Summary: Lots of ideas about the rapture. What does Scripture explicitly teach? Introduction to a series of talks on this subject.
God’s Garden is overrun with weeds. To get to the fruit can be a time-consuming work, but certainly it is worth the effort. What theoretically could be a wealth of comfort and joy for God’s people has become a morass of complication. But no wonder. Both Jesus and Paul introduced their teaching about these matters with the same warning:
Matthew 24:4b, “Take heed that no one deceives you.”
II Thessalonians 2:3a, “Let no one deceive you by any means.”
If God has warned us of the possibility of deception, it follows that much deception is “out there.” Look around. Every imaginable theory of His coming can be found in one book or another. Yet we are commanded not to be deceived. There must be a way to obey this word. That way is to pray, wait, study the original teachings of the prophets and apostles, wait, compare Scripture to Scripture, wait. Patience is the key ingredient in finding the perfect will of God. Teachers can take us so far. Study and prayer will take us all the way there but not by tomorrow morning. Keep digging, keep waiting, keep listening. Be wise. God wants us to get this, and all His issues, but they take time. There is no fast food in God’s Way. Even our salvation came slowly, slowly, as God prepared our heart, perhaps for many years. Avoid the quick fix theologians. Dig it out piece by piece.
Why Study This Issue?
Before defining terms, these comments about why we even need to talk about the catching up of the Church. Let me start by sharing words of the beloved apostle Paul , words of comfort to the Thessalonian Church :
I Thessalonians 4:17-18, 5:10-11, II Thessalonians 2:2, 16-17: “...thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words….whether we wake or sleep we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other…(do) not be soon shaken in mind or troubled...may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself...comfort your hearts…”
What was going on in the Church there that so shook the believers and elicited this shower of comfort? Well, someone was circulating the false teaching that Jesus had already come, and that they, the Thessalonian Church, had been left behind. The letters making the rounds actually bore Paul’s signature! (II Thessalonians 2:2) Paul rapidly does away with that notion and any similar notion for all time by giving to the Church a sign of Jesus’ coming, the very same sign that was given by Jesus Himself in Matthew 24: The entrance of antichrist into the Temple of God and the subsequent desolating conflict that follows.
II Thessalonians 2:3b, “...that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who...sits in the temple of God.”
Compare this to what Jesus said in response to his disciples’ request for a sign. “What shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” they asked. The answer: