6. The Rapture:Now You See Me, Now You Don't

One of the events at the end of world will leave a lot of people behind.
This event, called "the rapture," will happen suddenly and without
warning. In just seconds, millions of people will disappear off the face
of the earth, vanishing into the sky. Even dead bodies will be yanked from
their graves and shot upward. Back on earth, for those left behind, there
will be a lot of chaos, confusion, and scrambling to find a Bible--any
Bible--as people look for explanations.

The "I'll Be Back" Guarantee
----------------------------
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus was having dinner with His
disciples (the "last supper"). They were clueless as to what was going to
happen. In fact they thought He was about to lead a political revolt and
overthrow the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman military. Jesus
shocked them with the news that He was going to die, that He would rise
from the grave after three days, and that He would return to heaven. But
Jesus wanted them to know that He was not abandoning them on this hostile
planet. He promised to come back and get them (John 14:1-3).

Notice the three-part promise which Christ made:

1. He will come back from heaven...
2. For the purpose of retrieving His followers...
3. So that they can spend eternity with Him!

All three elements of that promise will be fulfilled when the rapture
occurs.

"THE RAPTURE"
-------------
The "rapture" is the event when all Christians, living and dead, will be
raised up into the sky to meet Jesus and then remain with Him forever
(1 Thessalonians 4:17). The word rapture is not in the Bible, but comes
from the Latin word rapio, which means "caught up." Only God knows 
when the rapture is going to occur (Acts 1:7).

(John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53;
2 Peter 3:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:1,2; Revelation 3:10;
1 Thessalonians 5:9; Luke 21:36; Titus 2; 2 Peter 3; Matthew 24:21,22;
John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; Rev 1:9)

The Great Vanishing Act
-----------------------
It might happen tomorrow, or maybe next month or next year. Or it might
happen a few decades from now. No one knows when it will happen, but it
will happen. And it might go something like this:
 
A shout and a trumpet blast. The gray of the early morning dawn is
shattered by a billiant light that penetrates the drapes and curtains of
every home. There is a thunderous shout like the sound of a nuclear
explosion whose sonic waves actually knock people to the ground. The
deafening shout is followed by a piercing, blaring sound that is literally
painful.

The dead come back to life. The first movement comes from cemeteries
around the world. The graves of people buried are breaking open, causing a
putrid stench to fill the air. Bodies actually rise from the ground, but
these are not rotting corpses. These are healthy, robust human beings that
are alive. They seem to hover above the ground momentarily, even greeting
each other, before being pulled upward into the sky.

Physical transformation. An instant later, millions of people from all
parts of the earth feel a tingling sensation pulsating throughout their
bodies. They are all suddenly energized. Those with physical deformities
are healed. The blind suddenly see. Wrinkles disappear on the elderly as
their youth is restored. As these people marvel at their physical
transformation, they are lifted skyward. Those in buildings pass right
through the ceilings and roof without pain or damage. It seems that their
flesh and bones can dematerialize, defyng all known laws of physics and
biology. As they travel heavenward, some of them see and greet those who
have risen from their graves. There is a mystical reunion of sorts, and
then suddenly, they all vanish from sight.

Mass catastrophe. Calamities around the world follow in the momemts that
pass. Planes plummet to earth, as they no longer have a pilot at the
controls. Driverless buses, trains, subways, and cars cause unimaginable
disaster. Classrooms are suddenly without teachers. Riots break out in the
prisons as guards are suddenly absent from their stations. Doctors and
nurses seem to abandon their patients in the middle of surgical
operations, or patients vanish from the operating table. Children
disappear from their beds. People run through the streets looking for
missing family members who were there just moments ago. Panic grips every
household, city, and country.

Questions without answers. Members of the news media quickly look for
answers and explanations. Someone makes a vague reference to an ancient
myth that predicted a mysterious departure of Christians from the earth.

Economic chaos. In the days that follow, the global economies falter.
Bankers ponder how to collect on the unpaid loans of the millions who have
disappeared. Billions of dollars are frozen in brokerage trading accounts
until the problem can be solved.

Anything but the truth. As order is restored over the next weeks, the
world leaders report that their experts determined the cause of the
cataclysmic event:It was a UFO invasion. Many of the earth's citizens have
been abducted by aliens.
 
What to Know About Those Who Go
-------------------------------
The concept of the rapture was not revealed by God to the Old Testament
prophets. It was an event first mentioned by Jesus to His disciples.
Later, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul explained the
concept to the new Christians in the Grecian city of Thessalonica
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Without calling the event "the rapture," Paul
explained the transformation process to the new believers in the church at
Corinth who were also puzzled about what happens when a Christian dies 
(1 Corinthians 15:50-53).

The Sequence of Events
----------------------
These two explanations give a pretty detailed acount of what will happen
at the rapture for all of the Christians--those living at the time and
those who previously died:

Christ will come down from heaven with a shout.

He will bring with Him the spirits of all the Christians who have died.

The voice of the archangel will be heard.

At the second trumpet blast, the bodies of all Christians who have died
will be raised from the grave, but these will be new, transformed bodies.
The eternal spirit of the once-dead Christians will be united with their
new resurrection bodies.

The Christians who are still living at the time of the rapture will never
experience death. Their earthly bodies will be transformed into new
resurrection bodies. They aren't the first ones to get this privilege,
however. In the Old Testament, you can read about Enoch, who was snatched
off the earth by God and taken directly into heaven (Genesis 5:23); and
then there was the prophet Elijah, who rose into the sky in a fiery
chariot (2 Kings 2:11).

The previously dead Christians and the living Christians will have a brief
reunion in the sky, and then they will proceed upward to join Christ
Himself.

The Anatomy of the Resurrection Body
------------------------------------
The Bible is not very specific about the options and features that will be
available on the new and improved resurrection body that is given to
Christians at the time of the rapture. we know htat those bodies will be
different, but different how? We can get some clues by looking at the
resurrection body of Jesus. Paul said that our new bodies would be like
that of Jesus:(Philippians 3:21).
 
Here are some of the facts we know about the new resurrected body Christ
had after He rose from the grave:

His body had a human shape. He looked human, Several people didn't
recognize Him at fiarst, but they all thought He was human.

He retaind His individual identity. Mary recognized Him by His voice (John
20:16). He was recognized by sight on many other occasions. These facts
suggest that our new bodies will look similar to our current ones.

His body was solid. People hugged Him and touched Him. His body had
substance.

He ate food. The Bible doesn't say that He got hungry, but He did share a
meal with other people after His resurrection.

His body could dematerialize. Once, Jesus suddenly appeared in the middle
of a room that had a closed door. Somehow, His body could travel
invisibly, pass through the walls, and then appear at His choosing.

Sad to Say, Some Will Stay
--------------------------
There is a very important fact you need to remember about the rapture:It
only happens to Christians--those who have made an affirmative,
intentional decision to believe in Jesus Christ. When all of the
Christians are raptured off the face of the earth, people left behind will
be those who don't believe in Christ or didn't accept Him when they had
the chance. All those left behind will have tough times ahead of them.

Three Views of When
-------------------
Wouldn't you like to know when the rapture is going to occur? Only God
knows the date, and He isn't telling. Here's what Jesus said when His
disciples asked Him for a timetable of the end of the world (Acts 1:7). So
there is no way to know the exact date. It could happen at any time
(1 Thessalonians 5:1,2). Remember that He doesn't operate on the same time
continuum that we do (2 Peter 3:8-10).

Bible scholars concede that we can't know the exact date of the rapture,
but there is still a great debate over where the rapture falls in the
overall sequence of end-of-the-world events. There are three major views,
and they all pertain to the timing of the rapture in relation to the
tribulation. The tribulation is a seven-year period that clearly marks the
beginning of the end. There will be increasing worldwide trouble during
these seven years, caused by natural disasters and by Satan. It will be a
time of terrible suffering and torture. The climax will be the battle of
Armageddon, which will be interrupted by Christ returning to earth (the
second coming) with all of the Christians to establish peace on earth for
1000 years (the millennium). 

Whenever people talk about the rapture in the context of the end
of the world, they put it in one of three positions:at the start of the
tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, or at the end of the
tribulation.

The "Pre-trib" View
-------------------
Many people believe that the rapture will be the big event that signals
the beginning of the tribulation. Proponents of this "pre-trib" view make
the following arguments for their position:

1. The rapture will happen first so that Christians can escape the horrors
   of the tribulation (Revelation 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). This view
   holds that the wrath of the tribulation is designed exclusively for
   those who rejected Go (and not for Christians).
  
2. Jesus suggested that we pray to escape tribulation. As He was
   describing the calamities which would happen at the end of the world,
   Jesus told His disciples to "pray that, if possible, you may escape
   these horrors" (Luke 21:36).
 
3. There is no specific mention of "the church" during the tribulation.

4. Christians are specifically told to expect the rapture. Take a good
   look at passages such as 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4-5, 
   Titus 2, and 2 Peter 3. These admonitions of Paul and Peter that 
   believers should anticipate the rapture suggest that it must be the
   first event to occur. Pre-trib proponents argue that the rapture
   wouldn't be a surprise if it came at the end of the tribulation.
   This pre-trib view has great appeal with Christians because they don't
   want to be hanging around during the tribulation.
 
The "Mid-trib" View--Half and Half
----------------------------------
Some scholars adhere to the position that the rapture will occur at the
midpoint of the tribulation. The seven-year tribulation will have two
distince phases. The first 3 1/2 years will be a time when the world is
lulled into a sense of false peace, but in the next 3 1/2 years everyting
will fall apart and the wickedness of the world leader (the Antichrist)
will be revealed. Proponents of the mid-trib viewpoint contend that
Christians will bae around until the halfway mark. The following verse is
often used to explain that the tribulation will be "shortened" for
Christians (Matthew 24:21,22)..

The "Post-trib" View--It Ain't Over Till It's Over
--------------------------------------------------
In this viewpoint, Christians will go through the entire seven-year
tribulation. The rapture won't happen until immediately before the
second coming. The Christians (living and dead) will be swooped up in
resurrected bodies to meet Jesus in the sky ("the raptyure"), and then
they will all parade down to earth together to establish Christ's kingdom
("the second coming").

Post-trib proponents seem to be divided on whether Christians will
actually suffer during the tribulation. 

Some say that Christians will be protected from calamity. God is certainly
able to do this. In the Old Testament, He spared Noah from the flood and
protected the Israelite slaves from many of the plagues that bombarded
Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Some say that Christians will suffer along with everyone else. Why should
it be any different now than it was then? If God has allowed Christians to
suffer persecution during the course of the last 2000 years, He may choose
to have them suffer during the tribulation as well. After all, suffering
and hardship should be an expected part of life for the Christian
(John 16:33;Acts 14:22;Romans 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; and Rev 1:9). 

What Does All This Mean to You?
-------------------------------
Don't let the "pre-trib/mid-trib/post-trib" debate distract you. Just know
that the rapture is going to happen, and follow the biblical instructions
to expect it, living your life in anticipation of it.

"What's That Again?"
--------------------
1. The rapture is the event when Jesus is reunited with all Christians,
   living and dead. He will return in the sky (without actually touching
   earth). The bodies of the Christians who previously died will be
   resurrected from their graves; their eternal spirits will be joined
   with these new bodies. The Christians who are living at the time of the
   rapture will also have their bodies transformed. The new bodies of the
   resurrected Christians and the living Christians will be lifted into
   the sky and they will be with Jesus forever.
 
2. If a person did not have an opportunity to respond to God before the
   rapture (had, for example, never heard about God's plan of slavation),
   it won't be too late. 
 
3. The new body that a Christian receives at the rapture will have both
   human characteristics and supernatural features.
 
4. Many people believe that the rapture will occur before the beginning of
   the tribulation ("pre-trib"). Others believe that it will take place in
   the middle of the tribulation ("mid-trib"). Still others take the
   position that it will occur at the end of the tribulation 
   ("post-trib").