For many years, the popular evangelical teaching about the coming rapture of the church has dominated Christian prophecy teachings in many circles. The rapture of the church is still a very popular teaching as evidenced by the success of the Left Behind series. All Christians agree that one day the church will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. This is very clear from I Thessalonians 4: 13-18. Verse 17 says, “After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” All Christians have this event to look forward to. That is literally all Christians will be there on that day when they are caught up to be with the Lord. There will not be a single believer left behind. The church will be totally complete. There won’t be a church that is caught up and then have those left behind who will become believers through a time of tribulation. When this catching up takes place the church will be complete both Jew and Gentile. There will be no further conversions. All those believers who have died will be there. That includes all Old Testament believers and all believers that are still alive will be there. No one will be left out. I Thessalonians 4:13 -15 says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” All Christians have this great reunion to look forward to. There definitely will be a catching up of the church to meet the Lord in the air on the Last Day when Jesus returns.
This Great Day is what we as Christians look forward to. It is talked about in the New Testament several times. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:51-52 – “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Here Paul is talking about the same event as he did in
I Thessalonians above. This is the Last Day. The last trumpet sounds and then the long awaited resurrection takes place. It will be a glorious day for God’s people. Jesus had promised it to those who believe in Him. In John 6:40 Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” We look forward to the Last Day as Christians for it will be the day of our redemption.
However, it will be a dreadful day for those who do not know the Lord. Jesus says in John 12:48 – “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” There is a day of condemnation coming for those who reject the Lord. It is also at the last day. Jesus says in John 5:28-29, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” So, the last day will be a day of condemnation for those who have rejected the Lord.
The popular teaching today presents the rapture as a way of escape from this doomed and condemned world. Many await the rapture with great expectation believing that it will certainly come soon. Then we will escape this world and leave everything and everyone behind to face the great tribulation. Yet, the Lord Jesus said, “Occupy till I come.” (Luke 19:13b – KJV) If we are focusing on a so called rapture and escape in the future, are we really doing what Jesus has put us here for. Did not Jesus give us the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations and then promised to be with us to the very end of the age? (Matthew 28:18-20) The Greek indicates that his promise was to be with us to the very last day of this age. Now, that sounds like He wants us to stay here doing His work and carrying out his commission right up to the very end. Yet, today Christians await a rapture to take them out of the way before the end of the age comes. They await an escape that will take them up, up and away from the work the Lord put them here to do in the first place. We will be satisfied if we have just given a witness to the nations before we leave. It seems that we could care less that so many nations today have a very low percentage of Christians. As long as there is one church in each people group, that will suffice. We have done our duty to witness to the nations. That’s enough. No matter that the majority of the people in the world are without Christ and will face an eternity of condemnation for their sins.
Of course, we all look forward to being united with the Lord and our loved ones when He returns. In that sense, we do await that glorious day when the Lord shall meet us in the air. It is only right that we should long for that day of His return. Yet, having said that, today’s popular teaching on the rapture and return of Christ seems to be promoting a kind of Christian escapism that is foreign to what the Lord had in mind for His church. He did not put us here to focus on escaping this world but rather to make this world a better place. We do that best by obeying His command to make disciples of all nations, of all peoples and teaching them to obey His commandments. We are to influence this world for good to be shining lights and the salt of the earth. We are to be like yeast that leavens the whole lump by its influence on the world.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise.