What is the rapture? The rapture is that moment when Christ descends from heaven and we're caught up to meet him.
It'll happen instantly. The Bible says, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Today, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us study what's called the rapture. Mothers and fathers will be reunited with sons and daughters. A sibling's reunited, friends reunited. Your sorrow immediately vanishes and is replaced by ecstatic joy. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
Oh, can you hear when the angels are singing? This is the day, the day when life begins. When we hear about the rapture, how we'll meet the Lord in a heartbeat, our first reaction might be, yeah, let's go. But when we think about all the loved ones who haven't come to Christ yet, our second response might be, can we wait just a bit longer? Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us understand the rapture and its part in the Lord's grant last day's plan. It's a dramatic moment, to be sure, but that's only part of the startling things to come, according to God's Word.
It's the day, the day when life begins. I heard about a Sunday school teacher that was teaching her six-year-olds about how to get to heaven. She wanted to make sure the kids were understanding what she was saying, so she turned to the class and said, Now kids, let me ask you a question.
If I sold my house and it had a big garage sale and gave all my money away to poor people, would that get me to heaven? The kid said, no. And the teacher said, how about this, if I cleaned the church every day and mowed the church lawn, would that get me to heaven? No, the kid said. Well, what if I gave candy to all the other children and I was kind to animals, would that get me to heaven?
Again, the kid said, no. So the teacher asked, then how do I get to heaven? A little boy in the back yelled out, you have to die first.
Pretty accurate, right? So death in the Bible does not mean annihilation, meaning that we cease to exist. It means separation. We're moving from one place to another. When we die, we leave this life and we go to the afterlife. If we're a Christian, we go immediately into God's presence. If we're not a Christian, we go and face an ultimate judgment. You know, it's interesting that the Bible describes death for the Christian as falling asleep. And by the way, it only describes death for the Christian as falling asleep. Our body goes into the ground, but the Bible promises a resurrection of the physical body. It was Job who said, I know that in my flesh I will see God. I read about a tombstone in London that had these words inscribed on it. And I quote, here lies the body of Solomon Pease under the grass and under the trees. But Pease is not here, only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God.
And that's pretty accurate. When our bodies go into the ground, we wait. We're waiting for the resurrection.
The first resurrection, as the Bible calls it, also known as the rapture. Now, I believe the rapture is the next event on the prophetic calendar. It could happen at any moment. It could happen today. It could happen tonight. It could happen tomorrow.
Or it could happen ten years from now. Following the rapture, we have the emergence of this mysterious figure that the Bible calls the Beast, or the Antichrist. He inaugurates a period that's coming on the earth known as the Great Tribulation Period. That culminates in the Battle of Armageddon, fought in the Valley of Megiddo. And then Christ returns and establishes his kingdom on earth and answers the prayer that the church has been praying for 2,000 years, which is, Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I think even non-believers are concerned right now about the state of our world. The stakes are higher as we're experiencing what the Bible describes as a time where there is distress of nations with no way out. Even secular futurologists are sounding the alarms as they see converging lines of danger and instability around the world. It's an alarming thing when you hear a world leader use the word Armageddon in a sentence.
And we actually see that happening. I don't know if you've heard about something that is known as the atomic clock, kept by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, also known as the Doomsday Clock. So depending on how dangerous things are in the world, it's either moved forwards or it's moved back. By the way, it's the closest it's ever been to midnight.
They literally have it set at 90 seconds till midnight. And there was a quote by a woman named Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who said, quote, Russia's thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict by accident, intention, or calculation is a terrible risk. The possibilities that this conflict can spin out of anyone's control remains high. So we talk about the end of the world. Now, when we use that phrase, we're not saying that the world will cease to exist. But we're saying that this present age of wickedness, under the control of Satan, who is described as the god of this world, that will come to an end.
There's a better world coming. Our best days are ultimately ahead of us when Christ comes back and establishes his kingdom. And many Americans believe this could happen in their lifetime. More than half of Americans believe in this event commonly called the rapture.
In fact, 55% believe that they will be taken to heaven in the rapture. And so there's a greater awareness of these things. And by the way, one of the signs of the end times is a greater awareness of and understanding of Bible prophecy. In the book of Daniel, chapter 12, verse 4, we read, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret.
Seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there and knowledge will increase. God is saying that in the last days knowledge will increase. And also I think an awareness of what scripture teaches about end times events will increase as well. And so we're living in that time that I believe is known as the end of days. The Bible is the one book that dares to predict the future.
Not once, not twice, but hundreds of times with 100% accuracy. And the Bible tells us that the age is coming ultimately to a close. And we talk about the antichrist and I'm going to deal with him in my next message. And people wonder, who is the antichrist? You will not know who antichrist is until the church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air in the rapture. So don't waste your time looking for antichrist. The Bible never tells you to look for antichrist. It always tells you to look for Jesus Christ.
That's an important distinction. 2 Thessalonians 2, 7 says, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.
And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of his coming. So the restraining force in the world today is the Holy Spirit working through the church. Think how our world would be if there were no believers standing up for what is right.
Think how horrible this world would be if there were not believers speaking out against what is wrong. We're the restraining force. Once we're removed, all hell is going to literally break loose. So the restraining force of the Holy Spirit is the church that will be taken out of the way, caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
I'll explain that more in a moment. And then that wicked one, meaning the antichrist, will be revealed whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of his coming. Okay, so with that in mind, let's make a few points about the rapture.
Let's start with this one, point number one. What is the rapture? The rapture is that moment when Christ descends from heaven and we're caught up to meet him. It is at this moment that we receive our new resurrection bodies, and it's also at this moment that we are reunited with loved ones who have preceded us. The rapture is the first phase of the return of Christ. As I've already said, it happens before.
Antichrist is revealed. Now, I know some are asking, well, I've never seen the word rapture in the Bible. Well, to the point, I don't think you've seen the word Bible in the Bible, have you? Have you ever read the word Bible in the Bible?
I'll answer it for you. You haven't. Have you ever read the word Trinity in the Bible?
No, you haven't. But we believe in the Trinity, right? So the rapture is in the Bible, certainly the teaching. And even the word, depending on what kind of translation you have, the word rapture comes from the root word rapturus that is a translation of the Greek word harpazo. And that is a word that is used many times in the Bible. Harpazo means to be caught up or taken by force. And so it's translated rapturus, rapture in the Latin translation, and that's where the word comes from. I don't think it's important what word you use. You can call it the rapture. You can call it the harpazo. You can call it the great escape.
I don't care what you call it. But it's a moment that's clearly taught in the Bible. And here's the main text that we often go to for this teaching. It's 1 Thessalonians 4, verse 16. The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. And we which are alive and remaining shall be caught up. This is the word caught up.
Root word rapturus, taken by force, removed, snatched away, taken forcibly. We will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we'll always be there with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.
Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. You know, there's nothing like hearing the Word of God and worshipping the Lord together. I want to encourage you to join us for something we call Harvest at Home. It happens every Saturday and Sunday at harvest.org. You can join Christians from around the world as we worship and we study the Word of God together. So join us for Harvest at Home at harvest.org. By the way, yesterday was Giving Tuesday. And if you made an investment in the work of Harvest Ministries, we're so grateful. Thanks so much. But if you missed the opportunity, it's not too late.
Just go to harvest.org. Well, we're considering the rapture today, the time when Jesus comes back for his church. Pastor Greg continues now. Why is there a rapture?
Why? Paul talks about this in 1 Thessalonians 4. The believers in Thessalonica were concerned about loved ones who had died. They wondered if they would ever see them again.
They were filled with sorrow and grief. And so Paul gave them these words to reassure them. In fact, he says in 1 Thessalonians 4, 13, we don't want you to be uninformed brothers about those who have died so that you will grieve as those who have no hope. So guys, listen, it's okay. I want to comfort you and I want to give you a heavenly perspective on what happens to loved ones who believe in Jesus when they die.
You're going to see them again. So I want to establish that fact. And I don't want you to grieve like people who have no hope. But here's another thing I would point out. He says, I don't want you to be ignorant about these things. Sometimes people say, we don't need to study end times events. No one can figure it out anyway.
That's not true. We should study end times events. And we need to understand what they mean to us today. Again, Paul says, I don't want you to be ignorant. Jesus said, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, let the reader understand. So he's talking about an event that's coming that I'll deal with next time called the abomination of desolation. But the key here is he says, let the reader understand. So it is important that we understand these things. And also I think when we understand prophetic teaching or eschatology, the study of last things as it's sometimes called. If we understand it as we ought to, it will bring hope to us.
Because Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4, 18, therefore, comfort one another with these words. When you lose a loved one, it changes your world, doesn't it? How many of you have someone that you love that's a Christian that has died and gone on to heaven?
Raise your hand. That's pretty much everyone. Now you think about them probably quite often. Some of you think about them all the time.
And you miss them. And you have sorrow in your heart. And sometimes well-meaning but misdirected Christians might say, don't cry, they're in heaven. Well, I actually think you should cry. I think the depth of your sorrow is an indication of the depth of your love. I mean, when I die, you better at least shed one or two tears.
Come on. I mean, this is a way of saying I care about that person. And the Bible even says there's a time to mourn.
There's a time for that. It's important. I think it's a process of letting go and committing it to God. But we don't mourn like those who have no hope. The Christian does not mourn hopelessly.
The Christian mourns hopefully. So though I mourn, though I miss the person that has gone on before me, I also mourn with hope because I know I will see them again. And I know they're not just a part of my past.
I also know they're a part of my future. So here's how it's going to work. You're just going to be going about your business.
And in a moment, that will happen so quickly, you can't really measure it in human time. You're going to be caught up to be reunited with your loved ones again. Mothers and fathers will be reunited with sons and daughters. Husbands will be reunited with wives and wives with husbands. Children reunited with their parents. Siblings reunited.
Friends reunited. Your sorrow immediately vanishes and is replaced by ecstatic joy. Describing this same event that we call the rapture, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, don't be uninformed. We do not grieve like those who have no hope. So he knows this is going to be an event that will happen and he describes it in 1 Corinthians 15, 51. I tell you a mystery.
We will not all sleep. We'll be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible. The twinkling of an eye. How long does it take for an eye to twinkle?
It comes from the Greek word Adamos. It's about 1,000th of a second. And so people might say, well, I'll just accept Christ when the rapture happens. Hmm, you better be fast.
Let's play that out. The Lord just raptured us. The Lord Jesus, that took way too long. The event's already over with.
You missed it. No, you need to be ready ahead of time and be ready to meet the Lord. See, I think it's important for us to understand these things because it gives us a heavenly perspective. You see, there's no theology without doxology. And by that I mean I'm always interested in what these great theological truths mean to me in day-to-day living. It's a good thing to think about heaven because you'll live a better life on earth. Sometimes people will falsely accuse Christians of being disconnected and they'll say things like, oh, you're so heavenly minded.
You're no earthly good. No one does more for people than Christians. It doesn't matter if they even share our faith. We say we want to love you and show compassion to you in the name of Christ, right? So those that think, yes. Those that think the most of the next world do the most for this one.
It was C.S. Lewis who said, A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking. It's one of the things that a Christian is meant to do. So think about heaven. Dream about heaven. Look forward to heaven.
These are good things to do. Number three, when is the rapture? Here's where we get into trouble. Here's where that problem develops that I identified last time as rapturous nuttiness. By the way, there is no such term.
I just made it up. But to me, rapturous nuttiness is when everything is a sign of the times. Everything is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy and I start losing perspective and then I engage in date setting.
We should never do this. Jesus said, No man knows the day or the hour when the Son of Man will return. If we were to go back to the original language, it would translate out to say, No man knows the day or the hour when the Son of Man will return. And what it actually means is no man knows the day or the hour when the Son of Man will return. So when someone says, I've cracked the code. I know the date.
I'm telling you it's wrong. No one knows the date. And we shouldn't worry about the date. We just need to be ready. So the Bible says, Prepare to meet your God. You want to be ready to meet God. Are you ready to meet God? One of the most important questions we could ever consider. Pastor Greg Laurie with today's study here on A New Beginning called, What is the rapture and why it matters? And Pastor Greg, what if someone realizes they aren't ready to meet God? They can get ready, can't they?
They could take care of that right now. Yeah, they really can. That's the amazing thing. I think people are surprised that it doesn't take years to become a Christian. It doesn't take months. It doesn't take weeks. It doesn't take days.
It doesn't even take hours. You can believe on the spot. And I would like to lead you in a prayer where you can ask for His forgiveness. A prayer where you can receive Jesus Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord. So if you want Christ to come into your life, if you want Him to forgive you of your sin, if you want a second chance in life, if you want to go to heaven when you die, stop what you're doing and pray after me these words. Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I'm sorry for my sin.
And I turn from it now and I choose to follow you from this moment forward. As Savior and Lord, as God and friend, thank you for loving me and calling me and forgiving me. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen. And listen, if you have prayed those words with Pastor Greg just now and meant them sincerely, the Bible assures us your sins have been forgiven.
We're told the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And we want to send something your way that will help you in your new relationship with the Lord. We want to send you Pastor Greg's New Believers Bible. It's yours without charge if you prayed for the first time today with Pastor Greg. Just ask for it when you call 1-800-821-3300. That's 1-800-821-3300.
Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514. Or just go online to harvest.org and click the words Know God. Well Pastor Greg, we're excited about your brand new devotional book for Christmas, 25 Devotions to Prepare Our Hearts for the Holidays.
It's called Heaven's Light Breaking. Yes. And I know that you have it there in front of you. Would you mind reading just a short section of that book?
Sure, I'd be happy to. Let's cue the music now. No, no, not that. Come on Dave, you can do better.
I need some sweet Christmassy music. Oh, let's try this. Ah, just trying.
Here we go. I'm reading from my book, Heaven's Light Breaking. When Jesus entered our world as a human being, he became an embryo.
And then deity and diapers. Jesus left the safety of heaven, stepped into time and space, breathed our air, shared our pain, walked in our shoes, lived our life, and died our death. God had a face. Jesus did not become identical to us, but he did become identified with us. In fact, he could not have identified with us any more closely than he did. It was total identification without the loss of identity, for he became one of us without ceasing to be himself.
He became human without ceasing to be God. So the one who is before time and created time will be with you through all the times of your life, until time runs out into the wonders of eternity. Isn't that what the psalmist David wrote when he said, You are my God, my times are in your hands. So after that, we have this little moment of thanks and praise, where I say, Lord, it's hard wrapping my mind around this. You know me and loved me before you created the world. I can't process a concept that big, but I praise you. And even if I can't wrap my thoughts around you, you have wrapped your thoughts around me. If you were small enough for my mind, you would not be big enough for my problems.
Thank you for loving me. Well, that's just a sample of what you'll read in the new book called Heaven's Light Breaking. It's Pastor Greg's devotional book for the Christmas season, 25 devotions to take you all the way up to Christmas Day.
It's a great way to let your mind focus on the reason for the season. Each devotion will only take you a few minutes to read, but it could change your whole day. We'll send you Heaven's Light Breaking to thank you for your investment that helps keep a new beginning coming your way. So get in touch today. Our number is 1-800-821-3300. We're here 24-7 to take your call. That's 1-800-821-3300. Or write A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.
Or just go online to Harvest.org. Well, next time, Pastor Greg brings us more insight from his message called What is the Rapture and Why It Matters? Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Lord. This is the day, the day when life begins Hey everybody, thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. So for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make Him known to others or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner, just go to Harvest.org.
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