A few weeks ago, my friend spoke about a conversation their children were having as they drove in the car. In the back seat, they could hear their oldest telling her little brother how someday they would go to Heaven. She'd heard about it at church and was so excited—you'd have thought she was talking about Disney World!!! Her teacher made it sound so good that she was ready to go right away!
Her parents had mixed reactions. Her Mom, realizing her daughter didn't fully grasp the concept and thought Heaven was like a vacation, thought it was cute. Her Dad didn't want to entertain the possibility of being without his kids. (You gotta love that, too.) Still, their daughter was enthusiastic and excited to go to Heaven!!!
I don't remember having the same enthusiasm about Heaven as a child. Instead, when I heard about the rapture, I thought, "I hope it waits until I've lived a little." Now, my attitude has changed, and I think, "The sooner, the better! Goodbye limp, goodbye stabbing pain in my foot, goodbye shriveled hands, goodbye bad back! We will all say goodbye to all our physical limitations and, even more important, goodbye to our mortal, sinful body, and hello glorified state in Heaven with Jesus! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
What exactly is the rapture?
The Assemblies of God 16 Fundamental truths describe the Blessed Hope in Truth #13. It states:
The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.
This describes the rapture. Only God knows the time and the hour, and we are to be ready for it at all times. God has chosen not to tell us when the rapture will happen so that we stay focused and run the race He has called us to run. He also does it out of infinite grace, delaying it, so even more people come to salvation and repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
But guys, it will happen. The rapture will come. Paul tells us exactly what will happen.
"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. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, NIV)
Someday a trumpet is gonna blow. What will it sound like? I have no idea, but when I imagine it, the closest thing I can think of is the Rocky movies. Whenever Rocky is in a fight, he gets beaten to a pulp, but then you hear the trumpets, "Ba bum bum…ba bum" and you know Rocky is making his comeback. Every day, we are getting attacked, and we face trials and opposition. But one day, those trumpets will blow, and away we go!! We will literally fly to meet Jesus in the clouds. How cool will that be!
"Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, ESV)
It is going to be great for all those who are raptured. But what about those who are left behind?
Sadly, they are left to experience literal Hell on earth. Have you ever read all of the nightmares in the book of Revelation? This is known as the Great Tribulation and ushered in by the rapture. Our Blessed Hope is that God rescues us and saves us from having to live through the Tribulation horrors. We are safely in heaven with Jesus while the earth is in utter hell.
The Assemblies of God's Position Paper on the Rapture of the Church confirms that the Tribulation follows the rapture. It states:
"It is consistent with God's dealings with His people in the Old Testament to believe that the Church will be removed from the world before the Great Tribulation. God did not send the Flood until Noah and his family were safe in the ark. He did not destroy Sodom until Lot was taken out."
I, for one, do not want to be here for the Great Tribulation. I want to fly away when I hear that trumpet blow!
That's why it is so important that we follow God with complete abandon, walking in obedience and sharing the Gospel with our neighbors.
We do not know when the rapture will occur. Maybe there is a tomorrow, or maybe that Rocky trumpet blares tonight.
Jesus is coming back. Are you ready and excited like my little friend?
Memory Verse: Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, ESV)