In just one week, I`ll be able to return home to see my family in South Carolina. I`m excited to see all my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, and parents. I can picture seeing the pink and white Mountain Laurels that line the driveway to our house. I can picture being greeted by our puppy dog and seeing the mountains in the backdrop where our house sits on a hill. When I walk in, it will be a sweet family reunion, and I`ll see a sign that hangs over the door that says, “Perhaps today.” When I see the people that I love, I`m reminded that when Christ comes for His church, I`ll see my brothers and sisters in Christ, and perhaps it could be today. There`s an old hymn called Maybe Today that tells us about three realities concerning the Rapture: reunion, resurrection, and imminency.
“Maybe today, My Lord will come for me,
Maybe today, My Savior I shall see,
Maybe today, from Sin I shall be free,
Jesus will come and I will go home it may be today.”
What is the Rapture: Introduction
Eschatology is a big word meaning the study of the end times. There are different aspects within Eschatology such as the Rapture and the Second Advent. Many believers don’t spend much time studying these doctrines because there are different views on subjects like the Rapture that often cause division among believers. Many get the doctrine of the Rapture and the Second Advent confused as being the same event but Scripture describes them as two different events. Although there are different views regarding Eschatological events these doctrines are important to study simply because they are found in God’s Word and, as believers, it`s our responsibility to study them.
What Is The Rapture: Historical Background
Acts 17 tells us about the establishment of the church in Thessalonica. Paul and Silas traveled to Thessalonica on Paul`s second missionary journey. There they preached the Gospel in a Jewish synagogue, and some were persuaded (Acts 17:4). Those who did not believe drove Paul and Silas out of the city, so shortly after the Church was established, Paul had to leave (Acts 17:1-13). You can imagine how concerned he was about the church because he wasn’t able to remain in Thessalonica for very long after the church was born. One of the reasons that he wrote the letter to the Thessalonians was to check on them. He wanted to encourage and comfort them in their walk with the Lord. Considering the historical background of Thessalonians, it`s interesting to note that Paul was teaching new believers about the doctrine of the Rapture (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:3; 5:23). It`s an important doctrine even for new believers, and it is meant to be a comfort to us as believers in Christ.
What is The Rapture: Different From The Second Advent
In first Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul talks about the Rapture of the church. The word rapture comes from the word Rapturo, which is taken from the Latin translation of Scripture. Rapturo translates into Greek as Harpazo which means “caught up” in English.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17
The Rapture of the Church is different than what is known as the Second Advent of Christ. One difference between the Rapture and the Second Advent is that the Rapture involves the catching away of believers before the Tribulation begins (1 Thess. 4:13-17) and the Second Advent involves Christ coming down to Earth after the seven-year Tribulation (Zech. 14:4). Another difference in the Rapture and Second Advent is that the Rapture is where Jesus comes back for the Church, whereas the Second Advent is when Jesus comes to the Earth with His church (Rev. 19:14). The Rapture is God`s rescue plan for the Church and the Second Advent is God`s rescue plan for Israel (1Thess. 1:10; Matthew 23:37-39). It is important to note all the differences between the Rapture and the Second Advent. In the Rapture, Christ comes to take the church out of harm’s way, and in the Second Advent Christ returns to destroy evil and establish His Millennial Kingdom.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”-Matthew 23:27-39
“On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” Zechariah 14:4
Paul describes the Rapture of the Church as being a comfort to believers. When I`m reminded that I live in a fallen world, the reality of being taken out of harm’s way by my Savior is comforting to me.
What Is The Rapture: Important And Comforting
Paul taught the doctrine of the Rapture to brand new believers in the Thessalonian church indicating that it is an important doctrine. He wanted them to know about the reality of the Rapture in the midst of a difficult life because it was designed to be comforting, not a point of division among believers. On the one hand, the Second Advent involves Jesus coming back to judge a Christ-rejecting world. On the other hand, the Rapture is a rescue operation designed to be a comfort to a believer’s heart.
“Therefore comfort one another with these words” -Thessalonians 4:18
What Is The Rapture: Reunion
Paul tells us about the Rapture taking place in the twinkling of an eye. I think about what will happen at that moment and who I will see again. It will be such a sweet time of fellowship between me, my family, my friends, and other believers in Christ. As believers, we should be longing for this glorious event.
“…We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet”- 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18
What Is The Rapture: Resurrection
At the point of the Rapture, all believers will receive new bodies, the body that God intended for us before sin. The body that we have now is not fit to experience eternity with God. This body we have now is temporary and worn out; heaven is eternal, and we must have a resurrected body to spend eternity with God. Romans talks about how we groan for the redemption of our bodies and the resurrection is part of the hope that a believer has in Christ.
“…but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”- Romans 8:23-25
What Is The Rapture: Imminency
The Rapture is imminent. Imminent simply means that it can take place at any moment and that it is the next thing to take place on God`s timeline. (1 Thess. 4:13-18) We can see from the text that Paul anticipated participating in the Rapture of the Church. It is interesting to note that he uses the first-person plural in reference to the coming of the Rapture. (1 Cor. 15:51);1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Cor. 1:7; Philip. 3:20).
“Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17
“You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” James 5:8
“Behold, I am telling you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
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