The Study of Last Things


"...Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus...." Titus 2:13

The Rapture of the Church

The Blessed Hope

by WordExplain

"In My Father's house are many dwelling places ... I go to prepare a place for you."

-- Jesus, John 14:2

John 14:1-6
  1. Like a Jewish man speaking to his intended, Jesus told His followers, who would become the leaders of the Church, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places (John 14:2)."  A Jewish father had a large house with many rooms in it. Customarily, a son who was planning to marry would prepare rooms inside his father's house for himself and his new bride.  When preparations were complete and the year's probationary period was finished, the bridegroom would come get his bride and take her off to the wedding ceremony.  After the ceremony and the wedding feast, they would make their home in the rooms of his father's house that he had been preparing.  When Jesus told his followers that there were many rooms in His Father's house, He was informing His followers that there would be adequate room for each of them (and the untold millions who would yet become part of His bride, the Church).

  2. When Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2)," He was telling His followers that He would be leaving, and returning to heaven to prepare places for them to live forever in fellowship with Him in His presence.  My understanding is that the dwelling places Jesus is preparing for us Christians are in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:5). This is a city of gargantuan proportions, measuring 1400 miles long by 1400 miles wide by 1400 miles high (Rev. 21:16).  Plenty of room indeed for Jesus' bride!

  3. Jesus said, "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" (John 14:3).  He was announcing that, after He had finished making preparations for them in heaven, He would return to meet His bride and take her back to heaven to the homes He had built for them.  His point is that He wants eternal fellowship with us, His followers.  He wants to be in our presence, and we in His, forever.

  4. When Thomas was uncertain of the place to which Jesus was going, Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).  In other words, Jesus is the only mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5).  Whoever wants to go to heaven, whoever wants to spend an eternity with God, can do so only through Jesus of Nazareth, the God / Man.  None of us is good enough to approach God on his own merits.  We need to trust in Jesus to spend eternity with Him and His Father (John 3:16).

"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."
1 Thess. 4:13

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  1. The Christians in the Greek city of Thessalonica had been taught by the Apostle Paul that Jesus could come back at any time to take them back to heaven to be with Him.  So convinced of this teaching were they that they began to grieve for their fellow believers in Jesus who had passed away.  They were convinced that their now dead friends would miss this glorious reunion with Jesus.  They would not be able to be part of the Bride of Christ.

  2. Paul writes to relieve them of their ignorance about the future.  He wanted to restore their hope (1 Thess. 4:13).  "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."  The Christian grieves at the loss of a fellow believer in death, but because he has incredible hope, as revealed in the rest of this passage, he doesn't grieve the same way that an unbeliever, who has no certainty beyond the grave, does.

  3. Paul continued, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:14).  The cornerstone of our Christian faith is that Jesus did indeed die and rise again from the dead, just as the Old Testament predicted (1 Cor. 15:1-3).  After He was resurrected, He appeared alive to Peter, to James, to the Twelve Disciples, and, on one occasion, to more than five hundred believers at one time, and later, to Paul himself (1 Cor. 15:5-8).  What Paul is saying is that one day, Jesus will return back to earth with the spirits of those believers who have departed from this life.  In the meantime, what kind of existence do those heavenly spirits have?

  4. I like to explain that when Christians die, their bodies are placed in the earth, but their spirits continue to live.  Believers' spirits are immediately ushered into the presence of Jesus.  For the believer, to be "absent from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8).  What do believers look like in heaven?  They are not ghosts.  Apparently they are given spiritual (not physical, flesh-and-blood) bodies (2 Cor. 5:1).  When the Apostle John was transported to heaven, he was able to see "the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God" (Rev. 6:9).  They cried out, asking how long it would take for their blood to be avenged on the earth.  They were told to wait awhile longer until the full number of martyrs would be completed.  Interestingly, each was given a white robe to wear (Rev. 6:10-12).  I conclude then, that believers in heaven have some kind of spiritual body on which it is possible to hang a robe.  (You can't throw a robe around a ghost!)  Later on, John would see   "a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb' " (Rev 7:9-10).  Again, these people in heaven have bodies, they are wearing white robes, they have hands, with which they can hold palm branches, they have larynxes, mouths, tongues, and teeth, with which they can cry out loudly.

  5. So these people with spiritual bodies who are part of the Church, who have died "in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:14), will return with Him.  When Jesus returns, they will enjoy priority over the living believers, according to what Jesus had personally revealed to Paul:  "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" (1 Thess. 4:15).

  6. Here is the sequence of events.  First, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven" (1 Thess. 4:16).  His descent will be accompanied by (a) "a shout," presumably His own, (b) "the voice of the archangel" (unidentified by name here, but the only archangel identified is Michael, in Jude 1:9), and (c) "the trumpet of God."  This is the same trumpet referred to in 1 Cor. 15:52.  Second, "the dead in Christ will rise first."  This means that the Christians who return with Jesus from heaven in their spirit bodies will be reunited with their resurrected earthly bodies.  As Paul points out in 1 Cor. 15:51-54, these resurrection bodies are bodies of a new order, immortal, imperishable.  Third, "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds ..." (1 Thess. 4:17).  The word "caught up" is the Greek word harpádzō (726) which here means to be seized or taken away.  This word is used in a number of illustrative instances in the New Testament.  In Acts 8:39, after Philip had baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, the Holy Spirit snatched away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no longer.  In 2 Cor. 12:2, 4 Paul refers to a man (probably himself) who was caught up into the third heaven, Paradise.  In Rev. 12:5, John sees a woman (Israel) who gave birth to a son (Jesus) who was caught up to God and His throne, a reference to Christ's ascension.  The Latin word is rapturo, from which we derive the English word, Rapture.  So this is what the term "Rapture" means.  It means Jesus' sudden snatching away from the earth to Himself the resurrected and living believers of the Church Age.  Fourth, this snatching away is done so that they might "meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord."

  7. What a fantastic and glorious experience that will be!  I can hardly wait until it happens!  Whether dead or alive, because I have trusted in Jesus, I shall participate in that spectacular, life-changing event.  And so may you, if you believe in Him! What a joyful reunion it will be to see friends and loved ones who are believers in Christ on that great day!  But the most wonderful feature will be meeting the Lord in the air and being with Him always!  It is no wonder that Paul told these Thessalonian Christians (and us today), "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:18).

1 Corinthians 15:50-58
  1. In writing to the believers in the bustling Greek seaport city of Corinth, Paul adds some details about the Rapture of the Church.  First he underscores that it is impossible for mere flesh and blood to exist in the spiritual kingdom of God.  So he says, "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (1 Cor. 15:50).  The bodies we have are decaying, aging bodies, diseased by the ravages of sin.  They are mortal, unable to inhabit the pristine purity of eternity.

  2. And so Paul reveals a mystery, meaning truth unknown in the Old Testament.  "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51).  He is repeating what he had earlier told the Thessalonians:  not all Christians will die before Christ comes, but all Christians will be changed at the moment He comes.  Both the living Christians and the Christians having died will have their bodies changed from mortal to immortal bodies, from decaying bodies to glorious resurrection bodies!

  3. How fast will this event happen and when will it occur?  " 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 Cor. 15:52).  This is no gradual metamorphosis.  It will take place as quickly as the blinking of an eyelid.  It will happen when the last trumpet sounds, the same trumpet as the one described in 1 Thess. 4:16.  Some confuse this trumpet with the seven trumpets in the Apocalypse (Rev. 8:1-9:21; 11:15).  But those are trumpets of judgment and this is a trumpet of blessing.  "The trumpet, as in the Old Testament, signaled the appearance of God (cf. Ex. 19:16). It is the last blast for the church because this appearance shall never end (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12)" (David K. Lowery, 1 Corinthians, The Bible Knowledge Commentary).  Observe that each time this event, the Rapture, is described, it is presented as an imminent event.  It could happen any time.  There are no intervening events that must occur before the Rapture comes to pass.  By contrast, note all of the events that must occur before the Second Coming of Christ as described elsewhere (Matthew 24:1-31; Revelation 6:1-19:21).

  4. As Paul goes on to point out, "For this perishable [earthly body] must put on the imperishable [resurrection body], and this mortal [that which is able to die] must put on immortality [that which is unable to die]" (1 Cor. 15:53).  When that happens, the Old Testament Scripture will have been fulfilled.  Death will have been swallowed up (Isa. 25:8) and will have lost its sting (Hos. 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:54-56).

  5. The only way victory over death can be secured is through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57).  Since in Him we have the firm assurance of immortality, let us be "always  abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).  Only those of us who have immortality through Jesus can accomplish things that will last for eternity.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

  1. In this beginning portion of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul commends these Christians on their model deportment.  First, they turned to God from idols.  Second, they endeavored to serve God.  Third, they made it their practice to wait patiently for God's Son from heaven.  We should all so live!  This waiting for God's Son amounts to waiting for the Rapture, which Paul would soon discuss (1 Thess. 4:13-18), seeking to allay their fears about believing loved ones who had died before Christ returned.
  2. Notice that when Jesus returns, He "rescues us from the wrath to come."  On the one hand, it is true that Jesus' coming rescues us from eternal judgment.  But that is almost a tautology.  The characteristic of someone who is in Christ is that he is not subject to judgment or condemnation.  (See John 3:16-18; 3:36; 5:24; Romans 5:8-10; 8:1; 33-34.)

  3. The more likely meaning is that Jesus' coming delivers believers from the coming wrath of the Tribulation Period.  The Tribulation is the period of time when the present dispensation of Grace has ended.  Right now God is patient toward the human race, "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).  But the Tribulation period begins "the Day of the Lord," described in catastrophic terms in 2 Pet. 3:10-12.  It is the time when God will unleash the great fury of His wrath against a rebellious and unbelieving world.  John the Apostle identifies this coming period of God's wrath in the book of Revelation:  (Rev. 6:16, 17; 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15.)  Praise God, we believers will be delivered from that terrible time of wrath that is coming upon the world (1 Thess. 5:2-5).

The Rapture of the Church

Prepared by James T. Bartsch
September, 2007

Published Online by WordExplain

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This study is based on, and the links reference the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.

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(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.  Used by Permission.)

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Updated January 26, 2023