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9  The Rapture of His Return

"With what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!"
C. Wesley & J. Cennick, Hymns A. & M., No. 51 (1)

One mystery about Jesus' Return is something called the Rapture. What is this? What do we mean when we say the word "rapture"? We could start with the dictionary definition: "Mental transport, ecstatic delight, (be in, go into raptures, be enthusiastic, talk enthusiastically; raptures, vehement pleasure or the expression of it); (especially theological) act of transporting a person from one place to another (especially heaven)." - The Concise Oxford Dictionary(2).

Sounds great, doesn't it? But still it has a mysterious aspect; surely the Bible has something to say that will help us understand this matter?

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17 (TLB)
What a fabulous treat! When Jesus returns with Majesty and Glory, those who love God will be overjoyed to hear the sound of the herald. As they realize this is His long-awaited Arrival their spirits will soar, and so will their bodies!

Like the wind picking up a leaf, so God will catch them up. They will be taken, in a "transport of delight" to a great Reunion in the sky:

You lift me up on the wind;
You cause me to ride upon it ...
Job 30:22 (Amp.)

"This is hard to swallow!" "Too much!" "Preposterous!"

Aren't these the kind of reactions that crowd in when we dare to consider such an amazing prospect? But look at how many purposes would be served by this Rapture, and it becomes a lot more believable.

For instance, we increasingly rely on machines for day to day living. We don't go far without cars, buses, trains, etc. At home we use TVs, videos, computers, tablets, microwave ovens, and so on. And in the office, more computers and tablets, plus copiers and a whole lot more. In the factory, machines, some looked after by other machines we call robots.

^  In the material world of today we set great store by these machines. And you know, by having this vast array of machines for every conceivable task, we give ourselves a subtle message, "We are in control."

Certainly we wouldn't dream of flying anywhere without having a large number of these artificial things in place: First, an aircraft fully equipped with engines, fuel, instruments for navigation and flying in poor visibility; then we need to add airports and all their facilities; and last but not least, air traffic control systems.

God's going to do without all of this paraphernalia. No wings even. Only God's Power. Men and women will not be in control. Having no other option, they will find themselves just letting God take charge. Which is a pretty good policy in general! So for those who take part (the believers, including some coming out of their graves, Scripture tells us), it will be a marvelous demonstration of God's Talents. A wonderful introduction to the Kingdom!

But those who don't take part - what of them? Some of them, who drank deeply of sin, will be feeling acutely uncomfortable, let's face it. When they could be made very happy, instead they're thinking, "Now I'm in trouble - all that stuff in the Bible was true!" But God has a Plan for them too.

If you personally are finding this fantastic Rapture difficult to believe in, please don't get concerned about this. Because there is truly only one thing that matters - our faith in Jesus. And He said He is coming back.

One result of the Rapture will be that our Creator's Mastery is fully demonstrated. God's creatures down here have strict physical limits, but God can overcome! And Jesus is vitally interested in this process. He wants us all to go beyond our present limitations - and become much more than we are today.

Let's look at another aspect of His Return now. Just think of the Grace of our Lord. Planet Earth is the place where men rejected Jesus' Gospel and put Him on the Cross instead. The creatures wanted to murder their Creator! It takes courage to return to the spot where so negative a verdict was hammered home, surely? Nevertheless Jesus was in no doubt that He would return. He revealed His active desire to do so, on a number of occasions:

"Yes! He will answer them quickly!
But the question is: When I, the Messiah,a return,
how many will I find who have faith [and are prayingb]?"

a Literally, "the Son of Man."   b Implied
Luke 18:8 (TLB)
And He knew the way His Return would happen. Jesus is surely referring to people being "raptured" in this next Prophecy?
"It will be like this when the Son of Man comes.
Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left;
of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left."
Matthew 24:39-41 (Jer.)
^  So, we are to be raptured, treated royally. Nothing but the best is good enough for us, it seems. And this is how God has treated humankind in the past. For Who sought to do more to help us than Jesus of Nazareth? Who has exceeded His Grace? And were we grateful then? And are we grateful even today? In fact, why is God hurrying back for us? The truth is, Christ loves us very much. And this is why, in spite of our flaws, He does not hesitate to come back and shine His Light upon us once again.

In the Rapture we will meet that Grace which blessed Earth in those earlier times. Since we proceeded out from God at our beginning, this will be a reunion for us - a reunion between ourselves and Jesus. Yes, and a reunion also with others we love:

"... 'if you return to me and obey my laws, even though you are exiled to the farthest corners of the universe, I will bring you back to Jerusalem. For Jerusalem is the place in which I have chosen to live.' "
Nehemiah 1:9 (TLB)
Jesus won't be alone! From far-flung worlds as well as from Earth's fair lands a great ingathering will take place; a meeting of all those the Lord is pleased to bring together again at this time. What a tender scene, as loved ones who have been parted, perhaps for many years, finally join up with one another again. (According to another Internet site - Tommy Hicks' End-Times Vision - it seems that, for this period of the Rapture, we may even be formed into one great Body of believers![3])

When the time comes for Jesus to conclude His journey to Earth, Scripture tells us where He will first plant His Foot:

And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives,
Which is before Jerusalem on the east,
And the mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof
Toward the east and toward the west,
So that there shall be a very great valley;
And half of the mountain shall remove toward the north,
And half of it toward the south.
Zechariah 14:4 (JPS)
Meek, but not weak, is the Nature of our Savior. Remember, His Father is the Shaper of the Universe. Cracking the Mount of Olives is to Jesus just child's play. Wake up Earth! A new Day has dawned!

^  If all this seems "a bit too much" (which is understandable!) maybe this is a point to consider: The change of millennium passed off so quietly! It seemed as if the one thousand year mark was approached with something like awe? Not just because of Y2K, nor because of all those (the writer included), who were saying that the year 2000 was the one to watch. Here are a couple of things relating to awe: firstly, 2000 was unique in the calendar. It was the kind of leap year that only happens once every 400 years, and for most countries this was a first. (For a full explanation, please see this footnote[4].)

Secondly, can we recall a certain reluctance to look beyond 2000? There was a time when you would quite often read surveys, forecasts, etc, which ran up to the year 2000, but stopped right there. For example: "By the year 2000, the [world] population will be more than 6,500 million if the present growth rate of 2% a year continues."(5) It seems that there really was some feeling of awe surrounding the new millennium, do you agree?

And yet, no great thing has happened. Oh, certainly, if we look at "the dark side" there have been some real shakers - September 11, 2001 will not easily be forgotten. But when we seek for an event worthy of that respectful "millennium awe" we had, we don't find it. The writer suggests that our anticipation was not misplaced - we just haven't seen the main Event yet. We're looking for something deep and meaningful, and it is still to come!

Let's go back over what we now know about this fantastic event, the Rapture. When Jesus returns to claim Earth as part of His Inheritance, He first wants to meet those who know they are His. He's going to do this by arranging a Great Get-Together in the Sky! What kind of Power will be used to lift up millions and millions of people from the Earth to the planned Meeting Place? We don't know. But God does!

What a feeling of God's Acceptance will be shared then; what a sense of oneness with every other believer. (A humorous aside heard in a sermon comes to mind: "Three surprises about Heaven. First, the fact that you're there at all. Second, the people who are not there who you expected to be there. Third, all the people who are there who you didn't expect to be there!")

This Rapture will be all that its name implies. It will boost people physically and spiritually - to the skies. It will confer a vision and a strength of purpose that will be matchless and unique. The love that will be kindled there will never die - love that we can pass on to any of our family, friends and neighbors who were not there. "Not to be missed!"

The Rapture is not airy-fairy, a pipe dream, or "pie in the sky"! It is a True Prophecy of God. It will happen. It has happened before. The Scriptures bear witness to a number of people who have been given this special treatment already:

First and foremost there is Jesus and His Ascension (Acts 1:9-11, also Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51). The eleven apostles were witnesses to this Event. Moreover, Jesus' Rapture was both preceded and followed by others. According to the Bible record, one of the patriarchs - Enoch - also went straight to Heaven without dying (Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5).

The prophet Elijah was taken up into Heaven, but perhaps we shouldn't count this as a Rapture, because he was transported by a "chariot" or if you prefer, by a whirlwind (II Kings 2:11).

Ezekiel was raptured on three occasions! On the first of these, he seems to have been transported bodily (Ezekiel 3:12-17). The other two were purely spiritual journeys: once his spirit was taken to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8-11); another time he went to the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

^  The Spirit of the Lord took Philip body and soul to Azotus (Acts 8:39-40). By contrast, St. Paul, when given a visit to Paradise, could not be sure whether it was his spirit that went, or both his body and spirit that were there. (Please see II Corinthians 12:2-4.) John's spirit was raptured to Heaven (Revelation 4:1-5); and was further borne along to see various Wonders in Heaven and also on Earth (for example Revelation 17:3, 21:10).

There is a strong Catholic tradition that Mary, Mother of Jesus ascended to Heaven just like Her Son. Not a teaching to be set aside lightly, this writer suggests.

Finally, as stated earlier, in recent decades many men and women have experienced "life after death." Most of these people - clinically dead and later revived - had been transported in their spirit, to Heaven. The nice thing is that so many of them returned to tell us about what they had seen.

The Rapture has a Great Purpose - the cementing of relationships. Strong ties will be invaluable in what follows, because after the "Trip" a great building project begins. The Kingdom of God on Earth enters into a New Phase - that of the Manifest, Clear, Visible Kingdom.

And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect [His chosen ones] from the four winds, [even] from one end of the universe to the other.
Matthew 24:31 (Amp.)

Chapter 9 Notes

^  1. C. Wesley & J. Cennick, Hymns Ancient and Modern, Hymn number 51
(London: Wm. Clowes and Sons Ltd.)
^  2. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964).
^  3. Tommy Hicks' End-Times Vision:
^  4. Leap Year Rules:
^  5. Times - London: 23 November, 1971
(report based on the 1971 UN Demographic Yearbook).

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