THE RESURRECTED JESUS ASCENDED TO HEAVEN
WHEN WILL HE RETURN
Many ask, "Where is the promise of His coming ?" These scoffers doubt and mock the idea of the rapture of the church. Others say, "Why study it ? There are too many different opinions." Some will say it is too speculative. Some just want to recite all the different ideas, leave everyone confused, and draw no conclusions on the rapture.
Scoffers have done their work. They have brought into a great portion of the church--confusion, apathy, and ignorance--about the rapture. God did not intend for Christians to be confused, apathetic, or ignorant. He means for us to have knowledge, awareness, and an anxiousness for the rapture.
CAN WE KNOW THE DAY OR HOUR?
I Thessalonians 5:4-5
"BUT YE, BRETHREN, ARE NOT IN DARKNESS, THAT THAT DAY SHOULD OVERTAKE YOU AS A THIEF. YE ARE ALL THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT, AND THE CHILDREN OF THE DAY: WE ARE NOT OF THE NIGHT, NOR OF DARKNESS."
Some have often quoted the verse that says that we won't know the "day nor the hour." They have used it to keep others from talking about when the Lord may come. God never intended for us to not study and know about the time of His Son's return. Consider the verse:
BUT OF THAT DAY (Greek = hemera, a 24 hour day, or from dawn to eve) AND THAT HOUR (Greek = hora, a short part of a day) KNOWETH NO MAN, NO NOT THE ANGELS IN HEAVEN, NEITHER THE SON, BUT THE FATHER. TAKE YE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY..."
There is reason that we cannot know the day, nor the hour. The earth is round, and if the Lord had said He were coming "at noon," there are some places on this round earth that it is past noon and they would say--"You are late." And at the same moment, others could say when He came--"You are early." The same is true for the day, since somewhere on this earth it is already tomorrow. If the Lord had promised to come today, some would already be saying "He is late."
In the passage about the "day" and "hour", you will note in verses 33 to 37, that four times the command is given to "watch." If this passage were intended to make us give up trying to ascertain the time of the Lord's coming, then why are we commanded to "watch" four times in the same passage ? The answer is that the Lord does want us to be aware, and to know the nearness of His coming. We are given signs to watch for; we are told to "look up" when we see certain signs occur, knowing these signs indicate a soon return of our Lord. We are also told signs that will indicate the "generation" in which the Lord will return.
TWO STAGES OF HIS COMING
"VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, THAT THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS, TILL ALL THESE THINGS BE DONE."
Jesus will soon return. His coming will be in two stages. The first part is called the RAPTURE. It will occur before the tribulation judgments are sent by God upon the earth. In the rapture, the Lord Jesus will secretly catch away His saints. The second stage of the Lord's coming is called the SECOND COMING. In this part, Jesus will return with the saints from heaven and begin to rule and reign on this earth for a thousand years.
In the RAPTURE He comes FOR His saints.
In the SECOND COMING, He comes WITH His saints.
Just as in the first coming of our Lord to earth, a time period of 33 years was spanned. In the next coming of our Lord, a time period of 7 years will be spanned.
THE RAPTURE PREDICTED
"AFTER THIS, I LOOKED AND BEHOLD, A DOOR WAS OPENED IN HEAVEN AND THE FIRST VOICE WHICH I HEARD WAS AS IT WERE A TRUMPET TALKING WITH ME, WHICH SAID, 'COME UP HITHER !'"
I Thessalonians 4:15-17
"WE WHICH ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN UNTO THE COMING OF THE LORD SHALL NOT PRECEDE THEM THAT ARE ASLEEP dead)--FOR THE LORD HIMSELF SHALL DESCEND WITH A SHOUT (Rev. 4:1), WITH THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, AND THE TRUMP OF GOD, AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST, AND THEN WE WHICH ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN SHALL BE CAUGHT UP (Greek = harpadzo, to catch away out of harm's way) TOGETHER WITH THEM IN THE CLOUDS TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR, AND SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD."
"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."
I Corinthians 15:51-52
"BEHOLD, I SHOW YOU A MYSTERY, WE SHALL NOT ALL SLEEP (die), BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED. IN A MOMENT, IN A TWINKLING OF AN EYE, AT THE LAST TRUMP--FOR THE TRUMP SHALL SOUND (Rev. 4:1, I Thess. 4:15-17) AND THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED INCORRUPTIBLE, AND WE SHALL BE CHANGED..."
II Thessalonians 2:1
"NOW WE BESEECH YOU BRETHREN, BY THE COMING OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BY OUR GATHERING TOGETHER UNTO HIM..."
II Thessalonians 2:7-8
"...HE THAT LETTETH (hinders) WILL LET (hinder) UNTIL HE BE TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY, AND THEN SHALL THAT WICKED ONE BE REVEALED..."
I Thessalonians 5:9
‘FOR GOD HATH NOT APPOINTED US TO WRATH..."
The signs for the coming of the Lord that are given us in the Word of God--all point to the second stage of His coming. They point to the SECOND COMING, not to the RAPTURE. Thus, when we see these things "begin to come to pass," we are told to "look up" for the signs point to the part of His coming that is seven years after the event we want so much to see -- THE RAPTURE.
At one point in His earthly ministry, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, who knew the Holy Scriptures, yet did not recognize Him as the Messiah, and did not know it was time for His coming. (Matthew 16:1-4) Yet, there are seven times more Scriptures for the second coming of Jesus that there are for the first coming. So if the Lord were angered by their lack of understanding of the times--how much more is He disturbed by those who do not know when it is the time of His coming ?
REASONS TO BELIEVE IN A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE
1. TRANSLATION OF GREEK WORDS REFERRING TO THE RAPTURE
There are a number of Greek words that are translated to describe the rapture.
HARPADZO =to be caught away, out of harms way by force
EKPHUGEIN = To escape away from a dreaded person or thing
APOLUTROSIS = to take unto oneself a valued object
All three of these indicate that the rapture would be BEFORE the thing can be harmed. For this and a number of other reasons, I believe the rapture is before the tribulation.
2. PURPOSE OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK OF YEARS IS TO REDEEM ISRAEL
In the prophecy of Daniel, seventy sevens of years are given to Israel. Sixty nine of those have occurred, and the last seven of years is yet to occur. When the Lord has finished dealing with the Gentile church, He will again deal with the nation of Israel for seven years. This is the 70th week of Daniel, that we commonly call "the tribulation." Why should the church remain here for the Lord's final dealing with Israel ?
3. THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE CHURCH IN THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
There is no mention of the church in the tribulation. Israel and other nations are mentioned. The reason is that we, as Christians, may suffer the persecution of the world now; yet, in the tribulation, the judgments are the wrath of God--and we should not suffer His wrath.
4. THE CHURCH IS PROMISED TO ESCAPE THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION
The promise to the church of Philadelphia is:
"I WILL KEEP THEE FROM THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION, WHICH SHALL BE UPON ALL THE WORLD TO TRY THEM THAT DWELL ON THE EARTH."
5. THE CHURCH IS "NOT APPOINTED UNTO WRATH"
The tribulation is a time of wrath on an ungodly world, on an apostate, backslidden church, and on a backslidden Israel.
We, the true church, are "NOT APPOINTED UNTO WRATH." (I Thessalonians 5:9)
We are to be "delivered from the wrath to come."
I Thessalonians 1:10
"TO WAIT FOR HIS SON FROM HEAVEN...WHICH DELIVERED US FROM THE WRATH TO COME."
6. TYPOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SHOWS A PRE-JUDGMENT RAPTURE
In the Scriptures, types are used to illustrate the picture of the rapture which was to be fully revealed later. In the rapture of Enoch, it came before the judgment of the flood. In the story of Lot and his family, they were delivered before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These show that the nature of God is to deliver His own, before He pours out His wrath. The rapture of the church precedes the tribulation.
7. THE ANTICHRIST IS NOT TO BE REVEALED UNTIL THE CHURCH IS REMOVED
The Bible teaches us that the Antichrist will not be revealed until the church is removed from the earth.
II Thessalonians 2:6-8
"HE THAT LETTETH (hinders) WILL LET (hinder), UNTIL HE BE TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY. AND THEN SHALL THAT WICKED (one) BE REVEALED..."
Some have argued that the "he" of the verse does not refer to the "church," because the church is the "bride of Christ." However, the church is not referred to by feminine pronouns, is not symbolized by a woman, and is not the "bride of Christ."(See Rev. 21:9-10)
The church is called a "man" in Ephesians 2:15, 4:13. Also the church is called the "body of Christ" in I Corinthians 12:12-13, 27, Ephesians 1:22-23, and Colossians 1:18, 24. So it is most appropriate to refer to the church as "he."
The church is the only "hinderer" of lawlessness that will be taken out of the world before the tribulation. The Holy Spirit will remain on the earth since there will be people being saved during most of the tribulation.( John 14:16, Acts 2:16-21, Rev. 12:17, with 19:10, Zechariah 12:10 to 13:1).
8. THE RAPTURE SCENE IN REVELATION IS SHOWN IN 4:1, AND IT IS SAID TO BE OCCURRING "AFTER THESE THINGS", (AFTER THE CHURCH AGES OF CHAPTERS 2 & 3)
In Revelation 4:1, the words "after these things" is the Greek "meta tauta" which means that the rest of the book deals with the things that will occur after the church ages described in chapters 2 and 3.
The words "church" and "churches" occur 19 times in chapters 1 to 3 of Revelation. Yet after the "open door" of Revelation 4:1, the words "church" and "churches" do not occur once in the book of Revelation.
The 24 elders of Revelation 4 and 5, have crowns on their heads. They represent the church and Old Testament saints. No one receives their crown until we all receive them on the day of the rapture. Paul testified to this in:
II Timothy 4:8
"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 THAT LOVE HIS APPEARING."
9. THE TRIBULATION DESCRIBED IN CHAPTERS 6-19 OF REVELATION IS SHOWN TO OCCUR AFTER THE RAPTURE DAY FESTIVITIES IN HEAVEN SHOWN IN CHAPTERS 4-5
After chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, there is a marked change in the attitude of the Lord toward the world. In chapters 1 to 3, it is MERCY. In chapters 6 to 19, God's attitude is one of JUDGMENT. The change occurs when His saints are called home, so He may begin pouring out His wrath on the world.
WHO WILL GO IN THE RAPTURE?
Who will go in the rapture of the church ? The world has wondered, and much debate has evolved. Some have said all, and some have tried to say -only the righteous, and some have tried to limit it to those baptized in a certain way, or those who speak in tongues, or those who belong to a certain denomination. The Word of God is very specific to the who shall go in the rapture. We need to pay attention to the Word of God, and not to the dogmas of various bodies of believers. The Bible does give certain qualifications for those to be raptured.
1. BE "IN CHRIST"
I Thessalonians 4:14-16
"EVEN SO THEM ALSO WHICH SLEEP IN JESUS WILL GOD BRING WITH HIM...DEAD IN CHRIST WILL RISE FIRST...
II Corinthians 5:17
"IF ANY MAN BE IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATURE..."
Thus, if we are saved, and thereby are "in Christ" we are going to go in the rapture. If we do not backslide from our salvation, we will soon hear His call to "Come up hither."
2. BE PURE (by Christ's righteousness)
I John 3:2-3
"WHEN HE SHALL APPEAR, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM FOR WE WILL SEE HIM AS HE IS AND EVERY MAN THAT HATH THIS HOPE IN HIM, PURIFIES HIMSELF..."
"THAT HE MIGHT PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF A GLORIOUS CHURCH, NOT HAVING SPOT OR WRINKLE, OR ANY SUCH THING--BUT THAT IT SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLEMISH."
We are not made pure by acts of righteousness. We are not saved by our good works. There is no baptismal formula that if pronounced over us that saves. There is no church roll to be signed to make sure we go. No, it is the righteousness of Christ, that is given by grace at salvation, that will make us to be pure and thereby able to go in the rapture. His righteousness alone qualified us for salvation. His righteousness alone will pay our way on that great excursion ride to our heavenly mansions.
THE THRONE ROOM SCENE,
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE RAPTURE
In Revelation chapters 4 and 5, John is shown a vision of the events in the throne room of God on the day of the rapture. This is a striking picture that can overwhelm one as they read and see and feel the joy of the saints as we worship our Lord on that first day in heaven.
The throne is the center of John's attention. All he sees at first is the throne, and then slowly he begins to see what is near the throne and working his vision outward, he finally sees all the saints that are gathered there to honor the Lord and the Father. John was "in the spirit" viewing what would happen several thousand years later.
"BEHOLD, A THRONE (mentioned 40 times in Scripture and always refers to a literal seat) WAS SET IN HEAVEN, AND ONE SAT (God, as a Person, can sit on a literal throne) ON THE THRONE, HE WAS TO LOOK UPON AS A JASPER (semi-transparent, greenish, called plasma today) AND A SARDINE STONE (ruby). THERE WAS A RAINBOW (multitude of colors) ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE, IN SIGHT LIKE UNTO AN EMERALD (green). ...OUT OF THE THRONE PROCEEDED LIGHTNINGS, AND THUNDERINGS, AND VOICES; AND THERE WERE SEVEN LAMPS OF FIRE (symbolic of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit will be literally on the earth convicting sinners and saving souls) BURNING BEFORE THE THRONE, WHICH ARE THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOD. ("seven" denotes fullness and perfection)."
THE 24 ELDERS
Around the throne were seated 24 elders. (Rev. 4:4,10,5:8, 14) These were on thrones and had victor's crowns, priestly robes, and had harps, and golden bowls of incense. Who are these 24 elders ?
This can be best understood by looking in the Bible for the answer. In the book of I Chronicles chapter 24, we find there were 24 elders appointed by David to represent the Levitical priesthood.
Each of the 24 were to lead a division of the priesthood. Each division would serve at the tabernacle, and later, at the temple for a two week period. So the 24 elders in Revelation represent the whole priestly house.
In heaven, we will probably serve in the throne room periodically as the priesthood of the Old Testament period. The 24 are wearing crowns, so they are not angels. No saint wears a crown until the rapture (II Timothy 4:8), so this is a post rapture vision for John.
The word "elder" is presbyteros. It is never used to refer to angels, only mankind. The angels are always distinct from the elders (Rev. 5:11). The elders are wearing "white raiment", and only Christ and the saints are seen in white raiment in Rev. 3:5, 18, 6:11, 7:9,13, 15:6, 19:8-14. One of the elders identifies himself after escorting John through the revelation (Rev. 5:5-7, 7:13-15, 19:10, 22:8-9) He sang a song of the redeemed (5:8-9). He rejected worship and said:
"I AM ...OF THY BRETHREN."
So these elders are the heads of the 24 divisions of the whole body of the saints in heaven. Who they are individually is unknown. Perhaps some of the positions are still open for application !
THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES (ZOA)
Around the throne are seen four living creatures.
"...ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE WERE FOUR BEASTS ("zoa", not "therion" as used in describing the Antichrist and the False Prophet. These four zoa are living creatures.) FULL OF EYES, BEFORE AND BEHIND. AND THE FIRST BEAST (living creature) WAS LIKE A LION, (reminds the worshipper of the divine majesty of God) AND THE SECOND BEAST WAS LIKE A CALF, (reminds the worshipper of the strength in service of the Lord) AND THE THIRD BEAST HAD A FACE AS A MAN reminds men of the humanity of the Lord Jesus), AND THE FOURTH BEAST WAS LIKE A FLYING EAGLE (reminds worshippers of the swiftness of the Lord in detecting evil). AND THE FOUR BEASTS HAD EACH OF THEM SIX WINGS, AND WERE FULL OF EYES WITHIN, AND THEY REST NOT DAY AND NIGHT SAYING 'HOLY, HOLY, HOLY (one "holy for each of the three members of the trinity), LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, WHICH WAS AND IS AND IS TO COME(this is a translation of the word "Jehovah")."
These angelic creatures fly about God's throne to constantly remind the worshippers about the throne that God is to be reverenced and worshipped. They call attention to His holiness, they worship, they sing and play harps, they offer to God the prayers of the saints, and they listen to the worship of others.
The saints will finally recognize their full purpose. There in heaven we will finally truly realize that we were created to give our God pleasure. Down here, too many "saints" think that God was created to give us pleasure.
"THE 24 ELDERS FALL DOWN BEFORE HIM THAT SAT ON THE THRONE, AND WORSHIP HIM THAT LIVETH FOREVER AND EVER, AND CAST THEIR CROWNS BEFORE THE THRONE SAYING: 'THOU ART WORTHY TO RECEIVE GLORY, AND HONOR, AND POWER, FOR THOU HAST CREATED ALL THINGS AND FOR THY PLEASURE THEY ARE AND WERE CREATED.'"
THE FIVE RAPTURES OF THE FIRST RESURRECTION
It is the rapture that will soon transport us to the scene in Revelation 4, and 5. We long for this event to occur. There are many ideas about when it will occur. Already, I have shown why I believe it to be a pre-trib rapture. Some feel it will be a mid-trib rapture. Some others favor post-trib rapture. One of the main reasons for the confusion is the fact that there are five raptures in the first resurrection. Some scriptures are confused with the rapture of the church that really refer to the rapture of another group. The five raptures of the first resurrection are these:
1. Christ and many saints were raptured after His resurrection.
(I Cor. 15:20,23, Matt. 27:52-53, Eph. 4:8-10)
2. They that are Christ's at His coming (the church).
(I Cor. 15:23,51-54, John 14:1-3, Lk. 21:34-36, I Thess. 4:16-17)
3. 144,000 Jews that are saved soon after the tribulation begins and minister for 3 1/2 years and are then raptured.
(Rev. 7:1-8, 12:5, 14:1-5)
4. The tribulation saints (those saved after the rapture who give their lives for the Lord are finally resurrected and brought to heaven so all the saints are present at the marriage supper of the Lamb)
(Rev. 6:1,9-11, 7:9-17, 15:2-4)
5. The two witnesses of the tribulation
We may be assured, as was the early church, that the event we call the "rapture" will occur--and SOON.
I Corinthians 16:22
"MARANATHA (the Lord cometh)."