“Behold, I show 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
The Rapture is described in our text as “a mystery”. While the subject might amuse the sceptics in the world and in the church who refuse to accept that true believers will one day be caught away from this earth, the Rapture will affect their lives too. It is a mystery to unbelievers, but those who accept the Scriptures clearly see what God is saying through the apostle Paul. In this closing study we will look at the Biblical foundation for the Rapture and why it should no longer be a mystery to Bible-believing Christians.
We can understand the world having a difficult time accepting the teaching concerning the Rapture, but this should not be so for believers. What is peculiar though, is that Sci-Fi fans believe that one day people will be able to be ‘beamed’ from one place to another through the power of science, yet they dismiss the thought that God could do exactly the same thing now! So, they wait for a scientific breakthrough in this area in the distant future. What a minute! What if we said it has already been done in the past in a non-technological age? Those who actually read and believe their Bibles already see the foundation for the Rapture within its pages. Several Raptures have already happened, not as on a grand a scale as the Rapture of the Church, but nonetheless very pertinent to our study.
1. Enoch: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24) … “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found” (Hebrews 11:5).
2. Elijah: “And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal … And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2Kings 2:1,11).
3. Philip: “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:39-40).
Bible scholars point to several more instances in Scripture which describe a rapture, but these three cannot be argued against. While they do not involve more than one person, they serve to show that God has ‘beamed’ a person from one place to another in the past, so He can indeed Rapture the entire Church in the future. They are a foreshadow of the Rapture which is still to come. These raptures were literal, so there is no reason to suppose that the Rapture of the Church is symbolic. In each case a literal body was transferred from one place to another. Two of which were transferred to Heaven. Unbelievable? Not for those who accept the almighty power of the God of the Bible!
Paul said that he was going in unveil a mystery in 1 Corinthians 15:51 and goes on to describe how millions of Christians will be beamed from earth into the presence of Christ when He returns. The “dead in Christ” will be raised first and then living Christians will follow a nanosecond after. The living will not experience the “sting” of death; they will not experience death, just like Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament.
In the Bible a mystery is not some secret puzzle that needs unravelling through a series of obscure codes. It is not something that is hidden away and hard to understand, instead it is God opening His word to the generation a particular prophecy was intended for. For instance, the Old Testament Jews would not have understood how God could accept the Gentiles, even though it was clearly stated in Scripture. Yet when it happened believers accepted it. “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:4-6). So a mystery is a truth that was not fully revealed until its unveiling. No one would have come up with it apart from divine revelation. “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:26).
That believer would be caught up to Heaven without physically dying sounded like a new truth, but in fact it was already there in Scripture. God used Paul to open the church’s mind to the facts. Millions of believers, he wrote, will be called into Christ’s presence together in an instant; they will be clothed in a new, glorified body. We could be the generation that will see the fulfilment of this prophecy!
One day the Lord Jesus Christ will appear in the sky and call all true believers unto Himself. Not all who go to church will be caught up though, for it is only those who are “in Christ” that can be Raptured. Those who do not know Him, do not follow Him and refuse to obey Him will be left behind. The timing of the Rapture is unknown, but that does not mean we cannot be ready. “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Luke 12:43).