What Will The Rapture Be Like? (repost)

So what will the rapture be like?

Answer: I don't know.

There is no way to know exactly what the rapture will be like until it happens.  So this is only my opinion, based on Scripture, as best I understand it.  

Here are some passages I believe refer to the rapture (though many others believe some of these refer to events during the tribulation):  

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."  (1 Thess. 4:16-17.  Definitely the rapture.)

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."  (1 Cor. 15:51-52.  Also definitely the rapture.)

"For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."  (Matthew 24:27.  Many say this is about Jesus's visible second coming in the tribulation, not the rapture.  But I lean towards the rapture.)

"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark.  Then the flood came and destroyed them all.... It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  On that day, no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them.  Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot's wife!  Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other one left.  Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left."  (Luke 17:26-35.  Some believe this happens during or at the end of the tribulation, or that the believers are left and the wicked are taken.  I lean towards this being the rapture and that the believers are taken while the unbelievers are left to go into the tribulation.)

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.  That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.... So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."  (Matthew 24:36-44, same note as above)

"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." 
(Luke 21:34-36Some believe this "escape" is about Christians being protected during the tribulation.  I think it's about Christians "escaping" the tribulation, through the rapture.  If there was no rapture or if Christians were going to go through the tribulation, I think it would be better worded like this: "to be protected through all that is about to happen."  But it says "escape."  Also, let's look at the flip-side: This "escape" is also used in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6, but it's about those who will not escape the tribulation.  "For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  When they say 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction will come upon them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, for this day to surprise you like a thief.... So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled."  This shows me that the non-believers, the unprepared people, will be surprised by this "day of the Lord," and they will not escape it, but the prepared Christians won't be surprised and will escape it, through the rapture, which is talked about just verses before this passage.)
      [On a different note, some people say that all Christians, even unprepared ones, are going to be raptured out.  But if this is the case, why would we be warned so often to "stay awake ... to be self-controlled ... to pray we will escape it ... to be a faithful servant while the master is away"?  If we are automatically going up no matter what, it shouldn't matter how we live.  There would be no reason for warnings to be alert and ready.  
      But there are many warnings in the Bible about being prepared, about watching and being ready for the Lord's return ... and I have to think it's for a reason.  I think it's possible that it means unprepared Christians will be left behind too.  Or, at the very least, God might be warning us to always be alert and to live ready for Jesus to come back at any moment NOT because we'll miss the rapture, but because lazy, self-centered, unprepared Christians will miss out on the kinds of eternal rewards that faithful followers will get after we are raptured out of here and appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  It could be a "don't lose your rewards" kind of warning, not a "don't miss the rapture" warning.  But I don't know.  Either way, it's best to be living in a way that you are ready for whenever the Lord returns.]

"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8.  This doesn't say "but also to all Christians everywhere."  It says "to all who have longed for his appearing."  I think this helps confirm the idea that those who are ready and prepared for the Lord's coming, for the rapture, are rewarded for their faithfulness.  By being taken out in the rapture.)

Okay, so these are some of the passages that I think refer to the rapture.  Not everyone agrees, though.  (And I have only recently begun to think that the Luke passages refer to the rapture, explained more in this post).  But I'm still trying to figure it all out.

Basically, to boil it all down, I think the rapture will happen when life is generally going on as normal.  The "as it was in the days of Noah" passages show that people will be living normally - eating, drinking, marrying, etc. - when "one is taken and the other left."  

Life will not be normal during the tribulation (when there is war, famine, mass martyrdom, etc.).  So this has to happen before the trib, when Christians and non-Christians are sleeping and working side by side.

I think the one who is taken is the faithful believer, raptured out by Jesus.  And the one who is left is the unbeliever and possibly unfaithful Christians.  (More on this in the next post.)

Jesus will come at a time when things are going on as normal and we are not expecting Him, which is why we are instructed to watch for Him and to be faithful in doing His work.  Life will be so common and normal that the church will be tempted to get lazy and "fall asleep."  

[Does this mean the rapture can't happen during the coronavirus crisis, because things aren't normal and because Christians are alert now, instead of sleepy and lazy (even non-believers are wondering if this is "the end")?  

Answer: I don't know.  It's possible that things might have to return to a certain level of "normal" before the rapture happens.  Or it's possible that I am simply assuming that it has to be normal and sleepy and lazy before the rapture happens. 
Because if you look at the "as it was in the days of Noah" passage, all it really says is that people were eating, drinking, marrying, etc. and that they didn't realize they were about to be swept away.  And this stuff still happens during times of crisis.  People still eat and drink and get married.  They focus on their lives, on providing for their families and their futures, instead of considering that maybe there won't be a future like they're expecting, that maybe this is "the end."

So it's possible for the rapture to happen even at a time like this.  

Note also that the Luke 21 passage above warned Christians to not get weighed down by the anxieties of life, because "that day" might close in on them while they are focused on their worries.  This could be a warning for a time like this, that we don't let our worries over something like this virus take our focus off of the arrival of "that day."

Some Christians need to be warned to not get so comfortable in this life that they lose spiritual focus, and some need to be warned to not let their worries overcome them.  

So basically, I don't think things being "normal/calm" is absolutely necessary before the rapture can come.  It can happen when we are full of worries and reasons to be worried too.  Only God knows the timing, but we can know that it's getting close, whatever "close" may be.]  

But we Christians are supposed to watch carefully and do our work till He comes.  We are supposed to always be ready.  

I think the "be prepared, you don't know when He's coming" passages couldn't refer to the tribulation because during the tribulation things will happen according to a clear, prophesied, discernable time-line.  We will know exactly when to expect Him - at the 6th seal - because it's all been written out for us.  But the rapture will have no signs, no pre-written time-table.  It can happen anytime.  Thus the need to always be prepared.

No one knows exactly what the rapture will be like.  In the movies, people always disappear unexpectedly, without any warning.

But I am starting to wonder something.

I am starting to wonder if we (at least the Christians) will have a small amount of time to figure out that the rapture is happening before we are taken.  

It says that "at the last trumpet" we will be changed.  This means that there are earlier trumpets before we are changed.  I wonder if there will be a series of trumpet blasts that we will be able to hear, making us aware that the rapture is happening (at least for those who are expecting it).  And then at the last trumpet blast we will be changed, in a flash, in one quick moment. 

Maybe the world will be able to hear these trumpet blasts, too, without really understanding what it is.  I don't know.  But we who are ready for the Lord will know what it means, because we've been expecting it.  We've been prepared.

And I wonder if the world might actually see a flash, since I also think the 'lightning from the east is seen in the west" passage refers to the rapture.  Maybe the moment we are changed will look like a flash of lightning to the rest of the world.  Just speculation.

I don't know if the world will be able to actually see any of the events taking place - the dead and living Christians rising, Jesus coming in the air, etc..  Maybe the world and Christians will experience things differently.  But whatever happens, the rapture will catch everyone by surprise, expect those who are watching for it and anxious for the Lord's appearing.

I don't think the rapture will happen in one single moment, but that it will take a little time for the whole thing to play out.  We might actually hear the archangel's command and hear the series of trumpet blasts and somehow sense/see that the dead are rising.  I don't know.

But something like this would give Christians time to decide if we will "stand before the Son of Man" or if we will run back inside our homes.  ("No one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot's wife!")

I know most people won't agree (and I could totally be wrong), but the more I read the Bible, the more I think we will have a choice in that moment:  Go with the Lord in the rapture or be left behind!

Lot's wife had a choice.  In fact, she was on her way to safety.  But she chose to look back, to long for her life and what she was leaving behind.  And she paid the price for it.  When the angels said "Don't look back," they meant it.  

And God has operated this way before, giving a promise to people but requiring them to do something to acquire the promise.  He promised to spare the firstborn during the Egyptian plagues, but the people had to put the blood on the doorframe.  He promised to bless the Israelites instead of curse them, but they had to stay faithful to Him.  He promised to get the Israelites to the Promised Land, but they had to trust Him and go in and conquer the land.  He promised to give us all eternal life, but we have to repent of our sins and believe in Him.  He said He would spare Lot's family when He destroyed Sodom, but the sons-in-law refused to go with him (Genesis 19:14) and so they perished.  

Over and over again in God's Word, we have the choice about obtaining what God promised or rejecting it.  And maybe it's the same with the rapture promise, that we have a choice to obtain it or reject it, that we have to do out part to obtain it by staying faithful and alert, to "stand before the Son of man" and not turn back.   

When God says "You must be ready, because the Son of Man comes at an hour when you do not expect him" and "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen" and "Do not go back for anything.  Whoever tries to save his life will lose it..." ... maybe He really means it!

Maybe He really means it's possible for true believers to not be ready for Jesus to return.  That there are consequences for not being ready.  That we have the chance to escape what's about to happen but that we could end up not escaping because we "looked back" at our lives.  I think our readiness and willingness will affect whether we are raptured out or left behind.  (More on this soon.)

I think unbelievers will be left behind for sure, but even self-serving, unprepared Christians ("servants," Matthew 23:48-51) will be left behind because they were not ready for the Lord to come.  (This isn't too hard to imagine considering today's lazy, back-slidden Christians and the condition of many churches that have traded in the truth of the Gospel for more socially-acceptable, pleasing-to-the-ear messages.  However, I do believe that after the rapture, there will be many who come to Christ and many who return to Christ, who finally get serious about their faith, seeing that they just missed the rapture.  This is the "great multitude" taken out at the 6th seal.)

One other interesting point:  Remember in an earlier post when I said that God sounds the trumpet for the rapture but that Jesus sounds the trumpet at His visible coming at the 6th seal to gather the great multitude?  And I said that this shows they are two different events?

Why is this distinction important?

Because, contrary to what some others believe, I think it shows that the Matthew 24:36 and up passage (the "as it was in the days of Noah ... one will be taken, the other one left" stuff) is about the rapture and not the tribulation.

Matthew 24:36 says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Jesus Himself doesn't know when "that day" (the rapture, I believe) will happen.  God alone knows when the rapture should start, so God gets to sound the trumpet to start it (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

But Jesus - and everyone else - will be able to figure out when the 6th seal will happen, which is why Jesus sounds the trumpet then (Matthew 24:31).

[And what will the trumpets sound like?  I don't know.  But is it possible we are getting a taste of it in these trumpet-like sounds heard all over (if these sounds are even real)?  It makes you wonder!  

And another thought - if these even are real supernatural trumpet sounds (but I have my doubts) - is that these could be the trumpet sounds that lead up to "last trumpet," the rapture.  Instead of having a series of trumpet sounds happen quickly at the rapture, maybe God is stretching them out over years, with the last one being the rapture.  Just an idea.  But like I said, I have my doubts about these videos because it's just too easy to use special effects to create things like this.  I almost never trust that videos, pictures, or even news stories are legitimate anymore.  But then again, maybe this is the kind of thing that will also lead to Christians being unprepared.  Because they didn't take the warnings seriously because they didn't think they were real.  Just thinking out loud.] 

"But," you might be asking, "why does Jesus talk about the tribulation in Matthew 24:29-35 and then start talking about the rapture in verse 36?  Why not talk about the rapture first if the rapture happens before the tribulation?"

Great question!  And here's my best guess:

He is answering the disciples' questions in the order they asked.  

In Matthew 24:3, they ask three questions: When will the temple be destroyed?  What will be the sign of Jesus's coming (I believe they mean His visible coming, His "final" coming)?  And what will be the signs of the end of the age (I believe they mean the age they were in, the age they started - the "church age")?

So Jesus answers them in order.  First is a description of what will happen at the destruction of the temple (which I think is also a foreshadowing of what will happen in the tribulation).  Then He switches to the events surrounding His visible coming in the tribulation.  And then He talks about the event that will start the "end of the age" (the rapture which ends the church age).

[Update: I don't know why I didn't see this before, but it's not really just that Jesus is answering the disciple's questions in the order they asked.  It's that Matthew mashed two different conversations from two different times together into one, making it look like Jesus is answering three different questions during the same conversation.  (While I saw that Luke reported that the "like lightning" verse was from a different conversation, I didn't realize it included the "days of Noah" stuff too, that all the parts of Matthew 24 that talk about the rapture are from a separate conversation than the parts about the temple's destruction and the tribulation.  I'll explain.)

You can tell Matthew 24 is taken from two different conversation by comparing it to Luke.  Whereas Matthew records everything in one conversation in Matthew 24, Luke breaks it into two different conversations.  

In Luke 17, Luke records the conversation about the rapture, which corresponds to Matthew 24:26-28, 36-51.  And then Luke 21 covers Matthew 24:1-25, 29-35, the parts about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which is also a foreshadowing of what happens during the tribulation.  

The fact that Matthew records it all as one conversation, with most of the rapture verses coming after the tribulation verses, has led many people to think that either the rapture happens after the tribulation or that Matthew 24:36-51 is not about the rapture but about the end of the tribulation, leading to the misunderstanding that the wicked are "taken" and the righteous are "left" to go into the millennial kingdom.  

But in reality, in my opinion, Luke shows us that Matthew 24 is really two different conversations mashed into one, and that Matthew 24:26-28, 36-51 is indeed about the rapture, where the righteous are taken and the unrighteous are left to go into the tribulation.

Anyway, even if Matthew records it all in one place, making it look like it's the same conversation, ultimately the effect is still the same if you consider the order of the three questions Matthew sets his chapter up with.  Once again, Matthew 24:4-24 answers the question about the destruction of the temple, which is also a foreshadowing of what happens during the tribulation.  (Verses 26-28, I believe, are about the rapture, which is rightly sandwiched between the two fulfillments of the temple's destruction, one that happens during the disciple's day and one that happens during the trib.)  Then verses 29-35 switches to Jesus' answer about the signs of His visible second coming, which happens during the trib.  Then in verses 36-51, Matthew records Jesus' answer to the signs of the end of the age - the end of the "church age," the "age of grace" - which ends with the rapture.  Matthew tells us the questions and answers he's reporting and in what order, even though he's technically taking two conversations and mashing them into one.]

A final question (written before the "update" above, so it kinda repeats some of the same information): But if the rapture is supposed to come before the tribulation, why isn't it listed as one of the signs that happen before His visible coming?  Wouldn't that be a huge sign?  So why doesn't Jesus include it when He talks about the tribulation?   

It took me many years to find it because I kept assuming He was talking about His 6th-seal visible coming, but I think Jesus does refer to the rapture as one of the signs that happen before His visible coming.

Matthew 24:27"For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."  

I think this "like lightning" coming might be the "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye" rapture (1 Cor. 15:52).  And Matthew sandwiches it between a time when Jesus's absence causes people to search for Him, for a god, for someone to worship ("in the desert" and in their own "inner rooms") and between the "distress of those days" (the tribulation).

After a time of Jesus's absence, He comes back like lightning to take His people out.  And this rapture ushers in the "end times," the distress of the tribulation.

[Luke, however, places this conversation at a different time than Matthew did.  Luke expounds on this "like lightning" coming in Luke 17:20-37.  (So when you read Matthew 24 and get to verses 27-28, flip over to Luke 17:20-37.  It fits right in.)  

But Luke doesn't share the rest of the Matthew 24 conversation until Luke 21.  And notice that in Luke 21, there is no mention of the Luke 17 stuff (a.k.a the Matthew 24:27-28 verses).  It seems to me like Luke shows that these are two different conversations happening at two different times (one about the rapture in chapter 17 and one about the tribulation in chapter 21), whereas Matthew mashes them into one conversation, failing to make a distinction between what's rapture and what's tribulation.  

Also notice that Luke 17's conversation is based on Jesus's statement to the disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it." (verse 22).  

To me, this is saying that Christians will not be around to see the "days of the Son of Man," the days when He begins intervening in the world again, pouring out His wrath and setting up His earthly kingdom.  And they won't be around to see it because believers will be raptured out of here.  And after this introduction in Luke 17:22, Jesus goes on to explain what it will be like when the rapture occurs.  This makes Luke 17 a rapture passage, which means that the corresponding Matthew 24:27-28 verses are also about the rapture.  But these are just my thoughts on this.]  

Previous "end times" post:  The Stages of the End Times

Next "end times" post:  Should Christians Worry about being Left Behind?  

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