What About the Rapture

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Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker with this message, “In case of rapture this vehicle will be unmanned.” The scenario goes something like this. One completely unsuspected day, millions of people all over the world disappear, leaving the rest of the world wondering what could have happened to them. Cars rolling down the interstate without drivers, crash and burn. An airline pilot and some of the people on board his plane vanish, leaving the rest of the passengers to die when the plane crashes. At the same instant all around the globe, people from all walks of life disappear leaving their companions in shock. This is how the unbelievers of the world would see the rapture.

To believers in the rapture, they are the ones who will disappear. Jesus may come for them at any moment like a thief in the night. He will come when they least expect it in the midst of whatever they happen to be doing in the coarse of the day. They are changed instantly from mortal to immortal beings without passing through death. Thereafter, they are taken to heaven to be spared from the great tribulation which is about to come upon the people of the earth.

From Genesis to Revelation, the term rapture is nowhere to be found. (Type “rapture“ into this search.) There are, however, abundant scriptures describing something similar.

The account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus is only to be found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11. It happened that a very close friend of Jesus, by the name of Lazarus, had been sick. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus sent a message to Jesus saying, “he whom thou lovest is sick.” But Jesus delayed coming to him for two days until Lazarus had died. When Jesus finally arrived He found that Lazarus “had lain in the grave four days already.”

Then Martha said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:21-26

Here Jesus gave us the first indication of the change of the living believers at His return, but many Bible scholars suggest that the apostle Paul was the first to teach this doctrine.

Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. I Corinthians 15:51-53

This passage shows when the change from “mortal” to “immortal” will come about - “at the last trump.” The key word here is last, indicating that there are no more after it. Paul also mentions sleep. Jesus made clear the meaning of sleep in John 11:11-14.

Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

Paul mentions this trumpet again in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The change of the living believers at Christís return cannot happen before all of the dead in Christ have died. Revelation 14:13 tells us,

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

We now have a sequence for the change. It begins at the “last trump” when the “dead in Christ” are resurrected. After that, “we which are alive” at “the coming of the Lord” shall “put on immortality.” Jesus said,

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:26

If the “dead in Christ” are not resurrected until the “last trump,” how is it that we believe Christians go immediately to heaven when they die? And concerning the non-Christians,Revelation 20:5 says,

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished…
 

Why do we believe that the “unsaved” go immediately to “hell fire” at death?

The Bible gives us signs to watch for to know when the coming of Christ is imminent. Jesus told us,

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Matthew 24:15

What is the abomination of desolation? The book of Daniel is full of information about the return of Christ. In Daniel 10:5-6, he saw a vision.

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and he voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.

Compare this to Johnís vision in Revelation 1:13-18.

And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot , and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

It is obvious that they both saw a vision of the glorified Christ. And in Daniel 12:11-13, this man clothed in linen said to him,

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.

There are several passages describing what the abomination of desolation is. In Danielís vision concerning “the time of the end,” the man clothed in linen said,

And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. Daniel 11:31
 

And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Daniel 11:36

The study of scripture requires a systematic approach. One scripture enhances another until a clear picture emerges.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for <that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. II Thessalonians 2:1-4

The last verse is a literal description of the abomination of desolation. Concerning the coming of Jesus and “our gathering together unto him,” we have learned that it will not happen before “that man of sin” causes the abomination of desolation. As Jesus said, “whoso readeth, let him understand.”

We now have two signs which must occur before the “rapture:” “the last trump,” and “the abomination of desolation.” Another group of signs, in evidence of His return, is found in Matthew 24:29-31.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a Great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Bible is very specific about when all of this will happen: “immediately after the tribulation,” after the abomination of desolation, and at the last trump. If we will take time to read Revelation, we will find out what comes before the last trump. The “rapture” is not going to get you out of tribulation, but there is still much hope. Speaking again of the man of sin, Revelation 13:5-10 says.

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

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