Black Swan Song By Pete Garcia Although this won't be published until the first week…
Everything You Wanted to Know about the Rapture (and then some): Parts I-IV
By Pete Garcia
PART I: Pretext/Context
There is much debate and confusion regarding the topic of the Rapture. Sadly, it has gotten so bad that most churches have just decided to avoid the topic of our Blessed Hope altogether. Nevertheless, because of the way Scripture is often misinterpreted, there are multiple ways one could construct a Rapture-theory. Truth be told, many doctrines are abused by misinterpretation. With that said, there is only one doctrinally accurate Rapture, and that is the Pre-Tribulational view, or if you prefer, Pre-70th Week view.
Author’s note: Apologies for the length of this post, however, please take your time and use this as a one-stop-shop for resources should you ever need it in the future. There are also links at the bottom which I would encourage you to go through as well that will greatly bless you.
First, there are two types of communication that are delivered through and because of Holy Scripture: Progressive Revelation and Progressive Illumination. This will become important for context later on.
Progressive revelation simply means that God slowly, but progressively, unfolded His plan of redemption to mankind over a period of 1,600 years. This progressive revelation was recorded in what we now call the Old and New Testaments. Although this revelation was penned by 40 different authors (of all different backgrounds), the Bible’s cohesive nature really points to one Author, the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Bible was written in such a way that although the information was all there, it is impossible to accurately decipher without the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That makes sense though right? If the Holy Spirit guided these men in what to write, it stands to reason that it also takes the Holy Spirit to guide you in truly understanding what He meant to say.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” – John 15:12-15
Progressive Illumination begins when God begins giving men an understanding of what has already been revealed. Like a divine inclusio, progressive revelation has a definitive beginning and end date. It began with Genesis and ends with Revelation. Progressive illumination, on the other hand, runs concurrent with the revelation and continues long after the divine revelation (i.e., thus sayeth the Lord!), has ended. In doing this, God has used men and angels, at certain times, to accomplish certain things, according to His unfolding plan.
For example, He moved the disciples of the apostles to vigorously contend for the faith to stave off growing incursions into the church by corrosive groups like the Gnostics and Legalists in the first and second centuries. He moved men like Jerome to translate the Bible from Koine Greek into Latin in the fourth century. He moved John Wycliffe to later translate it into English in the 13th century. He sparked Martin Luther’s aha moment when he came to understand salvation is by grace through faith and not by works in the 15th-century. Likewise, God also moved men like the Plymouth Brethren and John Nelson Darby to codify the dispensational nature of the bible and the doctrine of the rapture as major Christian issues in the 18th-century and beyond.
All that to say, God’s timing determines when men come to understand the truths of Scripture and how they are applicable to the day and age in which they live. Could God have revealed the Rapture to Abraham and David? Sure. But they had no practical use for this information and thus, God would have been prematurely revealing His hand to the enemy long before it was necessary to do so. If you look at this progressive illumination from this perspective, it makes sense as to why the early church fathers spent the bulk of their time and energies contending against heretics and apostates on elemental issues like the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture. Furthermore, it makes sense as to why those of us here at the end of the age are focusing on the study of last things (aka, Eschatology).
God is omniscient and has always known that the Second Coming would not occur until at least the 21st century; therefore, it would not make much sense for Him to illuminate man’s understanding of such eschatological things in the distant past. Could He have? Sure. However, it does not change the fact that everything about the last days was already written in Holy Scripture vis a vis progressive revelation. Nevertheless, this does not diminish our duty for expectancy with regards to imminence since we mere mortals can’t know when He would return (no man knows the day or hour).
Lastly, both progressive revelation and illumination tie into biblical typology and symbolism. The Bible uses symbolism and typology as a form of pictorial prophetic forecasting. While some of this symbolism is difficult to parse, it is not impossible. Furthermore, this is where the progressive illumination by the Holy Spirit comes into play. This means biblical symbolism is neither arbitrary nor subject to anyone’s private interpretation. Symbolism is a useful tool whose definition is always found in other places in Scripture.
Typology is a method of biblical interpretation whereby an element found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament. The initial one is called the type and the fulfillment is designated the antitype. Either type or antitype may be a person, thing, or event, but often the type is messianic and frequently related to the idea of salvation. The use of Biblical typology enjoyed greater popularity in previous centuries, although even now it is by no means ignored as a hermeneutic. (Source)
The pre-trib Rapture haters love to say “point to one verse that proves Pre-Trib Rapture is correct.” While I could point to both Revelation 3:10 and John 14:1-3 as perfect examples of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture passage, this apparently, is not enough proof for them. While the Pre-Wrath, Mid-Trib, and Post-Trib Rapture views might have some strong, stand-alone points (if taken in a vacuum), they completely fall apart when you drill down into the specifics of who the Church and Israel are, and then balance them against the totality of the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, while I don’t intend to make an argument for the Pre-Trib view solely using Old Testament foreshadowing, nor New Testament symbolism (Bride/body of Christ), we cannot disregard them either. God intended for these to be in the Bible for a reason.
If we can look at the would-be sacrifice of Isaac or the life of Joseph as a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, why can we not look at these OT pictures, which point to pre-emptive deliverance as a case for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture? I mean, these things were meant to point to Christ (Luke 24:25-27). So unless all of this foreshadowing and symbolism is arbitrary and meaningless (their not), then the only view that makes any sense (in a consistent, logical way), is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view. Hopefully, with this out of the way, we are at a point where we can properly address the topic at hand.
Despite what many denominations and theological figureheads teach, the Bible has quite a lot to say about the Rapture of the Church. So let us first address the most common complaint about the Rapture.
The word “rapture” is not in the Bible.
True. It is not.
Well, not in your English translation Bible.
However, for over a thousand years, the word rapio or rapiemur was what the Latin Vulgate used when translating the Koine Greek word harpazo. Harpazo is the Greek word for the English phrase “caught up” as it appears in our English Bibles.
So yes, technically it is in the Bible.
FTR- the Bible was not written in English so no English word is in the original Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek versions.
However, the Rapture is not just written about, but it is shown symbolically (Old Testament typology), literally (present to the time of its writing), and prophetically.
Old Testament Typology
– Enoch was literally translated from mortality to immortality without seeing death before the great flood. (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5)
– Elijah was literally translated from mortality to immortality by a divine chariot of fire. (2 Kings 2:11-12)
New Testament Literalism
– Jesus ascends into heaven and we are told that He will return in like manner…i.e., in the air (Acts 1:9)
– Philip is caught away after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39)
– Paul is caught up to the third heaven and is shown things he cannot humanly put into human language. (2 Cor. 12:2-5)
– John is caught up in the spirit and given the Revelation (Rev. 4:1-2)
– Jesus promises His church that He will come back for them and take them to be where He is in Heaven (John 14:1-3)
– Paul teaches that this harpazo (catching up) is a mystery that had not been revealed to the Old Testament saints, but would happen to one generation of believers. Furthermore, those who had already died would come back with Christ to meet us (those still alive) in the air (1 Cor. 15:51-56, 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
– Jesus uses the Rapture as a warning to the sleeping Church (Rev. 3:3) and as a blessing to the faithful Church (Rev. 3:10)
– The Two Witnesses are resurrected and immediately caught up after lying dead in the streets of Jerusalem for three days (Rev. 11:11-12)
Therefore, regardless of what your clergy, pastor, priest, or preach has to say about the Rapture, it is in the Bible as both a concept and a reality. If they deny it, or dismiss the teaching of it, or say that it is some modern “doctrine of men,” I would walk away from that church and never look back.
Those who still doubt that the Rapture is a real event, need to have an honest assessment of their faith and recognize that God resurrecting the dead or translating the mortals to immortality, is not a) new concept or b) impossible. If we believe God could speak the universe into existence, then pulling humans into heaven alive, is not too much of a stretch for Him. Furthermore, we have two examples in the OT, where God literally took certain persons straight from earth into heaven, without dying: Enoch and Elijah.
PART II: The New Testament Survey
While there are numerous passages in both testaments about the Second Coming, there are surprisingly even a few “rapture-like” passages as well sprinkled throughout the Old Testament (ex. Isaiah 26:20-21; Song of Solomon 2:10-13; Psalm 90:10, etc.). The reason these passages remain so cryptic is that it was not given to those OT writers to explain it, but to the Apostle Paul. He was the one God assigned to explain this mystery (musterion-Greek) in detail. This hearkens back to God using certain men at certain times to accomplish certain things. Therefore, what Paul meant by mystery, was that it was something that had not yet been revealed publicly by any of the prophets or other apostles before him. Now he (Paul) uses his epistles to the newfound churches to explain this great mystery.
The first clear teachings on this “Rapture” are derived from Christ’s statements in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14:1-3). Keep in mind, this was a private setting in which Christ revealed to His 12 disciples (minus Judas) about this promised event. This private teaching further corroborates Paul’s later teachings (as he was not there) as to the divine nature of the revelation of this mystery. This is where Christ promised He would come back to receive those who are His to Himself and He would take them to be where He lives (the Third Heaven).
“Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” – John 14:1-3
Note that He does not promise to come back with the armies of heaven in tow, nor arrive to the earth with a blood-soaked robe, nor does He come waging war, nor does He promise the whole world will see Him. Now let us contrast this with the most direct Second Coming passage and you will see a stark difference.
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
– Revelation 19:11-16
In fact, none of the subsequent teachings on the Rapture ever use the same war-like/Second Coming language. The event He describes in John 14:1-3 appears completely non-combative in nature.
Now one of the main problems people have when trying to determine when the Rapture is going to occur is by trying to insert the Rapture into the main portion of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:3-35, Mark 13:5-27, Luke 21:8-28). The problem with this is that the Rapture was never clearly delineated in the Olivet Discourse because it had not yet been given to the Apostle Paul to explain. Now, there could be some arguments for seeing the Rapture in the latter portions of the Olivet Discourse (after the Parable of the Fig Tree) and other places like Luke 17:26-30, however, I’m not going to be dogmatic either way on those. So let us start with the Gospels and then move through the rest of the NT to put some context to my statement.
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels due to their similarities)
The Gospel of Matthew: primary audience- Jewish people
– Presents Jesus as King of the Jews
– Lineage begins with Abraham
– He teaches the Olivet Discourse plainly before revealing the Rapture discretely before the last Supper (or their first communion)
The Gospel of Mark: primary audience- Romans/Gentiles
– Presents Jesus as the Servant
– No lineage given
– He teaches the Olivet Discourse plainly before revealing the Rapture discretely before the last Supper (or their first communion)
The Gospel of Luke: primary audience- Greeks/Gentiles
– Presents the humanity of Christ
– Lineage begins with Adam
– He teaches the Olivet Discourse plainly before revealing the Rapture discretely before the last Supper (or their first communion)
The Gospel of John: primary audience- the Church (last Gospel written- circa 85-90AD)
– Presents the divinity of Christ
– During their last Supper (or their first communion), Jesus teaches them the Upper Room Discourse where He teaches them about the Blessed Hope (Rapture)
– Interestingly, Judas departing before the Upper Room Discourse prophetically embodies the very act of the apostasia mentioned in 2 Thess. 2:3 (in that he both became apostate and then physically departed)
– Paul later teaches that this apostasia must happen before the Rapture (2nd Thess. 2:3).
The Acts of the Apostles
Chronicles the formation of the early church and is not eschatological in nature. However, there are some key points of information that are clarified here:
– The angels tell the eyewitnesses (the disciples) that Christ must return in the same manner in which He departed (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11)
– The last days began with Christ (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:1)
1 Thessalonians 1-5: Paul teaches the Rapture and imminent return of Christ in every chapter
James 5: Teaches the Rapture and Imminency
2 Thessalonians 2: Teaches the Rapture and Imminency
1 Corinthians 13-15: Teaches that the gift of prophecy is divinely ordained; the Rapture is further expanded upon showcasing the change from mortal to immortal
2 Corinthians 5: Teaches the about the Resurrection and the Bema Seat Judgment
Philippians 3: Teaches about the Rapture
2 Peter 1, 3-4: Teaches us that prophecy is not from man; destruction of false teachers, and that the Lord is coming back again when men openly scoff His return. Interestingly, this couldn’t happen if people were not already talking about it
Jude 1: teaches about the Second Coming as being prophesied as far back as Enoch
– Chapters 1-3: Seven letters are given to seven churches. There are four levels of application here: historic, admonitory, for individuals and congregations, and are prophetic, due to the order they are given. Also, the word used here for the church is ekklesia and is used 19 times. This same word (ekklesia) is not used again throughout the rest of the book (see more here)
– Chapters 4-5:begins with John (the disciple whom Christ loved) being caught up to an open heavenly door and God in complete control of Judgments; Christ opens the Seals, thus triggering the rest of the 21 judgments
– Chapters 6-18: 21 (+) judgments unleashed upon a Christ-rejecting world
– Chapters 19-20: Battle of Armageddon and millennial reign of Christ upon the earth
– Chapters 21-22: New heavens and new earth.
With all this said, why is there so much supposed confusion over the topic of the Rapture? Aside from dismissing it altogether, the most common issue concerning the Rapture is trying to insert this Pauline Mystery, into Jesus’ Olivet Discourse.
PART III: Comparisons
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord (John 14:1-3), that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1st Thess. 4:15-18
So this passage will be the primary verse for this section and will be used to bounce other passages against and in favor of (to compare and contrast).
First things first. Paul’s primary ministry was to Gentile believers. When we look at Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonika, it was to Gentile converts (Gal. 2:8). When he discusses Christ’s return for the Church, He incorporates the Rapture and the Second Coming into each chapter of his letters to them. Here he describes Jesus descending with a victorious shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. He gathers all of the Church unto Himself in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52)…the first of whom had already died (these are resurrected), and then those who are still alive when this happens (these are translated).
Now, if you are of the Post-Trib persuasion, you are likely to refer back to something Jesus stated in the Olivet Discourse as being the same event, and thus, do not see this as a Pre-Tribulation event. So let us contrast the what and how of the scenario Jesus describes in Matthew 24:31, to that of 1st Thessalonians 4.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
In comparison, 1st Thess. 4 describes Jesus coming alone, only accompanied by the VOICE of the archangel, and the TRUMPET of God. In Matthew’s scenario, Jesus SENDS the angels to gather His elect from the four winds, and from all over heaven.
So are these the same event? No.
This is not my opinion, that is what we see recorded in Scripture. A simple comparison of the two passages reveals some startling differences, namely, that they are executed differently. Where is the shout? Where is the voice of the archangel? Why does Jesus gather everyone to Himself in one passage, but has His angels go and gather His elect in the other? Where is the mention of resurrection and translation in Matthew’s account? Thus, we must conclude, as the old saying goes, things that are different are not the same.
Jesus gave what we in military aviation used to say “one over the world” (ex. map size 1:50,000) when teaching His disciples about the last days. First and foremost, these disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit, so they were receiving this information from a purely natural/human understanding. Secondly, note that Jesus refers to those gathered as “the elect.” Jesus uses this terminology because the Church had not yet been founded (and wouldn’t until Acts 2). Since the elect is a more common, generic term for believers that is used both in the OT and the New. But regarding the Olivet Discourse, Jesus begins by answering their three questions by giving a very broad outline (wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, etc.) with a few specifics thrown in (the AoD) that would categorize the end of the age some 2,000 years later.
The Jewish Wedding – the archetype
In Paul’s description, Jesus does not have the angels gather His Bride, for Christ gathers them unto Himself at merely a command (the shout). Furthermore, Since we can model Christ’s return for His Church along the lines of a Jewish wedding (tying again back to John 14:1-3), would a Jewish groom send his servants to gather his bride for him…or would he do it himself? Clearly, the groom would go himself. What is the cry? Behold, the Bridegroom is coming! If Jesus refers to Himself as the Bridegroom, then who is the bride? (Matt. 9:15, 25:1, 10)
It is the Church (ekklesia).
1. Jesus stated that He would build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18-19). Yet, we hear the cry of the martyrs by the fifth Seal Judgement. We see how the Antichrist is given authority to overcome the believers in Rev. 13:7, and over every tribe, tongue, and nation. If the Church were the same believers as found inside the Tribulation, how could Matthew 16:18-19 be true? Some will point to believers today who are being persecuted as evidence, yet, there are still Christians free to operate in many other places of the world. That is not the case inside the Tribulation. They are overcome by the Antichrist. Thus we can conclude that those whom Revelation 6 and 13 speak of, are believers, but not the Bride.
2. Jesus describes what a Groom does in John 14:1-3, which in the context of a Jewish wedding is what traditionally, happened. An arrangement is made between the parents. The children have to agree to the arrangement. If all parties agree upon the marriage arrangement, then the engagement begins, and the young man returns home to his father’s house to begin building a place for him and his new bride-to-be.
3. Paul states that he intends to present the church he was tasked with teaching as a chaste virgin to the Lord (2 Cor. 11:2). I do not pretend to understand how this all works out, but the symbolism of us as a prized possession (Matt. 13:45-46) seems to be the intent. The symbolism of marriage is probably the aptest description He could provide for our understanding. Just as a husband and wife become one flesh in marriage, so too is our binding to Christ represented by the institution of marriage (Gen. 2:24, Col. 1:18, Eph. 5:23). Christ died for us and shed His innocent blood so that we (who are redeemed by grace through faith) could be reconciled back unto God, having been made perfect by the Son. Thus, the concept of the Jewish wedding is fitting.
Contrasted with John 14:1-3, are the foolish virgins of Matthew 25. These represent the unbelieving Israel, who remain behind to experience the horrors of the 70th Week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27).
The shout – the Command
The three times the New Testament records Jesus shouting, notice what happens in each instance-
1. By perfect faith, one man, Lazarus, was resurrected from the dead (John 11:43)
2. By perfect obedience, many dead saints were resurrected when their tombs are opened at Christ’s death (Matt. 27:50-52)
3. By perfect love, millions will be resurrected at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Christ’s verbal commands is powerful enough to raise the dead, because Christ, having been died and resurrected, holds the keys to death and hell and is singularly able to command death to obey His voice (Rev. 1:18).
The voice of the archangel – the Enforcer
Daniel 10:21, 12:1, Jude 1:9, and Revelation 12:7 all refer to a powerful Archangel named Michael. In Daniel 12:1, Daniel was told…At that time, Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.
At what time?
Well, it only makes sense to see Michael stand guard over Israel when the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit-filled Church) is removed from the earth.
Who are the sons of your people?
Daniel’s people were the Jews, so Michael stands watch over the nation of Israel at the time of the Rapture…hence his mention in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
It is my belief, that when God the Father instructs His Son Jesus to go collect His bride the Church, that this signals Michael to stand up and begin actively engaging on Israel’s behalf. Since Scripture has mentioned that there are fallen angels who hold their demonic sway over physical locations here on this planet (i.e., the prince of Persia and Grecia), there are is also angelic ones.
Michael the Archangel, who is arguably the most powerful angel, thus stands guard over Israel. Seeing as how the battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) likely takes place in the aftermath of the chaos of the Rapture, Israel will immediately become the sole target of Satan’s wrath. Scriptures do not say what Michael has been up to these past 2,000 years, but seeing how the Church has been empowered by God the Holy Spirit, Michael’s role as the enforcer was likely, not necessary until the Rapture.
This is just some holy speculation on my part, but at the Rapture, as the Church goes up, Michael’s announcement that is shouted from the Heavens could be to the nation Israel that Daniel’s 70th week is about to begin. Or, it could be as Clarence Larkin has suggested that similar to when Michael and Satan contended over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9)…a command is given to the heavenly armies to keep the enemy at bay while the Rapture transpires. According to Paul, Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-3) and as would be the case, we would be transitioning right through the heart of enemy territory.
The trumpet of God – the Instrument
– I’ve made this point in other articles, but if there is a last trumpet blast, there must also be a first trumpet blast. My understanding (keeping it in the context of gathering the elect) was in Exodus 19 when the Israelites were brought together for the first time as a nation. This makes much more sense than a cryptic statement in Rev 10.
In Exodus 19:12-20, the Israelites assembled as a nation for the first time at the foot of Mt. Sinai. This was when God descended down, and Moses went up at the long blast of the ‘trump of God.’ Later, in Leviticus 23:23-25, Moses is explaining the Feast of Trumpets, which would begin on the first day of the seventh month. The first three feasts (in the spring) were literally fulfilled by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The fourth spring feast (Shavuot-feast of Weeks or Pentecost), was literally fulfilled by the supernatural giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Some wonder how Jesus Himself fulfilled this, but if you read John 14:15-18, we see that Christ petitions the Father to send the HS at His departure. We further read in John 15:26-27 that Christ sends the Holy Spirit and again in John 16:7-15, that the Holy Spirit will glorify Christ, guide the believers into all truth, and convict the world for its sins). This is how I believe the Feast of Shavuot has already been fulfilled.
Furthermore, if you look at the division of fulfillment, we see that the four spring feasts were fulfilled in a rather rapid succession. Then, you have a long wait over the summer until the fall feasts can occur. Since then, we have been waiting two thousand years for Christ to return. Therefore, if the foreshadowing remains constant, we could anticipate a fall rapture (whenever that finally happens). Again, the Church is not intrinsically tied to any particular feast, however, it would not be surprising if it did transpire on or near a Feast of Trumpets (September).
In Numbers 10:1-8, the Lord tells Moses how the silver trumpets were to be used in moving the camp. These were instruments that sounded both the advance and a second for the movement. However, when the horns were blown without the advance, then it was for the assembling of all the people.
The first trump was blasted at Mt. Sinai, and it gathered the Israelites together for the first time as a nation. When our Trumpet blasts (the second time-i.e., the last trump), it will signal that it is time for us to assemble in the air, and head to our eternal home. That last trump will not only signal it’s time for the Church age to come to an end but also that we are moving out of this world, by assembling in the sky, for the purpose of entering into our Sabbath, which is found in Jesus Christ. The only other option for this specific and special trumpet blast would be to assign it to the Feast of Trumpets.
PART IV: Conclusion
The Living Saints vs. the Righteous Dead
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1st Corinthians 15:51-54
Decades earlier, when pressed by Pontius Pilate, Jesus stated that His Kingdom was “not of this earth” (John 18:36). This passage is often used by Amillennialists to dismiss the idea that Christ would bring a literal kingdom to the earth during His millennial reign (Rev. 20). The key takeaway in that passage is not that this kingdom wasn’t ever coming to the earth, it’s that it does not originate from the earth. In other words, this ‘Kingdom Come’ does not originate from earth, or from mankind, but originates from God. Just as God revealed to Daniel, this ‘stone cut without human hands’ (Dan. 2:45) will crush the statue (the world’s empires) the stone, in fact, fills the entire earth. This is a real, physical kingdom that will literally come to the earth.
Now, what Paul’s discussion here centers on in the entire chapter (1 Cor. 15), is that the Church cannot physically go to Heaven in our present condition. We, in our mortal frames, and are very limited to where we can actually live without dying. Apart from death, we must be changed in order to go where Jesus is. This is WHY we must be changed.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the ‘harpazo’ primarily deals with answering the troubling question about what happened to those brothers and sisters in Christ who had already died. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he primarily deals with the instantaneous transformation of the living. We in our fleshly tents cannot physically enter heaven; our physical, earthly bodies could not survive it. We have to be transformed into our glorified bodies. Paul mentions this process in Romans 8:23, and the Apostle John references this in 1st John 3:1-3. What was conceived at Pentecost (the conception of the Church-Acts 2), will finally be born into glory at the Rapture. Instead of using the letter to comfort one another, as Paul does in his epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul ends this Corinthians letter with an almost exuberant declaration….”Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” – John 14:1-3 (emphasis mine)
A magnet works in a loop, with the magnetic field (electrons) constantly flowing out of the North Pole and into the south pole. It is amazing to watch a decent size magnet being hung over a pile of nails and watch them get snatched up to meet the magnet. A compass needle is a free-floating magnet, and will at every turn, point to magnetic north. In a way, I think that our sealing by the Holy Spirit has something to do with this (Eph. 4:30).
Our spiritual compass will always point us to God, no matter which way we try to turn. We may continue on the wrong path, but the needle does not lie. When Christ stated that He would ‘receive us unto Himself,’ we are made of the same Spiritual material through the Holy Spirit, being caught up as those nails are to an irresistible magnet that draws us unto Himself. When that Shout, Voice, and Trumpet call out to us believers (alive and dead), we will be snatched up to meet the Lord in the air.
As we await the return of our Lord and Savior, think about how God longs to once again walk amongst His people, as it was in the cool of the day in the garden. Then, consider the longsuffering and patience of God, delaying His return so that as many will come, will turn and seek Him as their salvation. As we see the signs approaching with ever-increasing intensity and frequency that mark the beginning of the Tribulation, lift up your heads, for your redemption draws nigh. As John saw the open door in heaven, and heard the command, “come up here,” so too shall we hear the words one day.
1. We know God can rapture people up because He’s done it before (Enoch, Elijah, Paul)
2. We know God will rapture people up because He said He will do it (John 14:1-3, 1 Thess. 4, 1 Cor. 15)
3. We know the Church is not Israel, nor Israel the Church because the Messiah came out of Israel, and the Church came out of the Messiah.
4. We know we are both the Body and Bride of Christ. Would Christ subject Himself to His own wrath?
5. Jesus stated we would have tribulation in this life (John 16:33). This is the normal state here in a fallen world. The 70th Week of Daniel (all seven years) is God pouring out His wrath upon the earth- from the first seal judgment (which Jesus opens) to the last bowl.
6. We know after the Rapture, God turns His attention back to 1) finishing His promises to Israel (Dan. 9:24-27, Ezekiel 38-39, Zech. 10, 14, Matt. 24:15-22, and Rev. 12, 19), and 2) punishing a Christ-rejecting world (Jer. 30:7-11, Matt. 25).
7. The Church was to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). With the Two Witnesses and the 144K Jewish male virgins from the twelve tribes of Israel, and the angel proclaiming the everlasting gospel in the heavens, the Church (were she still on the earth) would serve NO purpose inside the 70th Week (see Rev 13:7)
8. Just as there were believers (saints and elect) during the Old Testament, there will also be believers after the Church is raptured. Although there is only one way of salvation, thru Jesus, there are different classes of believers.
9. The only one capable of being a) omnipresent, and b) fully capable of restraining the spirit of antichrist around the world at the same time, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit existed on the earth before the Acts 2 Pentecost, likewise, He will still exist after the Rapture removes the Church. The main difference will be what the role of the Holy Spirit is during the 70th Week. My belief is that He goes back to that of an Old Testament role of indwelling specific believers to accomplish supernatural things (OT- Samson, David: NT- Two Witnesses, 144K)
10. The only possible way the Rapture of the Church could be completely unknowable (specifically speaking) is if it happens before the 70th Week of Daniel. The 70th Week is the most chronicled and time-stamped period of time in all of human history. If the Rapture happened at any time other than before it, then people could know exactly when it would happen, thus nullifying ‘no man knowing the day or hour.’
Just as God separates the Church from the world at the Rapture (to go to be where He is in heaven), God will likewise separate the wheat (righteous believers) from the tares (wicked unbelievers) after the Second Coming. God also separates the sheep nations from the goat nations all before beginning His millennial kingdom. This is not new. God has been separating people since the Tower of Babel, and will not end this until the final separation at the Great White Throne Judgment.
So let me conclude with this final point; God prematurely removes (by way of translation) Enoch and then uses Methuselah’s death as a sign for the coming Flood. As long as people lived back in those days, Enoch was certainly within the generation of the flood had God not taken him early.
Several centuries after the Flood, God is hearing about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah and is intent on destroying those cities. Knowing his nephew and family are still there, Abraham begins to negotiate with God on Lot’s behalf. In one of the most pivotal questions that will set the precedence for the rest of Scripture, Abraham asks (Gen. 18:23-25)…
“Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?… Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”