The Bible clearly describes the event of the Rapture in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. The apostle Paul emphasizes that the message is “… by the word of the Lord.” He concludes with an admonition that we “comfort one another” with these words.
It is very easy to imagine just how necessary and comforting it was for believers, being severely persecuted to hear that the Lord could come at any moment. They needed that type of reassurance because they knew that the result was their being in the presence of the Lord forever!
The Disciples’ Belief About The Return Of Jesus Christ
The apostles thought that Christ’s return was imminent. Webster defines the word “imminent” as ready to occur at any moment. The apostles fully expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes. These quotes from the New Testament show this very clearly.
Peter: “… The end of all things is at hand…” (1st Peter 4:7)
John: “.. .Little children, it is the last time…” (1st John 2:18)
James: “…the coming of the Lord draweth nigh…” (James 5:8)
James: “… behold the judge standeth before the door…” (James 5:9)
Paul: “..Maranatha (come Lord Jesus)…” (1st Corinthians 16:22)
The apostles repeatedly used the word “we” when they wrote about the Rapture. Their use of the word “we” indicates that they fully expected to be a part of the body of Christ that would be alive at the Rapture.
“… now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” -1st John 2:28 “… we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” -1st John 3:2
In his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul stated that Christians both alive and dead would be “raptured” or “caught up in the clouds” at Christ’s return. He called these two groups, “we which are alive” and “them which are asleep.” Paul always included himself in the group which would be alive. This again indicates that he expected to be alive at the Rapture. “… which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep (the dead in Christ)” (1st Thessalonians 4:15).
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the dead in Christ) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” ( 1st Thessalonians 14:17).
“… 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.” (1st Corinthians 15:51-52).
From these verses, I think it is correct to say that the apostle Paul believed in the Pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church. The apostles suffered much persecution and most of them were killed, but they also knew that the Great Tribulation spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24 & 25 had not occurred.
Old Testament Prophecies About The Rapture
The Old Testament contains several prophecies concerning the Resurrection and the Rapture.
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).
“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).
Both of these Old Testament writers lived hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. Unlike the apostles, they knew that the Rapture would not occur in their lifetimes.” (Taken from Timing of the Rapture by James E. Robinson, reader of Midnight Call magazine)
Therefore, we must recognize what our comfort is and where we can find it. Paul is concerned that as believers, we should not be “ignorant brethren.” We are to know what happened to our loved ones who died believing in Jesus. While those who do not believe in Christ have absolutely no hope, we do have hope. As a result, we do not remain in sorrow and hopelessness, but we have comfort. Those who have gone before us in the Lord are now in His presence!
Paul testifies, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Notice that he does not say “to depart and sleep in Christ” but rather, “…to depart and to be with Christ— ” Those who believe in “soul sleep” are probably very uncomfortable with this verse.
Lying Signs And Wonders
Reading the literature of Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus and others, we frequently find testimony of great miracles, supernatural signs, and healing of the body As a matter of fact, I believe that the very tools that Satan is using to deceive the world today are in the form of lying signs and wonders. In 2nd Thessalonians 2:9-10, we read this description of Antichrist, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
It is important that you understand that if someone performs a miracle, even done in the name of Jesus, he is not necessarily a Christian. Remember, Satan is transformed into an angel of light for the sole purpose of deceiving the multitudes in order to hide the true way to Christ.
A decisive quality in the life of a Christian is the fruit of the Spirit.
The Lord Jesus said, “… by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).
As a matter of fact, Jesus identifies a certain group of people who look like Christians, act like Christians, and talk like Christians, but are not Christians. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:21-22). Jesus is not referring to pagans who worship idols, or are involved in some strange religion. He is speaking of those who, in the name of the Lord, do mighty things such as prophesying, casting out devils, and “many wonderful works.” But Jesus refuses their testimony, “… then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23).
These verses are extremely serious. We must take the time and exert the energy to investigate our own personal lives before the countenance of the Lord to see whether we stand in the truth or not.
He Must Know You
Consider the following. Some people have experienced amazing works, can testify of great miracles and eagerly work for the Lord whom they believe they serve in truth and sincerity. Yet, one day when they stand before Him, He will utter the words, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Can you afford to take that risk? Be absolutely sure that Jesus knows you!
Notice that this passage does not say “you never knew ME,” but, “I never knew YOU.”
Dr. John Ankerberg, a speaker at prophecy conferences, has illustrated this fact in a very impressive way which I will paraphrase: Many American citizens have had the opportunity to participate in an event in which a president was the guest of honor. It is customary that the President shakes hands with a great number of people, and each has a picture taken. Let’s say I shook the hand of the President. With a picture of that event in my hand, I can say, “I know him; I shook his hand; I saw him; I talked with him” which would be a truthful statement. However, if you were to ask the President if he knew John Ankerberg, he would say “I never heard of him, I never met the man.” There is a distinct difference between me knowing the President and the President knowing me!
Therefore, you must ask yourself an urgent question: How can you be sure that Jesus knows you? The answer is only found in His Word!
(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)