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Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Is the Rapture Real - Part 1

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is going to save you from the coming time of horrendous global trouble by whisking you away into heaven beforehand in what many call the Rapture? What will you do if He doesn't?

Imagine pilotless airplanes plummeting to earth, empty cars crashing, and those "left behind" anxiously searching for their loved ones who disappeared, as depicted in a recent major movie. Many proclaim that this will happen–but is that idea of "the Rapture" biblical?

Many Bible believers realize that we are fast approaching a time of massive war, disease epidemics and natural calamities. This will lead into what Bible prophecy refers to as the Great Tribulation, followed by the terrible calamities of the Day of the Lord. The book of Revelation tells of this latter time when seven angels will successively blow seven trumpets, each one heralding great events during the time leading to the return of Jesus Christ as the King of Kings (Revelation 8-9, 11:15).

Some believe they will be spared from these worldwide calamities by the Rapture–taking place, depending on who you ask, 7 years, 3 ½ years, or a few months before Christ's return. As commonly conceived, the doctrine of the Rapture–or, more technically, the pre-tribulation rapture–is the teaching that Christ comes to take Christians away into the safety of heaven before the years of Tribulation start.

What about you? Do you expect to hear the blast of a trumpet and immediately rise to meet Jesus in the clouds–before the great calamities of the end time?

On the other hand, how devastated would you be if these things begin to happen and you and others are not raptured? That could undermine your entire faith and belief in God!

So we must ask: What does the Bible actually teach about the Rapture? Let's explore four biblical passages to see if the Bible can answer the question. Is the Rapture real?

The pre-tribulation rapture story is compelling, and it is easy to see why people want to believe it. Nevertheless, if we search the Scriptures repeatedly, and grasp the proper overview of the seven trumpets, we will see that the common Rapture teaching does not fit with what God tells us in the Bible.

Caught up into the air after a trumpet blast

Of course if you believe in the Rapture, you may be saying at this point: "this publication is wrong. The Rapture is mentioned in the Bible by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians."

Let's consider that passage. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 Paul writes to the first century church in Thessalonica:

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

This is the predominant passage used to support the typical Rapture teaching–as the word translated "caught up" in verse 17 could be translated "raptured" in English, since "raptured" simply means "suddenly caught up." But the context in the pre-tribulation rapture teaching is all wrong. Notice the mention of the trumpet here. To really understand this passage we must compare it with three other New Testament passages that describe the same events.

Christians gathered at Christ's return with a trumpet after the Tribulation

Let's now look at what Jesus taught about His second coming and the gathering of the saints in what is known as the Olivet Prophecy, as it was spoken on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem (Matthew 24-25); Mark 13; Luke 21). Many people will tell you that the Rapture and Christ's second coming are two separate events with years in between. However, the Bible reveals the error in this teaching. Christ's followers will be saved, but not in the way the common teaching of the Rapture depicts.

Here's what Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 24:29-31:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect [or chosen people, true Christians] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

Some would claim that this applies only to those converted during the Tribulation period–not to believers supposedly raptured before the Tribulation. Yet we elsewhere see, and we'll look more closely at this shortly, that all believers who've died and those alive at Christ's return will rise in the resurrection to eternal life together, with merely a moment separating these two groups. There is no scriptural identification of another group rising to immortality a while before this.

There are remarkable similarities between what Jesus taught in the Olivet Prophecy and what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians. Recall that in 1 Thessalonians Paul wrote that those who are alive up to the time of Christ's second coming will not rise before those who are dead in the faith, because the dead in Christ will rise first.

We also saw that Jesus in the Olivet Prophecy talked about gathering His followers from the "four winds," or from all areas of the globe, after the Tribulation.

Do the passages in 1 Thessalonians and the Olivet prophecy describe the same or different events? The matter should be clearer now–but let's consider two more passages to help us put together the pieces of this puzzle. (see part 2 of this article)

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