Enraptured by the Rapture By Randy Nettles According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “rapture”…
Yes! “Our Blessed Hope” Matters
By Jonathan C. Brentner
A ten-year-old boy stood quietly peering into a coffin. The unthinkable had happened; the dad he loved and adored so very much had suddenly died of a heart attack. Although it would take many weeks for him to grasp the reality of his loss, the Lord was already at work consoling him in what might seem at first to be a rather unusual way.
The Lord had earlier brought a message of hope to him through missionary friends of his parents who had talked to him about Jesus’ return to earth as well as the rapture. I know of this comfort because that boy was me, fifty-seven years ago.
After the funeral, I took a rose pedal from my dad’s coffin and placed in my Bible at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I cannot fully explain how the Lord brought so much consolation to the small boy of my past through the rapture, but I do recall thinking that this would be the time I would once again see my dad.
Perhaps this in part explains my passion to defend the pretribulation rapture of which I have spent many thousands of hours studying beginning with my time at Talbot Theological Seminary. Perhaps this also accounts for why a pastor’s recent criticism of me and my ministry stung the way it did.
Although he only spent a brief time reviewing the titles of my most recent blog posts, he said my ministry was “imbalanced” because of my emphasis on the rapture, which he labeled a “third order issue.” In other words, a key emphasis of my ministry did not really matter for believers today; it was essentially unimportant!
My purpose in writing is not so much to defend my ministry as it is to demonstrate the absurdity of referring to our imminent departure to be with Jesus as a “third order issue.” Jesus’ appearing to take us home is most certainly relevant in a world characterized by lawlessness and exceeding wickedness.
The Rapture is “Our Blessed Hope”
The rapture matters supremely to those in Christ because it represents what the apostle Paul designates as “our blessed hope.” Here are the worlds Paul wrote to Titus about the Gospel and our departure from this world in Titus 2:11-13:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”
If ever we needed to grasp the centrality of “our blessed hope,” it’s now. We live in the “perilous times” about which the apostle described in 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Jesus’ soon appearing is the lifeblood of our comfort in a troubled world.
Just as the rapture infused hope into the boy of my past, it does so today for believers all across the world amid the lawlessness and rampant violence on our streets. One has to consciously block out the many prophetic signs of the coming tribulation in order to deny that we live in the last days of human history. It’s not sensible to dismiss the words of the book of Revelation as history or allegory at a time when we see its prophecies coming to life before our eyes.
Jesus’ appearing constitutes the very substance our hope in 2020. Life will not return to the way it was in 2019; the demonic forces at work in America and throughout the world will not stop working until they have established a New World Order over which the antichrist will someday rule. This day is rapidly approaching.
The horrors of the tribulation do not lie ahead for all those of us in Christ; our destiny is the “blessed hope” of Titus 2:13. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 assures us that we will already be with Jesus in heaven before the antichrist steps out of the shadows and begins his reign of terror.
The Rapture Brings Encouragement to Weary Hearts
I sense that many in the church regard the rapture simply as a matter of lifeless doctrine. They debate it as though they were discussing whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy. This subject matter may be important to many, but the outcome of the debate does not give anyone peace when they go to bed at night as does the assurance of Jesus’ soon appearing.
For us recognize the signs of the times, the prospect of the Lord’s imminent return enables us to approach each day with courage. It signifies that our survival does not depend on the shifting sands of this troubled world but rather on Jesus and “the grace that will be brought” to us at His appearing (1 Pet. 1:13). That’s why Peter told his readers to set their “hope fully” on this grace we will receive at Jesus’ appearing.
After reassuring the Thessalonians with words concerning the participation of all believers in the rapture Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). The catching up of believers “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17) is not a dry stuffy doctrine. No, it represents words of living hope whereby we can encourage one another.
Paul intended for his readers to use his words regarding the rapture to encourage each other as they faced the fierce opposition of Jews who lived in Thessalonica.
The words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 still bring genuine comfort to weary hearts and troubled minds. Our coming departure from this world reassures us as we climb out of bed in the morning; it signifies the appearing of our glorious Savior to take us to the place He’s prepared for us (John 14:1-3). It’s when we will see Jesus face to face and receive our resurrected glorified bodies!
The Rapture Substantiates our Labor for the Lord
As you might expect, the criticism of this pastor caused a considerable stir in my soul. Was my ministry really what the Lord intended for me? I knew his disparaging words came from just a cursory look at a tiny sampling of titles in my blog, but they still caused restlessness in my soul and resulted in much pleading before the Lord.
The verse that quickly came to my mind was 1 Corinthians 15:58, words that Paul wrote immediately after discussing the details of the rapture, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” It was if the Lord was telling me to remain on course; my labor to bring attention to the uplifting message of “our blessed hope” was not “in vain.”
Is this not the encouragement that emanates from it to all believers? The rapture is the time when our adoption into God’s family becomes our experience and we receive our glorified bodies (Rom. 8: 23). It’s when Jesus rewards us for our faithful service on His behalf.
Interestingly, Paul connects the usefulness of our labor for the Lord directly to his teaching concerning the rapture. The prospect of Jesus’ imminent return for us substantiates our efforts to fulfill His unique calling for us, regardless of its nature. For me, it works that way by providing considerable encouragement to “remain steadfast” and continue in the work I believe the Lord has called me to do.
So yes, “our blessed hope” supremely matters for all New Testament saints. It’s the lifeblood of our hope; the time we will at last see Jesus face to face. It’s not just an event with little significance for our future; it’s when we meet our glorious Savior in the air. Wow!!
Jesus’ appearing provides immeasurable encouragement for us in a world ravaged by wickedness, murder, senseless violence, and widespread lawlessness.
Jesus is at the heart of why the rapture matters in the day in which we live!
So no, I make no apology for my emphasis on the rapture in my writing. The Lord has used the message of “our blessed hope” again and again to comfort and strengthen my heart since I was ten to this very day! It’s this same encouragement that I seek to pass on to others through my blog.
Our hope in the rapture matters today more than ever because we live in the season of His return. More than anything else, the prospect of seeing Jesus in the very near future brings peace to our hearts in midst of chaos and sanity to our minds in a world marked by continual deception and much delusion.
Because it represents Jesus’ return for us, the rapture remains the lifeblood of our hope. It matters supremely for us today. It’s when we will see Christ, our Savior.
A third-rate doctrine? I don’t think so!
It’s “our blessed hope.”
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