The Rapture, Part II

Question from a Site Viewer
Does the “rapture” as some Christians view it, and shown by popular movies and books, have any basis in Scripture?

Tim’s Answer
Thank you for your question concerning the rapture. First, I do not endorse popular movies and books for discovering God’s ultimate plans for us or the world. Movies and books take a lot of license in the imagination of the producer or author to depict what we do not know. Whether they are right or wrong about future events is not easily testable.

However, the basic idea of a catching away by God of His saints from the earth is supported in Scripture, even though the word “rapture” is never found in Scripture, as many have rightly so stated. Probably the most in-depth discussion of the subject is in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Apostle Paul is addressing the concern of those who had loved ones die before Christ returned. He states two things with respect to such loved ones. First, in verse 14, He states that Christ will bring them with Him when Christ returns to this earth. Second, He says in verse 16 that such loved ones will rise from the earth. I believe that both of these things will happen, in that the body will rise and the soul and spirit will descend with Christ.

But the Apostle Paul also states in verse 17 that we who are alive and remain shall be:

. . . caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

And from that point on, we will always be with Christ, as verse 17 also says.

While this passage describes a catching away of the saints, it is not the only passage on the subject. In 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, the Apostle Paul describes the event as the dead being raised incorruptible and we (those not dead) being changed at the same time. In John 14:1-3, Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us and that He would come and:

. . . receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also.

He did not say that He would come to be with us (although that also is a truth of Scripture), but here he says that He will receive us to Himself that we may be with Him.

I believe this difference in language is significant. Scripture has a great deal to say about Christ returning to the earth to reign upon the earth. The prophet Zechariah tells us that when His feet meet the Mount of Olives, the mountain will split in two (Zechariah 14:3-9). Matthew tells us that the Son of Man will come in His glory and sit on the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31). Isaiah speaks much about the coming of Christ to this earth and His reign on this earth. Psalm 2 speaks about Christ ruling with a rod of iron. Jesus will return to rule on this earth.

But the idea of the dead and the living saints being snatched or caught up together into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and the idea of His coming to take us to the place He has been preparing for us, is a different idea than of Jesus returning to reign on the earth. It makes no sense to me that Scriptures would state that we will meet Him in the air and thus we will always be with Him if the 1 Thessalonians passage was really talking about Jesus coming to this earth and always being with us.

Accordingly, I believe in a heaven where Jesus is presently preparing a place for us. And He will return one day to take us there. This is what I believe Christ taught in John 14 and what the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage discusses. I do not know any other way of interpreting these passages within their own contexts.

The concept of God’s saints being taken away is not only found in the New Testament. In Isaiah 26:20, we find the LORD saying:

Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were for a little moment, until the indignation is past.

What follows is a statement that the LORD is coming to punish the earth, a seeming reference to the time of great tribulation described by Jesus in Matthew 24. The invitation for people to “come” to the Lord and enter into their chambers, I believe, is a link with what Jesus said – that He was preparing a place for us (John 14:1-3). I think that both the prophet Isaiah and Christ had the same concept in mind. There is an escape from the coming judgment, and it is with Christ away from this earth. Zephaniah 2:3 hints at such an escape. And 1 Thessalonians states that God has delivered us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10), a wrath that the Apostle Paul in that same book references as the judgment of God on this world (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). In 1 Thessalonians 5:10, we see that God’s ultimate plan is that we might live together with Him. In referencing those who wake or sleep, He is referencing that some will live together with Him and never “sleep,” that is, never die physically (as I interpret this passage).

Thanks again for the question. And may the Lord Jesus always enrich your life with Himself, and may you always enrich the life of the Lord Jesus with your life.


Related Articles:
The Rapture
The Rapture, Part III
Amillennialism, Post-millennialism, or Pre-millennialism?
Pre-Tribulation Rapture

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