Summary: This sermon deals with the Rapture of the church. It briefly describes the various Rapture Theories, along with going into further detail on the Pre-Tribulation Theory. But the most important element is not the theory, but whether or not we're ready.
The Book of Revelation
The Rapture of the Church
The concept of the Rapture has captivated the minds and heart of the church like few doctrines have, mainly because most people believe that we are in the last of the last days, and we don’t see our world lasting much longer.
The doctrine of the Rapture has probably done more for evangelism and discipleship than most anything else. Seeing that the time is short, our desire should then be to get ourselves ready, and then tell others the good news to get them right with God now, rather than get left behind later.
And it’s later than it’s ever been for the return of the Lord.
As far as being a great theme, consider the theme of the Second Coming of Jesus.
• It’s estimated there are over 1,845 references to a second coming for the Messiah in the Old Testament, and it’s found in 17 Old Testament books.
• In the New Testament there are 318 references, or one out of every 30 verses, and it is mentioned in 24 of the 27 books.
• And for every prophecy concerning the birth of Christ, there are eight looking forward to His return.
Now the Rapture isn’t the Second Coming of Christ, but it is attached to and precedes it. That’s why it’s important to understand it, important for our witness, and important for us to be ready.
Those who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture see this event in the first verse of Revelation chapter four. And while it isn’t my intent to tell you which theory to believe, I will give you my preference at the end of our time together. But let’s take a look at this verse.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’” (Revelation 4:1 NKJV)
The word “Rapture” doesn’t occur in the English Bible. This is one of the reasons why many say it’s a recent doctrine and has no place within Biblical teaching. The word actually comes from the Latin translation, the “Latin Vulgate,” which was written in the early 5th century. The word is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 KNJV emphasis mine)
The Latin word for “caught up,” is “rapio.” In the Greek it’s “harpazo,” which means “To steal, carry off, or snatch away by force with no resistance offered.”
If we were to give the word “rapture,” a definition it would be, “The Rapture is where believers in Jesus Christ are removed from this earth in an instance, whether they are dead or alive, by Jesus Christ before the outpouring of God’s wrath prior to His Second Coming.”
Paul doesn’t want us to be ignorant, not stupid, but ignorant, which means Paul doesn’t want us to lack the necessary knowledge of this great event. Paul doesn’t want us to miss this vital and important truth concerning those believers who had died prior to this event.
The believers in Thessalonica were expecting Jesus’ return at any time, but many of them were dying and the church thought those who died missed out. Not only were they grieving their deaths, but they were also wondering if they missed out on the Second Coming.
Now Paul doesn’t tell them not to grieve, but when they grieve they weren’t to lose hope, because both the dead and those who are alive will be raised at this special resurrection. With this knowledge they could chill out and comfort those who were missing this truth.
And so this singular event of Jesus coming back for His church prior to the Second Coming is what we are looking at. We see this same event talked about by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 NKJV)
Paul calls this event a mystery. The word means something that cannot be explained through rational means, or human intellect. Therefore it can only be understood through divine revelation, that is, God revealing it too us, explaining it so we can understand.