The great hope of the church through the centuries has been the personal return of Christ. This return is divided into two parts. He is to come first for His church, at which time all those who have died in Christ will be brought with Him, and with the living will be changed to resurrection bodies. This coming of Christ is known as the "rapture" from the Latin word "rapto" to catch up.
The day and hour of the rapture is unknown to man (Matt. 24:36). However, the time of His coming is the subject of considerable treatment in Scripture. Among the many signs, perhaps the greatest is the return of the Jews to their homeland after nearly two millennia of world wandering (Matt. 24:32-34; cf. Jer. 16:15; Jer. 24:2-8;).
The return of Christ for His church is spoken of in Scripture as the purifying hope of the Church. All Christians are to daily look for His coming. They are to so order their lives and service as if they might be called upon to look into the Lord's face without warning (Titus 2:12-14)
The order of the rapture seems to be the coming of Christ to the meeting place which is the air. With the trump of God sounding the bodies of those who have died in Christ are to be raised and reunited to the spirits of those in Christ. Then the living ones are to be transformed and raised to meet loved ones and Christ in the air. So shall they ever be with the Lord (I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:51-57).
Following the translation of the church the earth will know brief consternation concerning the unexplained absence of many. But Satan through his Man of Sin, the Antichrist, will offer diabolical if not plausible explanation, and the world will go on its willful way.
Meanwhile the Saints in glory will know two exceedingly thrilling events. First will be the judgment seat of Christ where faithful servants of Christ will receive imperishable rewards (Rom. 14:10-12; II Cor. 5:10; I Cor. 3:11-15). The next event will be the great marriage supper of the Lamb where the Church which is the Bride of Christ will be forever united to her Bridegroom (Rev. 19:7-9).
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Believer's First Bible Course by William W. Orr. Wheaton, Ill.: Scripture Press, 1956.