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The Rapture of the Church
What Is It, Anyway?
Witnessing Tools
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Jack Kinsella - Omega Letter Editor

One of the most divisive topics in the modern Church is the doctrine of the Rapture. In previous generations, the conflict was mainly between Roman Catholicism, who denied the doctrine, and mainstream Protestantism, who initially embraced it largely because Rome did not.

In the modern Church era, the doctrine of the Rapture is either denied outright, or it breaks down into squabbling about its timing. Is it pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-wrath, or something else?

I find from my email that while most people have a definite opinion about the timing of the Rapture, or whether or not it is a valid doctrine or a recent construct, few people really understand what the Bible teaches about the Rapture.

For example, I received an email from a reader who asked, "Please, why the two things the Bible says MUST happen before the Rapture -- the apostasy and the man of lawlessness is revealed -- won't happen. I don't get it."

A lot of people don't get it, mainly because they are operating from the same fundamental misunderstanding of the Rapture and the Tribulation.

Many see the Rapture and the Tribulation as being two sides of the same coin. In that view, the Rapture and the kickoff to the Tribulation are simultaneous events. The occurrence of the former signals the start of the latter.

The early church believed that the Rapture could take place at any time. This is what is known as the doctrine of imminency. The Rapture is a secret, signless event. That is to say, there are no signs that must precede the Rapture.

The Rapture of the Church could have occurred in AD 55 and not been early; it could occur one hour before the antichrist signs the seven year covenant between Israel and her enemies without being late.

Paul's Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written specifically to counter the heresy being circulated at the time that said the Rapture had already occurred.

Paul wrote, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Paul says that the day of Christ does not come without 'a falling away first, and that the man of sin be revealed'.

The Day of Christ is not the Rapture. The 'Day of Christ' comes at His 2nd Coming, at the conclusion of the Tribulation Period. Some argue that the two occurrences are one and the same.

Without descending too deeply into the timing debate, it is easy to differentiate between the two and see why they are not simultaneous occurrences.

At the Rapture, it is a secret. Nobody sees Jesus but the Church. He does not touch the earth, we go to Him.

At His Second Coming, every eye shall see Him, He brings ten thousands of His saints, He touches down at the Mount of Olives and His Foot splits it all the way to the Dead Sea. And He does battle with the combined armies of the Antichrist, defeating him in full view of mankind.

Paul reveals a new 'mystery' (something not previously revealed by God) concerning the church in his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

He says, "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." [1 Cor 15:12-14]

"For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." [16-17]

Paul says that there is an order in which the resurrection of the dead is accomplished.

"But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power."

First, Christ. Then they that are His at His coming, and finally, the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the Millennium.

"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." [Revelation 20:5].

Paul writes, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:51]

Note the clue here. 'We shall not all sleep [die]'. But it says we shall all be 'changed'.

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." [52]

Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." [1 Thessalonians 4:14]

Once again, this is not too far removed from previous Revelation. Until Paul adds, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:" [1 Thessalonians 4:15-16]

Note that the Lord descends from heaven 'with a shout' [Rev 4:1 "Come up hither"] and not with 'ten thousands of His saints, but for them. The 'dead in Christ' rise first.

After that resurrection has been accomplished, Paul says, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." [1 Thessalonians 4:17]

Note two things here. Those caught up are alive and meet the Lord 'in the air' where He is.

There are those who argue that the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church is a recent construct, dating to the beginning of the 19th century. It would appear that for that argument to hold water, Paul must have been referring to some event other than the Rapture in these verses.

To date, nobody has demonstrated a satisfactory alternative explanation. Just that Paul's alternative explanation must have been satisfactory, even though they aren't quite sure what it was.

The Rapture Doctrine is under assault in this generation because this is the generation of the Rapture. There are people alive at this moment that I believe the Bible teaches will never, ever die. Having already lived a half-century, I believe I am among that generation. So unless you are older than me, so are you.

In summary, the Rapture is a secret, signless event. Nothing need take place prior to its occurrence. It could have occurred in the first or fifth or twelfth century and the Tribulation Period could still be a future event. Or it could occur tomorrow and the Tribulation fifty years later.

However, the events forecast for the Tribulation are, I believe stalled until after the Rapture has occurred.

The Tribulation Period is the time of Judgment when the Wrath of God is poured out on a Christ-rejecting earth. The Church is, by definition, the Christ-accepting portion of humanity.

First Thessalonians 5:9 says "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."

The Rapture is real. The Tribulation Period is real. And salvation is real. Jesus has not appointed the Church to wrath, but offers salvation instead. Do you know Christ? Does He know you?

The Bible says He procured a Pardon with your name on it at Calvary's Cross. It is waiting for you to claim it. Recognize that you are a lost sinner, trust Jesus for your salvation instead of standing on your own merits and allow Him to make the changes in your life. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." [Matthew 11:30]

Nobody is too bad to be redeemed, and nobody has to redeem themselves first before coming to Christ. It doesn't work that way.

Jesus promised, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."

Maranatha!



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