Over the last couple of lessons we talked about near-death experiences. And perhaps related to that is a question that has been posed by another one of our beloved viewers about the rapture. Specifically, he’s questioning whether or not the common understanding of the rapture within the American church is biblically accurate. I would have to say that, in my understanding, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the coming of Jesus Christ and the rapture of the church.
The rapture, of course, is undeniable, that we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, those who are alive, when he comes back. And he is coming back. But what happens next is a matter of debate, and the timing of that rapture. Many biblical students believe that a time of great distress and testing of all the Earth’s inhabitants is still yet off in the future, it didn’t just all happen back before 70 AD, and that there is still coming an Antichrist and that terrible reign and the great persecution of the Saints and so on and so forth. I’m one of them. I love those who disagree with me. I don’t want to fight with anybody over this.
But I would say many, if not the majority, of seemingly American Christians believe that Jesus is going to come back prior to what’s often referred to as the tribulation, and he’s going to get us all out of here before things get bad, so we have nothing to worry about. And then, seven years later, we’ll be coming back with him. But we have so many passages that just seem to raise questions about the validity of that. There’s really nothing in the New Testament that would lead us to believe that Jesus comes back twice, once to catch us away and take us to heaven and then another time to come back seven years later and establish his kingdom.
There are many other questions, of course, that could be raised. This is a Little Lesson. This is not a thorough, exhausting study of eschatology, okay? For many years, I believed the standard belief that’s held by so many folks, the two returns of Jesus idea. But then I faced up to, in my study of Scripture, that it looks like Jesus is coming back one time and that surely when God pours his wrath out upon this world, that we don’t have to worry about Christians being caught in that wrath. That’s why some Christians kind of believe in what they call the pre-wrath rapture, before things get really bad. Or sometimes it’s the mid-trib rapture theory. Instead of the pre-trib or the post-trib, they have identified it as being the mid of the tribulation.
Regardless, I’m persuaded that what Jesus talked about in the Olivet discourse, it’s the same thing that the apostle Paul was talking about in 1 Thessalonians, chapter four. Let’s read that. Paul says, “We do want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep.” Well, that’s Christians who have died. “So that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” So Christians do grieve when we lose our loved ones, but we don’t grieve without hope, because we’re going to see our loved ones again one day, that is, those who believe in Jesus, if we continue to follow Jesus.
Verse 14 of 1 Thessalonians 4, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” Get that? It’s unmistakable. It’s crystal clear. When Jesus comes back, those who have fallen asleep in him, we just read about that in the previous verse, they’re going to come back. So that must mean that right now, they’re there. And when their spirit left their body, that’s where their spirit went, to the kingdom of heaven. They’re there, but actually, it’s only temporary, because they’re going to come back with him when he comes back. God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep. So it’s unmistakable.
We don’t just see Jesus coming back in 1 Thessalonians 4, we see Jesus coming back with all those who have died in Christ. Well, that’s going to be a lot of people. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” So if you’re still alive when Jesus comes back, you’re going to be second in line, as it were. Because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God.” And then he says, “The dead in Christ will rise first.”
Wait a second. I thought he just said that the dead in Christ will come back with him. Yes, good point. He can’t be contradicting himself, Paul is not stupid. So it must be their spirits coming back, but it must be their resurrected bodies that will come out of the graves and proceed those of us who are alive at his coming. So we can only kind of assume here that their resurrected bodies will rise in the air and will join their spirits that have been with Jesus, and they’ll get their resurrected bodies. We know, of course, at that point in time, those of us who are alive, we will not all fall sleep. But we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, Paul writes, right, in another Scripture.
So we get a glorified body at that time, just as all those who have already gone to heaven. They get a glorified body, whatever all that means and entails. Verse 17, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord …” Where? “in the air. And so we shall always be with the Lord.” Now, the standard American interpretation, evangelical interpretation so often is Jesus comes back with the dead in Christ, the spirits, the dead bodies of the dead in Christ rise up. Then, we are caught up with them. Their bodies join their spirits. We get glorified bodies, and then Jesus takes us all back to heaven so that when he pours out his wrath and tribulation we’re not here to experience it.
But it actually doesn’t say that. Doesn’t say that anywhere. Okay? The very next verse is, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” And then chapter five, which Paul did not write this in chapter and verse, “Now as to times and epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord …” Has he changed the subject entirely? Now we’re talking seven years later? “will come just like a thief in the night.” Of course, he goes on to say, for you it’s not going to be like a thief and so forth.
So what am I suggesting? I’m suggesting that, actually, what Paul is describing is the one return of Jesus Christ and we, like the Roman citizens would have done if Caesar had visited their city … They wouldn’t wait for Caesar to arrive at their city. They went out of the city to meet him and escort him back to the city. So we rise to meet Jesus in the air if we’re alive at his coming. But that doesn’t mean he takes us back to heaven. Why would he take us back to heaven? He’s coming with the saints. Are they coming to escort us back to heaven or are we rising to escort them to the Earth when Jesus comes to put down the armies of the Antichrist and establish his kingdom and so forth. I think it’s the latter of the two. Okay?
Something to think about. I love you if you disagree with me. All right? But study it out in Scripture. This is a Little Lesson. This is not an exhaustive study of the end times. But this was all provoked for me to share because one of our dear viewers asked me what I thought. He gave me a little link to a video by a very articulate and well-known respected Greek scholar and so forth. It was lovely. I agreed 100% because it fit into what I’ve always thought all along anyways. Okay, that’s all for today’s Little Lesson. Thank you so much for joining me. Hope to see you next time.