With Christian broadcaster Harold Camping’s declaration that business as usual will end on this earth May 21, after the rapture of the church, once again unbelievers find cause to poke fun at Christians and their faith. It doesn’t matter to the mockers that most believers—even those who embrace “secret rapture” teaching—totally condemn Camping’s wild speculations. The fact that some prophetic enthusiasts, sincere yet deluded, are making faith seem foolish is good enough for millions to dismiss wholesale the blessed hope of Christ’s soon coming.
That’s sad. It’s also unfair—and unbiblical.
First, the word “rapture” itself comes not from Biblical Greek but from a Latin word meaning “to snatch or carry away.” (The Latin equivalent for “rapture” shows up in the ancient Roman Catholic understanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, in which living saints will be “caught up” together—raptured—to meet the Lord in the air.)
In reality, the Bible teaches that Christ’s coming will be the most audible and visible, spectacular event of all time! Jesus appears from heaven, bursting through the clouds with a shout of joy to rescue His saints. The lead angel in Christ’s victory procession shouts as well. Then there’s a mighty blast from God’s trumpet. Nothing secret about this at all.
Jesus predicted that everyone on earth, saved and lost, will know when He returns to gather His elect saints. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect” (Matthew 24:30, 31).
It is true that the Bible says that Christ will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. But does this mean the world won’t realize when it’s happening?
Recall for a painful moment the awful morning of September 11, 2001, when from the clear blue sky terrorists struck America. Though intelligence agencies for years had warned about a domestic attack from Islamic militants, the sudden strike caught everyone (including the U. S. government) by surprise. But once it happened, everyone knew about it. So it will be at the return of Jesus. Despite worldwide warnings, the unsaved engaged in business as usual will be caught by surprise, but they certainly will be aware of Christ’s appearing.
What happens to those unready to meet Jesus? Will they have a second chance to repent? Again, let’s see what Jesus taught. “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26, 27).
Christ’s coming for His elect will bring total destruction to this earth and its inhabitants, just as in the days of Noah. The world then, as now, was engrossed in business as usual until God’s final, fatal surprise. All who neglected heaven’s warning perished on the spot. “Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (verse 30).
After Christ’s coming, the bodies of the lost lie scattered across the earth. Those left behind are all dead: “Two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. ‘Where Lord?’ they asked. He replied ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather’” (Luke 17:34-37, NIV).
Not a pretty picture—and Christ didn’t intend for it to be. Preparation for Christ’s coming is serious business. It is the first and highest duty of every soul to get honest with God by accepting the gift of His Son Jesus Christ and letting His Spirit transform us into purposeful disciples devoted to sharing the good news of Jesus, which includes His soon Second Coming.
Yes, Christ really is coming, and soon—but it won’t be a secret rapture.
As we conclude, perhaps you will permit me to indulge in a moment of humor. I confess that the idea of being suddenly raptured appealed to me today while sitting at my computer trying to meet yet another magazine publishing deadline. If I got snatched away, it wouldn’t be my fault if the magazine got done late!
Well, the next best thing to getting snatched away from my computer is going to happen soon when the sun goes down and my work gets put away in exchange for Sabbath rest. And then I hope to have a rapturous worship experience in church—but that will be the extent of anything being raptured about my life or yours, tomorrow or ever.