Q: I’m studying end-time stuff at my church. Will Christ-followers experience death when the rapture comes?
A: You’ve asked a question we’ve all pondered a time or two. The rapture, as the Christian Church widely understands it, will occur in such a way that people who are alive will not experience death in the normal sense.
For those who don’t know what “the rapture” is, it is often included in conversations under different headings like “Armageddon” or “Apocalypse” as folks take a stab at how God may wrap things up when the earth ends and Christian history is complete. Those who are followers of Jesus will meet Christ in the air. as it states in the Bible’s book of first Thessalonians 4:16, 17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (NASB).
The only problem I see with this marvelous arrangement of being hoisted aloft out of the fray is that our bodies, in their current, fallen state, will not be able to enter into the heavenly realm, as is. They were designed to accommodate the atmosphere of earth. So we’ll need new bodies, even while alive. This suggests to me that human beings in that rapture-moment will experience some kind of transformation ... possibly a lot like death ... in order to receive the equipment necessary (a new body) to arrive in heaven. So either way, as nice as it sounds, and we are lifted off in a bird-like swoop alongside Jesus and heavenward, it may not go exactly the way we think. The fact is, most of those folks who believe their end-time, Bible-facts are all figured out and neatly buttoned up, will certainly face numerous surprises, much like this one. No one but God knows the intimate details of that day and hour. But it is fun to speculate!
My opinion on this matter, by the way, is not at all found in the Bible, it is simply my conclusion based on what I know about God, our bodies and this scripture: “But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him” (Philippians 3:20, 21, MSG).
That said, not everyone in the Body of Christ believes in the rapture. I’m not an expert on “pre-trib” or “post-trib” by a long shot, so I cannot adequately explain why people believe what they do. I myself look askance on the rapture idea in terms of what I know about human nature: we like the short-cuts, the cliff-notes, instant gratification and the easy way out of everything. I’ve not seen God provide much of that in any Bible story about our great patriarchs of the faith. “Easy” is not in the Christian vocabulary, if we’re doing a life of faith properly. I have a hard time believing God will suddenly rescue us out of here before all hell breaks loose. How convenient! Not a scratch or singe! While I’ve read and researched countless scriptural and theological texts on the rapture idea, I find the Bible vague enough to beg the question, “Are we sure about this?” (Please don’t send me countless volumes of theology on this topic, folks. As much as I adore my readers and cannot wait to hear from you, I instantly toss overt sales pitches of religious doctrine and dogma designed to condemn).
We all interpret God’s Word the best way we know how; following the best teachers we have available to us. Yet we won’t really know the answers to every question until we get there. In the meantime: Let’s trust God, remain teachable in terms of the Holy Spirit and keep our shoulders to the plow.
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Ask Pastor Adrienne column: We won’t die in the rapture?