After examining all 29 references on the rapture, or what I call the first phase of Christ’s coming (noted on the table in my previous blog post), I came up with 16 characteristics . We will take 8 of them in this post.
1. He will take us to Himself and to His father’s House (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Probably the most basic characteristic of this first phase of His coming is that He will come in the clouds from heaven and will take us (the church) to Himself and to His Father’s house, where we will be comforted forever.
2. He will not touch down on the earth (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Another distinctive of this phase, the rapture, is that when He comes He will not touch down on the earth; for His purpose will not be to set up His kingdom or to restore the earth (as is true of the second phase), but to gather up the church, His bride, in order to bring them to Himself.
3. He will take the dead first (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16). When He comes He will first take up those who have died, before the living. And as He takes them up, their bodies will be resurrected and transformed.
4. He will rapture the living immediately after the dead (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:15-17). One of the most striking characteristics of this coming is that He will take up all of the church—the living as well as the dead. The resurrected dead will be taken first, and then the living. So as 1 Corinthians 15:51 states, “We shall not all sleep.” And as 1 Thessalonians puts it, “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the resurrected dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…”
This event of the living being taken up, or caught up, which is called in 1 Corinthians 15:51 a “great mystery,” has been termed in these modern times “the rapture,” or “the rapture of the church.” The word “rapture” is not in the bible, however, it is the term most Christians, have chosen to use for what happens. The Greek word for this rapture occurrence is harpazô and is most often translated in most bibles as “caught up.”
I think a better translation is “snatch” or “seize.” Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice have noted in their book, The Truth Behind Left Behind, “The leading Greek Lexicon says that harpazô means ‘snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly and vehemently.’”
5. We will be gathered together to Him (1 Thess. 4:15-17; 2 Thess. 2:1). The first phase of His coming has been described as “our gathering together to Him.” Thus He comes to bring us all together in unity with Him. It will be a grand reunion and a time of great joy.
6. We will be transformed (1 Cor. 15:51-52; Phil. 3:21). An important aspect of “our gathering together to Him” is the fact that as He snatches us up, we all (the living and the dead) will be “changed” or “transformed.” As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:21, “[He] will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…” And this will happen oh so quickly—“in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”
7. He will come for us at the last trumpet (1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:52). The last trumpet here is not the seventh trumpet of Revelation (Rev. 11:15); rather, it is the heavenly trumpet that heralds the end of the church age when all believers will be removed from the earth. Hence, when God gives the command to blow the trumpet, and when the angels indeed carry out that order, this is when Jesus will come to get us and bring us to heaven.
8. It will be a day of joy (Rom. 8:19; Phil. 2:16; 1 Pt. 4:13; 1 Jn. 2:28; 3:3). When He comes to get us, and when we see Him, that day will be a wonderful day of joy and rejoicing; for we have been eagerly waiting for Him and for our glorification. On that great day, because we have believed and our sins are forgiven, we will not have fear or guilt, rather we will be so glad to see Him.
And for all those believers who have kept themselves pure and have suffered for Him, they will be especially joyful; for they will enjoy with Him a sweet fellowship with fellow sufferers.