The Rapture is more than an “escape.” It’s also a great reunion.
by Greg Laurie
When we speak of the Rapture of the Church, there are some who will say, “The word ‘rapture’ isn’t even in the Bible.”
They’re right! That word comes from a Latin word, and the Bible wasn’t written in Latin. But the event we know as the Rapture certainly is found within Scripture—in multiple places. One of them is Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.—1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Jesus spoke of it, too:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”—John 14:2-3
In this context, that phrase “receive you” means to take you by force.
John, the disciple, addressed it as well in 1 John:
Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.—1 John 3:2 (NLT)
Paul speaks of this same event in 1 Corinthians:
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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed.—1 Corinthians 15:51–52
Now imagine this for a moment. In an instant, all over the world, millions of believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
What Does It All Mean?
When Paul made his statement about the Rapture to the believers of Thessalonica, there was some concern about their loved ones who had already gone on to heaven. First-century believers lived with the threat of imminent death of their friends and loved ones who were believers in Jesus. Why? Because the church was persecuted, and thousands upon thousands of believers were martyred.
These believers in Thessalonica were left wondering, “What does it all mean? How does this work with our loved ones who are no longer with us?”
So Paul gives them these words:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.—1 Thessalonians 4:13-15
It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t speak of believers as being dead; it speaks of them as being asleep.
No, the Bible is not in denial. It simply chooses a different word. You see, when you are a believer in Jesus, you never die. Jesus said:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”—John 11:25
Isn’t it interesting that death, for the believer, is compared to sleep. It’s funny how you dread sleep so much when you’re young and look forward to it when you’re old. When she was very young, I remember my granddaughter used to have to take a nap every day, and she did not like it one bit. She always fought it.
But as her grandpa, I always look forward to naps—even if it’s only a ten-minute catnap where I put my feet up on my desk and slip into dreamland. Just a few minutes of sleep and I wake up refreshed.
Really, a nap is a beautiful picture. It speaks of someone who is at peace.
A Person at Peace
The Bible isn’t suggesting that when a believer dies he or she goes into some kind of “soul sleep.” It is rather a picture used to describe a person who is at peace. The reality is that people in heaven are active, worshiping, and serving the Lord.
So Paul is saying, “Listen. I don’t want you guys to worry about this. Those who have fallen asleep, those who have gone before you, you’re going to see them again. There will be a great reunion, and you’ll all be together again.”
Perhaps you’ve recently lost a loved one to death, and you’re enduring a time of grief right now. Paul writes this passage in Thessalonians just for you. Remember this, he is saying. You could be going about your business one day, thinking about your departed loved one, and then suddenly, so quickly that it can’t be measured with time, you will be seeing that person face-to-face.
Mothers and fathers will be reunited with sons and daughters. Husbands will be reunited with wives and wives with husbands. Children with their parents. Brothers with brothers. Sisters with sisters. Friends with friends. Your sorrow will immediately vanish and be replaced by ecstatic joy.
But not only will you find yourself reunited with loved ones, but you will also open your eyes in the very presence of Love Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what will happen in the Rapture.
I personally look forward to this so much, as our oldest son Christopher went to be with the Lord in July of 2008.
We grieve his loss deeply each and every day.
We miss him so very, very much.
We long to see him and speak with him.
That day is coming for us, and all of us who have had loved ones precede us to heaven.
So think about that, and let heaven fill your thoughts. What if it happened today? Is that escapism? If it is, then count me in. I’ll accept that label. The Rapture will be a great escape, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m looking forward to it.
C. S. Lewis said, “A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.”
I know I’m looking forward to the eternal world. Are you?