What Happens to the Christians? The Rapture

The Mystery of the Rapture Explained

1 Thessalonians 4

Sep 15, 2019  AM

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland



I.     Introduction (1Thess 4:13-17)


A.   Studying Bible Prophecy about the Coming Kingdom of Christ


1.     For several weeks now, we have been studying how the Bible perfectly predicts the coming together of the world into a one world system of government, one religion, and the replacement of money with a “number” IN everyone’s right hand or in their forehead. And that is exactly what you see!

2.     We have learned that everything is NOT getting better and better, as politicians constantly want us to believe, but worse and worse.

3.     As a matter of fact, things change, but the Bible predicted that as the world got closer to the end of this age, everything would change at impossible speeds – technology, the climate, world travel, the internet – all are growing exponentially.


B.    Where is it all heading?

C.   Into a time called Daniel’s Seventieth Week – the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) Trouble – the Time of the End – the Tribulation – and… Armageddon.

D.   The world will face God’s wrath

E.    But what about Christians? What happens to US?


1.     Not those in name only – never been born again – only going through the motions

2.     But those who have seriously repented, and been born again!

3.     So, What happens to us?

4.     Some think we just have to hold on, and keep FROM taking the mark of the Beast ourselves, and run and hide from the anti-christ, and survive the coming wars, and storms and hurricanes and asteroid strikes on the earth!

5.     The Bible on the other hand says that we should INSTEAD be expecting a shout fom heaven, and being changed, in the twinkling of an eye, and caught away to be with Jesus, just as the Tribulation begins here on earth!


F.    It is called THE RAPTURE!


II.   Background – Brief Look


A.   Seven years of Tribulation are coming

B.    Two sections of 3 ½ years each

C.   We have learned a lot of the general things that happen during those 7 years

D.   But let me show you a few more events that will happen during this most awful time of all of history – remember… Matt 24:21 says, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”


1.     Two witnesses


a.     Moses and Elijah are back!

b.     But no believers are here – they are all gone!

c.     There is only constant build up to the ascension of the Anti-christ

d.     Rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem under a powerful peace treaty that brings a brief false peace to the world


2.     Then right in the Middle of the Tribulation… The Abomination of Desolation


a.     The anti-christ sets himself up AS God on the throne of God in the rebuilt Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and the whole world believes it

b.     Then, the slaughter of the two witnesses – seen by the whole world

c.     Everyone, absolutely everyone rejoices – there are no believers around at all

d.     Three and a half days later, the Rapture of the Two Witnesses up to heaven

e.     And it is at THAT moment that Israel as a nation finally believes the Gospel, gets saved, but they all have to run for their lives


1)    Rom 11:25-29  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.


a)     Rom 11:26  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

b)    Rom 11:27  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

c)     Rom 11:28  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

d)    Rom 11:29  For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.


2)    Jer 30:7  Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.


3.     144,000 Jewish unmarried men (all virgin) head out into the world and witness of Christ - unstoppable

4.     Massive persecutions break out, forced chipping and the mark of the beast on everyone

5.     People will have to “endure to the end” – WE DON’T, but they will have to

6.     Two more Raptures (Rev 14)


a.     The first are the 144,000 Jewish men up to heaven briefly

b.    The second is of all those that took the mark of the beast – and they get transported to the Valley of Megiddo


7.     Final Battle – Armageddon – when Jesus returns, with His BRIDE behind Him

8.     Do you want to know more? Come back tonight!


III. Message – The Catching Away of Believers


A.   Don’t be Ignorant of All These Things (1Thess 4:12)


1.     It is so easy to be Biblically ignorant – especially today because so few actually read their Bibles and study things out themselves!

2.     Learn the facts about the soon coming of Jesus


a.     I have read almost 30 dozen books cover to cover, written over the past 40 years about the Rapture and the Second Coming

b.     The Bible was meant to be studied and tested and cross-examined and learned, and believed and obeyed


3.     That’s why Paul wrote these words, and taught these truths to every church he went to

4.     An writer[1] who believes Christians will go through the Tribulation - worst time of all of history - says this about the 1Thess 4…


a.     That it is a concept built on “one lone passage [of Scripture] found in the word of God.” As if there is only one place where the Rapture is described in the Bible

b.     That it is not important to understand

c.     Most teachers who teach Christians HAVE to go through the Tribulation ignore this one Scripture as if it means nothing!


Yet... The resurrection of Lazarus is found only one place in Scripture, and yet we all believe it don’t we?

1)    And... Jesus telling Nicodemas he needed to be born again is found in only one Scripture – only in John chapter 3 - and yet we believe it don’t we?


5.     But here Paul tells us, Don’t be ignorant.
Confused, struggling, that’s okay. But ignorant? No!

6.     The Rapture is an obvious mystery to people, even to Christians – many don’t see it – but that’s okay – don’t let it REMAIN a mystery!


a.     The concept of the New Testament Church itself was a mystery to the Old Testament Jews – they didn’t see Gentiles and Jews getting converted and becoming Christians in the Old Testament!

b.     Actual study, actual line by line comparisons and contrasts of all the Scriptures reveals


1)    There are seven raptures in Scripture – not just one

2)    Four of them happen at the time of the Tribulation

3)    We already know that Jesus comes to this earth TWO times, not just once like the Old Testament Jews thought (once as a Baby, and soon as King of kings)

4)    His Second Coming has TWO parts – first FOR His bride, US, and then WITH His bride!


c.     I love studying THIS BOOK!


B.    What About the Dead? (1Thess 4:13)


1.     The Bible says we do not have to sorrow like death is the end!


a.     We bury our dead

b.     But we only say Good night

c.     Because if they are believers, and we have believed in Jesus, we WILL see each other again!


2.     The body is dead, yes

3.     But it is only sleeping - Asleep in Jesus – a believer’s death

4.     One day your dead body will be awakened

5.     It is called the Resurrection


a.     When your vile body gets changed for the better

b.     Made just like Jesus’ body

c.     That will never die again!

d.     Philip 3:20,21  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.


6.     So, when a Christian dies, it is just like falling asleep


a.     You have a REAL out of body experience – your soul leaves the body

b.     You, the real you – your soul will never cease to exist

c.     Heb 13:5  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

d.     2Co 5:6-8  Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:  (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord


C.   We Have an Incredible Hope (1Thess 4:13)


1.     Not a guess, a pipe-dream, or a fairy-tale that we blindly cling to

2.     But a sure confidence – an absolute fact that we know that we know!

3.     That there is LIFE after death

4.     And a resurrection of our dead bodies one day

5.     Proven by Jesus Himself


a.     Who died – and was proven to be really dead – spear in His side

b.     And was buried, for three days and nights – 72 hours

c.     And then he got up again! And walked out of that tomb!


6.     THAT’S our hope!


D.   Biblical Faith Fixes Our Future (1Thess 4:14)


1.      “If we believe…”


a.     What DO YOU believe?


1)    That you are an accident? A cosmic burp?

2)    That we are all living in a computer simulation?

3)    That science and politics is going to be able to make this world into a paradise with no disease, no war, no death?


b.     It’s not whatever we want to believe – just have “faith”

c.     I tell you there is ONE thing that can change each and every person on this planet for good and for ever…


1)    Its faith in what Jesus did when HE died in our place

2)    TRUSTING that it was and always will be enough to pay for all my sins


d.     That child-like belief fixes


1)    My PAST, and handles my present

2)    But best of all, it fixes my future as well!


2.     If we really and truly believe that Jesus died and rose again…

3.     Then we can trust that we will see and be with all those who believed and yet have died before us!


a.     Did you notice WHERE those that have died have been since they died?

b.     even so them also which sleep in Jesus” (people we have buried)

c.     will God bring WITH HIM” when He returns!

d.     They are still alive – actually more alive than ever!

e.     At the Rapture, Jesus bring BACK the souls of believers with Him


1)    To put back into new bodies

2)    Resurrection of the saints

3)    All in an INSTANT! “Twinkling of an eye


f.      By the way, it says GOD is coming back, not just Jesus… which means, Jesus IS God!


4.     Just BELIEVE in the Resurrection of Jesus


a.     Not just believe the teachings of Jesus

b.     But in what Jesus actually DID –
What did He do that was so powerful? (1Cor 15:1-4)


1)    Christ died for our sins, just as prophesied – as punished for OUR damning sins

2)    And was buried – dead and buried, for 3 full days and 3 full nights

3)    And impossibly rose again just like the Scriptures said He would


c.     Believe this and you WILL be saved (Romans 10:9-13)

d.     How many times does God have to say it before you believe it???

e.     Believe in the resurrection of Jesus – that he is very much alive again - and you will have no worries about the future! NONE!


E.    But What About Those of Us Who Are Still Alive at the Coming of Jesus?


1.     We are second in line


a.     After the shout from heaven

b.     There is an instantaneous resurrection of ALL the dead bodies of believers from the thief on the cross until now – the graves shall be broken up!

c.     THEN we get caught up right behind them


2.     You see, WE get new bodies as well – yippee (2Cor 5:1-8)


a.     You will not be trapped in your limited, broken, old, or baby-ish body

b.     You will be like Jesus, with a new body that never tires – never sins – never hurts

c.     If you want to eat, you can

d.     If you want to go anywhere, and do anything, you can for as long as you want

e.     Because there will be no more sin in us


3.     And best of all, if Jesus comes back while we are alive, WE WON’T DIE


a.     Mat 16:28  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

b.     1Cor 15:51  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed...


4.     That will be the most awesome moment to be alive!


F.    What Will Happen at the Rapture (1Thes 4:16,17)


Not that complicated – takes just two verse of Scripture to describe


1.     Jesus Himself steps down from heaven – comes to the clouds

2.     Shouting…


a.     What do you think He will be shouting?

b.     Come Up Hither!” “Come on up here to ME” (Revelation 4:1)

c.     An archangel will shout along with Jesus


3.     And a trumpet will sound loud and long –
only believers will hear it, but it will announce it is time to go!

4.     And “the dead in Christ shall rise” first from their graves all over the world


a.     John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

b.     They are first to go up

c.     That’s why I don’t believe in cremation! Bury the body!

d.     Look forward to the resurrection!


5.     Going Up? But I thought Jesus was coming DOWN!

6.     Jesus comes only part way down


a.     Not all the way down to the earth yet

b.     just enough to swing by and grab US and get out of here

c.     When He does fully come, it will be like a bullet, and he will not stop until He lands on the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem, and splits that mountain from east to west all the way to the Mediterranean Sea!

d.     So, this is NOT that time yet!


7.     Notice the detail


a.     We which are alive at His coming, will be CAUGHT UP…


1)    Grabbed up

2)    Snatched away

3)    Pulled UP - Sucked up like a hoover!

4)    We will just simply vanish – into thin air

5)    At the sound of thunder all over the world!

6)    Song 2:8 -10 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

7)    2Thes 2:1  Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.

8)    John 14:1-3  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house [IN HEAVEN] 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.

9)    Rev 4:1,2  After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.


b.    How long will it take?


1)    Just a few seconds – start to finish!

2)    Resurrection of millions and millions of bodies all over the world

3)    THEN, the disappearance of living believers

4)    1Co 15:50  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

5)    1Co 15:51  Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

6)    1Co 15:52  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.

7)    1Co 15:53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

8)    1Co 15:54  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.


c.     We will go up TOGETHER – as one group – all Christians all over the world

d.    Where we will meet the Lord – no one else will see it – just us

e.     In the air and in the CLOUDS


1)    Every eye shall see Jesus return at Armageddon, but not at this time


f.      And from that moment on, we (the entire church) will be with the Lord – like a marriage – never separated again

g.     This ought to be such a comfort to us


1)    Not a terror, not sad, but AWESOME!

2)    Our loved ones who were believers are WITH Jesus already (4:14)

3)    And we will see them again, and be with them!

4)    They will get their bodies made new one day and live forever in them at the resurrection

5)    None of us will have to face the anti-christ, or the wrath of God, or even the wrath of Satan that are all going to be poured out during the Tribulation

6)    We are going to be with Jesus forever!

7)    Try and tell me that there is something BETTER than that hope!

8)    But if you DON’T want to be with Jesus, God will honour that and leave you behind! YOUR CHOICE!


G.   And Then What? What Happens AFTER the Rapture?


1.     A whole other lesson

2.     That will be the start of the Tribulation – the restraining force of the Holy Spirit will be finally gone

3.     But for us, the Judgment Seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10,11)


a.     2Co 5:10,11  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

b.     Rom 14:10-12  But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

c.     Not judged for our sins – Jesus was judged for those

d.     But for our service


1)    Selfish? No reward, shame, sorrow, tears, loss of what God had for you, for all eternity – no way to have a second chance

2)    Or self-less? Full reward, joy, rejoicing, humbled, honoured, able to give something back to Christ


e.     People are terrified of the coming Tribulation, and they should be

f.      They are terrified of the coming Anti-christ – and they should be

g.     But we believers are terrified of answering to God for following the world, for being carnal and backslidden so much of our lives, for living a life of worry and covetousness and laziness and apathy!


4.     And then seven years later, after the Tribulation runs its course, all believers, of all time, come back in the Battle of Armageddon and we WATCH Jesus win against the world, the flesh and the devil and set up His perfect kingdom of heaven on earth!

5.     Can’t wait!


IV. Conclusion


A.   Jesus, Peter, Paul warned about the last days


1.     Said they were going to be awful – dangerous – terrifying – “perilous”

2.     Before Jesus returns and sets up the right kingdom


B.    But, Paul expected Jesus to come back for him in HIS lifetime – not way out in the future AFTER a load of things must first happen


1.     1Thes 4:15  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that WE [NOT YOU ALL OUT IN THE FUTURE] which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

2.     1Thes 4:17  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.

3.     Tit 2:12,13  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

4.     Php 3:20  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ

5.     Even Peter thought everything was going to end in HIS lifetime. That’s why he quoted the prophecy of Joel 2 about the return of Jesus right then and there!


C.   So the timing of the Second Coming is not clear on purpose – could be YEARS away

D.   We are told to expect the Rapture at any time, and even to look for it


1.     NOT for the signs

2.     Not for the antichrist

3.     But to LISTEN for the shout of our Lord that he has come for us, like a man calls for his new bride to come away with him!

4.     Any day now! Perhaps TODAY!

5.     But until then, live like you will meet JESUS today


a.     Live as children of God now

b.     Live for rewards in heaven

c.     Get people saved NOW because one day soon it will be too, too late

d.     Find God’s will for your life and follow it!


6.     Don’t wait for anything else to happen to motivate you


[1] Mitchell H. Miller, The Pretribulation Deception