The Bible and the Future- Part 1: The Rapture
The Rapture of the Church
In the late 1940's and 50's, after the Manhattan Project gave us the atomic bomb, people began being stressed out over a nuclear holocaust destroying the world. In the average American classroom, nuclear air raid drills were a part of everyday life. Children were taught to "duck and cover" under their school desks or were herded into the school basements. And later, as the cold war heated up between the United States and the former Soviet Union, scientists began warning us of the potential disaster of nuclear winter from someone pressing the wrong button and starting a nuclear war. Many people were building bomb shelters in their back yards and stocking them with weeks worth of rations. And Hollywood did several movies that included scenarios of unprepared people trying to get into an already full shelter during a nuclear war. Many feared that the end was near.
While I have nothing against defending ourselves from our enemies, either the former Soviet Union when they were a threat, or Al Qaeda today, the Bible makes it plain that the world will not be destroyed by man. God himself is in control of the future and the end of the world as we know it. With that in mind, let us look at how the Bible sees the future.
The very first event on the calendar of God's clock of the ages is known by many as the Rapture of the Church.
I. The Rapture is Found in Paul's Writings
There are many places in the Old Testament that talk about Christ returning to set up and rule over a kingdom of righteousness and peace on this earth. However, there is something that must take place prior to this event. That event, as noted, has become known as the Rapture of the Church. Paul teaches in Romans 9-11 that Israel, God's chosen people, have temporarily been cast aside because of unbelief. They refused to accept their Messiah, Jesus Christ, and now God has set them on a shelf, so to speak, and has begun an age called the dispensation of Grace. In this Age of Grace, God is saving people from among all mankind, (both Jew and Gentile), who put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation from sin. Those He saves become members of the Universal Church, also known as the Body of Christ.
Paul says that all of this was a mystery, hidden during other ages, so the prophets didn't write about it. It was first and foremost revealed to him (Ephesians 3:1-7). We search in vain in the Old Testament to find this. Only in Paul's writings, inspired by the Holy Spirit, can we find the next major event in the plan of God.
So where is this Rapture of the Church found in Scripture? It is in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. Paul is talking to the Thessalonian church, who are concerned over the fate of their saved loved ones who have died. They had an expectation that Jesus would return and were awaiting it. But what about the ones who died before it? Would they miss out on Christ's return? Paul's answer is no. As a matter of fact, they would be the first to participate. Paul teaches that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven. The dead in Christ will be raised and the living saints will be caught up (raptured) with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. From then on we are told that we will forever be with the Lord.
II. The Rapture Ends This Mystery Age of the Church
This event in history ends this mystery age of the Church, the Body of Christ, in which we have now been living for over 2000 years. It is then that the unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament will begin to take place including the Great Tribulation and the return of Christ to earth followed by the Millennial Kingdom. Christ's return to earth will bring sudden destruction to the ungodly because He will come, no longer as the helpless baby, but as the conquering king!
If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Rapture of the Church is going to be a great time of triumph for you. Paul told the grieving Thessalonian church to "comfort one another with these words" (I Thessalonians 4:18). It will be a marvelous time for believers as we see the one who died for us and rose again.
If you don't know Christ as your Savior and Lord, be warned. The next major event on the clock, following the Rapture of the Church, is the Great Tribulation. It is a time of great judgment and destruction that has never been seen on this earth before. Jesus is coming as both Savior and judge. Accept His offer of salvation today. May all who read these words prepare yourself for His coming.
© 2011 Jeff Shirley