WHO WILL BE LEFT BEHIND

I. What is the rapture?

Jesus hinted to His disciples about the rapture in John 14:1-3.

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

The disciples were troubled. Jesus was going to leave the. He would soon be crucified, and then He would rise from the grave and a few days after that, He would ascend into heaven.

Jesus spoke these words to comfort these men and to comfort us as well as we go through the trials of life. In these verses Jesus shared with His disciples four facts to ease their worries.

1. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

2. “I go to prepare a place for you.”

3. “I will come again.”

4. “That where I am, there ye may be also.”

When Jesus said, “I will come again,” He spoke of the rapture of the church. There is coming a day when Jesus will come for His church and take her back to heaven.

Many predictions of the past have ended up sounding completely ridiculous:

British surgeon Sir John Eric Erickson said in 1873, “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.”

Ken Olson, president, chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. stated in 1977, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology said in 1872, “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”

If so many predictions have failed, why should we put any trust in the prediction of the rapture? Because Jesus said it would happen.

The greatest passage on the rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant [uninformed], brethren, concerning them which are asleep [When the Apostle Paul mentions those who are asleep he is referring to Christians who have died.], that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope [While there is sadness when a Christian loved one passes away, we shouldn’t despair. We’ll see why in the verses to come.].
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.

In the next three verse we see five components of the rapture:

1. The return of Christ: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (v. 16a).

The Lord Himself will return for His people, accompanied by all the grandeur His presence deserves. There will be a shout of command (whether uttered by the Lord or an archangel is not stated), and the trumpet of God will summon the dead in Christ to their resurrection as well as sounding a warning to those who have rejected Him and thus have missed the Rapture.

2. A resurrection: “and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (v. 16b).

The dead in Christ will be raised just before the living are changed. Now why are the dead raised first? Well, the Bible doesn’t say, but it’s are custom to bury bodies in the ground, and they have a little farther to go.

3. A rapture: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds” (v. 17a).

Strictly speaking, only living believers are raptured. The word “rapture” comes from a Latin word which means to be carried away in spirit or in body. Both the believer’s spirit and body will be carried away at the rapture. We will be “caught up . . . to meet the Lord in the air.”

Several years ago, a church in Rome, Ga., was building a new Church and they put a sign out where they were building. The sign announced the name of the Church and also on the sign were the words: "Rapture Preparation Center. Get right for flight."

So when Christ comes for His church, there will first be a resurrection and then a rapture. However, we use the term “rapture” to describe the entire event.

Keep your finger in 1 Thessalonians 4 and turn back to 1 Corinthians 15.

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery [What Paul is going to share is something that was never revealed before. It was a mystery, and here is the mystery . . .]; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

Someone asked me this week if believers who are raptured will die in the process. Well, here’s the answer: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” The Bible tells of only two other people who ever went to heaven without dying: Enoch and Elijah. But when Christ comes, there will be an entire generation of Christians that will never know physical death.

52 In a moment [flash; the entire procedure will be instantaneous, not gradual], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trump shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

At the rapture, every Christian will receive a new immortal body. The dead in Christ will receive theirs through resurrection, and the living will receive theirs through rapture.

As I look at you now, you all look pretty good . . . . But if you think you look good now, you will look 100 times better in you new body!

4. A reunion: “to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (v. 17b).

The reunion will be with the Lord and with loved ones who have died.

5. A reassurance: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18).

II. When will the rapture happen?

Every year it seems like someone is predicting a date for the coming of Christ.

On April 3, 1843, all over the U.S. Northeast, half a million Adventists—disciples of New York evangelist William Miller—awaited the end of the world. Journalists had a field day. Reportedly some disciples were on mountaintops, hoping for a head start to heaven. Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend in union with their departed loved ones. Some high society ladies clustered together outside town to avoid entering God’s holy kingdom amid the common folk. When April 4 dawned, as usual, the Millerites were disillusioned, but they took heart. Their leader had predicted a range of dates for the end—dates that have also come and gone.

We don’t know the date of Christ’s coming, and we are not to predict dates. One thing we do know about the time of the rapture, though, is that it will occur before the Tribulation Period.

Let me share with you three reasons why the rapture will occur before the Tribulation (John Walvoord in his book The Rapture Question gives 50 reasons.).

1. The church is not appointed to wrath.

In Revelation 6:17 the coming Tribulation Period is described as a day of wrath.

Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 that Christ has “delivered us from the wrath to come.”

“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).

“. . . we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9).

2. Jesus mentioned the possibility of a believer escaping the Tribulation.

“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).

3. No Scripture passages on the Tribulation mention the church.

In Revelation 4-18 the church is never mentioned.

III. Why did God tell us about the rapture?

What good does it do us to know about the rapture?

1.It is an encouraging hope.

We read John 14:3 earlier: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” It’s encouraging to know that no matter how discouraging things may get down here, Christ is going to take us to heaven one day.

2. It is a comforting hope.

After Paul described the rapture he wrote these words: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

There was a little, five-year-old girl who was watching her brother die of a very, very painful disease. He was much older than she and she loved him a lot. And after he died and the funeral was over she said to her mother, “Mommy, where...where did brother go?” To which her mother replied, “Well, he went to heaven to be with Jesus.” She said, “Oh.” And that satisfied her little mind.

Not long after that she heard her mother having a conversation with a friend and her mother was weeping and saying, “I’ve lost my son...I’ve lost my son...I’ve lost my son.” Later in the day the little five-year-old went to her mother and said, “Mommy, is somebody lost when we know where they are?”

Well the answer to that question is no, nobody is lost when we know where they are. We don’t grieve as those who have no hope. Those who have died in Christ, their spirit is in His presence, their body is asleep and they will not miss the great event of the gathering together of the church when Jesus comes. That is the promise of Scripture.

3. It is a purifying hope.

In 1 John 3:2-3 we read these words, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope purifieth himself even as he is pure.”

J. Dwight Pentecost in his book Will Man Survive? shares the following story. “At the conclusion of [one of my messages] a woman said, ‘In the light of your study, it seems to me that the coming of the Lord Jesus may be very, very near. I have some dirty closets at home that I must clean out, for I would not want the Lord to come and take me home to Himself and have somebody come in and find the closets the way they are now.’ That is the practical effect of prophecy on daily life. For not only in our homes but in our lives are many dirty, crowded nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned out.”

I’m sure many Christians will be caught in an embarrassing situation when Christ comes.

4.It is a motivating hope.

Following Paul’s words on the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15, he writes in verses 57 and 58, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Our labor isn’t fruitless. We should be steadfast in commitment to Christ and diligent in service for Christ.

While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind the m. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, “It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!” They replied, “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, ‘The boss may come today’.”

Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? Or are you unsure you will get off the ground?

You are either on the road to glory, or you are on the road to Armageddon.

You either have a wonderful hope in Christ, or you don’t have any hope at all.

Charles Gabriel wrote:

O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me;
When by His grace,
I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

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