The Rapture—What, Who, When and Why? (Part 1)April 1, 2019
Our eyes are often focused on the Middle East, and our prayers need to be there too, because it’s a seething cauldron of trouble, and all of it portends the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning God’s prophetic clock, some have said, “Israel is the hour hand, Jerusalem is the minute hand, and the Temple Mount is the second hand.”
You need to be ready, but you don’t need to be fearful. Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. But hope looks up. The return of Jesus Christ is our blessed hope.
Before beginning this study of a topic, “the Rapture,” that has caused a significant amount of contention among believers, turn to Titus 2:13. Fill in some significant words in this verse:
Looking for that _____________ ______, and the glorious ____________ of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
The return of our Lord is truly our blessed hope.
A SIDE THOUGHT FOR OUR JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES FRIENDS
Note that this verse is one among many in the Bible that equate Jesus Christ and God.
“the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
They are One. We aren’t looking for the return of two Persons. We look for One, and He is our Savior Jesus Christ, who is God. Titus is saying, if we flesh it out, “the great God and our Savior, in the 2nd person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.” They are on equal footing.
A WRINKLE IN TIME
The return of Jesus, “the blessed hope,” was prophesied as far back as Enoch in the book of Genesis. In fact, Jesus’ return was made known long before Noah’s Flood!
Remember Enoch? He walked with God, and one day he “was not,” the Bible says. Enoch just disappeared one day….
I want you to turn all the way back to Genesis chapter 5 and look at all we know about Enoch from his first mention. He was only 7th in line from Adam, through the godly line of Seth.
A SIDETHOUGHT—WHO’S SETH?
HE DIDN’T NEED ANCESTRY.COM
As you may recall, Adam and Eve’s first 2 sons were Cain and Abel. Tragically, Cain became jealous of his brother Abel’s more acceptable sacrifice to God and killed Abel in a fit of rage. Cain was banished from his home. Later, Adam and Eve had a 3rd son, Seth.
Through Seth, Adam’s line of descendants went like this:
Adam - Seth - Enos - Cainan - Mahalaleel - Jared - Enoch.
Enoch was the great-great-great-great grandson of Adam himself.
We know so little about Enoch other than what’s contained in these few verses from Genesis 5:
18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch:
21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
So from these verses we know:
- He came from Seth’s godly line.
- His father was _________.
- Enoch was just ___ generations from Adam himself.
- Enoch was the father of _____________, who lived longer than any human being.
- Enoch lived before the Flood, because it did not begin until after Methuselah died.
- Enoch had other children in addition to Methuselah.
- Enoch lived on earth a total of _____ years (people lived far longer lives before the Flood.)
- Enoch’s departure from Earth was most unusual.
- Enoch never experienced death.
He was such a friend of God that one day, Enoch and God were walking along, and God must have said, “You know, Enoch, this fellowship we’re having together? It’s so wonderful. Let’s just keep going.” And together they kept walking right on into Heaven.
Enoch was “raptured” in the purest form of that word. And shortly we will study the origin of the word “rapture” in its original, both in Greek and Latin, for its meaning.
But we know one more thing about Enoch, and it isn’t included in his brief Genesis biography. No, we find it in the most unlikely place—Jude, the shortest book in the Bible, right next door to the book of Revelation. Jude reveals:
14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints….
This is not Enoch envisioning God the Father coming to Earth with ten thousands of His angels. Angels are not saints. Saints are those whose faith in God and trust in His provision for a Savior resulted in their being a part of the blood-bought family of God. There were saints in the Old Testament like Abraham, of whom Jesus said, “Abraham saw My day and was glad” (John 8:56), and of course the New Testament saints in the Body of Christ.
Enoch knew that one day a Savior would come to Earth, then later return with His followers.
Wait. This is fascinating.
How could Enoch possibly know this? Know it 4,000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ? I like to think God the Father shared this with His friend one day as they were walking along. Then, the Holy Spirit inspired Jude to tell us more about Enoch when Jude wrote.
What did Enoch do with his remarkable knowledge? He told his community around him (“prophesied of these, saying”) before he and God walked on home together.
A SIDE THOUGHT:
One of many reasons we can know the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God is the way it’s woven together miraculously over thousands of years by scores of different authors. The pieces fit perfectly even though many of the authors never met and wrote millennia apart from each other.
Turn now to Revelation chapter 4, the heart of this study.
To every Christian alive today, I want you to know: We are on a collision course with destiny, and you cannot afford to be ignorant. Help in understanding Revelation comes from knowing that Revelation is divided into three sections, following the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ to the writer, John the Apostle. When the Lord appeared to John on the Isle of Patmos, he told John in Revelation1:19 to…
“Write what you have seen”—John was to write what he saw: the appearance of Christ to him that day on the Island of Patmos, Revelation Chapter 1—DIVISION 1
“Write about things which are,” the Church Age, the contemporary era in which John was living, which began with the founding of the Church on the Day of Pentecost and will one day end with what we call “the Rapture of the Church,” Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 —DIVISION 2
“Write about those things which shall be hereafter,” which begins at Revelation 4:1, where we leave the Church Age behind and enter the 3rd grand division of the book of Revelation. Everything from 4:1 forward deals with “things which shall be hereafter,” Revelation Chapters 4 through 22—DIVISION 3
Jude 1:14 says Jesus is returning with His saints. He cannot return with them if they are still on earth, suffering through the Tribulation, and not with Him. Before Jesus’ Second Coming to earth, at the midnight cry He is first going to come for His own, those who’ve been twice-born. Those who are Heaven-born will be Heaven-bound.
When He comes for His saints, according to 1 Thessalonians:
- Those who are saved and still living will be miraculously transformed, given a glorified body impervious to gravity, and be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
- Those who have already died in the Lord, who are buried, their bodies sleeping in the earth, but whose spirits have already gone to Heaven, will be raised from their sleeping place (their graves), to meet their spirits in the air and be joined with living saints and with the Lord in the air. The Bible calls that the Rapture of the church, the heavenly homecoming.
1.Turn to Revelation 4:1
After this I looked and, behold, a _______ was opened in ____________, and the first voice which I heard was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me which said, “______ ___ hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.”
Here we enter that division dealing with the future, with everything that will transpire after the midnight cry and the Rapture of the church. We’ll study this by looking at the “what, who, when, and why” of the Rapture.
The Sacred Mystery of the Rapture
The Bible calls the Rapture of the church a mystery—not like a detective story you might read or see on TV. In the Bible, a “mystery” refers to a truth that no one would ever figure out on their own. A truth that can only be known by divine revelation. A secret God unlocks in His Word. The Greek word is mysterion—from which we get our English word “mystery.”
In Revelation 4:1, we see a glimpse of the Rapture. John hears a voice like a trumpet saying, “Come up hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.” John is caught up through that door, transported from earth into Heaven.
That experience of John’s, my friend, illustrates the Rapture of the church.
2. Turn to a corresponding verse, 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Paul had to write a letter to the believers in Thessalonica to straighten something out.
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you __________ _____ even as others which have ___ _______.”
WHAT WAS UP WITH THE THESSALONICANS?
The church at Thessalonica didn’t know what would happen to those of their number who died before Jesus returned, and they were mourning. They were rightly looking for the return of Jesus at any time, as they should have been. But since some of their brothers and sisters had died, they were wondering, “Are they going to miss the coming of the Lord? Will they miss out on reigning with our Lord in His kingdom? Paul needed to put their minds at peace about this.
And ours! Sooner or later all of us will stand at a graveside, saying goodbye to a loved one who knows the Lord Jesus Christ. But we don’t need to grieve like those who have no hope. Thank God, we have hope!
3. Continue in 1 Thessalonians 4 to v. 14
…for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again” [and we do], “even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God _______ _____ ____.”
Now wait a minute. They’re asleep in Jesus, and God is going to bring them back to earth with Him?
Of course. Their physical body is in the grave sleeping; their spirit is with the Lord. When Jesus comes for His church, the body rises from the grave as the spirit comes down with the Lord. Thus Paul explains, “Even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (another verse where the Bible equates God and Jesus).
4. He continues (v. 15).
For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that ___ which are _______ and remain unto the coming of the Lord…
Did Paul think it was possible that Jesus would come in his lifetime?
How does this sentence prove that?
Continuing in verse 15:
“we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.”
Paul is explaining that we who are still alive are not going to experience something our loved ones who have died are going to miss out on. In fact, quite the opposite: they will be raised first, although it all happens in an instant, as we mark time. Let’s continue as it all unfolds, moment by moment.
5. V. 16
16 For the (who?) ______ ________” [not some event in history, not some cataclysm, but this same Jesus] shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the _____ __ _______ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are _______ and remain shall be _________ ___ together with them in the ________, to meet ____ ______ in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
One day Jesus will rise from His throne in the lofty Heavens. He will hear the Father say to Him, “Son, go get your bride,” and Jesus is going to come, stepping on the clouds.
When He descends from Heaven, a shout will come from His lips, the trumpet will sound, and His voice will echo through the subterranean tombs of earth. Those who know the Lord Jesus Christ will have their ears tuned to Him, and we will be glorified and rise to meet the Lord.
From the swelling waves of the sea, they will come. From the winding sheets of desert sands, they will come. From the battlefields of this world, they will come. From country graveyards, they will come. They will be raptured—“caught up.”
WHERE DOES THE WORD “RAPTURE” COME FROM?
When 1 Thessalonians 14:17 says “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds,” the words “caught up” are the English translation of the Latin word rapto. It means “to seize,” “to catch away,” “to be caught up,”” to take,” “to snatch.” In Greek the word is harpadzo.
6. Turn now to 1 Corinthians 15:51, a companion verse to 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
“Behold, I show you a ___________.” [There’s that word again, “mysterion,” a truth heretofore hidden, but now God reveals it in His Word.] “We shall not all sleep,” [that is, not everyone will die before Jesus comes; there are millions who will miss death] “but we shall all be _____________, in a __________, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the ________ shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be ___________.”
THE RAPTURE WAS, UNTIL THE CHURCH AGE, A “MYSTERION”
The Old Testament prophets saw the Lord Jesus Christ coming in power and glory. They saw Messiah, reigning and ruling, but they did not see the Church Age, and they did not see the Rapture. The only way people today know about the Rapture is not by studying what the Old Testament prophets had to say, but what the New Testament prophets had to say.
This was revealed to the apostle Paul, and he says, “Behold, I show you a mystery.” Paul stated the truth he had been given by the Holy Spirit—by divine revelation.
Which age are we in right now? The Church Age—that interval between the time when Jesus came the first time and when He is coming the second time.
WHY DO I BELIEVE IN THE RAPTURE?
Sometimes I’m asked, “Adrian, you’re college-educated, seminary-educated. Do you believe in the Rapture? Doesn’t that smack a little bit of supernaturalism?” Yes, indeed, it does. That’s what the apostle Paul explains here in 1Thessalonians 4:14. Here is his reason:
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again” [Do you believe that? If you believe Jesus died and rose again, why should it be difficult for you to believe in the Rapture?] “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so in like manner them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1 Thess.4:14)
- I believe in the Rapture because I believe the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You see, the Rapture is linked to the redemption. God is not finished. If you have Calvary without the Rapture, it’s like having east without west, up without down, night without day. You cannot have the incarnation without the coronation.
- I believe in the Rapture of the Church because Jesus has already gone through that grave and come out on the other side
- I believe in the Rapture because the Word of God declares it. Look again at v. 15 of 1 Thessalonians 4:
For this we say unto you by the _______ of the _______ that we which are alive [at that moment, the moment of the shout and the trumpet sound] and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not [precede] those who are asleep.”
The Word of the Lord proclaims it, so I’m not here to explain it away.
I think of it like this:
If you were to sprinkle bits of all sorts of metal—silver, gold, zinc, copper, iron, lead—on the ground and bury them beneath the surface, then take a giant magnet and sweep over that ground, some—but not all—of the metal would rise to meet the magnet. The rest of the metals would stay right there in the ground. The gold would stay, the silver would stay, the zinc, the copper and the lead would stay. But the iron would rise. Why would the iron rise? Because it has the same nature as the magnet.
When Jesus comes for His bride, those who are Heaven-born will be Heaven-bound. Those who have the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ will rise to meet Him in the air.
Many prognosticators, astrologers and so-called prophets today try to tell us what’s going to happen. But they’re not prophetic, they’re pathetic. All the strategists in the Pentagon, all the lawmakers on Capitol Hill, all who run the banking industry, all who sit in executive offices, don’t have on iota of an idea of what’s going to happen apart from the Word of God.
“This we say unto you by the Word of the Lord.” The Rapture is a sacred mystery.
(- continued Part 2)