Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
If you came to 2021 hoping for an improvement over 2020, you may be sorely disappointed. If you study Scripture, you know that the closer we get to Christ’s return, the worse things will become. However, for those who place their trust in Christ, this is cause for celebration rather than consternation. Before things get really bad, we have the expectation that Jesus will come and rescue His Church before the events described in the Book of the Apocalypse begin.
The Bible is clear that the Church, the body of true believers in Jesus Christ as Lord, and born again of the Spirit of God will be absent during the 7-year Tribulation period that the Bible calls the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” Several of the Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming of the Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom. From their perspective, as if looking across time over a series of mountain peaks where the Messianic Kingdom is at the final peak, they did not see the “Church Age” in the valley between His first coming (the first peak) and His second coming (the last peak). They rightly prophesied about His first coming and even of His death and resurrection, but the next thing, from their perspective, was the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul explained that the Church, to the OT prophets, was a “mystery.” All OT prophecy deals with Israel. God gave the Prophet Daniel a concise prophecy of the end times that precisely predicted the arrival of the Messiah at His first coming. The angel that delivered the message said, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). Notice that the time is determined for Daniel’s people. Who are Daniel’s people, if not Israel? The 70 weeks are 70 sevens of years (70 x 7) which come to 490 years. Four hundred eighty-three (483) years were accomplished with the crucifixion of the Messiah. At that time, God stopped Israel’s time clock and seven years remain to complete the “seventy weeks determined for Daniel’s people.” In the meantime, the “mystery” of the Church is in effect.
In order for the final “week” of the seventy weeks to resume, the church must be taken out of the way. The reason for is that the Holy Spirit resides with every true believer. The Apostle Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit restrains Satan’s full control of the earth, so He must be removed before “prince,” aka, Antichrist, can be revealed. Paul said, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [aka Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition … For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let [restrain], until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7, emphasis mine). He that restrains (letteth) is the Holy Spirit. He must be “taken out of the way” before the Antichrist can be revealed, and where the Holy Spirit goes, the Church goes. This event is known as the Rapture.
There are no signs given in Scripture to prepare us for the Rapture. We can know the time is near when we see signs for the last days and the end of times falling into place. Jesus gave His disciples a detailed explanation of the last days prior to His second coming. Jesus told them about wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilences, etc. in the latter days, but He cautioned that “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). This ramp-up of signs that point to the Second Coming, which is the seven years after the Rapture of the Church, are things we can see taking place now. That lets us know that the Rapture of the Church is very near.
Can we believe in the Rapture? Before going to the cross, Jesus assured His disciples (and us), “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). This is the promise that Jesus will come for us and take us to be with him. However, it does not tell us when this will take place.
Some of Paul’s first letters were written to the church in Thessaloniki. Much of what he wrote to this church dealt with the end of time. To them, he wrote, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep [dead]. 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). Notice that we meet Him “in the air;” He does not return to the earth at that time.
To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [who are alive] shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis mine). However, this still does not explain when that will take place.
The Thessalonians had the same question. To them, he explained that the Holy Spirit that restrains the evil one must be removed before Antichrist can come on the scene. We looked at that verse earlier. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [from the faith, i.e., “apostasy”] first, and [Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, edited and emphasized for clarity). “And now ye know [the Holy Spirit withholds] that [Antichrist] might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity [does] already work: only [the Holy Spirit] who now [restrains] will [restrain], until [the Holy Spirit] be taken out of the way. And then shall that [Antichrist] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his [Second] coming: Even him [Antichrist], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-9, edited and emphasized for clarity).
When the trumpet sounds, Jesus will come for His church. Christians who have died will rise from their graves, then Christians who are living will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and will meet with the risen dead together to meet Jesus in the air. Then we will all go together to be with Jesus for seven years. In the meantime, here on Earth, Antichrist will exercise dominion, and God will unleash the worst judgments the world has ever known. At the end of the seven years, Jesus will return with His Church to reign on Earth. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war … And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11, 14). “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, emphasis mine).
The trumpet shall sound. Are you ready? If you are not sure, please visit my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
 “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” James M. Black, 1893