1st Coming Event:  The Rapture of the Church

     Day by day we draw closer to the time when Christ will return for His people; after which, some dramatic events will occur within a 7 year period, called the tribulation: war, famine, disease, and death.

The sun will turn black, the moon will turn blood red, and the earth will be shaken like never before.  In the end, peace and healing will come, but not before a time of great suffering and destruction like the world has never seen before and will never see again.

     Just before the 7 years of tribulation begin, Christ will take away His people.  Jesus will leave the Fathers’ side and descend to earth at a time predetermined by the Father (1Thessalonians 4:16-18).

     The spirit of every Christian who has died will be reunited with their original body to be “caught up” to be with Christ.  Every Christian still alive at that time will be removed from the earth, “caught up” into the presence of the Lord, where all Christians will be together with the Lord forever (1Corinthians 15:51-53).

This event, the Lord’s coming to get His people, is called “the rapture of the church.”  The word “rapture” [comes from the Latin “raptus”] meaning “to seize” “to catch away” or “to snatch up.”

The earth will be emptied of all Christians.

     Does any man know when this event will occur?  No!  What do the Scriptures tell us (Matthew 24:36-39; 32-35)?  Luke gives clarity to this illustration about the fig tree (Luke 21:29-31), this is not Israel’s return as Nation in 1948.

This is not a date by which we can determine and give specific dates for the return of Christ to the earth.  I believe, the point Jesus is making concerns not only the fig tree, but all deciduous trees; they bud in the spring and announce the coming of summer.  In the same way, there are visible signs preceding the time when Christ’s second coming is imminent.

     “All these things” (vv. 33, 34) can only refer to what Jesus has been talking about already: birth pains (vv. 4-14); the abomination that causes desolation (v. 15); the need to flee because of impending perils (16-28); the catastrophic upheaval of the universe (v. 29). These indicate Christ’s return is near — just like the budding fig tree indicates summer, and then the harvest of the fig tree, is near –so the signs of Christ’s coming indicate harvest time is near for all of creation.

Those who witness the birth pains will also witness the birth; they will not “pass away” until all these things (vv. 4-29) have happened.

Both the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation make clear that the total time of the Tribulation will be seven years, and the period of the Great Tribulation (v. 21), in which the signs will appear, will only be three and a half years in length, and will close this period in which the Son of Man will appear (v. 30).

     Doesn’t it make sense that those who are alive during the time of these signs appear (the birth pains) can be sure that Christ’s return is imminent and they will also be there to see the birth (the return of the Son of Man)?  The coming of the fruit follows the coming of the leaves?  Christ’s return will follow “all these things”.

The issue is not that we should be setting dates for the Lord’s return, but that we should maintain a readiness for our imminent departure when the Lord will “catch away” His people to meet Him in the air.

We should be living lives that reflect the character of the one who has given us eternal life — Jesus Christ, for at any moment Christ could return and take His people out of here.

When God’s people are “caught up” and taken away to be with Christ — there will no longer be any conviction of sin in the world. When Christ takes His people (1Corinthians 15:52), it will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

Moment = from a root word meaning, that which cannot be divided, in the smallest conceivable amount of time our mortal bodies will become immortal.

Twinkling = from a word meaning to hurl or any rapid movement.  The eye can move faster than any other visible part of the body, and so Paul is tellinus that the change will be instantaneous.

We are to be busy about our Lord’s business.  We are to be living lives that reflect a total trust in and obedience to Jesus Christ the Lord.  We must be serious about our relationship with the Lord: feeding on His Word, fellowshipping with His people, serving Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength as we wait for Christ to return.

     Our concern should be for the unsaved.  Eternity apart from God is Hell!  We are here to serve not be served, for we are God’s ambassadors reconciling the world to Him through Jesus Christ (1Pet. 2:11-12; 3:15-16; 2Pet. 3:10-13).

It is not easy to live with biblical convictions in a world that rejects God’s authority and teachings.  But, if you aren’t living like Jesus Christ makes a difference in your life, don’t expect that you will make a difference in the life of anyone else.

We have nothing to loose folks.  God has given us eternal life through Christ Jesus.  We will have unlimited joy and celebration throughout all of eternity to make up for the short time of suffering and struggle that we experience in these mortal bodies.

Matt. 24:42-44  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Christ’s return should not surprise you like a thief breaking into your home.  Think about that!  If you are awakened at night to the sound of what you think is a thief breaking into your home, it might cause you to be fearful; however, if you are awakened at night to the sound of what you think is a loved one returning home from a long trip, you will most likely become joyful and happy.

As we await the time when we will be raptured to meet Christ in the air — we should be busy about God’s business, living obedient lives, sharing the good news of salvation to all who will listen.

Once God’s people are taken [raptured], it will be too late for us to witness to those who are left behind.  While we still have the opportunity, we must spread the life-giving truth of the Gospel of Christ through our words and our actions to every one who will listen.

Jude 20-23, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear –hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

1Ths. 4:16-18, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.”