RAPTURE: What is it?
The word “Rapture” has many Christians believe that they shall be removed from this world prior to the worst persecutions ever. It is a comforting concept for American Christians, but not at all where persecutions rage. It was not for us when we were driven from our homes, threatened with our lives, and coerced to deny our faith.
Paul, like so many of his contemporary apocalyptics, hoped that all of Israel would be delivered (Romans 11:26). But when the Romans ended Israel’s statehood and the persecutions intensified, Christians began to turn to Jesus for explanations. Hence, the Gospels were written to reproduce what Jesus taught. For that reason, the apocalyptic literature did not make it into the Bible. Even then, Paul believed that he and his converts would be taken away and that Jesus would come back and restore the glory of Israel (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Romans 11:25-32). When the lawless Romans did not go away (II Thessalonians 2:1-12), Paul realized that persecutions would become inevitable and he too would become a sacrifice for Christ (II Timothy 3:12; 4:6).
Jesus’ disciples also believed that their Lord would return soon, gather the dispersed Jews, and that He would return Israel to her glory (Matthew 24:31; Acts 1:6). That same hope Peter related to his dispersed fellow Jews (I Peter 1:1). Mark 13 was also concerned with his generation and he was not able to separate Israel form the Kingdom of God (Mark 13:1-31). To the contrary, Jesus concurred with Daniel that the abomination and the end of Israel would take place in their lifetime or in their generation (Luke 21:32). There would be severe suffering and no help from the true Messiah (Matthew 24:1-25). Jesus’ intention was and still is to introduce “God’s Moral and Spiritual Kingdom” to the world (Matthew 28:19; John 18:36). Peter was the first leader of the Church (Matthew 16:17-20; John 21:15-21). All the followers of Jesus would suffer and die without being raptured. Only God knew when Christ would return at the end (Matthew 24:26-31).
The disciples were not raptured neither shall we. Like the disciples, we too lump together God’s immediate purpose and His long-term objective. Like the disciples’ generation ours too has a cup filled with transgressions against God and may face a similar fate. Jesus’ fig tree, and the woman sitting on the beast, may carry the same message (Matthew 24:32-35; Revelation 17). Naturally, every generation has hoped to escape evil, and so do we.