The Rapture

When will the rapture of the saints occur?

There are many theories about a rapture before the last day. But, I believe the simple truths that Jesus told us. The resurrection will occur on the last day. He said it and I believe it.

Two Age Model

Jesus and the apostles described this present time as being divided into two "ages". They are called "this age" and the "age to come".

Throughout the New Testament "this age" (sometimes translated "this world") refers to the way life is lived now in the normal course of human history. The "age to come" (sometimes translated "the world to come") refers to that time when our redemption is finally realized in the return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection, and the final eternal state.

A few passages should suffice to illustrate the differences in these ages.

Luke 20:34-36
And Jesus answering said to them, "The sons of this age do marry and are given in marriage, but those accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the rising again that is out of the dead, neither marry, nor are they given in marriage; for neither are they able to die any moreófor they are like messengersóand they are sons of God, being sons of the rising again."

Mark 10:29-30
And Jesus answered and said, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospelís, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."

The present age is characterized by marriage, homes, physical relatives, and lands.

The age to come is characterized by no marriages, no death, eternal life.

Jesus told parables that described what will happen at the end of the present age, just before the age to come begins.

In this passage, Jesus explains a parable about the sower and the seeds to his disciples:

Matthew 13:36-43
Then having let away the multitudes, Jesus came to the house, and his disciples came near to him, saying, "Explain to us the simile of the darnel [seeds] of the field."

And he answering said to them, "He who is sowing the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world, and the good seed, these are the sons of the reign [kingdom], and the darnel are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is a full end of the age, and the reapers are messengers.

"As, then, the darnel is gathered up, and is burned with fire, so shall it be in the full end of this age, the Son of Man shall send forth his messengers, and they shall gather up out of his kingdom all the stumbling-blocks, and those doing the unlawlessness, and shall cast them to the furnace of the fire; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth.

"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the reign of their Father. He who is having ears to hearólet him hear."

Here, Jesus clearly stated that the separation of the wicked and the good would take place at the end of the age. The wicked would be cast into the fire and the righteous would shine forth like the sun.

What Did Jesus Say Would Happen on the Last Day?

Jesus taught and preached that the saints would be resurrected to eternal life on the last day.

John 6:39-40
ĎAnd this is the will of the Father who sent me, that all that He hath given to me I may not lose of it, but may raise it up in the last day; and this is the will of Him who sent me, that every one who is beholding the Son, and is believing in him, may have life age-during, and I will raise him up in the last day.í

John 6:44
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:54
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jesus taught his followers this simple truth. Notice what Jesus taught and Martha recalled to Jesus:

John 11:23-24
Jesus saith to her, ĎThy brother shall rise again.í
Martha saith to him, ĎI have known that he will rise again, in the rising again in the last day;í

It's clear that Jesus taught that the resurrection occurs on the last day.

The resurrection will occur at the coming of Jesus. Paul makes this clear in

I Corinthians 15:23
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christís at his coming.

And again in

I Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven with a loud word of command, and with an archangelís voice and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Afterwards we who are alive and are still on earth will be caught up in their company amid clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Jesus clearly said when he comes in glory we will be resurrected.

Matthew 24:31-31
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Now, many will claim that a rapture (or resurrection of the saints) occurs before the day of judgment. Some place the rapture 7 years, some 3 1/2 years, and some more than a 1,000 years before the judgment.

But, what does Jesus say about this?

At his coming, on the last day, the nations will be raised up and separated (judged) as Jesus makes clear in

John 12:48
Those who reject me by not accepting what I say have a judge appointed for them. The words that I have spoken will judge them on the last day.

Matthew 25:31-32
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

This all seems very clear to me.

Confusion About Multiple Raptures

Some believe that there will be multiple raptures or resurrections.

There are a group of Christians who believe that Jesus will come to rapture the church to take them to heaven at some point prior to or during a period of trouble called the tribulation. During this tribulation they believe the non-believing Jews will be converted and many martyred for their testimony about Jesus.

They then believe Jesus will return again and rapture these tribulation Jewish saints.

While these people pick small differences in some of Jesus' parables and descriptions of the rapture or resurrection, no clear statement is made by Jesus or the apostles of a repeated coming of Jesus to the earth or a repeated resurrection experience.

There appears to be no solid, direct evidence for multiple comings or resurrections.

There are two passages that describe the rapture or resurrection in some detail.

The first passage deals with misconceptions about those who have died. Paul wrote that Jesus will return and bring those who have died with him. He will honor their deaths by raising their bodies first. Then Jesus will raise those who remain alive.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we donít want you to be ignorant about those who have died. We donít want you to grieve like other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and came back to life. We also believe that, through Jesus, God will bring back those who have died. They will come back with Jesus. We are telling you what the Lord taught. We who are still alive when the Lord comes will not go into his kingdom ahead of those who have already died. The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life. Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord. So then, comfort each other with these words!

The next passage provide more detail about what we will be live when we are resurrected.

I Corinthians 15:20-24, 35-57
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christís at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

But someone will ask, "How do the dead come back to life? With what kind of body will they come back?" You fool! The seed you plant doesnít come to life unless it dies first. What you plant, whether itís wheat or something else, is only a seed. It doesnít have the form that the plant will have. God gives the plant the form he wants it to have. Each kind of seed grows into its own form. Not all flesh is the same. Humans have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds have another, and fish have still another. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. Heavenly bodies donít all have the same splendor, neither do earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon has another kind of splendor, and the stars have still another kind of splendor. Even one star differs in splendor from another star. That is how it will be when the dead come back to life. When the body is planted, it decays. When it comes back to life, it cannot decay. When the body is planted, it doesnít have any splendor and is weak. When it comes back to life, it has splendor and is strong. It is planted as a physical body. It comes back to life as a spiritual body. As there is a physical body, so there is also a spiritual body. This is what Scripture says: "The first man, Adam, became a living being." The last Adam became a lifeĖgiving spirit. The spiritual does not come first, but the physical and then the spiritual. The first man was made from the dust of the earth. He came from the earth. The second man came from heaven. The people on earth are like the man who was made from the dust of the earth. The people in heaven are like the man who came from heaven. As we have worn the likeness of the man who was made from the dust of the earth, we will also wear the likeness of the man who came from heaven.

Brothers and sisters, this is what I mean: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. What decays cannot inherit what doesnít decay.

Iím telling you a mystery. Not all of us will die, but we will all be changed. It will happen in an instant, in a split second at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will come back to life. They will be changed so that they can live forever. This body that decays must be changed into a body that cannot decay. This mortal body must be changed into a body that will live forever. When this body that decays is changed into a body that cannot decay, and this mortal body is changed into a body that will live forever, then the teaching of Scripture will come true: "Death is turned into victory! Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?" Sin gives death its sting, and Godís standards give sin its power. Thank God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice that these passages describe the rapture or resurrection of the saints at Jesus' coming. Paul does not describe two comings or two resurrections. These are descriptions of the same event written to different groups of people to help them understand and reject some errors that crept into their thinking.

It seems clear to me that there is one return of Jesus. There is one resurrection. And, there is one judgment of the non-believers. These all occur on the last day of the current age before the "age to come" begins.


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Copyright © 2008 Robert Sherman