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The word rapture does not appear anywhere in the Bible, but the concept is clearly taught throughout. The rapture is when Jesus returns for all believers, dead or alive, and escorts them back to heaven. It is imminent; no other prophesied event must happen before Jesus returns.
The rapture keeps Jesus’ Church from having to suffer through the coming time of tribulation. As believers, we look forward to it because it is the beginning of eternity with our Creator, in person, face to face.
After this (Jesus’ evaluation of His Churches on earth), I (the Apostle John) looked. And there was an open door in heaven. The first voice (spoke), saying, “Come up here (to heaven), and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit. And there was a throne set in heaven with One sitting on the throne.
We’re currently living in a time called The Church Age. This age began with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in the year 30 AD, and it will end on the day that Jesus returns for us at the rapture. During the rapture, Jesus will come in the air to gather His believers, both dead and alive, transform them in a moment, and escort them back to His home in heaven.
Once Jesus came, died, resurrected, and sent the Holy Spirit, the Church was born. In fact, the Church began when the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost to indwell believers in Jesus’ Name, which includes all who believed in Jesus after His resurrection.
“He takes away the first (animal sacrifices) that He may establish the second (salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice). By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:9-10).
Jesus will resurrect the Old Testament Jews and pre-resurrection believers after the tribulation when He returns to earth.
Paul, who wrote a large portion of our Bible (specifically, a lot of the New Testament), teaches about the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The living Thessalonian believers were afraid the dead believers might miss out on the blessings of the rapture, so Paul tells the Thessalonians what will happen to those who’ve died. Paul assures them that Jesus will rapture the believers who have already passed:
“But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep (those who have died), that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and arose again, so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (4:13-14).
In fact, Paul says Jesus will raise the sleeping believers first, momentarily before He transforms living believers:
“For …we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede (be taken before) those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout…. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds (God’s glory clouds) to meet the Lord in the air” (4:15-17).
Paul knew his teaching about the rapture would comfort these believers concerned about their ‘sleeping’ friends and relatives. Paul tells us more great news about the rapture:
“And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (17-18).
The rapture saves us believers from the horrors of the coming seven years of tribulation. During that time, God pours out His wrath against sin to end it and bring in “everlasting righteousness.” The Bible tells us the purpose of the tribulation:
“To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:25).
Jesus bore the sins of Church Age believers and permanently took them away. He suffered God’s wrath in our place.
“(Jesus) has appeared once at the end of the ages to put away sin by sacrificing Himself…. So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to save those who eagerly wait for Him” (Hebrews 9:26-28). Part of that coming salvation we await is deliverance from God’s wrath in the tribulation.
The rapture is something we as believers should all be looking forward to, and even longing for. There is entirely too much disagreement among scholars regarding the meaning and details of the rapture, which is not what God desires for us. Rather, the rapture is called the believer’s “blessed hope” and should be a comfort to us all, as well as a hope for our eternal future!
“We await the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us.”