By Nathaniel K. Haney
A theological question of great interest being asked today is, “What is the next prophetic event that is going to take place?” Some are expecting the mark of the Beast. Others are expecting the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, or Armageddon, but, before any of these can take place, there must first be the Rapture. The next great event that is going to take place is the blessed hope that Paul wrote about in I Thessalonians 4:1318: the Lord Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds and the church will leave the Earth to meet its Savior in the heavens.
We made a study of church history in the previous volume, A Mystery No More, discovering where the birth of the mother of harlots began, spoken of in Revelation 17, and examining the last two churches that are predominant when the Rapture takes place. It is obvious that we are coming to the end of the Church Age. Let us look at I Thessalonians 4:13-18, the passage of Scripture that is used most to describe the Rapture:
Verse 13: “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.” Verse 14: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will
God bring with him. ”
Verse 15: “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.”
Verse 16: “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:”
Verse 17: “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.”
Verse 18: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Notice the language used by the Apostle Paul. He used the word asleep to describe the believer who has died. This is a beautiful descriptive promise to the Christian. He is only asleep for a period of time—until the Resurrection when Christ calls His church home. He has told the believer not to sorrow as the unbelievers do, for there is no hope for the sinner. There is no great reunion on the shores of glory for them. When a sinner dies, his only resurrection is to appear before the Judge of the universe when he will receive the penalty of eternal death for unrepented sins.
The next verse deals with the faith of Christians. If they believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, they also will be resurrected from the dead. Notice verse 15. Paul says “we which are alive and remain.” Paul believed in the imminent return of Christ in his day. He was not a post-tribulationist as some modernists are today. He believed that Jesus was coming back at any moment to take him and all believers to heaven. His message was, “We which are alive and remain not you who are alive and remain shall not prevent those who have already gone to sleep.” The word prevent means we will not go before them which are asleep. The next verse gives a graphic detail of just how the Rapture is going to happen. First, the Lord Himself is coming. He is not going to send an angel to come for us, but He is personally coming to meet us. He has also promised this in the following passage of John 14:1-3:
Verse 1: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
Verse 2: “In my Fathers house are many mansions: f it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
Verse 3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
We are the inheritance of Christ Ephesians 1:18 “. . . that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” He is coming back from heaven with such a shout that every man, woman, boy, and girl in the grave who sleeps in the Lord is going to hear the voice of Christ just as Lazarus did. They are going to come forth from graves all around the world and rise to meet Christ in the heavens. The voice of the archangel mentioned in I Thessalonians 4:16 is a clear representation of the authority in which Jesus Christ will command death to loose its hold.
The trump of God (I Corinthians 15:52, I Thessalonians 4:16) is used in the sense of a message of great importance that is trumpeted or heralded. So it is, those who are asleep, as well as those who are alive, will hear the trumpet message. That will signal the time for the church to leave the Earth and go to the home that is prepared for it.
Verse 17 shows that we who are alive will be caught up together with the believers who “fell asleep” prior to Christ appearing in heaven. The words caught up come from the Greek word harpazo and mean “to carry off, snatch up, or grasp hastily.” The English word rapture is the equivalent to the Greek word harpazo. One moment we will be standing on the surface of planet Earth, and the next moment we will be soaring through the clouds in the air with Jesus.
I Corinthians 15:52-53:
“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.”
It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” There is great comfort in the doctrine of the Rapture. There is coming a day when there is going to be a mass disappearance of the saints of the living God when He gathers all of His children home. This is not just a story or a tradition, but it is truth! As Jesus was ascending into the heavens after His death, burial, and resurrection, the angels gave a promise to the believers of all ages: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
One of the reasons for confusion among believers is that they have not properly distinguish between the Rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Christ. The difference can be seen when the two are compared.
The above article, “Where Are We In Prophecy?” was written by Nathaniel K. Haney. The article was excerpted from chapter one in Haney’s book The Rapture of the Church.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.