Are the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ two distinct events? I’ve read the Rapture is when Jesus appears in the clouds for us, and in the coming of Christ, Jesus descends to the earth to bring judgement and reign. Is this a misunderstanding?
The rapture is one of those often hot debated things in Christianity. On the basic level in case anyone reading doesn’t even know what it is, the Rapture or Rapture of the Church is an event that is yet to happen and is essentially when God’s people will be taken all at one time so God can judge the earth. The word rapture is never found in scripture but its concept is. The debate has many levels including: is it or is it not a thing, will it happen before Jesus comes back, while He is coming back, or after He does, and also is it before, during, or after The Great Tribulation talked about in many places of scripture. I’m sure there’s more arguments but this gives us a foundation.
Ever since I became a sincere Christian, I have heard about the rapture and various ideas about it. In fact, it was probably one of the curiosities that drew me to press into the faith. Over the years I had pretty much settled in my heart what I believed would happen (Now this is an interesting thing that I will come back to). It wasn’t until I was at our Corry church one night and we were having a conversation that I started to think differently about it (I’ll come back to that too).
One of the people serving that night who had been in the faith and churches for years asked me, “Do you think the rapture will happen before the tribulation?” I emphatically answered, “I absolutely do, I think the Bible clearly teaches that!” To which they replied, “That is a subject that has caused many debates.” When this was said it got me thinking of something (which I will also come back to)! This question came to me in my spirit, “Do you believe this because you want to believe it, or because it’s true?” Wow, did that open a can of worms!
I decided in that moment that I really didn’t have enough knowledge of this hot debated topic to have a real opinion, my opinion being founded mostly in what I was taught. Now in peripheral doctrines it’s ok to have opinions about them as long as you don’t teach them as truth. However, if you want to have a thoughtful discussion about anything Biblical, you better know your stuff. This sent me into some very interesting studies!
Before I proceed and get back to all the things I was going to get back to, I want to throw out a very important disclaimer. Whether the rapture happens or not, or when it happens, or how it does should be very low on our “I have to study this out” list. The reason I say this is because there simply just isn’t enough information that one can say definitively. Jesus, the Apostles, or anyone else saw fit to mention it but it wasn’t a subject to which a lot of time was given. As Christian’s, we can get distracted by deep study of curiosities and miss the things that help us live daily as Christians in God’s will. The Bible is full of curiosities, and I believe that it is purposefully done that way, but curiosities should not be our focus. When God wanted us to focus on something He made sure that it was repeated over and over again.
When it comes to peripheral doctrines, or doctrines that the Bible doesn’t say a lot about we have to be open minded. Sometimes it’s a matter of what we simply don’t know, sometimes it’s a cultural thing we don’t understand. Sometimes it’s just something God gives us as a teaser to provoke our faith but we will have to wait for the answer. What one believes about the rapture does not make them a better Christian and therefore it doesn’t move the needle much. What one believes about God and their relationship to Him DOES matter. The rapture and the the thoughts surrounding it have one main purpose (though there could be many underlying or less important purposes). This purpose is to encourage believers to be ready for Jesus and His inevitable return.
Now, there are certainly some out there who will think I am dodging the question by spending so much time on it this way and not getting into details of the question itself but I assure you I am not. I am answering this as a pastor whose job it is to feed the sheep. I am to feed them with life sustaining food not dessert. The focus I want to stress is the utter importance of not getting distracted by curiosities leaving behind the nourishment for your soul. However, I am not saying we shouldn’t spend any time on these other things, dessert is always good in moderation!
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 are some of our main rapture verses. The purpose I believe of both of these sections of scripture was not to tell exactly the how and what but to encourage us that. That God has a plan in place and we can rest in that. A lot of times things that God had said were not understandable until after they happen and I believe that the rapture is one of these events. With that my personal belief is that Jesus will come back in the clouds and call us to Him. I believe that is a different event than His coming to earth to reign for what is called the Millenium (another debated topic). Really to try and explain more in a Faith Fix would be too difficult as there are whole books written on the subject.
To sum all this up and to get back around finally to things I wanted to get back to let me say this: I reserve the right to change my mind on what I believe on this as I grow and learn more. There are certain subjects in the Word that I believe we just have to be open to. Now of course, I am not talking about foundation principles of scripture like Jesus as the only way to God and faithfulness to Him. When we have clear teaching we embrace it, when it’s not so clear we allow God to teach us. For the rest we wait until God comes back and reveals all the things we missed.
When Jesus taught about the end times He did so doing something quite amazing. He gave information but always brought it back to faith in God. In everything He did His lesson was the same, “Have faith in God!” Don’t reject the curiosities but don’t get lost in them either. Focus on living for God and seeing Him in all you do and you will be blessed. He may even reveal truths to you that others don’t know!