Do you know Satan attacked the doctrine of the rapture almost as soon as the ink was dry on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians? In 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5, the apostle wrote about the rapture, promising the young believers in Thessalonica that Jesus would come for them before the future time of wrath, which we also refer to as the tribulation.
Shortly after that, someone posing as Paul or one of his team sent a message to the young church telling them that the day of the Lord (the tribulation) had already begun. This put these new Christians into a fear-induced frenzy as it not only contradicted what the apostle had earlier written to them, but meant they would experience the terrors of the tribulation.
Not much has changed since then. Satan remains vehemently opposed to the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture because it represents a tremendous source of hope to Jesus’ followers; and seen in a true biblical light, it brings much joy and motivation for walking with Him.
This Bible teaches us to wait for Jesus’ return as a bride waits for her bridegroom. In this fourth and last installment on why we should not fear the rapture, we will dig further into why this should not be a source of terror or disdain, but one of relief and joy.
In my last article, I described the coming of the groom for his bride to take her back to the place he had prepared for her in his father’s house. Once the groom and bride returned to their honeymoon suite, they remained in seclusion for seven days. This corresponds quite well to a pretribulation rapture, does it not, with the church spending seven years in the place Jesus is now preparing for her?
During this time, we will be with the Lord while those left behind will go through the seven-year tribulation. While by itself this parallel does not prove that Jesus’ will take us away before this horrible time on earth, it definitely points to that conclusion.
The analogy of a first century Jewish wedding compared with John 14:3 confirms that when Jesus comes for us, He takes us to heaven. He does not catch us up to meet Him in the air only to return to earth right away with us. We do not see this in any passages relating to the Second Coming where Jesus remains on the earth. When our Lord comes for us, He will take us back to His Father’s house in heaven. Shortly after that the celebration will begin.
After the seven days in seclusion, the couple emerged for the marriage celebration. Jesus and his early disciples attended such an occasion in Cana (John 2:1-12). Although few details of these feasts have survived down to this day, we do know they could last an entire week.
Revelation 19:6-8 refers to a “marriage supper of the Lamb” in heaven during the time of tribulation on earth, which is just before Jesus returns to earth. This fits with the marriage customs of the first century as well. The marriage feast occurred after the couple spent seven days secluded in the bridal chamber. The verses quoted below resound with joyous overtones of wonder and praise:
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”
Years ago, I pictured this celebration as a sit-down dinner lasting perhaps a few hours, an evening affair perhaps. However, if the ancient Jewish wedding celebrations could last up to a week, I see no reason limiting this celebration even to several weeks.
The loud sounds of rejoicing will echo through heaven as we praise our Savior and anticipate joining Him on his glorious and victorious return to earth. Could not such a feast last for many, many weeks?
The Comforting Message for Us
The brides of Jesus’ day did not fear the arrival of their bridegroom. The bride looked forward with much anticipation to the surprise return of her bridegroom; this was an expected and exciting part of the wedding festivities. It brought great joy to the bride as she eagerly awaited the groom’s arrival to abduct her and take her to the place he had prepared for her.
This picture of the rapture provides much comfort for us for the following reasons:
- He is preparing a place for us! Jesus is preparing a place especially for us. Many fail to emphasize this wonderful truth when teaching about the rapture. We can be sure this place will be astonishing beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus is designing it with our specific needs and desires in mind. I believe it will be better than any five star hotel!
The Lord is preparing our new dwelling place with our immortal bodies in mind. It’s difficult to imagine what that will be like, but we can be sure it will be more than wonderful.
When we arrive at the place he has prepared for us, we will never wish for our lives back on earth; such a thought will never enter our minds. The joy of being with our Savior in the place He is preparing for us will far surpass anything we have experienced in this life.
- The Rapture is a groom returning for his bride! While the element of surprise in the rapture might alarm us at times, it helps to remember this was part of the excitement of Jewish weddings of the first century. The groom was not coming to harm his bride, but to take her to a place he had worked hard to prepare for her.
If someone were writing romance novels back at that time, he or she would certainly have written one about the return of the groom for his bride and recounted passion of the couple as they reunited after a long separation, and journeyed to their bridal chamber.
So it is with Jesus’ return. He’s taking us away from this life to something far more wonderful than we can even imagine. The rapture marks the beginning of an eternity full of joy and amazement, which we will enjoy in immortal bodies that will never be subject to aging, illness, pain, or death.
- The Rapture will lead to much celebration! Once the bride and groom finished their seven days together, they celebrated their marriage. They, along with their attendants, friends, and invited guests came together for a feast that could last as long as a week.
This is in our future. Revelation 19:6-10 describes the “marriage supper of the lamb” that occurs in heaven before we return to earth with Jesus. This, too, will be a time of great merriment. We will be together with the saints of all the ages, including family and friends who have died before us, celebrating with our Savior.
This celebration will be far more joyous and fun than all of the parties we will ever attend on earth put together.
- It’s the alternative that should frighten us! During the seven days the bride and groom spent together in the honeymoon suite, the bride’s attendants and friends of the groom began celebrating even without the two honored guests.
During the seven years we are with the Lord in heaven, however, the tribulation will ravage people on earth. Evil will flourish and humanity will experience God’s wrath as His final call to repentance. It will be a time of great suffering and widespread death. Most of those who turn to Christ during this time will not survive until Jesus’ Second Coming.
Whenever I am tempted to fear the Lord’s return for us, I think of the alternative. The tribulation is the event that should frighten us. We will be sooooo much better off with the Lord than remaining on the earth during this terrible and awful time. Jesus is coming to take us out of the fire of God’s wrath into the joy and glories of eternity.
No one, when accurately faced with a choice between the sudden destruction that will overtake the earth during the tribulation versus the comfort and joy of being with Jesus, would choose to remain on the earth after the rapture.
The wedding imagery of the rapture enables us to see it as an act of love rather than something to fear, dread, or even disdain. It changes our perspective and causes us to look forward to Jesus’ return for us with eager anticipation, as we saw with the New Testament saints.
When anxious thoughts of the rapture creep into your thinking, remember this: Someday we will be in the place Jesus is now preparing for us. It will be a time of unimaginable joy. Not one word of complaint will even come to our minds. We will be forever whole through our entire being.
Jonathan C. Brentner