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What is the Rapture?

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Jesus Christ had come, taught, ascended, and said, “I am coming again.” (Read John 14:28, Acts 1:4-11.) The Christians at Thessalonica expected Jesus' return to happen in their lifetimes. But in the meantime, some of them died, and they worried—Where is Jesus? Will our loved ones miss their part in the kingdom?

Paul wrote to answer their questions and give them comfort. (Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

What Is the Rapture?

One day, Jesus Christ will descend back to Earth. Those who know Him will hear Him shout, “Come forth!” The seas, deserts, battlefields, and graveyards will all give up their dead. (See Revelation 20:13.) After this resurrection will come the rapture, when “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17a).

The Greek word used in this verse is herpazo, meaning “to be caught away quickly” or “to seize by force.” There are four other places in the Bible where herpazo is used. (See Acts 8:39, 23:10, John 6:15, 1 Corinthians 12:2).

In the Bible, mystery means something that has been hidden but is now revealed. “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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Who Will Be Raptured?

At the Rapture, only the dead in Christ will be raised, and only we who remain in the Church will be caught up.

There is a first and second resurrection. (See Revelation 20:4-5.) “And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16b)—those who knew Jesus as their Savior and Lord. “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).

The second death—the lake of fire (See Revelation 20:14.)—is for unbelievers, those who have never been saved. If you die outside of Christ, the second death will keep you forever.

Paul knew that people would believe this is superstitious, so he said, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). The resurrection of Christ is the proof of our resurrection. If you cannot believe in the resurrection of Christ, you cannot believe in Christianity at all.

When Will the Rapture Happen?

It will be a sudden moment, a moment both close and certain. “Little children, it is the last hour…” (1 John 2:18a). Christians are always living on the edge of eternity.

If anyone sets a date, you have a right to say he is a heretic. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only…Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:36,44). Are you ready?

When Jesus returns, there will be sudden sounds. “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 4:16a).

Jesus will say, “Come forth!” and the whole Church will come forth. The archangel who is commander in chief of Heaven's armies will assemble the angels to work out the Great Tribulation. There will be a trumpet call—like the trumpet that was used to assemble Israel. (Read Exodus 19.)

Why Will There Be a Rapture?

First, the Rapture of the Church will be a rescue. Terrible things will take place on this Earth in the Great Tribulation, the "day of the Lord," but Jesus will take His Church out first. “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11).

God said, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

Second, the Rapture will be a reunion. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds” (1 Thessalonians 4:17a). Loved ones in the Church who have died will be raised at the second coming of Christ, and together we will meet the Lord.

Third, the Rapture will be a reception, when we are received to our Lord who said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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” (John 14:2-3).

Where Will the Rapture Happen?

It will be a secluded meeting. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says we will “meet the Lord in the air.” Christ will not come down to Earth at the rapture; He is going to snatch His Bride away.

In Bible times, a groom would go to a young lady’s house, negotiate with her father, and pay a redemption price for her. They would drink a cup of wine and pledge themselves to one another. Then the groom would go back to his father's household and build a place for himself and his bride. At the precise time—not set by the bride, but by the groom and his father—the groom returned, perhaps even at midnight. Somebody would shout to the bride, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” She would gather her things and meet him. He would carry her away to a secluded place where they would consummate the marriage.

That is what Paul is talking about here. Christ is coming back to this Earth in power and glory, but the Rapture will be secret and secluded. Later, Christ will come back and display His Bride in glory.

Take Comfort:

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). In this day of headline hysteria, if you want something that will give you comfort and consolation, you need to:

Learn about the coming of the Lord.

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren…” (1 Thessalonians 4:13a). Ignorance leads to hopelessness, and hopelessness to sorrow.

Live for His coming.

You don't want to be ashamed when Jesus returns.

Look for His coming.

You should be expecting Jesus today. He may come at any moment.

Long for His coming.

“My beloved spoke, and said to me: ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away’” (Song of Solomon 2:10). Won't it be something when Jesus says this to His Church?

Are you so busy with “things” that you have left out what really matters? Have you left out Christ? If you have, it will be a sad day for you when the trumpet calls. Christ is coming—in the twinkling of an eye.