By Irvin Baxter
When Will The Rapture Happen?
The Most Important Day
The most important day of your life and mine is the day of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to this earth. The Bible also refers to this as the “catching away.” The English word “rapture” is not in the King James Version Bible. However, the word is biblically accurate because “rapture” originated from the Greek word “harpazo” which is derived from the Greek New Testament manuscripts of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and is translated “caught up,” which holds the same definition. This verse tells us that living saints will be caught up (raptured) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
If We Are Born Again
The Bible teaches that a time is coming when Jesus Christ will return to the earth. We will be caught away if we are born again. If we are living for Jesus Christ at His coming, we will be caught up in the air to meet Him there, and we will be with Him forever. We will go with Him to the Battle of Armageddon. He will put down the thrones of human government. We will crown Him King of kings and Lord of lords. He will then rule the world for one thousand years, and we will rule and reign with Him as kings and priests.
Jesus warned His disciples that false Christs would arise in the last days and deceive many. Jesus admonished His disciples to not respond if they heard rumors that Messiah was in the desert or that He was in the secret chambers. Jesus said don’t believe it and don’t even go to investigate. He went on to explain why they should pay no attention to these false reports. He said, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,” (Matthew 24:27). Jesus was simply saying that He would not show up secretly on earth at His Second Coming, but that He was coming like lightning in the clouds of heaven.
A Body Like His
When Jesus comes, if our bodies are changed supernaturally from mortal to immortal, the Bible tells us that we will have a body like Jesus had after His resurrection. He could walk through walls. He was not bound by the laws of space and time as we are now. Then the Bible tells us that we will be caught up to meet Jesus Christ in the air. That means we will have passed into eternal life. The reason it will be the most important day in your life and mine is because when that event occurs, if your feet leave the ground, if you rise to meet Jesus Christ in the air, then no matter whether you have a penny in the bank, whether anybody knows your name, whether you are world famous or relatively unknown, if you are prepared for that pivotal moment that will determine your eternal destiny, your life will be a smashing success!
Immediately After the Tribulation
Mathew 24:29-31 describes what happens after the Great Tribulation: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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.”
You cannot read Matthew chapter 24 without concluding that Jesus Christ placed the rapture immediately after the tribulation of those days. For those who believe in a rapture that comes before the tribulation, we should look at scriptures that contain the word “tribulation.” The New Testament uses the term “tribulation” 22 times. If the rapture happens before the tribulation, shouldn’t one of those 22 passages teach us something about the rapture happening before the tribulation? The answer is, out of all 22 instances, there is no clear verse which says that the rapture happens before the tribulation. There is, however, a very clear verse which says that it happens after the tribulation. Matthew 24: 29 says, “Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days…”
The Great Tribulation
Some would argue that although all Christians go through some tribulation, there is yet a “great tribulation” ahead which true believers will not have to endure. The phrase “great tribulation” appears first in Matthew 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Here the verse seems to be talking about what will happen to not only those who live in Judea, but also to the world at large, because “…except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved” Whatever the case, this “great tribulation” is also prior to the return of Christ and the rapture, because Matthew 24: 29-31 goes on to describe the immediate gathering of the elect.
The other appearance of the phrase “great tribulation” occurs in the seventh chapter of Revelation. John sees a great multitude of white-robed people praising God around the throne and is told, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) They are not removed from tribulation. Rather, these believers have been protected. They have endured “the great tribulation” and have now come out of it rejoicing. Moreover, it is apparent that all of this happens prior to the return of Christ, which is not actually depicted until Revelation chapter 19.
The First Resurrection
The term “first resurrection” is found in only one passage in the New Testament, Revelation 20:4-6: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
Though not explicitly called “the first resurrection” in these passages, here are two other passages that speak of the event we refer to as the rapture:
Caught Up Together
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
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.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
In the Twinkling of an Eye
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. (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)
Regarding the timing of these events, 1 Thessalonians 4 says that the rapture will happen at “the coming of the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15:52 says that this will happen at “the last trump.”
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 teaches that Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection…then afterward they that are His at His coming. The scriptures do not teach two comings. There will be one changing from mortal to immortal. It happens at the first resurrection as described in Revelation 20:4-6.
By reading Matthew 24:22-31 we know that the elect will be present until the time that Jesus sends his angels to gather them together unto Him (the rapture). The terms “elect” and “election” are used numerous times in the New Testament in reference to the Church. According to 1 Peter 1:2, the elect have the operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Furthermore, Jesus promised in John 14:16 that the Comforter (the Holy Ghost) would abide in believers forever. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 speaks of an entity that holds back the revealing of the Antichrist. Some people teach that the thing that “now letteth (restraineth)” is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. There is nothing in this passage that supports such an interpretation. The clue to the correct identity of this entity appears to be found in verse 6, “that he might be revealed in his time.” The thing that restrains the revealing of the Antichrist is God’s very own timeline. Just as Jesus, the true Christ, was not revealed until “the fullness of time was come” (Galatians 4:4), the false Christ, the man of sin, will not be revealed until God’s timeline dictates it.
Success or Failure
Now even if you are the wealthiest person on earth, and perhaps everyone in the world knows your name, if you are not prepared, and your feet don’t leave the ground at the rapture, then you were an abysmal failure. You failed the one thing that is absolutely critical and mandatory in our lives. It is the most important day, because on that day, either we enter into eternal life or we don’t.
At Any Time
Even before the rapture, God can come for any one of us at any time: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come…Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:42, 44)