It’s gonna be loud. It’s going to be noisy. And bright. And impossible to miss.
Some Christians believe that Jesus will return secretly, and the “rapture,” when Jesus “catches up” believers into the clouds of glory with him will be secret. As a young Christiain I watched a number of movies about this secret rapture. I particularly remember one called “A Thief in the Night.” The opening scene shows a young woman waking up with the radio on announcing the sudden worldwide disappearance of thousands. She calls out for her husband a couple times, gets no answer, so she gets up and goes into the bathroom only to find his electric razor laying in the sink buzzing. Terrified, she screams.
You can watch the opening sequence of “A Thief in the Night” here.
My friend Jim recently told me that when he was 11 years old at a church camp they showed all the kids that same movie in the rec hall right before bed. “We were all scared after we saw it, and it made a big impression on me.” Jim said that every morning the camp would play reveille over loudspeakers and everybody would get up, make their beds, and go down in front of the dining hall, line up, say the pledge of allegiance, and march into dining hall. If not there, you’d get in trouble. When Jim woke it was thundering and lightning. He looked around and everybody was gone. No one was in the cabin. Terrified he thought the rapture had happened. He ran out of the cabin. All the cabins were empty. The dining hall was down the hill. He ran down and could see that nobody was lined by the flag pole. Then to his great relief he saw the other campers in the dining hall. “Boy was I happy. I was quite relieved that the rapture hadn’t happened.”
“A Thief in the Night” takes its title from Matthew 24:43-44:
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:43-44)
We must live every day as if Jesus might return that day. We don’t know when will come. But when he does he won’t come secretly.
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, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Believers who have died and those alive when Jesus returns will be “caught up together…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” but it won’t be in secret. The whole world will hear the “cry of command,” “the voice of an archangel” and the “sound of the trumpet of God” announcing the presence of Jesus. What will these things sound like? These sounds will strike terror into the hearts of all who are unprepared for Jesus to return, but will be joyful alerts to Christians. They will announce the joy of seeing Jesus and being with him, eternal pleasures at the marriage feast of the Lamb, along with all our loved ones who had entered heaven before us.
Jesus’ return is going to be visible and bright as well:
and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:24-27)
No one will miss Jesus’ return. The “rapture” won’t happen in secret. Will unbelievers see us caught up to be with Jesus? Will we see each other flying through the sky toward our Lord and his angels? I don’t know. But it’s going to be loud. And bright. And glorious. I can’t wait.