1 Thessalonians 4:17
The rapture of the church is one of the most debated concepts in any discussion of Revelation. While there is no specific chapter or verse that specifically mention a rapture, there are a handful of verses that can lead to the interpretation of a time where believers are "caught up" or raptured in the air. The general accepted idea of the rapture is that there will be a time in the future where the trumpet will sound and all believers, both living and dead, will be called up in the air to meet with Christ, thus physically uniting Christ and the Church and removing the Church from the world.
The main question regarding the rapture is usually one of timing. When exactly does the rapture occur with regard to the other events of the Revelation. One of the most widely held beliefs is in a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture. This means that the rapture would occur at the beginning of a seven year period of great turmoil called the tribulation, followed by the millennial rule of Christ, all before the ultimate final judgment. First proposed and popularized by John Nelson Darby in 1827, this is the view of most Evangelicals. This particular view has been further popularized by the Left Behind series, as it is the main view of the rapture where the events of Revelation start with a great disappearance of all the believers. Great for dramatic tension.
In our journey through Revelation, our pastor touched the first verse of chapter four which can lend to this interpretation of the rapture. "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'" In this passage, John seems to be referring to a separate event from the initial vision in chapter one. In chapter one, John heard the voice like a trumpet, turned around and started seeing the visions of Jesus and the seven churches and seven spirits. Here John hears the voice again, the sound of a trumpet calling him up to heaven. This interpretation goes that this sound of a trumpet is the one that will call up the believers to heaven prior the the events of the tribulation unfolding ("what must take place after this").
There are many other interpretations of when and whether the rapture will occur. Ultimately, it is a mystery and a non-essential for a believer. There is room for disagreement and lively discussion among believers, because there are only passing references to it in scripture. At the end of the day, when the rapture occurs is the least interesting question about the rapture.
The more interesting question, the more cutting question about the rapture is the one that is most often unaddressed. From the beginning of Stonepoint's series on Revelation, we've had a motto for the undertaking of this study. "Don't be mesmerized by Jesus' second coming if you're not going to tell people about His first coming." The question relating to the rapture is similar. The pastor discussed how after the rapture of the church, the world would see what happens when the influence of the church and the Spirit of God are removed. I agree that the world will be dark indeed when the influence of the Spirit of God is removed, but I wonder about the church.
If your church disappeared today, would the community even notice? Would anyone other than the members notice if your church just stopping meeting tomorrow? Would the influence of the church be missed?
Even worse, has the church been such a damaging presence that the community would be better off without it? Has the church hurt so many people that it has done more harm than good?
These are the tough questions. It is wonderful to know where you stand on when and if the rapture will occur as described. To be prepared for that future day. But it's more important to be a beneficial influence on your community. To be the salt and light to the world around you.
Don't wait so expectantly for a rapture that you miss being a servant today.