His new body. In Luke 24:39, He says to some of His followers, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” In verse 41, He says, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it, and and ate it in their presence.”

This is Christ in His new resurrected body – a body that could be seen, a body that could be touched, a body that could partake of food. It’s a picture of what we will have at the time of the Rapture. How quickly will it happen? “Listen, I tell you a mystery,” the Bible tells us in I Corinthians 15:51-54.

“We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

This is going to be a glorious event. We shall be changed to be like Jesus. In Pslams17:15 we read “And I–in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” In Philippians 3:21, Paul says that God will change our vile bodies – not leave them behind, change them – that they may be fashioned

“like his glorious body.”

In I John 3:2, it says that when we see Jesus, we shall be like Him,

“for we shall see him as he is.”

Did you know that Jesus wasn’t the first person to be “raptured” out of this earth? In fact, when the Rapture occurs, it will be the fourth event of its kind in the Bible.

The first was Enoch in Genesis 5:24: And Enoch walked with God; and he was no more; because God took him away. In Hebrews 11:5, Paul adds, that Enoch was translated by faith so that he should not experience death. He was “raptured” – caught up in the twinkling of an eye, without dying.

The second documented “rapture” is Elijah in II Kings 2:11. Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. He, too, never saw death, foreshadowing what we believers will experience on the day the Lord catches us up in the clouds.

Then, of course, Jesus was “raptured” away in Acts 1:9:

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

When Elijah was caught up, angels and chariots of fire came to get him. I personally believe that, in a similar way, angels may come after those of us who ascend in the Rapture. Why? Because every believer – not just Elijah – has his own ministering angel. They could come to whisk us home in the twinkling of an eye. Luke 16:22 provides a precedent for us: “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.”

Is all this something that should frighten us? Excited, yes. Frightened, no. So many people today are facing the uncertainty of these Last Days with dread – with fear and foreboding. There is an anticipation – even in the secular media – that we may be nearing the end of the world. There is anxiety and hopelessness everywhere. The world seems to get just a bit uglier every day as crime increases and wars break out and immorality reigns.

This is not the way believers should feel – especially in this season when we are remembering what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary and how He victoriously defeated the last enemy, death, I Corinthians 15:26. What could be more exciting and encouraging than the idea that some of us will never die? In Titus 2:13, Paul calls the Rapture our “blessed hope.” In I Thessalonians 4:18, he says, “Encourage one another with these words.” “Encourage one another,” he says, not frighten one another. I Corinthians 14:31 comes to mind, “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.”

The world is not coming to an end. It is clear from scripture that the world will not even end after Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth. The world will never end. Isaiah 45:17 is unequivocal: It’s a world without end. “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen,” Paul writes in Ephesians 3:21.

Skeptics will no doubt point to Matthew 24:3 which states:

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Let’s recall that the New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek translation of that last world is “age,” not “world.” Once again, the world is not coming to an end. But this epoch, this age, is closing. And, yes, the advent of the year 2000 does have some significance. Why? Because it could conceivably be the ending of the age of grace and beginning of the millennial age when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns (compare Matthew 24:3 and Matthew 25:34 for proof).

Long before Christ was born, the Jewish rabbis taught a six-day theory about the future of the world. They believed that the world would face several eras lasting a total of 6,000 years, from Adam’s creation until the Messiah would come. This theory was based, in part, on Psalm 90:4:

“For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

Since God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, they reasoned, the world would go on for 6,000 years followed by a 1,000-year millennial “rest” period presided over by the Lord himself.

Think about this. From the creation of Adam until the birth of Christ a period of 4,000 years – or four days passed. From Christ’s time on earth until now represents approximately another 2,000 years – or two days. This total of six days is just one more reason to believe that Jesus could return very, very soon.

Six-day periods, followed by remarkable transitions, have been important throughout scripture. Look at Matthew 17:1, for
example.

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.”

Jesus was giving them a preview of what it would be like when He comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords as described in Revelation 19:16. When they came down from that mountain, He told them not to tell anyone of these things until after His Resurrection.

Not only did the ancient Jewish rabbis teach this six-day theory, but so did the church during the first 300 years of Christendom. The church leaders based their belief on II Peter 3:8:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

St. Victorinus, the bishop of Petah, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in 270 AD. He said he saw another great and wonderful sign – “Seven angels having the last seven plagues, for in them is completed the indignation of God. And these shall be in the last time when the church shall have gone out of the midst.” In other words, St. Victorinus was talking about the Rapture! This teaching is not a present day innovation but a doctrinal statement dating back 17 centuries to St. Victorinus and 20 centuries to Jesus and Paul.

In the 16th century there were those expressing assurance of the Rapture. Hugh Latimer, burned at the stake for his faith in
1555, said: “It may come in my days, old as I am, or in my children’s days, the saints shall be taken up to meet Christ in the air and so shall come down with him again.” Joseph Medde, the great 16th century literalist understood I Thessalonians 4:13-18 to teach the catching up of the saints and even used the word “rapture.” So this is not some new idea.

However, understand this: The Rapture is not taught in Matthew, Mark and Luke. You can find it twice in the Gospel of John. Any other time you are reading about Christ’s return in the gospels, it is not referring to the Rapture. Instead, these are references to the second phase of Christ’s return – when He physically comes back to earth to rule over it after a seven-year Tribulation period and it’s called, “the Revelation” or the revealing of Christ upon earth.

Where are the two Rapture texts in the Gospel of John? John 14:1-3:

“”Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[1] ; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

This is not His coming to the earth. This is the point at which He receives us unto Himself at the great Rapture – the snatching away – to be with Him in heaven as the seven years of torment occur on earth. The second reference is in John 11:25,26. I quoted this passage for years but didn’t really understand it. Christ said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this”

Jesus is contrasting those who experience death and live again (“for the dead in Christ will rise first,” I Thess 4:16) with
those who never experience death (because “we who are still alive and are left ” are caught up without dying, I Thessalonians 4:17).

It’s a fact that God always spares His own from judgment. When the horrendous worldwide flood came in Noah’s day, Noah told those who were prepared to COME INTO the ark, Genesis 7:7. When the judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:14, the angels told Lot and his family to COME OUT of the city. Notice this trilogy: In Noah’s day, it was COME IN. In Lot’s day it was COME OUT. In our day, it will be COME UP, Revelation 4:1.

But, of course, as always, only a select group will be saved – rescued from the worst period in human history. Matthew 22:14

“For many are invited, but few are chosen”

During the Tribulation period that follows the Rapture, all hell is going to break loose on planet earth. It will be a furious time because the hindering power of the Holy Spirit will be temporarily removed. With all the Bible tells us about how we should live on earth,
there are almost no instructions about how to prepare for this post-Rapture period. Make sure all of your loved ones – saved and unsaved, understand the power of the cross and Jesus’ blood before its too late.

How bad will things get? In Revelation 9:18, it indicates that a third of mankind will be killed by fire, smoke and sulfur. That, my friends, is nothing less than a first century way of explaining all-out thermonuclear warfare. Imagine. There are 6 billion people on the earth today. If one-third are killed, that’s a holocaust representing 2 billion lives.

But that’s just the beginning. In Revelation 6:8, the rider on the fourth horse brings with him a worldwide plague of disease that causes another fourth of humanity to perish. That’s another billion. So half the human race will be wiped out in this relatively short time. This pictures the judgment predicted by Jesus in Matthew 24:41 and 42.

As terrible as that fate sounds, there is still hope for those left behind. As long as one is alive there is hope. Joel chapter 2 and Acts chapter 2 describe the calamitous tribulation period.

In the midst of all the carnage and destruction Joel 2:32 and Acts 2:21 states:

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

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