Jesus Is Coming Back!
This truth is important to say, important to live by, and important to remind ourselves. The Bible talks a lot about the imminent return of Christ, so I think it makes sense that we should talk about it too!
It seems like bringing up the rapture of the church and eschatology can be a sour subject for many Jesus-followers. A lot of people seem confused by studying the end times and say there are just too many different views and positions about this subject. People tend to fight with maps, charts and news reports in hand, and it makes sense that a lot of people want to avoid the subject for that reason alone. It has become an issue of division rather than a subject that we study and discuss with love for one another. For that reason, we, as the people of God, seem to have shied away from talking about it. People have been arguing so much on a position for so long that we have forgotten the person: Jesus. The fact remains that Jesus IS coming back, and this is awesome! This is something that we should be talking about!
We just recently finished our study about the afterlife, the rapture, and the day of the Lord in our Fundamentals of the Faith series of 1 Thessalonians; and you get the sense that Paul wanted people to know and live in the reality of Jesus’ return.
Paul wasn’t shy about teaching new believers about how Jesus would return and how He is going to establish His kingdom here on earth for all eternity. In fact, he mentions this truth in every chapter of the 1 Thessalonians (1 Thes 1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:17-18; 5:9-10). Paul wanted these new Christians established in the faith, so he addresses the doctrine of the rapture.
And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. -Matt 9:15
In ancient jewish times it was common for a man to betrothed himself to a woman and then leave for a time. Being betrothed was much more than our understanding of engagement. It was understood to be like being married without actually consummating the marriage. The husband would usually give the bride’s father a gift of money for the woman (to take care of her and show the family how much he values her), and then he would go and prepare a place for the couple to live for their marriage. He typically would come back as soon he was done, and this would be as soon as possible. He would come back for his bride in a celebratory surprise for the whole town to see and they would finally get married, consummate their marriage and live together as one in their new home together forever. (see passages like Deuteronomy 22:23-24; Ex 22:16-17; Matt 1:18; 25:1-10)
I mention this tradition because the Bible (and Jesus Himself) commonly used this picture of Christ and His followers as a bride and groom (Matt 9:15; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:6-10). And just like a groom back in the ancient world, Jesus has gone to the Father to prepare a place for us (Heaven), has given us the gift of His Spirit as we wait for His return, and is coming back for His bride (the Church). And He is excited about this!
“…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” -Isa 62:5b
Jesus is Coming Back for His Church!
This is what is known as the doctrine of the rapture. The word “rapture" is not in the ancient Greek text, but comes from the Latin Vulgate, which translates the phrase “caught up” with the Latin word, “rapturus,” from which we get our English word, “rapture.” The idea of the rapture of the church where we will be caught up to be with Jesus is found in other passages as well like 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
The verb translated caught up in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means “to seize, or to carry off by force.”
David Guzik says about this text, “In the ancient Greek, the phrase to meet was used as a technical term to describe the official welcoming of honored guests” I love that idea that Jesus views us as His honored guests for all eternity and really wants us to be with Him: His Bride, the Church. Jesus said in Luke 12:8, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.” Jesus isn’t ashamed of us and is proud to call us friends (John 15:15). He has gone to prepare a place for us, sealed us with His Spirit and promises to come back for us (John 14)
And if I go and 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
So why hasn’t He come back yet?
Well, God is not cruel—letting us suffer here on earth as He looks from heaven, rather, He has delayed because He is a God of love! Jesus is coming back because He radically loves His Church and this same love has caused a delay. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 we see that Jesus WILL come back for His Church, but we need to trust that His timing is perfect. He hasn’t come back yet because wants as many people as possible to repent and turn to Him (2 Peter 3:9-10). And even through He hasn’t told us exactly when He is coming back, we can trust His Word. And He expects us to live in purity and expectancy for His return.
“And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” -1 John 3:3
No one knows when the rapture will take place so we must live in expectancy. This is good for us because we can tend to be complacent as Christians. One of the main reasons I believe God didn’t reveal to us when exactly the day He would come back was so that we would live for Him every day. God doesn’t just want us to say a prayer to have “fire insurance” from hell and forget about Him. Jesus wants a relationship with us and for us to worship Him as Lord. When we believe we can see Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, at any moment, it helps purify us (1 John 3:3). This reality helps us understand our priorities and how we are to live right now in light of eternity (Colossians 3:2-4; Psalm 90:10-12).
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” -Ephesians 5:15-16
What a hope we have as believers in Jesus! And the Bible tells us this hope will not disappoint (Romans 5:5). So, we should be ready for His return and live in light of this wonderful truth. Let’s live for Jesus every day telling people this wonderful news that there IS a God who loves us, has died for our sins, gives us His righteousness, and makes a way for us to be His honored guest in Heaven for all of eternity. The rapture is just one of the beautiful doctrines of the Bible that shows us the wonderful character of Jesus, so let’s receive His Word by faith and live accordingly.
Jesus is coming back. Although many people in the media or even our friends and family may not be thinking about this or talking about this reality, we are to encouraged to apply it to our hearts. As we ponder the great love of Jesus and how this doctrine shows us more of His wonderful character, let us be encouraged and live believing that Jesus could come back today!
“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” -1 Thessalonians 4:18