Church of God, New World Ministries

The Rapture:Lift-Off or Letdown?

Many an average person on the street may never have even heard of it until watching religious programs on television or reading the newspaper. The “rapture”? What’s that?

Large numbers of churchgoers in various religious denominations hear all about it, and often. They live in constant expectation of it. “Christ may come tonight and snatch the church away to heaven,” the minister assures in revival meetings, in Sunday church services and on television.

Such a snatching away or “rapture” of the church, it is claimed, will be the next great prophetic event. And it may take place at any moment, they say!

It is generally supposed to happen this way: Strife, crime, evildoing in the world will become increasingly worse. Civilization will plunge headlong toward a time of intense trouble. Suddenly, just before the world arrives at a period of calamity called “the tribulation,” we are told, Jesus will return invisibly and snatch away, “rapture” all “born-again” Christians – and, some say, all babies and young children. Jesus, we are assured, will take them to heaven, away from world turmoil, for perhaps 3 1/2 or seven years. It will be a sudden, yet secret event. No one will see it happen. Only the effects, empty cars, empty houses, workers missing from their jobs, will be apparent.

Some suggest what the newspaper headlines will be the day after: “Millions Mysteriously Vanish!” “Graves Found Open and Empty,” “Massive Traffic Snarls Due to Missing Drivers,” “All Children Have Disappeared!”

They go on to describe how all the people who are left on earth will have to go through 3 1/2 or seven years of terrible trouble and punishment. Then, according to this teaching, Christ will return from heaven once again, bringing all His saints with Him. This time it will not be in secret. The whole world will see it happen.

That’s the way the rapture is usually presented. But is that how Jesus announced He would return? Will He come back in two phases, one secret and unexpected, for His saints, to snatch them away, and a second, publicly with His saints? What does the Bible really say?

Make no mistake about it! Jesus Christ did promise to return to this earth to restore the government of God and to bring peace to the world. “I go to prepare a place for you,” He said, “and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again (He did not say ‘again and again’ – in two phases; He just said ‘again’)  and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).

Notice it. The resurrected saints go as far as the clouds in the atmosphere to meet Jesus. Jesus will return and when He returns, His followers will be wherever He is. Where will Jesus be? Dashing away to heaven? On earth? Somewhere in between?

Isn’t it time we opened our Bibles to see what is plainly revealed? Jesus’ Second Coming is described in I Thess. 4:16-17. Here we find that it is neither invisible nor secret. It is announced with great sounds: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout (this is not something done in secret!), with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God (the voice of an archangel and the blast of a trumpet will be heard!): and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Here is no secret rapture!

The return of Jesus Christ is spoken of again in I Cor. 15:51-52: “Behold, I shew you a mystery (the mystery is not a quiet rapture as some say it is.): we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound(here is the same event we have already read about), and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Here again, Christ’s Second Coming to meet His saints will be accompanied by sound, a great sound. Furthermore, it all happens at the “last trump,” blown by a mighty angel. When is that last trump or trumpet sounded?

It is important at this point to briefly note the order of events leading to Christ’s return. We find these events laid out in the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. The entire period included in the prophecy is divided into seven segments, each covered by a “seal” (Rev. 5:1).

The first four seals are, in order, false prophets, wars, famines and disease epidemics (Rev. 6:1-8). The sixth of these seals consists of great signs in the heavens. These heavenly signs come right after the tribulation, which is the 5th seal (see Matthew 24:29). Still no trumpet has sounded.

After the heavenly signs comes the prophetic “Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31).This is the 7th seal. It is the time when God intervenes directly in human affairs. Here is where trumpets, seven of them finally come into the picture (Rev. 8, 9, 11:15-19).

The 7th of these is the “last trump” the apostle Paul referred to in I Cor. 15:52. It is not sounded, as the book of Revelation shows, until the climax of the day of the Lord, which is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The trumpets sound after the heavenly signs, which in turn comes after the tribulation, not before, as those who believe in a rapture claim.

Here is where many have erred. They claim there are two “last” trumps – one “last” trump” when Jesus is supposed to return silently and secretly to rapture away His followers, and another “last trump” after the period of tribulation, when Jesus  returns visibly to earth with His saints. But this is not what the Bible says! There cannot be two “last trumpets.”

The last trump is just that: the last trump. There can be only one “last” trump, just as there can be only one last person standing in a line.  The last trump is described in the Bible in Rev. 11:15 “And the seventh angel sounded (the 7th and last prophetic trumpet mentioned in the Scriptures): and there were great voices in heaven, saying. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (If you would like to know more about this amazing event write to us today and request a full sermon message entitled, “The Last Trump,” we will send it out to you right away, FREE of charge.)

In no way is this talking about a “secret rapture” where the saints are silently, noiselessly, whisked off to heaven. To the blowing of the last trumpet and great voices, Jesus returns to this earth to conquer and then rule all nations.

“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives (on earth! That is where Jesus will be, and that is where the saints will be also) and the Lord my God shall come and all the saints with thee (because they have just met Him in the air). And the Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zech. 14:3-9).

Jesus’ return and the resurrection of the saints mark the beginning of 1,000 years of divine government on this earth, some call it the Millennium, a word derived from the Latin for thousand years (Rev. 20:4-7).

But somebody is sure to ask about I Thess. 5:2, which says “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” Does this verse prove Jesus will come secretly? This verse is not speaking of how Christ returns. It is plainly speaking of the day of the Lord when God first intervenes in world affairs by great signs and wonders after the great tribulation and after the heavenly signs (Joel 2:31). The day of God’s intervention followed by Christ’s return will surprise the world as does a thief in the night. But when these events happen, everyone will know. “Behold, he comes with clouds: and every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7).

Matthew 24:29-31 reveals that when the “elect” (defined as true Christians in Col. 3:12 and other scriptures) are gathered together at the sound of the 7th or last trumpet, the great tribulation and the heavenly signs will already have passed! How can some read right over these verses without understanding them?

The idea of rapture up to heaven is utterly false. It has led and will lead only to disappointment and disillusionment for those who foolishly believe in it.

 
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