By Pastor Mitch Horton | January 2008 | Posted in • Featured Content | (0) Comments
The Rapture Precedes the Second Coming of Christ
We are living in days of exciting change worldwide. As never before in history, our world is preparing for the Rapture of the church, and for the Second Coming of Christ. We may be the generation that the prophets of the Old Testament spoke of who will actually witness the Second Advent.1
I want to share with you some truths about the next great event that will take place in the kingdom of God, the rapture of the church! In this article, you’ll gain some specific insight into this physics-defying event! The rapture may in some ways be likened to the TV show Star Trek in which Scotty beams the inhabitants of the Enterprise to another location instantaneously!
We should live with the expectation of the catching away of the saints,2 or what we call the rapture of the church. Notice that the word rapture is not found in scripture. It’s from the Latin word rapere, from the Latin translation of the Bible. Though not found in the Bible, it correctly summarizes the event of being caught away, and is used frequently today to reference this grand event.
The New Testament gives Christians a hope in the return of Christ to remove us from the difficulties of this life and to rescue us from the wrath to come.3 The New Testament teaches that Jesus is actually coming back twice.
First, He’s coming back for the saints in the rapture of the church. Then, a few years later,4 He’s coming back in His Second Coming5 with the saints6 when He will establish His millennial reign,7 and bring all of His enemies into subjection under His feet.8
A Mystery Revealed
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 9
Let’s look more closely at the rapture of the church and see what it includes. This event could very well happen in our lifetime. Notice in the verse above that Paul said, Behold, I show you a mystery. This word mystery is from a Greek word10 that means to shut the mouth, a hidden purpose or counsel, or a secret will. The rapture is a mystery11 that was not mentioned in the Old Testament but was revealed to the church through the Apostle Paul.12 The rapture is a mystery that has been revealed exclusively to the church and is found nowhere else in scripture but here in the New Testament, primarily the Epistles (letters written to the churches).
We Will Receive New Bodies Fit for the Glories of Eternity
In 1 Corinthians 15:51, Paul says, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. There will be those who do not experience physical death! They will be raptured, and their bodies will be instantaneously changed!13 When the rapture occurs, a trumpet will sound, and the bodies of the dead in Christ will rise from the grave and be transformed into new bodies that will enable them to live in heaven and throughout eternity in God’s presence.14 Then those who are alive at that time will undergo a physical transformation while being whisked off the earth by God’s supernatural power.
Paul says in verse 52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… The word moment in Greek speaks of the smallest divisible unit, a millisecond.15 He further states: in the twinkling of an eye. This means the batting of an eye.16 This event will be so quick that there will be no prior notice or time for preparation. We must live ready for this event!
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.17
This is the other major message in the New Testament that explains in some detail the mystery we call the rapture. In verse 13, Paul mentions that we are not to sorrow as others who have no hope. Tombstones in the first century would often bear the phrase “no hope.”18 Thank God that we as Christians have the hope of the resurrection of the body and of life beyond death with the Father in heaven!
Verses 14 and 15 above reveal that when Jesus comes back in the rapture, He will bring with Him the spirits of believers who have already died.19 They will be reunited with their new, glorified, physical bodies there in mid-air. Somehow, the power of God will raise their bodies from the grave and instantaneously transform them into bodies just like Jesus had when He was raised from the dead.20
Then in verse 16 above, we read that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. At Jesus’ ascension, angels told the disciples that Jesus would come back in like manner as they saw Him go into heaven.21 Here Jesus literally comes down into the atmosphere of the earth to receive us to Himself.
The shout mentioned is literally an order, a command, or a stimulating cry.22 I believe this will be heard in the realm of the spirit as Jesus summons us to come to Him. At that time, the dead bodies of departed saints will change and come alive with new vitality and meet with the spirits of their owners in mid-air!
Five Shades of Meaning for Caught Up
Those who have died in Christ will go before those on earth at the time of the rapture. The church will be caught up23 to meet Jesus in earth’s atmosphere and then follow Him back to heaven.
The Greek word for caught up has five shades of meaning that reveal to us what will occur during the rapture.24 First it means to carry by force.25 The principalities and powers of darkness that surround the earth26 will seek to keep Jesus from taking us away by force, but He will simply demonstrate their defeat once again.
Caught up also means to rescue from the danger of destruction.27 I believe that right after the rapture will be the time called The Tribulation. It’s a time of the wrath of God being displayed against unbelief and the lifestyles it produces.28 God has promised to deliver us from the wrath to come.29
Thirdly, caught up means Divine Power transferring a person marvelously and swiftly from one place to another.30 With the same ability that Jesus used to create the universe,31 He will summons us to heaven in an instantaneously changing moment of time!
The fourth shade of meaning for caught up is to claim for one’s self eagerly.32 Jesus is excited about bringing us to heaven to be with Him for eternity.
And the last meaning for caught up is to snatch out and away.33 This event will catch the world completely by surprise, and has the potential to throw it into great turmoil with so many people disappearing at once with no rational explanation.
When one country declares war on another, one of the first things that happens is that the ambassadors to these nations are recalled. When the rapture occurs, the tribulation is set to begin. The rapture is in essence God recalling His ambassadors and declaring war on earth against the unbelief of man. The tribulation is a time of the wrath of God manifesting towards unbelief, against the unbelief of the nations that reject God’s plan for Israel, and against the unbelief of individuals that have sneered at God and His wisdom.
The Church Removed Before Tribulation
There are several reasons that I believe the church will not be here during the tribulation. First of all, notice the Wuest translation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Do not begin to allow anyone to lead you astray in any way, because that day shall not come except the aforementioned departure of the Church to heaven comes first and the man of the lawlessness is disclosed in his true identity.34 This passage in Thessalonians reveals the timing of the disclosure of the anti-Christ and shows this occurring just after the rapture of the church. Once the anti-Christ signs a peace treaty with Israel and her neighbors, the tribulation begins. And we won’t be here! Read the whole chapter of 2 Thessalonians 2.
Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, the tribulation is all about God’s judgment against unbelief. Jesus has taken God’s wrath on our behalf. He has delivered us from the wrath to come.35 We are those who have received God’s mercy in the place of His wrath!
The third reason I believe that the church will be removed from the earth at the start of the tribulation is because of the sequence in the book of Revelation. Notice that Jesus addresses the seven churches in Revelation 1-3. Then Revelation chapter 4 begins with the words, Come up here.36 Revelation chapters 4 and 5 show scenes of the church in heaven, and I believe it’s after the rapture of the church. The church is not mentioned again in Revelation after this until chapter 19, when we are shown coming from heaven with Jesus at His second coming!37
Revelation chapters 6-19 are a depiction of what will occur during the tribulation. This section has to do with God’s wrath and judgment and does not affect the church. The church is not mentioned in these chapters!
All Believers Will Go in the Rapture
Some people believe and teach that some believers will not go when the rapture occurs. They say that only those who are filled with the Spirit and are looking for His coming will go, and that those who are carnal will be left behind. The text used to support this belief is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins found in Matthew 25.
But Matthew 25 is not written to the church about the rapture. In context, it is written to the Jews and relates to the Jews being ready and prepared for the Second Coming of Christ.38
I believe clearly that all Christians, carnal and spiritual, will go in the rapture of the church. If not, where do you draw the line between who is spiritual and who is carnal? All of us at times have to repent when we miss the mark and sin. All sin is disobedience to the known will of God. How do you determine which sins keep a Christian from the rapture?
When the rapture occurs, I believe all Christians will go, the spiritual and the carnal. There will be the bold and the ashamed that will appear in heaven at the time of the rapture. 1 John 2:28 reads: And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
Those who are ashamed at His coming will be those Christians who are not giving God their best and are catering to their flesh. They are saved, although so as by fire.39 Those who are bold are those who are fully seeking the purpose and plan of God for their lives.
The rapture is imminent; it could occur at any moment. There are no prophecies to be fulfilled for it to occur. We are encouraged to live as if each day were our last day on earth! I’ll leave you with the Apostle Paul’s admonishments to be ready for Jesus to appear to take us home to heaven. Make the adjustments you need to make today!
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.40
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.41
Resources & Endnotes
Post a Comment: