The True Meaning of Rapture in the Bible
By Zhang Li
Chen Li was walking home after a gathering when she thought of what Sister Wang had just said to her about the Lord Jesus already having returned, and asking Chen Li to go to her house that afternoon to listen to a sermon. Thinking over what she had said, Chen Li couldn’t help but ask herself: “The Lord Jesus gave us a promise: ‘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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:2–3). He went back up to heaven on a white cloud, so the place He’s preparing for us has to be in heaven, and when the Lord returns, He’ll take us straight into the kingdom of heaven. Plus, the pastors and elders often say that when He returns we’ll be raptured up and meet with the Lord—we’ll be together with Him. If the Lord Jesus had already returned we should have been raptured up by Him, so why we are all still here on earth?” At this thought, Chen Li furrowed her brows; her face was clouded with doubt.
Just then, someone behind Chen Li suddenly tapped her on the shoulder. She looked back and saw it was her good friend Han Meihua—they hadn’t seen each other for years. It occurred to Chen Li that Han Meihua was always traveling around preaching and that she had a fairly pure understanding of the Bible, and when reading the scriptures she often had new enlightenment and understanding. She realized that this opportunity was the Lord’s arrangement, so she hurried to share her dilemma and invited Han Meihua to her home.
Is Rapture Really Being Taken Up Into Heaven?
Chen Li poured Han Meihua a cup of water and sat next to her. Han Meihua looked at Chen Li and said solemnly: “Sister Chen, the question you just asked is key to whether or not we’ll be able to welcome the Lord. I was recently in a gathering with a few other coworkers and gained some new insight into this issue through our fellowship.” Chen Li’s eyes lit up—she couldn’t wait to hear her fellowship. Han Meihua went on: “We’ve always been waiting for the Lord to come and rapture us into the kingdom of heaven, where we will meet with the Lord. But have we ever thought about whether this kind of belief of ours is in line with the truth and the reality of God’s work? Is being raptured really lifting us up into heaven? The Lord Jesus said, ‘And no man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven’ (John 3:13). The Lord clearly told us that aside from Him, no man has gone up into heaven. Heaven is God’s abode and God alone can ascend to the highest heights, so how could we, corrupt human beings, ascend to the highest heights and see God? Besides, in the beginning God created people on earth, just as it’s recorded in Genesis 2:7–8: ‘And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And Jehovah God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed.’ God used the dust of the ground to create our forebearers, Adam and Eve, and then put them in the Garden of Eden to live. From this, we can see that the scope of the life that God has ordained for us is on the earth, not in heaven. We can also verify this through the facts of God’s work. Just like when God destroyed the earth with the flood, He wanted to save Noah but He did not rapture Noah up into heaven to escape the flood. Instead, He commanded Noah to build the ark and had him and his seven other family members weather out the flood on it. After the flood passed, Noah and his family went on to live and thrive on the earth. There were also the Israelites, who were enslaved by the Pharaoh in Egypt. They called out to God to have Him lead them out of their lives of hardship, and God answered their call, but He did not rapture them into heaven. Instead, He used Moses to lead them away from Egypt, and after that issued the law and commandments through Moses to guide the Israelites in their lives on earth. By the latter period of the Age of Law, the Israelites were facing the dangers of condemnation and death from violations of the law. God wanted to save mankind from sin, but He did not bring people directly up into heaven or have them go up themselves to procure a sin offering. Instead, He personally became flesh as the Lord Jesus and came to earth, where He was crucified and became the sin offering for mankind. All this shows that over the millennia of God’s work, it has all been done on the earth, and we human beings have always lived on the earth, and we have believed in and worshiped God on the earth. This is where we experience God’s work and words—not a single person has ever been raptured into heaven.
“Not only that, but the Bible clearly prophesies that in the last days, God’s kingdom will be established on earth, just as in the Lord’s prayer that the Lord Jesus taught us: ‘Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:9–10). And then in Revelation 21:2–3, there’s the prophecy: ‘And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven…, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.’ There’s another one in Chapter 11:15: ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.’ Plus there are these things from the Lord Jesus’ words and prophecies: ‘Your kingdom come,’ ‘the tabernacle of God is with men’ and ‘new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.’ All of these show that when the Lord Jesus returns, He will establish His kingdom on earth, not in heaven. God is going to live among man on earth, and all of the nations on earth will become nations of Christ into eternity. Sister Chen, now you have more clarity on this, right? When the Lord Jesus returns to earth in the last days, He will carry out God’s will and establish His kingdom. But we, corrupt human beings, mere mortals, always want to be raptured up into heaven and meet with the Lord in the sky. Isn’t that totally unrealistic? Isn’t that contrary to the Lord’s will? This shows us that our idea of being raptured into heaven upon the Lord’s return and meeting with Him in the sky is not at all in line with the Lord’s words, nor with biblical prophecies. It’s nothing but our own notions and imagination! If we continue insisting on this and won’t be swayed, we will never be able to be raptured before the Lord!”
Hearing this, Chen Li was astonished and said: “Thanks be to the Lord! With this fellowship, now I understand. So all along God has been working and leading mankind on earth and we have always followed and worshiped Him on earth, not in heaven. The Lord Jesus has also told us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth, and there are a number of prophecies in the Book of Revelation that in the last days God will establish His kingdom on earth. But we haven’t been contemplating and seeking from within the Lord’s words, instead blindly waiting for the Lord to come and rapture us up into heaven. That is entirely contrary to God’s words! So this means that us waiting for the Lord to come and rapture us into heaven so we can meet with Him in the sky is not at all in line with the Lord’s will, but is just our own notion, our own imagination. Oh, Meihua, since the rapture isn’t taking us up into heaven and meeting with the Lord in the sky, what does it really refer to? I’d like to hear more fellowship.”
The True Meaning of Rapture
Han Meihua smiled and said: “As for being raptured, there’s a mystery here that we human beings can’t see into and can’t clearly explain. However, after reading something in a book recently, I understood what it really is. Let’s take a look at it together.” Hearing this, Chen Li nodded happily, and Han Meihua pulled a book out of her bag as she spoke. She opened it up and read the following: “‘Being caught up’ is not being taken from a low place to a high place as people imagine. This is a huge mistake. Being caught up is referring to My predestining and selecting. It is targeted at all those I have predestined and chosen. … Those who have a share in My house in the future are all people who have been caught up before Me. This is absolutely true, never-changing, and cannot be refuted by anybody. This is the counterattack against Satan. Anyone I predestined shall be caught up before Me” (“Chapter 104” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning). Han Meihua then shared this fellowship: “We can see from this passage that being raptured isn’t at all what we have imagined it to be, lifting people from the earth up into heaven or being raised up into the sky to meet with the Lord. Instead, it refers to the time that the Lord Jesus returns to earth and all those who have been pre-determined, selected by God will be able to recognize His voice from His words, and they will accept and submit to God’s new work. They will follow God’s footsteps and be raptured before God’s throne. This is the true meaning of rapture.
“We’re in the last days now and the Lord Jesus prophesied that He would return. He also very clearly told us: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:12–13). ‘He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:48). ‘For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son’ (John 5:22). And it says in 1 Peter 4:17: ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.’ And there’s Hebrews 9:28: ‘So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation.’ These prophecies show that when the Lord returns in the last days, He is going to utter more words and do the work of judgment beginning with the house of God, leading us to enter into all truths, allowing us to attain God’s full salvation. Only by accepting God’s work of judgment in the last days and keeping up with His footsteps can we gain God’s salvation of the last days, be raptured up before God, and attend the wedding feast of the Lamb. Just like the latter part of the Age of Law when the Lord Jesus came to do the work of redemption, Peter, John, Matthew, and others came out from the Age of Law and accepted the Lord Jesus’ salvation—they were people who were raptured up before God. Now that we are in the last days, if we are able to seek and accept the work of the returned Lord Jesus, that is being raptured up before God!”
Hearing this, Chen Li suddenly saw the light and said: “Wow, so being raptured refers to God coming to work, and people seeking and accepting His new work, keeping up with the footsteps of the Lamb. Thanks be to the Lord! Meihua, I’ve also read those same biblical prophecies a number of times, but I never received the light that you just shared from them. Now I understand that when the Lord Jesus returns in the last days, He will utter new words and do the work of judgment beginning with the house of God. Only accepting God’s new work of the last days and keeping up with the footsteps of the Lamb is truly being raptured. God working this way is so practical! Now that I think of how we haven’t understood God’s work, but have just been longing to be raptured into heaven and meet with the Lord in the sky, I see how absurd it is. So it seems that believing in the Lord without understanding the truth means there’s no way to act in accordance with God’s will! Hey, Meihua, since the Lord is going to do new work when He comes in the last days, what should we do so that we can welcome the Lord and be raptured up before His throne?”
Han Meihua smiled and said: “Thanks be to the Lord! In fact, the Lord Jesus pointed out the path for us long ago. The Lord Jesus said, ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). And in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, it is prophesied many times that: ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ And chapter 3, verse 20 of Revelation says: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.’ The Lord requires us to be wise virgins, so if we hear someone spread news of the Lord’s return, we should treat it with caution, seeking and investigating with an open mind. We should focus our attention on hearing the voice of God, and if we determine that it is His voice, that it is an expression of the truth and the words contain authority and power, we must waste no time in accepting it. This is the only way we can welcome the Lord, keep up with the footsteps of the Lamb, and be raptured up before God’s throne. Just like Peter, James, John, and the others who followed the Lord Jesus—they really yearned to hear the Lord Jesus preach and maintained an open heart of seeking. They recognized God’s voice from the work and words of the Lord, so they accepted and followed Him, in the end receiving salvation from the Lord. But the Pharisees, haters of the truth, clearly saw that the Lord Jesus’ work and words contained authority and power and that they came from God, but because His work and words weren’t in line with their notions and imaginings, they madly opposed and condemned Him, ultimately nailing the Lord Jesus to the cross. This brought down God’s punishment upon them. So, we should learn this lesson from the failure of the Pharisees and be wise virgins who focus on hearing the voice of God. When we do hear news that the Lord has returned and is doing new work, we should proactively seek and investigate it; this is the only way we’ll have the chance to be raptured up before God. If we just blindly cling to our own notions and imaginings and do not focus on hearing God’s voice, if we don’t seek or investigate God’s new work, that would make us the foolish virgins, and we will lose our chance to be raptured!”
Chen Li said excitedly: “Thanks be to the Lord! It turns out that the key to whether we can be raptured is whether we are able to be wise virgins and place importance on hearing God’s voice. If we hear people preach that the Lord has returned yet we arrogantly stick to our own notions and imaginings and aren’t focused on hearing God’s voice, we won’t be able to follow God’s footsteps. We will just be cast away and eliminated by God. Oh, Meihua, in our gathering today Sister Wang told me that the Lord Jesus has already returned and wanted me to go listen to a sermon at her house this afternoon. Just now, I was hesitant and wasn’t sure if I should go, but now that I’ve heard your fellowship I think that I have to be a wise virgin and go out to seek and investigate as soon as I can. Would you like to go with me?”
Happily, Han Meihua said: “Wonderful! Let’s go right now!”