Missing The Rapture

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV -  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NLT - And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up [raptured] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words. [The point of this teaching is encouragement - not to scare people with the thought of being “left behind” by “missing The Rapture.”]

Technically, there is no such event in Scripture known as “The Rapture”.  The word rapture comes from a Latin word that was a verb, not a noun.  It described the catching away action that will take place as part of the crowning event for the Church - the Resurrection.  The New Testament teaches that the hope of the Church (and the event for which we are looking) is the Resurrection, not “The Rapture.”  Furthermore, we have no Biblical reason to think that it will be secretive and instantaneous as presented in the Left Behind novels.  Remember that in 1 Corinthians 15, the doctrine and event being described by the Apostle Paul is the Resurrection.  Also, the text says that we will all be changed (given our glorified, immortal bodies) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  It does not say that we will be raptured in a moment or eye-twinkling.  Consider the Biblical examples of those being caught up (raptured) into Heaven:

Enoch.  Enoch was caught up by God into Heaven.  No specific reference was made to his being seen, yet somehow there was a general knowledge that Enoch was caught up.  It’s logical and plausible to deduce that someone witnessed his catching away, even though the Scripture doesn’t clarify it either way.

Elijah.  Elijah was not only seen when he was caught up into Heaven by God, but seeing it was also a requirement Elijah gave Elisha in order to receive a double portion of his spirit!  Elijah was certainly not “raptured” secretly or so quickly that it was unseen.

Christ.  The Ascension of Christ from the Mount of Olives in Acts 1 was neither instantaneous nor secret.  The Apostles witnessed Christ being “raptured” up to Heaven, slowly enough that they just gazed in amazement until angels came and shooed them away.  It was not a secret or instant catching away.

Two Witnesses in Revelation.  While the Book of Revelation uses largely symbolic imagery, consider the Two Witnesses who are murdered and left in the streets for days for the whole world to see.  After their resurrection, they are “raptured” up to Heaven while the whole world watches.  It is not secretive nor is it an instantaneous event in John’s depiction.

The Church at Christ’s Coming.  Now we see the catching away of the Church (those both living and dead).  We have three clear references of individuals being caught up into Heaven (Elijah, Christ, Two Witnesses) in which none of them were secretive nor instantaneous events without eyewitnesses.  Enoch is the only case where it is not indicated clearly that anyone saw him caught up to Heaven, yet obviously it was somehow known and recorded that he was caught up (as opposed to just disappearing mysteriously by way of a wild animal attack, drowning in the sea, or some other instance).  It was commonly known that Enoch did not die but was caught up to Heaven.  We are left to conclude that when the event for which the Church is hoping - known in Scripture as The Resurrection of the Righteous - finally occurs, the catching up to meet Christ in the air (rapturing) will neither be secretive nor instantaneous without people being aware of it.

In conclusion, if we are to have a Biblical worldview and way of describing end-time events, then the language and concept of resurrection must be first and foremost.  But what about those whose primary focus of faith is on The Rapture?  Theologically and grammatically, I think they just missed it.  Not to worry, they may still partake of the Resurrection of the Just!