Rapture! (What, Why, When, Who, & How)
“Why in the world did this happen?” laments the woman who just lost her job of twenty years, and has no clue what to do next. “Why her, why not me?” exclaims the husband, moments after his wife disappears in the early morning hours from their bed; later confirmed by media sources the world over that hundreds of millions were taken from the earth. My guess is that most people prefer to know why things happen, although I suppose there are exceptions to that rule. Meaning that some would say, “I’m ready to go. As long as the Rapture is true and will take place, that’s good enough for me … I don’t need to know any more details than that.”
Even if you’re not that concerned about the reasons that Christ will return for his own, I’m thinking that if someone asked you (anyone who was genuinely and sincerely interested), wouldn’t you want to, at least, explain the basics. Why? Because the Rapture IS the resurrection of deceased believers from the dead; AND, the rapture is the transportation of all believers to heaven. The Rapture signals the FINISH LINE of our race here on earth, but the STARTING LINE of eternity in heaven for those who have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of our Messiah. That is why Jesus is referred to as Alpha & Omega–beginning and end, first and last, author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Careful study of Scripture shows us two primary purposes for the Rapture … why this stunning event must and will take place.
TO BE LIKE CHRIST
In order for us to live forever, we must have the same incorruptible, indestructible, resurrected body that Jesus had (still has and will have forever more) when he arose from the dead. His triumphant resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, and has been historically documented, based on hundreds of eye-witnesses. It is the heartbeat of Christianity, which is a term that, surprisingly enough, I prefer not to use; as Christianity sounds like a religion, alongside of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other world religions, including some “Christian” cults that have corrupted the true Gospel of Christ. But, I suppose that we must give our faith a name, a label, an identity; in order to distinguish it from non-Christian world views. But oh, what a distinction! Christ, our ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King has risen from the dead. He has risen indeed! There is an empty tomb in Jerusalem to prove that. All other prophets or so-called holy men of other religions are still in their graves. Personally, I choose to stake my eternal destiny on the One who arose from the dead!
The reason that Christianity is not a religion is because it doesn’t fit at all with the basic thread or common denominator of all world religions, i.e. what mankind must do (normally a sufficient number of good works or elevation of oneself to a higher plateau of morality or spirituality) to gain salvation from or favor with whatever god that a particular religion promotes or spiritual level that is required (like Nirvana).
Conversely, the Christian faith/belief is that Christ did for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves: pay with his death on the cross the penalty for your sins and my sins; thereby, restoring a relationship to God, which is the very reason that God created us in the first place … to relate to him and He to us. A spiritual fellowship and intimacy that exceeds all other relationships known to man. To be allowed access to the very presence of God anytime, anywhere, which otherwise is impossible unless and until God has covered us with the righteousness of his Son, and pardoned us (forever) from all the wrong things we have done.
God is absolute Love, with unconditional love for you and me beyond human understanding; but he is equally holy. A Holy God cannot tolerate the presence or existence of unforgiven sin, either now or for all eternity. And sin cannot be forgiven unless we believe who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Why? Because Christ paid for our sins on the Cross. And this sacrifice was fully accepted by God as a substitutionary payment (the highest price ever paid … the blood and life of God’s Son) that legally purchased a pardon for the penalty of our sins. So, it’s a done deal! All we need do is to believe, and say, “Yes, I agree!” It’s that amazing, and yet that simple. Thus, it’s not a matter of religious requirements or duties or memberships; rather it’s a relationship with the true and living God and His Messiah.
If Jesus had not arisen from the dead, there would be no credibility to his or the Bible’s claims that redemption comes exclusively by God’s grace (unmerited favor). But Christ did arise, so all the Biblical truth and promises about salvation in Christ are true, such as Romans 3:24-25, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…” In other words, Jesus didn’t die for no reason! (Double negative for emphasis)
Another Spectacular Passage on the Rapture:
In the previous article (What is the Rapture) we looked at the fascinating and perhaps most well-known Bible verses about the Rapture, found in I Thessalonians Chapter 4. Today, let’s examine another pivotal passage found in I Corinthians 15. If you feel really ambitious, I encourage you to read I Corinthians 15: 35-58. Or, even better, the entire chapter! This text gives us a remarkable description of the different types of “bodies” that exist in the universe. Perhaps the most absorbing is the Apostle Paul’s introductory use of the term, “spiritual bodies.” Think about it: Aren’t these two words mutually exclusive? How can there be any such thing as a “spiritual body.” Our earthly bodies are flesh and bone; they house our soul and spirit, which are anything but physical. Has anyone ever seen the spirit of another human being? Have you ever seen your own soul?
But for Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a spiritual body is a perfectly “natural” fact that will one day be physically experienced by all who have been raptured … not virtual, computer-generated, or cybernetic reality, but actual reality. Just how real is the new resurrected body? Jesus, himself, showed us how awesomely real it is: After he arose from the dead, he walked, he talked, he ate with his disciples, and he could be touched! How real is that?
Listen to what Paul says, “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised in glory … They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (I Corinthians 15: 42-44). Then later in this same text, “What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man” (verses 46-49). To be sure, this phenomenon can only be accomplished through a supernatural change, but then our God specializes in the supernatural. As the Bible says, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). If Christ can rise from the dead, he certainly can and will transform our earthly bodies into a heavenly body (think body, not just spirit) like his.
I see this spectacular change taking place in the same light (pun intended) of what happened to Jesus during his transfiguration on the mountain, when Elijah and Moses appeared with him (Matthew 17: 1-7). In fact, I believe the term transfiguration is the best way to describe what will take place at the Rapture. Why transfiguration? Webster’s Dictionary defines transfiguration as, “a change in form or appearance….” That is exactly what Paul is telling us in I Corinthians 15; that is, we will be glorified just as Christ was glorified. Glory means or conveys the idea of the sheer essence of someone or something, including the expression of that essence.
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (I John 3: 2-3). The “friends” that John addresses are believers in Christ, which qualifies them to be God’s children. So, then: We may not know all the details, but we do know it’s going to happen and why it’s going to happen. We need to be, and are going to be like our Savior. In fact, we must be like him and possess the same kind of body; otherwise, there’s no way we can live forever.
To live on this earth requires a special kind of body that God so wonderfully, uniquely, and masterfully created: one that can breathe life-giving air; drink life-sustaining water; eat life-growing food; feel life-producing pleasure and life-warning pain; see and hear life-enabling sights and sounds; produce life-perpetuating children; and know life-changing truths. However, the bodies we currently possess are not in any way, shape, or form adequate enough to live forever in the new earth and the new heavens that the book of Revelation so majestically portrays.
But not to worry; God has promised and will give us a brand new “heavenly body.” One that far surpasses the limitations of our earthly space suit. One immune to pain, sorrow, suffering, sin, disease and most of all, death itself. (See Revelation 21:4). One that can “leap tall buildings with a single bound and is faster than a speeding bullet!” Okay, a little facetious here; but isn’t that the underlying idea of Superman? Christ is the only “Super Man” who ever lived, and he will give us a heavenly body like his, to enable us to do extraordinary things, above and beyond our wildest expectations. I, for one, want to fly! And I’m not talking about jumbo jets.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I can’t think of anything more super than to worship, undefiled, my Lord and my God with the host of Heaven … forever. And to serve Him when, where, and how he wants me to during the Millennium and for all eternity. All the while resting like never before from all the hard work, terrible trials and tragedies, and ever-present grief that seems to grab us, even during the “good-times” on this earth. Great is our God, and greatly to be praised!!
TO SPARE BELIEVERS FROM THE GREAT TRIBULATION
We touched on this in the first blog article (What is the Rapture): The second reason (why) for the Rapture relates to God’s merciful rescue of believers, so we won’t have to experience that “Great and terrible Day of the Lord.” There are dozens of Biblical references to the Day of the Lord, which primarily includes and defines the tribulation period. For example, the prophet Zephaniah describes this horrific time as follows: “For I have decided to gather the kingdoms of the earth and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them. All the earth will be devoured by the fire of my jealousy” (Zephaniah 3:8). If you want to see first-hand just how horrendous (but nevertheless necessary and just) God’s judgments will be, then read about the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls in the book of Revelation. Compared to the Great Tribulation, Pharaoh and Egypt never had it so good.
Time/space in a blog does not permit reference to several Biblical passages that clearly demonstrate a pre-Tribulation rapture of the true Church, to spare those who have placed their personal trust and hope in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, I will cite only one passage, which, not coincidentally, is also found in I Thessalonians, our main text from last week. In fact, this verse is a continuation of the Chapter 4 monumental disclosure of the catching away of believers. “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (I Thessalonians 5:9). By virtue of this verse’s proximity to the Rapture verses in Chapter 4, it clearly puts it in the context of the soon-to-follow Great Tribulation; with both direct and indirect affirmation that believers will be spared from God’s final dispensing of justice on the wickedness of a world gone mad.
Thus, when Christians use the term, “saved,” we are not only referring to being saved from the justly deserved penalty of our sins which is eternal separation from God; but also for the generation alive at the time of the Rapture being “saved” or rescued from the unimaginable deceit, violence, death, and horror perpetrated by the Antichrist, followed rapidly by God’s justice directed to a very depraved, and rebellious world.
It will be the second, and final, time in history that God will effectively say, “Enough is enough.” After thousands of years in which God has exercised great patience, it will be time for God to finally pour out his wrath on a corrupt world that has twisted the truth of the Gospel, has blatantly rejected Jesus as Savior and Messiah, has thumbed their noses at their Creator–the true and living God–and has yielded all their loyalty and worship to the Antichrist. But thanks be to the love, grace, and mercy of God, he has chosen to spare the bride of Christ (believers) from this dreadful apocalypse, so shockingly devastating that approximately ½ of the world’s population will perish.
Next week we’ll look at When the Rapture (will take place).
Things to Ponder:
– What are some things that we won’t need in Heaven? Electricians and all things electrical come to mind. Why? The Bible tells us that the glory of God will illuminate everything, literally. In fact, we won’t even need the sun or moon. (Revelation 21:23).
– Can you think of other, secondary reasons WHY the Rapture will occur? Examples found directly in Scripture or through logical reasoning.
– Would you rather be taken in the Rapture or remain behind on the earth? Before you say, “That’s a silly (even stupid) question,” keep in mind that even after some of God’s Tribulation judgments, many people on earth will still refuse to “repent” (which means to change their minds about the whole thing, and realize that the only escape is to call on the name of the Lord for salvation). There are those who just don’t want to give up what they consider too valuable on this earth … pleasure, power, pride, profit, prestige, and popularity (See Revelation 9:20-21).