“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus…For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

Try putting yourself somewhere in the grand picture of this great prophetic event. Imagine yourself being among those who have passed away from this earth. You will have entered into heaven through the efficacy of the sinless blood of the Lamb of God. There will be a moment in that great eternal day when the church-age saints will gather in a great crowd and wait upon the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be one mighty rush from heaven as He leads His church on the journey to the earth, there to be joined with their reconstituted bodies on Resurrection Day. Your first audible sound will be the shout, the voice of the Archangel, and the blare of the trump of God. Your first waking thought will be of the wonder of your rise from your grave, forever joined together with a body fit for eternity, for holiness, and for service to your Lord. What a sight that will be as the church-age saints from all corners of the earth rise to meet the Lord!

Or, you can imagine yourself among the saints still alive on this earth who await the appearance of our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. What will it be like to be faithfully trusting and faithfully obeying, and then to be startled into awareness of Jesus’ return? No matter where you are, or what you are doing, He will come suddenly. He will come stealthily. He will come and go quickly. There will be no warning (Matthew 24–25). He will come. He will come with His saints that have passed on before us. He will come and restore them to their resurrected bodies. What will become of those who are alive and remain?

Our text calls this rapture a “seizing, plucking up by force, catching up, and claiming for oneself eagerly.” Your inkling of the great event will also be a shout, the voice of the Archangel, and the trump of God, but you will not have the preparation of those who are resurrected. Instead, there you are, hopefully doing what the Lord requires of you, and He will snatch you away, speedily rising, fast pursuing those who have been resurrected, to join together with the Lord in the air! Can you imagine? All cares are immediately ended, all plans are immediately obsolete, all fears are immediately gone. And, if you have been earnestly desiring to see your Lord and praying for His return, you will be filled with trembling, rapturous joy! That will be glory! Fanny Crosby called it right in her hymn “What a Gathering!”

In some church circles, the doctrine of the Rapture is ignored because it does not fit in with Reformed thought. The rapture is belittled as a negative consequence of dour and depressing Dispensationalism. After all, Dispensationalists know that the world will wax worse and that it does not get better—until the Lord takes the church away, refines Israel through the Tribulation, and then invades with His raptured saints to institute His great Millennial Kingdom where He will rule in peace and in righteousness.

I think there is greater depression to be had when your theological system says the world will get better and better until we bring the Kingdom in. There is very little evidence that we are winning the world. As contemporary Christianity seems to be gaining in notoriety, the world seems to be influenced less and less by authentic Christianity. I find great comfort in the fact that at any moment our Lord can, and someday will, intervene and move the world in righteousness! It will be done! He will prevail! The beautiful thing is that every church-age saint will have a front row seat in these great events. The first of which is the rapture of the church.

The Rapture is a positive truth (1 Thessalonians 4:13–15). It is positive because it is connected with the death of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13). It provides hope that we will meet again! It is positive because it is confirmed by the resurrection of the Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:14). He is the First Fruits of the resurrection (Leviticus 23:10–14; 1 Corinthians 15:12–13). It is also positive because it is communicated by the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15). The rapture is a promised blessing from the Lord!

The Rapture is a precious truth (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17). It is precious because it involves the Return of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15f). John 14:3ff is augmented by Paul’s passage in 1 Thessalonians 4. It is also precious because it involves the resurrection of the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16). 2 Corinthians 5:8 explains the blessedness of going to be with the Lord before the Rapture. It is precious because we get to see Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 2 Timothy 4:8). It is also precious because of the reunion of the believers and the entering into the residence of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The Rapture is a practical truth (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Believers who grasp the truth of the Rapture find great comfort in all life situations; it provides stability when the world seems upside down! A correct view of the death and resurrection help us keep a correct view of life. Yet, the Rapture is also challenging. Its truth challenges us to godly living (Titus 2:11–14). A healthy view of the Rapture serves as a cleansing agent in our lives (1 John 2:28, 3:3). Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus! Trust and obey.