A reader of this website wrote the following commentary about the Rapture of the Church and the Day of the Lord in the article ”Jesus Christ is God Incarnate”.
As I understand, Christianity is the second Israel, which has to meet the Messiah at the Second Coming. Christianity must be like a bride prepared to meet the Bridegroom. He will come and take His Bride. But He will not come to catch the eye (in the clouds), but rather He will come as a thief. That is why the Bible urges us to be alert all the time. Unfortunately, many are waiting for the Second Coming to occur in a miraculous way, with trumpets and great tumult in heaven, and everyone will take their flight into the air, and in this their belief has blinded them, unwilling to understand that the Bible writes in symbols and parables in many texts … Instead of waiting for the Rapture in the heavens, let us think more about the Truth, let us pray more and put more effort in perfecting the character (Mathew 5:48).
The Bible indeed writes about the Church that it is the Bride of the Lord Jesus and also is the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-11, Ephesians 5:29-32), because by faith in the Lord Jesus we become the seed of Abraham (you can read about this in the article “What is the Gentiles’ Part in the New Covenant?” ).
As for the Second Coming of Jesus, it seems that many confuse two different events: I mean the Second Coming of Jesus and the Day of the Lord. In fact, initially, I also thought the Second Coming of Jesus and the Day of the Lord are the same event. But after a profound and long study of the Scriptures, I have understand that these are two different events. I want to recommend the inductive bible study book “Revelation” in four parts. This study will help you understand these two events and how they relate to each other. This study is part of a series of studies, “Precept upon Precept,” that help you discover biblical truths by yourself, giving directions how to make a good observation and interpretation of the text in the context of the whole Bible. In these textbooks, you will not find the author’s opinion on one subject or another: you will discover biblical truths for yourself. What you will discover for yourself, you will never forget and no one will deceive you and cause you to deviate from the truth.
But even more interesting (if we go back to the comment above) is that the Raptrue of the Church and the Second Coming of Jesus, are also different events. When the Lord Jesus comes to take His Church, before God pours His wrath upon the earth, the Lord Jesus will take His Church to heaven without descending to the earth. The Second Coming of Jesus on earth is described in Revelation chapters 19-20. He will come a second time to the earth after God pours out His wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth who have not obeyed the gospel of the Lord Jesus. And He will come with the Church, He will overcome the Antichrist and the false prophet and will reign with the Church for 1000 years here on earth to fulfill the Scriptures concerning the people of Israel. But this is not our subject. Now let us just observe what the Scriptures write about the Rapture of the Church and the Day of the Lord, so that we can make a difference between these two events.
How will the Rapture of the Church occur
The First Epistle of Paul to Thessalonians is the only text in the Scriptures that contains the word “rapture”. It seems that the believers in Thessalonica were worried about those who believed in the Lord Jesus and died anyway (they fell asleep in Christ). That is why the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 what will happen to those who are asleep in Christ (deceased Christians) to comfort the living believers and to help them (the Thessalonians) comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Let us see what Paul writes about the Rapture of the Church to heaven in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 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. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Here it is written about two groups of people: the believers who will be alive when Jesus comes to take His Church to heaven and the believers who will be asleep in the Lord (that is, deceased). Let us see in phases how the Church will be Raptured in the heavens:
I. The Rapture of the Church will be Announced
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God… (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
II. The Dead in Christ Will Rise First
The Bible writes that believers, who have the Holy Spirit, when they die physically, their body perishes, but their spirit goes to the Lord. We see this well from what the Apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Philippians. He writes that for him death is a gain, for it would mean to go and be with Christ, which would be much better for him than to remain in the flesh(Philippians 1:21-24). In 1 Thessalonians 4:14 the Apostle Paul writes that God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus (that is, their spirits). And at verse 16 it is written that when the Lord Jesus “will descend from heaven, the dead in Christ will rise first.” The apostle Paul describes in his first epistle to the Corinthians how this resurrection from the dead will be. He writes to the Corinthians that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and in verse 54 is written “…this perishable body will have put on the imperishable.”
III. All (those who will be alive at that moment and those who will be resurrected) Will be Caught Up to Heaven
After the dead in Christ will rise “… we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). In 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, the apostle Paul writes that while those who are asleep in Christ will be raised imperishable, those who will remain alive at the Coming of the Lord Jesus will be changed: “This mortal must put on immortality”. And “then“, writes the apostle Paul, “will come to pass the saying that is written” in Hosea 13:14: “Death is swallowed up in victory”.
IV. We will always be with the Lord
After we will meet the Lord in the air, the apostle Paul writes: „… and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
How will the Day of the Lord come
I do not want to go into too many details about the Day of the Lord, I just want to conclude with the way it will come, because it is written that the coming of Day of the Lord will be just like a thief coming in the night. This is also written in the first epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians. From 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 we see that the Day of the Lord for the unbelievers will come differently than for the believers.
I. For the Unbelievers
In the second and third verses of chapter 5 of his first epistle to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul writes:
‘’For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.’’
It seems that the Day of the Lord will come as a great disaster upon the inhabitants of the earth. In Amos 5:18-19, the Lord says about the Day of the Lord thus:
‘’Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; As when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him.’’
In fact, the Day of the Lord begins with the outpouring of God’s wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth. In Zephaniah 1:15 The Day of the Lord is described in the following way: “A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, …” It is written in Revelation 11:18: “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came.” (Context: after the seventh trumpet that sounded after the two prophets were killed by the antichrist, and three and a half days later they resurrected and went to heaven). And at Revelation 15:1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.”
II. For the Believers
For them, this day will not come as a thief in the night: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would take you like a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4)
Why, for the believers , will the Day of the Lord not come as a thief in the night? Is it revealed to them the time when the Day of the Lord will come? It seems not, for after the end of the description of the Rapture, the apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians that
‘’Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.’’(1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
Therefore, for the believers, as for the unbelievers, the time of the coming of the Day of the Lord is hidden. Why does the Apostle Paul, however, write that for the believers the Day of the Lord will not come like a thief in the night? We find the answer in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 where it is written:
‘’For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.’’
Therefore, by faith in the Lord Jesus, we are saved from the wrath of God which will be poured upon the inhabitants of the earth on the Day of the Lord. How? Before the Day of the Lord, the Church will be raptured in heaven and in this way it will be saved (or delivered, released) from the wrath of God. Therefore, although the believers do not know the time of the coming of the Day of the Lord, this Day will not take them like a thief in the night.
Let us be wise and let us hurry to make a Covenant with the Lord Jesus so that the Day of the Lord will not take us like a thief in the night. If you want to know how a man can enter into a Covenant with the Lord Jesus, you can read the article “What is repentance?” .
Translated by Marcela Tasca