By Dr. W.H. Compton, Th.D., Pastor
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51-58; Philippians 3:20-21; John 14:1-3; Luke 21:34-36; Colossians 3:4; Titus 2:13. ("Rapture" is not mentioned in the Bible. However, the words, "catching up" are, so it is permissible to use the word "rapture.")
First let us call your attention to two expressions, "rapture" and the "second coming" of Christ. These two expressions are not the same. First, the Rapture is a time when the living Christians and those who are in the graves will be caught up to meet Christ in the air. The wicked dead will not be raised at that time. There is no such thing as a general resurrection. This is confirmed in First Thessalonians 4:13-18. These verses clarify the qualifications of those remaining in the graves and those who will awaken at the time of the catching up of those qualified to meet the Lord in the air.
There are so many who confuse the Scriptures related to the Rapture and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, in Matthew 25:31-46 so many contend that this has reference to the white throne judgment day. If you will read it carefully, you will see that this refers to the judgment of the nations and has nothing to do with the rapture or a general resurrection, but refers to a judgment of the nations as to their treatment to the Jewish nation and its people.
Friends, the rapture will take place at least seven years before the Second Coming of Christ. First the rapture will take place and the second coming will be Christ coming back to earth with ones he caught up to be with him. Again, if one has studied Dispensational Truth he or she will not get confused in the different periods, however, we will have to properly divide his Word relative to different things mentioned in his Word. So many are going to be surprised when these events begin to take place. I can remember when I was just a boy, I would try to picture just how it would be at the coming of the Lord. I could imagine the Lord coming before I could get home from school. Or that the Lord might come before we could get home from church.
The rapture of the church could happen just anytime, but the Second Coming of Christ with the church could not happen just anytime. This event of the Rapture of the church, the people of God, might just happen any moment. However, the Second Coming of Christ could not happen just any moment. Christ comes for his saints first and he comes the second time with them. The church houses are not filled these days but after the rapture, it will be noised abroad and many will be interested in accepting the Lord Jesus Christ then.
Oh, try to imagine how it will be when millions of people will leave this world miraculously. They will just disappear from this earth. There will be many who will remember the messages they have heard about the translation of the saints that will be living when the catching up of the saints transpire. This event will cause many, many people to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. It is not a second chance but a continuation of the first chance to be redeemed by the blood of Christ.
There will be many preachers as well as many church members who will miss the translation as referred to in First Thessalonians 4:13-18. Really churches will be crowded, packed out after the disappearance of millions of people. The newspapers, TV and radio will be flooded with news of the happening of the Rapture of those who will be ready at the time of the event. You talk about screaming, crying disappointments, asking questions, searching the Bible for answers. This will be a time of honest soul searching, it will not be such arguments as, "which church did you belong to?"
People will not be asking if you are Church of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Catholic, Jewish, Nazarene, Pilgrim Holiness, Jesus Only, Independent, etc. The great concern will be, "what must I do to become a child of God?"
Revivals will break out everywhere. Church buildings will be crowded with people who miss the rapture, preaching will be everywhere, people confessing, professing to becoming a Christian. This will happen immediately after the translation of the Christians from this earth.
If anything is clear in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is.
Can you imagine what a time of soul searching it will be when the trumpet sounds for the saints to meet the Lord Jesus in the air? Churchanity will not be the issue then. The conclusion will be or should be, have I been born again?
People will at that time see.