The Rapture: The next event in God’s prophetic timetable

Posted: October 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

From the beginning of creation, men have struggled to understand why we are here and if there is life or existence beyond this life.  Today, the secular media investigates stories of people who die and then come back to life and tell what the experienced in death.  Mediums consult the dead for people, and many seek truth about the afterlife in the paranormal and in metaphysics.  People seem to want to cover all of the bases in their quest to know about the afterlife.  There is hopelessness and fear for most when they consider the afterlife.  Yet, the Bible gives clear and understandable teaching about life beyond the grave, and the Bible itself claims to be inspired by God.

The Romans world, in which the Thessalonian church was located to whom the apostle Paul wrote his epistle of 1 Thessalonians, was filled with despair and lack of hope beyond this life.  Just as many people today live lives full of desperation because they have no hope beyond this life, likewise lived the Thessalonians.  The Bible Exposition Commentary lists the following epitaph that was common on grave stones from this era:

     I was not, I became,  I am not, I care not

Paul had spent a mere three weeks establishing this church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey, and he had taught them the gospel and the basic teachings concerning Christian doctrine and practical discipleship.  He had taught them that Christ would return for His church and take them to be with Him.  But, since Paul’s time with the Thessalonians, several of their group had fallen asleep (a biblical term for having died), and they now feared that these ones who had died before Christ returned would be lost for eternity.  Paul wrote his first epistle to the Thessalonians to give them encouragement and comfort about loved ones who have passed away.

I have heard Bible teachers say that the epistle of 1 Thessalonians is the most important book in the NT because of its prophesies, and that this section of scripture were are looking at in this study is the most important passage in the book.  I don’t think I agree with the book being “the” most important book in the Bible, but the reason that people say this points to the book’s importance.  This book, along with 2 Thessalonians, are great books for their teaching on prophecy.  1 Thessalonians is really a primary source for learning about The Rapture, and 2 Thessalonians for learning about the Second Coming of Christ, that event that will occur after the seven year Tribulation of the book of Revelation and when Christ returns to establish His Millennial kingdom on the earth after having judged and humbled the nations through the Tribulation.

If we were to poll Christian people today about whether they believe that the Rapture of the church is taught in the Bible, most would say that they do not think so.  However, I believe it is clearly taught in this book of 1 Thessalonians.  In 1 Thess. 4:13-18 there is clear teaching about the Rapture, and we find the Greek word “arpadzo”, which is translated “caught up”, used here.  The Latin Vulgate translates this word “raptured”.  So, the word “Rapture” is the Latin translation of the word which means “to be snatched away in a violent sort of way.”  This passage teaches that the church is waiting to be “snatched away” by the Lord when He comes for us, which is what the word and concept of “rapture” means.  I think every funeral service ought to quote this passage. 

The teaching of the “Rapture” makes believers realize that the return of Christ for them is “imminent”.  This means that it can happen at any time without any future events that need to occur, and also that it is the very next event to occur on God’s timetable of prophetic events which precede His return to establish His kingdom.  It also gives us great comfort because in this passage in 1 Thessalonians, for Paul assures us that we will be reunited for eternity with all of our saved loved ones when Christ returns for the church.  Further, Paul teaches in this passage that the “Rapture” and the “resurrection” of believers is one event, and that when Christ returns for believers that they will receive a glorified incorruptible body that they will inhabit for eternity.  Those believers who have already passed away (fallen asleep) will be brought with Christ and resurrected in glorified bodies (one event), and then we who are live and remain shall likewise be resurrected and meet Christ and our loved ones in the air.  Finally, all believers shall spend eternity together with Christ.

I love this passage that Paul wrote about the resurrected body that all believers in Christ will receive in that moment in time when Christ returns for us:

1 Corinthians 15:39-52, “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.  There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.  There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.  The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.  As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.  Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,  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. Jim Jacobson says:

    Nice work, I agree! The rapture is salvation for the believers who are on earth when Jesus returns. We escape wrath! That is the theme of the gospel. God loves man, rescues those who trust Him. I can’t wait!

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