What will it be like when Jesus comes to get His believing people at the rapture? And when will the rapture of the believers take place; before, during or after the Tribulation?
The rapture is a topic of intense debate among Christians. Many scenic movies have been made, and captivating novels have been written about the rapture and what life will look like after it. But what is the rapture? And how can we prepare ourselves? Derek Prince was often asked these questions.
In his book, At The End of Time, Derek Prince says:
"The first event associated with the return of Jesus is the rapture. Some Christian scholars will tell you the word rapture is not found in the New Testament, which is rather a naive statement, because it depends on what translation you use. As we will shortly understand, any translation that contains the word rapture would be perfectly accurate.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul describes how believers will be resurrected in order to meet Jesus upon His return. In verses 16 and 17 we read:
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
Two significant events will take place on Earth, one after the other. One will be that all true believers, who have died in faith, will rise up from their graves. The second will be that all true believers still alive on Earth will experience an immediate supernatural change of their lives.
Both groups of believers – the risen and the changed – will be lifted up into the air by the supernatural power of God. There, they will be taken up into the clouds to be united with their Lord and with the other believers forever – eternally enjoying the perfect harmony and fellowship in heaven.
The words “caught up” could perfectly well be translated as “raptured.” The word rapture comes from a Latin word which means “to seize something forcibly.” In Greek, it is used of a thief entering a house and stealing something. It is used of a wolf coming among sheep and taking a sheep from the flock. It basically indicates a sudden, forceful grab.
That is what the rapture will be like. Jesus will grab us; He will reach down and take us suddenly, forcefully. There is just one difference between Jesus and the thief. The thief takes what does not belong to him; Jesus will take only those who belong to Him, “those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23). Thus all true believers will be raptured when Jesus returns.
All of us, theologically, believe the Lord is coming back. However, theology is one thing, confident expectation is another.
Some believe in a secret rapture. To me, however, there is nothing that could be more public than an event which is announced from heaven with a shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God. How much secrecy is left at the end of that?
“And the dead in Christ will rise first. [Before we who are alive are changed.] 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)
He says elsewhere that we will be changed in a moment, in the blink of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). This is very exciting to me. Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting, looking at a fellow Christian. He is looking at you and he blinks. Suddenly you are totally changed; you are a glorious, shining creature. He is changed, too. You look at him in amazement! It doesn’t take a long time. In a moment, the twinkling of an eye, we shall be totally transformed. Do you believe God can do that? I do, and it is exciting.”
The rapture: motivation for living
In his message, Israel and the Church: Prophetic Word Made More Sure, Derek adds:
“Now whether it's to be secret or open, is not stated here [in 1 Thessalonians 4]. You can pay your money, take your choice. But one thing is stated. We shall be caught up. Do you know what I believe? We shall be caught up.
A lot of you want to nail you down. Are you orthodox? Do you believe in an open rapture, premillennial, post-millennial, pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib? I'm not committing myself in all that, but I do believe we shall all be caught up and I'm looking forward to it.”
Later on, Derek continues:
“One thing, I think, is obvious objectively about New Testament Christians. They lived in continued, excited, anticipation of the Lord's return, and that was the greatest motivation for holy living that's presented in the New Testament. All of us probably, theologically, believe the Lord is coming back. However, theology is one thing, confident expectation is another. And he's only coming back in that sense for those who eagerly await his return. You’ll have a different focus and a different set of values.”
Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting, looking at a fellow Christian. He is looking at you and he blinks. Suddenly you are totally changed; you are a glorious, shining creature.