Satan hates the pretribulation Rapture and throughout the history of the church has sought to either bury the doctrine under layers of false teachings or discredit it. If ever there was a time in which this rings true, it’s today. His hostility to it, however, began in the earliest days of the church.
In the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul promised his readers they would not see the “wrath” of the Lord (1:10, 5:9-10). I believe that “wrath” in these passages refers to the judgments of the tribulation, referred to in the Old Testament as the beginning of the “day of the Lord.” It’s clear from 1 Thessalonians 5:2 that Paul is writing about the “day of the Lord” judgments, not hell.
With the ink scarcely dry on the parchment of his first letter, false teachers forged a message to the believers in Thessalonica stating that the day of the Lord had already begun. Even though this contradicted what Paul had earlier written to them, it created considerable panic among these new followers of Christ who thought the tribulation had begun (2 Thess. 2:1-2).
Do you see what happened? Satan immediately contradicted the apostle’s reassuring message in 1 Thessalonians that Jesus would come for them before this time of wrath. In response, Paul penned a second book to reassure them that the day of the Lord had not yet begun.
Why does Satan hate the Rapture? Scripture gives us several reasons for this.
- The Rapture Enables Us to Stand Firm
First, the devil hates it because the hope of Jesus’ imminent return encourages us to persevere in our faith against fierce opposition.
After writing about Jesus’ appearing and the transformation of our “lowly” bodies “to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20-21), Paul said this in Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” The apostle based his admonitions in here upon our hope of a glorified body at Jesus’ return.
In Paul’s day, to “stand firm” meant standing strong in a battle; the word pictured a soldier holding his position as the enemy attacked. For us, it denotes persisting in a biblically-centered walk with the Lord in a world hostile to all we believe and hold dear, especially our hope of Jesus’ imminent return
Paul used the same word in Philippians 1:27 to describe believers as “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” in the face of opposition. Such a courageous stance, he says, “is a clear sign to them [the persecutors] of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God” (v. 28). Our hope in the Rapture strengthens us in the face of persecution.
- The Rapture Motivates Us to Purity
In 1 John 3:2-3, we read this about the Rapture: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” Here the apostle John identifies purity as the result of focusing on Jesus and His imminent appearing.
If we walk in the reality that at any moment we could find ourselves in the presence of the Savior, it will have a refining impact on both our behavior and thought life.
In 1 John 2:28 the apostle tells us to “abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame at his coming.” This warning is for believers who lose sight of Jesus’ imminent appearing and drift away from abiding in Christ. Once in the presence of the Savior, their lifestyle at the time causes them to back away from His splendor and righteousness.
Let me make clear that I am not at all saying that only those who watch for the Rapture abide in Jesus; however, I am asserting that those who eagerly anticipate it have an additional incentive to do so, one which the devil hates and seeks to eliminate.
- The Rapture Encourages Steadfast Service
I love how Paul concludes his 1 Corinthians 15 discussion of our future resurrected bodies, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58).
Notice the connection between our work for the Lord and the Rapture. Our anticipation of the immortal bodies we receive at Jesus’ appearing encourages our “steadfast” service for the Lord. This expectation not only enables us to stand firm, but also inspires us to persevere in our work for the Lord.
For the past 34 years, I have written adult Sunday school curriculum for David C. Cook. Despite the fact tens of thousands study each of my lessons, I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard from people who have read them. What matters, however, is not the feedback I receive but the certainty that the Lord sees all I do and will reward accordingly when He comes.
- The Rapture Comforts Us in Sorrow
The Jews in Thessalonica not only chased Paul and Silas out of town, but also persecuted the young church. On top of that, the believers in the city were grief-stricken because some of them had died.
In response, Paul gave them further teaching regarding the Rapture two times telling them “to encourage one another” with his teaching on it (1 Thess. 4:18, 5:11). The hope of Jesus’ return for His followers was something the young believers were to use in comforting “one another.”
Whether we face persecution for our faith or the loss of a loved one in Christ, the Rapture reminds us that a better day is coming, perhaps very soon. This hope comforts us in the worst of times.
- The Rapture Helps Us Maintain a Healthy Perspective
Although not a verse we typically associate with the Rapture, Colossians 3:4 speaks of a time when we will suddenly find ourselves in glory, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Imagine walking down a sidewalk one day and your next step is in heaven, in the presence of your Savior! This verse speaks of a sudden transition from this life to eternity!
Earlier in Colossians 3, Paul encourages us to “seek the things that are above” and to focus “on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth” where our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). How do we retain such a perspective? We remember that someday Jesus will return for us and we will immediately be walking at His side with our new immortal bodies!
Paul also wrote about this healthy outlook on life in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 where he said that “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” I like to call this a two-world perspective where we value eternal realities over the temporal things of this life.
My wife recently bought a hibiscus plant that has big, beautiful, raspberry-red blossoms that are eye-catching to say the least. Unfortunately, the blooms only last a day or two at best before their grandeur fades.
Isn’t this like our lives on earth? The Lord gives us many good things to enjoy in this life, but like the hibiscus blossoms they are temporary. We laugh and enjoy the good things He sends our way with the perspective that they are temporary and not our ultimate hope. Our lasting joy resides in our expectation of a better day that will exceed all our earthbound dreams and blessings.
In addition, our anticipation of Jesus’ appearing also gives us courage to persevere through trials and times of sorrow, knowing this life is but a vapor compared with the joy we will experience in eternity.
With all the many benefits of eagerly anticipating the Rapture, is it any wonder that our enemy hates it and does all he possibly can to take our eyes off of it? He surely does not want us to anticipate anything that increases our focus and dependence on Jesus.
Lately, I have felt a little depressed at all the teachings that not only deny the Rapture, but also Jesus’ glorious return to set up His kingdom on the earth. My solace for these thoughts is that this false teaching is yet another sign of the departure from faith Paul said would happen in the last days (1 Tim. 4:1-5).
Jonathan C. Brentner