Many people are excited today over an event that they believe will astound the world--an event that will be the beginning of the end for the evil men of this world and the culmination of God's plans.
People are excitedly awaiting what they call the "rapture," when Jesus will return to deliver the church. Silently and secretly He will appear to call away His saints from this world prior to a great worldwide Tribulation.
This "rapture" will supposedly leave the rest of us dumbfounded as to what happened to all of these people who just mysteriously disappeared. Its purpose is to spare the church from the seven year period of Tribulation.
We are told that there will be great evangelistic work and intense persecution. Then at the end of the seven year Tribulation, Jesus will return to destroy the Antichrist, sit on a literal throne in Jerusalem, and reign over the earth for 1000 years.
Does The Bible Teach A Rapture?
The Bible never once uses the term "rapture." But does it at least teach the principles of the rapture?
One passage is key to understanding the answer, "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
What is the main point of this text? What was the inspired apostle trying to tell these Christians, that they needed to know for their own personal benefit?
The point of this text is that they need not sorrow or mourn over the dead in Christ, like they would over unbelievers who die without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). They will NOT miss the return of Christ just because they have already died.
Some brethren in Thessalonica feared that the righteous dead would miss the glory and blessings of Jesus' return. This passage lays THAT fear to rest, by assuring them that the righteous dead will rise up first--even before the righteous who are still living--to meet the Lord.
Paul is not contrasting the righteous dead with the wicked dead, and claiming that they will be part of a rapture. He is contrasting the righteous dead with the righteous living, and assures them that the righteous dead will not miss out on the Lord's return.
What Will Happen When The Lord Returns?
Actually something very different from the rapture scenario.
There will be nothing silent or secret about His return, "The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout." (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He will not be alone when He comes either (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelation 1:7).
There will not be two different resurrections--one resurrection of the saints and another resurrection 1000 years later for the wicked. The contrast is not between the resurrection of the righteous dead and the wicked dead. The contrast is between the dead in Christ and the living in Christ.
The New Testament teaches only one resurrection--both the righteous and the wicked at the same time, "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29).
The Bible does not say that He will ever again set foot on the earth. It says we will meet Him in the air "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He will not be coming back to sit and reign on a throne in Jerusalem.
When the dead are raised, they will be raised incorruptible, and at the same time the living will be changed, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of any eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).
If, as the concept of the rapture assumes, the saved have been raptured and taken to heaven already, then this passage suggests a very strange thing--that He will bring the righteous back, return each of them to their former body, and have that body be changed again to inhabit heaven. The rapture is inconsistent with other Bible teachings.
The coming of Christ will be at the end of the present earthly order, "For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and all power." (1 Corinthians 15:21-24).
The resurrection will come at the last day, "And this is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40). There will not be 1000 years of events unfolding after the resurrection. Neither will there be 1007 years worth of events.
When Jesus returns, all nations will be gathered unto Him for the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), everything about this earth and its works will be burned up and destroyed (2 Peter 3:10-12), and a new spiritual, eternal order will be introduced in heaven (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 20:11-15).
The purpose of Paul's words to the Thessalonian Christians was to give them comfort and hope that their fellow believers would not miss out on the glory of Jesus' return since they had already died, "Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
The theory of the "rapture" is nothing more than that--a theory!
When the Lord returns, there is not a corner of the globe where His presence will not be witnessed (Revelation 1:7). And there will be nothing left of this world for Him to rule over (2 Peter 3:10-12).
The truth is that all rule has been handed over to Him already so that He is ruling NOW at this very moment, "and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:19-23).
When the Lord returns, there will be nothing left of this world to rule over--not even a cinder--because it will be destroyed by fire, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10).
When the Lord returns, there will be no second chances for anyone (Hebrews 9:27-28). "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God&?" (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Written by: Rob Harbison
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