Recently I have come to change my mind on the topic of the Rapture. Historically it has been referred to as the “blessed hope” so one does not have to die but be caught up in the air to meet Jesus. In the pre-tribulation time-line the Raptured go to Heaven for a 3 and a half year marriage supper of the Lamb celebration then return with Jesus to stop the Anti-Christ. In the post-tribulation time-line the Raptured meet Jesus in the air then immediately return to stop the Anti-Christ.
My change of mine is not on the time-line, I believe in Post-Tribulation Rapture. Instead, my thinking is on the idea of the “blessed hope”. The Church has put an emphasis on how good it will be to be in the generation that gets to be Raptured. My thinking now is that this is motivated from a fear of death.
The Bible tells us that the Rapture is for the last generation that is alive when Jesus returns.
1Th 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The people who will be “caught up” [harpadzo, or rapture] in the air are the last generation alive when the Lord Jesus returns.
I believe it is better to die than to be part of the rapture.
First, I don’t think that generation is going to fly in the air like Superman. I think this notion is based upon these reasons. In verse 4:17 above it says “… shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”. The natural implication is that those “caught up” will fly into the air. And this is supported by the Lord’s own ascension after his resurrection.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, (Acts 1:9 & 10a).
Notice, however, how slow the ascension was. Jesus was covered by a cloud, and presumably the disciples watched the cloud ascend. Or, more likely, after the cloud disappeared they looked for Jesus who they no longer saw.
Consider what Paul told the Corinthians.
51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15: 51 & 52)
This transformation happens in a “twinkling of an eye”. That does not sound like we experience flight time. Why in a twinkling of an eye? I think because we are already in heaven with Christ. Consider what Paul told the Ephesians.
5 Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) 6 And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph. 2:5 & 6)
Verse 6 states that he has already “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. Our spirits are already in heaven which is where Jesus is and is why we hear him speak to our hearts. When we die, or when we are caught up in the air, in that twinkling of an eye, we will see where we already are.
Which brings me to my main point of this post. I believe dying is better than being caught up for this reason. Paul told the Corinthians.
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed on with our house which is from heaven: 3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed on, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. 5 Now he that has worked us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given to us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:1-8)
In verse 1, “our earthly house of this tabernacle” refers to our physical bodies. Being “dissolved” means to die. So the “building of God” that we have is the glorified body of Christ that we already abide in. So when we die, we will immediately see the heavenly body in Christ that we already have in our spirit. In verse 2 Paul expresses his longing to walk in that glory now while in his earthly body. In verse 3 he means that Christ will be seen while he is still alive in his earthly body. In verse 4 he makes his point: he does not want to shed his body, but for the glory of the heavenly body to be seen while still in his body. Verse 5 makes it clear that this heavenly body is God’s very own Holy Spirit. In verse 6 he addresses our attention. As long as we are thinking carnally and focused on the things of this world we “miss” God. In verse 7 he means that he does not look upon the temporal, but the eternal, which is what walking by faith and not by sight means. This was established earlier in chapter 4 when he said:
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18)
Which brings us to his conclusion in verse 8, that he would rather live by faith in what is real in the spirit, by ignoring the physical body, and be aware of the presence of God at all times.
This may be a little complicated for understanding my point, but our experiences of God in this life is by faith which is like seeing God as a shadow (even though the OT speaks of their time as a shadow of our time). When we die, we will see where we are already in heaven. We will have a clear view and understanding of what it means to walk fully in the Spirit in heaven.
Those who are in heaven now, have had up to 6,000 years of pure spirit life. When we return with the Lord in glorified bodies that will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, we will experience both the physical and the spiritual at the same time.
That generation that was caught up in the air will not have had the time and experience of living in the spirit without the encumbrance of the physical body obscuring their understanding of spirit life. But those who have died in Christ will have both experiences. Seeing the spirit from the body’s obfuscation and seeing the body from the spirit’s point of view.
For this reason I think it will be better to die naturally and spend time in heaven before returning to Earth with the Lord through the Rapture.