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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Rapture of the Church
The rapture of the church is also called “the coming of the Lord” but not ever the second coming of Christ. At this coming He does not appear visibly to the earth but in the air to catch up, or rapture the dead and living saints who rise together to meet the Lord in the air. There are many ideas about these two events, which have made it difficult to distinguish one from the other that it is no wonder that many have found themselves involved in a labyrinth difficulty, from which they are unable to extricate themselves. This event is purely a new Testament doctrine and was first revealed to Paul as a special revelation [1Cor. 15:51-58), while the second coming of Christ is not only a New Testament doctrine, but one of the chief themes of the Old Testament. The Old Testament, prophets never saw the New Testament Church, much less the rapture of the Church.

These two events cannot be mixed and still be clear. The Scriptures that apply to one do not apply to the other. Not one of the passages under the Second Advent refers to the rapture of the Church, and not one of those below refers to the second coming, as can be seen upon examination of them. There is not one passage in the Bible that refers to both events as if they were one. They are two distinct events separated by several years and not two phases or stage of one coming. The rapture takes place several years before the literal advent of Christ to the earth. When Christ meets the saints in the air He takes them back to heaven with Him and presents them to the Father where they remain while the tribulation is running its course on earth. The saints are in heaven before God, and not in the air, from the time of the rapture to their coming again with Christ to reign as kings and priests [Ref. Luke 22:30]. This seems clear from the fact that the saints are judged, and are given their rewards and partake of the marriage supper in heaven and not in the air. Christ departs from heaven at His coming to earth and not from the air, [Rev.19:22:11-21; 2 Thess. 1:7-10. The rapture must first take place before Christ can come back to earth with His saints. At the rapture the Lord is coming from heaven, as far as the air or earthly heavens, and the saints are to be “caught up to meet Him in the air.” At this event the Lord is not to be raptured, but the saints. At the Second Coming the saints are not to be raptured, neither is Christ, but both will come back to the earth together. The rapture takes place before the tribulation, while the Second Advent take place after the tribulation is in place. The rapture may occur any moment. The Second Advent cannot occur until all the signs come to pass and certain prophecies are fulfilled.
We have separated these two events, as they should be separated, for the sake of clearness and because they are always distinct in Scripture. This subject has no part in the chief theme of Revelation, but it forms an integral part of the book. The following points will help the reader to distinguish the rapture from the second coming and give a scriptural understanding of this New Testament revelation.

1. The fact and manner of the Rapture
We need not be ignorant concerning this subject when it is fully and clearly revealed in many passages of the New Testament. The fact and manner of the rapture are clearly revealed in the following Scripture: Lk. 21:34-36; Jn. 14:1-3; 1Cor. 15:23, 51-58; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Eph. 5:27; Phil. 3:11, 20-21; 1Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:9, 23; 2Thes. 2:1, 7-8; Col. 3:4; Jas. 5:7-8; 1 Jn. 2:28; 3:2; 1Pet. 5:4. Not one of these passages refers to the Second Advent. We shall not use any verse in Mt. 24 and 25 in this connection, for there is not one in those chapters which refers to the rapture, as will be seen. We shall deal only with those passages which refer to the rapture as follows;

A .Parousia means “personal coming or appearance” and is used of both the rapture and the revelation of Christ. At the rapture, Christ appears personally in the air to meet the saints while at the Second Advent He appears personally to mankind on earth with His saints. This word is generally translated “coming,” hence the rapture and the revelation are both called “the coming of the Lord” but they are two different comings, and for two different purposes. The word is used in this connection in 1Cor. 15:20-23; 1Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1; Jas.5:7-8; 1 Jn. 2:28. All these passages are clear as referring to the rapture [1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23] refer to the time when the Father pronounces the saints “blameless” before His throne in heaven after Christ has first met the saints in the air and has taken them to heaven and presented them “before God.”

“The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” in these passages refers then to the time of His coming back to heaven with the saints to be presented to the Father at the time of the rapture, and not to the time when He comes to the earth with the saints at the Second Advent. We are made “blameless” to be preserved forever in that state at the time of the rapture, and not at the time of the revelation, 1 Jn. 3:1-3; Phil. 3:21; 1Thess. 3:13; 5:23; Col. 3:4. The last reference (2 Thess. 2:1) refers to the rapture also, as is proven from the Greek esposunagoge, which means a complete collection or gathering of all the dead in Christ and all the living in Christ, from all parts of the earth, and out of all denomination and ages to meet Christ in the air. We are gathered “unto Him” at the rapture and not at the revelation Heb. 21:34-36; Jn.14:1-5; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 2:6-8.

This event is called in Phil. 3:11 “the resurrection of the dead,” or literally, “the out-resurrection,” that is, the resurrection from out among the dead” is frequently used in the New Testament and includes the resurrection for the just and unjust, Jn.5:29; Acts 24:15. The “out-resurrection” is used only in the above passage and implies the resurrection of some, the former of these two classes the others being left behind, Rev. 20:1-7. These dead “rise first,” then the living who are saved will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” 1Thess. 4:13-18. All the above passages, as well as those below on the rapture, can be easily harmonized by the reader with these few thoughts on the subject.

B. Phaneros, which means “to shine, be apparent, manifest, or be seen,” is used in 1Jn. 2:28; 3:2; 1Pet. 5:4; Col. 3:4. The English translation is “appear” and means that Christ is to appear to the saints in the air at the rapture and will not appear to the world until His second coming. The rapture will include Old Testament saints and the Church saints who are saved in the scope of redemption from Adam until the rapture, 1Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 2:1, as explained above. We do not mean to say that the scope of redemption ends with the rapture, for it is eternal as we shall see.

The “trump of God” (1Thess. 4:16) is not the same as the seventh trumpet of Rev. 11:15; 13:18. One is at the rapture of the Church and the Old Testament saints, while the other is at the rapture of the man-child; one is the trumpet of God, the other is the trumpet of the seventh trumpet angel; one is to call about one single event which takes place “in the twinkling of an eye” [1Cor. 15:51-58], the other is to call about many events which are days in duration [Rev. 10:7]; one is a trumpet of blessing, the other is a trumpet of “woe” [Rev. 8:13; 12:12]; one is at or before the beginning of the Seventieth Week, the other is in the middle of the Week; one is before the saints (represented by the twenty-four elders) are caught up, the other is after the elders are already in heaven; one is before the seven seals and first six trumpets (Rev. 6:1-9:21), the other is after them. Thus, we do not need to confuse this trumpet and rapture of the Church with the seventh trumpet and rapture of the man-child.

II. The Purpose of the Rapture

The purpose of the rapture is to take all the saints out of the world before the tribulation comes and to resurrect the just who are dead, in order that they may have fulfilled in them, the purpose for which God has saved them. Jesus told the disciples that some would escape the terrible things that were to transpire on the earth in the last days. He said, “pray that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things [of Mt. 24-25; Luke. 21:1-19, 25-28] that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man,” [Luke. 21:34-36]. This passage is practically the same in essence as Jn. 14:1-3.
These two passages are the only ones in the gospels that are clear concerning the rapture. Jesus did not reveal this mystery. It was revealed by Paul many years later by revelation of our Lord to Paul, [1Cor. 15:51. The disciples did not have the slightest idea as to how they were to escape (therefore they were told to pray concerning escape), unless the thought that Christ would deliver them from these things through His power. The “how” was not revealed or even mentioned before Paul explained how they were to escape. Now in the light of the mystery revealed we can see that the rapture is what Christ had in mind when He spoke of some being worthy to escape these things. The Thessalonians were taught that they could expect the living to be taken out of the world, but some were confused as to whether the dead believers would have a part in the rapture, so Paul explained in his first epistle that both the living and the dead would be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air, [1Thess.4; 13-18]. In this passage we have the purpose of the rapture expressed “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” It is to enable the saints to escape the tribulation days and serve God in all eternity in whatsoever capacity He chooses.

This rapture is the first of a series of raptures that will take place during the first resurrection. Beside this rapture there will be the rapture of the man-child [(Rev. 7:1-3; 12:5; 14:1-5], the rapture of the great multitude of tribulation saints [Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 15:2-4; 20:4], and the rapture of the two witnesses [Rev.11: 3-13]. The teaching of more than one rapture is not only required and stated in the above passages, but necessary to make clear what Paul meant when he said, “every man in his own order,” [1Cor. 15:20-23]. The Greek word for “order” tagma and occurs only here. It is used in the Septuagint of a body of soldiers and an army, [Num.2: 2; 2Sam. 23:13]. It means a company of or body of individuals. In order for every man to be raptured “in his own order” or company there must be different companies of redeemed people saved and raptured at different periods. There are four different redeemed companies for which we will see.

Summarization of the purpose of the rapture:
A. To receive the saints to Himself, [Jn. 14:1-3; Eph. 5:27; 2 Thess. 2:1].
B. To resurrect the dead “in Christ” from among the wicked dead, [1Cor. 15:21-23; 51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; Phil. 3:11; 20-21: Rev.20: 4-6].
C. To take the saints to heaven where they will receive judgment for works done in the body; receive their rewards; and partake of the marriage supper, [Jn. 14: 1-3; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 19:1-11.
D. To change the bodies of saints to immortality, [1 Cor.15: 21-23, 51-58; Phil.3: 20-21].
E. To present the saints before God the Father, to be forever with Him, 1 Thess.3: 13; 4: 13-17.
F. To make the saints “whole” in body, soul, and spirit, [1 Thess. 3: 13; 5:23. The Greek word translated “unto” in 1 Thes. 5:23 would better be translated “at” to make the passage clear, as it is translated in [1 Thes. 2: 19; 3: 13.
G. To receive the fruit of the early and latter rain. [Jas. 5:7].
H. To cause the saints to escape the tribulation and “all these things,” and stand before the Son of Man, [Lk.21: 34-36; 2 Thess. 2: 7-8; Rev. 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:9.
I. To remove the hinderer of lawlessness, [2 Thess. 2:1-8].
J. To permit the revelation of the Antichrist, [2 Thess. 2:1-8].

III Qualifications for Partakers in the Rapture
The qualifications for partakers in the rapture are also revealed in the Scripture listed above. The one and only necessary requirement, whether dead or alive, is to be “in Christ,” [1 Thess. 4:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 15:23].
This qualification is expressed in a nine-fold way in Scriptures; one must

A. Be “Christ’s,” [1 Cor. 15:23; Gal. 5:24]
B. Be “in Christ,” [1Thess. 4:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:17].
C. Be “blessed and holy,” [Rev. 20:4-6].
D. “Have done well,” [Jn. 5:28-29].
E. Be in “the way, the truth, and the life,” [Jn. 14:1-6].
F. Be “worthy,” Luke. 21:34-36].
G. Be in “the Church” or “the body of Christ,” [Eph. 5:27; 1 Cor. 12:13. The body of Christ and the Church are the same, [Eph.1: 22-23; Col. 1:18, 24].
H. Purify “himself, even as He is pure,” [1 Jn. 3:2-3; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:16-24; Heb. 12:14].
I. Be without “spot or wrinkle… and without blemish,” [Eph. 5:27]

If one has met these scriptural qualifications, what more could he do? This implies that a person going up in the rapture is walking “in the light as He is in the light,” [1 Jn. 1:7; 2:6; 9-11; 3:8-10; 5:5, 18]. Being “in Christ” means that one is a “new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ,” [2 Cor. 5:17-18]. Again, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh (of Gal. 5:19-21) with the affections and lusts,” [Gal. 5:24]. What more qualifications could God require? It will be noticed that these nine points on qualifications are quoted from Scriptures definitely dealing with the rapture of the Church. It is the maintenance of the holy walk “in Christ” at the time of the rapture or at the time of death as the case may be.

Why should some be protected and others have to go through the tribulation and be martyred? This is easily answered when we consider that at the rapture everyone "in Christ" is taken up and there are no real Christians left. Those who are martyred in the tribulation are those who have refused to walk in the light and live “in Christ” and are not ready to go at the time of the rapture; else they would go as well as all others in Christ. They are saved after the rapture, having realized by then their mistake of not heeding the many warnings to be ready at any time. They will become determined to be faithful even unto death, which will be their only prospect of having a part in the first resurrection. Those who are not martyred but are taken through the tribulation and are on earth at the second coming of Christ will be permitted to enter the Millennium as an earthly people, who will make a part of the subjects of Christ’s Kingdom over whom the raptured saints will reign forever.

IV. The Time of the Rapture
The time of the rapture, like the Second Advent, is not definitely stated as to the day or hour but we do know that it will take place before the tribulation and the revelation of the Antichrist, as will be proven.

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