What causes fear in us at times regarding the rapture? Does our apprehension arise from its abrupt nature or its unexpected timing? Does the unknown or the supernatural cause anxiety to rise within us? Perhaps we do not want our dreams for this life to end so soon.
I suspect many of us at times can identify with a least a few of the above reasons.
Does Scripture give us any help to relieve our apprehensions and hesitations? Is there a way to look at the rapture that sparks delight and hopefulness rather than dread or even disdain?
I believe there is.
One of the most comforting pictures of the rapture in Scripture is that of the bridegroom coming for his bride. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul purposely used language to invoke images of the Jewish wedding customs of their day when speaking of Jesus’ return for His church.
The Marriage Covenant
Jewish marriages in the first century AD began with the groom making a covenant with his bride. The groom “would drink a cup of wine with her which sealed the covenant and he would pay the bridal price for her to the father.”[i] The bridal price ensured that the groom would follow through on the covenant.
Do you see the similarities with what Jesus did for us in purchasing our salvation on the cross? He paid the price with His blood so that we, His church, might become His bride.
Jesus’ words regarding the cup of wine He drank with His disciples in the upper room resemble those spoken by a groom sealing the marriage covenant with his bride, “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood . . .’”[ii]
The drinking of wine from a cup and the announcement of a covenant both spark images of the Jewish marriage customs as well as point to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the new covenant.
Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.[iii] He would not see his bride until he completed his work on the honeymoon chamber and returned for her.
Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.
Jesus’ words in John 14:2-3 mimic this announcement of the bridegroom, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
I believe Jesus purposely chose words to show how His actions resembled a groom leaving to prepare a place for his bride with a promise to someday return for her.
The Return of the Bridegroom
Similar to Jesus’ words regarding His return, the Jewish bridegroom returned later to take his bride back to the place he had prepared for her.
The Jewish groom enjoyed coming as a thief in the night to quickly snatch away his bride and take her back to his father’s house. He arrived at his bride’s home with much fanfare as his friends shouted and blew a shofar or trumpet to announce his surprise arrival. The groom then took his bride back to his father’s house for seven days.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul speaks of Jesus coming for His church with a shout or the “voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (v. 16). In John 14:2-3, Jesus stated that the purpose of His return for us will be to take us back to His Father’s house. There we will remain for seven years while the Great Tribulation takes place on the earth.
The Comforting Message for Us
The brides of Jesus’ day did not fear the arrival of the bridegroom. The bride looked forward to the surprise return of her bridegroom; this was an expected and exciting part of the wedding festivities.
This picture of the rapture provides much comfort for us because of the following reasons:
1. He's preparing a place for us!
Jesus is now preparing a place especially for us. This is frequently overlooked in teachings regarding the rapture.
We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus is designing and preparing it with our specific needs and desires in mind. The best five star hotels on earth cannot compare to the place Jesus is getting ready for us.
The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine.
The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. Would not the brides of Jesus’ day eagerly anticipated seeing the place their grooms had prepared for them?
2. The Rapture is a groom returning for His bride!
While the element of surprise in the rapture may alarm us at times, it helps to remember this was part of the excitement for Jewish weddings of the first century AD. The groom was not coming to harm his bride, but to take her home to begin their exciting adventure together.
Rather than be something to fear or even dread, the bride joyously anticipated the day when the groom would snatch her away and take her to his home. Her groom’s surprise appearance represented a key part of the love story they would share for the rest of their lives.
So it is with Jesus’ return. He’s taking us away from this life to something wonderful, to an eternity full of wonder and amazement, which we will enjoy in new immortal bodies that will never be subject to illness, pain, gaining, or death. Jesus is coming as a bridegroom coming for His bride; it’s an act of love to give us a much better life than we can imagine.
3. The Rapture will lead to much celebration!
Once the bride and groom had spent seven days together, the feasting began. They joined their attendants, friends, and invited guests for a huge celebration of their wedding.
This is in our future as well. Revelation 19:6-10 describes the “marriage supper of the lamb” that occurs in heaven before we return to earth with Jesus. Just as with the marriage celebrations of Jesus’ day, I do not believe this will be just a sit-down dinner lasting a few hours; it will last several days, at least!
4. It’s the alternative that should be frightening to us!
Here is where the comparison breaks down a bit. During the seven days the bride and groom spent together in the honeymoon suite, the bride’s attendants and friends of the groom began celebrating.
During the seven years we are with the Lord in heaven, however, the Great Tribulation will occur on earth. Evil will flourish. Humanity will experience God’s wrath as a final call to repentance. It will be a time of great suffering and much death upon the earth.
Whenever I am tempted to fear the Lord’s return, I think of the alternative. We will be sooooo much better off being with the Lord than remaining on the earth. I believe the “sudden destruction” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 happens shortly after the rapture.
It’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.
Truly, it’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.
Just as with a groom coming for his bride, the rapture represents Jesus’ love for His church. Will Jesus’ return surprise us when it happens? Most likely! Will He in love tenderly welcome us to the place He has prepared us? We can count on that.
The wedding imagery of the rapture helps us see it as an act of love rather than something to fear or dread. It’s meant to change our perspective, to help us look forward to Jesus’ return for us with excitement rather than anxiety.
When anxious thoughts of the rapture creep into your thinking, remember it’s not about striving to replace fear with hope but of looking forward to Jesus’ appearing as a bride getting ready for her groom’s arrival.
Jesus does not want us to be afraid of His return for us but rather eagerly anticipate it as the beginning of eternity or our time in paradise. He’s coming to rescue us out of this world and take us to a place of amazing beauty and joy, beyond all we can imagine.
[i] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website
[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:25
[iii] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website