Week Seven: The Rapture of the Church

Did you know the word “rapture” is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture? Don’t panic, let me explain. The English word “rapture” comes from a Latin word, “rapio,” which is simply the translation for the Greek word, “harpazo” which is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. “Harpazo” means “to catch up” or “to be carried away” and is used 14 times in the New Testament, [not all referring to the rapture] (davidjeremiah.org). The rapture is most definitely biblical, and something all Christians can look forward to. Charles Ryrie says, “the rapture is a state of experience of being carried away. The Rapture of the Church means the carrying away of the church from earth to heaven” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 147).

The rapture is reserved for believers who receive(d) Christ in the Church Age. The rapture is promised by Jesus in John 14:1-3 which says, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also(NASB1995). Isn’t that a wonderful promise?

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is perhaps the most famous passage about the rapture. Paul spoke a lot about the End Times in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Apparently there were some Thessalonian Christians who were worried that their loved ones who had died in Christ would not be able to take part in the rapture. Paul comforted them with the affirmation that loved ones in Christ will be raptured first! Paul refers to “the dead in Christ” as “asleep.” In fact, many early Christians referred to cemeteries as temporary “sleeping places,” used in a similar way that we use the word “hotel.” It’s interesting that the Bible never refers to unbelievers as “asleep” in death. Only those who have died “in Christ” are said to be asleep. This is not to be confused with “soul sleep” which some religions teach – the Bible does not teach this. Our souls are definitely NOT asleep at death. Paul says, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Our souls are more alive than ever after death. Our bodies however are temporarily suspended from physical activity when we die (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 145).

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives a chronological sequence of the rapture (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 148). “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (NASB1995). Check out the bold portions of the verse above for the progression of events. Fruchtenbaum says, “Once [we] have been united with Him in the air, [we] will permanently remain with Him and return with Him into heaven, as already promised in John 14:1-3(The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 148).

The rapture will happen in an instant. Paul says “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NASB1995). Fruchtenbaum says that the Greek word for “instant” is “atomos.” It’s the same word from which we get the English word “atom.” “The emphasis is that the change will happen in an ‘atom’ of time. It will be that quick. Furthermore, it will be in the twinkling of an eye. This is not a reference to blinking, but rather to a sudden flash of recognition. It is like seeing a person, and then in a sudden flash recognizing who he is. It is the sudden flash of recognition that is meant by the ‘twinkling of an eye,’ and so, the expression also emphasizes the rapidity of the change” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 149).

What will be changed? 1 Corinthians 15:53 says, “for this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (NASB1995). Our mortal bodies cannot inherit the kingdom of God because of the corruption of sin. The same is true for our loved ones’ bodies who have died in Christ. That is why only the immaterial part of us (our soul and spirit) goes to be with Jesus when we die, but the material part of us (our bodies) remain in the grave, waiting for the rapture. At the rapture, the bodies of those who have died in Christ will be resurrected and changed into glorified bodies. At the moment of the rapture, our bodies will exchange the corruptible for the incorruptible and be forever changed.

It’s hard to say what our glorified bodies will be like, but we can learn a lot from Jesus’ glorified body. We know HIs voice was recognizable, and His body was embraceable – indicating that it had flesh and bone. Jesus was also able to eat and even walk through walls! (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 150).

When will the this event take place? There are many views on the timing of the rapture. I believe the Bible teaches a pre-tribulational rapture. Fruchtenbaum says, “no biblical passage that discusses the tribulation mentions the church” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 151). He goes on to say that in the book of Revelation, “the church is clearly found in chapters 1-3, dealing with the events prior to the tribulation” but is not referred to again until chapters 19-22, dealing with post tribulation events” (p. 151). 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 tells us that believers will be “delivered from the wrath to come.” The reason for this can be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, that believers were not “destined for wrath.” Instead, we are destined for salvation. Fruchtenbaum says that this salvation is in the future tense and is not soteriological, but eschatological, referring to the redemption of the body (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 153).

The rapture is not only pre-tribulational, but imminent. Jesus could literally come at any moment. Fruchtenbaum says that because of this imminency, believers need to awaken from sleep (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 155). As believers, we need not fear, but be confident in God who has promised to deliver us from the wrath to come and take us to be with Him.

Paul says in Philippians 3:20-21, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Week Seven: Homework Reflections

Day One: A Comforting Promise

  1. Read John 14:1-3 and record what you learn about Jesus’ promise.
  2. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. List the sequence of events of the rapture.
  3. How do these passages comfort your heart?

Day Two: Exchanging the Corruptible for the Incorruptible

  1. Today we are going to look at 1 Cornithians 15:35-58. Take a moment to read it. The New Living Translation is a little easier to read and understand. I included it in the gold link above.
  2. List everything you learn about your fleshly body and why it can’t inherit the Kingdom of God.
  3. List everything you learn about the rapture and the glorified body you will receive that will inherit the Kingdom.

Day Three: Glorified Transformation

  1. Yesterday we looked in depth at 1 Corinthians 15: 35-58. How did verses 54-58 encourage your heart? What does verse 58 specifically encourage you to do and why? I love that we can be strong and immovable because of the hope we have in Christ!
  2. Read John 20:1-29, and Luke 24:41-43 and note what you learn about Jesus’ glorified body. How are present day believers included in John 20:29?
  3. Read Philippians 3:20-21. What do you learn from this passage about our bodies and our citizenship? Now read 1 John 3:1-3. What will happen when we see Him?

Day Four: Pre-Trib Rapture

  1. Read Luke 21:34-36. Will anyone on earth be exempt from the Tribulation? What is the only way of escape?
  2. Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. How does this verse present a pre-Trib rapture view?
  3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. List everything you learn pertaining to the End Times. What verse clues you in on the idea of a pre-Trib rapture view? (hint: what are we destined for or not destined for?) What exhortation does Paul give in verse 11 that is based on the previous 10 verses?

Day Five: Imminency of the Rapture

  1. Read the following passages and record how each one suggests that the rapture is imminent: John 21:20-23, Romans 13:11-12, James 5:7-9, Rev. 22:20.
  2. Read 2 Peter 3. What encouragement do you find in this chapter? How does it relate to our study this week?
  3. Read Romans 13. In the first 10 verses, Paul is exhorting believers on how to live. Verses 11-12 explain why we are to live this way, and verses 13-14 re-emphasize the point. What do you learn from this chapter that relates to the nearness of our Lord’s return?

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