THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
Here are my notes for the teaching I gave at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, December 9, 2018. Advent is a season of waiting for Jesus. The first sign of the return of Jesus is what is called the Rapture of the Church.
INTRODUCTION: CHANGE IS COMING
Today, we start a new teaching series called The End. We're focused on four events that will change the world. These are not small changes. No, they are massive disruptions, bigger than anything that has ever happened. They will bring the world as we know it to an end. There are three reasons this teaching series matters to all of us:
The End takes up a lot of space in the Bible, so it's something God wants us to know. And because God wants us to know it, that makes it relevant, important, and necessary for all of us.
The End is personal. It will affect all of us. No one gets a pass. But it will affect people in different ways. There are some people who will benefit from the massive changes and some people who will suffer incredible loss. This teaching will help you move into the group that benefits, if you're not already there.
The End is practical. God reveals it to us to give us courage and confidence to go through the struggles of life. This series will show us the practical and positive ways the End can affect our lives.
Before we go any further, let me say that there are differences in opinion about these events. The differences are based on how scholars interpret various passages in books such as Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. Because the events haven't happened yet, there is no 20/20 hindsight, so there are bound to be disagreements.
I'm giving you my opinion. I'm somewhat confident it is correct, but I won't be surprised if it's not. I respect the other views, but I won't be covering them here in this series. There isn't time and this isn't the setting. If your views differ from mine, I respect you. We can disagree and still be friends in Christ.
Today, we're going to look at the first event that will change the world and cause massive disruption: what theologians call the Rapture of the church.
THE BIBLE AND THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
Rapture is an English word that comes from the Latin to "catch up" or "catch away." The rapture is a future event in which believers receive a resurrection body and are caught up to meet Jesus in the air. Here are three Bible passages that I believe refer to the rapture of the church:
John 14: Jesus confirmed that he will come back for us.
(John 14:1-3) Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Jesus used the picture of a common practice in ancient Israel. After a man and woman got engaged, the man went back to his parents' home and began building an extra room on the side. When it was finished, he gathered his friends and they marched in procession to get his bride for the wedding day. After the wedding, they moved into the room he had built.
Jesus was using this commonplace picture to teach us that he is currently preparing heaven for his bride, the church. The rapture happens when he comes back to take us to be with him.
1 Corinthians 15: Paul confirmed the transformation of all believers.
(1 Corinthians 15:51-52) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
The Rapture involves:
A revelation. Paul called it a "mystery" because it was not revealed in the Old Testament. Jesus revealed it first (John 14:1-3), and now Paul is giving us details.
A transformation. Not all believers will sleep (die), but all believers will be raised in bodies that are a glorious, powerful, spiritual, and indestructible (verses 42-44).
A disruption. This is an amazing, super-charged transformation. It happens in a flash - "in a moment (atomos), in the twinkling of an eye."
Pastor David Jeremiah jokes that he's hoping for the upper-taker not the undertaker.
1 Thessalonians 4: Paul confirmed that Christ will come for his church.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18) According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Jesus told Paul the details of the rapture, a sequence of four events:
Jesus will appear and it will be noisy.
Believers who already died will be raised.
Believers who have not died will be caught up with them into the sky.
All believers will meet Jesus in the sky and will be with him forever.
We don't have to be dead to meet Jesus. Some of us will never die. Instead, we'll be caught up to be with Jesus forever.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RAPTURE
When will the Rapture occur? It can happen at any time, but we don't know the exact time. Jesus told his disciples not to guess (Acts 1:7).
What signs or events must precede the Rapture? There are no signs. However, there are prequels of the events that follow the Rapture. At least two of these are present now: the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in its homeland, and increasing tensions in the middle-east.
Who will participate in the Rapture? Only church-age believers; that is, those who are "in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Old Testament believers will raised after the millennial reign of Christ on the earth (Daniel 12:1-3; Revelation 20:5). Unbelievers will be raised for the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
What happens to believers after they meet Jesus in the air? Believers appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) to receive their rewards and assignments in the millennial Kingdom of Christ. Jesus promised to take us to the Father's house (John 14:3). Revelation 5:15-19 and 19:1-4 mention twenty-four elders around the throne and these elders may represent the raptured church. Revelation 7, although its focus is on Tribulation martyrs, describes what the Father's house will be like for us:
(Revelation 7:9, 13-15) After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands ... 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
What is the next world-changing event after the Rapture? It is the seven-year period known as the Tribulation. It will be a time of unparalleled chaos, demonic activity, and suffering on the earth (Revelation 6-18). The Tribulation is a manifestation of God's wrath on an unbelieving world. We'll focus on the Tribulation next Sunday.
What is the purpose of the Rapture? First, to rescue believers from God's punishment that will be poured out on the world during the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 5:9; Revelation 3:10). Then, to keep us alert and on track with Jesus during our long wait (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). Finally, to keep his promise to come back and take us to where he is, in the Father's house (John 14:1-3).
How should we prepare for the Rapture? Learn it, live in light of it, share it, pray it.
Learn about the End-times and use what you know to encourage people (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Stay confident. Yes, there are days when we doubt that Jesus is coming, but he promised and he will keep his word (John 14:1).
Talk about Jesus to everyone. Be the light (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11).
Walk the talk. Live loving, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled lives (Titus 2:11-14).
Serve energetically. (1 Corinthians 15:58) "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
Watch and pray. Ask Christ to come for his church really soon. (1 Corinthians 16:22) "Come, Lord." The early Christians identified themselves to each other with this prayer or statement. It's actually an Aramaic phrase, Maranatha" - "our Lord come!"
This is a great week to visit our book table. There are all sorts of great resources for learning more about the End. This is your opportunity to grow deep and wise about God's plan for planet earth.
To understand more about the book of Revelation, go online to: