The Rapture

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

There are many believers who have taken the time to study their Bible and actually know a great deal about what we refer to as the rapture of the Church. However, there are many other believers who are confused and uncertain about that glorious day when Christ will return for His body of believers, the Church. After a lengthy time of study, I am writing to explain my beliefs about the events surrounding the rapture of the Church. I hope that it will encourage you to open up your Bible and study more about that blessed day when Christ returns to gather His Church. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in Thessalonians 4:18, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

The word rapture means to be “caught up” or “taken away.” The only place that we find this reference in the Bible is from the Apostle Paul, as he was writing to the Thessalonians. Paul describes believers being “caught up” in the air to meet Christ. Although the word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, this phrase “caught up,” from v.17, is a clear reference to the rapture of the Church. The rapture will bring to a close the Church Age and the Age of Grace.

What is the Church Age? This is the period of time from Pentecost to the Rapture of the Church. This encompasses the complete period of time that the Church is on the earth. The Church Age will come to a close when Christ returns “in the air” to gather His Church. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 tells us what will occur when Christ returns: 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Our weak and decaying human body will be changed in a instant. We will be given an eternal, glorious body and we will be with the Lord forever.

This will certainly be a public event, not a secretive one, because Paul tells us that the “trumpet will sound” and “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Those of us who believe in Christ will be taken up to heaven and we will come back with Christ at His Second Coming, at the end of the seven years of tribulation. William E. Blackstone in his book, Jesus Is Coming (chapter 9 – Rapture and Revelation), writes: “At the Rapture, Christ comes into the air for His saints. At the Revelation (Second Coming), ‘He comes to the earth with them. He certainly must come for them before He can come with them…”

When will the rapture of the Church occur? While we don’t know the exact date or time that this will happen, Paul tells us from Romans chapter 11 that the rapture will occur when, “the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” In other words, when the last person has been saved and completes the Body of Christ, the rapture will take place. Romans 11:25: I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in…

The “full number of the Gentiles” refers to the Body of Christ. From Pentecost until now, we have had the out-calling of the Gentiles into the body of Christ, which is the Church. During this time, the nation of Israel has been spiritually blinded, but that will end with the rapture of the Church.When the last believer has been brought into the body of Christ, the Church Age will end and the seven years of Tribulation will begin. This is why I believe that the rapture will occur just before the period of Tribulation. Jesus confirms this for me in Revelation 3:10: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” That “hour of trial” will be the seven years of tribulation. This is Jesus’ promise that the Church will not have to endure this terrible time of testing.

In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And in Matthew 24:50, Jesus in telling the parable of the servant whose master left him in charge says, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.” Think about that for a moment. If the Rapture occurred during the mid-point or at the end of the tribulation, we would know exactly when Jesus would return. However, with the rapture at the beginning of the Tribulation, that could occur at any moment.

I leave you with the words of Jesus from the Gospel writer Luke about what the world will look like just before Jesus returns to rapture His Church. You could certainly make a strong case that this is what our world looks like today. Luke 21:34-36: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

The End Times – Daniel

Daniel 12:1-4 (ESV): “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”

I remember hearing a sermon when I was a teenager, that referred to a time when travel and knowledge would increase and the resulting connection those things would have on the end times. You have probably heard a sermon based on this text and it’s likely that many of you may believe that this phrase, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” comes from one of the Gospels. This passage is only found in the 12th chapter of Daniel just as God’s vision to Daniel is concluding.

Lately, I have been reading and studying about the signs at the end of the age. God has placed this study upon my heart and I have been reading and trying to fully understand the importance of these things for believers today. There are two reasons why this study is important to me: 1) it gives us as believers – hope! Paul, in Titus 2:13, reminds us of the “blessed hope” that we as believers have as we await the return of Christ, and 2) it should motivate us as followers of Christ to try and reach everyone who is not saved so that they will believe in Christ and not have to face the period of tribulation that is coming on those who do not believe.

Going back to the Daniel 12:4 text, we recognize that Michael is the archangel who is essentially the spiritual protector of Israel, God’s chosen people. Daniel’s prophecy reveals to us that, at the Great Tribulation, Michael will emerge (“shall stand up”) as he continues to wage spiritual battle for Israel. I believe that this period of tribulation will begin after the church has been taken away (raptured) and the last seven years of God’s dealing with Israel will begin.

In Daniel 9:26, we can understand that out of the 490 years that had been determined on Israel, 483 of those years ended at the Crucifixion of Christ. The 7 remaining years are believed to be the 7 years of Tribulation. At the beginning of the Tribulation, the Anti-Christ will emerge and will sign a peace treaty with Israel, that will only last for the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation. The second half of the Tribulation will unleash Satan’s fury against the Jewish people and the world will also see many judgements from God, making this period of history unlike any other.

Daniel 12:4 (ESV): “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Many of us only think of world knowledge when reading this passage but God also intended for it to include biblical knowledge. Remember in Daniel’s time, Daniel did not have any knowledge of the Church Age, he could only recognize what God had revealed to him and the Church Age was not a part of Daniel’s understanding. In our day and time however, God has opened up our understanding of Biblical knowledge, as we are on the other side of the cross, in comparison to Daniel and his contemporaries. We are able to more fully discern scripture and its meaning that the people of Daniel’s time simply could not understand. 

In his book, The Final Generation, Mike Evans writes (p.48): “When a vision of the end times was given to Daniel in the last three chapters of his book, he was told to seal it up for the generation in which “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4). No generation in the history of the world has traveled so much or seen knowledge increase so quickly as ours. Today, we can be anywhere in the world in hours and have even stepped from Earth to the moon within days. What humanity knows, is inventing, or is discovering is increasing at an exponential rate. Literally anything you want to know in the world is accessible through a few keystrokes or clicks of a mouse.” Evans make a valid point that we are certainly living in the age where knowledge is increasing at an incredible rate.

Daniel 12:3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. This verse is perhaps the most important to me as I continue to study end time prophecy. While scripture tells us that we should pay attention to the signs of the end of the age, our most important focus should be to bring those who are lost to belief in Christ. That is the assignment that Jesus gave to his disciples as he ascended into heaven and that same mission is ours today. God doesn’t want anyone to suffer the wrath that will be poured out onto this earth during the Tribulation and it is our duty as followers of Christ to do our part to save as many as possible. And as we lead unbelievers to righteousness, we are given the promise that we “shall shine…like the stars forever and ever.” We will live in the presence of God in heaven, and will receive our reward for being faithful to our calling, while living out our time on earth.

Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 NIV.

Strength In Christ

Colossians 2:6-8(NIV)
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul refers many times to the believer’s spiritual union with Christ. For Paul, it is essential for the believer to always be mindful of the presence of Christ in their individual walk of faith. Paul writes, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). It’s not always easy to do, but as believers, we must set our mind on heavenly matters instead of falling in love with this world that we live in. The things of this world are temporary but our reward in heaven is eternal.

I turn to this text often to remind myself just how important it is to live for Christ and not for the world, or even for myself. It’s often difficult for us to do so because at present we live in this fallen world. We are drawn to the things of this world and we often are deceived into believing that we can find security and peace of mind here on earth. I believe that Paul’s words are just as crucial for us today as they were for the early Christians. For the believer, our focus and guidance must come from Christ, who died for our sins and who will in the end, raise us to eternal life. Christ’s power and victory over death is something that the “world” cannot duplicate.

There are three things that stand out for me in this passage from Colossians. 1) We are “rooted” in Christ, 2) we are being “strengthened” in our faith, and 3) our lives should “overflow with thankfulness.” If we are “rooted” in Christ, that just means that we look to Christ to lead us in our daily lives and our decision making. Christ, through the Holy Spirit, will start to have us look at daily life differently and we will let go of things that were once important to us. Instead, we will be drawn to the injustices of this world that Christ wants our attention focused on. We will grow to become more compassionate and caring to everyone that we encounter. And as we follow the leading of Christ and the urgings of the Holy Spirit, we will be strengthened in our walk of faith. And finally, all these things should lead us to become overflowing with thankfulness to God for loving us so much that he gave us His only Son as a sacrifice for our sinful nature. I thank God daily for His grace and His mercy upon my life. 

If you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and believe that He died for you sins, then the Spirit of Christ lives in you. And because the Spirit lives and dwells within all believers, we are given an incredible power that enables us to say “no” to the things of this world and “yes” to the leadership of Christ in our lives.