Waiting for the Rapture
Have you ever watched people waiting at the airport for a family member or friend? Every few minutes, they check the arrival monitor. They strain for a first glimpse of their loved one through the concourse exit doors.
That’s what you do when you’re looking forward to reuniting with someone you love! Eagerness to be with your loved one is a sign of a healthy relationship.
The Thessalonians had the same expectant outlook regarding the Lord’s return for the church, commonly called the Rapture. Some write-off that eagerness as nothing more than the exuberance of new Christians or even escapism. The apostle Paul, however, praised the Thessalonians for their vibrant faith:
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. . . For they themselves declare . . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Th. 1:8-10).
The worldview of the Thessalonian church was the diametric opposite of prevailing Epicurean philosophy. Christians in Thessalonica had heartily embraced the “Blessed Hope” that characterizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ti. 2:13). Common memorial epitaphs from the era articulate the hopelessness of Greco-Roman culture:
I was not
I am not
I care not
In stark contrast, Paul observed that the Thessalonian’s expectancy with regard to the Rapture was just as much a mark of their vibrant faith as was turning, “from idols to serve the living God” (v. 9). More than the exuberance of a new Christian, the Thessalonians were assured through Paul’s teaching that Christ was returning for His church.
They grasped the core belief that Jesus Christ will come at a literal predetermined set-time to receive the church to Himself to deliver the corporate body of Christ, “from the wrath to come” (v.10). (1) With that mindset of expectancy, the Thessalonian church was distinguished by watchfulness as they anticipated the moment when they would be taken bodily into the Lord’s presence.
Their expectancy was not reactionary escapism. The Thessalonians demonstrated an authentic faith motivated by the knowledge that Jesus Christ could return at any moment, in spite of their circumstances. All Christians—in any era of church history—who expectantly await the Lord’s return for the church have a vibrant personal testimony in real life endeavors and actively help people around them (2 Cor. 8:1-8). (2)
Do you love the Lord? Are you looking forward to our amazing reunion with Him? Since the Rapture is imminent and nothing precedes it on the prophetic calendar, are you expectantly waiting for His return? Eagerness for Christ’s return for the church and living each day with expectancy is a sign of a healthy relationship with the Lord.
1) The definite article before the word “wrath” distinguishes the still future seven-year period of God’s judgment upon the earth as a specific, rather than a general time of tribulation or distress.
2) Imminent Rapture teaching accompanied both the Great Awakening of 1720 – 1740 in the American colonies and the revivals at the turn of the 19th century driving the Bible institute movement and modern missionary endeavors through the 20th century.
1) Featured image and Photo montage, [Public domain]
2) Detail: Jesus Christ Returns for the Church. Background image, Lehava Activity 2012/Pikiwiki Israel/Wikimedia Commons. Foreground image, [Public domain]. Digital composition, MKM Portfolios
© 2018 Charles E. McCracken, commentary only. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.