I know that millions of people (Christians in particular) are awaiting the rapture. This is the moment when they will be wisked away before all hell breaks loose on planet earth. But, allow me to gently and humbly suggest that this “rapture==>left behind” view is right about the suddenness of Christ’s return, but wrong about what happens next.
This view that millions of people will be standing around wondering where everyone went and headed toward the great tribulation has little in the bible to support it. In fact, rather the opposite, I believe the bible makes it rather clear that Christ coming for his own will be the end of history. I would encourage you to consider these views as “noble Bereans” and test my view against the “rapture==> left behind/tribulation” view.
Rather than the unregenerate being “left behind” for the great tribulation–wondering where everyone disappeared to, I believe that when the “rapture” happens we who remain are changed, meet the Lord in the air with resurrected believers and return to the earth immediately to stand before Christ for final judgment (together with all humanity, those who died apart from Christ and those who lived apart from Christ.) This is the end and death will be defeated right then and there.
1 Corinthians 15:51-55 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
When we are transformed (i.e. “raptured”) then death will also be ended. Why? Because, all will be raised and all will face final judgment together. That is not what “raptureàleft behind” advocates say. If death is ended at his coming and our rapture, then there is no more “fierce wrath of God” to be poured out on humanity in history. For when that event happens: a) Christ descends, b) we meet him in the air, c) Christ judges the world. End of story. It will be sudden; but there’s nothing I can find in the bible to convince me that anyone will be left behind.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Revelation 1:7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
At the end of history all the dead are raised—the just and the unjust at the same time.
Revelation 20:11-15 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Matthew 25:31-34 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…. Matthew 25:40-41 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
I believe Christ second coming is the end. There will be nothing after that. So yes, he will come in an instant. But those who are not caught up, will be presently judged immediately. There is no tribulation after his once and final return. There is no secret return.
1 Corinthians 15:22-24 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
In summary here’s the order of events as I read them from the scriptures:
- Christ returns (see all relvant texts above)
- The dead in Christ are raised (1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15:23)
- All the dead are raised (1 Cor. 15:23) “the dead are raised imperishable”
- We who are alive and remain are take up (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:17)
- Every eye sees him because: (Rev. 1:7)
- the sea gives up it’s dead & those un-regenerate non-raptured people witness his descent with us his holy ones (Rev. 20:11)
- Jesus judges the nations (Matthew 25:31-45)
- Death is no more (1 Cor. 15:54)
- Then the end will come (1 Cor. 15:24)
- He hands the kingdom over to his Father (1 Cor. 15:24)