One afternoon, three little boys found themselves with nothing interesting to do. So, they decided to play hide-and-seek. While one boy covered his eyes and counted to one hundred, the other two found hiding places in the closet and under the bed. When the boy reached one hundred, he yelled, "Ready or not, . . . here I come!" And he immediately set out to look for his friends.
At an hour known only to God, Jesus will suddenly and unexpectedly return. In essence, ready or not, . . . He will come! In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, Paul states:
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, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. *
The event that Paul is describing is the rapture of everyone who has accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord.
"In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet," Jesus will change all believers, giving them new bodies and taking them to heaven with Him (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). Believers who have died will be resurrected with imperishable bodies. Philippians 3:21 explains that believers' earthly bodies will be transformed so that they will be like Christ's glorious body.
Since the Rapture will occur unexpectedly, without any warning, and instantaneously, there will be no time to accept Christ. When Jesus returns, we will not have a moment, or even a fraction of a second, to utter a prayer of repentance. If we have not accepted Jesus as our Savior, we will be left behind to face a time of terror unlike anything we could imagine, when men will faint in fear of what is coming on the world (Luke 21:26).
All those left on earth will experience the Great Tribulation, a seven-year period of unprecedented evil and destruction. "'There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again'" (Matthew 24:21). The Bible says that if the Lord did not shorten those days no one would survive (Mark 13:20). Terrible plagues and war will decimate millions and will produce widespread famine and starvation (Revelation 6:8; 9:4–6, 10, 18–19; 11:6).
In His unfathomable loving kindness, God directed the Biblical writers to warn us to be ready so that we could escape that terrible time.
How can we ensure that we will be ready for the Rapture?
First, we must acknowledge and confess our sins, and then invite Jesus to come into our heart (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
Second, we must read His Word every day and live our lives according to its principles, exercising self-control (Titus 2:12; Luke 21:34–36).
Third, we should ask Him to guide us in every decision we make (James 1:5).
Fourth, when He lives within us, His Spirit will empower us to flee from temptation and to make the right choices. But we must heed the Spirit's conviction and not put ourselves in a position where we know we will be tempted (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
When we continually follow the Lord day by day, then the Rapture becomes our "blessed hope," as we eagerly look forward to "the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?
By Howard W. Stevens
© by Howard W. Stevens
* All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.