Category: Last Things, Word: RAPTURE
March 25, 2016 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
DEFINITION: The rapture refers to the teaching that believers living at Christ’s return will not miss the resurrection, but will be caught up alive to meet the Lord in the air, transformed into a resurrection state without going through the experience of bodily death.
The word “rapture,” like “Trinity,” cannot be found in the Bible. Yet like Trinity, it expresses a perfectly wonderful biblical teaching. Rapture is based on the Latin translation of the verb “caught up” in English. Paul’s teaching on the rapture was his reply to the distress of new converts: Had believers who died before Christ’s return missed the blessings associated with that wonderful event? His answer was that, far from missing out, the dead would rise first, preceding all others, and only then will believers still living rise to meet the Lord.
All who take the Bible seriously believe in the rapture. What has become a matter of debate and contention is whether Paul was talking about an event more or less simultaneous with Christ’s glorious return or whether the rapture is an event preceding His coming by a period of several months or years (7 years or 3 ½ years have been often suggested; Rev. 12:14; 13:5).
This latter interpretation, first proposed in the 1800s, is connected with a relatively recent interpretation of Scripture called “dispensationalism.” According to this view, living Christians will be raptured to heaven before the most horrible part of the end times (associated with the antichrist). After the rapture, God will allow great tribulation to come on Jewish people, but the end result will be a massive turning to Christ by Jews. Then Jesus will return to earth accompanied by previously raptured Christians. In other words, the rapture is a private return of Christ for Christians, while His coming is a public return with Christians. This view sharply separates God’s end-time plan for Gentile saints (“the church”) and for Jewish people (“Israel).
The other, more long-standing, view notes that no single passage in Scripture clearly separates the “rapture” from the “second coming.” In this view, although God has promised that believers (Jew and Gentiles) will never experience His wrath, they have not been promised escape from tribulation instigated by the Devil and by evil men. After all, Jesus promised, “You will have suffering [tribulation] in this world” (John 16:33). Further, the traditional view affirms that the church—not Israel—is the culmination of God’s end-time plan (Eph. 2:21). Finally, the language of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (“shout” and “trumpet of God”) suggests actions that in other passages are related to Christ’s public second coming (1 Cor. 15:51-52). The following diagram shows the two major competing timelines proposed for understanding the rapture and the second coming.
REFLECTION: What is the main point that Paul made in the “rapture passage?” How do you react to Christians who have a different view of the timeline of the rapture than you do?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You alone know whether I will still be alive when the saints will be caught up to meet You in the air. Help me to live today as if this could be that very day. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.