For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:16-17).
But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, & puts an end to all rule & authority & power (1 Cor 15:23-24).
"Rapture" ...while not specifically appearing in the pages of Scripture, is a term that has come to represent a future event prophesied in Scripture, "Behold, I tell 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 trumpet" (1 Cor 15:51-52).
WHAT CAN WE KNOW about the Rapture? How will it occur? We are given a few clues that hint at these things.
First of all, Christ will descend from heaven "with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and trumpet of God." You will hear false teachings of a "post-trib Rapture," scoffing at this "alleged" pre-trib doctrine as a "secret" catching away. A "quiet" event. But the Holy Spirit teaches us through Paul's writings that it will be a Loud event. The trumpet indicates an official "announcement." God often introduced things with a "voice" from heaven: the Law from Mt. Sinai, Jesus at His baptism, Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. And, at the Rapture, the announcement that "the end has come. Now it is time for Judgment on the world. But before I do that, Bride, I have come for you, as I promised I would" (John 14:3).
Then "be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." How will this happen? Two things. We shall be "changed." And it will happen in the "twinkling of an eye."
WHAT IS THE CHANGE? "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor15:53). It is changed from a "natural body" into a "spiritual body" (v 44). "The first man was of the earth, of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven..as we have borne the image of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." "It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
TWINKLING? How "fast" is a twinkle? Can it be measured? Certainly faster than a Pentium computer chip. Jesus spoke of it this way, "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left" (Matt 24:40-41). And, if we are "like" Jesus with "new" bodies; after He was resurrected and had received His new body, he was in the habit of "vanishing." Whatever the case, it will be Quickly.
ALIEN ABDUCTION THEORY? Satan is already preparing the world for the Rapture with New Age alien abduction "accounts" and theories. Just as he tried to discredit Jesus' resurrection with the "disciples stole the body" theory, he will explain away the rapture with a cosmic "alien" theory.
But let's consider Paul's words very carefully, "But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." What is it about Christ's experience that is unique? After all, there were others who were "raptured." Enoch..."was not, for God took him" (Gen 5). But we are given no details. Moses' body was taken away by angels, but he died (Deut 34:6; Jude9). Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind, leaving his mantle, as Elisha watched (2 Kings 2).
John's account is most compelling. Peter and John run to investigate the empty tomb. They find "the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself" (John 20:7). And John says about himself, that he "SAW and BELIEVED" (v 8).
We must understand the sight they saw. Jesus did not rise from the dead, sit up, and unwrap Himself; and lay the burial cloths on the rock slab in a pile. The cloths were still in the shape as though occupied by a body; still wrapped in loops, layer by layer as His body had been wrapped. The cloth that had been wrapped around His head, was still wrapped; where the head had been. But they were EMPTY! This is the significance of John's "belief." He saw the evidence for a Risen Savior.
Christ the "firstfruits" ...afterward "those who are Christ's at His coming." Food for thought: When the Rapture occurs, and Believers are snatched away at the Loud Announcement, evidence is also going to be left. Just as Elijah's mantle was left, there are going to be clumps of clothing. Imagine a person wearing boots: the socks will still be inside the boots, and the pant legs on the outside. If a person's shirt was tucked into his pants, it will still be tucked in. But, the body is GONE! ...just like Jesus' wrappings.
When the Announcement comes, the person left is first of all going to likely "die from fright" as they see the person disappear and watch the clothing fall limp in a pile. Then, as they look things over, they will not be able to dispute what has happened. And many, like John, will "See and Believe."
THEN COMES THE END!
The GREAT LIE! "...knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:3).
The world has come up with their own denial of God and His creation. It's called "evolution." So, it is no big thing for them to scoff at the concept of the 2nd Coming.
But what about the world that is masquerading in religious garb? Satan's great deception is that he presents himself, saying "I will be like the Most High," as God. And through his elaborate setup called "the church" (small "c") has been spreading false doctrine. Since he "uses" the Bible, he cannot refute the second coming of Christ. But if he can distort it sufficiently, then people will not be "ready" for Christ when He returns.
"For as in the days BEFORE the flood...But ON THE DAY Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire & brimstone. Even so will it be when the Son of Man is REVEALED" (Matt 24; Luke 17). Remember, the judgments of Revelation are the "Revelation OF Jesus Christ" (Rev 1:1).
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with...cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man...we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (Luke 21:34,36; 1 John 3:3).
(Scripture quotations are from the NKJV)