You are probably familiar with the term “rapture,” as It commonly associated with the Second Coming of Christ within certain branches of American evangelicalism. To understand why the word “rapture” is applied to Jesus’ return, we have to understand what the word really means in a Christian context. The rapture is believed to be the final assumption of Christians into heaven during the end times. During this end-time event, Christian believers who are living, along with resurrected believers, will rise in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The origin of the term comes from the apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians in scripture, in which the word “harpazo” is used, which means “to seize” or “to snatch away.” During the rapture, believers of Jesus Christ will be snatched away from earth and go into the air. According to scripture, the event will happen instantly, in the “twinkling of an eye.”
The word “rapture” is not used directly in scripture, but it is referenced in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15. During this period, believers who have already died will be resurrected along with believers who are living. They will meet the Lord in the air. Many Christians believe that the rapture is the return of Christ in the clouds to remove all Christians from the earth before God’s wrath in the final days. The rapture is connected with the event of Jesus’ return because we are told at this moment Jesus will come back to defeat the Antichrist, destroy the enemy and establish His millennial kingdom. Many people associate the rapture with the Second Coming, and while they are similar events, they are separate from each other. Both of these events involve Jesus’ return and are end-time events. However, we must understand the differences.
The rapture is the idea that Jesus’ return will happen in two stages. The first stage will be a secret rapture. This is a carrying away of the saved to heaven that will occur at the beginning of a seven-year period of tribulation. At the end of tribulation, the second phase will happen when He will make His final return to earth in glory and triumph. In the first stage of the rapture, Jesus comes for His church. At the end of the tribulation, He comes back with His church. During this event, every eye will see Him. At the rapture, only believers will see Him.
There is great debate in Christian circles about the timing of the rapture. Some believe it happens before the tribulation period, and others believing it occurs after. Some believe it happens during the tribulation period. The biggest debate has less to do around if it happens, but when it will happen in relation to the tribulation. Those who have the pre-tribulation view believe that the rapture will happen before the tribulation period. Those who have the mid-tribulation view believe that the rapture will take place halfway through the tribulation. The post-tribulation belief is that the rapture happens at the end of the tribulation period. For Christians, the pre-tribulation rapture is great hope. Whether we live to see pre, mid or post-tribulation, or die before the rapture occurs, the common link is eternal salvation. This is coming from our faith in Jesus Christ.
Many things are supposed to occur during the rapture, including many signs of deception. Some people will claim to be the Messiah and have all the answers concerning our troubled world. Matthew 24 speaks directly to this. In this passage, Jesus gives warning directly to our generation. Matthew 24:3-8 tells us, “Later, Jesus was sitting at a place on the Mount of Olives. The followers came to be alone with him. They said, ‘Tell us when these things will happen. And what will happen to prepare us for Your coming and the end time?’ Jesus answered, ‘Be careful! Don’t let anyone fool you. Many people will come and use My name. They will say, ‘I am the Messiah.’ And they will fool many people. You will hear about wars that are fought. And you will hear stories about other wars beginning. But don’t be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. Nations will fight against other nations. Kingdoms will fight other kingdoms. There will be times where there is no food for people to eat. And there will be earthquakes in different places. These things are only the beginning of troubles, like the first pains of a woman giving birth.” This passage is speaking directly to us, warning of the false prophets that will show up with signs and wonders only to deceive us. We must be on guard and figure out who these false prophets may be.
While we are told not to try to determine the time the rapture will occur, we are cautioned for a reason. We should pay attention to the signs around us. God specifically chose not to reveal the date to us. In Acts 1:7-8, when Jesus was asked about the end times, He replies, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Ultimately, only our Father in Heaven knows the date and the hour. Only He can answer when time has run out.
One of the most important things to gather from the rapture is that during this period, Christians will approach the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is the point when a Christian’s life is examined. Scripture says, “For we must all appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). This refers to the summing up of a Christian’s life. Instead of looking at this only as a time of judgment and punishment, we should look at this as a reward. Our lives will determine what will happen when that moment comes, but if we live as Christ has called us to live, only good things will come.