THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

By: Evangelist Donald Perkins

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice if the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first."

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

13, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope."

14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

15, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep."

16, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice if the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first."

17, "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."

The Rapture of the Church is the next major glorious event to take place in God's prophetic plan. In this book, we will look at this doctrine in depth. Today, there are many views on the subject. Many in the Church have taken a "let's wait and see" attitude because they have been confused by so many teachings.

In our approach to understand, we will examine:

A. The meaning of the word Rapture.

B. A verse-by-verse look at I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

C. Different views on the Rapture.

D. The difference between the Rapture and the Second coming of Christ

E. The results of the Rapture of the Church.

F. The promise and warning regarding the Rapture.

The meaning of the word Rapture

The word "Rapture" is borrowed from the Latin Vulgate Bible and appears in the English Bible as "caught up." "Caught up" in Greek is "harpazo", which means "to snatch or catch away...to seize, pluck up, pull, take by force." The verb "harpazo" means "to seize upon or take to oneself," "to seize upon with force." It is also used generally as meaning to "forcibly seize upon or take to oneself." The English word also means "to transport to a state of happiness" which comes from a Latin word "rapio." Rapio means "to seize quickly or suddenly or to snatch away."

Webster's Dictionary defines Rapture as: (1) the state of being carried away with joy, love, etc. (2) a carrying away or being carried away in body or spirit.

As described in the definition, the Rapture will be the physical taking out of the saints by Jesus. He will seize upon His Church with force. We will be caught up to the joys of our Lord.

A verse-by-verse look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

"...which are asleep..." The word "asleep" in Greek is "koimao." In the New Testament this always refers to the Body that is asleep and not to the soul. It means "to put to sleep, pass or reflex, to slumber, to decrease, be a fall, a fall on, sleep be dead."

The Apostle Paul was giving understanding to the Thessalonians about their dead loved ones. He wanted them to know that only their bodies were asleep or decease, but not their souls or spirits. So there was no need to be sorrowful. He went on to explain:

"...which have no hope..." In the latter part of this verse, Paul explained that the Church need not sorrow as the world does when it loses a loved one. The Church has a hope of seeing their dead loved ones again. This hope is locked in the resurrection of the Just. (Note John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15; Daniel 12:2.)

14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

The condition of those who are Raptured will be on the basis they believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The scripture teaches that those who believe are saved. (Romans 10:8-11.)

For those who have died in Jesus, their spirits and souls will, at the time of the Rapture, be brought with Him. Their spirits and souls will be reunited with their physical resurrected bodies and at that time their bodies will be changed from corruptible to incorruptible bodies. (I Corinthians 15:50-57.)

Paul went on to explain:

15, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep."

"...we say unto you by the Word of the Lord..." The message of the Rapture was given to Apostle Paul by the Word of the Lord. This doctrine was a mystery for the Church from God. (I Corinthians 15:51.)

J. Dwight Pentcost sums up the mystery like this: "The Church and Israel are two distinct groups with whom God has a divine plan. The Church is a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament. This present mystery age intervenes within the program of God for Israel because of Israel's rejection of the Messiah at His first advent. This mystery program must be completed before God can resume His program with Israel and bring it to completion..."

"...we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord..." Here we have another condition given to those who are alive at the time of the Rapture. Those who remain are those who are still remaining in Christ and have kept their faith. These will be caught up to meet Jesus. Our Lord is coming back for a prepared people; that is, only for those who are ready. Those who have back-slid will not be raptured. Those who are separated from sin will be raptured. Paul gave the warning in his letter to the Corinthians. (IICorinthians 6:14-18.)

17, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."

At the time of the Rapture, if you are separated from sin, Jesus will receive you unto Himself!

"...shall not prevent them which are asleep."

The word "prevent" in Greek means "to anticipate, to be before, or to precede."

Here the scripture gives reference to the fact that we which are alive shall not go up before those who have died in Christ before us, because the Word of God declares that "every man in his own order" after the death of Christ. (ICorinthians 15:23.)

23, "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."

Thus the dead in Christ will be raised first, every man in his own order. Then shall those who are alive be caught up and changed. But we all, both the dead and alive, shall meet Christ in the clouds together.

16, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."

"For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven..." Our Lord Jesus Himself will come to receive us unto Himself. Here the scripture indicates that our Lord will physically come to get us. In the Gospel of John 14:1-3, our Lord stated in verse three:

3, "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."

Our Lord promised that He would come and receive us unto Himself. Many today teach that Jesus will never physically come again. But the scriptures prove differently. Our Lord will come again and receive His Church unto Himself.

The phrase "coming of the Lord" in verse 15, explains the beginning of verse 16, Jesus' descent is called His coming. The coming is translated: "parousia" which means "presence or arrival." Our Lord will physically be here to meet us.

"...with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel..." The shout, the announcement of victory for the Church. The voice of the Archangel to proclaim that Christ is here, as He promised to take those who are ready for His gathering. The voice of shout will be Michael, the Archangel. Archangel in Greek means:

Archaggelos- A chief angel - Archangel

Arch- To be first (in political rank or power): reign (rule) over

Aggelos- To bring tidings, a messenger:esp. an "Angel"

The chief angel of Heaven will announce the coming of our Lord for the Church.

"...with the trump of God..." The trump of God will sound. This blast will sound the alarm of the Rapture. This sound will get the attention of the world, living and dead. The trump of God at the Rapture has been confused with the trump of the seven trumpet judgment of God in Revelation 8;2, 6-13, 9:1-21 and 11:15. As a result, many would use these verses to claim that the Church will be raptured at the middle of the Great Tribulation Period. The scriptures are clear that these are two different trumpets sounding. The blowing of the trumpet in IThessalonians 4:13-18 is a trump of victory and the trumpet of Revelation 8:13 are trumpets of woe and judgement in the Tribulation.

"...and the dead in Christ shall rise first..." After the Archangel sounds the trump, the dead in Christ will be raised. Note: The emphasis is on the dead in Christ. At the Rapture those who have died in Christ will be risen first. The scripture declares "Blessed are the dead." (Revelation 14:13.)

13, "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, 'Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."

"...Then we which are alive and remain..." As stated earlier, a condition was given for those who are alive at the point of Rapture. The saints of God that hath continued with Him will be caught up; those who have overcome the world and the devil. Many that are not saved and are in a back-slid condition will not be raptured.

"...shall be caught up together with them in the clouds." Those that die in Jesus, and those that are alive and remain, shall be gathered together in the clouds. At this time we will be seized, caught up, taken by force to meet Jesus in the air.

"...And so shall we ever be with the Lord." Those that are raptured will forever be with the Lord. The door of Rapture will be the end of struggle for the righteous and they will be delivered from temptation and test from the devil.

"...Wherefore comfort one another with these words." The Doctrine of the Rapture is a message of comfort. The Apostle Paul commanded us to comfort one another with these words. The Rapture should be taught in every church to give the blessed hope and comfort of the soon return of Jesus for His Church.

Different views of the Rapture

There are many views being taught on the subject of the Rapture. The four different views addressed here are:

1. Post Tribulationist

2. Pre-wrath Tribulationist

3. Mid-Tribulationist

4. Pre-Tribulationist

Post Tribulationist view: Teaches that the Church will be raptured at the end of the Great Tribulation Period. They believe that at the Second Coming of Christ, the church will be caught up to meet Jesus and then simultaneously return with Christ.

Pre-wrath Tribulationist view: Teaches that the Church will be raptured at the middle of the last three and a half years of the Great Tribulation Period. This is the newest view on the scene.

Mid-Tribulationist view: Teaches that the Church will be raptured in the middle of the Great Tribulation Period.

Pre-Tribulationist view: Teaches that the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation Period. This view, I believe, stands the test of the scriptures for many reasons:

The Church has not been called to the wrath of God. The scriptures teach that the events of the Great Tribulation Period is the wrath of God. (Revelation 6:16, 17; 15:7, 8.) Christ hath delivered us from the wrath to come. (IThessalonians 1:10; Romans 5:9; John 3:36; Luke 21:36.) The Church will not go through the Great Tribulation Period.

The difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ

I believe the reason there are so many views on the Rapture is because many Bible students don't know the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. These are two separate and distinct comings of our Lord. At the Rapture of the Church, Christ will not touch the earth, but will be met in the air by the saints. (IThess. 4:17.) At the Second Coming, He will touch the earth at His coming. (Zech. 14:4; Acts 1:11.) At the Rapture, He will come as a deliverer of the Church in joyous splendor. In the Second Coming, He will come back to deliver Israel physically and fight against the anti-christ and his fouls. (Rev. 19:11-21.)

Rapture-

I Thessalonians 4:17: "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."

Second Coming-

Zechariah 14:4: "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and the half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."

Acts 1:11: "Which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."

The results of the Rapture of the Church

The Rapture of the Church will accomplish many things in the plan of God.

1. It will take the Church out of the world before the Great Tribulation Period begins. (IThessalonians 4:13-16; 1:10.)

2. The Rapture will cause the resurrection of the righteous dead and the catching up of the living saints to life immortal. (IThessalonians 4:15, 17; John 5:28, 29; Daniel 12:2; ICorinthians 15:50-57.)

3. The Rapture of the Church will mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation because after the Church is taken out, the anti-christ will come on the scene. (Revelation 6:1, 2.)

4. The Church will be taken so the Lord can finish His prophetic dealing with the nation of Israel. (Daniel 9:26,27.)

5. The message of the rapture produces comfort and gives a strong foundation of hope to the saints. (IThessalonians 4:18.)

The promise and warning regarding the Rapture

From our study, we know that the Lord has promised to come for the Church. Jesus said that He would receive us unto Himself, and where He is we would be with Him. (John 14:1-4.)

3, "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."

Just as our Lord gave the promise, He also gave warnings regarding the Rapture. Those who will be raptured will be those who are saved and washed in the Blood of Christ. The Church has to be separate from the world. Those who are, Jesus will receive them. (IICorinthians 6:14-18.)

17, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you."

Jesus gave a warning to the Church as a whole when he sent the seven letters to the Churches. In one of his letters, he warned the Church called Thyatira by telling them to repent from their sins. If not, they would be cast into the Great Tribulation Period. Those who are cast will not be raptured. (Revelation 2:18-23.)

22, "Behold I will cast her into a bed and them that commit adultery with her into Great Tribulation except they repent of their deeds."

Christians have an obligation to warn back-slidden Christians and sinners that Jesus is coming back to take our glorious Church. (Ephesians 5:26, 27.)

27, "That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such things; but that it should be holy and without blemish."