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Introduction to the Rapture—Answer Some Common Questions
Explore the Biblical concept of the Rapture and understand its place within Christian belief and prophecy. This article examines the various views of the Rapture, the Second Coming of Jesus, and what the Scriptures reveal about this pivotal event in Christian eschatology. Are you waiting for the Rapture? Find insights and answers in this comprehensive guide.
The Context of the “Rapture” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Apostle Paul is addressing concerns about those who had died in Christ before His return. The Christians in Thessalonica were grieving, and Paul provides them with hope and comfort by explaining the resurrection and what would happen at the Lord’s coming. He emphasizes that the dead in Christ will rise first, followed by those alive, who will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Who Will Be ‘Caught Up’?
Verse 15 explains that those “who are left until the coming of the Lord” and still living at that time will be the ones caught up. According to Romans 6:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-36, 44, these individuals must die before gaining heavenly life, but this will occur instantly, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:51-52; Revelation 14:13).
Will Christ Appear Visibly?
John 14:19 states that the world will not see Christ again with physical eyes, but His faithful followers will. This could align with instances in the Old Testament where Jehovah was represented invisibly, such as His inspection of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:21; John 1:18). Jesus’ descending from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16) doesn’t necessitate a physical return. The coming “in a cloud” (Luke 21:27) can symbolize an invisible presence, as with Jehovah at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9).
The Nature of the Bodily Transformation
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). The case of Elijah’s being taken up (2 Kings 2:11; 2 Chronicles 21:12-15) doesn’t contradict this, as it didn’t mean a transition to the spirit realm. Jesus clarified that “no one has ascended into heaven” except Him (John 3:13).
The Timing and Nature of the ‘Rapture’
True Christians won’t simply disappear from the earth without dying, nor will they be taken to heaven secretly (Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:35-36, 44). Scripture doesn’t support the idea that all faithful Christians will be taken to heaven before the great tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 7:9-10, 14). Protection for true Christians during the great tribulation is promised (Romans 10:13; Zephaniah 2:3).
The Earthly and Heavenly Hope
Not all true Christians will be taken to heaven (Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:29). Some are chosen to reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6), while others have the hope of inheriting the earth (Proverbs 2:21). The distinction between these hopes confirms that those taken to heaven will not return to the earth but will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The teaching, often referred to as the “rapture” is deeply rooted in the apostolic understanding of the resurrection and the return of Christ. It doesn’t pertain to a secret or visible physical return of Jesus, nor does it indicate a bodily ascent into heaven as humans. Instead, it describes the hope and the promise that faithful Christians, both those who have died and those alive at Christ’s return, will be united with the Lord in a new, spiritual body, participating in His reign or inheriting the earth according to God’s purpose and plan. The comfort and encouragement in this teaching continue to resonate with believers as they look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Are You Waiting for the Rapture?
The word “rapture” has created significant interest and debate among many Christians and religious groups. This concept has given rise to multiple interpretations and predictions, some of which have led to disappointment when they did not come to pass.
What Is the Rapture?
The rapture is a belief that Christians will be taken out of the world suddenly to be united with Christ “in the air.” This belief has led to various opinions on how and when it will happen, with the most popular idea being two separate comings of Christ: first to collect believers before a seven-year tribulation and second to the earth to establish His kingdom.
Scripture Reference: 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17
Why Some Wait for It
This belief has created a sense of excitement and anticipation among those who wait for the rapture. They see it as an escape from world calamities and feel an optimistic attitude towards the world’s impending conditions.
Is It Found in the Bible?
While the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, believers in the rapture base their belief on 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, where the words “caught away” are mentioned. Here, they interpret that Christ will come to earth, resurrect the dead “saints” and rapture the living “saints,” taking them to heaven.
Manner and Purpose of Christ’s Return
However, the Bible does not indicate a literal bodily return of Christ to earth. Instead, it presents the concept that Christ’s return means He turns His attention to earth to accomplish specific purposes.
Scripture Reference: 2 Samuel 22:10; Micah 1:3
In this view, Christ’s descending means turning His attention to earth, not leaving heaven. He will resurrect those who will join Him in heavenly rule, as mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 15; Revelation 20:6. Those still living on earth will be resurrected as invisible spirit sons of God as they complete their earthly course.
Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Further, at Christ’s return, He is installed as King in God’s heavenly kingdom, ousts Satan from heaven, and turns His attention to earth for judgment. Nations are separated as “sheep” from “goats,” based on their attitude towards Christ’s “brothers.”
Scripture Reference: Matthew 25:31-33; Revelation 12:7-12; Matthew 25:34-45; 24:14; 28:19, 20
According to the Scriptures, God’s purpose for the earth is to be inhabited and filled with perfect humans, over the animals, and under God’s sovereignty.
Scripture Reference: Genesis 1:28; 2:8, 15; Psalm 104:5; 115:16; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Isaiah 45:18
The Bible seems to offer two hopes to redeemed humans, a heavenly hope or an earthly hope. Those with heavenly hope are limited in number and will rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges, while those with earthly hope will receive eternal life on a paradise earth as originally intended.
Scripture Reference: Matthew 25:34, 46; Revelation 7:9, 10, 14
The belief in the rapture has captured the attention of many, leading to various interpretations and expectations. While some have eagerly anticipated this event, the conservative interpretation of the Scriptures suggests that the rapture is not about a literal bodily return of Christ but about His attention turned to earth to fulfill God’s purposes. The Bible presents a heavenly hope for a limited number, and an earthly hope, aligning with God’s original intention for the earth to be inhabited.
New Heavens and New Earth?
The Bible tells us that the universe, tainted by sin, will one day be redeemed. This finally restored universe is known as “the new heavens and new earth.”
Old Testament Perspective
In the Old Testament, the kingdom of God is often portrayed in terms of a redeemed earth. Isaiah specifically talks about the creation of new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). Though the Old Testament writers had only a vague understanding of this renewal, they firmly believed that human destiny lies on earth.
New Testament Clarification
The New Testament adds clarity to this vision. Jesus refers to the world’s “renewal” (Matt. 19:28), Peter talks about the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), and Paul assures that God will redeem the universe from its present state of corruption (Rom. 8:18–21). Peter confirms that the new heavens and the new earth will be characterized by righteousness, offering hope to Christians (2 Pet. 3:13). The book of Revelation ends with a magnificent vision of a new universe filled with righteousness and the presence of God. God himself declares, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1–8).
The creation of the new heavens and the new earth shows that God’s intention for humanity isn’t an intangible, bodiless existence but a tangible life on a perfected earth. This idea reflects a harmony between the spiritual and created order, fully realized in a perfect creation.
Renewal or Re-Creation?
There has been debate over whether the new heavens and new earth will be a renewal of the existing universe or a complete re-creation. Arguments can be found for both renewal (Matt. 19:28; Acts 3:21; Rom. 8:18–21) and re-creation (2 Pet. 3:7–13). A balanced view recognizes both continuity and transformation; the universe will be renewed in such a profound way that it brings about an entirely new order of existence.
The heavenly hope is beautifully depicted in Revelation 14:1-4, where the Lamb stands with 144,000 on Mount Zion. These represent those chosen to reign with Jesus as kings, priests, and judges. This unique number symbolizes completeness and emphasizes God’s reservation of His people during the Great Tribulation.
The New Earth: The Earthly Hope
In the Old Testament, the kingdom of God is often portrayed as a redeemed earth, as in Isaiah’s depiction of new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). The New Testament confirms this vision (Matt 19:28; Acts 3:21; Rom. 8:18-21; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-8). This renewed creation will fulfill God’s original purpose and will be marked by God’s complete rule (Rev. 21:3).
What we learn from this biblical exploration is that God created the earth to be inhabited (Gen 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps 104:5; 115:16; Eccl 1:4), and sin did not thwart His plans (Isa. 45:18). Through Jesus’ sacrifice, God offers two hopes to redeemed humans: a heavenly hope and an earthly hope. Those with heavenly hope will reign with Christ, while those with earthly hope will live eternally on a paradise earth, as originally intended.