The Rapture is Not
1. A word in the Bible.
The word is promoted as a secret snatching away of Christians, leaving the lost on earth for a 7 year period of tribulation, where the Anti-Christ rules. Many point to Paul’s description of the second coming in 1 Thessalonians as the starting point for the rapture scenario.
“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: 17-18
All the illusions of what happens during the “rapture” feeds off this verse and is embellished in Bible fiction books and the work of Hollywood. However, the Bible is extremely clear about the events surrounding Jesus’ second coming. If you read only the verses describing the return of Christ, the truth becomes clear. If Jesus warned us about our need to understand , it must be important to each one of us individually.
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” Matthew 24:4
2. It is not silent and invisible
Often Hollywood producers and writers of Bible fiction will describe the event as quite and sudden; leaving the lost to wonder, “What just happened?” The righteous are gone! Beds, clothing, cars, airplanes are minus bodies. But, consider these Biblical descriptions of the second coming and ask yourself if it is quite.
*”For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 16
This is the verse right before the one described above that says the Christians will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air!” Does it sound quite? Can you hear a shout, a voice, and a trumpet?
When Jesus returns, He comes in His glory, the glory of countless angels, and the glory of the Father Himself!
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Heaven is emptied when Jesus comes to rescue His beloved!
Can the lost hear it? Can the lost see it? What are they saying when the Lord returns? They are in a panic and don’t want to see His face!
“ (they)….”hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?””
Revelation 6: 16-17
Indeed, “who is able to stand” during the second coming? As shown in 1 Thessalonians the ones who meet the Lord in the air (with their resurrected and glorified bodies) will survive this destructive event! The saved are saying,
“And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
How many will see Him when he returns?
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”
Jesus left in clouds and he returns in clouds. As the disciples watched in wonder as Jesus ascended. He was taken up with clouds. They were told He would come back in a similar manner i.e. visible!
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
The lost morn, the save rejoice. Some will ask, “How can every eye see Him on a round earth?” It is simple. Like the rising of the sun, the second coming can be seen approaching the earth like clouds forming on the horizon! As the earth rotates, the righteous (both dead and alive) rise and are changed in a twinkling of an eye. The lost look for places to hide from the face of the lamb. But, some have been taught that He comes fast, in the “twinkling of the eye. “That takes us to the next the thing the Rapture is not:
3.) It is not instantaneous
As we saw above, there is enough time for the lost to run and attempt to hide from the Lord’s coming. The saved have time to proclaim they have waited on Him and He will save them. Every eye sees Him.
The Hollywood and the Biblical fiction writers paint a false picture of a man preaching the word of God suddenly disappearing. But how does the Bible describe it? Let’s look closely at two phrases they use: 1.) “Twinkling of an eye” and 2.) “Thief in the night.”
They claim from this partial verse that the Lord comes in the twinkling of any eye.
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52
But look closely at what is happening in a moment and in the twinkling of the eye. Let’s read the verse in its context.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15: 51:53
Is it not very clear? The physical bodies of the saved are changed from mortal to immortal very quickly. They went into the grave sick and subject to death (corruptible) and rise to never see death and decay again!
It is not about the speed of the second coming, but rather the speed of the transformation from mortal to immortality! This happens with trumpets and sound and the very presence of God and His holy angels, not some instantaneous disappearing of the saved.
This description is a direct reference to the same author’s preview of the second coming in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18 where the dead are raised up and those of us alive are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. But, before we rise to meet him, our bodies are changed and receive the promise of immortality! What a reunion day that will be when we all meet together for the first time! Thank you Lord, for inspiring Paul to reveal this mystery!
Another verse often used in connection with the twinkling of the eye is found in Matthew 24.
For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24: 27
Without the context, it certainly sounds like the Lord comes instantly like a flash of lightning! But, again, context is so important. Let’s read the verses before.
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Matthew 24: 26-27
Jesus describes the lie He has already come and He is in the desert or in some secret inner room, This sounds like a secret coming to me. But, Jesus warns us to not believe it, because his coming is compared to lightning. The context is not the speed but rather the all encompassing brightness! Brightness that covers the entire sky. This is confirmed by the fact that the skies are lit up with the glory of God and His angels! Just like the brightness of lightning, every eye can see it. His coming is not in the secret places of the desert or the inner rooms.
Paul describes the brightness in 2 Thessalonians:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
2 Thessalonians 2:8
This verse alludes to another event that occurs at the second coming-destruction. We will discuss next.
But, you may ask: “How about the thief in the night that Paul describes?” Isn’t it secret? Let’s read the verse using context and related verses from Peter
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5: 2
From this verse, it is not doubt that His coming is compared to a thief in the night. It can be said, that when a thief comes, it is unexpected. It is not about a secret rapture, but rather the unexpected event, just like those during the time of Noah. Although, they were warned, it was still unexpected. This idea is confirmed by Peter:
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
Both Paul and Peter says the Lord will come as a thief in the night, but Peter adds an additional description. When He comes as a thief, there is “great noise” “elements will melt.” Even the earth and all of man’s works are “burned up.” This doesn’t sound quite or secret.
Paul confirms Peter’s description. Let’s read the remainder of Paul’s description we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (above)
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
1 Thessalonians 5: 2-4
He describes destruction when the Lord comes just like Peter did in his description! Did you notice that followers of Christ are not overtaken by darkness and the experience of a thief in the night? The thief in the night is not about secretiveness of the Lord’s coming, but rather being unprepared, as Jesus said here,
“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.”
Matthew 24: 43
The Christians know approximately when Jesus is coming and are watching, the lost are going about their normal routine just like they were before the flood came in Noah’s day.
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
This brings us to the next point:
4. Is not an event where the lost are left behind
An interesting point: The phrase “left behind” is not in the Bible even though a whole series of books and movies are entitled as such!
The movies and Bible fiction portray a dramatic moment where the saved are instantaneously snatched away leaving the lost wondering what just happened. They claim they are “left behind” to endure 7 years of tribulation (will discuss next time.)
The Bible verses used to support this are not interpreted in the context nor collaborated with other clear passages. Let’s explore the most often used and compare between two disciples: Matthew and Luke. First Matthew:
Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
Matthew 24: 40-41
At first glance and with Hollywood echoing its description, it certainly sounds like one man and one woman are taken up to meet the Lord and the other two are left on earth.
But, let’s read context and the point of all of the words of Jesus:
37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24: 37-39
Jesus compares the lost in the days of Noah with the lost at His coming (verse 37). Read the verse carefully and answer this question: “who got took away by the flood?” Was it the saved or the lost? In Noah’s day, it was those who were ignoring Noah’s plead to come in the ark (the lost). In the “day of the Lord” it is those not looking for the second coming (the lost). Of the people in Noah’s day, Jesus said the flood came and “took them all away.” So, it is the lost who are taken! The waters swirled and took them down stream where they were destroyed (dead). Just to be sure we are reading this correctly, let’s compare with Luke:
26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
Luke 17: 26-30
So those who are described as being “taken all away.” in Matthew are described as being “destroyed” in Luke. Contradiction? No! Just a misapplication of the Bible fiction writers with the word “taken”.
“Taken” or “took” in its context means they are destroyed. I don’t want to be taken, I want to be left. Which means being the opposite of taken (destroyed). To illustrate,: Suppose you had a library and your house burned down. When you go in to see how many of your books survived the fire, you might find a few unscathed by the fire. You would say, “I had a thousand book, but only 3 are “left” or remaining. Paul described what it means to remain alive or “left” in this passage:
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 17
The scholars who produced the NIV understood this and translated the words “alive and remain” as “alive and are left“:
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
1 Thessalonians 4: 17 (NIV)
I want to remain alive when the Lord returns. Don’t you? I don’t want to be “taken away” in the destructive fires of His brightness.
Verse 26 of Luke 17 reminds us of the direct comparison between Noah and Christ. In both cases the story is about the lost. In Noah’s day, the lost have ignored the appeals for salvation and are going about the normal routines of life expecting nothing to change. But, they are caught as a thief in the night (surprised) by the destructive event of the flood. They are destroyed (killed)! Verse 27.
The same thing happened to Sodom, but this time it was fire from heaven that “destroyed them all“!
As we understand what happened to the lost at the time of Noah (destruction by flood) and Sodom (destruction by fire); it will be the same when He returns. Peter describes it clearly:
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3: 11-13
So the fate of the lost is destruction at the second coming. Every known element will be burned up in intense flames (brightness) when the Lord returns. But, the saved have the promise of inheriting the earth; not the old earth, with its scars of sin, but a new earth where righteousness lives! When are the new heavens and the new earth created? We will look at this next time.
But, what about this 7 years of tribulation and the 1,000 years? Next time we will look closely at this…using only the Bible.
We have seen a clear picture of the second coming where there is no room for second chances i.e. 7 years to endure tribulation. When the Lord comes the time for salvation is stopped. This is expressed in Peter’s writings where he connects perishing with the second coming:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
The above verse is in the context of his second coming. See verse 4:
“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
2 Peter 3: 4
Our God delays the coming of Christ because he is “longsuffering toward us.” Today, we have our second and third chances, but when He comes there are no more opportunities and those that have spent the chances will perish as described above.
It is the enemy’s desire to make people put off the day of their salvation by encouraging them to believe they have a second chance during the 7 years of tribulation. To eat, drink, and go about the normal routines of life ignoring the appeal of a loving God to come into the ark of salvation.
In my research, i discovered a web site dedicated to giving instructions to people who will be on earth during the 7 years of tribulation. It is a worthless website and a dangerous concept. Herein is why the Lord warns us. The theory of a second chance during the 7 years is both false and a danger to souls.
5.) It is not a Second Coming with a part A and part B
The return of Jesus to start eternity is a one time event. Jesus takes us “to where He is” after He returns. We will stay there in heaven for 1,000 years and then the redeemed of all ages will all return to watch the Lord create a new earth. At this time, Jesus will set the New Jerusalem down on the earth and this will become our home throughout eternity. Truly, the meek inherit the earth! We will discuss more in our next study.
After the “rapture” we go to be where Jesus is now!
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
As mentioned, after 1,000 years, we all return in the New Jerusalem and watch the Lord do what He did in Genesis 1:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God…”
Revelations 21: 1-3
We have been talking about what the rapture is not, but we have seen what the second coming really is. The events of the second coming of the Lord are as follows:
1.) The Lord can be seen coming in clouds with all the brightness and glory of Jesus, God the Father, and the holy angels.
2.) Every eye will see Him just as every eye sees the sun and lightning across the sky.
3.) The lost will run to places to hide themselves.
4.) Despite the lost’s attempt to hide they are destroyed by the brightness of his coming. They are taken in death like the floods that took the lost in Noah’s day and the fires that took those in Sodom!
5.) The saved are not burned up, but remain alive. They remain or are left over from the destruction.
6.) The saved will rejoice.
7.) The dead in Christ will be resurrected in the first resurrection (The Bible talks about a second resurrection. We will explore this next time.)
8.) Both the saved who are resurrected and those still alive after the destructive fire from heaven will be changed instantly. Their bodies will be glorified so that they are no longer subject to corruption nor death. They put on immortality.
9.) The saved meet the Lord in the air. This is the first time all the saved see each other! It is God’s great reunion day!
Next time we will address these questions and many others:
1.) “Where does Jesus take the saved after He returns?”
2.) “What about the tribulation?”
3.) “Where did the 7 years come from?”
4.) “How about the 1,000 years?”
5.) “How about the new Jerusalem John saw coming down from heaven?”
6.) “What about the fate of the unsaved dead at the coming of Jesus?” “What happened to them?”
7.) “What about hell?”
All this we will explore from the Bible next time. Until then, put on the whole armor of God, because the enemy wants to slay you. But, you can find strength and protection under the wings of the One who is able to keep you until the end. The Lord Jesus.