Last week, we mentioned that the rapture is, in a sense, part one of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At the Second Coming, Jesus will return to the earth with His people to set up His kingdom. But at the rapture, He will not come to the earth, but into the atmosphere of the earth and will call His people up to be with Him.
The Two Parts of Christ’s Coming
So what does it mean that the rapture is part 1? This idea of two parts to the Second Coming of Christ shouldn’t be a surprise. If you think about it, there were actually two parts to the first coming. Jesus came first to Bethlehem, as foretold by Micah the prophet, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Thirty years later, He came as King to Jerusalem as foretold by Daniel and Zechariah. He came to Bethlehem with the pronouncement of the angels, the shepherds, and all of the things that transpired on that memorable day. Then there was a period of silence of about thirty years, and suddenly Jesus appeared on the scene again. Finally, He rode into Jerusalem on that Day in fulfillment of the prophecies. (See Daniel 9:24-25 and Zechariah 9:9.) This was the second part of the first coming.
Since there were two aspects to the first coming, we should not be surprised to discover that there will be two aspects to the Second Coming. The first part being the rapture, the second part being the literal coming of Jesus to the earth to set up the kingdom.
Finding Rapture in the Bible
Some people completely reject the idea of the rapture. They say that the word “rapture” is not even found in the Bible. Well, that all depends on what Bible you are using. If you are using the Latin Vulgate, you can find the word rapiemur, which is the Latin word from which we get our English word, rapture. Rapiemur is the Latin translation of the Greek word harpazo, which is translated into English in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as “caught up.” It is from this Latin word that we have coined the word rapture. It is a convenient term. So, even though we do not have the actual word “rapture” in our English translation, it does not mean the teaching is not in the Bible. We do not have the word “Trinity” in the Bible, yet the Scriptures certainly reveal the concept. We cannot turn to a single verse and find Trinity, but obviously as we put the whole picture together, the Bible teaches that there is one God in three Persons. Likewise, the Bible teaches that believers are going to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
In the Twinkling of an Eye
The two most descriptive texts on the rapture are found in the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians and his first epistle to the Thessalonians. Let’s look first at his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15. In verses 51–55, Paul said:
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. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
Paul tells us about a mystery; something that previously had not been revealed. The mystery is this: we shall not all sleep, which is another way of saying we shall not all die—but we shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
Now, in 1 Thessalonians 4, verses 13–17, Paul says:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, 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.
Such an Amazing Hope
There it is: “Then we who are alive and remain shall be ‘caught up’ [or raptured] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (verse 17).
Such an amazing hope! Next week, we will address the “when” of the rapture.