“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. Then the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” –1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
With Bible prophecies beginning to unfold right before our eyes this month (if you’re watching what Russia and Iran are up to in regard to Iran’s plans for Jerusalem), it is apparent that more than ever before, we seem to be close to the coming of the Day of the Lord.
As the Body of Christ, for us that means looking forward to what is going to happen to us as God begins to bring that Day upon the world: the event we call the Rapture of the church.
(Speaking of that, if you’ve had conversations with Christians who don’t believe Bible prophecy is literally true, they may have tried to prove their point at some time by saying, “The word ‘rapture’ doesn’t even appear in the Bible.” Well, actually, it does. You see the word rapture is derived into English from the Latin word that means ‘catching up’ or ‘snatching up.’ When we say, “the rapture,” we are literally saying “the catching up.” Which is the exact terminology the Bible uses in 1 Thessalonians 4 to describe the event we usually entitle “The Rapture.” In fact, if you get a Bible in a Latin-based language like Romanian, the actual word “raptured” will be used, where your English Bible says we will be “caught up” in that passage.)
Anyway, though, as we look forward to being raptured, let’s take a moment just to imagine what it will be like. Sometimes in books and movies the event is shown as people just suddenly vanishing, unexpectedly even to them. Suddenly driverless cars crashing and mass mayhem, and the like. (The Left Behind series even had them disappearing from their clothes which fell to the ground.) But is that what is described in the Bible passage above? Hardly.
Now, the Bible does describe our being changed in an instant and being made like Him instantaneously when we see Him, so that our mortal bodies become clothed in the immortal. But that instant is just one piece of the event of the rapture. The event itself isn’t instantaneous, and has a chronology described in the Bible.
Look at the chronology in the passage above of what will really take place. The first thing you’ll notice is that Christ will come for us, and we will be aware of His arrival. He will shout, and we will hear Him, along with the sound of a trumpet and the archangel’s voice announcing Him in some way. And even if the lost world doesn’t hear Him, too, we will still realize He is here and have time in our minds to understand that He has come to call us to Himself. We won’t just suddenly be gone.
Then, after we hear His coming, and perhaps see Him with our eyes, too, before we are caught up, the dead in Christ will rise. All those who have gone to the grave in faith in Christ whose souls have returned with Him in the skies, will receive their resurrection bodies first, before our uprising. Perhaps we will visibly see their resurrections, since it will be a bodily resurrection, just like Christ’s, who was the first to experience this permanent resurrection from the dead. At any rate, some interval of time, brief as it may be, will pass between our realization that He is here for us, and our rapture.
Then, we who are alive in Christ and remain on the earth will be caught up to be with them in the air. We won’t just disappear; we will physically rise up into the sky—the literal sky above the earth, complete with clouds for us to touch. And perhaps the lost people around us being left behind will actually see us rise, not just see us vanish. Because we will, whenever we are changed, still have a physical resurrection body. And it will probably rise in just the way Christ ascended into heaven, when His disciples watched Him flying up, up, and away, and actually saw Him go into a cloud so that He was then hidden from their vision.
The way the Bible tells the event, it is so much more glorious and exciting than the way internet videos portray it, where we’re suddenly just gone. We won’t just disappear. We’ll hear the voice of our precious Savior calling. We’ll stop whatever we’re doing. We’ll hear the celebratory trumpet call. We’ll hear the archangel’s proclamation. We’ll see loved ones who have died in Christ rise again. Then we will be picked up, changed, and fly into the skies to be with the Precious One for whom our hearts beat forever. It will be the most thrilling and fulfilling experience we’ve ever had, and one we should look forward to with eager anticipation.
“Behold I am coming soon!”
On a side note, the “one will be taken and the other left” passage about Jesus, if you read it in context, isn’t talking about the rapture, but His return to the earth to judge the earth, which will happen later. In that passage, the “taken” ones are taken away to be condemned. That passage, then, shouldn’t be confused with a description of the rapture of the church, leading to a misunderstanding that we’ll just “disappear.”