In this final article in the series, “Faith or Fanaticism,” the subject of the rapture of the saints is discussed. The sudden disappearance of saints and the return of the Lord are perhaps the subjects of more scoffing and ridicule than any other.
The truth of the rapture has been a source of joy and comfort to saints for many ages.
When we speak of the rapture, we are referring to the coming of the Lord to the air unexpectedly, suddenly, secretly and imminently, to receive to Himself His bride. This event is separate from His coming in glory at the end of the Great Tribulation, the 70th Week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan 9, Matt 24:15, 27-37). It will deliver His people from the coming day of wrath, the Great Tribulation (1 Thes 1:10). We believe this rapture includes every believer who is part of the Body of Christ, everyone who is truly saved regardless of their personal condition at the time, and that it will be complete (I Cor 15:23, 1 Thes 5:10). This deliverance will take us into the Father’s House (John 14:1-3) to experience the manifestation of the Lord Jesus to His saints and to be with Him for eternity (John 17:24).
We believe in the certainty of the rapture because of the
1. Character of the Church
Those who see the church as a body that is distinct from Israel also see that God’s dealings with the church are distinct from His dealings with the nations or with Israel. “Ekklesia” is used for a gathering of people (Acts 19:39) and for Israel (Acts 7:2), but 115 times in the NT, it is used of the church, to define a body of believers who have been called out unto Himself. In this sense, it is used either for a local gathering of believers or for the Body of Christ.
The truth of the church is a mystery revealed in the NT, particularly through Paul (Eph 3:4-9). This is verified when we look at Matt 16:18, where the Lord Jesus places the building of His Church in the future. In addition, the Church Age is a parenthesis in God’s program regarding His dealings with men. We notice in Acts 15:14-17 that James and Peter clearly understood this truth based on their understanding of the passage in Amos 9:11-12. There are many other parentheses in OT Scriptures such as in Isaiah 61:2 as read by the Lord in Luke 4:18-20. His closing of the book in mid-passage shows that there would be a difference between His coming in grace and His coming in judgment which would include an interval of time. A consideration of the teaching of the Feasts of Jehovah indicates a parenthesis i as there is a break between the Feast of Pentecost and the following feasts that typify God’s dealings with Israel in a future day. This break coincides with the present age that began on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit formed the Body of Christ.
The mysteries of the New Testament emphasize distinct and previously unknown truths, such as in 1 Cor 15:51-52. The mystery Paul is revealing there is not that of resurrection and the change of the body, since resurrection was not unknown in the Old Testament. However, the truth of a translation without death was never found there. Notice Martha’s response to the Lord in John 11:24. She believed in a resurrection of all at the last day, but knew nothing of an .out resurrection” from the dead, when some are raised and some are not. The mystery of 1 Corinthians has to do with the transformation of the body in a moment, and is found only in the New Testament.
2. Consideration of OT Types such as Enoch in Gen 5.
Considered simply, Enoch typifies those who, alive when the Lord comes, will be taken from this earth to be with the Lord without dying. He was taken out of the world before the flood of Divine Judgment came, a flood that is a picture of the coming Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (II Peter 3). In addition, Lot, that failing though righteous man (11 Pet 2:69), had to be removed from Sodom before the fire of God’s judgment could fall (Gen 19:22). These examples picture those who will be alive on earth just prior to the Great Tribulation which is coming to judge and destroy unbelieving men. Believers are taken out of the judgment before it comes to pass.
3. Consummation of Christ’s Triumph
Because of the completeness of the victory won by the Savior at the cross, all that belong to Him must be delivered from the scene of Satan’s power, and that deliverance will be accomplished in a way that emphasizes the power of the Victor. The word from which we get “rapture” is found 13 times in the New Testament and always indicates a snatching away by force from the grasp and domain of an enemy. For example, in Acts 23:10 Paul was “taken by force” from among the Jews by the soldiers of the chief captain. The conclusion seems to be that it is logically and scripturally required that those who are the fruit of His work at the cross should be snatched with power from the sphere of opposition to the Lord Jesus and brought into His own presence to enjoy Him eternally.
4. Consistency of God’s Righteousness
When we understand the purposes of the Great Tribulation and the 70th week of Daniel 9, we see that the church has no place in it whatsoever. It is a judgment to come upon “earth-dwellers”. For this reason, the church must be taken out before the judgment. In fact, the promise of the Lord to the overcomer in (Rev 3:10) is that He will keep them “from (out of) the hour of temptation.” This indicates a complete deliverance from ever being in it, a complete removal from the sphere of that testing (Thayer). So it is according to God’s righteousness to make a difference in His judgments.
5. Care of the Lord Jesus for His own John 11:25-26; 14:1-3
These precious passages from the Lord Himself indicate His personal interest in their joy and deliverance. To the sorrowing Martha in John 11, we have the first indication of the rapture, though not in those words. When the Lord told her that the one who dies believing in Him shall live (v 25), He was speaking of the resurrection. Verse 26, tells us that the one who lives and believes in Him shall never die. In keeping with the previous verse, the Lord is telling her and us that there will be those who believe in Him who will never die. This is an early hint of the rapture of the saints. In addition, the Lord in John 14:3 tells the sorrowing disciples that He would come again and receive them to be with Him. This is not His coming in power and glory, but a coming for His own that will deliver them from this world to be with Him.
6. Confidence of God’s Word 1 Thess 4:13-18
The Thessalonians were experiencing a great trial of their faith which caused them to question if they might be in the Great Tribulation. Paul seeks to reassure them that what they were experiencing was only a trial for a time. They were also questioning if those who had died as believers had missed out completely, since they would not be alive on the earth when the Kingdom is set up.
Paul seeks to assure them concerning the great events that must take place in which every saint ‘ whether sleeping in death or alive until He comes, will have part. There would be a great “catching away” that would include everyone of the Lord’s own, taking them out of this scene to be with Him. A simple reading of this passage would make it clear that it is distinct from His future coming to the earth. With the events that must take place between the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage of the Lamb as well as the time of Jacob’s trouble, there would have to be a space between it and that coming in glory, when we will come out with Him.
Since there are clear signs that would indicate the visible coming of the Lord to the earth, and since the coming of the Lord is an imminent event that could happen without warning at any time, we must make a distinction between the two comings. This would then place the coming of the Lord in the air for His own prior to the coming in glory. With confidence in the truth of His Word, we rejoice as we anticipate this glorious event.
7. Comfort of the Blessed Hope 1 Thess 4:18
Finally, the hope of the Lord’s coming for His church is to be a comfort to our souls. If it were not a certain event to be anticipated at any time for His own, it would not have the comfort He intended it to have. That comfort is that at any moment He will appear (I John 2:28, 3:2) to receive His own. No matter what the circumstances of a believer’s life, there can be a calm sense of assurance and the blessed hope that He is coming, and perhaps it will be today. This has proven to be a source of immense comfort to many souls who are experiencing trial, sorrow, physical pain or persecution for His sake. What heart does not rise with joy to think that His coming is perhaps today!”
The rapture of the church is a distinct reality from which we can derive great comfort, a truth that should live with fervency in our souls and which should motivate us in our service to Himself. He may come even today in fulfillment of His promise, “Surely, I come quickly” (Rev 22:20). Our hearts re-echo the words of John, “Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus.”