IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Gary Lee Parker of San Diego. He wins a free book for taking the time to send me the question.
Here’s what Gary wants to know.
“Is the word and concept of Rapture in the Bible? If not, when did the concept begin and how does one believe in the Second Coming of Christ without believing in the Rapture?”
Rapture is a Christian tech word.
It refers to a time in the future when Christians will be taken up in the sky to meet Jesus.
Sci-fi aficionados might think of it as God-loving people getting beamed up to heaven. Suddenly, they are no longer on Planet Earth.
Short answer to Gary’s question:
Yes, the idea comes from the Bible. But church groups take that idea and run with it radically different directions.
Here’s the main Bible passage that leads many Christians to believe that God will someday Rapture his people into the sky. It’s from a letter Paul wrote to a group of new believers in the coastal town of Thessalonica, in northern Greece.
“The Lord himself will come down from heaven….We will hear a blast from God’s trumpet. Many who believe in Christ will have died already. They will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them. We will be taken up in the clouds. We will meet the Lord in the air. And we will be with him forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, NIRV).
Some Christians create a timeline of end events by mixing and matching outtakes from the writings of Paul and from other writings in the New Testament – especially Revelation and the Gospel of John.
One popular timeline says the Rapture will occur before a Great Tribulation, when the godless people left behind will suffer at the hands of a beastly antichrist – an international leader they describe as the exact opposite of Jesus, a bit like his evil twin brother. In fact, many artists have painted the antichrist as a Jesus look-alike.
Other Christians say that timeline is quite creative and could probably sell a lot of books – maybe even movies.
In fact, it has. Ever heard of Left Behind, a series of 16 best-selling novels and a movie?
The idea that there will be a Rapture followed by a time of unprecedented upheaval on earth is just one of many theories. You can read about some of them in a book I wrote: Complete Guide to Bible Prophecies, coming in August.
One of the other theories that many church groups teach is that the Rapture is simply another way of talking about the resurrection of the living and the dead.
Both the living and the dead, many Bible experts agree, will get new and improved bodies – perhaps something similar to the superhuman body that several of Jesus’ disciples seemed to see at the Transfiguration:
“There in front of the disciples, Jesus was completely changed. His face was shining like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:2, CEV).
After the Resurrection, Jesus returned with a remarkable body that seemed able to:
- Pass through walls: “The disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them!” (John 20:19, NLT).
- Disappear: When the two men Jesus had been eating with in Emmaus finally recognized him, “At that moment he disappeared!” (Luke 24:31, NLT).
- Levitate: “Jesus… was taken up to heaven. They [the disciples] watched until a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9, NIRV).
Paul didn’t say where Jesus would take his people. He said only that they would be with Jesus forever.
For many Christians, that’s all they need to hear because wherever Jesus is will be heaven for them.
Unless it’s Texas.
I kid Texans. With love.