Greg Laurie - What Is The Rapture?
I think even nonbelievers are concerned right now about the state of our world. The stakes are higher. As we're experiencing what the Bible describes is the time where there is distress of nations with no way out. Even secular futurologists are sounding the alarms as they see converging lines of danger and instability around the world. It's an alarming thing when you hear a world leader use the word armageddon in a sentence, and we actually see that happening. More than half of all Americans believe Jesus will return to earth someday. Over half of Americans believe in this event commonly called the rapture. In fact, 55% believe quote, "The rapture and they believe that they will be taken to heaven in the rapture".
And so there's a greater awareness of these things. And by the way, one of the signs of the end times is a greater awareness of and understanding of Bible prophecy. In the book of Daniel chapter 12 verse 4 we read, "Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret. Seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there and knowledge will increase". God is saying that in the last days knowledge will increase and also I think in awareness of what scripture teaches about end times events will increase as well. And so we're living in that time that I believe is known as the end of days. The Bible is the one book that dares to predict the future, not once, not twice, but hundreds of times with 100% accuracy.
And the Bible tells us that the age is coming ultimately to a close. And we talk about the antichrist and I'm gonna deal with him in my next message. And people wonder who is the antichrist? You will not know who antichrist is until the church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air in the rapture. So don't waste your time looking for antichrist. The Bible never tells you to look for antichrist, it always tells you to look for Jesus Christ. That's an important distinction. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 says, "The mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of His coming".
So the restraining force in the world today is the Holy Spirit working through the church. Think how our world would be if there were no believers standing up for what is right. Think how horrible this world would be if there were not believers speaking out against what is wrong. We're the restraining force. Once we're removed, all hell's gonna literally break loose. So the restraining force of the Holy Spirit is the church that will be taken out of the way, caught up to meet the Lord in the air, I'll explain that more in a moment, and then that wicked one, meaning the antichrist, will be revealed whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of his coming.
Okay, so with that in mind, let's make a few points about the rapture. Let's start with this one, point number one, what is the rapture? The rapture is that moment when Christ descends from heaven and we're caught up to meet him. It is at this moment that we receive our new resurrection bodies and it's also at this moment that we are reunited with loved ones who have preceded us. The rapture is the first phase of the return of Christ, as I've already said, it happens before antichrist is revealed. Now I know some are asking, "Well, I've never seen the word rapture in the Bible". Well, to the point, I don't think you've seen the word Bible in the Bible, have you? Have you ever read the word Bible in the Bible? I'll answer it for you, you haven't. Have you ever read the word trinity in the Bible? No, you haven't. But we believe in the trinity, right?
So the rapture is in the Bible, certainly the teaching and even the word, depending on what kind of translation you have. The word rapture comes from the root word rapturous that is a translation of the Greek word harpazo. And that is a word that is used many times in the Bible. Harpazo means to be caught up or taken by force. And so it's translated rapturous, rapture in the Latin translation, and that's where the word comes from. I don't think it's important what word you use. You can call it the rapture, you can call it the harpazo, you can call it the great escape. I don't care what you call it, but it's a moment that's clearly taught in the Bible.
And here's the main text that we often go to for this teaching. It's 1 Thessalonians 4 verse 16. "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. And we which are alive and remaining shall be caught up". This is the word caught up, root word, rapturous, taken by force, removed, snatched away, taken forcibly. "We will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we'll always be there with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words".
So why is there a rapture, why? Paul talks about this in 1 Thessalonians 4. The believers in Thessalonica were concerned about loved ones who had died. They wondered if they would ever see them again. They were filled with sorrow and grief. And so Paul gave them these words to reassure them. In fact, he says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, "We don't want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who have died so that you will grieve as those who have no hope". So guys listen, it's okay. I wanna comfort you and I wanna give you a heavenly perspective on what happens to loved ones who believe in Jesus when they die. You're going to see them again.
So I wanna establish that fact. And I don't want you to grieve like people who have no hope. But here's another thing I would point out. He says, "I don't want you to be ignorant about these things". Sometimes people say, "We don't need to study end times events, no one can figure it out anyway". That's not true. We should study end times events and we need to understand what they mean to us today. Again, Paul says, "I don't want you to be ignorant". Jesus said, "When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, let the reader understand".
So it is important that we understand these things, and also I think when we understand prophetic teaching or eschatology, the study of last things as it's sometimes called. If we understand it as we ought to, it will bring hope to us because Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Therefore comfort one another with these words". When you lose a loved one, it changes your world, doesn't it? How many of you have someone that you love that's a Christian that has died and gone on to heaven? Raise your hand, that's pretty much everyone. Now you think about them probably quite often. Some of you think about them all the time and you miss them and you have sorrow in your heart.
And sometimes well-meaning, but misdirected Christians might say, "Don't cry, they're in heaven". Well, I actually think you should cry. I think the depth of your sorrow is an indication of the depth of your love. I mean, when I die, you better at least shed one or two tears, come on. I mean, this is a way of saying, "I care about that person". And the Bible even says, "There's a time to mourn". There's a time for that, it's important. I think it's a process of letting go and committing it to God, but we don't mourn like those who have no hope. The Christian does not mourn hopelessly, the Christian mourns hopefully. So though I mourn, though I miss the person that has gone on before me, I also mourn with hope because I know I will see them again, and I know they're not just a part of my past, I also know they're a part of my future.
So here's how it's gonna work. You're just gonna be going about your business and in a moment that will happen so quickly, you can't really measure it in human time, you're gonna be caught up to be reunited with your loved ones again. Mothers and fathers will be reunited with sons and daughters. Husbands will be reunited with wives and wives with husbands. Children reunited with their parents, siblings reunited, friends reunited. Your sorrow immediately vanishes and is replaced by ecstatic joy. Describing the same event that we call the rapture, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, "Don't be uninformed for we do not grieve like those who have no hope".
So he knows this is gonna be an event that will happen and he describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:51, "I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, we'll be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible". The twinkling of an eye. How long does it take for an eye to twinkle? It comes from the Greek word adamos. It's about 1,000th of a second. And so people might say, "Well, I'll just accept Christ when the rapture happens". You better be fast. Let's play that out. Okay, the Lord just raptured us. "Lord Jesus," that took way too long. Event's already over with, you missed it. No, you need to be ready ahead of time and be ready to meet the Lord.
See, I think it's important for us to understand these things because it gives us a heavenly perspective. You see, there's no theology without doxology. And by that I mean I'm always interested in what these great theological truths mean to me in day-to-day living. It's a good thing to think about heaven because you'll live a better life on earth. Sometimes people will falsely accuse Christians of being disconnected and they'll say things like, "Oh, you're so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good". And to that I would say in great love, "Shut up". No one does more for people than Christians. It doesn't matter if they even share our faith. We say we wanna love you and show compassion to you in the name of Christ.
This event that we did for all those children, many of them who are out, they don't have stable homes, and they're in foster care, and they have to go to school and they don't have clothes, they don't have shoes, they don't have backpacks, and we're giving them all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, right. So that's tangible love shown to people, yes. Those that think the most of the next world do the most for this one. It was C.S. Lewis who said, "A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, it's one of the things the Christian is meant to do," end quote.
So think about heaven, dream about heaven, look forward to heaven, these are good things to do. Number three, when is the rapture? Here's where we get into trouble. Here's where that problem develops that I identified last time as rapturos-nuttiness. By the way, there is no such term, I just made it up. But to me, rapturos-nuttiness is when everything is a sign of the times. Everything is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy and I start losing perspective and then I engage in date setting. We should never do this.
Jesus said, "No man knows the day or the hour when the Son of man will return". If we were to go back to the original language it would translate out to say, "No man knows the day or the hour when the Son of man will return". And what it actually means is, no man knows the day or the hour when the Son of man will return. So when someone says, "I've cracked the code, I know the date," I'm telling you, it's wrong. No one knows the date and we shouldn't worry about the date. We just need to be ready to be caught up to meet the Lord. And what's gonna happen? We're gonna be reunited with loved ones.
Again 1 Thessalonians 4, "The dead in Christ rise first and we which are alive and remaining shall be caught up," harpazo, "Together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air". So, when we die, our body goes into the ground, but our soul goes into the presence of God. So if you're wondering where are your loved ones right now? Are they in the grave? No, they're in heaven. "But their body is in the grave". Yes, God's gonna take care of that later. There's gonna be a bodily resurrection. But for now their soul is in the presence of God because the Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Paul even talked about his struggle with the believers there and he said, "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, but it's important for me to be here with you". When a believer dies, they go to be with Christ which is far better, but then there is coming the day where God will resurrect their physical bodies.
Let's draw a contrast between the rapture and the second coming. When we talk about the coming of the Lord, we're really talking about an event, but it in a way has two expressions, the rapture and the second coming. In the rapture he comes in the air, and this is all on the screen if you're taking notes. In the rapture he comes in the air, in the second coming Christ returns to the earth. In the rapture he comes for his bride, in the second coming he returns with his bride. In the rapture he comes like a thief in the night, in the second coming the whole earth will see him. In the rapture he comes before judgment, and in the second coming he returns with judgment.
Sometimes people ask, "Will Christians go through the tribulation period"? My belief as the answer is no because "God has not appointed us to wrath," the scripture says, "But to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ". And speaking to the church of the last days, Jesus says, "Because you have kept my word, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole earth to test it". We'll be caught up to meet the Lord before these things happen. So this is the promise, I believe, of scripture. Now, here's that takeaway truth. I said earlier, there is no theology without doxology. In other words, what does it mean to me? How should I live in light of the fact that Christ could come back at any time?
Let me ask you this, if you knew somehow... we couldn't know this, but let's say for the sake of a point we could. If you knew somehow that Jesus was coming back today at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I think we would all be living, breathing saints at 2:45, don't you? We'd be wearing our Sunday morning smiles and our come quickly Jesus attitude. Wow, 15 minutes and it's gonna happen. But we don't know when that day is going to be. So we need to live every day as though it could be the day that Christ returns.
The great evangelist D.L. Moody was once asked the question, "Moody, if you knew that Christ would return tonight, how would you spend the rest of the day"? Moody replied, and I quote, "I wouldn't do anything different than I do every day," end quote. That's how we ought to live. So here now are the words of Jesus to people who are waiting for the return of the Lord and what we ought to be doing and what we ought to not be doing. Let's read Luke chapter 12, I'm gonna start with verse 36. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. Jesus says, "Be dressed for service, keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.
The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into". We'll stop there. Now it's hard for us to wrap our mind around what Jesus is saying 'cause this is a first century wedding. Back in the first century in Bible times, weddings were different. They could go on for a week or longer. And the sort of fun element was you never knew when the groom was going to appear.
So it could happen in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening. A cry would go out, the bridegroom is coming. And if you weren't ready, you would miss the wedding, right? Snooze, you lose. So that's the backdrop of what Jesus is saying. So how are we to live in light of the fact that Christ could come back at any moment? Point number one, "We should be a shining light in a dark place". "We should be a shining light in a dark place". Look at verse 35. "Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning". The King James Version puts it this way. "Let your waist be girded and your lamp burning". What does that mean? Well, back in those days they wore long flowing robes.
So to gird your waist simply meant that you cinched your robe up above your knees giving you freedom of movement and mobility. To have your lamp burning just meant you had oil in your lamp. So back in those days, their version of a flashlight was a little saucer with some oil in it and a floating wick. And they'd just walk around holding it in front of them. And as we read in scripture, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path," you'd sort of light your way. That was their version of a flashlight. So if we were to update this statement, it would be like have fresh batteries in your flashlight and make sure your cellphone is fully charged, 'cause most of us don't carry flashlights anymore, we just use the flashlight feature on our phone, right?
And I don't know about you, but my cellphone is always drained. I'm always plugging it in and recharging it. So this is the idea. It just mainly means be ready to let your light shine. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven". Let your light shine. Be a bright light in a dark place. Back to the movie theater. I don't really like going to theaters anymore, I just decided. And one of the reasons I don't like it is because people are looking at their cellphones all the time. And when you're in a dark theater and someone pulls their phone out, my eye goes immediately to it. But that's what happens when it's a dark place. A little light goes a long way. Well, there's a positive aspect to that. A little light goes a long way. We need to let our light shine.
You know, as our culture gets darker, Christians need to shine brighter. Our objective in this ministry that we call Harvest is to go to unexpected places to reach unexpected people with an unexpected message. Our primary energy should be expended into the proclamation of the gospel because that is the only thing that will change a human heart. The only thing. So we should be looking for him, watching for him.
Point number two, verse 37. "Blessed are those servants whom the master when he comes will find watching". You know, a Christian can hold a Bible in one hand, they can hold a newspaper. Do people even read newspapers anymore? They can hold a news site on their phone or whatever on the other hand, and you can see how these things are happening in our lifetime. So many fulfillments of Bible prophecy. The emergence of China as a major military and economic superpower. Is that spoken of in scripture? I believe it is. I'll tell you why next time. Also the decline of the United States as a superpower, is that spoken of scripture? It may be. The isolation of and hostility toward Israel. Is that spoken of in scripture? One hundred percent. The emergence of Iran as a terrorist nation desiring the complete annihilation of the Jewish nation, is that spoken of in scripture? One hundred percent.
The prevalence of wickedness and depravity, is that spoken of in scripture? Yes, it is. Random acts of violence, is that spoken of in the Bible? Yes, these are all signs of the times. So we need to be ready to go. Actually, when Jesus says, "Gird your loins and have your lamps shine bright," would be like saying, "Have your walking shoes on". You know, have your comfortable shoes on. Be ready to move at a moment's notice because you never know when that day will come. So good question, ask yourself, before you do something, ask, would I be embarrassed if I were doing this thing and Christ were to come back again?
Point number four, "We should be anxiously awaiting his return". Anxiously awaiting his return. Verse 36, "Be like those who wait for their master, who will return from the wedding and they will open to him immediately". Anxiously awaiting his return. These things that I'm sharing with you right now, if they scare you a little bit, if they cause you to be alarmed, worried, maybe something's not right in your life spiritually. But if you get excited and you say, "I can't wait," then that would indicate to me, you are where you ought to be spiritually. But you should want to immediately open the door.
Have you ever had someone coming to visit you? Maybe it was a friend or a relative and they're coming to your house and they text, "We just landed and we're getting our luggage, we're in the car, we're on our way, we're in your neighborhood. We're pulling up to your house". You can't wait. And you look through the window and here they come walking up your stairs and you open the door before they can even knock on it. You're anxiously awaiting their return. That's how we should be as we look at the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
Point number five, we should not only be waiting, we should also be working, working. Verse 43, "Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes". The Bible says, "Faith without works is dead". Watching for the Lord's return will help us prepare our own lives, but working will assure we bring others with us. And notice he says in verse 43, "Blessed is that servant". The word blessed can be translated, "Happy is that servant". See, it's not a miserable, repressive, confining way to live looking forward to the return of Christ, it's something that's joyful and that's how we all should be as we wait for him to come back again.