Rapture - return of Jesus
„But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.“ 1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV)
Paul writes this triumphantly. It's not for nothing that we can happily shout the words to each other every Easter morning: „Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden.“ Über die Auferstehungen gibt uns Paulus folgenden Kommentar:
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:23 (ESV)
One day, while walking by the sea, an editor struck up a conversation with an old fisherman. He was amazed to hear the man speak of the risen Savior in simple faith. “How do you know,” he asked him, “that Christ has risen?” The answer was: “Sir, do you see the little houses over there on the bank? Well, sometimes, when I'm far out at sea, I know that the sun has risen by the reflection of the sun in the windows of those houses. How do I know that Christ is risen? Do I not see His light shining daily in the faces of living Christians, and do I not feel the light of His glory in my own life? Just as you cannot claim that the sun has not risen when I see its reflection, just as you cannot claim that my Lord has not risen." Haug, p.69, no.157
The return in the first resurrection, which Paul also calls the resurrection in Philippians, does not mean the visible return of Christ, who will come to earth with the believers dressed in white and establish the Millennial Kingdom. John, Jesus' favorite disciple, reports on this visible return of Jesus:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. Revelation 19:11+14 (ESV)
Instead, we are talking about the rapture of believers who will be “caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Christ will not be visible on earth, but will only receive those who have come to meet him.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
1. Thessalonians 4:17 (ESV)
The dead believers will be resurrected first, because Paul explains:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
1. Thessalonians 4:13-17 (ESV)
This truth only became clear to a pastor in the course of his ministry. He tells:
I have always preached about the need for rebirth and resurrection. But it wasn't until some time ago that I realized that Christ would personally return. I experienced this as an epiphany while sitting with an old member of our church, a poor man but rich to God. Just before he died, he sat up in bed and said, “Pastor, Jesus was a great Savior and Lord to me. I have always wished to live long enough to see him come back in person. But now I go, but I will still see him first, for those who die in Christ will rise first.”
Before my conversion, neither in confirmation class nor on other occasions had I heard anything about the fact that there would be a rapture of believers and that we would be “caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” This Bible passage goes on to say:
"… and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words..“ 1. Thessalonians 4:17b+18 (ESV)
Paul adds to the Corinthians:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling...For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:1,2+4 (ESV)
Preoccupation with the resurrection of believers can comfort us and fill us with joyful expectations even in difficult earthly situations. Just as children look forward to receiving presents in the run-up to Christmas and can hardly wait for them, the Bible's explanations should fill us with joy and happiness, but also with the longing for Jesus' return for believers:
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20 (ESV)
Peter writes about this moment:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,...may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,1 Peter 1:3+4,7b+8 (ESV)
The Bible specifically emphasizes that no one but Heavenly Father knows the exact time of this event:
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:36,40-44 (ESV)
This is why it is so important to be awake in every situation and to wait for Christ at all times:
Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:35-37 (ESV)
How wonderful when people are ready for the coming of Jesus. A missionary reported a conversation with an Indian who asked him: “Do you also believe that Christ is coming again?” I looked at him and said: “Yes, I believe that.” He then read the same question to him in my eyes . After a short silence, it slowly came from his lips with a strange seriousness and at the same time deep joy: "Every morning, before I go to the shop, I go up to my roof and pray: 'Lord, prepare me to live in such a way that I can stand in front of you, even if you come today. Yes, I want to live in your strength, you risen one.'” We were silent, but in that moment I knew that I was inseparably one with this complete stranger Indian in the hope and waiting for the Lord to come again.
Author: Karl-Otto Böhringer - from his book Happiness Booster