Summary: First study in a series on Bible Prophecy and the End Times. Deals with the Rapture of the Church.
ILL. While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return for them. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, “It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!” They replied, “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, ‘The boss may come today.’”
This illustration is an excellent picture of our topic this morning. I want to talk to you about the rapture of the church, the first study in a series that we are going to do on Bible prophecy and the end times. Some of you are very familiar with these topics, but some of you may not be. Personally, I love the study of prophecy and the times of Christ’s Second Coming, but many people either don’t understand what the Bible says about them, or are afraid of the things that they have heard. I’m hoping that over the next weeks I will be able to answer some of the questions you may have about what the Bible teaches about what is to come.
I. What Is the Rapture?
The first question that we are going to tackle this morning is: “What is the rapture?” The “rapture” of the church is probably one of the most compelling prophetic events in the Bible. And yet, some people claim that it is not taught in the Bible because you never actually find the word “rapture” in scripture.
This is a very poor argument, however. There are actually several words not found in the Bible that describe Christian doctrines which no one would argue are not taught in the Bible. For example, the word “Trinity” is never actual found in the text of the Holy Word, but very few people will tell you that the concept of the trinity or the 3-fold Godhead of Father, Son, and Spirit is not taught in the Bible.
The word homosexual is not found in the Bible, but the Bible clearly teaches that a man is forbidden to lie with another man as he lies with a woman. The meaning behind that teaching is pretty clear. In fact the Bible is often made simple enough that even fools can understand it. Just because the words trinity or homosexual don’t appear in the text, doesn’t mean the Bible is silent about these topics.
Likewise, the word rapture is not found in the actual text of the Bible. But that doesn’t mean that Scripture is silent about this subject. It actually describes the future event quite clearly.
It is taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where the apostle Paul provides us with most of the available details. Let’s read this passage:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], 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. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.
To put it in simple terms, the rapture of the church is when believers will be taken out of the world to meet their Lord and Savior in the air. It is when Jesus comes to take His faithful home. Jennifer Rast of Contender Ministries describes it this way: “The rapture refers to the sudden removal of all of God’s people on the earth. In the twinkling of an eye, born again Christian will suddenly be transformed out of our human bodies and will rise up into the air to join Jesus Christ.”
II. What Will the Rapture Look Like?
Our text says that when Christ calls His children out of this world He will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. Some have translated this passage to mean that the archangel Gabriel will blow his horn and everyone on earth will look to the heavens to see Jesus and watch as He takes the true believers home.