For centuries since the Lord Jesus departed from His disciples, the Church largely has focused upon that which He accomplished in His death on the cross for those who believe. Only occasionally do we find in the writings of the Church fathers in those early centuries an emphasis upon His promise that one day He would return. Yet He in the upper room clearly had promised to those disciples and to those who have believed in Him in the centuries that have followed as a result of their ministry that one day He would return.
"Do not let your hearts
be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's
house there are many mansions. If this were not so I would have
told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I do go and
do prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will receive
you unto Myself in order that where I am, there you also may be.
And where I go you already know and you even know the way"
During the years of His teaching, after His rejection as the Son of David while He was preparing His disciples for His ministry as the Son of Abraham, Christ had taught them that He was going away and one day would return. Careful scrutiny of the parables that He taught after His rejection in Matthew 10-12 will reveal that some of these parables focus upon the departure of the King to another land. Others focus upon the long stay. Still others focus upon the sudden return to those who would believe and on the judgment of the rebels that would follow.
Christ's teaching about His return is plainly seen in His explanation of the parable of the tares of the field (Matthew 13:36). But it also will be seen that there is no reference to that which will happen to church age believers in His teaching for that truth had not yet been unfolded for believers to understand.
". . . The One Who
sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world.
The good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are
the children of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the
devil. The harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are the
angels. Therefore, in the same way that tares are gathered and
are burned in the fire, even so it will be in the end of this
age. Then the Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will
gather out of His kingdom everything that offends and those who
practice iniquity and they will throw them into a fiery furnace.
There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous
ones will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matthew 13:37-43).
In the little parable about the pearl of great price Christ pictures His work on the cross, His departure from this world and His present ministry of saving to the uttermost those whom He would purchase in that death on the cross.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant Who is seeking fine pearls. He, when He had found one pearl of great price, went and sold everything that He had and bought it" (Matthew 13:45-46).
He does not speak of His return in that parable but immediately summarizes that which would happen at that time in the parable of the dragnet.
"Again, the kingdom
of heaven is like a net that is thrown into the sea, that gathers
of every kind [of fish].
When the net is full, they draw it to shore. Then they sit
down and gather out the good unto containers but they throw the
bad [fish] away. This is the way that it will be at the
end of the age. The angels will come forth and they will separate
the wicked ones out from among the righteous ones. Then they will
throw them into the furnace of fire and there will be wailing
and gnashing of teeth. Jesus said to them, 'have you understood
all of these things?' They said to Him, 'Yes, Lord'" (Matthew
Now the researcher should recognize that in none of these parables which Christ taught to His disciples is there anything which fully explains that which will happen to believers of the church age that separates them from the wicked before those receive their judgment. There is good reason for that. Paul will explain later in His epistles that the details concerning that which would happen to church age believers at the end of the church age were hidden from all Old Testament believers. It will be seen that this is a crucial part of the meaning of the term, "mystery." One thing that must be recognized is the fact that, before the cross and resurrection, His disciples still were Old Testament believers. Later I will explain His statements about those things that believers today can know which Old Testament believers were not allowed to understand.
This veil which closed the minds of Old Testament believers begins to be lifted slightly at the time of Christ's ascension. Forty days after His resurrection, Christ had taken His disciples that Sabbath's day journey out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. There He had ascended out of their sight. While they stood staring upwards in total amazement, they suddenly became aware of two messengers from the Lord who were standing near them. These said to them, "You men of Galilee, why are you standing gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken up from you into heaven, will return in the same way that you have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).
Now a new truth has been revealed to the disciples that deliberately had been obscured in Christ's parables about the departure of the householder and king. It is a truth for which their hearts were not ready before the resurrection. The details of all that would happen when Christ would come back for the Church would not be unveiled by the Holy Spirit to believers until after the Lord Jesus had returned to heaven and the Church had been established through the work of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Indeed, that veil that obscured the glories of the return of the Savior to catch up His Church would not be fully lifted until the Holy Spirit directed the human author, the apostle Paul, to write of them in so many of the epistles written to the churches of New Testament times.
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE RAPTURE REVEALED IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15:51-57
A. A Biblical mystery defined by Paul
There are five major places in Paul's epistles where he explains this fact that there were truths which Old Testament writers and readers were not allowed to understand. These passages are Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 3:4-6, 3:9-11, 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4 and 15:51-57 The researcher will see when we examine these passages that Paul refers to this fact of the concealment of these truths to the Old Testament believer and then the revealing of these truths to the New Testament believer in the New Testament by the term, "a mystery."
1. Paul's first definition of "a mystery"
In Romans 16:25-26 Apostle Paul defines the word "mystery" which also he has used in 1 Corinthians 2. His definition is found in the benediction which closes that great book. "Now to Him who has power to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made clear, even through the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for obedience to the faith . . . (Romans 16:25-26).
Now Paul has declared very
plainly here that there are two crucial elements to a Biblical
1. A Biblical mystery contains truth which actually was revealed by God through the Old Testament prophets but which carefully was kept from their understanding by the Holy Spirit Who is the member of the Godhead.
2. The Biblical mystery now opens the believer's mind today to understand that which formerly had revealed and yet had been concealed from believers long ago. Thus the two essential parts of a Biblical mystery focus first of all upon the concealment of things which were utterly unknown to the Old Testament believer and yet were present in the Biblical revelation which had been given to them in the Old Testament. Then the focus of a Biblical mystery turns to the fact that these truths that had been completely unknown to the Old Testament prophet or believer now are being unveiled for understanding by the New Testament believer. Paul explains both of these characteristics of a mystery more clearly in 1 Corinthians 2. First of all he explained that, because the unsaved Corinthians could not have understood his message if it had been delivered out of the depth of what he had come to know or in the manner of the Greek philosophers who gloried in their wisdom.
"And I, brethren, did not come with excellency of speech or [human] wisdom when I came to you declaring to you the testimony of God. This is because I determined not to know any thing among you except for Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was in your presence in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in words of man's wisdom which entice, but [they were] in the demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and of power. This was in order that your faith would not stand in the wisdom of men but rather in the power of God.
He explains why crucial truths about the Savior were not understood prior to the cross.
Then Paul explains that, among mature believers, he had a far more extensive message than he had used when seeking to lead these same people to Christ. And there, as he develops the subject, he explains that even now this Old Testament revelation only can be understood by a believer who is in a proper relationship to the Holy Spirit. The New Testament believer who continues, after the manner of the unsaved man, to walk according to the rule of his or her sin nature rather than under the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit will not be able to understand the Biblical mysteries. He or she will continue to fail to understand that which the Holy Spirit will reveal to the spiritual believer.
2. Peter's contribution to our understanding of a "mystery"
This is the truth to which the Apostle Peter refers in 1 Peter 1. He has been introducing the glories of the product of the faith that we New Testament believers will enjoy when Christ returns.
"Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who, according to His abundant mercy, has caused us to be born again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, which does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last time. You greatly rejoice in this, even though now for a time, if it is necessary, you are in heaviness through multiplied trials, in order that the trial of your faith, which is much more precious than the trial of gold which perishes even though it is tried with fire, might be found to be unto the praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, Whom, having not seen, you love, in whom, even though you do not see Him now, yet believing, you rejoice with joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Of this salvation the [Old Testament] prophets have inquired and have searched diligently, who prophesied of this grace [that comes to New Testament believers], searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, who by means of them did indicate, when He testified beforehand about the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow. It was revealed to them that it was not unto themselves that they ministered these things which now are reported to you by those who have preached the gospel to you with the Holy Spirit Who has been sent down from heaven, which things [even] the angels long to examine. Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind. Be sober and hope to the end for the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:3-14).
The truth is plainly stated
here by Peter that there were things revealed through the Old
Testament prophets by the Lord which they themselves did not understand,
even though these things are found in their writings. While Peter
does not mention the word "mystery," it is inescapable
that he was speaking of that when one considers Paul's definition
of a Biblical mystery. And it also will be seen that the term
covers more than one area of revelation. Here in First Peter,
two truths are mentioned that were embedded in the Old Testament
prophet's writings, yet were not understood by them.
1. Peter refers to the sufferings of Christ as one of these areas which was not grasped even though there are passages like Isaiah 52:13-53:12 which directly speak of Messiah's sufferings.
2. Peter also speaks of the glory that would follow the sufferings of Christ as an area of prophecy which was closed to the understanding of the Old Testament writers.
3. The use of the term "mystery" in 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4
1 Corinthians 2 also speaks of the fact that those who were involved in the crucifixion of the Messiah did not grasp the fact that their actions were fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.
"However, we do speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet it is not the wisdom of this age not that of the princes of this age that comes to nothing, but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [that which is hidden], even the hidden [wisdom] which God ordained before the ages unto our glory, which [wisdom] none of the princes of this age knew, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But [it was] just as it is written (in Isaiah 64:4), "Eye has not seen, nor has an ear hear, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him . . ." (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).
In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul has begun to speak of the fact that things which had been kept a mystery to those under the Old Testament economy. This period of Biblical history extends into the New Testament. It does not end until the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit began the formation of the Church, the body of Christ. These things that were a mystery to those in the Old Testament economy were not understood by those who crucified Christ. Paul describes the Old Testament truth that those people who crucified Christ did not understand in this way. It was
". . .the wisdom of
God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God had ordained
before the ages unto our glory, which none of the princes of this
age understood. The reason is that, if they had understood it,
they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
Paul announces that those things that formerly had been hidden in God's earlier revelation, the Old Testament, were now part of the message which he brought in his preaching and teaching to the mature believer of this age. After he finished reporting the inaccessibility of these things to those who killed their Messiah, he turns to explain that those hidden things now are made understandable by the Holy Spirit to believers today.
"But God has revealed
them unto us by His Spirit, because the Spirit searches all things,
even the deep things of God (1
The believer today has privileges much greater than the Old Testament believer. Paul uses a human illustration to enable us to understand that only the Holy Spirit could enable a believer to understand these things which no Old Testament believer knew.
"For what man knows
the things of a man except for the spirit of the man which is
in him? In the same way no man knows the things of God but only
the Spirit of God, which things we also speak, not in the words
which man's wisdom teaches but in words which the Holy Spirit
teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual words"
(1 Corinthians 2:11-12).
But the sad thing is that there are many believers, who have the Divine Author, the Holy Spirit, residing in them, who do not begin to understand the Biblical mysteries. In this larger passage in 1 Corinthians 2-3 Paul explains a major reason why many believers today do not understand his teachings about the mystery which we call "the rapture." This term, which actually is derived from a Latin word, long has been applied by those who understood Paul's teaching about Christ's coming in the air. It is the believer's home going when Christ returns at the end of this dispensation to take believers out of this world before the beginning of the day of the Lord. Paul's teaching on the matter will be explained later.
But here in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 Paul explains a major hindrance that faces New Testament believers and hinders them from grasping teaching that was "a mystery." Now Paul is not delving into the hidden secrets of gnosticism here. This is that teaching which corrupted the early church and still plagues the church today. Gnosticism exalted human wisdom after the manner of the Greek philosophers. It continually placed the Word of God under critical scrutiny and subjected it to the reinterpretation and the contradiction of the philosopher. Like the gnosticism of today, it rejected the obvious meaning of the Word of God and intruded an overriding interpretation which flew in the face of the obvious intent of the Revelator in His Word.
An example of modern gnosticism may be found in those who trust the pronouncements of the evolutionary faith rather than the clear statement of the Word of God concerning the event series in God's creation and following. These believers reject the obvious meaning of Genesis one. They extrapolate the solar days of Genesis into millions of years wherein God used the supposedly natural processes of evolution to create all things. They do this in order that they may straddle the fence between a truly Biblical faith and the evolutionary faith of origins that they have been taught in their scientific "disciplines." Another example of modern gnosticism may be seen in amillennialism. Those who refuse to believe the Old Testament prophecies concerning the future glories of the descendants of Abraham in the millennial kingdom exalt their presuppositions above the direct revelation of God on the matter. They reinterpret prophetic Scripture in order to make its words fit their firmly established doctrine that there will be no earthly kingdom of Christ on earth.
In 1 Corinthians 2 and 3 Paul gives two possible explanations for those religious people who cannot or will not accept the New Testament revelation of things which previously had been a mystery.
1. First of all he shows that people may fail to understand a Biblical truth which formerly had been concealed because they actually are not believers. Even though they may be religious, they still are in their unsaved state and actually are secret unbelievers. He describes the individual who is in this category in this way.
"But the natural man
cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, [which things He now reveals to the
receptive believer], because these things are foolishness to
him, neither is he able to understand them because they are spiritually
discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Paul is saying that this man simply can not understand those previously hidden things that the Holy Spirit now is revealing to mature believers. He is explaining that this is because these things are understood only through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, whom the natural man has not received since he has not yet even become a true believer. Now it always has been understood that this verse speaks of the unsaved man's inability to understand spiritual truth. But something has been lost when that spiritual truth is not considered in the context in which Paul wrote this verse. He has been speaking of those in the Old Testament economy who were not able to understand the formerly hidden things prophesied concerning the sufferings of Christ. Notice that in 1 Peter 1:10-14, when Peter has explained the inability of the Old Testament prophets to grasp fully the things of the Messiah, he has associated ". . . the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 10:11). The Old Testament prophets did not fail to understand because they were not saved. Far from that! But in the case of the unsaved man in New Testament times, he never can fully understand the purpose of, the nature of, the benefits of nor the application of the sufferings and the death of Christ. Neither can he understand the glory that will follow. But this indeed is because he has not been saved and does not have the Holy Spirit, the Divine Teacher, indwelling him.
2. That which is true of the unsaved man is true also to a lesser extent for the believer in Christ Jesus who has persisted in the ways of the old man, who has refused to ". . . walk by means of the [Holy] Spirit" (Romans 8:1, 3 as preserved in the Majority Greek text).
Of course there are many believers who do not intentionally persist in walking according to the dictates of his or her flesh. They have been left walking ". . . by means of the flesh" (Romans 8:1, 3) because the one who led them to Christ never completed the task of discipling them. The one who won them to Christ simply dropped the foundling on the church steps. He then walked away as if unconcerned whether the new babe in Christ ever grew up spiritually or not. The larger half of the Epistle to the Romans, chapters 6-15, is devoted to Paul's five crucial steps of discipling the new believer after he has set forth the five crucial steps of soul winning in chapters 1:16-6:10. Paul speaks of his continuing ministry of discipling spiritually undeveloped believers in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.
"But I, brethren, was
not able to speak to you as to spiritual [believers] but as unto carnal [fleshly
believers], even as to babes in Christ. I have fed you with
milk and not with solid food because you still were not able to
understand that, neither are you yet able. The reason is that
you still are carnal, for in as much as there is among you envy
and strife and divisions, aren't you still carnal and planning
your life according to man? For whenever someone on the one hand
says, `I am on the side of Paul.' But another on the other hand
says: `I am on the side of Apollos.' Aren't you being carnal?"
I am utterly aghast that there are those, even one of my former students, who teach from the pulpit and from the Sunday School podium that there is no such thing as a carnal believer. They ignore Paul's explanation in Romans 5:12 through 8:3 that every believer does have a sin nature because of his participation in Adam's act in Adam and that this nature which has served as the king of his or her life since birth still is present in the one who has become a believer. For this reason he exhorts the one who has been placed "in Christ Jesus" through the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the moment of the new birth in this way. I translate Romans 6:11-13 in this way fully to transmit the implications of the original Greek text.
"For this reason you
also must reckon yourselves on the one hand to be dead to the
sin nature but, on the other hand, living to God in Christ Jesus
our Lord. Therefore stop allowing the sin nature to reign as king
in your mortal body [the
one which is still subject to death] in order to obey it in
its lusts. Neither should you continue to present your members
as instruments of unrighteousness to the sin nature, but on the
contrary, present yourselves once for all to God as one living
out from among the dead ones [i.e., as one who has been resurrected
from the dead in Christ Jesus] and your members as instruments
of righteousness to God"
Much of the confusion which believers face when they are attempting to understand Paul's explanation of the Biblical mysteries is caused by the failure of the translators of our English Bibles to recognize that the Apostle speaks 30 times of the sin nature between Romans 5:12 and 8:3. These references are readily distinguishable from his references to sin as an act by his use of the Greek article hee, (definite article "the," for feminine nouns) before the Greek word hamartia "sin" in these 30 locations. All of these references must be linked back with Paul's twice repeated reference to the sin nature in Romans 5:12 where he explains its origin in the act of rebellion by the fountain head of the race. We have that sin nature and the consequences in our lives today because, as the seed of Adam, we were "in Adam" when he first disobeyed God in the garden.
In Romans 7 Paul explains his own perplexity as a new believer. The Mosaic law, which he as a Pharisee had memorized, kept telling the one who now had been freed from the law through his death "in Christ Jesus" that he still was committing acts of sin. This helped Paul to realize that which every believer who eventually can lead a life pleasing to God must realize. He still had a very active sin nature within himself. Nine times in Romans 7 Paul refers to that nature by using the article "the" in front of the word for "sin." Indeed, there are three places in the chapter where he specifically refers to "the sin nature that indwells me" or "the sin nature that is in my members" (Romans 7:17, 20 and 23). Failure of a believer to acknowledge that he has a sin nature which forces him to be utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit for victory in overcoming its lusts erases from his mind the absolute necessity of finding, like the Apostle did, the victory over the sin nature which is only obtained through a right relationship to the Holy Spirit [the theme of chapter 8 of Romans]. And failure to enter such a relationship with the Holy Spirit leaves the believer as a carnal believer motivated by the intense desires of his flesh instead of being led by the Holy Spirit. As a consequence, that believer will be greatly handicapped in the understanding of the great passages in the New Testament which unfold those Biblical mysteries which had been hidden from the Old Testament believer and which, as a result, still are obscure to the carnal believer.
Paul plainly is explaining in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 that spiritual immaturity is a major reason why many believers do not understand, either partially or fully, those Biblical mysteries which are unveiled by the New Testament writers and particularly by Paul. Believers who have not learned to avail themselves of the teaching and empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit, who do not walk by means of the Holy Spirit, in a sense are like the secret unbelievers in the church who cannot understand or will not accept the great Biblical mysteries which now are unfolded to spiritually mature believers by means of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit through mature teachers of God's Word.
4. Paul's explanation of "a mystery" in Ephesians 3:1-6
The book of Ephesians is another place where Paul gives us further information about those things which were hidden from the Old Testament believer even though they were written in the Tenach, the Old Testament. Already he was in a Roman prison when he wrote this great epistle and further explained the nature of a Biblical mystery. He says this in Ephesians 3:1-6.
"Because of this grace
I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles---if
indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which
was given to me for you---that according to revelation He made
known to me the mystery, just as I previously wrote briefly, with
reference to which, when you read, you will be able to understand
my grasp of the mystery of Christ, which in other generations
was not revealed to the sons of men as it now has been revealed
to His holy apostles and prophets by means of the Spirit, that
is, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body,
even sharing together in His promise in Christ through the gospel"
Once again Paul has stressed the fact that a Biblical mystery relates to revelatory which was not explained by the Holy Spirit to mankind before the days of the apostles. He also has made it clear that this revelatory information now is available because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But Paul now has added some elements to his definition. The very fact that this revelation has been made known through the work of the Holy Spirit already has been developed in 1 Corinthians 2. But the fact that the channel through which the Holy Spirit has unfolded these previously concealed things by means of the apostles and prophets is new. Furthermore he now shows us that in this passage he is dealing with a different mystery than the one which we found in 1 Corinthians 2. There the mystery focused upon the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. Here the focus is upon the fact that the door of salvation now has been opened for Gentiles so that they might enter the blessings of God through the gospel. Indeed, he now shows that this mystery contains a truth which could not even have been conceived by the Old Testament believer that, through the work of Christ as promised in the gospel, the Gentiles now could be joined together in one body, the body of Christ. But even more astounding is the revelation that the Gentiles now become fellow heirs. That can only mean that the Gentiles enter into some of the great blessings that had been promised to God's chosen people, Israel. Therefore, on the basis of Paul's explanation here in Ephesians 3:1-6, it is obvious that one of the mysteries which had been hidden from Old Testament believers was the new relationship that Gentiles would have to the Lord and to the physical descendants of Abraham. He now elaborates on the fact that he uniquely had been chosen to unfold these Biblical mysteries to the Church.
5. Paul's explanation of "a mystery" in Ephesians 3:7-11
Paul explains how he became a servant of the Lord in presenting the grace of God. He marvels that he who had persecuted believers before he had become a believer himself should have been chosen to reveal to the Gentiles all that God had in store for them. He speaks of the gospel.
". . . of which I was
made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God which
was given to me by the effectual working of His power, unto me,
who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given,
in order that I might preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of
the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden
in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent
that now the manifold wisdom of God might be known to the principalities
and powers in the heavenlies by means of the Church, according
to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus, our
The fact that Paul was given this ministry which was to be preached among the Gentiles further confirms the fact that the Biblical mysteries uniquely are revealed to the Church in this age. That which had been hidden from the beginning of time but now is being revealed is unfolded by means of the Church. Amazingly, Paul says that this revelation of the fellowship of the mystery is a means of displaying the manifold wisdom of God. That which is even more amazing in Paul's words is the fact that the revelation of this mystery by means of the Church provides revelation to angelic beings. The reference to "the principalities and powers in the heavenlies" can only be understood as speaking of the angels. Whether this refers only to the holy angels or includes the fallen angels as well is a problem. Ephesians 6:12 clearly speaks of four ranks of the fallen angels as having access to "the heavenlies." There Paul warns believers about the fact that, in order for believers to withstand Satan's attacks, we must be aware of the fact that ". . . we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of the darkness of this age, against the evil spiritual forces in the heavenlies" (Ephesians 6:12).
In Romans 8:38-39 these fallen angels are seen attacking believers, but only with the Lord's permission and overriding purpose of developing the believer into the likeness of Christ. Paul explains that their attacks are part of the "all things" which the Holy Spirit may pray into the lives of believers to help them overcome their weaknesses an unChristlikenesses. A crucial part of his explanation of the role of the 'all things" of Romans 8:28 follows immediately in verse 29. These are designed by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Father to conform us to the image of Christ. Together the two verses reveal this truth.
"Now we know that all
things work together for good to those who are loving God, even
to those who are being called according to His purpose. The reason
is this: whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed
to the image of His Son so that He might be the firstborn among
It is to be regretted that many students of the Bible cannot see the word "predestined" without immediately turning in their minds to think of the Lord's plan and work of bringing those who come to believe to salvation. In this context it must be recognized that this predestination looks forward and not backward. It looks to that glorious day when the children of God ultimately will be conformed to Christ's image when we stand before the Father in glory. In Ephesians 1:4-5 the same truth is taught but even more clearly once the interpreter turns his mind from the day of salvation to the day of glorification. A problem which has obscured that which Paul is saying in this passage is the translation of huiothesian by "adoption" rather than by "adult-son-placing." The word has nothing whatsoever to do with legal adoption of a child into another family. Indeed, we are not adopted into God's family. We are born into His family in the new birth at regeneration.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who are born, not of blood, neither because of the will of the flesh, nor because of the will of man, but who are born of God" (John 1:12).
My wife and I perfectly understand the process of legal adoption for both of our children were legally adopted into our family after being born to others. In the first place the believer is not adopted into God's family but is born into His family through the new birth. This is precisely that which the Apostle John teaches.
"But as many as received
Him, He gave to them the right to become the children [not "sons" as
KJV] of God, to those believing in His name, who were born,
not out of blood, neither out of the will of the flesh, neither
out of the will of man but [were born] out of God"
Instead, the Greek word huiothesian speaks of the act that a father performs for his son who has become mature. It is a word that describes the culmination of the long process of the training of a landowner's child. From babyhood in the Greek and Roman cultures the child was placed under the tutelage and discipline of the master's slaves. These were fully responsible for the education and development of the master's child. Finally, when the master had determined that his child had reached a stage of maturity where he could be acknowledged as and announce to be a mature son, he would call all of his slaves together at the front porch of his villa. He would robe his now mature son with a beautiful toga and announce to those slaves, who for years had supervised the child's development and education, "This is my huios, my adult son. From now on you take orders from him!" Does not Hebrews 1:14 speak of the angels in such a way as to indicate that they minister unto the ones who are about to inherit salvation? "Are not they all ministering spirits being sent out to minister for the sake of the ones who are about to inherit salvation?" Along with the Holy Spirit the guardian angels continually are ministering to believers as they look forward to the day when these children of God will enter complete maturity in the very presence of the Lord of all. They serve the Ethe Eternal in preparing His believing children in the same way that the slaves of the landholder served as they prepared his male children for the day of the declaration of their maturity.
This training with a goal of the child's ultimate adulthood is precisely the import of the word huiothesian in Romans 8 and in Ephesians 1. In the case of the New Testament believer, the Holy Spirit who undertakes the responsibility of training and developing the child of God, seeks to prepare the one who has been born into the family of God as a child so that he will become a mature Son of God. In Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 it can be seen that the term actually has two meanings. There is a sense in which a believer even today can become an adult son of God. Paul refers to this in Romans 8:14. "For as many as are being led by the Spirit of God, these are adult sons of God." However, ultimate adult sonship which does not come until we actually stand in the presence of our Lord is the most obvious in these contexts. It is to this that Paul is referring in Romans 8:23. "And not only so, but we ourselves, having the first fruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly awaiting adult son placing, that is the redemption of our bodies."
Thus it can be seen that Ephesians 1:4-5 can be properly translated only in a way that recognizes that predestination there, as in Romans 8:29, is looking forward to the day in glory when God's children become adult sons of God.
". . . Even as He chose us for Himself in Him [in Christ Jesus] before the laying down of the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and blameless before him in love, having predestined us unto adult son placing through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."
Surely it is not difficult to see why there were things hidden from the comprehension of the Old Testament believer! There were many facets of truth about believers in the age that would come to us that were utterly incomprehensible to the Old Testament believer. That is not to say that there were no hints of the fact that there would be another people created by the Lord at a future time who would be able to understand these things. Indeed, the prophet who wrote Psalm 102 was used to convey this truth and the fact that the Psalm and the conversations between the Father and the Son which the Psalm contains as the latter faced death would only be understood by yet another people. The Father says to the Son about the Psalm's revelation concerning the Son's coming death and resurrection that a people which would be created would understand its revelation about the Messiah's going to the cross before His receiving of His crown. He says:
"This is written for
the generation to come; and the people who will be created will
praise the Eternal Lord. The reason is that He [the Father] has looked down from
the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Eternal Lord
look upon the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoner [the
Old Testament believer confined in Sheol until the provision of
a sacrifice that could take away sin (John 1:29)], to loose
those who are appointed to death [those who would die after
the cross], to give an full exposition of the meaning of the
name of YHWH, the Eternal Lord, in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples are gathered together and the kingdoms to serve
the Eternal Lord" (Psalm 102:18-22).
But the interpreter should recognize that these three reasons for the delay of the crowning of the King by the Cross of the Savior obviously was not unveiled either to the writer of the Psalm or to those who read it before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. ". . . The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. . . " (1 Peter 1:11) simply were not given meaning to these in the old economy. It should not be surprising then to find that there are those even today who cannot understand some of the great mysteries which are only revealed to mature believers (1 Corinthians 2:5-3:4 which see). Some have been taught false doctrine that conceals the truth. Others are yet immature, unable to understand anything that goes beyond the preaching of the cross. It will be seen during the examination of the rapture, one of these great mysteries revealed in the New Testament, that confusion concerning the meaning of the Word, concerning the timing of its prophesied events, and concerning the actual nature of the event great hinder those who are unable to grasp the Biblical teaching concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus in the air for those saints, dead or alive, who are in Christ Jesus.
B. The Revelation of the mystery of the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)
1. We will not all sleep but will be changed
Another Biblical mystery of
great significance to the believer today was revealed by the Apostle
Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians. This time that which
is revealed is new light on that which will happen to believers
when the Church age closes before the time of Jacob's troubles
begins. This is an area of Biblical truth where many if not most
believers are confused. For some the confusion grows out of total
failure to recognize Paul's teaching about this crucial transition
when all Church age believers since the beginning of the Church
at Pentecost will enter into the presence of the Eternal Lord
in their glorified bodies. Paul first presents this mystery in
a great chapter that corrects the errant thinking of some of the
Corinthian believers concerning the subject of resurrection. 1
Corinthians 15 begins as Paul reemphasizes the essential truths
of the gospel that he had preached to the Corinthians when he
had come to Corinth from Athens. In verses 1-11 Paul makes it
clear that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential part
of that which a person must believe in order to be saved.
Paul actually presents a remarkable amount of information about the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15. Later it will be seen in 1 Thessalonians 4 that the resurrection of the bodies of departed believers is an essential part of the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul utterly has contradicted those at Corinth who were holding the doctrine of the Sadducees that there was no resurrection from the dead for believers. He scorns those who acknowledged that Christ had been resurrected from the dead but deny that there is resurrection from the dead. (12)
"Now since it is preached
that Christ rose from the dead, how is it that some of you say
that there is no resurrection of the dead?. (13) But if there is no resurrection of the
dead, then Christ has not risen, (14) and if Christ has
not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith also is
empty. (15) Yes, and we are found to be false witnesses
of God, because we have testified about God that He raised up
Christ, but He did not raise Him up if it were so that the dead
do not rise. (16) For if the dead do not rise, then Christ
has not been raised, (17) and if Christ has not been raised,
your faith is without result and you still are in your sins.
(18) Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
(19) If it is only in this life that we have hope in Christ,
we are the most miserable of all men. (20) But now Christ
has arisen from the dead, and He has become the first fruit of
those who have gone to sleep [i.e., believers who have died].
(21) The reason is that since by man came death, the resurrection
of the dead also came by man. (22) For even as in Adam
[the one man through whom death came to the human race] all
die, even so in Christ [the One Whose resurrection made resurrection
possible] all [both saved and unsaved, in their own order]
will be made alive, (23) but every man in his own order."
[i.e., the resurrection of Church age believers will come
in the rapture and others will have their resurrection at their
Israel will have their own resurrection which is described in Daniel 12 as coming 1335 days after the middle of the great tribulation, or 75 days after its end. In that chapter it is revealed to Daniel that, after the actions of the tribulation world leader that have been foreshadowed by those of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 11), three major events would befall the people of the nation of Israel.
"And at that time Michael,
the great (angelic)
prince who stands for the children of your people [Israel],
will stand up. Then there will be:
1. a time of trouble such as never has been since there was a nation even to that same time. [The timing of this is developed in verses 6-8].
2. And at that time your people (Israel) will be delivered, that is everyone that will be found written in the book. (The judgment of living Israel is developed in verses 9-11. It is obvious from Daniel 12:11 that the judgment of living Israel, in preparation for the full return of its exiles to the land promised to them long ago, will take place 30 days after the last half of the seven years of the time of Jacob's troubles. Jeremiah 32:37-44 describes the work of the Eternal that brings about the transformation of those who are allowed to enter their promised land. Ezekiel 31:33-34 is the plainest statement concerning the transformation of the people of the Eternal Lord that will take place at that time. Ezekiel 20:33-44 is one of several passages in the Tanach that describes this final return of Israel from their exile. Matthew 25:31-46 develops it very clearly in the New Testament).
In my work in India checking
translation work in the Tanach and in the New Testament for tribal
peoples living in East India, I had a fascinating experience.
I was checking the accuracy of translation work in the Old Testament
book of Leviticus that had been done by three leaders of the Manipuri,
Tedim Chin and Paite tribes. Mani Singh of the Manipuri tribe
was translating the work that he had done on Leviticus 23:6 back
into English, the trade language of India, so that I could compare
that with the original Hebrew text. When he finished translating
this verse that describes the keeping of the feast of unleavened
bread in the week following the observance of the passover, he
paused and looked very strange. And then, before I could comment
on his work he said: "Uncle, we do exactly the same thing
in the Manipuri tribe every spring!" And again, before I
could comment, Pu Jam of the Paite tribe broke in and said: "And
we do too, Uncle!" Immediately Thang of the Tedim Chin tribe
of western Mayanmar also said almost exactly the same thing.
3. "Then many of them that sleep in the dust will awake, some to everlasting life" (the timing of which is explained in verses 11-13. According to verse 11). The unsaved dead will not be raised either with church age believers in the rapture or with Old Testament believers as Paul immediately explains]: Christ the firstfruits [See v. 20]; afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. [This includes both Church age believers and Old Testament believers, even though these resurrections will be separated by more than seven years. Christ's coming in the air and His coming to the earth are spoken of as if they were one coming]. (24) Then the end [resurrection] comes when He will have put down all rule and all authority and power, (25) for he must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. [This resurrection is the one that takes place at the end of Christ's 1,000 year earthly kingdom rule. Further information about this resurrection of the unsaved dead is given Revelation 20:5a and 12-15]. (26) The last enemy to be destroyed will be death" (1 Corinthians 15:12-26).
Paul has spoken of the believers who now are asleep in 1 Corinthians 15:18 and 20. Many interpreters have made the mistake of concluding that both the body and soul of the believer is asleep today and only will awaken at the resurrection of believers. Paul absolutely denies that idea in 2 Corinthians 5:6 and 8. (6) "For this reason we are always confident, because we know that as long as we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. (8) We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." It is inescapable that Paul is announcing that the believer who dies goes immediately into the presence of the Lord in his soul and spirit. In the Epistle of First Thessalonians 4:13-14 Paul specifically announces that believers who have departed to be with the Lord when their bodies fell asleep in the sleep of death would be returning from heaven with Christ when He would return to raise their bodies from the dead to return to glory. I believe that Paul is speaking of that return in to glory into the presence of the Father in1 Thessalonians 3:13. "...To the end that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all of His saints." But as Paul speaks of Christ's coming in the air to catch up the bodies of departed Church saints and to transform those believers who still are alive at that time, it is there that he makes it clear that only the bodies of the departed Church age saints lie asleep while they await Christ's return from glory for them. Their souls and spirits already are with Him precisely as Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. He says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, (13)
"But I do not want
you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep,
in order that you will not sorrow in the same way that others
[sorrow] who do
not have any hope. (14) For since we believe that Jesus
died and rose again, even so also God will bring with Him those
who sleep in Jesus...."
No, the entire body, soul and spirit of the believer who has died in Christ Jesus does not lie in soul sleep. Only the body lies in sleep, waiting to be awakened by the shout of the Savior and the blast of the trumpet that will initiate the resurrection of the dead in Christ.
2. The time of our transformation
a. At the twinkling of an eye
Paul has revealed that the transformation of the believer from the life that he has lived in this old body to that glorious, eternal state which we will enjoy will take no longer than the flash of light that glances off of an eyeball. It will not take the Lord an agonizing long time to search out the oceans for the scattered atoms of a believer's body who has died in the sea. There will be no painfully long wait for the believer whose body has decayed in the earth to be reassembled and raised up to be joined with his or her soul and spirit. It is the Eternal, all powerful Creator Who at a single breath transformed a lump of clay into the wonderful, brilliant first man. Paul describes the time in which the transformation of the decayed and dispersed body will take place in this way.
"Behold, I show to
you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we all will be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [for the Church] for the trumpet
will sound and the dead [in Christ] will be raised incorruptible,
and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption
and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians
In a moment! At the twinkling of an eye! In effect, the assembling and raising of those being resurrected, as well as the time it will take for the transformation of all Church age believers who still will be living at that moment, fully will be accomplished. In a moment! In the twinkling of an eye! Glory!
b. At the last trump (for the Church)
It must be noticed that the text above also tells us that the timing of the rapture will be initiated at the blast of the last trump. Now many have confused the timing of the rapture by confusing this trumpet blast with the sounding of the seventh trumpet by the seventh angel in Revelation 11:15. But the sounding of the trumpet at the end of the tribulation as described in Revelation 11:15-19 is a trumpet which sounds with reference to the people of the nation of Israel and the judgment of the nations that have been persecuting Israel during the time when the beast has become the world ruler and has set up his rule from the city of Jerusalem. All seven of the angelic trumpet blasts follow the opening of the seven seals. They do not overlap them. After the opening of the seventh seal there is a silence in heaven for about one half of an hour before the seven angels with the seven trumpets arise to introduce another series of seven terrible events which lead up to the close of the tribulation and the beginning of the rule of Christ over all of the world. It is an event series which brings about the judgment of the nations. But it also is an event series which ultimately brings the wayward people of Israel to their knees, beseeching the only One Who can cleanse them from their sins to come down from heaven and save them. Isaiah 63 describes the process that will lead to their repentance. Those of Israel will have recognized that it is He who will have come from Edom where He will have destroyed their enemies as the year of vengeance finally has come. They will have recognized the waywardness of Israel in the past and that will lead them to begin calling for Him to begin once again attending to His wayward people.
"Look down from heaven and see from the habitation of Your holiness and of your Glory. Where is your zeal and your strength, the sounding of Your bowels and of Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained" (Isaiah 63:15).
The agony of that prayer will deepen. Eventually Israel will cry out:
"Oh that You would
rend the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains
would flow at Your presence even as the melting fire burns, the
fire causes the waters to boil, in order to make Your name known
to Your adversaries, in order that the nations may come to tremble
at Your presence"
(Isaiah 64:1 Engl.).
The dreadful trials which Isaiah describes as befalling the nation of Israel in the days before the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth in response to their prayer above are those described in the book of Revelation. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the Church. There are only a few chapters of the book of Revelation which relate to the Church. Those having to do with the Church on earth are chapters 1-3. This section ends as our forerunner, John, is caught up in vision to see that which would follow here on earth as Israel faces her great trials that bring that people into right relationship to their Messiah.
"After this I looked, and see, a door was opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard was as if a trumpet was talking to me which said: 'Come up here and I will show you the things which must be after these things" (Revelation 4:1).
am convinced that precisely
that which John heard will be spoken to the Church before
the tribulation begins. The last trump that sounds at the rapture
of the Church is the last trump for the Church, not for Israel.
The rapture takes place before the tribulation.
Those verses in Revelation that speak of the Church in heaven after the rapture are found in chapter 19. The primary attention of the book of Revelation turns from the terrible judgments which will be taking place on the earth during the seven years of the time of Jacob's trouble to the glories surrounding the church in heaven during that time. It is a chapter that contains the joy and rejoicing of the Church as they honor the Lamb, the Lord Jesus. It describes the preparation of the Church, the Bride for her return to earth with the King, the Lord Jesus. And then the chapter moves on to describe the dreadful scene when the King does arrive on earth with all of His armies as He judges the nations and prepares earth for His one thousand year reign here on earth. No, the rapture of the Church does not take place either at the middle of the tribulation or at the end of the tribulation. The Church will be in heaven during all of that time.
c. After the resurrection of Church age believers whose bodies sleep while awaiting the return of their spirits with Christ
Paul also makes it clear that those believers who are alive and who remain until the coming of the Lord in the air will only be transformed and translated into their eternal state after the resurrection of the bodies of those believers whose souls and spirits join their resurrected bodies. This Paul clearly says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. (15)
"For we say this to you be the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of th Lord will not precede those who are asleep. (16) The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and who remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we will ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
3. The nature of our change (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
Paul devotes considerable space to his description of all that will take place in our bodies at the time of the rapture. He has said in 1 Corinthians 15:51, "...We shall all be changed." Earlier in the chapter he has given more detailed information about the transformation of the believer at the rapture. In describing the resurrection from a believer's body from the dead he says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44:
"It is sown in corruption. It is raised in incorruption. (43) It is sown in dishonor. It is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness. It is raised in power. (44) It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body."
Paul further describes that which happens in 1 Corinthians 15:52-54. (52)
"...The dead will be raised incorruptible and we will be changed. (53) For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. As a result, when this corruptible will have put on incorruption and this mortal will have put on immortality, then the saying that is written will be brought to pass, 'Death is swallowed up in victory."
II. THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE
Now it is necessary to review the event series in which the rapture of the Church will take place. It is crucial that this series of events be brought into perspective and that their order of occurrences be recognized. Otherwise it is easy for one to fall prey to one of the misunderstandings concerning the timing of the rapture in the eschatological event series.
A. When the Lord descends from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
It is clear from Romans 9-11
that Paul considered the teaching of things to come to be a vital
part of the discipling through which a new believer should be
taken. In my book "True Evangelism" (or "Biblical
Evangelism")--as practiced by Paul in Romans 1:15-6:10,"
I show that Paul practiced five very careful steps in his evangelism.
This book already has been published on CD by LOGOS in Oak Harbor,
Washington. In my second book on Romans (in the publisher's hands)
I show that in Romans 6:10-15:31 Paul then took five very careful
steps in the discipling of the one who has come to Christ. The
third step which he took is found in Romans 9-11. In this section
he focuses upon the teaching of the believer of things to come.
It is clear that he knew that the understanding of the great things
that our God is going to do in the future serves as a powerful
incentive for the believer to live a spiritual life as he or she
looks forward to these great events in the future.
In Paul's ministry it is apparent that he practiced the principles, both of evangelism and of discipleship which he teaches in the book of Romans. Acts 17 describes his work of founding the church at Thessalonica. We are told that he came there and that for "...three Sabbath days [he] reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that it was necessary for Messiah to have suffered, and to have risen from the dead, and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you is the Messiah. And some of them believed and consorted with Paul and Silas, and a great multitude of the devout Jews also and of the chief women not a few" (Acts 17:2-4). But the following context shows that the unbelieving Jews raised a tumult that greatly troubled the city. As a result Paul and Silas left Thessalonica by night and traveled on to Berea.
In that short time of three weeks it is obvious from statements made in First and Second Thessalonians that Paul had taught the believers things to come. But it is also clear from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 that he was concerned about the fact that they had not fully grasped all that he had been able to teach those believers in the fragments of time that he was able to be with them. It is clear that Paul, in his first epistle to the Thessalonian church, was writing to help them to understand more about the rapture. He sought to help them to understand that believers that had died now were with the Lord and would be returning to earth with Him to receive their resurrected bodies at the rapture. And as he developed that theme in 1 Thessalonians 4 he also clarified the fact that, when the Lord descended from heaven with believers that already had died, immediately afterward living believers would be transformed into their eternal bodies and caught up to be with the Lord.
B. At the great shout of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
As Paul developed those truths about the resurrection of departed New Testament believers who were in Christ Jesus, he adds details concerning the immediate event series. Suddenly believers on earth would hear the voice of the Lord from heaven as He descended to catch up believers, both those resurrected and those transformed to be with Him. I have suggested earlier that the call that took John, the elder statesman of the book of Revelation, into heaven in Spirit to hear of the great things which yet were to come. And I have suggested that John probably is somewhat of a forerunner of the church in this regard, and that the shout of the Lord is that which will take us from our earthly residence to our promised heavenly residence. Christ had said in the upper room in John 14:1-3:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions. If this were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will receive you unto Myself in order that where I am, you also may be."
I think that it is altogether possible that the voice of God that we will hear will be the voice of our Savior speaking the very words to us that He spoke to John the Apostle long ago. "...Come up here, and I will show you things which must be after this" (Revelation 4:2).
C. At the sounding of the voice of the archangel (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
At about the same time believers would hear the ringing shout of the archangel. The book of Jude in verse 9 leaves no doubt about the name of this great angel who is the highest of the angels. His name is Michael. And what is it about which he will be shouting? I suspect that this great archangel, who will lead the good angels of heaven in the war against those angels who have rebelled with Satan during the tribulation (Revelation 12:7-9) may be shouting a warning to the hordes of the angels who today are obedient servants of Satan. If I am right, it is a warning for these fallen angels to stand back and not interfere with the events of the rapture of the church age saints.
D. At the blast of the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
At approximately the same time our atmosphere will be rent by the great sound of the blast of God's trumpet. This sound will ring out, either as a part of the warning given to the fallen angels or as a call to the saints of this age as they are called forth from earth into the Lord's heavenly presence. On the other hand, this great trumpet blast may possibly be heard by all who have rejected Christ and may serve to indicate that the door of salvation in the Church now is closed. But we must never make the mistake of saying that no one could be saved after the Church is caught up to heaven. Indeed, the book of Revelation makes it clear that there will be multitudes who believe during the tribulation. However, these will not be part of the Bride of Christ, the Church. The destiny of multitudes of these who believe in the tribulation is to die at the hands of the world ruler of the tribulation (Revelation 7:9-12). And their heavenly destiny is different also. Those who are saved during the tribulation serve God in a different way than the Church, the Consort of Christ, will serve Him. (14)
"...These are those who have come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (15) Therefore they will be before the throne of God, and they will serve Him day and night in His temple, and He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. (16) They will not hunger any more, neither will they thirst any more, neither will the sun light upon them nor any heat, (17) for the Lamb Who is in the midst of the throne will feed them, and He will lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 7:14-17).
E. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
We have seen in First Corinthians
15:51-52 that the Rapture will be a remarkably sudden event. After
the resurrection of those in Jesus whose bodies sleep in death,
"...We will all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling
of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet will sound, and
the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed."
There will be no time for those who have delayed responding
to the gospel invitation to join the glad group of believers who
suddenly are launched on their journey to the mansions which the
Savior has prepared for us. The entire event including the resurrection
of departed believers and the transformation of living believers
will take place in the time that it takes a beam of light to glance
off of the eyeball.
F. At Christ's return with the dead in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
It was concern on the part of the Thessalonians, apparently conveyed to Paul, either by a letter or by a personal messenger, that led the Divine Author to direct Paul to give that church further information about believers who had died. Paul carefully explained in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that, while the bodies of these believers were asleep, they actually were with the Lord. This is the truth that he had conveyed to the Corinthian church in his second epistle to them. Earlier in the chapter he has made it plain that the believer who dies should expect immediately to be clothed upon with a body in heaven. He has contrasted the believer's life in his mortal body with the fact that, at death, the believer immediately would be with the Lord. "We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we labor in order that, whether present [in one's body] or absent [from one's body in death], we may be accepted by Him" (2 Corinthians 5:8-9). And in 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul has made it clear that the home going of all believers will take place in that moment when Christ and the great host of believers whose spirits already are with the Lord will return from heaven so that they may take part in the rapture. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 that the return of Christ and of the departed spirits of believers begins that great event.
"But I would not have you to remain ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep so that you do not sorrow, even as others [the unsaved] who do not have any hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus."
G. After the resurrection of the dead in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16c)
Thus is clear that the rapture awaits the return of believers whose bodies sleep in Jesus. The rapture cannot begin until they are returned to earth from heaven to receive their resurrected bodies. Indeed, their resurrection will be the first stage of the rapture. And Paul immediately deals with this factor in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. (15)
"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and who remain until the coming of the Lord [in the air before the tribulation] will not precede [i.e., go before, not prevent them. Actually the old Latin word prevenir actually did mean "to go before." The problem is that the English word "prevent," found in the KJV, which is derived from that has changed its meaning so completely that it is inadequate any more for conveying the information it once gave]. those who are asleep [i.e., who have died]. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first...." It is only then that believers who still are alive will be caught up. (17) "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so we will be forever with the Lord."
H. At the moment of our up-gathering-together (2 Thessalonians 2:1)
In Second Thessalonians 2:1 the Apostle introduces a new term to describe the assembling of the saints of the Church age and their abrupt departure for their heavenly home. In his first chapter Paul has been comforting the believers at Thessalonica concerning the dreadful trials through which they were passing. There were some believers who had concluded that already they were in the great tribulation. The first chapter of Second Thessalonians is written to quiet the hearts of these believers. It is written to remove their confusion concerning their fear that their persecutions and tribulations indicated that they already were in the great tribulation. He has made it plain that believers will not be involved in the righteous judgment of God when He would punish those that did not know Him. He describes the escape of believers from that tribulation in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
(6) "...It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to those who trouble you; (7) and to you who are troubled, rest with us when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, (8) in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, (9) who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power when He will come to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all them that believe...."
It is then that Paul introduces the new way of describing the means by which believers will escape the sufferings of the great tribulation. He continues in chapter two showing the difference between the judgment of the unbelievers at His coming from the departure of those who will be believers here on earth at the time that Christ delivers believers before that time of trouble. He says in 2 Thessalonians 2:l-2,
(1) "Now we beseech
you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [to
earth, which clearly has been described in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
above] and by our up-gathering-together unto
Him, (2) that you should not be shaken in mind or be
troubled, neither by spirit or by word neither by letter as if
it had come from us, as [thinking] that the day of the
Lord is at hand."
As we have seen, this glorious moment when we are caught up to be forever with the Lord is described by a new word in 2 Thessalonians 2:1. There the Greek word episunagooge is used and that carefully has been distinguished by Paul from the day in which Christ will suddenly appear on earth at the end of the tribulation in fiery judgment upon unbelievers. I prefer to translate this single Greek word as "up-gathering-together" and recognize that it refers to the rapture. I do not accept the application of Granville Sharp's rule to this first verse. That would indicate that "the [previously mentioned] coming of our Lord Jesus Christ...," His coming in fiery judgment, and the rapture are the same thing or at least occur at the same time. The view that insists on this interpretation of the timing of the rapture is called "the post-tribulation rapture." Instead, the following context shows that this was the very problem which the Thessalonians were facing. Chapter one clearly shows that they thought that the trials that they were facing indicated that they were entering that terrible time of trouble. Paul plainly tells that church that, instead of being troubled of heart and thinking that the day of the Lord was upon them, in reality they would be resting beyond the reach of the tribulation with which the day of the Lord is introduced. That is precisely why he says to that church,
"Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [to earth, in the early stages of the day of the Lord which clearly has been described in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 above] and by ourup gathering together [the rapture] unto Him, (2) that you should not be shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit or by word neither by letter as if it had come from us, as [thinking] that the day of the Lord is at hand."
I. Before the beginning of the day of the Lord
The text can only mean that
Paul was comforting these believers. He was making it clear that,
because the rapture came first and was a totally separate eschatological
event, they need not be upset and worried. They should not think
that they had entered that terrible time of trouble in which Christ
would come to earth to destroy His enemies and establish His kingdom
on earth. The up gathering together of the saints of the Church
age destined them to seven years of rest while the earth, in great
tribulation, still faced the coming of the King to establish His
Christ had been promised that reign on earth in eternity past in the decree. In Psalm 2 we have the record of His reporting that promise of the Father which was made in the eternal decree. He Who was fully God and coequal with the Father was to undertake His subordinate role as the Son of God. This He would do in order to accomplish all that was to be accomplished in time between the eternities. Psalm 2 records Christ's words as He quoted that which had been planned in the decree in eternity past. It includes the establishment of the Father/Son relationship in which these members of the Godhead would operate during time. But it also contains the promise of the Father to the One Who would serve in the subordinate position as the Son of God between the eternities that He would have an inheritance as His reward for that which He would accomplish. Because of all that He would do as the Son of God, He was promised in the decree that He would receive an earthly kingdom in which He would rule to the ends of the earth.
In the light of the interpretation of Psalm 2:7 by Hebrews 1:5, Christ is the member of the Godhead Who is speaking in verses 7-9 of the Psalm. He says: "I am determined [a determinative form in Hebrew which expresses that which He has chosen to do] to relate the details of the decree: The Eternal Lord has said to Me, You are My Son. This day [i.e., at this time] I become Your Father." In this verse the One Who would become the Messiah relates how His entry into the economic relationship with the First Person of the Godhead. That means that the ontological, or existence relationship which had existed from eternity, in which all three members of the Godhead always had been coequal in a perfectly balanced relationship, now was changing in order to accomplish all that the Godhead had planned to take place between the eternities. The economic relationship is being established. This is the working relationship in which both the Son and the Holy Spirit assume a subordinate relationship with the Father in order to accomplish the work that must be done by them between the eternities. This does not mean that either the Son or the Holy Spirit is any less God even though this temporary change in relationship has been established. Now the Son will take orders from the Father. The Holy Spirit will be involved in all that the Son will do on earth. And yet the Holy Spirit in some sense also is subordinate to the Son and Father. In the upper room Christ said to His disciples, "But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth Who will come forth from [the presence of] the Father, He will testify of Me..." (Jn. 15:26).
In Psalm 2:8-9 the Son continues to quote from that which the Father had said to Him in the decree.
"Ask of Me, for I am determined to give [This is the second untranslated, determinative form in the Psalm. It is easy to see why the amillennial translators of King James' court chose not fully to translate this verb form!] to You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron. You will dash them into pieces like a potter's vessel."
Here then is the promise of the Father that lies behind the Father's utter scorn of those who thought they could break the bands and the cords of the Eternal Lord and His Messiah. Because it was in the eternal decree that the Son would rule here on earth, the rejection and death of the Messiah which is anticipated in Psalm 2:10-3 absolutely will not thwart the plans of the Eternal. Here is the reason for the derisive laugh of the Lord sitting in the heavens. When the Jews and Gentiles crucified Christ they did not in the least thwart the eternal plan of the Godhead. Indeed, they only fulfilled that decree!
'Then He will speak to them
in His wrath, and He will vex them in His sore displeasure. 'Yet
will I establish My King [Christ,
the Messiah] upon My holy hill of Zion'" (Psalm 2:5-6).
Second Thessalonians chapters one and two are but a small portion of the revelation given to us in Scripture of the fact that, in great violence, Messiah one day will return to earth, will overthrow His enemies and will establish His earthly kingdom which will last for one thousand years. That will be the fulfilling of the promise made to the Messiah, the Son of God, which was made upon His return from the Mount of Olives to the Father's presence in heaven.
The Eternal Lord said to
my [David's] Lord,
'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.
The Eternal Lord will send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people [Israel] will
be willing in the day of Your power [when You rule] in
the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning. You will
have the dew of Your youth'" (Psalm 110:1-3).
But the revelation of that great mystery, the rapture, is that the Church will not be here on earth at the time
"...when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power when He will come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all of those who believe..." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
our up gathering together is an event that takes away the trouble
of heart and concern about passing through the tribulation stage
of the day of the Lord.
Thus the great Apostle assures the troubled church of Thessalonica and all even to this age who read of that day and are troubled.
"Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [to earth, in the early stages of the day of the Lord which clearly has been described in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 above] and by our up gathering together [the rapture] unto Him, (2) that you should not be shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit or by word neither by letter as if it had come from us, as [thinking] that the day of the Lord is at hand."
Paul follows this instruction
with a warning for the Church to beware of any that teach any
other doctrine, a warning of crucial importance to the Church
of Jesus Christ even today. "Let no man deceive you by
any means..." (2 Thessalonians 2:3a).
It is regrettable that the amillennial translators of the King James Version followed a single very late Greek manuscript and its reading of 2 Thessalonians 2:2, which, as a result, incorrectly says "...that the day of Christ is at hand." The terminology, "the day of Christ" clearly is defined in Philippians 1:6-7, 10; 2:10-11 and 16. That term most certainly does not refer to the climax of the tribulation period here on earth. Instead, it specifically refers to that day in which we are in heaven in the presence of Christ. The following of that very late reading, "the day of Christ," desperately obscures that which is being revealed about the rapture in this context. Paul clearly is contrasting the"up- gathering-together" of Church believers in the rapture with the Day of the Lord. The correct reading, found in all ancient manuscripts of 2 Thessalonians, is "the day of the Lord." I conclude that this great eschatological period begins with the signing of the covenant to bring peace in the land of Israel by the one who will become the world ruler for the last three and one half years of the tribulation.
I have stated this in my doctoral dissertation, Joel's Concept of the Day of the Lord, at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1961. I insist that the day of the Lord is that period which lies between the signing of that covenant as described in Daniel 9:26b-27 and the great white throne judgment of unbelievers by Christ in preparation for the Day of God. In spite of the misunderstanding of many, these verses absolutely are revealing that there is no possibility whatsoever that the rapture will occur somewhere in the early days of the eschatological period which is called "the day of the Lord." There is to be no confusion at that point.
J. Before the bema or judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)
In Second Corinthians 5:10 the Apostle Paul looks forward to that day in heaven when believers receive their rewards for the way that they have served the Lord while they were here on earth.
"Wherefore we labor in order that, whether we are present [here on earth before death] or absent, we may be accepted by Him. For all of us [believers] must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, in order that every one may receive the things done in his body, according that which he has done, whether it is good or worthless."
It is clear that the departure of the Church for heaven in the rapture must come before that day when our Judge, the Lord Jesus, determines our rewards.
K. Shortly before our coming before God the Father (1 Thessalonians 3:13)
I conclude that Paul, in First Thessalonians 3:13, refers to an event which follows the judgment seat of Christ. He longs for the Thessalonian believers to
"...Increase and abound in love toward one another and toward all, even as we do toward you, to the end that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all of His saints."
To me that suggests that we believers should be occupied with living our Christian lives in utter devotion to the Lord, allowing Him to transform our lives into the glorious pattern of holiness which Christ would like to see here on earth. And yet the phrase, "...unblamable in holiness before God" actually will not be fully exhibited in us only at the time of our coming before God. For us to reach that glorious time when nothing of our shortcomings here on earth can only come when Christ at the Bema seat has taken care of all of our failures. Only then will be be fully conformed to the likeness of Christ as described by Paul in Romans 8:29.
"For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son in order that He [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brethren."
It appears that Paul in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 actually is looking forward to that time after the judgment seat of Christ when our Savior presents up to the Father, fully conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Surely it is of that glorious day of which the Apostle John is speaking in 1 John 3:2.
"Beloved, we now are the born ones of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we do know that when He will appear, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is."
L. Before the Day of The Lord
1. The times and the seasons of our departure (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
The word that connects 1 Thessalonians 4 to the 5th chapter introduces the review of the truth that Paul already had taught the Thessalonians. Once the reader of this section recognizes how carefully Paul distinguishes those who will be involved with Christ's coming at the rapture from those who will suffer judgment at the time of Christ's return to earth, it will become involved that believers will not be involved in the suffering of the day of the Lord. The pronouns "you, we" and "us," contrasted with "they" and "them," inescapably draw that distinction.
"But about the times
and the seasons, brothers, you do not have any need for me to
write to you. (2) The
reason is that you yourselves perfectly well know that the day
of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (3) For
when they say: 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction comes
upon them like travail comes upon a woman with child, and they
will not escape. (4) But you, brothers, are not in darkness,
with the result that that day [the day of the Lord] should
overtake you like a thief. (5) You all are the sons
of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness.
(6) Therefore let us not sleep [here the sleep of indolence]
as do others, but let us watch and be sober, (7) for
they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they who are drunken
are drunken in the night. (8) But let us who are of the
day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and
the assurance of salvation for an helmet. (9) For God has
not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our
Lord, Jesus Christ, (10) Who died for us, so that, whether
we are awake [i.e., alive] or sleep [i.e., dead],
we should live together with Him. (11) Wherefore you comfort
yourselves together, and build one another up, even as you also
do" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
It is clear from Paul's careful distinction that the day of the Lord will not come upon believers. The judgment aspect of the early part of the day of the Lord is destined to fall upon those who are unbelievers and not upon those whom Paul was addressing or even upon us. It is obvious that the day of the Lord is not to be a matter of fear to the believer for it is upon those who will have ignored the gracious invitation of the Lord Jesus to receive His salvation. Yet one more section of Paul's instruction about the rapture, so long misunderstood and distorted from its original intent, tells us that believers will not be involved in the day of the Lord as recipients of the trials and tribulation which will fall upon unbelievers in that great day.
2. During hee apostosia, actually time of our departure (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)
One of the most painful pieces
of Bible translation that the one who is interested in eschatology
can find is the way that practically all translators have treated
2 Thessalonians 2:3. It is in their translating hee
apostosia as "a [religious] falling
away." In the first place the Greek definite article,
hee, , "the"
has been ignored or mistranslated by the indefinite article
"a" in English by most translators. That would
seem to be an insignificant change at first. However, the definite
article repeatedly is used as an article of previous reference.
That is, it tells us that the noun that follows the article refers
to a previous mention of the same subject. In other words, the
reader is told by the definite article to look for the same subject
earlier discussed by hee apostosia
in the immediately preceding context. The significance of the
mistake of ignoring the definite article will become obvious in
the following discussion.
The second problem in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the fact that the translators have assumed that the noun apostosia is being used in an extended meaning, and not in its basic meaning, "departure." It has been translated "a falling away" in the King James Bible. The New American Standard Bible transliterates the noun into English letters, "apostasy," thus suggesting that the word refers the departure of a believer from the truth. This improves the reading only in that the definite article is acknowledged and is correctly translated by the English article, "the." But to what previous reference to "the departure from the truth" is there in the previous context of this book? There is none. And that raises serious question concerning the accuracy of the translation of the noun and article, hee apostosia by "the apostasy." The New International Version provides a translation that has somewhat better possibility of being accurate. It renders the noun "the rebellion." I say that it has somewhat better possibility since there are obvious signs of rebellion in chapter one. However the question must be asked, "Is "the rebellion" really a valid translation of hee apostosia ? Is this a word that properly is applied to the rebellion of the unsaved against the Lord Jesus Christ? Would it not be more appropriately used of the departure of those involved in the faith from their Biblical foundations? But is that the meaning?
Now there are several verses in the New Testament that clearly do announce that in the latter days there will be much religious apostasy. Indeed, that is precisely the case in the much of the Church today. But, by assuming that the Greek noun was referring to religious apostasy, the going away from the faith, the translators have ignored the possibility that the noun is being used in its basic meaning instead of its extended meaning. The noun actually is used in its basic meaning in four other passages in the New Testament. It is amazing to see modern day translators misunderstanding the meaning of the noun when both Tyndale and Cloverdale long ago properly translated the phrase simply as "the departure." And here is the basic and common meaning of the noun in Greek useage.
Is there a departure mentioned in the preceding context to which the article of previous reference could be pointing? Indeed, there is, and it is only two verses before. For this reason I reject the translation of hee apostosia in ways that imply that the noun as used here refers to religious apostasy. After all, the antecedent "going away" or "departure" in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 specifically refers to the going away of the Church in "the up-gathering-together" of the saints of the Church. For this reason I insist that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 must be referring to the rapture and that the verse should be translated in this way. "Let no man deceive you by any means [including the mistranslating of he apostosia], for that day will not come [i.e., the day of the Lord] except the previously mentioned going away comes first and the man of lawlessness comes to be revealed, the son of perdition." Properly understood the verse perfectly harmonizes with Paul's comforting assurance in the first verse of the chapter that the believers at Thessalonica were not already in the day of the Lord. Indeed, verse three gives the basis for that assurance. Paul clearly is saying that the day of the Lord and the manifestation of the man of sin in the day of the Lord cannot possibly arrive before the going away of the Church in the "up gathering together," the rapture of the Church. What a pity that this great truth has been lost for so many in the Church as a result of the amillennial translators who refused the accurate work of Tyndale and Cloverdale because they did not even believe in the rapture, with the result that they rendered he apostosia as "a falling away."
REMEMBER WHEN I TAUGHT YOU THESE THINGS? (2 Thessalonians 2:5)
No sooner has Paul re-taught these things to the Thessalonian church than he reminds them that they had heard these truths before from his own lips.
"Don't you remember that even while I still was with you, I used to tell you these things?" (2 Thessalonians 2:5).
The impact of Paul's rebuke stings even more when one realizes that he carefully had taught these things again to that church in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5. How sad it is that the Church today, often like the church at Thessalonica, needs to be reminded and rebuked for their careless treatment of this great eschatological truth. It clearly promises the departure and deliverance of the Church of Jesus Christ from the terrors of the seven years and from all of the tribulation which faces the world, tribulation which will be climaxed by the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ with all of His saints to earth.
One of the great tragedies of Bible translation is the mistake made by the English Catholic translators when they translated hee apostosia by "apostasy." That error has been followed by scores of other translators in the centuries that have followed. That has resulted in the obscuring of Paul's very precise explanation of the time when the rapture would take place has resulted in tragic confusion among those who, contrary to Paul's explicit statement, want to expect the rapture at mid-tribulation or at the end of the tribulation. Of course that in turn has resulted in a continually growing host of confused believers who no longer live their lives in the constant expectation of Christ's return in the air at any moment for the Church. Indeed, the translation of hee apostosia in such a way that it refers only to rising religious apostasy has left multitudes of believers open to that confusion which denies the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church. While several texts of Scripture do teach that the Church will degenerate in its faith and practice in the latter days, Second Thessalonians 2:3 is in a context which has nothing to do with religious apostasy. The article that accompanies apostosia in that text, ignored in many translations, is the key. This article of previous reference directly links "the departure" in that verse with the previous mention of the departure of the Church in "our up-gathering-together." It leaves no doubt whatsoever that the departure of the Church must precede the events which start the Day of the Lord, an extended period which will begin with the tribulation, the time of Jacob's troubles.
Copyright September 2000 Bernard E. Northrup Th.D. Reprinted by permission
IN THE TWINKLING
OF AN EYE
Bernard E. Northrup
I. THE PROMISE OF THE RETURN (Jn.13:33)
Supper was ended;
now Judas had gone.
The disciples were troubled with gloom.
Night now had fallen; the Christ spoke of home
While crushed silence of woe filled the room.
Crystalline clear was the import to each.
He had said He was going away!
"Lord, where do you go?" Peter then said.
And He answered: "Though I go, you stay."
"Simon, while Satan had asked to sift all,
I have prayed for your faith in that sieve.
Trial and heartbreak, denial will come,
But when strengthened, help these here to live."
the Shepherd---offended the sheep
And the Shepherd be cursed with your breath!"
"Lord!" Peter cried, "I will follow you there--
Whether prison or even to death!"
"Troubled disciples, believe in me now.
Let your hearts find rest here in words true.
Many abodes are prepared where I go;
But I go to prepare one for you.
And if I go to prepare you a place,
Then for you I will come once again.
I will receive you then to myself;
My disciples believe not in vain.
I now return to
the glory I shared
With my Father who sent me to you.
Trouble awaits you, all scattered, alone,
But the Comforter comes to you too.
Be of good cheer for my peace I will give
Through the One who will dwell in your heart.
He will attend you until that glad day
When I come and no longer depart.
2. THE WAIT
FOR HIS RETURN Lk.24:4,
The trauma now had passed,
The capture, trial and crushing cross,
The streams of salty tears that coursed
Their chapped and sunburned cheeks
While nails had rent the flesh of Him
That each one loved so much.
How black the
shroud of night
That fell to hide the frightful scene!
How troubled, yes, afraid had been
Their hearts on Calvary.
Their hopes had turned to dust
As He had suffered, bled and died!
But He arose! Alive!
And they had seen Him forty days!
For forty days He taught;
He filled their souls with prophets' words,
Revealed how they spoke of Him.
How oft their hungry hearts had burned.
heard Him speak
And they had handled Him!
Now proofs infallible were theirs.
He was the living Christ!
Where once before He walked u
Upon the sea before their eyes,
He walked no more but built
A morning fire upon the shore.
No water walking there
For some might always err and think
A spirit came to them.
He waited long upon the shore.
He broke the bread
he baked and fish,
And they together dined.
Then, still beside the sea,
He counseled them about their work
Which they must do for Him
While He was gone away from them.
He hinted at the truth (which we
Who wait have come to love),
That some would be alive
When He should come to them again.
Some erred who heard. They thought
He meant before the death of John.
This plainly John
But some will tarry till He comes!
Now centuries have passed.
This promised hope for us has grown.
When they had seen Him last
On Olivet they heard these words: Acts 1:10-11
"You ragged men of Galilee,
Why stand you gazing at the sky?
The One whom you have seen Him go
Shall come again the Way He left!"
Then do you wonder why
We wait and look for Him to come?
The church that
Christ has built
Has grown and spread throughout the world.
His faithful very oft have turned
Their hopeful eyes toward the clouds.
Now each who reads His Word with care
Awaits in hope of Him today.
Each waits the day He will return
And longs to live to see the day!
3. THE JOY
OF HIS RETURN
The church awaits the mystery, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
The promised hope which we will see
When He shall come, when we will hear
That ringing shout so loud, so clear--
When Christ descends from God above
To gather those who say in love:
"Oh come! Christ, quickly come!"
Our hearts will leap to hear His cry,
To see descending from on High
Our Lord and His who lie asleep
In mouldering dust or in the deep--
Will come with Jesus in that day
Their trump will sound and He will say:
"Come forth, you Sons of God!"
The church awaits the mystery,
The transformation we will see
When from the heavenly trumpeter
Our ringing call will reach us clear
And in a moment's twinkling eye
We rise, transformed like Him on high!
"Oh Christ, Oh quickly come!"
For He is seated up above
Beside His Father, who in love
Had sent Him to the manger mound,
To dreadful cross before His crown.
He serves His church in work of prayer
That we might join His presence there.
"Oh come! Christ, quickly come!"
Our elders from their heavenly throne
Will fall upon their faces prone
To worship and give thanks to One
Who was and is and is to come--
To cast our crowns before His face
Who made us victors through His grace.
"Oh Christ! Oh quickly come!"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE PROMISE OF THE RAPTURE
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE RAPTURE REVEALED IN 1
A. A BIBLICAL MYSTERY DEFINED BY PAUL....................................................................2
1. Paul's first definition of a "mystery".........................................................................3
2. Peter's contribution to our understanding of "a mystery"...................................3
3. The use of the term "mystery" in 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4.......................................4
4. Paul's explanation of "a mystery" in Ephesians 3:1-6.............................................8
5. Paul's explanation of "a mystery" in Ephesians 3:7-11...........................................9
B. THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY OF THE RAPTURE (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)),....11
1. We will not all sleep but will be changed..................................................................11
2. The time of our transformation................................................................................14
a. At the twinkling of an eye...................................................................................14
b. At the last trump (for the Church)..................................................................14
c. After the resurrection of Church age believers whose bodies sleep
While awaiting the return of their spirits to return with Christ.............15
3. The nature of our change (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)..........................................................16
II. THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE..................................................16
A. WHEN THE LORD DESCENDS FROM HEAVEN.........................................................16
B. AT THE GREAT SHOUT OF THE LORD........................................................................17
C. AT THE SOUNDING OF THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL (1 Thessalonians4:16).........17
D. AT THE BLAST OF THE TRUMPET OF GOD (1 Thessalonians4:16)......................................18
E. IN A MOMENT, IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE (1 Corinthians15:51-52)....................18
F. AT CHRIST'S RETURN WITH THE DEAD IN CHRIST (1 Thessalonians4:13-18)............18
G. AFTER THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD IN CHRIST.......................................19
H. AT THE MOMENT OF OUR UP-GATHERING-TOGETHER (2 Thessalonians 2:1................19
I. BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF THE DAY OF THE LORD.........................................20
J. BEFORE THE BEMA OR JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST (2 Corinthians5:9-10).............23
K. SHORTLY BEFORE OUR COMING BEFORE GOD THE FATHER (1 Thessalonians3:13)..23
L. BEFORE THE DAY OF THE LORD...................................................................................23
1. The times and the seasons of our departure (1 Thessalonians5:1-11)............................23
2. During he apostosia, the actual time of our going away (2 Thessalonians2:1-3)..........24
REMEMBER WHEN I TAUGHT YOU THESE THINGS? (2 Thessalonians2:5)...........25
Poem In the Twinkling of an Eye.............................................................................26
November 8, 2000
Lambert Dolphin's Library