THE RAPTURE

 

††††††††† "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.Amen.Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).

 

††††††††† Our text contains the last recorded words of our Lord Jesus Christ.He ends the Book of Revelation, a book primarily devoted to eschatology, with a promise of His soon return for believers.The promise of the imminent return of Christ for believers should inspire anxious expectation in the heart of every blood-washed saint of God.We are not told to be looking for the revealing of Antichrist, or the horrendous judgments of the Tribulation, rather we are exhorted to be looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.The next great prophetic event for believers in this present age is the coming of Christ in the Rapture.Like John, our eager reply to the Lord's promise should be "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."As we shall see later, many of the writers of the New Testament believed in and looked forward to the imminent return of Jesus Christ for the saints.

 

THE RAPTURE DEFINED

 

††††††††† The word "rapture" never occurs in the New Testament.The word is derived from the Latin word raptura, which means to catch away or to be caught up.Therefore the rapture of the saints has to do with their catching away or being caught up by the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes in the air.This idea is clearly expressed in I Thessalonians 4:16-17 which states: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

††††††††† From the verse just quoted it is obvious that the Rapture will be a personal coming of Christ from Heaven to resurrect the bodies of the dead in Christ and to translate all the living saints from earth to Heaven without experiencing death.The dead in Christ will be raised first,immediately followed by the translation of the living saints into the physical presence of Christ in the air.Both groups will be clothed with immortal, incorruptible, glorified bodies which will be entirely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.This great change will take place in a fraction of a second according to I Corinthians 15:51-52 which states: "Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

††††††††† The great change will be brought about by the powerful and irresistible voice of Christ, the voice ofMichael the archangel, and the trump of God.These sounds shall signal the coming of the Lord for His saints and will mark the beginning of their eternal enjoyment of the glorified state.The Rapture also marks the saint's deliverance from the seven-year Tribulation period in which the wrath of God will be poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth.†† I Thessalonians 1:10 declares: "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."††

††††††††† From all the above data we may come to the decided conclusion that the Rapture is defined as the personal coming of Jesus Christ in the air to resurrect the bodies of saints who had previously died in the Lord and to translate the saints who are alive at the coming of Christ.This feat will be accomplished in an instant through the means of the shout of Christ, the voice of Michael the archangel, and the trump of God.It will be an imminent return prior to the seven-year Tribulation period which is why saints are exhorted: "Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (I Thess. 4:18).The Rapture will also signal the great change of glorification for the saints of God.Since we have briefly defined the Rapture, we will now look at the details concerning this grand event.

 

DID JESUS BELIEVE IN THE RAPTURE?

 

††††††††† The answer to the above question is central to our present study.Did the Son of God, the Truth, the One in whose mouth was no guile believe in the Rapture of the saints?Absolutely, without a doubt!When Paul gave the most comprehensive explanation of the Rapture in all of Scripture, he prefaced his inspired teaching by saying: "For this we say unto you by the WORD OF THE LORD..." (I Thess. 4:15).Thus, Paul believed that Jesus Christ Himself spoke upon the subject of the Rapture during His earthly ministry.Jesus plainly declared to Martha that there would be believers who would never experience death in John 11:25-26 which states: "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die..."This statement can only be literally fulfilled when those believers who are alive at the coming of Christ are translated to Heaven without ever tasting or experiencing physical death.

††††††††† The promise of the Rapture was plainly stated by Jesus in John 14:1-3: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, AND RECEIVE YOU UNTO MYSELF; THAT WHERE I AM, THERE YE MAY BE ALSO."Though the details of the Rapture are not set forth by Jesus, He clearly states that there would be a time when he would personally come again to receive His people unto Himself and take them to His Father's house.The Father's house is in Heaven, not on the earth which is where the saints shall later reign with Christ (Rev. 5:9).The reason why the saints will be taken to the Father's house is to participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb when the Lord's bride ( His New Testament Church) is unveiled for all the hosts of Heaven to see.In order for Christ to come back to the earth with His saints in the Second Advent, He must of necessity come back for them first in the Rapture.

†† ††††††† Jesus also taught on the Rapture by way of typology.Matthew 24:37-39 declares: "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."Before the flood of God's wrath was poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth during the times of Noah, Enoch, the seventh from Adam, was suddenly translated to Heaven without dying (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5).In like manner, Jesus will translate His people to Heaven prior to the time of His pouring out His wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth during the Tribulation period.Also Noah and his family were the only believers on earth just prior to the flood.God had prepared a place of safety for them by way of the ark so that they would not experience the wrath of the flood.There is no mention of Noah's family being harmed in any waywhile in the ark.In like manner Jesus is coming to take His saints to a place of safety prepared for them so that they will not experience the terrors and judgments of the Tribulation period.

In like manner, Lot was delivered from Sodom before God rained down fire and brimstone upon it in judgment.The saints will be removed by Christ before the judgments of the Tribulation are poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth.

††††††††† Jesus clearly alluded to the Rapture of the saints on more than one occasion.If the Lord of glory, the Head and Lawgiver of His church believed in and taught on the Rapture, should we not likewise follow His holy example?

 

A SHOUT; A VOICE; AND A TRUMPET

 

††††††††† The means used to effect the great change that will occur to believers in the Rapture is recorded in I Thessalonians 4:16 which states: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."The Rapture will be a personal coming of Jesus Christ to gather all His saints.He will not send angels as His representatives, but rather He will resurrect the dead bodies of the saints and translate the living saints with a great shout.Perhaps He will say "Come up hither" (Rev. 4:1), or "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Song of Sol. 2:10).Though we don't know precisely what the contents of the shout will be, we do know the miraculous effects it will produce.Jesus will use His powerful and irresistible voice to summon the dead bodies of the saints from their graves and clothe them with their incorruptible bodies from Heaven.His voice will also instantaneously conform the living saints into His own glorious image.One shout from the lips of the Captain of our salvation will summon all His troops home to glory in a most glorious fashion.Just as the Word is employed by God in the miraculous work of salvation and sanctification, the voice of Christ, God's Living Word, will be employed when the bodies of the saints shall be converted from corruptible to incorruptible in glorification.It should amaze us what the voice of Christ can accomplish.When we shout we are heard by relatively few people.When Jesus shouts in the Rapture all the dead bodies of the saints shall be resurrected from their graves.All of the living saints shall hear the shout that signals their great transformation.What power there must be in the Lord's voice to effect such mighty changes!Job 37:5 declares: "God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend."The Psalmist likewise declared: "The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty" (Psa. 29:3-4).

††††††††† It is also interesting to note that the victory shout of Christ will be accompanied by the voice ofMichael the archangel.Michael the archangel has been appointed by God as the guardian of the bodies of believers.He bears some responsibility for the bodies of departed saints as evidenced by Jude 9 which states: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee."It is only fitting that the archangel who bears responsibility for the guardianship of the bodies of the saints would accompany Christ in the Rapture to witness their translation and glorification.

††††††††† The shout of Christ and the voice of the archangel is also associated with the trump of God.This trump of God signals the great change that the believer's body will undergo according to I Corinthians 15:51-52 which states: "Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed."This trump is a trump of deliverance and victory.It signals the end of the believer's struggle with sin, Satan, and the world.It is a trumpet that marks the glorification of the believer's body.This trump of God will be used to assemble all the saints of God into the presence of Christ in their glorified bodies for the first time.While this trump speaks deliverance and victory for the believer, it signals the beginning of the Tribulation period for the inhabitants of the earth.

††††††††† The trump of reveille employed in the Rapture to call believer's to their heavenly home should not be confused with the last trumpet in a series of seven recorded in the Book of Revelation.The trumpets in Revelation are used to signal the judgments and wrath of God that are to take place on the earth during the Tribulation.Contained within the seven trumpets are the seven seals and vials of God's wrath which will be outpoured upon the inhabitants of thee earth.Therefore, the trump of First Thessalonians and First Corinthians is very different, and distinguished from, the last trump in Revelation.One is a trump signaling deliverance in the Rapture for only the saved.The other is the last in a series of seven trumpets of judgment for the lost.

††††††††† Every blood-washed saint should be longing to hear the shout of Christ, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God.What music these sounds will be to the ear of the sanctified pilgrim who longs to be delivered from a world marred by sin.When we hear these sounds we will be translated from a world of wickedness into the wonders of the glory land.Each passing day draws us nearer to the time when the powerful voice of Christ shall signal our homegoing and glorification.

 

THE IMMINENCE OF THE RAPTURE

 

††††††††† When is the Lord Jesus going to come back for His saints in the Rapture?Men have tried to answer this question since the days that Jesus walked upon the shores of Galilee.There has always been a keen interest among the saints of God to know the time of their homegoing.Many have foolishly set dates in an attempt to determine when the Lord would come.All such attempts at predicting the precise time of the Lord's coming have been in vain.The truth of the matter is that none of us know precisely when Jesus will come for His people.We are forbidden to set dates for the Lord's return, but rather we are exhorted to watch and pray in anxious expectation for His any moment coming.†† "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only...Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come...Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 24:36; 42; 44).

††††††††† Though we do not know the day or the hour of the coming of the Lord we do know that it is imminent, meaning that it could occur at any time.There are no prophetic events that need to be fulfilled for the Lord to catch away His people in the Rapture.The writers of Scripture looked for the coming of the Lord in their day.They awaited His return with anxious expectation.Though we may see signs of the last days upon the horizon, we are to have our eyes of faith focused upon the coming of Jesus Christ.We are not to be looking for the coming of Antichrist, but rather for the coming of Jesus Christ.We are to be looking for deliverance from sin, not for the unveiling of the Man of Sin.Titus 2:13 declares: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."

††††††††† Paul the apostle believed that the redemption of the believer's body was nigh at hand.Romans 13:11-12 declares: "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."The salvation Paul refers too in these verses is the final deliverance from the presence of sin that will happen in the Rapture when the saints enter into the glorified state.

††††††††† James also believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ when he wrote: "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:8).If he was telling believers that the coming of the Lord was near in the first century, then how much more imminent can it be in our day?

††††††††† Peter exhorted saints to watch for the imminent return of Jesus Christ in I Peter 4:7: "But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer."

††††††††† John the beloved also warned of the imminent return of Christ in I John 2:28: "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."

††††††††† How we need to hearken to the testimony of our Lord and the writers of Scripture!When Jesus said "Behold, I come quickly..." He meant exactly what He said.We must be in a spirit and attitude of constant watching and anticipation for the any moment return of the Lord in the Rapture.He is coming like a thief in the night to steal away His precious jewels.Just as a thief comes suddenly, secretly, and unexpectantly, the Lord Jesus is coming for His saints in the Rapture.Just as a thief leaves more than He takes, so the Lord is going to take His elect, and leave multitudes behind to suffer through the judgments of the Tribulation.Let us then be sober while it is yet day.Let us watch and pray for the Blessed Hope.Let us stablish our hearts since we know that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

††††††††† If Jesus were to come today what condition would He find you in?Are you watching and praying or are you sleeping and playing at religion?Are you faithfully witnessing and laboring in the Lord's vineyard or are you careless about your testimony before the lost world.Are you growing in grace, or are you backslidden because you are allowing sin to stifle and choke your growth?Would He find you actively engaged in the study of His Holy Book and private prayer, or would He find you watching some ungodly show on the television?If we really believed in the imminent, any moment return of our Lord, our lives would be transformed.We would be striving for holiness, zealous of good works, fervent in prayer, burdened over the lost, more faithful in church attendance, and less worldly in our thoughts and actions.If the glorious truth that our Lord might return today would take firm hold on our hearts, it would revolutionize our lives and grant us a spiritual renewal that would be incomparable in its value.Since Jesus could come today, we need to start living like it could very well be our last day on earth before we face our Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

 

It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,

When sunlight thro' darkness and shadow is breaking,

That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory,

To receive from the world "His own."

 

It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,

It may be perchance, that the blackness of midnight,

Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,

When Jesus receives "His own."

 

Oh, joy!Oh, delight! should we go without dying;

No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying;

Caught up thro' the clouds with our Lord, into glory,

When Jesus receives "His own."

†††

THE CHANGE EXPERIENCED IN THE RAPTURE

 

††††††††† Perhaps one of the brightest hopes of the believer is the prospective change that will occur in the Rapture.When our Lord comes back for us He will usher us into a state of glorification.Those who undergo the great change produced in the Rapture will be completely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and enabled to worship the Lord of glory in the beauty of holiness.

††††††††† I Corinthians 15:51-53 alludes to this remarkable change by stating: "Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."The change that our bodies will undergo in the Rapture is instantaneous, it will happen in the twinkling of an eye.From the time of our new birth we have been progressively changed by the power of the Spirit in the process known as sanctification.In this process we are weaned from the world and its influence, to fellowship with the Lord.During our lives we never cease to struggle against sin, we never are completely conformed to the image of Jesus, our flesh is still present to hinder us.However, when Jesus comes in the Rapture we will be translated from a state of corruption to one of incorruption in a fraction of a second.We will be completely and foreverbe conformed to the glorious image of Jesus Christ.

††††††††† I find it interesting that in the resurrection chapter of First Corinthians fifteen Paul makes an attempt to describe the glorified body of the saint by using five different adjectives.Our glorified body will be incorruptible (v. 42), glorious and powerful (v. 43), spiritual (v. 44), and immortal (v. 53).The body which we shall receive in glorification is far different from the body which we now have.Romans 7:24 declares: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."How wonderful it will be when we are forever done with our present body of death and clothed upon with our house from Heaven which will be all glorious and without sin!No wonder Paul longed to be delivered from the flesh to enter into the glorified state of perpetual and everlasting victory over sin.

††††††††† The change brought about in the Rapture can be attributed to the believer's union with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.Because we are sons of God by the eternal decree of adoption, God sent the Spirit of adoption into our hearts in time, according to Galatians 4:6 which states: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."This same Spirit seals the believer until the day of the body's redemption when our complete and full deliverance from sin will occur.Ephesians 1:13-14 describes the Spirit's work thusly: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."The indwelling Spirit of promise thus acts as an earnest to insure that all the purchased possessions of Christ will enjoy the eternal inheritance that has been willed to them in the covenant of grace and that was purchased for them by the finished work of Christ on the cross.This inheritance is far greater than the most elaborate and expensive earthly inheritance, for it contains the promise of eternal glorification and complete conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.Romans 8:17-23 describes our blessed position and prospective glory: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, THAT WE MAY BE ALSO GLORIFIED TOGETHER.For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."There is coming a grand and glorious day when all the heirs of God shall be completely conformed to the blessed image of the Lord Jesus Christ.The fullness of our inheritance will be finally realized when we are changed by the power of God.Oh, how I long for this day of the manifestation of the sons of God when we will be arrayed in Christ's glory and be delivered from the shackles of corruption to be set free in glorious liberty.The whole creation groans for this great day of change and so also should we as we anticipate the coming of our gracious Lord.

††††††††† In the Rapture our bodies will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.Philippians 3:20-21 states: "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."First John 3:2 describes the same change that will occur when we get our first glimpse of the glorified Christ: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."In our present state we cannot behold the glory and majesty of Christ with our eyes.When Jesus revealed Himself to John the beloved on the Isle of Patmos in Revelation chapter one, the disciple who had walked and communed with Christ on earth, fell as one dead at His feet.He could not bear the glory and majesty of Christ while in the flesh.However, when Jesus comes again for His own we will be conformed to His image, we shall see Him as He is and the radiance of His glory will shine on us throughout eternity as we worship our great King.While in our glorified bodies we will be capable of worshipping our Lord for the first time without any hindrances or distractions.We will enjoy and worship Him in the fullest possible way.In that day we will be completely satisfied as David stated in Psalm 17:15: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."

††††††††† Not only will our bodies undergo a miraculous change, all of our moral faculties will change, as well as our surroundings and companions.Our minds will never again be distracted by temptation, we will think upon the glory of our Lord.Our wills shall never again choose to disobey our Lord for we shall be completely subdued by the power of Christ's love.Our hearts will never again be divided for they shall be fixed entirely upon the worship of our glorious Lord.No longer will our ears have to listen to the blasphemies and wickedness spewed out of the mouth of worldlings.Rather we shall hear the multitude of glorified voices saying: "...Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).Never again will our eyes be subject to the injustice, immodesty, and atrocities of this sinful world.Rather we shall behold our Redeemer arrayed in all His majestic glory.Isaiah 33:17 declares: "Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off."Our bodies will never again be racked with pain, nor will we ever again experience fatigue or weakness.Rather we are going to be translated into the realm of glory where "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4).We will never again experience shame because of sin, embarrassment, discouragement, disappointment or heartache.We will no longer be the objects of derision and persecution from the world.For the first time in our lives we will experience the joy of full acceptance and compatibility with those around us, for we will take our place alongside the glorified throng of blood-washed saints who are worshipping around the throne.No doctrinal divisions will exist in the celestial world of glory.The joy of worshipping and exalting our Lord will be ours throughout eternity.Oh, blessed day when our bodies, moral faculties, surroundings, and companions will change as we enter into our glorified state!

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RAPTURE OF BELIEVERS AND THE REVELATION OF CHRIST

 

††††††††† Many people have a tendency to lump the Rapture of the saints and the Revelation of Christ into the same time and event.However, the Rapture is the first phase of the Lord's coming and the Revelation of Christ is the second phase of His coming.The words are not to be construed as being synonomous in meaning.They are two distinct events separated by the seven-year Tribulation period, the Rapture occurring just prior to the Tribulation, and the Revelation at the end of it.There are several differences between the Rapture and the Revelation that should be noted if we are to rightly divide the Word of truth.

††††††††† In the Rapture Christ comes for His saints in the air (I Thess. 4:17).In the Revelation He comes back to the earth with the saints that He had previously raptured.Several verses describe His coming back with the saints."...And the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee" (Zech. 14:5).Jude 14-15a declares: "...Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all..." Revelation 19:14 states: "And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine line, white and clean."

††††††††† In the Rapture the saints are taken to Heaven just as Jesus promised in John 14:3 which declares: "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."At the Revelation the saints accompany Christ to earth to reign with Him for a thousand years as several Scriptures plainly testify."But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever...Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High (cf. I Cor. 6:2); and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom...And the kingdom and dominions, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Dan. 7:18; 22; 27).The sphere of this reign is revealed by the Raptured saints in Heaven who are found anticipating the Revelation of Jesus in Revelation 5:10: "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: AND WE SHALL REIGN ON THE EARTH."Revelation 20:6 states: "...but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, AND SHALL REIGN WITH HIM A THOUSAND YEARS."

††††††††† The Rapture marks a deliverance for the saints of God prior to the Tribulation periodwhich signals the beginning of the great day of God's wrath.Revelation 3:10 describes the deliverance of the Rapture thusly: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."In stark contrast the Revelation of Christ takes place at the end of the Tribulation period and is marked by judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth as Revelation 19:15 declares: "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."Thus, in the Rapture saints are delivered from wrath, whereas in the Revelation of Christ, seven years later, the inhabitants of the earth have His wrath outpoured upon them.

††††††††† The Rapture marks the revealing of Antichrist and the beginning of the increased and unrestrained activity of Satan and the False Prophet (II Thess. 2:1-12).However, the Revelation of Christ marks the end of the ministries of the Antichrist and the false prophet as Revelation 19:20 declares: "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image.These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."Also in contrast to the increased activity of Satan after the Rapture, at the Revelation of Christ Satan will be bound for one thousand years in the bottomless pit as Revelation 20:2-3 declares: "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit..."

††††††††† In the Rapture Christ is accompanied only by Michael the archangel (I Thess. 4:17).In stark contrast, at the Revelation of Christ He is accompanied by the blood-washed armies of Heaven (Rev. 19:14), as well as a multitude of mighty angels coming for vengeance as II Thessalonians 1:7-8 declares: "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

††††††††† In the Rapture there are no geographical changes that take place upon the earth.Christ appears in the air to take His saints back to the Father's house.However, when Christ comes back with the saints He will plant His feet upon the Mount of Olives which will cause it to split in two causing the creation of a great valley according to Zechariah 14:4 which states: "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."

††††††††† When the distinctions drawn from Scripture between the Rapture and the Revelation of Christ are seen, the theories of amillenialists and post tribulation rapturists vanish away.We must never confuse the two events as being one and the same because the Lord of the Scripture draws a clear line of distinction.

 

WHY THE RAPTURE MUST TAKE PLACE BEFORE THE TRIBULATION PERIOD

 

††††††††† There are some premillenialists who adhere to a Middle or Post Tribulational Rapture.The Mid-Trib rapturists contend that the Rapture occurs at the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week.The Post-Trib rapturists believe that the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation period.I believe that both of these systems are faulty and that the Rapture occurs just prior to the Tribulation period.Many extensive books have been written to show the differences of all three systems.Time and space prevent me from going into a detailed discussion to refute the Mid and Post Tribulation theories.My aim is to simply state why the Rapture must occur prior to the Tribulation.

††††††††† After Paul had described the details of the Rapture to the saints at Thessalonica he exhorted them in the following way: "Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (I Thess. 4:18).If the saints had to go through the Tribulation period, experience the wrath of God,and endure the dominion of the Antichrist (all of which are characteristics of the Tribulation period) there would be little comfort to be gained from the prospect of the Rapture.If however, the saints were to be translated before the Tribulation, such a prospect would inspire comfort and hope within their hearts.

††††††††† A casual reading of Revelation chapters six through nineteen reveals that the time period known as the Tribulation period is going to be characterized by the wrath of God being outpoured from Heaven upon the unconverted inhabitants of earth.Jesus said that it would be a time unlike any other in human history because of the calamities that would befall the inhabitants of earth.The Bible makes it very clear that the saints are not destined to experience the wrath of God, but rather deliverance from the wrath to come.I Thessalonians 1:10 states: "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus which DELIVERED US FROM THE WRATH TO COME."First Thessalonians 5:9 declares: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."Both the Mid and Post Tribulation Rapture schemes make Christians to be the subjects of God's wrath along with the unconverted which is contrary to reason and Scripture.Even those who are converted during the Tribulation period will be delivered from the wrath of God by martyrdom.They will be persecuted unto death and thus enter into the realm of the glory land.

††††††††† The Lord's churches will not be on the earth during the Tribulation period.After addressing the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus called John up to Heaven by way of a trumpet which is a picture of the Rapture of the saints.Revelation 4:1-2 states: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne."The church is not translated in Revelation chapter nineteen or twenty at the Second Advent of Christ.Rather the churchís translation occurs in Revelation four which is chronologically prior to the Tribulation period depicted in Revelation chapters six through nineteen.You will search the remainder of Revelation in vain to find the church going through the Tribulation period.In fact the Lord's church and those saints who are not in the church are found worshipping the Lord in Heaven while the judgments of God are poured out upon the earth.There is no indication in any of the passages dealing with the Tribulation period that the church will have to go through it.

††††††††† The saints of God are taken to the Father's house in the Rapture (John 14:1-3).There would be no purpose for this statement by Christ if He was coming to Rapture the saints at the end of the Tribulation period only to bring them right back down to the earth to reign with Him in the Millennium.The saints are taken to the Father's house for three specific reasons as follows:

††††††††† First, to be rescued from the time of wrath that will come upon all the inhabitants of the earth as Luke 21:36 states: "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."The saintís escape and deliverance from Tribulation wrath is also alluded to in Revelation 3:10 which declares: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."These are both statements from the mouth of Jesus Christ that the church would not go through the Tribulation period that is intended to try those who are left on the earth.

††††††††† The second reason for taking the saints to the Father's house in Heaven is so that they can stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ where they will be rewarded for their service.Luke 21:36 states the purpose of their deliverance, namely, "...to stand before the Son of man."This language corresponds to that of Paul who promised the church age saints: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10).The rewards will be handed out by Christ in Heaven because that is where the saints rewards are kept according to Matthew 5:12: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your REWARD IN HEAVEN..."Matthew 6:20 states: "But lay up for yourselves treasures in HEAVEN..."The Post Tribulation scheme of the Rapture bypasses the judgment seat of Christ.It leaves no time for the handing out of rewards in Heaven.

††††††††† The third reason why the saints are taken to the Father's house prior to the Tribulation period is so that they can participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb where the Lord's bride will be revealed to all the hosts of Heaven.A great many saints in Heaven will be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb to witness the marriage of Christ and His bride (Rev. 19:6-9).Those who are privileged to be in the Bride are those who are rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ for rendering faithful service in the Lord's church while on earth.These are they who are accounted worthy to walk with Him in white which has reference to the wedding ceremony as Revelation 3:4 implies: "Thou hast a FEW NAMES in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and THEY SHALL WALK WITH ME IN WHITE: FOR THEY ARE WORTHY."After the marriage supper of the Lamb the Bride and all the armies of heaven return to earth to reign in the Millennium.The chronology of Revelation chapters nineteen and twenty make this crystal clear.Therefore the Post Tribulation Rapture theory also bypasses the marriage supper of the Lamb that takes place in the Father's house which is located in Heaven.The Pre Tribulation Rapture is the only one that allows time for the Judgment Seat of Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb, two significant events that are to take place in Heaven.It also makes sense that if Christ is coming back with His bride and the hosts of heaven to reign on the earth, there had to be a time prior to His Advent when He raptures the saints in the air.The word "church' is mentioned nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but she is never mentioned again until she is seen coming from Heaven with Christ (Rev. 19:11-21).How can the bride come from Heaven with Christ if she is not already there?

††††††††† The saints of the church age are exhorted to be "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).If we are not to be raptured until after the Tribulation period then we would be forced to look for the unveiling of Antichrist and his reign to determine when the Lord would come back.Thus the Post Tribulation scheme destroys the teaching of the imminent return of Jesus Christ.There are other reasons why the church age saints will be raptured prior to the Tribulation period.For a more extensive treatment of the subject I refer the reader to the excellent book by Milburn Cockrell entitled "One Hundred Reasons For The Pre-Trib Rapture."

 

PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS DRAWN FROM THE DOCTRINE OF THE RAPTURE

 

††††††††† The imminent return of Jesus Christ is a practical hope.It is the commanding motive for purity and obedience in the New Testament.The Holy Spirit has linked the any moment return of Jesus in the Rapture with every precept and practice of Christian character and conduct.The conclusions that follow are drawn from the practical bearing that the Lord's return is to have in the life of a believer.

††††††††† 1.Our hope in the Lord's any moment return should serve as one of the greatest motivations to live a life marked by purity and true holiness.I John 3:3 declares: "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."A positive desire for purity and holiness should be found within the heart of every child of God who is anxiously anticipating the coming of the Lord.

††††††††† 2.Watching for the coming of Christ and abiding in Him should prevent us from doing or saying anything that might cause us to be ashamed at His coming.If we lived every day anticipating the coming of the Lord we would be much more careful how we spend our waking hours.We would be careful not to offend our Lord by our words or actions.We would be diligent in maintaining our fellowship and communion with the Lord.I John 2:28 declares: "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."Dear reader, are you practicing anything that is disgracing the precious name of our lovely Lord and would serve to cause you shame at His coming?Search your heart and purge those things in your life that would make you ashamed if the Lord were to come back today.

††††††††† 3.Watching for the Lord's any moment return serves to stir up the saints to be faithful in assembling with the saints of God for public worship, exhortation, and edification.Those who regularly miss church are not faithfully watching for the Lord's return, nor are they obeying the command of Hebrews 10:25 which states: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."Our churches would be full if more people were truly looking for the Lord to come!

††††††††† 4.Watching for the coming of the Lord should motivate us to serve the Lord with diligence and steadfastness.Anticipating His soon return enables us to endure hardship and suffering with a hopeful heart.It also enables us to press on in the fight, knowing that we shall be rewarded by our gracious Lord for faithful service.II Timothy 4:7-8 declares: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."Oh, that we all may bravely press on in the fight until Jesus comes again!

††††††††† 5.Watching for the coming of the Lord should stir us up to a life of godly simplicity rather than carnal self-indulgence; a life of dependence upon God, rather than a life preoccupied with worldly possessions; and a life of pure devotion to the Lord in prayer, His Word, and witnessing rather than a life of worldly pleasure and laziness.Luke 21:34-36 makes this very clear: "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."Watching for the Lord is an incentive to loyalty and fidelity, while unwatchfulness results in worldliness of heart, carelessness of walk, and carnality of life.

††††††††† 6.Watching for the coming of the Lord should serve as a motive to practice brotherly love and kindness among the saints of God.I Thessalonians 3:12-13 states: "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."If the saints of God were truly anticipating the any moment return of the Lord the petty divisions, fighting, fussing, and arguing that now exists in many churches would vanish away.The coming of the Lord is drawing near, therefore let all the saints of God learn how they may promote the welfare and harmony of the Lord's churches.

††††††††† 7.Knowing that the time of the Lord's return is at hand should motivate every genuine believer to be a faithful witness and herald of the saving Gospel of Christ.We should be diligently laboring for the salvation of lost souls, doing everything that is within our power to bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.We cannot save sinners, but we have the responsibility to point them to Jesus Christ by faithfully declaring the Gospel.John 9:4 declares: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work."Romans 13:11-13 states: "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying."In order to be effective witnesses for the Lord we must cultivate a godly testimony that proves that we have been changed by the power of God.Only then will sinners believe the precious message that we carry.

††††††† May God enable us to prepare ourselves for the soon return of our Lord in the Rapture.May we serve, honor, and obey our precious Lord until He comes to call us home!