But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The Rapture Defined
The Rapture is the supernatural removal of the Church, the true born again believers in Jesus Christ, from the Earth, to meet Jesus Christ, who personally comes to meet the church in the clouds before being taken to Heaven. Despite the foolish, un-biblical “prophecies” of debunked false teacher Harold Camping in 2011, the Rapture is indeed a real Biblical event. It is one of the most dynamic, exciting and heavily-discussed events in Bible prophecy. There are several purposes of the Rapture but one of the main ones is to remove God’s faithful believers from the Earth before the Day of The Lord (also known as the Great Tribulation), the final 7 years of the Earth before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This will be a time where God will pour out His wrath in a series of supernatural punishments and natural disasters on the Earth, permit fallen angelic beings to return to Earth as well as the start of the brief reign of the Antichrist.It will be a time of death and devastation the world has never experienced as the sinful, God-rejecting world is punished for its numerous sins and rebellion against The Lord.
The world will be similar to the way it was during the “Days of Noah” when evil, fallen angelic beings presented themselves as “the gods” to humanity. The Rapture is a sign of God’s love and mercy for faithful believers in Jesus Christ who will not suffer through these difficult years. This is why in verse 18 above the Apostle Paul wrote “comfort one another with these words.” The comfort is that when things are at their worst in the world, Jesus will come and protect His church from it all.
A Literal “Catching Up”
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”
In order to avoid suffering through any of the wrath of God during the Great Tribulation, the believers in Christ will be “caught up” (the Greek word harpazo) and taken off of the Earth. As verse 16 from the opening passage states, Jesus Himself will come down from Heaven in a cloud into the Earth’s atmosphere and will meet the believers who are ascending to Heaven in the cloud and take everyone back to Heaven. (In a similar manner to God coming down in a cloud to meet Moses on Mt. Sinai).
Christians who die have their souls enter Heaven waiting for the Rapture. At the moment of the Rapture those deceased born again Christians who died before the day of the Rapture, will return to their bodies and be resurrected, with a new heavenly physical body. This great feat was already done by Jesus at His own resurrection, which is why verse 14 above states: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” This process of receiving a new, Heavenly made body (as opposed to our present earth-made bodies) is called translation. The Apostle Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another… So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:… It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15
In the “twinkling of an eye”, the believer will be changed from having an earthly body to having a heavenly body. Thus the spirit of the born again Christian, which was given from God, will finally be housed in a body given by God. This is the translation. And it will occur at the Rapture first to those who have passed away and then those who are alive.
What Happens to Christians in Heaven after the Rapture?
The church (consisting of all believers on Earth) will be united with Jesus Christ. In the Book of John Jesus said:
John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 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. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
The place prepared for the Church is where believers will reside with Jesus until His Second Coming, when He returns to Earth to reclaim it and rule from Jerusalem in peace and righteousness.
When Will The Rapture Happen?
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” – Matthew 24:36
Although the Bible gives signs there is no specific date given for when the Rapture will take place. This is why Jesus Christ encourages believers to “watch” and stay faithful in living a Christian life until His return to gather His church and take them to Heaven.
This article’s purpose was to give the basic Biblical explanation of what the Rapture is right from Bible prophecy. If you are already familiar with it or if this article helped your understanding, we strongly recommend you read the Beginning and End Rapture Series for much more information on the purpose of the Rapture, the foreshadows of it all throughout Scripture and the timing of it in Scripture. Part 1 of the Series can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.