The next event on God’s prophetic clock:
Is the Rapture, a word that is derived from the Latin word rapturo, meaning, “a snatching away.” The Rapture is that dramatic moment when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in clouds of glory to remove from this world all who have died in Christ along with the living from the Day of Pentecost until Christ comes to “snatch” His children upward and home in the twinkling of an eye. I Thessalonians 4:16-18 teaches: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.“
This event will occur at breakneck speed – in the “twinkling of an eye.” Scientists have measured the twinkling in a human being’s eye, and it amounts to eleven-one hundredths of a second. Those left on the earth will not know what hit them. A business colleague will suddenly be gone. A schoolteacher will no longer stand before his or her desk as the chalk falls to the floor. A doctor will not show up for his rounds.
There will be no nurses at many hospitals to administer medicine, take pulses, or follow doctors’ orders. Dirty dishes will be left in the sink as a housewife disappears from the view of her stunned family. The Rapture will precipitate the greatest traffic jams in history as cars suddenly become driver-less and pedestrians run for cover. It will be that moment in history, when, without warning, the Lord says, “Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1). It will be the greatest escape in the history of the world.
There are those who say that the pretribulational viewpoint began in 1830 and was propagated by Edward Irving, J. N. Darby, and Margaret McDonald, a retarded girl. But as we shall see, that is not so.
St. Victorinus, the bishop of Pettau, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in AD 270. he said he saw another great and wonderful sign: “Seven angels having the last seven plagues, for in them is completed the indignation of God. And these shall be in the last time when the church shall have gone out of the midst.” St. Victorinus was talking about the Rapture.
Here is more powerful documentation on a pretrib Rapture. The early Christian writer and poet Ephraem the Syrian (who lived from AD 306 to 373) was a major theologian of the early Byzantine Eastern Church. To this day, his hymns and homilies are used in the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox and Middle Eastern Nestorian Churches. He also wrote a large number of commentaries that have never been translated in English. Concerning a pretrib Rapture he stated: “All the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.“
Thus, this teaching is not a present-day innovation but a doctrinal statement dating back seventeen centuries to St. Victorinus, and twenty centuries back to Jesus and Paul. However, there is more. In the sixteenth century there were also those who expressed absolute assurance of the Rapture. Hugh Latimer, burned at the stake for his faith in 1555, said, “It may come in my days, old as I am, or in my children’s days, the saints shall be taken up to meet Christ in the air and so shall come down with him again.” Joseph Mede, the great sixteenth-century literalist, understood I Thessalonians 4:13-18 to teach the catching up of the saints and even used the word Rapture. This was also 250 years before Irving, Darby, and McDonald.
While the Rapture is not taught in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you will find it mentioned twice in the Gospel of John. This is important to remember: Any other time you read about Christ’s return in the Gospels, it is not referring to the Rapture. Instead, these are references to the second phase of Christ’s return, when He physically comes back to earth to rule over the earth after a seven-year tribulation period.
Where are the two Rapture texts found in the Gospel of John? John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.“
This is not His coming to the earth, but a time when Jesus receives us unto Himself at the great Rapture – the snatching away – to be with Him in heaven as the seven years of torment play out their unbridled fury on the earth.
The second reference to the Rapture is in John 11:25-26. I must confess that I quoted the passage for years and did not really understand it. Christ said: “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?“
Jesus is contrasting those who experience death and live again (“the dead in Christ shall rise first” 1 Thessalonians 4:16) with those who never experience death (because “we which are alive and remain” are caught up without dying, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
In the upcoming weeks, we will direct our attention to those events that are leading up to the Rapture, the Rapture itself, and what happens once God’s chosen are caught away to be with the Lord.
The good news for the person who is prepared is – when the Rapture comes, believers will go home to be with the Lord and evade earth’s horrendous seven years of Tribulation. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will, at long last, be the recipient of that blessed hope.
There will be no more tears, no more suffering, and no more dying for those who have received their new, glorified bodies without sin or sickness for all eternity. It is from this perspective – the pretribulation point of view – that I approach this subject with godly reverence.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE