End Time Series #3: The Rapture
By Rod Nichols (Rod@RodNichols.com)
Before getting started, let's do a quick review. In the first installment we proved the accuracy of Bible prophecy. Over 750 of the 1,000 Bible predictions have already come true. We showed you that the odds of just one of those prophecies coming true was 1 in 40,000. You also learned that Jesus fulfilled 300 different prophecies, but the odds of filling just eight would be 1 in 10 to the 17th power, which would be like putting a black mark on one silver dollar adding it to truck loads of silver dollars that would literally cover the state of Texas 2 feet deep and then asking a blind folded person to pick up just one silver dollar and have it be the one with the black mark. We could say that it was nearly impossible that Jesus fulfilled those prophecies by luck or accident.
In the second installment we reviewed the signs of the times according to Matthew 24. It was a pretty depressing picture with wars, famines, deadly diseases, massive earthquakes, persecution – even here in a Christian nation, increases in betrayal and offense, many false prophets sent to confuse us, a massive increase in sinful activities and an incredible increase in violence. We are very clearly living in times of lawlessness and what the Bible calls the end times and the signs are all pointing to the next part of God’s plan – the Rapture of the church.
In this third installment we are going to delve deeply into this controversial part of end time prophecy and I’m going to answer the most common questions about the Rapture.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV) reads: “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. 17After 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.”
The word Rapture does not appear in the Bible and some say that because it doesn’t show up in the Bible it won’t happen. However, those naysayers just haven’t looked deep enough, which is what we will do tonight.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the Apostle Paul says that we will be “caught up” together. The greek word that Paul used is harpazo, which means to snatch away. When the Bible was translated into Latin, the word became rapturo, which when translated into English becomes rapture.
What is the Rapture?
2 Thessalonians 2:7 (NIV): “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.”
After reading the last installment I think you will agree that we are living in a time of true lawlessness. However I think we would all agree that it could be a lot worse. Clearly there is something holding back the total lawlessness we see in some countries. It's the Holy Spirit living in all Believers that keeps lawlessness from sweeping our planet. It is clear from the scripture we just read that there will come a time when the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way – this what we call the Rapture.
The Holy Spirit lives inside born-again believers in Jesus Christ. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then you have the Holy Spirit living inside your human spirit. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then the information we talk about in this installment will not pertain to you, as you will be left behind to experience the wrath of Satan and the complete wrath of God.
I would recommend that if you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord that you do so immediately. If you are feeling the Spirit tugging on your heart and are ready to give your life completely to God, then repeat the following prayer: "Heavenly Father I know that I am a sinner and deserve your wrath. Thank you for sending your Son to earth to die for my sins and redeem me. Right now I repent of all my sins and accept Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I turn my life completely over to Him and look forward to walking with you the rest of my life and for all eternity. In the name of your precious Son Jesus I pray. Amen."
If you prayed this prayer with your heart, then you are now born-again. Your dead spirit has been renewed and you are connected directly to the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit. Under the cover of the blood of Jesus, you can now go boldly into the throne room of God and speak directly with your heavenly Father. You have been adopted into the royal family and are now a King's kid, with all the rights and inheritances. So, when the rapture occurs, you will go with us to be with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for eternity.
So, the Rapture is actually the removal of the vessels that hold the Holy Spirit, which are all born again Christians. It has been the Holy Spirit-inspired prayers of born-again Christians that have kept evil limited. However, when all Christians are removed from the earth, literally all hell will break lose. Now, Jesus made it clear in Matthew 24 that we can't know the exact day or time when he will come back for us, but we can know the season. So, let’s go further into Matthew 24 to better understand the rapture.
Matthew 24:40-41 (NIV): “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”
This shows a clear picture of what is going to happen during the rapture. Those who have made a heart choice to give their life to Jesus as both Savior and Lord, will literally disappear and those who are living life without Jesus will be left behind. Imagine the chaos as airline pilots, ship captains, bus drivers, politicians (maybe not many of them), and people driving cars, all disappear. My sister-in-law was a flight attendent for many years and she said that there was a ruling that only one of the pilots could be a Christian and only half the flight attendents. Clearly, at least at one point in history, the airlines believed in the rapture.There will be couples lying in bed and one will go and the other will be left behind. I believe that there will even be evangelists, ministers, and priests who will be left behind.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV) reads: “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
Think about our society and what it will be like when all the Christian people are gone and most of all when the Holy Spirit is removed for a time in order for lawlessness to operate to the fullest. Glad we don’t have to be there to see it.
Who will go?
Back to 1 Thes. 4:16-17:
1. Dead in Christ will rise first. All followers of Jesus who have died. Now, this always seems to beg the question of what happens between the time those people died and when they rose to meet Jesus. We believe and the Bible supports that when God's people die, their spirits go to be with Him, however their bodies don't rise until the rapture.
2. Those followers of Jesus who are still alive.
Who won’t go?
1. Good people who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
2. Generous people who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
3. Church going people who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
There is only one way to the Father - Jesus. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV)
What will happen and where will we go?
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 says that our earthly, perishable bodies will transformed to heavenly, imperishable bodies in the twinkling of an eye. After His resurrection, Jesus returned to the earth with a heavenly body. He could walk through locked doors and travel from one place to another quickly, yet he still appeared to be flesh and blood. Since Jesus is the first-born of many bretheren (us), we will get the same kind of body He had. A body that will sinless and able to withstand the holiness of God.
1 Thes 4:16-17 tells us that we will meet Jesus in the clouds and be with him for eternity. 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that we face the judgment seat of Christ. This is not judgment of sin, as that was dealt with at the cross (for those who are born-again) or will be dealt with at the white-throne judgment (more on that in a later installment) for all the rest, but rather this is a judgment of what we did after receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior. 1 Cor. 3:13-15 speaks of a trial by fire, where your acts/deeds will be judged by fire. Those that did not have eternal value, will turn into wood, hay, and stubble and be consumed and people will suffer loss. Those with eternal value, will turn into gold, silver and precious stones and he/she will receive a reward.
The Bible speaks of five distinct crowns that we may be rewarded:
Crown of incoruptability - for overcoming the old nature (1 Cor. 9:25-27)
Crown of joy or rejoicing - for being a soul winner. (1 Thess 2:19-20)
Crown of life - for enduring persecution and trials. (James 1:12, Rev. 2:10)
Crown of righteousness - for eagerly looking forward to Christ’s return. (2 Tim. 4:8)
Crown of glory - for shepherding the flock of God. (1 Peter 5:4)
Rev. 4:10 reveals that these crowns are not for us, but to be cast at the feet of our Lord, Jesus. I certainly don’t want to be standing face to face with Jesus and have no crown to cast, how about you? Once you are dead or raptured, there is nothing you can do to earn these crowns, so now is the time. Now, remember this has nothing to do with salvation, which is a free gift from God. These crowns are only for born-again believers of Jesus Christ and are rewarded based on their deeds will on earth.
John 14:1-3 says that Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for us. Some versions of the Bible call it a mansion, so clearly we will have a place to live. Rev. 19:9 says that we will attend the marriage supper of the lamb. The church is called the bride of Christ. Jesus, the Christ is referred to as the bridegroom. Isaiah 25:6-8 describes this supper – aged wine, best meats, rich foods. Some Christian Bible scholars believe that this feast will last for seven years, the exact length of the terrible tribulation, of which you will hear about over the next 3 weeks. Others believe that it begins at the mid-point in the tribulation and that we will go through a time of preparation, which as the brides of Kings did (in the Old Testament days). Lastly, Rev. 19:14 seems to indicate that there will be all or some of us who will be dressed in fine white linen and will ride white horses and follow Jesus into the final battle (discussed in a later installment). In any case it’s going to be a good time and you won’t want to miss it and if you have received Jesus into your heart, you won't.
Some people don’t believe in the rapture, what makes you think it will happen?
First, throughout the Bible, God's nature has been to remove the righteous before exacting his wrath - Noah and his family before the flood and Lot before Sodom and Gomorrah are two examples. If we think of God as our heavenly Father, wouldn't He want to remove His children before sending wrath on His enemies? As an earthly father, I know that I would do that for my children and I'm not anywhere near the father that God is. God's nature and character has always been consistent, so it would make sense that He would snatch His kids out of the world before sending His wrath.
Second, the Bible says so and if we are going to believe that the Bible is infallable truth (which I do), then we must believe in the rapture. Isaiah 57:1 (NIV) says: “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” 1 Thes. 1:10 (NIV) says, "and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." This means all wrath, which would include the wrath of Satan and the wrath of God during the tribulation. 1 Thes. 5:9 (NIV) says: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rev. 3:10 (NIV) says: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
It is very clear from both God's character and from His word that He will save all who are born again from His wrath, thus the solid justification for the rapture.
How is the rapture different from the second coming of Christ?
Actually it is the same and different. The second coming of Christ is actually a two-part return. The first part is the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ - Jesus will meet us in the air and will not set foot on earth (1 Thes. 4:16-17). In Acts 1:11, after Jesus had ascended into the clouds, an angel appeared and spoke to the disciples: "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Hebrews 9:28 (NIV): "so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." The first time Jesus came to earth it was to take on the sins of the world as a sacrificial lamb. When he comes in the cloud for his church (followers) he will bring salvation for those waiting for him.
The second part of his return is when he leads the armies of heaven back to earth to defeat evil and initiate the 1000 year reign of Christ. This time he is not bearing sin or bringing salvation, but rather exacting wrath on all remaining evil and fulfilling the prophecy to restore Israel. This time Jesus will touch the earth.
Zechariah 14:4 (NIV) "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south."
Rev. 19:11 (NIV) “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
This two-part return of Christ would also explain why Israel, but not the church is mentioned in the endtime events of Revelation. The church (all followers of Jesus up to the rapture) will not be present during the tribulation, but the Jews (Israel) who are still looking for the Messiah will be there.
One very clear reason why the 2nd coming of Christ must be in two parts is found in Matthew 24. In verse 29, Jesus himself tells us when he will come back and what will be happening – “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. We know from history that these things have not happened, so they must be a description of a future event. Yet, later, in verse 36, Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
It is clear from this that the first part of the 2nd coming will have no clear signs (except for the season). He even associates that time with the times of Noah and the flood, which surprised all the people except God’s chosen one – Noah. The rapture of the church will come suddenly and without notice. It could be today or tomorrow, so be ready, be watching for Jesus. However, the 2nd part of his return will be after the tribulation and will be marked by clear signs. Fortunately, we will not be here on earth to see them. However, we will get to ride out of heaven with Jesus and defeat the armies of darkness, bringing in a 1000 years of peace on earth! Praise the Lord!!!
When will this rapture occur?
3 different theological theories:
Post Tribulation - Some believe that it will happen after the seven year tribulation. This position says that the church (God's children) will experience the full wrath of the Father during the tribulation. This doesn’t make sense if you take into account the character of God and scriptures that say the church or righteous will be spared the evil trial and wrath.
Middle Tribulation (mid-trib) - Some believe that the rapture will occur 3-1/2 years into the tribulation, which is the middle point. Again, this doesn’t fit with God’s character or the scriptures that say that the church will be spared God’s wrath. The first half of the tribulation includes the seal judgments – four horsemen of the apocalypse – antichrist, war, famine, death and
the seven trumpet judgments – hail, fire, blood, mountain of fire, falling star, complete darkness, locust like creatures that sting, 200 million horsemen who kill 1/3 of mankind. The Bible clearly says that this is God’s wrath on mankind and yet the Bible also says that the church will be spared His wrath.
Pre Tribulation - Some believe that the rapture will occur sometime prior to the beginning of the seven year tribulation. This is the only one that fits both God's character and the scriptures. It would be unexpected and would spare God’s children from His wrath. It would also explain how there could be one world government and one world religion, both directed by the anti-christ (more on this in the next installment). This would also explain why the U.S., unquestionably the strongest Christian nation in the world, does not show up in Bible prophecy or the book of Revelation. With the Christians gone, our country will sink into depravity, lose its power and become a non-entity, easily controlled by the anti-christ.
Jesus said we can’t know the day or the hour, but we can know the season that precedes the rapture. As we discussed in the last installment, we are already seeing many of the signs of the season – lots of ripe figs.
Are you ready? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Have you secured your place in heaven at the banquet table? Have you secured your mansion in heaven?
Don’t wait, what if the rapture happened tonight and you were left behind? If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord and did not pray the prayer earlier, then go back and pray it now. In the next three installments you will learn about the worst time in the history of man - the Great Tribulation - and believe me, you don't want to be there for that. Give your heart to Jesus. Your life will be better and you will secure your exit in the rapture and a prime seat at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Rod Nichols is an Associate Pastor at Truth and Grace Foursquare Church in Tacoma, WA. He is also a published author and accomplished public speaker and teacher. Rod’s latest articles and books can be found at www.RodNichols.com. Rod is married with five children. He and his wife Karen live in beautiful Washington State. Rod is available as a freelance writer. If you'd like to hire him, e-mail Rod@RodNichols.com.
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