Important Information About
Who Goes at the Rapture
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
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the next section.
Why We Talk About the Rapture
Eschatology is the study of Bible prophecy involving various end-time events such as; the rapture of the Church, the Tribulation, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ - and His Millennial Kingdom. It is estimated that 1 out of every 25 verses in the New Testament is connected to eschatology. Spiritual leaders who refuse to discuss these issues are avoiding a large and important part of the Bible. A future event often referred to as 'the rapture' is directly related to 'Eschatology' – which is why many consider it “optional or nonessential”. However, we will discover why this common belief is incorrect.
According to Scripture, the rapture
represents the fulfillment and final
stage of the believer's salvation.
It is a major part of the redemptive
program that Jesus sacrificed His life
to establish at the cross.
Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians
contain detailed information about the
purpose and nature of the rapture. In
these epistles, Paul used the rapture,
or the believer's rescue from God's wrath
that occurs during the Tribulation - as
an event that ushers them into Christ's
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath,
but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus
Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we
wake or sleep, we should live together
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
"Your faith toward God has gone out, so
that we do not need to say anything. For
they themselves declare concerning us what
manner of entry we had to you, and how you
turned to God from idols to serve the
living and true God, and to wait for His
Son from heaven, whom He raised from the
dead, even Jesus who delivers (or
rescues) us from the wrath to come."
(1 Thessaonians 1:8-10)
Scripture reveals that the rapture of the Church is a major event directly connected to the Grace-based salvation of Christ. Grace is the unmerited and undeserved favor of God purchased through the blood of Christ. As a result, the New Testament refers to this kind of salvation as; "the Gift of God" (See Romans 5:15-21, Ephesians 2:8-9). However, when churches and denominations mix righteous works, religious service and human merit into Christ's salvation, it makes God's gift nonsensical and perverts its intended meaning (See Galatians 1:6-8) . This kind of religious perversion also affects our understanding of the rapture.
This is why the rapture, or what
Scripture calls 'the catching
away of the Church', can never
be a reward for good works, holy
living and Christian service...
as many claim.
The Three Phases of Christ's
Many hold to a belief that the Second Coming of Christ is a single event that occurs at the end of the Tribulation (or the pouring out of God's wrath). Those who support this belief claim that if the rapture actually exists (some in this group think the rapture is a man-made hoax) ... that it must occur shortly before or at the same time as the Second Coming. This also means that believers must endure the judgments of the Tribulation along with the ungodly - and will only be removed at the end when Christ returns. As a result, there is no 'pre-tribulational or pre-judgment' rescue ... which contradicts what both Christ and Saint Paul taught. These beliefs are embodied in something called 'Post-Tribulationalism', which is a popular brand of theology that exists in countless variants and embraced in many Bible prophecy circles. Yet, regardless of its popularity, it represents a disastrous brand of religious error based on out-of-context scripture.
According to Saint Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament Scriptures, the Second Coming of Christ involves three general phases ... meaning that it isn't a single event.
PHASE ONE: Jesus returns in the air above the earth to rescue His blood-bought Church from the coming judgment. This event involves both a resurrection of Christians who have died - and a translation (a change from being mortal - to being immortal) of those who are alive and remain on earth. These two groups are then united and "caught up" to meet Christ in the air. In this first phase, Jesus only returns in the air above the earth long enough to 'call His Church up' (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). He does not physically return to the earth until seven years later.
PHASE TWO: The judgments of the Tribulation begin (Scripture calls it 'God's wrath'). The Bible often uses the words wrath and judgment interchangeably. During this 7 year period, the 'anti-christ' (Paul calls him "the man of sin") is revealed and eventually becomes a ruthless world dictator. (Note: Paul states that 'the man of sin' can't be revealed until the Church has departed the earth ... often referred to as being 'raptured' - See 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. The Tribulation ends with the battle of Armageddon, which is terminated by Christ's Second Coming. The Bible also reveals that the greatest revival the world has ever witnessed will take place during the first half of the Tribulation (probably initiated by the recent occurrence - and shock - of the rapture). This global revival will be led by 144,000 sealed Jewish evangelists - who believe and follow Jesus Christ their Messiah. The Bible calls these evangelists and those who are saved through their preaching - 'Tribulation saints'. A majority of these will be later killed by the anti-christ for their faith - leaving only a remnant. The Church (or Body of Christ), which was previously removed from the earth, does not participate in this revival - nor are they subject to the execution-style persecution that follows.
PHASE THREE: Christ's Second Coming takes place and abruptly ends the battle of Armageddon - which also ends the rule of the anti-christ and the Tribulation period. At the Second Coming, Christ is accompanied by His Church, which was "caught up" from the earth 7 years earlier - as stated by Enoch (the seventh born from Adam) who said;
“Behold, the Lord comes with ten
thousands of His saints...."
(Note: the phrase 'ten thousands'
in this instance is another way
of saying 'millions'.)
According to Scripture, Jesus eventually 'touches down' on earth ... in the city of Jerusalem. This begins His earthly 1000 year (or Millennial) reign - as stated in Bible prophecy.
Jesus describes the time of His
return in the following way:
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory." (Mark 13:24-26)
The goal of the Christian’s adversary (the devil) is to distort, discredit or - if he can - destroy the supernatural new covenant truths that empower our salvation. His relentless program of disinformation has existed since the Garden of Eden. It's a counterfeit (a well-made fake or imitation) theology that has claimed many victims within the Church. It achieves wide-spread acceptance through the skillful use of out-of-context Scripture. Unfortunately, the devil uses ministers who have noble ambitions and godly intentions. They outwardly appear to represent and speak for God - but are totally unaware of the ungodly influence that operates through their teachings. It’s important to remember that the religious leaders in the Bible who claimed to love and serve God were Christ’s most vicious opponents and critics – and was later instrumental in bringing about His execution. At one public event, Jesus rebukes them by saying, "You are of your father, the devil." Yet, these same men insisted they were God's spokesmen. Unfortunately, the modern-day counterparts of these first century ministers continue their mission to criticize and distort the Grace-based (unmerited and undeserved) salvation Jesus provided at the cross. One of their favorite targets is the rapture of Christ’s Church.
The Rapture And Its
One of the most controversial and misunderstood topics among Christians today is "the rapture of the Church". It’s far more than just some theory or personal opinion involving end-time events. According to Saint Paul, the rapture (or as the Bible describes it - "the catching away") represents the full manifestation of Christ's finished work at the cross. All true members of the New Testament Church (also known as "The Body of Christ") will participate in this incredible Divine transition. The 'catching away' is a salvation-related event, where God changes (or translates) Christian believers - both those who are in the grave and those who are still living ... from mortal flesh into an immortal spiritual body; just like the one Jesus Christ received at His resurrection. In the New Testament God refers to the Church as "the Body of Christ" for a very good reason. This name implies that 'Christ's many membered body of earthly mortal believers' will, one day, each be given the same kind of immortal spiritual body that He now has. God’s intention is to literally change all believers into the image of His Son. The Apostle Paul said it this way ...
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He (Jesus Christ) might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)
Important Note: The rapture is where this future glorification of the 'freely justified believer in Christ' (Romans 3:24-26) takes place. When God applies the term 'justified - or justification by faith' to a Christian ... it means that He now considers (or reckons) such a person to have never sinned; regardless of the fact that they have sinned and will continue to sin in some measure for the rest of their earthly life. This Divine decree of justification is not done arbitrarily. It becomes a legal and eternal declaration from Heaven's court ... made possible by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God (God's Son) who permanently took their sin away at the cross (John 1:29 and Romans 5:15-21).
The Apostle John uses different words
to emphasize the same truth;
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:1-2)
This radical transformation is necessary to fulfill God's redemptive program initiated by Christ's sacrificial death at the cross. The transition from mortal to immortal occurs at the "catching away" of the Church. Instead of using the word 'rapture', some theologians refer to this event as "the translation of the Church". Regardless of the label, this 'translation' - or rapture - is the final stage of the unmerited and undeserved salvation Jesus purchased for us through the blood of His cross. Through the act of giving believers a spiritual body like the one the Lord Jesus Christ now has, God is fulfilling His promise of salvation, which was previously guaranteed (or secured) through ‘the sealing of the Holy Spirit’ when they first believed in Christ (described in more detail below). The translation or rapture is not some speculative topic of Bible eschatology. Yet, depending on what church group you belong to, contradictory teachings and opinions abound causing massive confusion and emotional accusations.
God Gives An Amazing
At the cross, Jesus finished all the work necessary for the believer to obtain salvation (eternal life). However, the New Testament reveals that Christ's pre-purchased salvation will not be fully manifested until 'the day of redemption,' which occurs in the future (and is now imminent). Until then, God seals us with the Holy Spirit - and refers to this Divine act as 'His guarantee' ... that the 'purchased possession' (the believer) will receive their full salvation on that future day. The 'sealing with the Holy Spirit' takes place at the exact same time anyone first believes on (or places their faith in) Jesus Christ ... which also activates God's guarantee. This 'sealing and guarantee' immediately places them in His family. This is why the Bible refers to salvation as 'God’s gift of eternal or everlasting life' (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9). Our Heavenly Father refers to Christ's salvation as being 'eternal' ... because He will never revoke it once it's received (See Romans 11:29 Amplified Bible).
Guarantee To The Believer
Contrary to popular Christian teachings – God does not unseal a believer when they sin ... and then performs a 'resealing' - only when they repent. The sealing (or God’s guarantee) occurs only once and remains in place until that future day of our redemption; also known as the rapture. Otherwise, the sealing wouldn’t be much of a guarantee. At the rapture our physical bodies are changed from mortal to immortal (1 Corinthians 15:50-55). Paul refers to this change as a "quickening". According to the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word 'quicken' means to 'make alive' - which is exactly what happens when the believer receives their immortal body at the rapture ... a body that will never again experience sickness and death. (see Romans 8:11 quoted below).
"For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]" (Romans 11:29 Amplified Bible)
"In Him (Jesus Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (all true believers in Christ), to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14 - Also Read About “God’s Guarantee” which is repeated In 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Romans 8:11)
Identifying the source of the confusion surrounding the rapture is not easy, nor is it popular. Most church leaders avoid it like the plague. Yet, it's the cause of popular yet false religious teachings with roots that can be traced back to the first century. The Apostle Paul voiced one of the most horrific warnings found in the New Testament about this crisis. Following the cross, a group of ministers and evangelists began preaching a corrupt version of "gospel of Christ". Saint Paul exposed and condemned this teaching as "a different gospel". He warned that "another Jesus" (not the authentic Jesus of the New Testament) was the central focus of this "different gospel".
This means there are two widely
accepted versions of "the gospel
of Christ" circulating around
the institutional church; where
both claim to be ...
"The truth of Scripture".
However, God warns that He
accepts one of these gospels,
but rejects the other. This
clearly stated warning from
Scripture carries serious
consequences for those who
embrace the wrong one.
The Gospel Paul taught in his epistles is the correct one for all Christians living today. The "different gospel of Christ" (and its "other Jesus") is a dangerous counterfeit that currently dominates the modern church and hides behind countless good-sounding names and labels. We should remember that a counterfeit of anything is designed to look exactly like the original. In order to preserve unity, most modern-day Christians are taught to accept both versions. They are told that both are valid and the controversy is caused by a "difference of opinion" which must be set aside. Yet, the New Testament warns that this 'other Jesus and his different gospel' is a teaching that does not come from God - but from His enemy. Paul went even further and offended his audience by saying ... those who believe this different gospel are 'bewitched', cutoff from Christ - and have fallen from God's Grace. (Galatians 1:6-8, Galatians 3:1-3, Galatians 5:4, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
Note: Since this problem is discussed
in other commentaries and studies, we
won't go into great detail here, except
to say ...
Christ's authentic gospel - and the counterfeit gospel - each have their own interpretation of the rapture and the Tribulation period that follows. Few church members understand that one interpretation is right and one is wrong. The conflict between these two gospel messages is the source of the confusion surrounding the topic of the rapture. The authentic gospel correctly states that God provides the rapture (a salvation event for the Church) for all true believers - and is given according the 'free justification of Christ's blood' ... and 'the free gift of eternal life obtained without works or merit' (Romans 3:24-26, Ephesians 2:4-9, Romans 6:23, Romans 4:4-8, Titus 3:5-7).
The 'different gospel' (and its countless variants) insists that the rapture is only for 'a worthy few' as a reward for righteous living and Christian service. It makes the requirements to participate in the rapture dependent on faithfulness to God, religious performance and some type of obedience connected to the Old Testament Law of Moses. As a result, according to this 'different gospel', you can never know if you qualify until the rapture actually takes place. This popular belief is contrary to Christ's finished work at the cross which purchased our complete salvation; including its fulfillment at the believer's translation (or rapture).
Under the 'different gospel' and its dependency upon Old Testament Law, only a few 'overcomers' can achieve the right to be 'worthy' (or righteous). Yet, contrary to popular church teachings, God warns that no one - not even a few - can satisfy these requirements. Under Christ's New Covenant that started after the cross, failure is always the result if the previous Old Testament program, which God now considers to be obsolete (Hebrews 8:6-13), is illegally used to determine the worthiness (or righteousness) of an individual.
"For the Law was given through
Moses, but Grace and Truth came
through Jesus Christ."
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus Christ) is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
"In that He (Jesus Christ) says, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
As a result, Christ's Gospel of
Grace based on the New Covenant
(that couldn't start until after
the cross) - provides all
believers with good news:
"Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s (Jesus Christ) righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:18-21)
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes (or freely provides) righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:4-8)
The righteousness that comes from Christ's one act of obedience at the cross, which is then freely imputed to the believer - apart from works - is the only thing that qualifies (or makes worthy) - many (not few) - for the blessed hope of the rapture. Understanding the root cause of the controversy allows us to cut through the confusing rhetoric and false accusations of those who preach 'a different gospel'.
The Rapture Must Occur
Before the Tribulation
What about those who received God's Son
and accepted His salvation? Isn't God
being unjust by forcing them to be judged
with everyone else--for a sin they did
God considers it unjust to place the righteous and the wicked under the same judgment. This is a rock-solid fundamental rule that we see throughout the Bible. We find that Abraham confronted God about this very same issue shortly before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As a result of His 'Just' nature (and Abraham's persistent intercession), God spared righteous Lot and his family by sending angels to remove them to a place of safety 'outside the city'.
By reading the entire account in the book of Genesis, we discover that the angels told Lot that they couldn't destroy (send judgment upon) the city until after he was gone. In other words, God provided Lot with a 'Pre-judgment escape'..
Jesus emphasized this same truth,
when He described the conditions
that would exist just before
judgment falls at the beginning
of the Tribulation period. Notice
that He used both Noah and Lot
and their 'pre-judgment escape'
as examples showing us how God
will treat those who possess "the
righteousness of God in Christ
Jesus" - in the last days.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-29)
Christ's words reveal an important truth that exposes much of the false teaching that currently exists about His blood-bought believing Church having to go through the judgments of the Tribulation. Pertaining to the 'last days' (or what many call 'the end-times') Jesus said that the whole earth would enter a period of intense judgment.
Since Jesus said "the whole earth"
would experience these judgments, it
leads us to the conclusion that the
only way to escape these destructive
events (as in the Old Testament
example of Lot's escape from Sodom)
is to somehow be taken to a place
of safety 'away from the earth'.
Regardless of how incredible this
sounds, God actually has no other
choice if He is to preserve His
reputation as 'a Just Judge' ...
since an unjust judge would place
both the righteous and the
unrighteous under the same
GOD'S ESCAPE PLAN
This is why Paul said that a 'catching
away of the Church' (or rapture) would
occur first - and Jesus said that God
would make a way of escape for those who
are worthy (or righteous). This
'Pre-tribulational rapture' is God's
escape plan for the righteous which
takes place before judgment falls. Lot's
escape from Sodom - with angelic help - is
an Old Testament 'type and shadow' of
God's future escape plan for all those
living after the cross who are saved and
possess Christ's freely imputed
righteousness through the unmerited and
undeserved Grace of Christ.
Did Saint Paul Really
Mean What He Said?
In his epistles to the Church, the apostle Paul taught that "all saved Christian believers" would be changed and caught up at the rapture of the Church (1 Corinthians 15:50-56). One reason Paul deliberately used the phrase, “we shall all be changed” was to silence those who insist that the rapture is a reward given only to a few high-performance and devoted believers.
If it didn’t include 'all', Paul would have said so. By using the phrase 'we shall all be changed', Paul was emphasizing a New Covenant truth ... that those with a high level of faithfulness and spiritual performance - and those who are lacking or deficient in these qualities (Paul referred to them as "carnal Christians") are both included. This also includes everyone in between. The popular teaching that the rapture is a special reward for Christian service and holy living, reserved for only a few Christians, is dangerous and misleading. The rapture includes 'all' of the believing Church made righteous and worthy by the blood of Christ through a faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8).
The Church, consisting of all
true believers is known
as "The Body of Christ" on
earth - and will become
"The Bride of Christ" upon
its arrival in heaven
following the great ‘catching
away’ known as the rapture.
However, dangerous erroneous Bible teachings exist, which masquerade as Christian fundamentalism ... such as the recent "bridal rapture theology". This is a variant of what some theologian’s refer to as, ‘the partial rapture error’ which is found in many Bible prophecy circles. It teaches that 'The Bride of Christ', as revealed in the New Testament, is a special 'sub-group' of the entire believing Church ... and does not include all saved Christian believers, but only those who have attained (or achieved) some high level of 'sinless living' and devotion to Christ. It warns that only this special group is qualified to leave at the rapture ... and warns that those who are deficient in these attributes will be left behind for more "purification" during the Tribulation. Here's the problem: How can you know (or have any assurance) which group you are in? How is it possible to know that you've 'crossed over' and are now one of God's privileged few (as these preachers define it). If you’re someone watching for the return of Christ, your inability to answer these questions creates intense doubt, fear and mental torment.
According to Scripture, being left behind will result in a near-certain death sentence for many of those remaining on earth during the Tribulation period. The same ones preaching this false end-time “bridal theology” will lead you to believe they have satisfied God's performance requirements to be part of "Christ's Bride". Yet, this belief is based on religious deception. The truth is - these preachers and their followers can't really know if they qualify until the rapture occurs ... and by then it's too late to change. As a result, they are lying if they claim 'to know'. This is why their doctrine is often called 'tread-mill religion'. Saint Paul called it deception and religious bondage.
This is how it works:
You are terrified at the thought of being "left behind" - so you keep trying to be righteous enough, holy (or sinless) enough and faithful enough ... hoping to satisfy the requirements to become one of God's ‘chosen few’. Yet, regardless of how hard you try the assurance never comes. The unfortunate followers of this doctrine are taught to reject a liberating New Testament truth; that the blood of Jesus Christ washed away all their sin. After the cross, it's only faith in His redeeming blood (and not faith in personal works, religious performance and behavior) that makes anyone (the Bible uses the term 'whosoever') perfectly righteous, perfectly worthy and perfectly holy. The cleansing power of Christ's blood is overwhelmingly sufficient to "fully qualify" the entire believing Church (from the least to the greatest) to participate in the rapture ... not just a privileged few.
This is why all saved blood-bought
believers in Christ, from the least
to the greatest, can have absolute
assurance that they will be in the
rapture of the Church...and not left
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the link below to access
the next section.