What is the rapture?

In recent years the rapture has been brought to popular attention through the Left Behind series of books and movies. The rapture is a doctrine that has caught the public’s attention time and time again since the mid-1800’s. Though some opponents claim the rapture is a recent theological development, church history reveals the rapture was believed and taught very early in the second century just decades after the death of John, the last living apostle.

The rapture is the event when Jesus resurrects the bodies of believers who have passed away and carries off the earth all living believers. The rapture is the next event of world history that has been foretold in Bible prophecy. When the rapture happens every Christian on the earth will suddenly be gone. Some teach that the rapture will take place in waves, with faithful Christians going up at the beginning and others at later times during the Tribulation depending on how faithful they have been. The Bible gives no hint of a partial rapture. In every place it discusses the catching away of Christians the promises includes all believers. None of God’s children will be left behind. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together”. All living believers will be caught up with the Lord when He comes for His church. This is indeed a great comfort to Christians.

Three passages in the New Testament speak of the rapture: John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15: and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Two of the three passages are intended to give comfort to Christians and the third encourages faithfulness in Christian service. As a result, many questions about the rapture cannot be answered from direct Biblical teaching, Those who think about the rapture make many deductions based on other Bible doctrines and logical reasoning. When describing the rapture, great care needs to be taken to separate deduction and speculation from Biblical teaching.

The Bible describes the rapture as taking place with the shout of an archangel and the sound of an angelic trumpet. Jesus will descend from heaven into the earth’s atmosphere, but He will not descend all the way to the earth. All believers, living and dead, will then ascend into the air to be united with Jesus. At the rapture, all the saved will be transformed. Their physical bodies will be replaced with glorified, spiritual bodies. The change will happen more quickly than the eye can see. The raptured saints will then be taken into heaven and begin to enjoy eternal joy with the Lord.