Editor's note: This column is part seven in a series about the biblical end of days and the book of Revelation.
Left behind" is the name of a book series that was read by millions. The series consisted of 16 novels. Four movies have been made based on the theme.
Who was "left behind" in the books? According to the series, all who are not believers. Those unbelievers will have to go through a horrible battle of armageddon and the great tribulation. No wonder everyone wants to be raptured.
What does the Bible say about a rapture? The word is not found in most translations, but the idea is there.
The scripture that mentions the idea with a word like rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air... ."
What this teaches is that Jesus will return. It teaches Christ the resurrection of the dead. That the dead will rise first before living Christian are changed. It teaches there will be a rapture and "we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord... ."
So, what is the rapture and how does it fit into other events concerning Christ's coming?
At the second coming, Christians will be raptured. The following describes the concept of the rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "caught up" translates the Greek word "harpazo," which means to carry off or to take away.
Who does the carrying off? Matthew 24:31 tells us it is the angels who come with Jesus at his second coming.
Where do the angels take us? "In the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." This happens only to the saved when Jesus returns.
How the unsaved fit in the picture is not mentioned here. "The dead in Christ rise first." The point is the dead in Christ rise before the bodies of living Christians are transformed. Unbelievers are not involved.
These events that follow will accompany the second coming and will be before the rapture: "The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Here, Jesus is seen as descending from heaven. So, Jesus's return will be visible and audible. The shows the rapture will not be secret as some believe.
There will be one bodily resurrection and two raptures at the second coming. Both the wicked and the righteous will be taken away. Both of these raptures will be preceded by a general resurrection of the dead. At the time of the second coming, all the dead will be raised at the same time to either everlasting life or to "disgrace" (see Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29).
After this resurrection of the two groups, and the transformation of the living, all humans who ever lived will stand together on the Earth's surface. A group of angels will carry away both the saved and the wicked. The wicked will be taken first (Matthew 13:24-30 and Matthew 13:36-43). So, two raptures, the wicked before the righteous. After this rapture occurs, there will be no more history on this earth.
Everyone is then taken to the angelic heaven, God's throne room for the final judgment.
After the universe has been emptied, God will renovate the universe. He'll set the universe on fire (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1, and Isaiah 66:22).
Next time, we discuss the final judgment.
Jay Craig of Shelbina, Mo., has worked with Shiloh Christian Children's Ranch for nearly 40 years. He's a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Craig attended Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo. He can be contacted by email to email@example.com.