In the Book of John is the first time found in Scripture of the promise of Christ taking his followers off of the earth: “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” (John 14:3, KJV).1 The event described in this passage is the Rapture. These words would have no doubt given much consolation to those with Christ at the time they were spoken, and for much certainty have given countless millions that same consolation throughout history. Though almost two thousand years have separated the early Church from the present day, one thing remains common for both: each expected that Christ could return at any moment. Paul clearly believed that Christ could return in his lifetime and taught as such: “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, KJV).
Paul further explains the future event in which Christ will return for his own in Thessalonians: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and 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” (I Thessalonians 4:16-18, KJV). Again, it is very clear that Paul expected that, indeed, Christ could return in his lifetime. In writing to the people, Paul was clear to address the order of the reconciliation to Christ in the air: those believers who had died would arise first and then those believers who were alive at that time would be caught up with them in the clouds to be with the Lord forever. Paul, when writing this passage, places himself in the company of those Saints who would be living at the time of Christ’s return for his own. Much hope and comfort arose from the fact that Christ would return soon. The unannounced, imminent return has continued throughout the history of the Church. The early church, as well as the present day church, have down through the ages, used this passage just as Paul admonished, “to comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18, KJV). It is indeed the hope of the Rapture that has warmed the hearts of those faithful believers who have suffered persecution down through the ages.
The promise of the rapture has been a “mystery” that was presented to the early church and remains a promise even to this day. Paul admonished that “Behold, I shew you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52, KJV). It is this “mystery” that Christ again promises to bring to pass in the last days in the book of Revelation: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10, KJV). This “hour of temptation” is known as the Tribulation period, that will be a period of time unlike any other in which Christ will complete his program described in the book of Daniel: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy holy people and upon thy holy city: to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, KJV).
The rapture, as described in Revelation, chapter 4, is also confirmed by the absence of the church in Revelation 4:2 through Revelation 19:10. The word “church” is found 19 times before Revelation 4:1, and 6 times after Revelation 19:11. This great event awaits in the foyer of eternity future. What an exciting and comforting time to come. The promise of reconciliation, and the hope of rescue from this present age, is but a trumpet sound away.
1All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Bible version, Royal, 1971.