Tony Evans - The Rapture of the Church
The next event on God's prophetic calendar is the Rapture. That is the next thing that's going to happen. The word "rapture" means "to seize, grasp, or grab". And it refers to Christ coming to retrieve his church, believers who have accepted him as Savior. That is the next event on the prophetic calendar. So that is the event I want to explain to you today about the Rapture, the imminent return of Christ for his people. Jesus had told his disciples, "I'm leaving". He's getting ready to die on the cross, rise from the dead, and send back to heaven, and he told 'em, "You can't come with me now, but don't worry. I'm gon' come get you. I'mma come get you".
When the disciples heard this, they were traumatized, because for three years, Jesus had been their leader, their teacher, their provider. He had been their guide. He had been their help. He had been their deliverer. He'd been their whole world for three years, and now he says, "I'm leaving, and I'm coming back". In fact, here's what he told them in John chapter 14, verses 1-3. Saint John 14:1-3, says this: "Do not let your heart be troubled," 'cause they were troubled. "Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would've told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also". That is the first specific reference to the Rapture: "I'm coming to receive you back to me. During this interim, I am preparing a place". That word "prepare" doesn't mean to, like, construct something. It means to make preparation for something. "And I am going to come again".
Now, our dilemma is he didn't say when. All he said was "I'm coming back to receive you to me, but I gotta leave now". And so they were troubled. They were troubled because Jesus was not physically there, so they had to live on a promise. To understand this event and how it affects you and me, which, by the time I'm finished today, your world should change. Let me show you why. 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, Paul gives detailed explanation for this event called "the catching up" or the Rapture. He begins in verse 13 of 1 Thessalonians 4. He says, "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren. We don't want you not to understand this. We don't want you to be unclear about this". So Paul is saying, "Let me explain this to you. Don't be uninformed".
Now let me give you the reasons why this event that he's getting ready to explain is going to happen. He tells you the first reason in verse 13, "I don't want you to be uninformed about those who are asleep". You and I would say, "people who've died". The biblical word that Jesus has introduced is the word "sleep". Why does he use the word "sleep"? Because, for a Christian, when you die, it's nap time, okay? But I'll explain that in a moment. He says, "I don't want you to be uninformed about those who died or are asleep".
Now, the reason he has to say this is Jesus had promised to come back, so they're waitin' for Jesus to come back. While they're waiting for Jesus to come back, some of their loved ones died, who are Christians. And so their concern, "Well, wait a minute. If we're waitin' for Jesus to come back, and some of our folks have died, will they miss his return 'cause they're not alive like we are"? Well, that leads to another question. Suppose I die. Am I gonna miss out on the Rapture? So the question was "Are folks who died missing out on this promise"? Paul says, "I don't want you to be uninformed about that".
So one of the reasons he discusses the Rapture is to inform them about how this thing will work with folk who are already dead. Another reason which you'll see later on in the Scripture I'll give you is because "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven," 1 Corinthians 15, verse 50. It can't inherit the kingdom of heaven. In other words, you can't go to heaven like you are now because that environment does not fit your makeup, flesh and blood. So it is, you can't function like you are in heaven as flesh and blood, so a change has got to occur, so that's why the Rapture is needed. Another reason why this Rapture is important is to remove you before all hell breaks loose on earth, okay?
Look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 1, verse 10, "and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come". Now, he's not talkin' about hell. He's talkin' about the Tribulation period. All hell is gon' break loose on earth. In other words, no matter how bad things are right now, you ain't seen nothin' yet. All hell's gon' break loose, and that's called the Tribulation. So before all hell breaks loose, wrath to come, he's going to come to retrieve his people before the wrath breaks loose. There are numbers of illustrations of this in the Bible. Remember, he retrieved Lot out of Sodom and Gomorrah before he rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. He retrieved Noah and his family into the ark before he flooded the world. He retrieved Rahab and her family into their house before the walls of Jericho collapsed. In other words, he kept them from the judgment to come by retrieving them.
Well, that's exactly what Jesus is goin' to do for all Christians, all who make up his church. He will retrieve us before the Tribulation comes when all hell breaks loose on earth. So that's the concept of the Rapture or the reasons for it. He introduces a word in verse 13, that he's gonna speak and say something about a number of times, concerning "those who are asleep," because he gives another reason why you need to know about the Rapture so that, verse 13, "you do not grieve as those who have no hope". It affects your emotional well-being. See, there are two kinds of grieving: hopeless grieving and hopeful grieving. Hopeless grieving is "I'm never gon' see this person again". Hopeful grieving is "I am going to see this person again". Both are grieving, but they're grieving differently. One is grieving without hope. One is grieving with hope.
So I want you not to be hopeless in your sorrow when you lose loved ones who are part of the family of God. So he introduces us to the word "sleep". That's Jesus's word for what you and I call "death". But wait a minute. If you are asleep in our normal, everyday nomenclature of life, that means you're not dead. You're in a temporary shift of state of consciousness. You're not dead. You're asleep. You're in a position of death, but there has not been the move to nonexistence. So keep that word in mind as we go along. He says, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus".
Now, you ought to see a little conflict there. We're talkin' about those who've fallin' asleep, i.e., "died," but then Jesus is bringin' somebody with him when he comes. So he's comin' from heaven, bringin' somebody, and the somebody he's bringing are those who've fallen asleep. Well, wait a minute. The folks who've fallen asleep are in the grave, but the folks he's bringing with him, who are the folks who've fallen asleep, are coming with him from heaven. So which is it? Am I in the grave, or am I in heaven? When God made Adam, he created a body. When he created the body, the body did not function until he breathed into the man the breath of life.
When he breathed into the man the breath of life, Scripture says, and he became a living soul. In other words, his body didn't become animated, active, functional, until the soul was deposited in it. Apart from the soul, all you had was frame with no animation, no life. When you expire, the life principal that God breathes in, soul, slithers in some invisible way out of the body so the body can no longer function 'cause the soul has departed it. And that soul, for the believer, goes immediately into the presence of God. At the time of the Rapture, when Jesus Christ descends to seize believers, he is coming with you, the you that left you when you went to sleep, okay?
So he says, those who are living, when Jesus returns, not only do you not have to worry about the folks who've already died, they gon' beat you to the punch, because when the Lord comes for the Rapture, the taking away of the saints, he says, "We, who are alive", if he were to come back in the next five minutes, everybody in here who's alive will have to take second place to the folks who've already died. We will not precede them. You not gon' beat them to heaven even though they are dead, "sleep," and you're alive.
Well, how is all this gon' work? So he wants to give you some details. Here's how this works, verse 16, "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout". So at the point of the Rapture, Jesus is going to leave heaven, and there's going to be a shout, i.e., "Get up," okay? There's going to be a call, a shout. So Jesus is himself. So this is a personal appearance. He's going to come with a shout. When he comes with a shout, it will be "with the voice of the archangel". Now, the archangel is chief angel in charge, "and the dead in Christ will rise first," 'cause, remember, the living won't precede the dead. The dead are gon' precede the living 'cause they're gonna rise first.
But wait a minute, I thought I was in heaven 'cause I'm comin' back with him. So if I'm in heaven, comin' back with him, exactly what's risin'? Okay? Well, you are going to be buried, but not your soul 'cause your soul left. Soul left at the point of death. You are going to be buried. When you are buried, most of us will be put in a casket that's sealed, that's under six feet of dirt. But there are other people who died, who don't get buried. Some people died in the sea, some people died, and their bodies weren't put in a casket. They were just buried in the ground. You're gon' become worm food. So therefore, in order to get your soul coming down its new house to live in, there has got to be a reconstruction of you. You have to be stitched back together. You have to be resurrected in some supernatural way so your soul that's coming back with Jesus has someplace to hang out. So while you are coming back with Christ 'cause your soul went to him when you die, the dead in Christ shall rise first. That's not your soul.
Now we're talkin' about your body. You have to have a reconstructed body for your old redeemed soul, a body that can live in heaven and still function on earth. So when Jesus returns for the Rapture and the shout of God is made, there is going to be a raising of reconstruction of your humanity so that you and your soul can hook up again. So you got you comin' and a body rising. So the dead in Christ will be resurrected with new, spiritual, glorified bodies. I'mma talk about that in a second. But that's how you will be resurrected. He talks about people, I love the end of verse 14, "who fall asleep in Jesus". That's what he calls it, dying as a Christian, falling asleep in Jesus. So the assumption is that you have accepted Christ. If that assumption is true, then, when you die, you will asleep in Jesus. He says, "The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up," that's Rapture, "caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air".
Okay, now, please notice where we're meeting the Lord. We're not meetin' him on earth 'cause it's not time for him to come to earth yet because we're going to be moving back and forth from heaven to earth, okay? So it's a two-location thing. So you need a body that can go in both places. You need to be able to play offense and defense. You need to be able to work both sides of the ball. You need to be able to hang out up there and chill down here. So a lot of your time is gon' be spent on earth, not in heaven, okay? So he says we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Corinthians 15, and let's look at this just a little bit closer. Verse 51, "Behold, I tell you a mystery. I will tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we all will be changed". So everybody, dead and alive, are going to go through a metamorphosis like a butterfly emerging from a caterpillar. There will be a metamorphosis or a change. He says, "In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trump will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable will put on imperishable, and this mortal will put on immortality".
Okay, everything wrong with you will change. It will be a glorified body, okay? Well, I don't know about you, but I'd be interested to know what that body's gon' be like, okay? John says in 1 John chapter 3, verse 2 and 3, he says, "When we see him," at the Rapture, "we will be like him," okay? We will be like him, okay? So if I'mma be like him, then I need to know what he's like so I'll know what I'll be like when I'm like him, all right? So let's rehearse Jesus's Resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead with a glorified body, three days after Crucifixion, when he stepped out, he was the same person who died, okay? He wasn't another person. He says, "This Jesus, whom you've seen," they say, "is coming back again". So you won't become somebody other than who you are.
So that's the first thing. So it's not like you're morphing into something else, 'cause remember, it's your soul that's entering the body. So whoever you are is what you will be then. So this is a whole different realm coming at the return of Christ at the Rapture. And this imperishable must put on immortality, and it will happen, he says, in the, "boom," twinkling of an eye. Quickly, the dead, "shoom," will be sucked out of the grave, new bodies, to meet their souls, redeemed souls. The souls will enter into the new bodies for the glorified existence. The Rapture is the next event on the calendar before God reenters his program for Israel. He's going to remove us out before the wrath in order to recall his people. And so he ends in 1 Thessalonians by saying in verse 18, "We will be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words".
If you hold a magnet to something that has iron fillings in it, it's gon' suck those fillings to the magnet. Okay, you put a magnet near somethin' that has iron fillings in it, "shoom," it'll suck it to the magnet. When Jesus Christ comes back, his glory will "shoom," suck up the dead in Christ. Those who have the Spirit of Christ in them, they will be sucked up in their new bodies to connect with their souls for their new glorified existence. So why should any of this matter? Number one, you should feel comfort to know, when you're dead, you're not dead. You should feel just a little bit better that when you're dead, you really haven't died 'cause you've never been more alive than you are in that second because "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," and you ought to feel better and less fearful about death, knowing that the thing you fear most is the thing you'll never experience. It ought to make you just feel a little bit better about the uncertainty and the fear that comes with death.
Secondly, it ought to make you wanna witness so you don't have loved ones who are left behind. It ought to make you wanna share the gospel to make sure in that great, "gettin' up" mornin', family and friends that you love and care about are sucked up in the Rapture, seized in the Rapture with you and not left for the hell that's gonna break loose on earth in the Tribulation period. In 1 John chapter 3, verse 2 and 3, he says, "He that hath this hope purifies himself". He says, when you know this good news, it ought to affect how we live. My point is you don't wanna miss this. You don't wanna be left behind. You're only left behind, having played church. You're only left behind, having been religious.
If you're here today and you don't know for certain that your sins have been forgiven and that you have received the gift of life, you got two things that could happen. You could die or the Rapture could occur. Either one are bad news for you. So if I were you, I would run to the cross where God opens up his hands and says, "Whosoever will, let him come and drink from the water of life freely". He offers eternal life to every man, every woman, every young person who comes to the cross as a sinner, recognizing they need a Savior and trusting Christ as their sin bearer for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Don't let another day go by. And for those who are already saved, if God never blesses you with a new house, another new car, more clothes, better job, bigger bank account, all that's fine, but if he never gives you anything else, you have a reason to praise him for your future that he has planned for you.