David Jeremiah - The Rapture of the Church
The Bible tells us that there is coming a day when millions of people will be evacuated from this world in a moment. It will be a time of chaos never before experienced in this earth. Those of us who are watching what is happening in the world today believe that the time for that event is drawing near. The event that I am describing is what the Bible calls the Rapture. Before we look at the passage of Scripture that describes this event, I wanna answer a question that a little girl asked her mother after she heard me preach a similar truth at Shadow Mountain. Was a very insightful question and the mother told me as I was working out the next day in the gym, "Here's what my little girl asked me and you need to give me an answer so I can go home and tell her what the answer is". Here was her question. "Dr. Jeremiah keeps talking about all the signs that are developing concerning the Lord's return. And then in the next breath he says, 'And nothing needs to happen before Jesus comes back to take us home to be with him.' Now, Mom, that doesn't make any sense to me. Either there are signs or there aren't signs. What does the pastor mean"?
It's a very insightful question that demands an answer and the best way for me to answer it is to show you a little diagram on the screen behind me. This diagram will help you understand that there is coming a time when some events are going to take place and they're going to be sequenced. The first thing that you see on this chart is the First Coming of Christ and, of course, then after the First Coming of Christ comes the next event. The next event is the church age. That's where we are right now. We're living in the church age, the age between the Coming of Christ the first time and the Coming of Christ the second time. How many of you know what the next thing is? Right after the church age, what's going to change everything forever is this event we call the Rapture. Notice, the Rapture shows Jesus coming from heaven but he doesn't come all the way to the earth. The Bible says we're gonna be caught up into the heavens to be with him and then we're gonna go back to heaven with him in the Rapture. After the Rapture, a period of great Tribulation will take place on this earth for seven years. At the end of the seven-year Tribulation the Second Coming of Christ takes place.
Now, here's where the disconnect is for most people who get confused about the future. The Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are not the same thing. The Rapture is when Jesus comes back to take his people back to heaven with him. Then Tribulation on the earth takes place and then the Second Coming is when Jesus comes back and the Bible says he comes with all of the people of God and with all the angels and sets up his kingdom on this earth. Now, here's the answer to that young girl's question. There are no signs for the Rapture. The Rapture could happen at any time. But the New Testament is filled with signs for the Second Coming. But guess what? Every event casts its shadow before us so if there are signs for the Second Advent and they tell us that the Second Advent is coming, that means the Rapture is seven years before that so the Rapture's surely coming, isn't it?
So when we study the prophecies of the Bible and we see the regathering of Israel and we see the collection of the nations of Europe and we see all the things that are happening on the prophetic scene, what we know is this: our redemption is drawing nigh. The Bible tells us that Jesus is going to come back and I know I might embarrass myself a little bit by saying this, but I tell people everywhere I go, "I expect to be here when Jesus comes back for the Rapture". I believe that things are so close that if the Lord lets me live out my life I'm gonna see the Rapture. And I've come up with a little slogan, "I'd rather see the uppertaker than the undertaker, wouldn't you"? I'm really looking forward to that, I am.
Now, according to the book of Revelation, when Jesus comes back for the Second Advent, every eye shall see him. But when the Rapture happens, it's going to be very quickly, very quietly, happening. And it is the answer to the promise that Jesus made in John chapter 14. Do you remember when Jesus was about to go away after his disciples had understood his death, burial, and resurrection a little bit, and Jesus was preparing them for what was to happen? And they didn't understand it and some of them said, "Lord, where are You going and, Lord, how do you get there"? And Jesus said to them in John 14, "Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; and if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And I go to prepare this place for you so that I can come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also".
And the Rapture is the fulfillment of that promise of the Lord Jesus. He has gone to heaven. He is preparing a place for us and one day soon he's gonna come back and he's going to take us up to meet him in the air and we're gonna go to the place that he's been preparing. Now, if the Lord created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh, he's been working on heaven for several thousand years. Can you imagine what kind of place that's gonna be? I mean, it is going to be a place like anything you have ever seen in your life. And the hope of the believer is this. That before Tribulation breaks out on this earth, the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return. The real text that teaches this truth is found in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. The writer of this passage begins by giving to his readers a preview of what's gonna happen in the future, sort of a little overture of these events.
And he begins by trying to dispel their ignorance. He begins in verse 13 by saying, "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren," and I've observed that whenever that passage is referred to in the Scripture, whenever that little phrase is in the Scripture, you know what it means? They're ignorant brethren. It means they don't know what they need to know. In fact, J. Vernon McGee once said that the largest congregation in the world was the congregation of the ignorant brethren. Now, I don't know if that's true or not. He was a little more edgy than I would be. But the apostle begins by using this phrase that shows that the Thessalonians didn't understand what was going on. So he's writing this to dispel their ignorance and, you know, one of the reasons we study the Bible is so we can learn things we don't know. So we need to open our Bibles and ask God to help us understand what the Scripture says. The first thing that he does after he dispels their ignorance is he describes a believer's death.
This is a very interesting thing. Notice what he says. He says, "I don't want you to be ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep". The word that is used of Christians who have died in the text of the New Testament is a word which is, the meaning of the word is to sleep, but to sleep in death. "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep". Did you know that if you're a Christian death is just like falling asleep. Just like falling asleep. That's what the Bible says. And we're gonna learn why in just a moment. The early Christians had this wonderful word for the burying places of their dead. The Greek word is koimeterion. Don't get caught up in that word but it means a rest house for strangers, a sleeping place. Now, hang on. It is the same word from which we get our English word "cemetery". The same word was used in that day for inns or hotels or motels, like the Ramada Inn or the Holiday Inn, the same word that was used for cemetery was used for hotels. And you expect to get up the next day when you go to a hotel and continue your journey.
And this is the picture of the place where you bury your believing loved ones, the body of the believer has just been put into a hotel until the Resurrection. Isn't that an interesting thought? So where's my loved one? "Oh, they're in the hotel down here at the cemetery". I mean, that'll open some people's eyes. It'll start a conversation for year if you want one. One day the Lord is going to come back and that body is gonna be raised up. And the main truth here that we need to remember is just as physically we sleep and we expect to awake tomorrow in the hotels where we're staying, so as Christians when we die we can be assured that one day we'll be awakened by the return of the Lord. We'll come out of those hotels and we'll go to be with the Lord in the heavens. What a great truth. Now, after he dispels their ignorance and he describes their death, he defends the believer's hope. And this is what he says: "Lest you sorrow". He says, "I want you to know this truth so you won't sorrow like others who don't have any hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus".
Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen, the Lord Jesus came into this world to take the sting out of death and what that means is that though we do sorrow when we lose somebody we love, we don't sorrow like the other part of the world who doesn't know him because we know that death is not the end. In fact, it's the beginning of something much better than we've ever experienced before. Now, here's why we don't have to sorrow. Here's where our hope is. Notice what he says in verses 13 and 14. He says if we believe that Jesus died and he rose again, is it too hard to believe that he can perform the same miracle in your life and in mine? I mean, this explains how Christ took the sting out of death for believers. He's changed what would have been death into sleep by his own death.
This then, is the cause for not grieving. I'm not afraid to die. I don't wanna die. I'm like the little boy in the class who the teacher said, "How many of you wanna go to heaven when you die"? Everybody raised their hand but one little boy in the back row. And she went back and she said, "Son, don't you want to go to heaven when you die"? "Oh," he said, "yeah, when I die but I thought you were getting up a load for tonight, you know, and I don't wanna go to heaven tonight, you know what I'm saying"? I wanna go to heaven when God's ready to take me to heaven and I'm not afraid to go to heaven because I know that there is something far better awaiting us because of our faith in Christ.
Now, in the next part of this section of Scripture, verse 15, we've already seen the careful preview of the Rapture. Now we're gonna see the promise of the Rapture. Notice verse 15: "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 by no means precede those who are asleep". And he begins in verses 16 and 17 to outline how things are gonna happen when the Rapture occurs. So let's go through this little chronological program of of the rapture, verses 16 and 17. Notice first of all, first thing, there's gonna be a return. Verse 16: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God". The Bible says the next thing that's gonna happen for everyone who's a Christian is the skies are gonna be parted and Jesus Christ is gonna come back. He's gonna return to take those who have trusted in him to heaven.
And notice, it's the Lord himself who is coming. He's not sending the Holy Spirit. He's not sending his angels. He's not sending any of the disciples who've gone on ahead. He himself is coming. In fact, you'll remember when he was taken up in the Ascension that the angels said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, is going to come in the same manner as you saw Him go into heaven". How did they see him go? They saw him go physically, they saw him go personally. So how should we expect him to come back? Physically and personally. Jesus Christ is coming back very soon. Now, the detail of this passage is very complete. In fact, we're even given the sounds that we're gonna hear before this happens. It says: "The shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God". Three sounds. We should be listening for these sounds, the Bible says.
One day we'll be going through our motions, living our lives, and that sound will be heard. You say, "How will I know it"? Well, it's gonna be a sound like a trumpet, like the voice of an archangel. It's gonna be that kind of a sound, like you've never heard before. I promise you when you hear it, you'll know it. There's gonna be a return. And then the Bible says there's gonna be a Resurrection. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. In a split second the Lord is going to call all believers to himself to share his glory. Not one will remain behind. The Bible says that we are going to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The Bible says we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed. So there's gonna be a return. Jesus is gonna come back. What's the second thing? The dead in Christ are gonna be raised and they're gonna go up first. Then we who are alive and remain, we're gonna be caught up to be with them in the heavens. We're gonna meet our loved ones who've gone on before us who are in the grave. They're gonna check out of their motel and they're gonna be caught up with us, and the Bible says we're gonna meet together in the air.
So there's not only a return, a resurrection, and a rapture but there's gonna be a reunion. I remember as a little boy growing up in my daddy's church, we used to sing this song, "There's gonna be a meeting in the air in the sweet, sweet bye and bye". You remember that? Well, that's not just a good lyric for a good hymn. That's the truth of the Word of God. The Bible says that "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall always be with the Lord". Ladies and gentlemen, that's our final place. Our final place where we're gonna be forever and ever with the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I want you to notice that the passage doesn't end with this chronological organization of the Rapture. The passage says that there's a purpose for us to know this truth. Verse 18 says: "Therefore comfort one another with these words".
The word "comfort" is the same word that is translated elsewhere in the Bible by the word "encouragement". So we could read that text this way: "Therefore encourage one another with these words". Because how many of you know you can't go through life without hope. You can't go through life without faith. If you don't believe God has a plan for your life, you're gonna have a miserable life. And it's not just think so, hope so, whomp up your faith. The Bible says: "Faith is the bedrock truth of life". Hebrews 10 says: "The just live by faith".
And I wanna tell you something. The Rapture of the church and the coming of Christ is the most encouraging doctrine you can ever preach to people who are going through trouble. You know, we're living in some pretty difficult times right now, are we not? And people having kinds of problems they never had before in their life. So in light of what Paul has presented, here's the question we need to ask. How shall we live? If we believe that Jesus is coming back to take us to be with him, how shall we live? Well, first of all, we should be looking for the Lord, shouldn't we? If we believe that, we should be looking for him. We should anticipate it. When was the last time you even thought about the fact that Jesus was coming back? The Bible says in Titus 2:13 we're to be "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ". Philippians 3:20 says: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior". And 1 Thessalonians 1 says: "We wait for His Son from heaven".
You know, one of the things that helps you deal with life on earth is to remember that there's life elsewhere. It's life in heaven that God has provided, and keep your eyes on Jesus. Not only should we be looking for Jesus but the Scripture says we should be living for Jesus, shouldn't we? In fact, one of the interesting things about prophecy is wherever you see a prophetic truth in the Bible, almost inevitably married to it is some practical admonition that has been given to us to tell us what to do. For instance, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ".
Somebody said, "Well, if you believe Jesus is coming back you can just live any way you want". No, you can't. If you really believe that Jesus is coming back, you don't wanna be ashamed at his coming. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is coming back for all those who have placed their faith in him. If you have not done that, you will be left behind. Today, you can get your name on the list. You can say, "Lord Jesus, I want to receive you as my Savior. I don't wanna be left behind. I wanna go to heaven. When you come back for your own, I wanna be included in that number". You say, "Well, Pastor Jeremiah, that's a strange thing that you say, that you need to trust Jesus Christ so you can go to heaven". I'm not saying that. I'm just reporting to you what Jesus said. Do you remember what he said? He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me".
Do you wanna go to heaven when you die? The only way you're gonna get there is through Jesus Christ. There's not plan A, plan B, and plan C. There's only one plan; it's God's plan. And the Bible says God has a plan whereby you can go to heaven and spend eternity with him forever and ever and ever, and you can execute that plan right here, right now, right here in this place. And when the Rapture comes, you will hear the call, the voice of an archangel, the shout, and the trump of God. And you will be called up to be with Him.