A ten-year-old boy stood quietly peering into a coffin. The unthinkable had happened; the dad he loved and adored so very much had suddenly died of a heart attack. Although it would take many weeks for him to grasp the reality of his loss, the Lord was already at work consoling him in what might seem at first to be a rather unusual way.
The Lord had earlier brought a message of hope to him through missionary friends of his parents who had talked to him about Jesus’ return to earth as well as the rapture. I know because the boy of whom I write was me, fifty-seven years ago.
After the funeral, I took a rose petal from my dad’s coffin and placed it in my Bible at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I cannot fully explain how the Lord brought so much consolation to the small boy of my past through the rapture, but I do recall thinking that this would be the time I would once again see my dad.
Perhaps this in part explains my passion to defend the pretribulation rapture of which I have spent many thousands of hours studying, which began with my time at Talbot Theological Seminary. Perhaps this also accounts for the way I respond when I hear attacks on my beliefs regarding the future restoration of Israel as a kingdom during the one-thousand-year reign of Jesus.
These things form the heart of the ministry for which God has prepared me through many ups and downs in my life and to which He has called me.
My purpose in writing this article is not so much to defend my ministry as it is to reaffirm the comfort that comes our way knowing that Jesus is coming for us before the horrendous period of God’s wrath upon the earth. This blessed assurance gives much needed strength to many saints enduring affliction and ongoing pain, both physical and emotional.
The Rapture is “Our Blessed Hope”
The pretribulation rapture matters supremely to many of us in Christ because it represents what the apostle Paul designates as “our blessed hope.” Here are the words Paul wrote to Titus about the Gospel and our departure from this world in Titus 2:11-13:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
If ever we needed to grasp the centrality of “our blessed hope,” it’s now. We live in the “perilous times” about which the apostle described in 2 Timothy 3:1-9, and the world continues to grow more threatening and darker with each passing week.
Just as the rapture infused hope into the boy of my past, it also does so today for many believers all across the world amid the lawlessness and rampant violence on our streets. One has to purposely block out the many prophetic signs of the coming tribulation in order to deny that we live in the last days of human history. It’s not sensible to dismiss the words of the book of Revelation as history or allegory at a time when we see its prophecies coming to life before our eyes.
Jesus’ appearing constitutes the very substance of our hope in 2020. Life will not return to the way it was in 2019; the demonic forces at work in America and throughout the world will not relent until they have fulfilled their purpose to establish a New World Order over which the antichrist will someday rule. This day is rapidly approaching.
However, the horrors of the tribulation do not lie ahead for all those in Christ; our destiny is the “blessed hope” of Titus 2:13. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 assures us that we will already be with Jesus in heaven before the antichrist steps out of the shadows and begins his reign of terror.
The Rapture Brings Encouragement to Weary Hearts
I sense that many people regard the rapture simply as a matter of lifeless doctrine. They debate it as though they were discussing whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy. This subject matter may be important to many, but the outcome of the debate does not give anyone peace deep in their soul as does the assurance of Jesus’ soon appearing.
For us who recognize the signs of the times, the prospect of the Lord’s imminent return enables us to approach each day with courage. It signifies that our survival does not depend on the shifting sands of this troubled world or the outcome of elections, but rather on Jesus and “the grace that will be brought” to us at His appearing (1 Pet. 1:13). That’s why Peter told his readers to set their “hope fully” on this grace we will receive at Jesus’ appearing. This is our hope regardless of the turmoil in our lives or nation.
After reassuring the Thessalonians with words concerning the participation of all believers in the rapture, Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). The catching up of believers “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17) is not a dry stuffy doctrine. No, it represents words of living hope whereby we can encourage one another.
Paul intended for his readers to use his words regarding the rapture to encourage each other as they faced the fierce opposition of Jews who lived in Thessalonica.
The words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 still bring genuine comfort to weary hearts and troubled minds. Our coming departure from this world reassures us as we climb out of bed in the morning; it signifies the appearing of our glorious Savior to take us to the place He’s prepared for us (John 14:1-3). It’s when we will see Jesus face to face and receive our resurrected glorified bodies!
The Rapture Substantiates our Labor for the Lord
As someone who writes in support in of the pretribulation rapture, I hear many disparaging comments. These come mostly through Facebook where people repeatedly attack what I believe, especially about the timing of the rapture.
Please know that I do not lightly dismiss criticism made in a kind and loving way but always take such comments to the Lord to see what changes He would have me make.
A verse that often assures me in this regard is 1 Corinthians 15:58, words that Paul wrote immediately after discussing the details of the rapture, “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.” It was as if the Lord was telling me to remain on course; my labor to bring attention to the comforting message of “our blessed hope” was not “in vain.”
Is this not the encouragement that emanates from our hope to all believers? The rapture is the time when our adoption into God’s family becomes our experience and we receive our glorified bodies (Rom. 8: 23). It’s when Jesus rewards us for our faithful service on His behalf. It’s when our faith becomes sight and we are at home with Jesus in the place He has prepared for us.
I find it instructive that Paul connects the usefulness of our labor for the Lord directly to his teaching concerning the rapture. The prospect of Jesus’ imminent return substantiates our efforts to fulfill His unique calling for each one of us, regardless of its nature. For me, it provides considerable encouragement to “remain steadfast” and continue in the writing ministry I believe the Lord has called me to do.
So yes, “our blessed hope” supremely matters for all New Testament saints. It’s the lifeblood of our hope, the time when we will see Jesus face to face. It’s not just some future event with little significance for our current lives; it’s when we will meet our glorious Savior in the air. Wow!!
Jesus’ imminent appearing provides immeasurable encouragement for us in a world ravaged by wickedness, murder, senseless violence, and widespread lawlessness. It also assures us that our current suffering or affliction will not last indefinitely. We will soon be with Jesus; He is why the rapture matters. Christ is the substance of “our blessed hope,” which assures us of His coming for us before the devastating seven years of the coming tribulation begin.
So no, I make no apology for my emphasis on the pretribulation rapture in my writing. The Lord has used this hope again and again to encourage and strengthen my heart since I was ten to this very day! It’s this same comfort that I seek to pass on to others through my blog and through all the other writing that I do.
Our hope matters today more than ever because we live in the season of His return. More than anything else, the prospect of seeing Jesus in the very near future brings peace to our hearts in midst of chaos and sanity to our minds in a world marked by continual deception and much delusion where fake news dominates the airwaves.
Because the rapture represents Jesus’ return for us, it constitutes the lifeblood of our hope. It matters supremely for us today. It’s when we will see Christ, our Savior.
It’s “our blessed hope.” This is what comforts us when we read of lawlessness in our streets, feel the scorn of others, and suffer affliction. Jesus is coming soon to take us home.
Website: Our Journey Home
Please consider signing up for my newsletter on my website. Thanks!