Chapter 3 The Rapture

The end-times will bring the worst suffering the world has ever seen. Jesus said of the end-times, For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Matthew 24:21) There will be global conflict and persecution of Christians. Jesus warned believers, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. (Matthew 24:9)

But there also is good news. There is a way for God’s people to avoid the end-times. A rapture rescues believers from end-time suffering; rapture occurs when God suddenly removes people from earth—taking them up into heaven. The word “rapture” comes from the Latin word “rapio” which means to take away by force. The benefits of an early rapture are obvious. Those leaving the earth will avoid tremendous suffering and persecution.

Jesus and Paul used the words “caught up” and “taken” to refer to rapture. Paul wrote, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Jesus said, “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.” (Luke 17:34-35)

Jesus cited Noah as an example of God protecting believers just prior to a worldwide judgment. Jesus then cited a second example; angels removed Lot and his family immediately before God destroyed Sodom. And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building: but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:26-30)

The Incentive

Following years of study, teachers are placed in authority over students. After excelling as a leader, an executive gains authority over an entire corporation. Jesus promised positions of authority in his kingdom for believers who wisely handle responsibility. Jesus provided an analogy in the following parable. And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. (Luke 12:42-44)

Jesus also offered incentives for action that matter during this Age. Consider the promise Jesus made to the Philadelphia Church. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. (Revelation 3:10) The only hour of trial that affects the whole world is the end-times. By making this promise to a narrowly defined group, Jesus disclosed that not all believers would escape tribulation, but only the believers who endure trials patiently.

Jesus explained what would happen to those who miss the rapture. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:50-51) Believers in Christ are servants of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). At the early rapture, unprepared servants of God will be left-behind on earth to suffer alongside unbelievers.

The Tragedy

Panic will take hold when end-time events unfold on earth. Consequently, unprepared Christians will act irresponsibly. When the pressure was on, Jesus laid down his life. He expects us to follow that example—to patiently endure every situation. Jesus described the widespread failure to patiently endure just prior to the early rapture. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

Only those who stand firm to the end will be rescued from the end times. Accordingly, Jesus repeatedly warned us to “keep watch” for this return.

  • Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13; NIV)
  • “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matthew 24:42; NIV)
  • “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back (Mark 13:35a; NIV).
  • What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:37; NIV)

The Warning

Every believer is vulnerable for being unprepared for Christ’s return. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

Three parables instruct us how to keep watch, in order to participate in the early rapture.

Parable Issues
A man leaving on a journey entrusted his property to three servants. Rather than invest the money, one servant simply buried it. Upon learning of this situation the master responded, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:14-27; NIV) Use your talents for God’s kingdom.– How well do you apply your abilities and resources?

– Do you invest time in God’s work?

Before departing on a journey a master placed one of his servants in charge of the other servants to ensure someone would care for them. But this lead servant began to mistreat the other servants. When the master returns, he will hold that servant accountable. (Matthew 24:45-51) Do to others what you would have them do to you.– How do you treat your spouse, children, and siblings?

– How do you treat co-workers and those you supervise?

– Do you emotionally abuse others?

Ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and did not take sufficient oil. In contrast the wise virgins took oil in jars along with their lamps. Only those who had taken a sufficient supply of oil were ready when the groom arrived. (Matthew 25:1-13) Live with an overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit.– Do you know the Holy Spirit?