The Rapture

March 6, 2009
The central theme of prophecy for believers today is the coming of Christ for His own in what is called the “Rapture”, or the “catching-up” of the church. 
The rapture of the church is one of the most important practical prophecies in scripture for believers today. - It is an essential part of the many other prophecies in the scriptures. The “Rapture” is only a small fraction of the large body of prophetic scripture, but it stands out as one of the most important.
Unfortunately, although almost 2,000 years have passed since the prophecy of the “Rapture” was given, many Christians do not know much about it because their churches do not teach it!
Here I go again -- but what a tragedy!! This is an event that we should be anticipating with great expectation and joy!!!
Though no one in Jesus’ ministry on earth even understood the difference between His first and second comings, thousands of Christians today recognize the difference between the hope of the Rapture, (when Christ will come for His own to take them to Heaven) and the Second Coming of Christ, when He will come back to Earth with the angels and the saints from Heaven to reign over the earth in His thousand year kingdom.
These entirely different events should not be confused.
The Rapture is a movement from Earth to Heaven, whereas the Second Coming is a movement from Heaven to Earth with an entirely different purpose.
It is obvious that the disciples did not understand the words of Christ as He announced for the first time that He will return for His own, as recorded in John 14:2-3, “In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Only later would further revelations be given to the disciples about this great event.
Listen to this!
        “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 world.” 
          Revelation 3:10
The “hour of trial” is the great tribulation.
Notice He does not say, “I will keep you through the ‘hour of trial’, but ‘from the hour of trial.’ -- This refers to the Rapture, when Jesus will catch away God’s people for Himself.
We who are pre or mid - tribulationists believe it’s clear that the church will not go through the great tribulation that is about to take place.
Also notice in chapters one through three of Revelation that the church is mentioned nineteen times. -- The church is not mentioned at all in chapters four through eighteen which describes the tribulation in great detail.
A specific example of this is how Jesus addressed the seven churches in chapters two and three. In every case He closes with the statement, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” -- But when we move to some of the descriptive prophesies of the tribulation, we see in Revelation 13:9 -- “He who has an ear, let him hear.” -- Its obvious that there is no mention of the presence of the church.
It’s not there!!
Continuing, there are three positions on the Rapture, and we had better know what we believe or we will be shaken by every headline, every catastrophe, and every apostasy of our day.
First - there is the pre-tribulation view which says all true believers will be raptured before the seven-year tribulation begins. 
Second - there is the view that the church will be raptured in the middle of the tribulation (three and one half years), or as the great tribulation begins.
Third - some believe we will live through the tribulation and be raptured and go up with the Lord at the end. (Difficult since its quite clear He’s coming to Earth to reign for 1,000 years.)
There was a pastor of a very large evangelical church who on one occasion said, “If I’m gone when the tribulation begins, then I’m ‘Pre-Trib’; if I stay around for three and a half years and then I’m raptured, I’m ‘Mid Trib’, if I live through the tribulation, then I’m ‘Post-Trib’. Whatever happens, I’m ‘Pan-Trib’ -- Everything will ‘pan out’ all right.”
While this may be humorous, unfortunately he is wrong, and his denying his flock the assurance of the blessed hope.
All through the New Testament epistles, God gave many instructions to the church, including warnings, but never once are believers warned to prepare for entering and enduring the tribulation (Daniel’s 70th week).
The New Testament warns vigorously about coming error and false prophecies. Acts 20:29-30 says, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Also, 2 Peter 2:1 states, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (Also see Jude 4 and 1 John 4:1-3.)
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit.” (Also see Hebrews 12:1 and Ephesians 4:25-27.)
The New Testament even admonishes believers to endure in the midst of present tribulations. 2 Thessalonians 1:4 says, “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” (See also 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14 and all of 1 Peter.)
However, the New Testament is absolutely silent about the church preparing for the tribulation as described in Revelation 6-18.
The Rapture and the Return
A comparison of the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) with the glorious appearing (Matthew 24 and 25) reveals at least eight significant contrasts or differences. -- These differences demand that the Rapture occur at a significantly different time from Christ’s glorious appearing:
 1.       At the Rapture, Christ comes in the air and returns to Heaven --      
After 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) 
The word rapture is the Latin translation of the phrase “caught up”.  At the glorious appearing, Christ comes to the earth to dwell and reign. -- 
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)
2.    Rapture - Christ gathers His own (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
       Appearing - Angels gather the elect - 
And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:31
3.    Rapture - Christ comes to reward (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
       Appearing - Christ comes to judge (Matthew 25:31-46)
4.    Rapture - Resurrection is prominent (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16) 
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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.

       Appearing - Resurrection is not mentioned.
5.    Rapture - Believers depart the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
       Appearing - Unbelievers are taken away from the earth (Matthew 24: 37-41)
6.    Rapture - Unbelievers remain on Earth
       Appearing - Believers remain on Earth (Matthew 25:34)
7.    Rapture - Christ’s kingdom on Earth is not mentioned.
       Appearing - Christ has come to set up His kingdom on Earth 
       (Matthew 25:31,34)
8.    Rapture - Believers will receive glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-17)
       Appearing - Survivors will not receive glorified bodies.
An old southern preacher said, “It’s time for our church to wake up and sing up, preach up and pray up, and never give up or let up, or back up or shut up, until the church is filled up or we go up! -- Amen!”
You and I should always be living in light of the Rapture. We do not know when it will take place. As we look at the events happening in our world today, we believe it may be very soon, but we should always be ready. The Apostle believed he would be part of those then alive (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and every generation since has had that same hope. But whether God takes us by death or the Rapture, we must be faithful to Him and use every opportunity He gives to serve Him.  ~R.M.

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