In survivor training I often hear the phrase a person can only survive seconds without hope, minutes without oxygen, hours without shelter, days without water, weeks without food. Hope is essential. It is also the critical aspect of the Rapture. Paul tells in First Thessalonians that we do not mourn as those who have no hope. From there he explains the concept of the Rapture, the source of that hope. Of late the concept of the Rapture has pushed against, especially by reformed minded Christians, and often labeled as escapism. Here is a brief defense of the Rapture and the essentialness of hope it provides.
Creation to creation
I will not believe in a doctrine that believes in escaping creation misses a key phrase in the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. The Rapture is not an escape from creation. It is a relocation to another part of what God from the beginning created. More than that, Jesus said “and if I go a prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3. Out of the created space by God, Heaven, there is a further created space by Christ for His church. The Rapture is not an escape, it is a destination.
God will restore Israel
The clear hero is God in the Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants. The aim is people knowing fully who God is. The nations are called to rejoice with God’s people Israel after He restores them. Deuteronomy 32:43. The Mosaic covenant predicts failure followed by restoration of Israel in a significant manner not yet seen. The Davidic covenant echoes the same in Psalm 89 “I will punish their sin… But I will never stop loving [David] nor fail to keep my promise to him.” The ultimate fulfillment of this is Jesus, but the kingdom of Israel is yet to be restored. Acts 1:6-7 In the New covenant, inaugurated by Christ “this cup is the New Covenant in my blood,” God restores Israel to glory for a specific point. “I am not doing this because you deserve it… the surrounding nations that survive will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted the wasteland. For I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I say.” Ezekiel 36:32,36 Why is this significant to the Rapture? God is the hero, not the church. Part of His plan to bring glory to Himself is the restoration of an undeserving Kingdom that rejected Him.
God is merciful
This concept of restoration is based on God’s mercy. This is significant when Paul writes in Romans 11:25-26 “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved.” The salvation of Gentiles followed by the restoration of Israel culminates in “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.” Romans 11:32 The plan of mercy leads Paul to worship, and then to live distinctly different in the rest of the book. There is prophecy of failing by Israel, salvation of Gentiles, and restoration of Israel that all may receive mercy. This raises the question, what about the church?
Jesus gets married
Currently, Jesus preparing His bride, Ephesians 5:22-33. At some point the Groom will want His bride. What does this look like? Jesus says He will come again and receive us unto Himself, that where He is, we may be also. John 14:3. Paul says that we shall not all see death in 1 Corinthians 15:51. 1 Thessalonians 4 describes us being caught up with Christ, the dead in Christ first, the rest of us second. Revelation 3:10 speaks of being saved from the hour of testing that will come upon the whole world. The church is largely absent after Revelation chapter 3, but us saints are mentioned from time to time, especially Revelation 19 onward, the marriage supper of our Jesus. It appears that Jesus obtains His bride as God the father reveals Christ to all nations while restoring Israel, thus showing mercy to all and repaying all evil.
Hope is the point
Like many today, the Thessalonians were hyper focused on the end times and that the time had come and passed. Paul talks about the tribulation in Second Thessalonians. If the day of the Lord had happened, this is what it would have looked like… The point? It had not happened yet! The purpose of revealing the mystery that is the Rapture, the point of revealing some aspects of end times in Revelation is to give us hope as we press on “that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:40 Hence, while we mourn the loss of loved ones, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. There is an unknown but to God the Father moment when the last trumpet sounds. The Rapture is about Christ receiving His bride. It is joyous union, not escapism. The hope of Christ’s return fortifies the endurance we must face as Christians in our mission of telling the good news to all people. Hope is the point.
There are two poles in the Christian life: our theology and our practice. We can be correct on one but incorrect in another. Regardless of one’s viewpoint, Christians tend to think pessimistically, not optimistically. The point of the Bible is God wins, and those who are in Christ share in that victory. We do not hunker down and wait, for that does not fit what Christ is doing with His bride. A hiding Christian misses the good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 To hide is to fail to stand firm, putting on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-11 To hide is to lose our first love. Revelation 2:4-5 The Rapture is hope of rescue, not escape from our duty. We engage the world and ready ourselves until the Father tells our Groom to take us home.
The bottom line:
The Rapture is about breathing hope when facing a life that is hard and not fair. It is not an escape from creation, nor a call to hide. The hope of the Rapture fortifies the spine of the Christian to take on the hardships and persecutions we endure, knowing in the end we win. The hope of the Rapture is that the Groom will receive His bride, that where He is, we may be also. The hope of the Rapture is remembering that God doesn’t give up on people, and that He will be the hero. For if God won’t give up on Israel after all her egregious mistakes, He won’t give up on us either.
“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20