What is the Rapture?
Jesus comforted His disciples about His departure with the promise of His coming for the church. This event is commonly called the rapture. This promise was introduced by The Lord to His twelve disciples during the last supper just before His crucifixion.
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)
Jesus revealed this promise in more detail to the Apostle Paul for the church to be comforted and edified as it runs the race with patience. The Lord himself will descend into the atmosphere. The dead in Christ will receive their resurrection bodies first. The church alive in the last days will be caught up in the air!
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. 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 to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
The phrase caught up is the Greek word “harpazo” and carries with it two meanings, one is to carry off by force, and another means to rescue from the danger of destruction. The word most commonly used is “rapture” which comes from the Latin word “rapiemur” in the Latin Vulgate Bible. “Rapiemur” is derived from the root verb “rapio”, which means to snatch, carry off or to seize someone or something quickly and suddenly.
It is referred to as a mystery to be revealed in the last days. There is a generation in the last days that will not experience physical death! This is a great mystery that is going to be revealed to the world in the last days.
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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)
The rapture is found throughout all of the Apostle Paul’s epistles to the churches he established. It is a central truth every Christian should understand. It is the blessed hope of the believer.
It is our time of redemption! Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
It is our time of transformation! God will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:21)
It is our time of our perfection! He (Jesus Christ) might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
It is our time of gathering! In the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him. (Ephesians 1:10)
When will the rapture occur?
The Apostle Paul uses the phrase “last trump” in connection with the resurrection of all believers and the translation of those who are alive when the trumpet sounds. The last trumpet illustrates that the entire church of all ages is assembled together to receive their glorified bodies and then rewarded for their works.
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)
The Apostle Paul was well versed in the Torah. He used the scriptures to prove that Jesus was the Christ. You can see his frequent references to the Torah in his letter to the Corinthians. He illustrates the feasts as a type and shadow to the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says in Colossians 2:17 that the feasts were “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” He refers to Christ as our Passover, our Unleavend Bread, and our Firstfruits. When Paul mentions the last trumpet he is making reference to something in the Torah. What was Paul referring to? The context for Paul’s “last trumpet” is found in the book of Numbers, specifically chapters 2, 9, 10 and 33. To understand what Paul meant by the last trump first read the book of Numbers. It is a story of the congregation of Israel in the wilderness.
The Congregation in the wilderness
Stephen the first martyr mentions God in the midst of the congregation in the wilderness in his preaching to the Jews in Acts 7:38. Numbers 2 records how the 12 tribes of Israel were encamped around the Tent of Meeting. The order given is east first, south second, Levites and the tabernacle third, west fourth, and north last.
These are the ones who were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ houses. All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty. But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel, just as the LORD commanded Moses. Thus the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses; so they camped by their standards and so they broke camp, each one by his family, according to their fathers’ houses. (Numbers 2:32-34)
The cloud by day and fire by night
Numbers 9 records how the 12 tribes (over 600,000 Israelite men) were led through the wilderness. This was God’s way to alert the nation that it is time to move. They were supernaturally led and protected by the emblem of God’s divine presence.
Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents. At the command of the LORD the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped. Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not journey. So it was, when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days: according to the command of the LORD they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the LORD they would journey. So it was, when the cloud remained only from evening until morning: when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they would journey; whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they would journey. Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey. At the command of the LORD they remained encamped, and at the command of the LORD they journeyed; they kept the charge of the LORD, at the command of the LORD by the hand of Moses.(Numbers 9:15-23)
The two Silver Trumpets
In Numbers 10:1-10, the Lord gave Moses instructions concerning the use of the two silver trumpets. One of the purpose of the blowing of the silver trumpets was to announce the time to pack up and begin their journeying through the wilderness. When the cloud moved the Levites were to blow the trumpets camp by camp, like clockwork first east then south then west then north. Numbers 10:5-6 makes mention that the camps on the east side go first and the camps on the south side go second. The other camps are not mentioned here, but they are mentioned in Numbers, chapter two. Each camp would be instructed to assemble for the journey sequentially. At the last trump the north camp would assemble and the entire nation would be on the move. There had to be order and clear orchestration. This picture is a powerful illustration to us today—the last trump indicated that the entire congregation was now on the move. The cloud would move, the trumpets sounded for each of the camp first east, second south, third west, and last north. Remember God was leading over a million people through the desert wilderness.
So the last trump indicates when the rapture will take place. When will the rapture takes place? When The Lord has finished building His church. Only The Lord knows. As we see the signs of the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth we know that the rapture is at hand because the rapture will occur before the time of tribulation. The big question is, are you ready to stand before The Lord?
Remember Jesus told his disciples at the last supper that there was much more He wanted to teach them but they were not ready yet. The Holy Spirit would come to reveal deeper truths. The Lord chose the Apostle Paul’s to write much of the New Testament revelation. The doctrine of Christ’s coming for the church was commissioned to Paul and sets squarely on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The fruit of this doctrine is hope and comfort not confusion or anxiety. Jesus gave the same admonition regarding His return saying, “don’t be deceived and don’t be troubled.”
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.—2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
There are two specific and well-defined events that signal the day of the Lord is rapidly approaching. First is the falling away meaning a departure. This text has been mistranslated and its meaning misinterpreted as a great number of believers falling away from the Lord. That is not taught by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, he stated to Timothy that some will depart from the faith.
The earliest English Bibles translate this word as departure not apostasy. (SEE Weust Translation and World English translation of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4) Departure and not apostasy better fits the context when Paul explains the removal of the restrainer. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s ministry and the departure of the church coincide together because the Holy Spirit indwells the church.
The second specific event is the revealing of the anti-Christ which he explains can’t take place until “he” the restrainer is taken out of the way. And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. The “he” that restrains is the Holy Spirit who was poured out on the day of Pentecost which is a restraining force upon Satan’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit has been at work for 2000 years in convicting men’s hearts of their need for Jesus. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as HE in John 14-16 and that He would be just like Himself.
The Anti-Christ can not appear until the church is departed because of the awesome authority and power He placed in the church. Revelation 4 & 5 is an account of the Apostle John’s vision of the redeemed worshiping at the throne of God. The redeemed then witnesses who would open the seals to judge the earth it is the Lamb of God, Jesus! The first seal judgment is the release of the rider on a white horse to conquer which is none other than the anti-Christ to deceive the nations of the world. So the church is in heaven watching the judgments unfold.
There is a clear distinction between the destiny of the world and the destiny of the church. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 and notice the Apostle Paul compares the church who receives rest from persecution with the world who receives punishment for not obeying the Gospel. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13 and notice the Apostle Paul compares the church who is set apart for salvation because of faith with the world who is under delusion and condemnation because of unbelief. The future is very clear, its dark for the world but bright for the church.
The Apostle Paul closes with an admonition to stand fast and hold the “traditions.” Paul’s revelation of who the believer is IN CHRIST (Believers’ NT Confession) is the heart of the New Testament. Stay true to the divine word of God and as you do God your Father will give you hope and comfort as we do His work.