Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Rapture Of The Church (Part 1)

I was looking around You Tube the other day and I came across this video depiction of the Rapture and the Tribulation period, and while I don't necessarily agree with everything in the video it does give me an opportunity to write a little bit about the Rapture of the Church.

Let's look at a few Bible verses that talk about this event that we refer to as the Rapture:
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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
In these verses we learn that this is a mystery. Whenever Paul uses the word mystery in his writing he is about to communicate something that up to that point had been unknown; in other words, he was revealing new information from God. What Paul reveals in this passage is that not everyone will die; there will be some who are alive when the last trumpet sounds, and they will be changed from a mortal, perishable body to an immortal, imperishable body in the twinkling of an eye - they will be changed from living in a physical body to living in a spiritual body - without experiencing death. This event is what we know as the Rapture.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
In this passage we are given some more information; here we learn that when the Rapture occurs those who have already died, and are in Christ will rise first, and then those who are still alive (and in Christ) will be caught up with them to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. And from this point on we will always be with the Lord, which is to encourage us.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
This passage teaches us two important facts about the timing of the Rapture that are overlooked by many today when they teach on the Rapture of the Church. Notice that in this passage Paul says he is talking about our being gathered together to the Lord and he tells his readers that they are not to be alarmed by thinking that this had already happened and they that they had missed it. Paul tells them (and us) that two things must happen first before the Rapture occurs:
  1. The rebellion (the falling away or apostasy in some translations) must occur
  2. The man of sin (the Antichrist) must be revealed
We are instructed to not let anyone deceive us in this regard - this day will not happen until these two things happen. The fact that these two events are listed as happening before the coming of the Lord indicates that we Christians will not escape the the tribulation of Antichrist that is revealed in the first six seals of Revelation chapter 6 (and depicted in the video above).
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
And finally, we are told that the coming of the Lord will be like a thief in the night - but NOT for Christians. Notice what this passage teaches: while people are saying peace and security sudden destruction will come on them and they will not escape, BUT you (Christian) are not in darkness for that day to surprise you like a thief.

These are the most popular (but not the only) passages in the New Testament that teach us about the Rapture of the Church, and a careful examination of these verses, along with Jesus' Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) will reveal to us that the Rapture will not happen until after the Antichrist is revealed and has taken his place in the temple, until after there has been a great falling away from the faith by professing Christians, and that the true believers will not be taken by surprise - they will be watching for, and expecting the return of their Lord.

This is not the most popular position on this event and I expect many who read this to disagree with my position on this issue. So why do I bring it up? Because there are two more things that the Bible teaches about the coming of Jesus:
  1. That we need to be ready and watching for Jesus to come
  2. That no chance of salvation remains for those left behind after Jesus comes (more on this in my next post)
I know that not everyone who reads this is going to agree with me, but if this is true, and I believe that it is, it is more important than ever that we are sharing our faith with those we know and love so they are not left behind. As bad as things are going to be during the first six seals it is nothing compared to what will follow, and after that there is only Hell.

So go share your faith!
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