Did Jesus Promise the Rapture?

Most theologians and prophecy scholars seem to hold the view that Paul was the first to reveal the promise of the Rapture, and that Jesus never mentioned it. 

Actually, Jesus did.
Since most people’s first exposure to the concept of the Rapture seems be certain passages from Paul’s epistles, let’s look those passages first.
1 Corinthians 15:51  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Thessalonians 4:13  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede, in modern English) them which are asleep.
16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
In the first of these passages, Paul says that he will show us a mystery, meaning that he will explain to his readers something that had been a secret, not previously revealed to them.  It was a secret , not yet known by them, because, although Jesus had already lived, died, and risen again, the Gospels had not yet been written and circulated at the time Paul wrote these letters.
What is Paul’s description of the Rapture as it emerges from these two passages?
  • Jesus will descend out of Heaven.
  • With the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God, Jesus will command his dead believers out of their graves.
  • The dead will rise to life in new, immortal bodies.
  • Then, the bodies of those believers who are still alive when that happens, will be changed to immortal bodies also.
  • The change will be fast, happening in the twinkling of an eye.
  • Both those believers who had been dead and those who were still alive will then be caught up into the clouds to meet Jesus and be with him forever.
In the Thessalonians passage that Paul indicates that God will bring the believers with Jesus.  When he uses the term ‘Lord’, he is referring to Jesus.  And he declares these things “… by the word of the Lord…”  which suggests that Paul is claiming that Jesus had actually talked about these things while He was here on earth.
It would then be reasonable for us to search the Gospels to see if any of the writers recorded Jesus’ words on the subject.  Will we find any?  Yes.
In John 5, we find Jesus speaking to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.
John 5:25  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
26  For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
27  And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
28  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
The phrase ‘…the Father has life in Himself…’ doesn’t merely mean that God is alive; it means that God the Father has within him the capacity and power to give life.  Jesus then tells us that God the Father has given Him that power also, along with the authority to decide to whom to give life.
In this passage, Jesus doesn’t go into as much explanation as Paul did in his letters, but we do have some of the elements listed by Paul:
  • Jesus is the One who will accomplish these things.
  • The dead saints will be called out of their graves.
  • The dead saints will be raised to life, not condemnation.
Later on, in John 6, Jesus is speaking to a crowd along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
John 6:39  And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
In this passage we find that:
  • Jesus is the One who will accomplish this.
  • He will raise up from the dead those who believe in Him.
  • The raised believers will have eternal life.
In both John 5 and John 6, we have some of the elements listed by Paul, but not all.  Jesus talks about what He will do about believers who have died, but in neither case does He talk about those who are still alive.  Fortunately for us, elsewhere He does.
In John 11, John records the death of Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha.  When Jesus arrives in Bethany four days after Lazarus had died, Martha confronts Him on His way into the town.
John 11:21  Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22  But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23  Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24  Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
The phrase ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ mirrors His comments in Chapter 6.  He is the One through Whom the Resurrection will be accomplished, and He has the capacity to bestow Life.  Jesus appears to be correcting Martha’s faulty understanding of the concept.  She expresses a general belief in a resurrection, and Jesus, in effect says, “No, I am the One Who will accomplish the Resurrection.”  He changes the concept from something which will merely happen, to something which He personally will accomplish.
The first half of the next sentence is rather straightforward; the dead who had believed in Him will be brought back to life.  This also agrees with John 6.
It is the second half of that sentence, that deserves analysis and explanation, because Modern English does not always use verb tenses in the same way that Koine Greek did.
26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
At first glance, to the Modern English speaker, this appears to say that all the people who ever became believers in Jesus would escape death.  But that would contradict the first half of the sentence, which indicates that some will, indeed, die.  It could also mean that believersfrom the time of the apostles would still be around, preaching the gospel.  But they’re dead.  Believers have been dying for about twenty centuries now, so the sentence simply must mean something else.  What might that be?
Consider the following:
If someone were to ask you how Old Man Smith was, you could reply, “He lives.”  But, your listener would think the meaning is suspended in the air, uncompleted in such a reply. Your listener would expect you to complete the thought by saying where Old Man Smith lives.  Even though the word ‘lives’ is the present tense continuous of the verb ‘to live,’ we normally don’t use it that way.  The word ‘lives’ is most commonly used to mean ‘resides.’  Thus, ‘Old Man Smith lives near Victoria Station, London.’
If, instead, we wanted to express the thought that Old Man Smith had not yet died, instead of saying, “He lives,” we would more likely say, “He is still alive.”
Since ‘is still alive’ means exactly the same thing as the present tense continuous of the action verb ‘lives,’ let’s make the substitution, using the modern expression, and compare the second half of the sentence again.
26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
26  And whoever is still alive and believes in me shall never die. Believest thou this?   
The meaning comes through a bit more clearly, doesn’t it?
But now, the sentence begs the question, ‘Still alive, when?’  Well, it’s the second half of a sentence.  Obviously it means still alive when whatever is contained in the first half of the sentence, happens.  Still alive when those who had died come back to life.  Let’s reprint the whole sentence with the substitution and compare.
The passage as given above:
25  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. …
With the substitution, this passage would read:
25  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, even though he die, will live:
26  And whoever is still alive and believes in me shall never die. …
Suddenly, what was cryptic becomes clear.
  • Jesus claims the capacity to grant life.
  • Jesus says that he will accomplish the resurrection.
  • Dead believers will be brought back to life.
  • Believers who are still alive will never die but will live forever.
That exactly matches Paul’s description of the Rapture!  Jesus may not have gone into as much detail as Paul did, but He said enough for us to recognize that they were talking about the same event.  What Jesus said was an unequivocable promise of the Rapture!
What happened in Bethany that day was an astounding sequence of events.  Martha confronted Jesus and accused him of letting Lazarus die instead of healing him.
In response, Jesus did the following:
  • He claimed the power to grant life.
  • He promised to raise dead believers back to life.
  • He improved the promise to not just life, but eternal life.
  • And he included believers who would still be alive at the time and said they would never die!
To prove that He could do what He promised, he called the dead Lazarus back to life out of the grave where he had been three days buried!
In 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians, Paul gave a teaching in words describing the Rapture.  In Bethany, Jesus gave us a more powerful testimony in miraculous action to demonstrate that He can do what He promised.
With so many signs lining up fulfilled, the Rapture cannot be far in the future!
What joy to know this!
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