The rapture. Yes, there is one.

1 Thessalonians 4.15-18.

RAPTURE 'ræp.tʃər noun. Feeling of intense pleasure or joy.
2. Capture: The act of seizing and carrying off.
3. The transporting of Christian believers to meet with Christ Jesus [or, to heaven] at his second coming.
4. [verb.] Seizing and carrying off.
5. [verb.] To be taken up [to heaven] to meet with Christ.

A number of Christians don’t believe in the rapture—when the Son of Man appears in the clouds, and his followers meet him in midair. As is taught in today’s passage of scripture, in 1 Thessalonians 4. Yeah, it’s in the bible, but they still don’t believe in it; they don’t take this passage literally. Nor do they interpret it in any way where it loosely represents what’s gonna happen in future. They simply don’t believe in it.

Largely because their churches don’t teach it. Their favorite preachers proclaim an End Times scenario which doesn’t include any rapture. The End of Days theory, fr’instance: The world ends, or we otherwise die, and we go straight to heaven. (Or not.) There’s no rapture in that storyline. Maybe the near-death experience stories of “going towards the light” represents some kind of rapture… but they won’t say “rapture”; they don’t wanna give people the wrong idea.

Then there are the Christians who do believe in the rapture. I’m one of ’em.

Nope, we don’t all agree about what it’ll look like. Most of us take our cues from the bible… but a number of us tweak that image after we pull it from the bible. Tweak it a lot.

Darbyists, fr’instance. Their “prophecy scholars” claim it’ll be secret. We won’t meet Jesus when “the Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven,” Mt 24.30, Lk 21.27, Da 7.13 because his second coming happens at the very end of their timeline. But the rapture happens before the very end, at either the beginning or the middle of their timelines. At that point, years before Jesus returns, we Christians will quietly, immediately, mysteriously, vanish. That’s how they claim the rapture will work: It’s a secret rapture.

In the “Left Behind” novels, their depiction of this secret rapture gets downright stupid. All the Christians vanish… and leave behind their clothes, jewelry, and implants like pacemakers and saline breasts; apparently Jesus only wants us buck naked. (’Cause he’ll clothe us, Rv 6.11 but it still comes across as super creepy… and a little pervy.) Oh, and not just Christians: Every child below the age of accountability gets raptured too, ’cause Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Oh, and that includes unborn babies: He raptures ’em straight out of their mothers’ wombs—horrifying every pregnant pagan.

Most Christians consider this the looney-bin version of the End, and wanna distance ourselves from it. But some of us go too far in the other direction: Yeah, the Darbyist secret rapture idea is unbiblical, but they’ll claim the rapture itself is unbiblical too. But like I said, today’s passage teaches it, so that’s not so.

And finally there’s the ignorant category. About a decade ago I ran into some guy who claimed because the word “rapture” isn’t in the bible, there’s no rapture. Following his reasoning, God’s not a trinity either, ’cause the word “trinity” likewise isn’t in the scriptures. But whether “rapture” is in the bible, entirely depends on how you translate the Greek word ἁρπαγησόμεθα/arpagisómetha. The KJV went with “shall be caught up,” and I went with “will be raptured.” ’Cause that’s what rapture means: Seized (by the Holy Spirit) and carried off. Or, in this case, up.

1 Thessalonians 4.15-18 KWL
15 We told you this in the Master’s teaching:
We who remain alive at the Master’s second coming should not precede the “sleepers.”
16 The Master himself, with a shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will be resurrected first.
17 Then we who remain alive, at the same time as they, will be raptured into the clouds,
to meet the Master in the air: Thus we will always be with the Master.
18 So assist others with these teachings!

Rapture has the sense of a thief swiping a purse: We’ll be ripped from the earth like a waxer rips the hair off a pair of furry legs. From there we join our King’s invading army before he even touches down. We’re part of his procession, as he takes possession of the world he conquered centuries ago.

That’s the general idea. Of course different Christians believe different specifics.

“In the Master’s teaching.”

The apostles’ knowledge about the rapture didn’t come from logical deduction, or a careful verse-by-verse analysis of the Old Testament’s End Times passages. It’s part of what the Lord Jesus teaches about himself. They got it from him.

Where in the gospels did Jesus talk about the rapture? Well he doesn’t, in the gospels. But the gospels aren’t comprehensive, as John clearly stated in his gospel. Jn 21.25 He taught way more things than were written down. He did tell the Twelve, and the Twelve taught it to the apostles who wrote this letter, as well as the other Christians they discipled. And if the Twelve weren’t clear, you do know you can directly go to the Holy Spirit with your questions, right? Sometimes he provides answers.

In my experience the Spirit answers questions like this whenever he feels we’ll benefit by the information. The Thessalonians—heck, most Christians!—were worried about those who had “fallen asleep,” i.e. were dead. ’Cause the dead had died before Jesus could inaugurate his kingdom. Does this mean they missed out? Not at all: Jesus wants it made known none of us will miss his second coming. As he invades, he’s gonna raise them. And us. And then we’re gonna invade the earth together with him.

It’s not gonna be secret. At all. The biggest noise you’ve ever heard in your life—loud enough to trigger earthquakes, loud enough to literally raise the dead (and yes, I’m using “literally” correctly)—will inform everyone Jesus has come. He’s not invading with a heavenly SEAL team: He’s commandeering the two billion agents he already has in-country, restoring all of us who’ve been injured on duty, and invading in force, en masse, to take back what’s been rightfully his ever since he created it.

If you’re under persecution, like the Thessalonians were: That ends. All the people murdered because of Jesus will be alive, in perfect health, never to die again.

What are two billion resurrected Christians gonna look like, invading Jerusalem? No idea. It’s gonna be nuts. But we’ll get to see it personally.

And if Jesus returns in our lifetimes, we get to watch him resurrect our fellow Christians. We won’t wonder about their future any longer: They’ll be alive, as alive as we. They get raised first! We’re reunited with them. We’ll rejoice with one another, and him, while the rest of the world freaks out because they never, ever expected the second coming to look like this. They were kinda hoping Jesus would benignly return, and rule us “spiritually” (by which they mean not really), and leave all their favorite institutions in place. Namely leave all their power in place. But nope; every knee has to bow.

The Thessalonians were short on hope, anxious because they were dying, and couldn’t see anything beyond death. And despite growing up, hearing about the rapture or second coming, hearing about the resurrection, Christians are still anxious. Most of us can’t see beyond death. We just don’t trust Jesus enough. We don’t truly believe he’s the resurrection and the life. Jn 11.25-26 We want him to stop death, right now; we don’t want to part with any loved ones. Postpone it for a few years; at least till we’re ready for them to die, whenever that day comes.

We don’t fix our eyes on the greater, better goal of undoing death entirely. We have our priorities completely wrong, and can’t see past our own mourning to realize God’s plan is so very much better than ours.

That’s why we Christians have to teach this passage to one another. When death happens—and it happens to everyone—our grief shouldn’t blind us so much, we reject God’s plan and scream out for our own will to be done. Death isn’t final. Life is. Death won’t stop his church, Mt 16.18 because Jesus’s kingdom isn’t all for nothing.

Inspire one another with this message, and keep fighting for his kingdom.