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Christians the world over are looking forward to a time when they will be suddenly raptured into heaven with Jesus Christ.
The idea of a secret rapture originated with John Darby, a 19th-century theologian. He correctly believed Jesus Christ would return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, but also promoted the idea that Christ would return to take believers away from the end-time calamities, before His final return to establish the Kingdom of God.
This doctrine essentially teaches Christ will come back twice—first of all to snatch believers away to heaven, then later return with them to confront God's enemies at Armageddon and render final judgment.
Scripture shows the teaching of a secret rapture mixes truth with error. Christ will return to the earth, but it will not be in secret. He returns at the sound of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15), announcing God's wrath and the time of the rewarding of His saints. The whole world will be aware of this momentous event: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him…” (Revelation 1:7), and it will be after the great tribulation, not before, as the rapture theory claims.
One of the main scriptures used to support the secret rapture theory is I Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
These verses are not talking about a secret rapture. Paul is writing to a group of believers in Thessalonica to encourage them, "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope."(verse 13).
People in the first century would have understood what social customs the Apostle Paul was referring to in these verses. Anciently when a king or an emperor came to visit a city the prominent citizens would go out to meet the visiting dignitary, and escort him through the city gate. The Christians in Thessalonica knew they would meet Christ in the air, but come back down to the earth and be with Him here, not go up to heaven.
Christ will return to this earth, and those who are believers and saints will have prepared. The challenge is not to escape, but to be with Christ on earth, restoring all things. There is the great hope for all who trust in God and His purpose for their lives.
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