This column is based on part of Greg Laurie’s book “Are We Living in the Last Days?”
One night, as my wife, Cathe, and I were lying in bed talking, she said, “Isn’t it wonderful that one day we could be taken to meet the Lord in the Rapture of the church? Wouldn’t it be exciting if it happened in our lifetime? Can you imagine? We would be lying here in bed, maybe talking, maybe sleeping, and all of a sudden, we are right there in the presence of God.”
As she described this, being the prankster that I am, I thought it would be funny to secretly slip out of bed. So I quietly crept down on the floor without her knowing. “Wouldn’t it be great, Greg?” Cathe continued. “Greg?” She reached over to my side of the bed … but I wasn’t there. “Greg!” she screamed. “GREG!”
Meanwhile, I was lying on the floor convulsed with laughter. But the real Rapture will not be a laughing matter. It could happen at any moment, when we least expect it.
In my last article, I asked whether we are really living in the Last Days as Jesus described them to His disciples, and I showed how we are regularly experiencing the “labor pains” of what is yet to come. As we watch these things happen in our world, as we sense these labor pains getting closer and closer together, we understand that the coming of Jesus Christ is near.
But what is the next event on God’s prophetic calendar? Is it Armageddon, the rise of the Antichrist, or something else?
It seems to me that the next event on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture of the church. However, if you try to look up the word “rapture” in the Bible, you won’t find it. Unless you have a Latin translation, that is. The phrase “caught up,” is the Latin word rapturus, which means “to be caught up.” A more literal definition is “to be snatched up.” Believers will be taken to meet the Lord in the air.
The apostle Paul described this event in his letter to the Christians at Thessalonica:
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. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
But Paul wasn’t the only one to speak of the Rapture. Jesus mentioned it in Matthew 24, where He said, “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (vv. 40-42). Jesus also spoke of it in John 14, where He said, “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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (vv. 2-3).
We also find a reference to the Rapture in 1 John 2:28 and 3:3: “Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Home in an instant
Returning for a moment to Paul’s description of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4, note that verse 17 says that Christians who are living at the time of the Rapture “shall be caught up together with them [the dead in Christ] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The word “meet” in this verse carries the idea of meeting a royal person or a person of great importance. When the Lord calls us to Himself, we will meet the ultimate royalty, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
We see from these verses about the Rapture that Christians will be received into the presence of God instantaneously. According to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “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.” Note that this verse doesn’t say “in the blink of an eye,” but rather “in the twinkling of an eye.” A blink is fast – so fast that most of the time you don’t even notice it when you blink – but the time it takes for an eye to twinkle is even faster.
There might be some who think they will have time to decide whether to believe when the Rapture happens. But no one can decide that fast. Anyone who has waited until the last minute will be left behind, and they will have to go through a horrible time coming on the earth known as the “Great Tribulation.” However, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you have the hope that you will be taken before the Tribulation period comes. The Bible says, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9) In the flash of a second, every living Christian on earth will suddenly and instantaneously be gone. So, you might go to bed one night and wake up in heaven.
In my next article, we will learn whether we can reasonably predict the date of Christ’s return for His church.