Q. To what extent can we assume that Jesus might have been blending events (speaking of both rapture and 2nd coming) to keep things obscure enough as to not give away too much information? Did Jesus ever refer to the rapture directly, or was Paul the one to present its “First Mention” in scripture?
A. While Jesus gave us a few hints about the rapture, He never taught openly about it and I don’t think we would have seen His hints if we didn’t already know about the rapture from Paul’s teaching. In 1 Thes. 1:10 Paul made the first direct mention of the rapture, following up with more detail in 1 Thes. 4:16-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-52. These letters were written about 20 years after the cross.
One of the Lord’s hints was in the reference to the days of Noah and Lot in Luke 17:26-29. After speaking of of the days of Noah where the faithful were preserved through the judgment, He then brought up the days of Lot where the judgment could not come until Lot was first taken away from the time and place of its occurrence (Genesis 19:15-22). In these two examples He was saying that some (Israel) would be preserved through the end times judgments while others (the Church) would be removed from the time and place before they begin.
Another hint came in John 11:25-26. Speaking of the last days, Jesus told Martha that believers who die will live again and those who are alive will never die. In other words there would be one generation of believers who would not die but would go straight from this life into the next one. With hindsight we can tell He was speaking of the rapture because those who survive the end times judgments and go live into the Millennial Kingdom will still be in their natural states and will eventually die. Only those taken in the rapture will never die.
But as I said, if you didn’t already know about the rapture from Paul’s teaching you probably wouldn’t see these hints. After Paul revealed the rapture, Jesus confirmed it in His letter to the Church in Philadelphia, saying, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (Rev. 3:10) The Greek word translated from in this verse means we’ll be kept out of the place, time, or cause of the hour of trial.