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The Rapture

There is what some would regard as a very strange event alluded to in the Bible which is called The Rapture. It is specifically mentioned by Paul ‘For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16:17). This says that all those who have died belonging to Christ will rise from the dead and ascend into the clouds. Clearly these will not be skeletons and ashes, but some form of resurrected body. Then the Church is going to rise up bodily and meet them in the clouds, rather like the ascension of Jesus. Then both the living and the dead will be with the Lord for ever. This is not an on going situation, as people die and go to heaven, but it is a specific event in response to a trumpet call and the voice of God. The implication is that those who have already died are awaiting this call. Of course, once we leave the 3 dimensional universe, time no longer has any meaning, so it is not as if the deceased are lying there waiting in eternity, but to us, still prisoners of time, it is still a future event.

 

As with most theological concepts there are heated and even emotional debates over interpretation. Many people do not even believe in the Rapture as a physical event and somehow regard it as figurative. Even amongst those who do believe, there is divided opinion about when it will take place.

 

There are other questions like what it actually might look like. Would the entire Church suddenly disappear from the planet, leaving empty houses, planes with no pilots and cars with no drivers? Such ideas have been encapsulated in novels, such as ‘Left Behind’. Could it be that every member of the Church will bodily float up from the earth? A scary thought for those with fear of heights. Could it be that we will all suddenly drop dead and spiritually be with the Lord? It is entirely speculative as to what will take place and afterwards we might not even know what happened. Those left behind might notice something strange!

 

We have seen that the Bible teaches that there will be a great falling away in the last days culminating in the Great Tribulation that will occur during the last 7 years of the age, Daniel’s 70th week.

 

There is a school of thought that believes that the Church will be needed on Earth to give some hope and light during this time of the great tribulation and therefore will remain on Earth. This is called the Post-Trib view. This is a nice theory and sentiment but there is nothing in scripture to back it up. The world right now has every opportunity to receive the light and hope of the gospel. If people refuse it now, why should tribulation make any difference? ‘Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2)

 

There is another view that the Church will be present during the first 3½ years of the reign of the Anti-Christ as things get worst, but just before they get really bad, with the abomination of desolation about to happen, the Church will get whisked away from it all. This is the Mid-Trib view.

 

There are yet others who believe that the Church will be removed or raptured before any of these terrible events take place just as the 7 years is about to begin. This is the Pre-Trib  view.

 

Jesus said that no one will know the time or the hour of His return and we are to live in constant expectation of His coming (Matthew 24:36). He will come secretly, like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). The parable of the 10 virgins (Matt 25) illustrates the unexpectedness of Jesus’ return. In that story, the 5 foolish virgins do not keep their lamps filled with oil and the bridegroom coming takes them by surprise. The 5 wise virgins keep the oil topped up and are ready, constantly waiting for the groom.

 

Now if we believe that Jesus is to return for the Church after the Tribulation (Post-Trib), we can calculate exactly when He will come – 7 years after the Anti-Christ has arranged the signing of the peace treaty of the Jews and the Arabs. Therefore this would not be a surprise. Everyone would be expecting him to come on that day. So, in order to maintain consistency of the Bible, we can conclude Jesus will come for the Church before the signing of the treaty, in a secret manner. The Thessalonians were concerned that they may have missed the Rapture, but Paul tells them that the coming of Christ will not occur until the Man of Lawlessness or the Anti-Christ is revealed.  (2 Thessalonians 2:5) This man is held in check by some ONE, until the time is right to reveal him. It is not clearly stated who the ONE is, but the most likely person is the Holy Spirit who is in the Church in each believer. Thus we can conclude that these two events occur simultaneously. The Church and the Holy Spirit are lifted out of the Earth, ushering in the final 70th week, clearing the way for the lawless one to take control. After this, all those who are left on the earth will be destined to be subject to the Great Tribulation.

 

Many will undoubtedly struggle with the concept of the Rapture in terms of millions of people flying through the atmosphere, but if we think of it in terms of the Dimensions Theory, it becomes more plausible.

 

Think of a building being drawn up as a 2 dimensional blueprint. Every detail carefully drawn to scale and very impressive, even with little people drawn in, but it is still just a representation. The 3 dimensional reality far outshines the drawings. We are now existing in a 3 dimensional  representation of the eternal reality. One way or another, those who have faith in Jesus are going to step from this dimension into the real thing. It will happen either through the individual death process or, at a time appointed by God, the door will open and we who trust in God will enter eternity en mass.

 

As far as those left behind are concerned, we will have disappeared, but as far as those of us who have been transported, we will have entered into the multi-dimensional reality, where what we are leaving is but a pale shadow. Who knows, what it will be like? Maybe we could be sitting at table with unbelievers and suddenly they become like shadows to us. As far as they are concerned, we have disappeared, but as far as we can perceive, we are still there, but they have become like cardboard cut-outs. We can communicate with each other, and so can they, but communication between the dimensions will be extremely limited and only in one direction.

 

We can deduce this from observation of the characteristics of Jesus after His resurrection. He was able to come and go as He pleased, instantly travel 90 miles across Israel, walk through walls and appear in a room with a locked door and float up into the sky. Yet He could eat fish and break bread. But the disciples had no idea where He was when they could not see Him. They could not control Him or even see Him unless He decided to show up.

 

Imagine the excitement and joy of stepping from this universe into God’s dimension with everyone you love in an instant. Where the old earth is a pale grey, cold and distant shadow and the new environment is cleaner, purer and brighter than anything you have previously encountered.

 

Also imagine the horror and disappointment of being left behind, realising what has happened, but too late. I could be wrong about this, but it’s not a chance I would want to take.

 

You may think that this seems a very unlikely and fanciful way for the world as we know it to come to an end. But think of the alternatives. Could the world continue as it is indefinitely? Many Sci-Fi writers have had a very morbid outlook on the future. The prospect does not look good in terms of natural phenomena. Will the sea levels rise and destroy life? Will climate change to the point that it cannot sustain life? Will there be another ice-age? Will asteroids destroy the earth? But then, what about what man will do intentionally? Could nuclear war or extreme acts of terrorism bring mankind to an end? Will we eventually run out of fuel and be unable to sustain life as we know it? Will our rubbish and pollution eventually overtake us to poison our planet? Will radical Islam take over the world and turn it back into the dark ages? Nobody knows, but it does seem rather unlikely that things will carry on as they are now forever. Realistically, how much longer do you think it can last? The prospect of Jesus returning to the planet is as likely a way for it to conclude and far preferable to any of these other.

 

The Jewish Wedding

As we have seen, there are often theological concepts hidden in Jewish practices. The rituals and ceremony surrounding marriage as practiced by the Jews in the time of Jesus, beautifully illustrates the relationship of Jesus with His Bride, the Church.

The young man would make an offer of marriage to his beloved and if she accepted, they would seal the covenant with a meal of bread and wine.

He would then go back to the home of his father where he prepared a place for her. The bride to be would prepare herself with great anticipation and excitement, waiting for the groom to return for her. Meanwhile he prepares a room or apartment, which he builds over a period of time, maybe a year or more. When the father considers the place is ready for the bride he tells the son he can now go to bring the bride back. Only the father can approve and set the time.

The lover then goes to fetch his bride at a time when she least expects it, usually in the middle of the night, and the long wait is over.

He then takes his beloved to his father’s house where a wedding feast takes place over 7 days, during which the marriage is consummated with great rejoicing.

 

What a beautiful type this is of that spiritual relationship between Jesus and the Church.

Jesus told his followers ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ (John 14:1-3). He also says, ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only’ (Matthew 24:36)

 

Jesus is preparing a place right now in His Father’s house, whilst we await His return with eager anticipation. Meanwhile we can remind ourselves of the promise and show our acceptance of His covenant by means of the Communion Service of bread and wine. One day the Father will let the son come and get us, when the Father decides. For seven earthly years we will rejoice with him at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

‘Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready’ (Revelation 19:7).

 

Whilst, of itself, the type of the wedding ceremony does not constitute proof of the way in which the rapture and the second coming will take place, it would seem fairly typical of the way God has hidden clues about future events in precept and practice which He reveals to those who seek and search diligently. Certainly the whole subject is surrounded by a sense of mystery and excitement, but the bottom line is the requirement for resolute and rugged faith to keep believing at a time when so many are giving up. This is reflected in the words of Jesus ‘Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

 

In the Jewish wedding, the ceremony goes on for 7 days after which the bride and groom live together, but also have a life outside of their home. There appears to be a parallel teaching that after the 7 years, Jesus will return with His bride to rule together over the earth for a thousand years. We will expand this more fully in the next chapter.

 

1. ‘Left Behind’ series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

 

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