Here’s some good exegesis from Phillip Long related to the verb “will be raptured [caught up]” found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. (The Bible never mentions “The Rapture” in noun form.)
“The purpose of this catching away is to “meet with Lord.” The word translated “to meet” (ἀπάντησις) is often used of a delegation sent from a city to greet a dignitary or king, usually in order to escort that important person into a city… When the great king comes, his followers will be gathered to him in order to be a part of his great entourage escorting him back to the world he created.”
I find this understanding more convincing than the explanation I grew up hearing, which imported far too many end-times assumptions into the text without listening carefully enough to the text itself in its own historical and cultural context.
Why do we let one passing reference to “the rapture” (mentioned only in 1 Thess. 4:17, in a manner open to alternate interpretations) determine our vision of where we will spend eternity, while we ignore at least four mentions of a “new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; and esp. 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1) and 1-1/2 whole chapters about a “new Jersualem” (Rev. 21-22a; see also Rev. 3:12; Galatians 4:26)?
My… concern… is that an emphasis on one uncertain interpretation of the idea of a rapture has eclipsed all that Jesus and Paul said about the resurrection–including the judgment of the saints but especially the redemption of our bodies and of all creation.
Follow-up for bonus points: Can anyone show me where the Bible says that when Christians die they go to spend eternity in heaven?
My big point is that the Bible doesn’t say “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when you die and go to heaven,” but “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). I think the difference is very significant, and usually forgotten both in our evangelism language and our attempts to comfort believers. The NT writers had their eyes fixed on the final resurrection; do we?