Jesus is teaching and says, “Understand this: if the owner of the house would have known when a thief was coming, he’d have been prepared and not allowed his home to be burglarized. You should be ready likewise: for when least expected, the Son of Man will come” (Lk. 12:39-40). It seems that the time to expect the Rapture is when we least expect it. The evil surrounding us in the era in which we live makes the teachings of Jesus more relevant than ever.
In Matthew 24, Jesus warns us, “the love of many will grow cold.” In Mark 13, He informs us that the last days will be laced with great apostasy and even the more spiritual among us will be deceived. Paul speaks of many who will denounce the faith in the end times (II Th. 2).
The concept of “readiness” can be found throughout Scripture. For example, “Amaziah took a census of men 20 years and older and found 300,000 choice men READY to go to war with weapons in their hands” (II Chron. 25). Peter tells us to “be READY always to give an answer to anyone who asks of you.”
The military is all about readiness. Thousands of missions have been flown out of Luke AFB in the past three years. Luke is now the largest F-35 base in the world. Within the next four years, an additional 100 F-35’s will make Luke their home. When you look up and see these jets flying four abreast, you can be sure these are tactics for battle-readiness. Quoting “The Index of Military Strength,” we read that “The Air Force maintains it must be able to respond rapidly to contingencies in order to maintain global freedom.”
War games and simulations are now common on this base in order to be prepared for any contingency. Our airmen and pilots are constantly in battle dress, ready to scramble instantly. Our personnel are trained to be airborne in minutes. “Ready Rooms” can be found throughout the base so that active duty personnel can learn immediately what they need to know for an impending mission.
However, in the Rapture, Believers will be “airborne” in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus is telling us in our text that we should lock our doors at night and be prepared for thieves, but more importantly we should be prepared for His arrival. In 56 AD, Paul wrote that he was “ready to preach the Gospel in Rome (Rom. 1). A decade later, he said he was ready to give His life for Christ and ultimately did so (II Tim. 4).
Revelation is crystal clear that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. We must not make confusing what God made so simple. The book of Revelation serves no purpose if the Church remains on earth. If we are on this planet during this time, exactly where on earth are we? If we remain on earth, why is the Church not mentioned throughout the Tribulation period (Rev. 4-19)? We do not see word “Church” until after the Tribulation ends. The sceptic must answer this question. If the Rapture does not occur after the end of Revelation 3, where else in world history could it take place? Just as in the first century, sceptics today downplay Jesus’ return (II Pet. 3:4). However, things will change suddenly.
Consider the following comparisons concerning the Rapture and the Second Coming.
The Rapture is not described in Revelation, but the Second Coming is. At the Rapture, Jesus appears personally, but at the Second Coming, He appears nationally.
When the Rapture occurs only Believers will see Him, but at the Second Coming “every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
The Rapture takes Christians out of this world, and seven years later Jesus brings us back into the world. Believers are in heaven while the Tribulation is taking place on earth. The Rapture happens just before the Tribulation and the Second Coming takes place following the Tribulation. This means Jesus is coming back twice, but with a seven-year interval. These are clearly two distinct events separated by seven years.
There are no specific signs preceding the Rapture, but the Second Coming has many signs preceding it. These signs occur during the Tribulation period, but the Believers will not be on earth to witness these signs.
The Rapture is strictly a New Testament doctrine, whereas references concerning the Second Coming are found in both the Old and New Testaments.
The mass confusion concerning eschatology revolves around mis-applied Scriptures. No biblical passage ever refers to the Rapture and the Second Coming as occurring simultaneously. No verse that refers to the Rapture also refers to His Second Coming. Verses that apply to one do not apply to the other. Consternation regarding this stems from the fact that in both events Jesus is heading earthward.
In Matthew 25, Jesus taught a parable of five wise and five foolish virgins. The five considered wise took extra oil for their lamps and were prepared for their Lord’s return. The foolish virgins were not ready. Jesus also spoke of two workers in the field. One was taken and the other left (Lk. 17). By this we know the Rapture will be instantaneous. Sinners who endure the Tribulation have actually chosen to do so, for they could have been ready for the Lord’s return.
Consider some contrasts between the Rapture and the Tribulation:
The Rapture is for Believers only, but the Tribulation affects the entire planet.
The Rapture is for the saints, while the Tribulation is for sinners.
The Rapture is for the children of light and the Tribulation is for the children of darkness (Jn. 3:19).
The Rapture happens before the day of wrath. However the Tribulation actually is the day of wrath (Rev. 6:17).
The Rapture is a message of hope, but the Tribulation is a message of judgment. After the Rapture the church will prosper and the world will suffer.
The Church will be taken up from all dispensations and denominations. Even those who hold to a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation theory will be raptured. No biblical passage even suggests the Church will be on earth during any aspect of the Tribulation. The Rapture is the beginning of the radical events that take place in the end times.
The fundamental reason for the Rapture is so that the Church may be with Jesus eternally. After this event, we are never separated from our Lord. We are with Him in heaven while the Tribulation takes place on earth. Jesus teaches that Believers are the salt and light of the earth. Therefore, the world cannot be the same without Christians in it. Even if there was no Tribulation, the Church being absent would impact every nation on earth.
The question Believers naturally ask is just what level of spirituality does one need to be “rapture ready?” The answer is that all faithful born-again Believers will go at that appointed time. Christians who have already died will be resurrected and meet the Lord in the air (I Cor. 15).
Jesus said He will separate the sheep from the goats at the judgment. Two different institutions are dealt with in the book of Revelation, the Church (Ch. 1-3) and the world (Ch. 4-19). Every person on earth will be in one of these two categories. Because Believers are not worldly-minded, Jesus takes us out of the world. Those who have rejected Christ will stay in the world.
No theory or theological belief can “force” the Rapture to occur at a certain time. Some think that the Church will somehow be miraculously preserved and protected from the evils of the Tribulation. But it will be impossible to survive if one who has taken the mark of the beast can neither buy nor sell.
These is only one way God can ensure that Christians do not suffer alongside the sinners. He must remove us from the world during the Tribulation period. If we were on earth at this time, the book of Revelation would refer to it. It does not.
In a parable, Jesus informs us the weeds and the wheat will grow together: the sinners alongside the saints (Mt. 13). We are surrounded by such weeds every day, but the Lord said He will sort the good from the bad at harvestime. This is another reason for the Rapture, for it will separate the true Christians from the nominal ones. “We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (II Cor. 5:10).
Jesus never taught on the Rapture because His disciples could never have understood it. As with the doctrine of the resurrection, they would not have comprehended it. This task was left to Paul some thirty years later. The first generation of Christians had to be taught the basic doctrines first. Paul even had to give assurances concerning how the dead saints would be raptured (I Th. 4:19).
It is also essential to realize that the human race has enjoyed a grace period of 4000 years, for God began to deal with Abraham about 2,000 BC. It is logical that there will be a day of reckoning. The basic concept behind the Rapture is deliverance.
The Rapture must occur to clear the way for antichrist to appear. At this same time, He will change our vile bodies (I Cor. 15:21). Additional reasons for the Rapture are that it encourages faithfulness, thankfulness, holiness, a healthy fear of the Lord, joyfulness, hopefulness, obedience, endurance, prayerfulness, watchfulness, and fearlessness of ridicule.
The doctrine of the Rapture is both logical and practical, for it teaches God’s mercy and His judgment. Those who believe Christians are fools to serve Jesus will discover otherwise “in the twinkling of an eye.”
The only two qualifications to be raptured are to be born again and to remain in that condition. The only thing that can disqualify a person is sin.
Many seek a sign that the Rapture is about to happen but there are none. The evil around us that grows worse each day is the only sign we are given. There are no prophecies that need to be fulfilled prior to the Rapture. It would not be fair for God to give even a few moments notice, for many would give their lives to Christ at the last possible moment. God cannot be conned. He wants every Believer to live for Him consistently.
From the Day of Pentecost to the Rapture is an era of tremendous mercy. During this period, God has not intervened directly in the activities of the human race. However, from the Rapture through the seven years of Tribulation there will be numerous judgments on a global scale.
We meet the Lord in the air at the Rapture. He will not set His holy feet on this planet until He “makes a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness” (II Pet. 3:11-13). In verse 11 Peter asks the question, “Seeing that all these things will come to pass, what manner of lifestyle should you be living in the meantime?”
When a country declares war, the first thing it does is to bring its ambassadors home. As Christ’s ambassadors, we too are going home. We must consider ourselves to be in preparation for the Rapture at any moment.
Gabriel tells the father of John the Baptist, “the Messiah is coming to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” It has been well said that heaven is a place prepared for a prepared people. Jesus said, in order for you and I to be together, I’m going to PREPARE a place for you (Jn. 14). He has had over 2,000 years to get this wonderful place ready. Paul tells us “no eye has seen, nor any ear heard, nor can anyone even imagine the wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9).
In a parallel passage to our text, Jesus speaks of how evil the world will be prior to the flood (Mt. 24). “Before my return, the world will be like it was in the days of Noah. People will be living careless, routine lives. Suddenly the flood came and swept them all away.” They had years to prepare for the flood, but did not. The ark illustrates the era preceding the rapture. During the deluge, Noah and his family were safely above the flood of judgment. In a similar way, Believers in heaven will be above the horrors of world judgment during the Tribulation.
Jesus warned the end times will be an era of great delusion. He said people can predict the weather, yet refuse to heed God’s warnings concerning the latter days (Mt. 16:3). “Evil men & seducers will become more and more prevalent” (II Tim. 3:13).
Although we cannot know the date of the Rapture, we can recognize the season. The day in which we now live is a time of grace. The Church began when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost. The Church age ends when the Holy Spirit is taken out with us, for He lives within us. The Holy Spirit’s absence literally unleashes hell on earth.
There is no question that Jesus is coming. The real question is when. Jesus indicates in our text that no human being knows. The essential question each of us must ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly ready to meet Him.