Due to some “Left Behind” questions recently received, in yesterday’s sermon I referred to the “rapture,” a favorite topic of some popular TV preachers. Some years back a book and movie entitled Left Behind pictured the rapture as a near future time when suddenly all believing Christians would vanish and only unbelievers would be “left behind.” So for example, the movie might show a bus driver suddenly disappear and a bus full of unbelievers careening wildly without a driver. That and similar such dramatic imaginary scenes make for a spectacular Hollywood production, but a woeful misrepresentation of Scripture.
The Glorious Return
The Rapture is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It addresses a concern many early Christians in the New Testament era had about fellow Christians who had recently passed away. Many of these early Christians took quite literally–according to our concept of time–Jesus’ promise of His imminent return. They wondered if their brothers and sisters in Christ who had recently died would miss out on the promised glorious return of Christ. The Apostle Paul gave them the following comforting message:
“We want you to know about those who go to their rest, my fellow Christians, so you don’t grieve like the others, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again; then God will in the same way through Jesus bring with Him those who went to their rest. We tell you only what the Lord has told us: We who are left behind and are still living when the Lord comes will not get ahead of those who went to their rest. When the order is given and the archangel calls and God’s trumpet sounds, the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, and the dead who are in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still living and left behind will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we’ll always be with the Lord. Now, then, comfort one another with these words.” (AAT)
Raised to Meet The King
Notice: the “left behind” were Christians who hadn’t died (bodily) yet. Those who weren’t left behind were Christians who had died, whose bodies will be resurrected first to meet the Lord in the air, closely followed by the still living Christians. In this passage non-Christians aren’t even mentioned. Other passages assure us that all mankind who have ever lived will be raised to meet King Jesus and be judged and eternally sentenced on the day of the Lord’s return. And that His return will not be secret, but a spectacular worldwide, indeed universal, event witnessed by everyone, some to their rapturous joy and others to their fearful, mournful woe. Jesus said:
“the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear Him (the Son of Man) calling and will come out. Those who have done good will rise to live; those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”John 5:28-29