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Monday, May 23, 2011

4 Things We Need to Know About the Rapture

So the world waited with baited breath for May 21st to pass, and nothing happened.  What now?  Does this mean it is time to sit back in confidence because God isn't in any hurry to return?  It seems that all I am currently hearing on the television and elsewhere is some mocking laughter at the naive notion Christians have about this thing they call "the Rapture."  I even heard some mockery of the whole concept on the Nightline segment "A Sign of the Times," this weekend.

Frankly, I don't think the Rapture is a concept to be mocked--not by Christians, anyway.  So let's clear the air and talk about the Rapture.

What is the Rapture?

The term "Rapture" does not appear anywhere in Scripture, but it is a term used among Christians to name the incident described in prophecy, when Christ will descend from the clouds with a shout and the sound of trumpets, and first the dead Christians, then the living ones, will be taken instantly into the clouds to join Him (1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 50-58).

While I don't think there will be enough time for latecomers to change their minds and "catch the bus as it leaves town," because the Bible says it will happen "in the twinkling of an eye," I do feel that this will not be an event that will go unnoticed.  I think the shouting and the trumpets are to get the whole world's attention, and I think they will all look up and see that it has happened (note, I said it will have already happened when they see).  I think many will believe in God after seeing it, and be filled with dismay (Matthew 24: 30-31).  I do imagine that someone will call it "the Day of the Disappearances," but I don't think many will miss the presence of Christians--I think they will view them as a nuisance and a source of guilt that has been finally removed, much as the Nazis celebrated the removal of the Jews from their homes during the war.

When is the Rapture Coming?

Jesus told us with extreme bluntness that God knows when the Rapture is coming, but even Jesus hadn't been told, because God wants us to always be in a state of readiness (Matthew 24: 36-44).  God does not want to see us putting off repentance until the last moment necessary, so He is not sharing with us what that last moment will be.

There are those who have tried before to predict the Rapture, and they have failed.  Take, for instance, the Millerites (now called Seventh Day Adventists), a religious group who formed around the idea that the Rapture and the end of the world would come on October 22, 1844.  These followers of William Miller quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and gathered to await the Rapture on that date, but were horrified when it didn't come.  It also didn't come in 1845, on several projected "date corrections." Eventually many gave up and left the group, while others sought to rewrite their primary beliefs to eliminate this error.

I know that eventually, someone might say that the Rapture is tomorrow, and be right--but I believe this will be an accident, not some secret knowledge that God has shared with only a few.  If God didn't share this information with His own Son, and He didn't share it with the disciples who personally knew Him on Earth, why would He leak this secret information to others?  I have faith that God will do just as He has said--He will come like a thief in the night, when no one has planned for it and when few are ready for it.  Therefore, let us be wary of following anyone who claims to predict the date of the Rapture.

Is the Rapture the end of the world?

There are three theories among Christians about when the Rapture will occur.  Some say it will be before the 7 year reign of the Antichrist (thus signaling the end of the world as we know it); some say it will be at the half-way (3 1/2 year) mark, at the Desecration that will cause desolation;  and finally, some say it will be at the end of the 7 years (the end of the world), at the time of the battle of Armageddon.

Personally, I have studied all three and prefer the pre-Antichrist theory, but I am prepared for any of them.  It doesn't matter when it happens, as long as our hearts are ready for Christ to return, right?  In any case, the Rapture is not the only sign of the end of the world, but it is definitely one of them.  The rest are outlined primarily in the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, and John (who wrote the book of Revelation). 

How do we prepare for the Rapture?

When the Rapture happens, Jesus is taking the Christians to be with Him--leaving the unrepentant and disobedient to be punished and judged.  If you want to be prepared for the Rapture, prepare your heart today, and don't wait to be counted among the ones left behind.  This means repent of your sins, and call upon God to (1) remove from you the reproach of past sins with the redeeming blood of Christ's sacrifice, (2) teach you how to live righteously and flee from all future sin.  You don't want to be caught sinning when Christ returns!

Jesus did add another charge to this preparation--to be found doing what God has called us to do in His service.  As Jesus said, "“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns," (Matthew 24: 45-46 NIV 2011).  Those who do not know the Lord are not His servants, and therefore do not understand His will or do it.  So today, if you already know Christ, I charge you to find out what tasks God has made you to accomplish, and get busy doing them.  It will have the added benefit of developing in you the nature of Christ.

Let us get ready for Christ's coming, because it could be any day now.  Until then, let us all behave like fitting servants of God, so that the world will find out about how great He is before it is too late for them!  I leave you today with the haunting and challenging lyrics of Larry Norman's 1969 hit, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," here performed by D.C. Talk in 1997.