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In Christian eschatology, the Rapture refers specifically to the predicted event when Christian believers who have died will be raised and believers who are still alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the resurrected dead believers) in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air (McKim, 2014).

“The end is near!” In the recent past, significant attention has been mounted on writing about gathering in the air (or the rapture, the tribulation and millennium) by religions, secular observers and writers.

History and current events are moving towards a final end in which God’s program will be fully realized. God’s plan is gradually closing in, for instance, there is the return of a significant portion of world Jewry to the Promised Land. Also, the subsequent establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948 tells that God’s plan is moving closer and closer to fruition (Chopra, 2005).

The gulf war in the ’90s caused many people to wonder how current events relate to Bible prophecy. John Walvoord in Hays et al (2009), noted that:

“although the events sparked off some premature conclusion that the world is already in the end time, for many people searched the scripture some for the first time, to learn what the Bible says about the end of the age.”

On the 2019 crossover night service, a man came to the altar to testify that, “Jesus is Coming Soon.” If Jesus comes now how will it affect you? Will you remain or be taken? The idea of rapture in the New Testament is one of the most confusing scriptures. We do not have the word rapture in the Bible, but the scripture tells us that Jesus is coming again (1Corinthians 4:16-17).

This research looks at the concept of rapture and its importance to our daily living. If we live with the consciousness that Christ is coming today, our world will be a better place. This paper is geared to elucidate, warn, caution, and oblige all men to prepare to be candidates for this great event, NOW!

THE FACTS AND MANNER OF THE RAPTURE

What is Rapture?

The rapture has to do with the church. The rapture of the church is also called “the coming of the Lord” but never the second coming of Christ. The Old Testament prophets never saw the New Testament church, much less the rapture of the church. At this coming, Christ does not appear visibly to the earth but in the air to catch up, or rapture the dead and living saints who rise together to meet the Lord in the air.

The term “Rapture” is especially useful in discussing or disputing the exact timing or the scope of the event during the pre-tribulation period. The Rapture will occur before, not during, the Second Coming, with or without an extended tribulation period (Mills, 1990).

The term rapture was not exclusively used in the Bible, but certain terms connote the rapture in the New Testament. They include:

  1. Harpazo- “caught up,” to seize upon with force, to snatch up’’ (1 Thess. 4:17)
  2. Episunagoge – “gathering together,” assembly (2 Thess. 2:1).
  3. Allasso- “to change”, to transform,” to exchange.” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
  4. Paralambano – “to take to,” “to receive to oneself,” (Jn. 14:13).
  5. Epiphaneia -“a manifestation,” “an appearance,” (Titus. 2:13).
  6. Rhuomai – “to draw to oneself”, “to rescue’’, “to deliver,” (1 Thess. 1:10).
  7. Apokalupsis-“an uncovering” “lay bare”, “a revealing”, “revelation” [1 Pet. 1:13]
  8. Parousia – “a being present,” “presence,” “a coming”, “an arrival,” (James. 5:7).

These words could differ according to context but two Greek words Parousia and Phaneros are strictly used for the rapture in the NEW TESTAMENT

Parousia

Parousia Means “personal coming or appearance” and is used for both the rapture and revelation of Christ. At the rapture, Christ appears personally in the air to meet the saints, while at the Second Advent he appears personally to mankind on earth with his saints (Keeley, 1982).

1 Thess. 3:13, 5:23 refer to the time the father pronounces the saints “blameless” before the throne of heaven after Christ has first met the saints in the air and has taken them to heaven and presented them before God. We are made ‘blameless’ to be preserved at the time of the rapture and not at the time of revelation [1Jn. 3:1-3; Phil. 3:21]. We are equally gathered into Him at the rapture and not at the revelation (1 cor. 15:51-58, 2 Thess. 2:6-8).

Phanero

Phanero means to ‘shine,’ “be apparent,” “manifest,” or “be seen.” This means that Christ will appear to saints in the air at the rapture and will not appear to the world until his second coming (Wright, 2008).

The rapture will include Old Testament saints and the Church saints who are saved in the scope of redemption from Adam until the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18, 2 Thess. 2:1). The scope of redemption is eternal; it does not end with the rapture.

Rapture and Second Coming Contrasted

Ice and Demy (1998) drew out a table that compares and contrasts the rapture and the second coming of Christ. According to them;

The RaptureSecond Coming
1. Translation of all believersNo translation at all.
2. Translated saints go to heavenTranslated saints return to earth.
3. Earth not judgedEarth judged and righteousness established.
4. Imminent, any-moment, signlessFollows definite predicted signs.
5. Not in the Old testamentPredicted often in the Old Testament.
6.  Believers onlyIt affects all men.
7.  Before the day of wrathConcluding the day of wrath.
8.  No reference to SatanSatan bound.
9.  Christ comes for his ownChrist comes with his saints.
10. He comes in the airHe comes to the earth.
11.  He claims his brideHe comes with his bride.
12.  Only his own see himEvery eye shall see him.
13.  Tribulation beginsThe Millennium kingdom begins.

 

PURPOSE OF THE RAPTURE

Ravitz (2011) noted two purposes of the rapture. First is to take all the saints out of the world before the tribulation comes. Second is to resurrect the just that is dead so they can experience the fulfillment of the purpose for which God has saved them.

The purpose of the rapture can be summarized in the following sentences.

  1. God will receive the saints to himself (Jn. 14:1-3; Eph. 5:27).
  2. God will resurrect the dead “in Christ” from among the dead, especially ‘those who died, but not in Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:21-23, 51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-17, Rev. 20:4-6).
  3. The Saints will be taken to heaven where they will receive judgment for works done in the body. They will also receive their rewards and partake of the marriage supper (Col. 3:4, 2 Cor. 5:10, Rev. 19:1-11).
  4. The rapture will bring a change of the bodies of the saints to immortality (1 Cor. 15:21-23; 5.1-58; Phil. 3:20-21).
  5. The rapture is an avenue to present the saints before God the Father and to be forever with Him (1 Thess. 3:13; 4:13-17.).
  6. Through the rapture, the saints will be made whole in the body, soul, and spirit.
  7. The rapture is an avenue to take away the saints, so they can escape the tribulation (Luke. 21:34-36; 1 Thess. 5:9).
  8. Through the rapture, the hinderer of lawlessness will be removed (2 Thess. 2:1-8).
  9. Finally, to permit the revelation of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:1-8).

QUALIFICATIONS TO PARTAKE OF THE RAPTURE

Jesus assured us that He would come back again to take the saints to be with Him. He said: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you… (John 14:1 – 3).

How do you qualify to be among the saints? According to the scriptures, only one criterion qualifies us to be among the raptured saints. WE MUST BE IN CHRIST.

  1. Paul, when he was writing to the Galatians, says, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh…” (Gal. 5:24). To be in Christ, we must be dead to sin, alive in the Spirit. The flesh should have no dealings with us. We become the new creation of God, forgetting, done away with, and gave up old things for a new life in Christ (2Cor. 5:17).
  2. We also ought to be in Christ prior to our death. The scripture says that the rapture is for those that died in Christ (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Think about it, if you die today will you make heaven? It does not matter how big, how rich, how connected someone was before his/her death. What matters is who owns your soul: the devil or Christ. Only those that died in Christ are eligible to reign with Him (Rev. 20: 1 – 6; John 5: 28 – 29).
  3. We should live a righteous life, and be counted worthy to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:34-36). To be counted worthy, we need to judge ourselves daily. Jesus says, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged … and that day come upon you unawares.” When we judge ourselves daily, we present ourselves each day as a church without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5: 27). We might sin, but we have an advocate (1John 1:9; 2:1). We can only know that we have sinned if we judge ourselves every day. Therefore, watch and pray, to be worthy at all times.

Finis (1950) says that it is not receiving other experience, that qualifies one to go up in the rapture, but it is the maintenance of a holy walk in Christ at the time of rapture or at the time of death. According to Rosenthal (1990), Jesus’ coming will not overtake those who are watching out for Him like the unexpected appearance of a thief. But to those who are not watching for Him, it will be unexpected.

THE TIME OF THE RAPTURE

            As noted by Okereke (2010), the time of the Rapture, like the Second Advent is not definitely stated as today or hour but those who have died now are still waiting for the appointed time of the reward (Mt. 16:27; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 11:18)

            At the Rapture, everyone in Christ will be taken up and there is no real Christian left. Those who are martyred in the tribulation are those who have refused to walk in the “light” and live in Christ and are not ready to go at the time of the rapture. Also, those who are not martyred but are taken through the tribulation and are on earth at the second coming of Christ will be permitted to enter the Millennium as an earthly people who will take part as the subjects of Christ’s kingdom over whom the raptured saints will reign forever.

Pre-tribulation Premillennialism

The pre-tribulation position advocates that the rapture will occur before the beginning of a seven-year tribulation period, while the second coming will occur at the end of it. Pre-tribulationists often describe the rapture as Jesus coming for the church and the second coming as Jesus coming with the church. Pre-tribulation educators and preachers include Jimmy Swaggart, J. Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, etc (Lindsey, 1983). While many pre-tribulationists are also dispensationalists, not all pre-tribulationists are dispensationalists (Erickson, 1977).

THE SIGNS OF THE RAPTURE

            There are not to be any specific signs of the rapture so that there never was a sign required to come to pass or a prophecy to be fulfilled before the rapture. The rapture could have taken place in the past since the time of the apostles, and can take place any time now, or the future, without a sign or prophecy being fulfilled.

SECRET RAPTURED?

            Anyone who does not participate in it will actually see it for it will occur in the “twinkling of an eye” “Enoch walked with God and he was no more.” One minute he was walking with God, feet on the warm dust of planet earth, sunshine warming his shoulders, and then “he was not”. With no warning, no build-up, no mysterious quivering of the air, he was simply gone, just that fast. From here to there.

            I expect the rapture to be electrifyingly sudden but not secret. A million conversations will end in mid-sentence (Pentecost, 2010). A million phone receivers will suddenly go dead. A woman will reach for a man’s land in the dark… and no one will be there. A man will turn with a laugh to slap a colleague on the back and his hand will move empty air. A mother will pull back the covers in a bassinet, smelling the sweet baby smell one moment but suddenly kissing empty and looking into empty blankets. Indeed, unsaved mothers left behind will sorrow intensely over the sudden loss of their children. Is the Rapture unexpected? Yes! Unseen yes! But not secret. The world will recognize the rapture …but two late to prepare for it.

Rapture Is Not New

            Rapturing people to heaven is not new to biblical history. It has already occurred three times:

  1. Enoch: Enoch walked with God, and he was not for God took him (Gen. 5:24)
  2. Elijah: then it happened, as they continued on and walked that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven: (Luke. 2:11).
  3. Jesus Christ: after his resurrection, He, as “the first fruit of those who have fallen asleep,” ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).

No one saw Enoch’s translation. He was walking on the earth one moment, and in the next, he was translated. Elijah’s rapture, however, had a witness: Elisha. And when our Lord was translated in resurrection He was seen by His Apostles. The Bible is clear: the coming of Christ for the church will be selective.

The rapture is not for everyone. Only certain people will be included. Some will be taken others left. The rapture is for believers only (1 Thess 4:14-17). The church of Jesus Christ will not pass through the tribulation period. That is one reason the Bible calls the rapture the “blessed hope.”

Matthew says that when Jesus comes it will be like it was in the time of Noah—some people will be saved (left) and other people will be destroyed (taken). Looking more in-depth at Matthew’s wording, those who are “taken” when Jesus comes are those who are lost, taken away, and destroyed by the brightness of His coming (see 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RAPTURE TODAY

There is the mindset that the rapture will take place at any time and anywhere therefore people have cushioned their mind and life for holy living. Since the life, each believer lives until Christ’s return is a test of loyalty and faithfulness and desire to be found pure, any believer with love in his heart will want to live a pure and  Holy life until Christ’s return.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God … we shall be like him …everyone that hath this hope purifieth himself. (1 Jn. 3:2-3). Holy conduct and Godliness should spring forth from a right contemplation of God’s future judgment as Christians are to be found in him, in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Pt. 3:14).

            Doctor Renald Showers observes that the imminent coming of Christ should have an increased practical effect on the lives of individual Christians and the church as a whole. Tim Lahaye (2001), has pointed out that those impacted by belief in the pre-tribulation rapture often produce “an evangelistic church of soul-winning Christians.”

On Missions, Lahaya (2001) went on to observe that belief in the imminent return of Christ impels Christians and churches to develop a worldwide missionary vision of reaching the lost for Christ in this generation. Timothy Weber observes that “instead of cutting missionary involvement the sense of the rapture has increased it.

            I have observed and therefore conclude that the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture offers Christians great hope for the future and stamps them on the highway preparation, expectant, and expecting the shout of the Lord for gathering in the air.

The doctrine of the rapture as an event separate from the general resurrection is a fairly recent doctrinal development within the scope of the Church’s historic body of belief (Elwell, 2001). Prior to 1830, most of the ‘rapture texts’ were regarded as referring to the General Resurrection. This was especially the case with the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage which was primarily regarded as referring to the resurrection rather than rapture.

     The notion that the tribulation will occur after Christ comes for the church is glaringly inconsistent with 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, which makes it plain that the antichrist is revealed before Jesus comes and is destroyed by the brightness of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Thus, as we have seen, the teaching of the secret rapture is not found in line with what the Bible teaches about the Second Coming of Jesus.

 

CONCLUSION

There’s no gainsaying, “let me live my life”. Though you have a choice to make, your choice will determine where you’ll spend your eternity. Your choice determines whether you’ll to face tribulation, the lake of fire, or reign with The King.

Ready or not, the rapture is sure. God’s word is undisputable and He cannot change His mind because you are not ready. All prepared believers are expectantly waiting for the day and the hour when we will meet the King of Kings. Going to heaven is not by accident and never can be.

Do not be deceived by the things in this world. Your wealth, knowledge, certifications, profession, wisdom, … will not save you. The world is gradually winding up. To be a candidate for the rapture, you must walk in the light as He is in the light (1John 1:7, 2:6).

Remember, no other qualification is required of you but to BE IN CHRIST. You have a decision to make today: to be OR not to be. If you choose to be, “Congratulations”, you made the right choice. Wherever your location is, choose a good Bible-believing church and learn how to walk with God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Demy and Ice (1998). Prophecy Watch. London: Harvest House Publication.

Finnis, D. (1950). Eternal Mysteries Simplified. New York: Finnis Jenning Dake’s Publishers.

Lahaye, T. (1992). No Fear of the Storm. Michigan: Sisters Publication Inc.

Okereke, K. I. (2010). Lecture Note on Eschatology. Umuahia: AGDSN.

McKim, Donald K (2014). The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded. Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

Chopra, editor, Ramesh (2005). Encyclopedic dictionary of religion: Q-Z. Delhi: Isha Books.

Hays, J. Daniel; Duvall, J. Scott; Pate, C. Marvin (2009). Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. Zondervan.

Mills, Watson E.; Bullard, Roger Aubrey (1990). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press.

Keeley, Robin, ed. (November 1982). Eerdmans’ Handbook to Christian Belief. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Wright, N. T. (2008). Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. HarperOne.

Ravitz, Jessica (2011). “Road trip to the end of the world”. CNN.

Rosenthal, Marvin J. (1990). The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. Thomas Nelson.

Lindsey, Hal (1983). The Rapture: Truth or Consequences. Bantam Books.

Erickson, Millard J. (1977). Contemporary Options in Eschatology: A Study of the Millennium. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Pentecost, J. Dwight (2010). Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology. Zondervan. Introduction by John F. Walvoord.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. (2001). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2nd ed.). Baker Academic.