The Rapture of the Church
By: Frances Swaggart
The next major Biblical event in history will be “The Rapture of the Church.”Are you watching? Are you ready? We believe in and teach a “pre-Tribulation Rapture,” meaning that the Rapture will take place before the Great Tribulation and could occur at any moment! The most vivid description of the Rapture of the Church is given in Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians: “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 who 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” (4:16-17). The word “rapture” is actually the one-word synonym that Believers use in place of the phrase “caught up.” In the original Greek text, the word used is “harpazo,” meaning to “to seize upon by force,” “to snatch up.” It was actually Latin translators who chose the word “rapture,” from the term “raptus” meaning “to seize.” It can imply a sudden, swift occurrence. “Rapture” is also defined as the transporting of a person from one place to another, such as from Earth to Heaven, and/or the changing of a person from one state to another, such as from a physical body to a spirit body.
Now, in an effort to cast doubt upon this soon-coming event, some have attempted to claim that “rapture” is not a Biblical term and, therefore, not a valid part of Bible Prophecy. Truthfully though, it is just as Biblical as the words “God” or “Jesus.” Almost all words in our English Bible are translations of Greek and Hebrew expressions, none of which were originally found in the form that we have come to know them today. “God” is a proper and meaningful translation of certain words in the original languages, and “Jesus” is a good translation for His Name, “Yeshua (Joshua),” meaning “the Lord saves” in Hebrew. Likewise, the English word “rapture,” which means, “to be caught up,” is an excellent translation for the Greek word “harpazo.” Paul referred to the Rapture as the “Blessed Hope” of the church: “Looking for that Blessed Hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
The purpose of the Rapture will be to resurrect all of the righteous dead from each Dispensation, reuniting the soul and spirit with a new Glorified Body (I Cor. 15:35-55). Actually, “the Resurrection of the Saints” is another phrase Believers have used through the years to describe this promised event. The righteous dead will be “caught up,” along with all the Saints still living on the Earth, to meet the Lord in the air and return with Him to Heaven (Jn. 14:1-3). The Glorified Bodies we will receive will be spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, rather than physical.
As previously mentioned, we believe that the Bible teaches the Rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation. “Because you have kept the Word of My Patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation (the Great Tribulation), which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the Earth” (Rev. 3:10). Several more Scriptures attest to a “pre-Tribulation” rapture: “Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things(the Tribulation) that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:36). “For God has not appointed us to wrath(the Tribulation), but to obtain Salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 5:9). “The mystery of iniquity does already work: only he (the Church) who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed . . .” (II Thess. 2:7-8). “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in Heaven: and the first Voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show you things which must be hereafter(after the Rapture of the Church)” (Rev. 4:1). The above Scriptures, and plenty of others also, demonstrate that even the New Testament Saints were looking for the Rapture/Resurrection to occur, so how much closer are we today? To further clarify, we believe the sequence of these coming Endtime events will be: first, the Rapture; second, the Great Tribulation; and then, the Lord’s Return (“The Second Coming”).
Now, this is not to say that prior to the Rapture, the church will not experience persecution as the world becomes more and more wicked, but the Great Tribulation is really about God’s Judgment upon sin. And, for Believers, God’s Judgment was already poured out at Calvary. Christ bore our sins in His Body on the Cross not to be brought to our account again. They have been forgiven and forgotten (Isa. 43:25; I Pet. 2:24). Thank you Jesus! So, while the Earth and those still upon it are going through the Great Tribulation, the raptured Saints of God will be simultaneously attending events in Heaven – namely, the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10) and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Mat. 26:29; Rev. 19:7-9). In the Book of Revelation, note is made of those who “dwell in Heaven” and those who “dwell on Earth.” The former group, “the church,” will have been given our Resurrection Bodies and will walk in the company of the Lamb and His Holy Angels in Heaven. The latter, those “dwelling on Earth,” include non-believers, God’s 144,000 Jewish evangelists (regenerated men who do not yet have Resurrection Bodies), and their converts (“the Tribulation Saints”). Many of these new Saints will become martyrs during the Tribulation, but they will not be given their Resurrection Bodies until the Tribulation ends (Rev. 20:4).
THE DIFFERENCE IN THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING
Many people fail to distinguish between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ. The chart below gives a brief contrast:
|Rapture of the Church||Second Coming of Christ|
1. Occurs before the Tribulation
1. Occurs after the Tribulation
2. Christ comes for the Saints
2. Christ comes with the Saints
3. Christ takes the Saints to Heaven
3. Christ brings the Saints back to Earth
4. Christ returns to the clouds
4. Christ returns to the Earth
5. Christ is not seen
5. Every eye shall see Christ
6. It is the “Blessed Hope” of the Church
6. It is the great day of His “Wrath”
Only one Archangel, Michael, is called by name in Scripture and his specific jurisdiction is over the people of Israel. At the time of the Rapture, he will signal to Israel that God has at last returned His Focus to the final Redemption of His chosen Nation. This event was spoken of by Daniel: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who shall be found written in the Book” (Dan. 12:1). The phrase, “A time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time,” is the same thing Jesus would later say. It concerns the last three and a half years of the Tribulation. Matthew 24:21 states: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” This will be worst tribulation the world has ever known – so bad that it will never again be repeated. Matthew 24:22 states: “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the Elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Israel will come close to extinction, but God’s Love for His People will cause Him to shorten the days with the Second Coming of the Lord. “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven, and the powers of the Heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the Earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His Angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His Elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the other” (Mat. 24:27-31).
So, at the time that Jesus calls His Church out of the world (the Rapture of the Church and not the Second Coming) three specific events take place:
1. The Call of Command from the lips of Jesus to awaken the dead in Christ and bring them forth from their graves, just as Jesus called His Friend Lazarus forth (Jn. 11:43).
2. The Archangel’s call to Israel that God’s Focus has returned to Israel (Dan. 12:1).
3. The trumpet call (not to be confused with the last seven trumpets in Revelation) is a trumpet call associated with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles and will be used to call the living Saints at the time of the Rapture. This is described in I Corinthians 15:50-58: “Now this I say, Brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall 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 shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have 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 grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved Brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the Work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
NO MORE MORTALITY, NO MORE SIN NATURE
Praise God, the Rapture will bring the completed manifestation of Christ’s Finished Work for us at Calvary! For the Believer, the Rapture is Independence Day! Once and for all, we will be totally and completely freed from our corrupted nature, freed from all effects of sin! Glory to God!
Let’s take a closer look at the events taking place in Heaven (which parallel the events of the Tribulation on Earth). All Believers must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ according to II Corinthians 5:10. Remember this is not for the purpose of dealing with sin, however, a careful ledger has been kept of every work the Believer has performed since he became a Christian (Mat. 12:36; Rom. 14:12; II Cor. 5:10).
Believers will be judged on the basis of:
1. Doctrinal Beliefs – true or false (Rom. 2:14-16; 14:1-10).
2. Conduct toward others – kind or unkind (Mat. 18:10; Mk. 9:41; II Tim. 4:14).
3. Stewardship – faithful or unfaithful (Mat. 25:14-29; Lk. 12:42-44; I Cor. 4:1-5).
4. Words – good or bad (Mat. 12:36-37; Eph. 4:29).
5. Talents – used or wasted (Mat. 5:15-16; Mk. 4:25).
6. Attitudes – Christlike or selfish (Mat. 6:1-7; Eph. 4:30-32).
7. Motives – right or wrong (Mat. 6:16-18; Lk. 14:12-14).
8. Traits – Spiritual or carnal (Rom. 2:1-6; Col. 3:8-16).
9. Every Deed – worthy or worthless (Mk. 9:41; Col. 3:23-25).
The deeds performed in a worthy manner will be rewarded, but those deeds Christ judges unworthy will be burned and will cause the Believer lost rewards
(I Cor. 3:12-15).
The following rewards have been promised for faithful service to the Lord:
1. Victor’s Crown (I Cor. 9:25).
2. Crown of Righteousness (II Tim. 4:8).
3. Crown of Rejoicing (I Thess. 2:19).
4. Crown of Life (James 1:12).
5. Crown of Glory (I Pet. 5:4).
6. Martyr’s Crown (Rev. 2:10).
7. Crown of Gold (Rev. 4:4).
And because Scripture clearly indicates that it is possible for someone else to take our crown (Rev. 3:11), it behooves every Christian to be diligent in his service to the King of kings! Believers will also be given a mansion in which to live eternally (Jn. 14:2), and Christ will determine the amount of earthly rulership to give each Saint based on his faithfulness to God in this present life (Lk. 19:12-26). Believers will reign as kings and priests with Christ forever (Rev. 1:6; 5:10).
Following the Judgment Seat of Christ will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This speaks of the Bride of Christ, all the redeemed from every Dispensation who will live in the New Jerusalem. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His Wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the Righteousness of Saints. And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And he said unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Rev. 19:7-9). What a time of reunion, celebration, and worship Believers have in store!
Are you ready? Are you in a committed, Covenant relationship with Christ? Are you a Bride adorned for her Husband? Is your heart singing, “. . . when I hear that last trumpet sound, my feet won’t stay on the ground”? If your answers are “yes,” then, as my husband often says, “Well, Glory!”