The Rapture is a prophecy. It was first defined in its current thought by the evangelist Billy Graham. Basically, it states that a time will come when Christians will be taken off this earth and lifted up alive into heaven. The scriptural reference from which this prophecy was taken comes from First Thessalonians:
"At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord forever." (1 Thes.4:16-17).
Many have since added their own perceptions to this basic prophecy. Most notable of these additions, is the thesis that it will happen in advance of the Tribulation and present itself suddenly and instantly world-wide by lifting the faithful into heaven all at once, leaving those not selected to deal with the crashing cars, buses, airplanes and, more importantly, to experience the time of terror by themselves alone.
One problem with this tradition is that it perpetuates the false notion that poverty and misfortune, key elements of the Tribulation, are signs of unholyness. The world is beyond the precipice and on the downslope into the Wrath right now and salvation continues.
As this descent escalates it will be disconcerting to those whose faith isn't strong. And escalate it will. Christ teaches in Matthew that only those who stand firm to the end will be saved. He indicates clearly that during most of the Tribulation children of God will still people the earth and He gives specific warnings on how they are to conduct themselves during the lawlessness (Mat.24:4-31).
"For fortytwo' months the beast was allowed to mouth its boasts and blasphemies and to do whatever it wanted...It was allowed to make war against the saints and conquer them, and given power over every race people, language and nation; and all people of the world will worship it, that is, everybody whose name has not been written down since the foundation of the world in the book of life of the sacrificial Lamb. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen: Captivity for those who are destined for captivity; the sword for those who are to die by the sword. This is why the saints must have constancy and faith. (Rev. 13:5-10)
It is only at the very end of the Wrath that God's people will be withdrawn. Jesus said the days would be cut short for the sake of the elect. Just as Daniel writes: "when that time comes, your own people will be spared". (Dan. 12:1).
The Rapture is a real event. Those that believe in it are well advised to continue in that belief. The instant of our death we are changed and that is the rapture.
No one is dead as far as God is concerned, so the instant of death is not death at all. Thus we are all taken alive into heaven by the power and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is happening now in scattered events (just as it has since the first Pentecost), but the day is coming when the Lord will return and the here and now world that we currently live in will end. That means a day will come when the upflow of the living to heaven will crescendo, and great numbers will be embraced by God all at once.
All will experience God's magnet together, good and bad alike. The righteous will be taken into Christ's kingdom. The unrighteous will be brought before the throne of God where the books will be opened and judgment will take place on the basis of how each of them conducted their lives on earth.
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