The Rapture. The name is Latin for “caught up”. It basically comes from one particular verse in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:17:
“then we who are alive, who are left, shall 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.”
The Rapture has inspired a whole series of fictional books called the “Left Behind” series. In it, the saved are “raptured” into heaven, while the unsaved are left behind to fend for themselves on earth.
The rapture is a mysterious disappearance of people, who leave their clothes here on earth. Cars which were driven by the saved are left unmanned. The folks left behind are in a quandary as to what happened. A great tribulation then comes upon the earth, and the anti-christ makes his appearance. The ones left behind then get a second chance at salvation, if they can withstand the forces of the world-uniting anti-christ. Then Jesus returns again to defeat the antichrist.
None of this, except for the overall premise of a rapture is biblical. Why? Well for starters, the Bible says in Revelation 1:7:
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
In the Left Behind series, no eye sees Jesus. Everyone left behind is clueless as to what is going on. It’s plain that if they had seen Jesus, they would know what was going on.
The second problem with this series is that there are two “second comings” of Jesus. Once when the people mysteriously disappear, and then again when Jesus returns again and defeats the antichrist. The bible speaks of one and only one coming of Jesus Christ, not two. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, it says the following:
“For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.”
The third problem with these books is that the saved escape the tribulation on earth by being raptured. Matthew 24:21-22:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
In the above verses, Jesus tells us about the great tribulation, and also explains that the days of this misery on earth will be shortened for the sake of the elect. That means that the elect, or God’s people, still have to be on earth when the tribulation occurs, and not yet raptured into heaven.
The fourth problem is that the people raptured in the Left Behind series sans clothes are not raptured on the last day of earth. In the novels, there are more days left for the antichrist to wreak havoc on the earth. We know from John 6:54 that the dead will be raised on the last day:
“he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day”
And we also know from Paul that the rapture will take place after the dead are raised. 1 Thessalonians 4:14- 17:
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall 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.”
And what of the thousand year reign of Christ on earth? It is mentioned in Revelation 20:4:
“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. “
Well, we know from the pen of Peter that a thousand years is as a day to the Lord, and a day is like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:1).
And what about the very premise of being “left behind”? The bible says in Matthew 24:37 - 41:
“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.”
In the days of Noah, the saved were left behind on earth, Noah and his family. The unsaved were taken from this earth, and presumably didn’t make it to heaven. Therefore, if the end of the world is similar to those days, as the bible says, being left behind may mean that you will still be here on earth to be raptured later on. The ones taken may be like the flood victims in Noah’s time, and die.
One of the really big assumptions in the Left Behind series is that the saved will rise up to meet Jesus in the clouds, and then they and Jesus return to heaven to await the tribulation and the final judgment. But that isn’t biblical either. Nowhere in the bible does it say that Jesus will do a U-turn back into heaven at the rapture. Rather, the bible says that Jesus and his kingdom will descend to earth and become the new kingdom (Revelation 11:15 and Revelation 21:2). And the bible also says that we will be judged on that day, the last day, in John 12:48:
“He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.”
So go ahead and read the Left Behind series if you must, but remember, hardly any of it is biblical. The learned and educated religious people of the Bible didn’t understand the first coming of Christ. Just so, a lot of learned and educated religious people today don’t understand the rapture any better than the Pharisees and the Sadducees did the first time. But, they sure make a lot of money by selling books about their personal opinion of the events surrounding the rapture.
So will the Rapture happen? YES, but it will be a one time event, on the last day of our earthly existence, after the dead have been raised, and it will be seen and witnessed by all.