The hope of the soon-return of Jesus Christ for His people was a strong expectation during the early history of the church. But, nowadays even well-versed Christians seem to be indifferent. Because the word "rapture" is not found in our English Bibles, but only in the Latin Vulgate, it is not unusual for someone to mention to me that they do not believe there will be any calling home of all true Christians at a specific date in history. Many of us who follow world affairs and try to be well-read in eschatology strongly believe the coming of Jesus Christ for His (true) Church is very likely to happen any day now.
The Bible considers this event a very big deal even though it may escape much attention in the secular news. For two thousand years, God has been adding members to Christ's church one by one. Probably 100 billion people at least have been born on earth since Jesus was here on earth the first time. Very conservatively it seems possible that there are now at least a billion Christians in the special family known in the New Testament as the Bride of Christ. From our standpoint on earth most are dead now, but they are all very alive spiritually and waiting for the return of the Lord along with those of us followers of Jesus who are now alive.
Three important events make up the event called the rapture:
we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain
until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are
asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with
the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in
Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught
up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And
thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another
with these words." (1 Thess. 4:15-18)
The shout of command from Jesus will first raise all the "dead in Christ." These are all believers who enjoyed a relationship with Jesus from Pentecost till now. Next, there is only one Archangel mentioned in the Bible and that is Michael who has charge of Israel. The voice of the Archangel signifies that Israel will move back to center stage of history at this time. Third, a trumpet call will summon all of us who are alive to be transformed and given new resurrection bodies along with our newly-risen predecessors.
The whole ensemble, Christ's entire church, will be caught up, probably to live in the (orbiting?) City of New Jerusalem (see the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22).
On the way, all Christians will pass a reviewing stand for God's evaluation of our works (known as the "Judgment Seat of Christ"). This is about how we have used our time and resources since we came to know the Lord Jesus.
The rapture of the church is likened in the Bible to the calling of a virgin bride (the true church) to join the Bridegroom, Jesus. (The false church is, on the other hand, like "the great harlot" depicted in Revelation 17). The imagery is one of consummated love between Jesus and His church. The church will then be safe from the terrible time of world wide judgments, lasting seven years. These "end-time" judgments will commence immediately down here on earth (2 Thess. 2).
The rapture is all about being united with the God we have professed to love. Most of us by now are aware of the widespread hypocrisy in the church these days, the reality that Christ's Bride-to-be has often gone whoring after other gods. This means that preparing ourselves for the rapture deserves our immediate attention if we are followers of the Lord Jesus, or if we have been delaying our decision to align ourselves with God's people. Getting ready for the Rapture is all about repentance in fact. Our nations are falling apart around us and much of the blame can is due to the failure of the church to be the holy people we are called to me.
"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:7-19)
Should we Christians not be eagerly discussing our new home with Jesus where at last our sagging, aching, hurting bodies are transformed in new resurrection bodies like that Jesus had after His resurrection? "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, (our present sinful body) is destroyed, we have a building (a solid new body) from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this (present body) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him." (2 Cor. 5:1-9)
The language of heaven is about going "home." Our transformation will be immediate when Christ calls us: "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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)
How do we know the time is near for Jesus to return and to call His Bride home? The daily news should provide us with plenty of evidence showing how fast things are getting worse everywhere. Sadly, but just as predicted, many professing Christians have given up on the church in recent years.
Many of us have been lured away from single-hearted love for Jesus by
the many false loves and lovers the world throws at us daily. But Jesus
will come whether we are fully ready or not. God's many promises to His
people will fall into place one by one until Christ is Lord on earth and
in heaven. As never before in history, we must be either with Him or
against Him. "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not
gather with Me scatters abroad." (Matthew 12:30)