"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
This event will occur at breakneck speed - in the "twinkling of an eye." Scientists have measured the twinkling in a human being's eye, and it amounts to eleven-one hundredths of a second. Those left on the earth will not know what hit them. A business colleague will suddenly be gone. A schoolteacher will no longer stand before his or her desk as the chalk falls to the floor. A doctor will not show up for his rounds. There will be no nurses at many hospitals to administer medicine, take pulses, or follow doctors' orders. Dirty dishes will be left in the sink as a housewife disappears from the view of her stunned family. The Rapture will precipitate the greatest traffic jams in history as cars suddenly become driverless and pedestrians run for cover. It will be that moment in history, when, without warning, the Lord says, "Come up hither" (Revelation 4:1After 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 shew thee things which must be hereafter.Revelation 4 verse 1). It will be the greatest escape in the history of the world.
There are those who say that the pretribulational viewpoint began in 1830 and was propagated by Edward Irving, J. N. Darby, and Margaret McDonald, a retarded girl. But as we shall see, that is not so.
St. Victorinus, the bishop of Pettau, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in AD 270. He said he saw another great and wonderful sign: "Seven angels having the last seven plagues, for in them is completed the indignation of God. And these shall be in the last time when the church shall have gone out of the midst." St. Victorinus was talking about the Rapture.
Here is more powerful documentation on a pretrib Rapture. The early Christian writer and poet Ephraem the Syrian (who lived from AD 306 to 373) was a major theologian of the early Byzantine Eastern Church. To this day, his hymns and homilies are used in the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox and Middle Eastern Nestorian Churches. He also wrote a large number of commentaries that have never been translated in English. Concerning a pretrib Rapture he stated:
"All the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins."
Thus, this teaching is not a present-day innovation but a doctrinal statement dating back seventeen centuries to St. Victorinus, and twenty centuries back to Jesus and Paul. However, there is more. In the sixteenth century there were also those who expressed absolute assurance of the Rapture. Hugh Latimer, burned at the stake for his faith in 1555, said, "It may come in my days, old as I am, or in my children's days, the saints shall be taken up to meet Christ in the air and so shall come down with him again." Joseph Mede, the great sixteenth-century literalist, understood 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18(verse 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.
(verse 14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
(verse 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.
(verse 16) 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:
(verse 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.
(verse 18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4 verses 13-18 to teach the catching up of the saints and even used the word Rapture. This was also 250 years before Irving, Darby, and McDonald.
While the Rapture is not taught in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you will find it mentioned twice in the Gospel of John. This is important to remember: Any other time you read about Christ's return in the Gospels, it is not referring to the Rapture. Instead, these are references to the second phase of Christ's return (the Second Coming), when He physically comes back to earth to rule over the earth after a seven-year tribulation period.
Where are the two Rapture texts found in the Gospel of John?
Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:1-3
This is not His coming to the earth, but a time when Jesus receives us unto Himself at the great Rapture - the snatching away - to be with Him in heaven as the seven years of torment play out their unbridled fury on the earth.
The second reference to the Rapture is in John 11:25-26. I must confess that I quoted the passage for years and did not really understand it. Christ said:
I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Jesus is contrasting those who experience death and live again ("the dead in Christ shall rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16For 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:1 Thessalonians 4 verse 16) with those who never experience death (because "we which are alive and remain" are caught up without dying. 1 Thessalonians 4:17Then 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.1 Thessalonians 4 verse 17).
In the upcoming weeks, we will direct our attention to those events that are leading up to the Rapture, the Rapture itself, and what happens once God's chosen are caught away to be with the Lord. The Rapture is not science fiction. It's a coming reality. The good news for the person who is prepared is - when the Rapture comes, believers will go home to be with the Lord and evade earth's horrendous seven years of Tribulation. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will, at long last, be the recipient of that blessed hope. There will be no more tears, no more suffering, and no more dying for those who have received their new, glorified bodies without sin or sickness for all eternity. It is from this perspective - the pretribulation point of view - that I approach this subject with godly reverence.
Jesus could come at any moment. Are you living for God? Will you be ready?
For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NLT)
...But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10
Matthew 25:1-13(verse 1) Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
(verse 2) And five of them were wise, and five [were] foolish.
(verse 3) They that [were] foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
(verse 4) But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
(verse 5) While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
(verse 6) And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
(verse 7) Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
(verse 8) And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
(verse 9) But the wise answered, saying, [Not so]; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
(verse 10) And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
(verse 11) Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
(verse 12) But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
(verse 13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.Matthew 25 verses 1-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.1 Thessalonians 5 verse 2, 2 Peter 3:10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.2 Peter 3 verse 10