“Behold, I shew 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 trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall 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 shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1st Corinthians 15:51-54).
The above passage is a description of the Rapture. However, the word “rapture” is not found in the KJV English Bible. Subsequently, some have made claims that the Rapture is an invention of man and therefore, is not biblical. In this chapter, we will show that the Rapture is a reality clearly taught in the Bible and that we can expect this climactic event for the Church to take place at any time.
The fact that the word “rapture” does not appear in our Bible does not mean that it is not taught. For example, the word “trinity,” is not found in our Bible either, but the trinity is unmistakably evident in Scripture.
In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul wrote about people who will not all “sleep;” in other words, they will not die. Those people will be changed and brought into the presence of God in the twinkling of an eye. This changing process, or translation of the believer, is necessary because the Bible says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
Such an event has never taken place in the history of the Church. Verse 54 highlights this fact when it says, “… then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Is this true for us today? The answer is obviously “No.” For the last 2,000 years members of the Church have died. Millions of saints have already gone through the valley of the shadow of death. The Bible says “it is appointed unto man once to die….” However, 1st Corinthians 15:54 clearly states that death will be swallowed up in victory. That, we have to admit, has not occurred yet, but will take place at the moment of the Rapture.
Furthermore, the Rapture is the fulfillment of Christ’s victory for His Church over death. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church regarding the Rapture in 1st Corinthians 15:54, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Only at that point—when we have taken on incorruption and immortality— has the prophetic Word been fulfilled, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In recent years, the doctrine of the Rapture, as set forth in the Bible, has caused many controversies within the Church. In no way should that discourage us from studying the subject and trying to answer the important question, “Will one be taken and the other left behind?” We must search for the answer in Scripture, yet not all come to the same conclusion. Each one of us is affected to a certain degree by teachers, preachers, colleges, radio and television programs, books, churches and denominations. Therefore, it is so important to permit the Holy Spirit to captivate our minds and hearts so we can understand the depth of the message in the words.
On another occasion, a lawyer asked Jesus, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus responded by asking another question, “…What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (verse 26). Notice that Jesus not only asked what was written in the Law, but, “how readest thou?” It’s how we read the Scripture that brings us under the conviction of certain teachings.
1) What Is The Rapture?
The Rapture is the fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer in John 17:24, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” This verse clearly expresses the Lord’s desire to be united with His Church. We know from Scripture that when a believer dies, he is immediately in the presence of the Lord. The apostle Paul clearly testified, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord”‘(2nd Corinthians 5:8).
It is the Lord’s clear, expressed will that His own, whom He has bought with His precious blood, be in His presence so that they may finally behold His glory.
The Rapture is our transformation into the image of Him who was transformed before us: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1st John 3:2). Thus, we are able to confidently proclaim that the Rapture fulfills Bible prophecy.
We are the “sons of God” but we are not like Him. We have not been translated into His image; at this moment we are NOT “… as He is.” That is yet to come.
After the Rapture of the Church, Satan is cast upon the earth to have a field day with mankind because the light has been “taken out of the way.” Revelation 12:12 summarizes the contrast between these two groups, “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
2) How Will The Rapture Take Place?
The Rapture will take place in “the twinkling of an eye.” In other words, it will happen instantaneously and unannounced. No advertising campaign, news coverage, or special announcements will precede the Rapture.
For that reason, it is of utmost importance that we learn to differentiate between our Rapture and the Rapture of the Jews. We will be raptured vertically, from earth to Heaven. The Jews will be “raptured” horizontally, from the four corners of the earth to Israel. Our meeting place is clearly described in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 as, “…in the air….” The destination of the Jewish “Rapture” will be the land of Israel. God has given them an unconditional promise that He will return them to their land, “…I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there ” (Ezekiel 39:28).
The Vertical Rapture
The Rapture of the Church is described in 1st Corinthians 15:51-53, “Behold, I shew 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 trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
In 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 we read, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” In actuality, this is not a very detailed description for such an important event. This is why Paul writes that he is going to show us “…a mystery.”
The Horizontal “Rapture”
Matthew 24:31 describes the horizontal “Rapture” of the Jews. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” In this context, Jesus is speaking to His people, the Jews, not to the Church. In Matthew 24, we find a geographical reference that does not apply to the Church: “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (verse 16). This can’t apply to the Church because the majority of Christians live outside of Israel, making it impossible for them to flee to the Judean mountains. Furthermore, verse 20 mentions the “Sabbath day,” which was given exclusively to the Jewish people, as confirmed in Exodus 31:17: “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever…” When comparing the two, we find distinct contrasting characteristics which enable us to differentiate between the two.
At the Rapture of the Church, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven.” However, Matthew 24:31 says, “…he shall send his angels.” When Jesus comes for the Church, He comes with the “voice of the archangel” and with “the trump of God.” When he comes for Israel, He comes with “a trumpet.” These vivid descriptions reveal the difference between the two: one exclusively for the Church and the other exclusively for the Jews. One will lead to the clouds in the heavens; the other will lead to Jerusalem.
Why is it necessary that the Jews go to Jerusalem? Scripture would not be fulfilled any other way. The Bible makes it clear that the Jews will look on Him whom they have pierced. The return of the Jews to the land of Israel is something we are witnessing today and is part of the process of Bible prophecy fulfillment. Its climax will come when the entire remnant is back in the land of their fathers. They will all be brought to the land of Israel; no one will be left behind.
A Trumpet Or The Trump Of God?
We noted that Israel will be gathered together with “a trump” and the Church with the “trump of God.” Let us investigate the specific differences between the two. First Corinthians 15:52 states that the Rapture of the Church will take place “at the last trump of God.” First Thessalonians 4:16 identifies this as the “trump of God.”
This trump must not be confused with any of the other trumps mentioned in Scripture, such as the trumps of angels, trumps of priests, trumps of war and trumps of peace, or the trumpets in the book of Revelation which announce terrible judgments upon the world. We are dealing here with the “last trump of God.” If we are awaiting the “last trump” of God, when did the “first trump” of God occur?
The First Trump Of God
Exodus 19:16 offers us evidence of the first trump of God, “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.” Notice the words, “voice” and “trumpet.” We can search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation and will not find the presence of the Lord identified by the “voice of a trumpet” in any context other than the gathering of Israel to receive the Law, and the gathering of the Church to be united with the Law-giver.
To further establish the identity of the voice, the trumpet, and God, note the following, “And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice” (Exodus 19:19).
The purpose of this event was to gather His people to hear God’s Word. There is no evidence in Scripture that anyone else heard the sound of the first trump of God. We can assume that only those in the camp of Israel heard it. In fact, Hebrews 12:19 substantiates this claim, “And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.”
In the same way, the last trump of God will go unnoticed by the world and will be heard only by those who have an inner spiritual ear: born again believers. The last trump of God will gather His heavenly people to receive the Word which became flesh!
3) Why Is The Rapture Necessary?
We will highlight five important points to answer this question:
a) The Rapture is necessary in order to permit sin to reach its culmination. The Church is the light of the world, thus, with the Church (light) gone, sin can fully develop its potential of evil.
God cannot send destructive judgment upon the world because the measure of sin has not yet been fulfilled. The fulfillment of sin reaching its climax is now hindered because the light of the world remains in the world. The Church is the obstacle; when that obstacle is removed, sin will reach its prophesied peak.
Some may object and say, “The world is in such a terrible mess; people are so sinful, corrupt, and immoral. God cannot possibly permit this to go on.” There is no doubt that evil has increased as prophesied in 2nd Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” But in order to see the climax of evil, we must look at the Scripture describing the time when the Church is gone.
b) The Rapture of the Church is necessary in order to allow the Antichrist, who is the highest product of darkness, to be revealed. He cannot take his rightful place until the Church has been removed from this world. The prince of darkness cannot fully develop his diabolical plan while the “light of the world” is present. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world.” So darkness can only operate when hidden from the light.
When speaking to the church in Thessalonica about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth and our “gathering unto Him,” the apostle Paul clearly identifies the hindering element. What can hinder darkness? It is the Holy Spirit within the Church who is withholding the revelation of the Antichrist, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2nd Thessalonians 2:7).
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, gives light in darkness, and dwells in the believer. Jesus testifies, “…I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).
Few Christians fully realize the incredible significance of being born again: We are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit! The mystery of iniquity can never fully develop its work of darkness as long as there is but one spark of light present on earth.
Surely, no one can argue that the mystery of iniquity is already at work. It is very evident, especially in our day as we see the entire world turning away from the Living God and turning toward their own selves. From this point of view, we realize that it is an absolute necessity that we are taken out of the way first.
c) The Rapture is necessary because the Word of God must be fulfilled. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he revealed the mystery of the Rapture, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1st Corinthians 15:54). Although Jesus defeated the powers of Satan and of death on Calvary’s cross, His victory over death has not been transferred to His body, the Church. We, just like anyone else, must die.
For two millennia, the saints have died and been buried, without having been translated. They are waiting for the fullness of the body so that the whole Church can be raised in “the twinkling of an eye” and meet her Lord in the air. The prophecy, “… then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory,” can only be fulfilled when the body is united with the head, the Lord Jesus Himself.
d) The Rapture is necessary so that we can come back to judge the world. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1st Corinthians 6:2). At this point, it is impossible for us to judge the world because we are forbidden to judge, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1st Corinthians 4:5). Also, because we are still in our sinful flesh and blood, our judgment is deemed imperfect and would fail to implement the righteousness of God. Even a sinner saved by grace cannot judge righteously.
4) Who Will Be Raptured?
The Bible makes it unquestionably clear that only those belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ will be raptured. The apostle Paul did not mince words when he wrote to the Thessalonians, “Then we which are alive…” (1st Thessalonians 4:17). He clearly said, “we.”
In chapter 2 we will see the distinction between the world (those who are left behind) and us, (the Church of Jesus Christ) is explicitly stated in the following verses, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1st Thessalonians 5:3). Note that the words “they” and “them”are used. Take specific notice of how he addresses the Church with the words “ye”; “we”; and “us:” “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1st Thessalonians 5:4-6).
The power of His resurrection will bring us into His presence. All who are born again of the Spirit of God will be raptured. Those who have their hearts set on and grounded in Jesus, and who are awaiting His return, will be raptured because they truly are born again.
5) When Will The Rapture Take Place?
We must strongly emphasize that all speculation regarding the timing of the Rapture are fundamentally wrong. They have been blatantly wrong in the past and will continue to be wrong in the future, for the Bible plainly states, “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12:40).
Much damage has been done by those who have attempted to pinpoint the date of the Lord’s return. All of these “datesetters” have been false prophets. Undoubtedly those “prophets” have done great harm to the proclamation of the prophetic Word.
The biggest problem with any prediction is that pinpointing a date takes away the element of surprise. Throughout the Bible, we read of the necessity of being ready at any time. Therefore, if someone predicts that the Lord will come in five days, that means that I don’t have to expect Him today or tomorrow because He is going to come on the fifth day. Such teaching violates the principles of the Holy Scripture and therefore must be rejected in totality.
Although valid arguments distinguish the Mid-Tribulation and the PreWrath Rapture, both violate Scripture by taking away the element of surprise.
Mid-Tribulation (and Pre-Wrath) Rapture?
The Tribulation is prompted by the absence of the Church. The Church is the light of the world and the deceptive work of Satan cannot reach its highest point with the Church present. The Mid-Tribulation theory violates Scripture in regard to the element of surprise. To believe in the Mid-Tribulation Rapture we must ignore the many Scriptures which support a PreTribulation Rapture, including Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Belief in a Mid-Trib Rapture prohibits our waiting for Jesus to come today. In actuality, we would be waiting for the beginning of the Tribulation and the appearance of the Antichrist. Such teaching is contrary to the Word of God. We will not find any admonition in the Bible suggesting that we should be looking for the coming Tribulation and the Antichrist!
Not only is this scenario contrary to Scripture, but it would be physically impossible because no one would be left to rapture.
Scripture passages such as Revelation 13:15 illustrate that the existence of believers would be an impossibility. The “other beast,” or the false prophet, “… had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” When faced with an alternative, a born again believer will never deny his Lord by bowing down to the image of the beast and worshipping it.
In times of great need and severe persecution, the Lord gives the grace needed for His saints to lay down their lives for Him. There is ample evidence of this in Scripture, as well as countless examples of the martyrs throughout the history of Christianity which support this fact.
6) How Can We Be Ready For The Rapture?
In order to be ready for the Rapture, you must be born again. Without regeneration, you will remain in darkness, without hope, and lost for all eternity. Therefore, if you are not born again, you will be left behind.
First Corinthians 1:7 says, “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, this gift of waiting for Him must be a reality in your life.
Waiting For Jesus
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). As previously stated, this verse supports our looking for the Rapture.
Hebrews 9:28 reinforces this by saying, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Not only are we to look, but we are also “… to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1st Thessalonians 1:10). This verse supports the Pre-Tribulation Rapture; we are delivered from the wrath to come.
While we look and wait, we are also instructed to be patient. James urgently warns that we are to, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh ” (James 5:7-8). This patience that we are to demonstrate while looking and waiting for Him gives us the additional strength and courage to persevere, ever increasing in His work as the days go by.
Increase In His Work
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the Rapture, he concluded with an important admonition, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1st Corinthians 15:58). In writing to the Thessalonians about the Rapture, Paul said, “Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2nd Thessalonians 2:17). In 1st Thessalonians 4:18, he concludes the description of the Rapture with, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
It is my sincere prayer that the Lord will comfort you with the hope of His coming and as a result, you will increase in the work of the Lord in these endtimes. How much time we have left, no one knows; however, based on the developments in Israel and the world, we recognize that the end stages of the endtimes are at hand. Therefore, “… To-day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Humble yourself before His countenance and ask Him to give you the grace needed to be ready for Him at any moment.
(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)