As I got into my car and pulled out onto what is normally a busy thoroughfare for that time of day, I was struck by the fact that there were no other vehicles on the road. As I hit a stretch of the highway where I could see for quite a distance, there still were no cars in sight. At one time, such an eerie occurrence may have caused me to joke about the rapture having occurred and my having been left behind. However, it wasn’t long before I did encounter other drivers and, unfortunately, the traffic became more typically congested.
As you probably know, “the rapture” refers to an event in which believers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air prior to a time of great tribulation in the world, followed by the visible return of Christ. Although this is a relatively new concept in the long history of Christian thought, it is a prevalent idea that many like myself had accepted. However, years ago I diligently searched what the scriptures said about this event and changed my views. Why?
The Bible clearly refers to followers of Jesus being “caught up” or raptured to meet the Lord in the air (I Thessalonians 4:17). Nevertheless, this event isn’t pictured separately from Christ’s visible return. The Second Coming isn’t described as two distinct stages separated by a period of seven years. Jesus is pictured as returning with everyone seeing it and knowing what is going on, collecting His followers from the earth, and then bringing judgment on the wicked. The Bible says nothing about a “secret” rapture. The idea of Jesus coming like “a thief in the night” is referring to it being unexpected, not secretive – that we need to watch and be prepared for it. Once a thief breaks in, you know it. And when Jesus returns, the world will know it.
Additionally, the Bible indicates that certain other events must take place before His followers are taken out of this world, including the revealing of “the man of sin,” whom some identify with the Antichrist. The book of Revelation also suggests that believers will be present during at least some of the tribulations leading up to Christ’s return. They will face opposition, persecution, and even martyrdom. I encourage you to try to set aside preconceived ideas and simply reexamine what the Bible says about this issue yourself.
Why is it important? What difference does it make as long as we’re ready to meet Jesus? Some people use the rapture as an excuse not to resist the evil that is rising in the world today. They resign themselves to the fact that conditions are going to get worse, but “at least I’m not going to be here to have to deal with it.” Whether we’re going to be here or not, we shouldn’t shirk our responsibility to stand up for truth, to resist the devil, and to seek to spare the world from the upsurge of evil.
I’m also afraid that some people are so convinced they aren’t going to have to face the Great Tribulation that if they find themselves having to do so, it will cause them to stumble in their faith. They’re prepared to go be with Jesus, but they aren’t ready to suffer and face persecution. We need to get ready to share in the sufferings of Christ, to face strong opposition, and to be committed to following Jesus even if it means imprisonment or death.
Will you honestly search the scriptures about this matter? Whatever you conclude, don’t let the concept of the rapture keep you from fulfilling your responsibilities now or hinder you from being ready for what may be coming in this world in the days ahead.