Where Is the Truth of the Rapture First Mentioned?

Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

The first reference to the rapture of the Church is by Christ in the night before his crucifixion. In the so-called Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16) the Savior speaks of comfort and consolation to the distraught disciples who had just heard of the treason of Juda, the denial of Peter and the departure of the Savior. To calm their fears, Christ prophetically outlined God’s provisions for them as troubled disciples in a troubled world. “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 to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

In biblical interpretation we refer to the law of first reference. Frequently, when a new idea is introduced by the biblical writer, several important features about the new truth are revealed at the very start. Thus we see that in John 14 the Savior makes several significant promises.

First, He promised that He would leave them. This He accomplished by ascending to heaven (Acts 1:11). Second, He promised to prepare an eternal home for believers. In this activity the Savior is presently engaged. Third, the Lord promised to return personally. This return is not at the time of the believer’s death (when angels take us to heaven, Luke 16:22), but at the time of the rapture when instantaneously dead saints will be resurrected and living saints translated.

Finally, Christ promised that He would take us to the Father’s House. When He said, “I will take you unto myself,” He literally promised, “I shall take you along to my own home” (Robertson, Word Pictures, V, 249). His special promise is a unique truth for the church, not revealed until the night before Christ’s crucifixion.

Christians have anticipated this glorious truth ever since Christ spoke of the rapture in A.D. 32. Twenty years later, in A.D. 52, the Lord revealed further details about the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18), an event which Paul calls a “mystery” in 1 Cor. 15:51, “Behold I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed.” A mystery is not a deep and difficult truth but a divine doctrine, hitherto concealed but now revealed. The church has waited for her Lord for almost 2000 years. When the last believer is added to the church on earth and the final building block is added to the city in heaven, the Bridegroom will escort us to the Father’s House.

© Manfred E Kober

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