The rapture – a mystery or a secret
By Merrill Olson
There are people who say that God wants to keep the end times secret. Therefore, it is not possible to understand it. But is this type of reasoning according to Scripture? The answer can be given when one distinguishes between the meaning of a secret and a mystery. Without this clarity, there will be confusion in comprehending Bible prophecy.
Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between the two. A mystery is inclusionary. It is used many times in Scripture and it means that its understanding is available to anyone who takes the time to discover it. Whereby, a secret is exclusionary. It is one that is well-kept and remains hidden. God can know it but we cannot.
However, regarding the Rapture, Paul says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). This mystery is revealed in what will take place when Jesus returns for His church.
Therefore, in the speed of the “twinkling of an eye,” the bodies of believers both past and present will be transformed from a suit of flesh and death to a perfect new creation that will last throughout eternity (vv. 53-54). With an indescribable propulsion, they will lift off straight up into the clouds to “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17).
Think about it! At a time when you, as a born again believer, are going about your daily activities, you will suddenly be removed from this earth in a global type of event when Jesus gathers to Himself all His redeemed both dead and alive. It will be just the beginning of an inexpressibly wonderful eternity in glorified bodies. Not only in heaven for the eternal ages with incorruptible bodies but also before that in Christ’s Millennial reign as you reign with Him on this earth for 1000 years (Rev. 20:4-6). The character of this earthly supremacy is fully described in many Old Testament passages: Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-9; Psalm 72 and many others.
Yet, there are people who claim the Rapture is made up because it is not mentioned in the Bible. Or, it is made up by those who desire such a happening.
But no matter what critics say, the Bible says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). The Greek word for “caught up” is “harpazo” that means “snatched away” or “taken by force.” In Latin, the word is “rapturo;” raptured. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [raptured] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
The same truth of being “caught up” is given in other passages. This is the translation in Acts 8:39 where the Spirit “caught Philip away” after he had led the Ethiopian to Christ. Paul uses “caught up” when he described his own visit to heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Thus, no matter what criticism the Rapture brings, it remains a blessed biblical truth! Rest on it. Take it to heart and do not forget it! It brings comfort to the soul (1 Thess. 4:18).
Merrill Olson served as a senior pastor for thirty-four years. He received a B.S. from Minnesota State University-Mankato, an M. Div. from Bethel Theological Seminary, and a D. Min. from Columbia Evangelical Seminary. He is currently involved as an interim pastor along with a teaching and writing ministry. His emphasis is on apologetics and training believers to defend their faith in Christ from God’s Word. He is well versed in Bible prophecy as it pertains to end times. He is a gifted speaker with the conviction that only by the Word of God can people experience inward transformation by the Holy Spirit. He and his wife, Jan, reside in Minnesota and have two daughters and four delightful grandchildren.