There are plenty of things to be anxious about these days: disease, war, unity of the country, etc. How terrible it would be to add one more–rapture anxiety. What is rapture anxiety? It is the fear that Jesus has or will return secretly and take His people, leaving you behind. Broken down, this anxiety is based on a false understanding of end times and a twisted idea of saving faith.
Let’s start with the “rapture”. It is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
13 But 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. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)
The first question to ask is, what is the timing of these events? Those who think this describes an evacuation, place these events well before Judgment Day and at the beginning of a period called the Millennium. The text itself doesn’t identify the time, but let Scripture interpret Scripture here. The voice of the archangel, the trumpet call of God and particularly the “coming of the Lord” connects with Matthew 24:30-35.
30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.Matthew 24:30-35 (ESV)
The context of this part of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25 is clearly Judgment Day. God’s people are not being secretly evacuated. They are being publicly gathered to meet Jesus and to sit on the right during the Judgment. Verse 35, among others sets the context. Just following this passage comes something that sounds like the “rapture” of 1 Thessalonians 4.
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.Matthew 24:38-41 (ESV)
The social context of the time of Jesus’ return will not be chaos and stress but will seem very normal. Being prepared for that Day is simply to be “in Christ”, which means we are connected to Christ and belong to Him and, preferably, we are faithfully fulfilling our God-given purpose as He comes.
How do you know if you are in Christ? Being “saved”, “born again, “in Christ” is something that God does to us. We don’t do it. It is when Jesus gets through the barriers created by our own sinful nature and forms some sort of supernatural bond to us, usually at the time of our baptism. It doesn’t create a visible mark. There is no test that you can buy at CVS. But being connected to Christ has an observable impact.
Here are a few. Do you believe the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Do you trust the promise of forgiveness of sins through Jesus? Were you baptized in the name of the Triune God? Do you notice a growing love for God? Do you notice a growing love and concern for people? Do you desire to be transformed to be more loving and like Jesus? There are more and sometimes our sinful nature can inhibit development, but positive developments in these areas assure us that we belong to God. You shouldn’t dwell on whether you have “faith enough”. You should rather ask is Jesus enough? If you can say “yes”, that is a gift of God.
That said, live to serve God in a worthy manner and trust God for your salvation. End time theology is more FYI. It will be what will be. Your response should remain the same, and there is no need for rapture anxiety or anxiety about your salvation.