Important Information About
Who Goes at the Rapture
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
This is Part 1 of a two-part Bible study.
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The Rapture And Its Gospel Connection
One of the most controversial and misunderstood topics in the church is "the rapture of the Church". It’s far more than just some optional theory or opinion involving end-time events. According to Saint Paul, the rapture (or "catching away") represents the completed salvation of Christ's New Testament Church (also known as "The Body of Christ"). THE "CATCHING AWAY" IS A SALVATION EVENT, where God changes (or translates) Christian believers (both those who are in the grave -- and those who are still living) from mortal flesh to an immortal spiritual body. This immortal spiritual body is just like the body Jesus Christ received at His resurrection and now possesses. The Church is also called "the Body of Christ" in the New Testament. This name suggests that "Christ's many membered body of earthly mortal believers" will, one day, be given the same kind of immortal spiritual body that Christ has. Our destiny is to be changed into His image. This change is necessary to complete God's redemptive program. The transition from mortal to immortal occurs during 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 at the cross. Receiving a spiritual body like our Lord is the fulfillment of our promised salvation that occurs at His future return. THE TRANSLATION OR RAPTURE IS NOT SOME ISOLATED TOPIC OF BIBLE ESCHATOLOGY. Yet, depending on what church group you belong to, contradictory teachings and opinions abound causing massive confusion and emotional accusations.
Identifying the source of the confusion is not easy or popular. Most church leaders avoid it like the plague. Yet, it's the cause of false (and popular) religious teachings with roots that can be traced all the way back to the first century. The apostle Paul sounded one of the most horrific warnings found in the New Testament about this crisis. After Christ's crucifixion, a group of ministers and evangelists began preaching a particular type of "gospel of Christ" that Paul condemned as "a different gospel". He also warned that "another Jesus" (not the authentic Jesus of the New Testament) is the central focus of this "different gospel". That means there are two accepted versions of "the gospel of Christ" circulating around the institutional church that claim to be "fundamental Bible truth". Yet, only one is accepted by God. The version Paul taught in his epistles is the correct one. The "different gospel of Christ" (and its "other Jesus") is a dangerous counterfeit that happens to dominate the modern church hidden behind countless good-sounding names and labels. In order to preserve unity, most modern-day Christians are wrongly taught to accept both versions. We are told that both are valid and the problems are just "a difference of opinion" that should be set aside. Yet, the New Testament warns that the "different gospel" and its “other Jesus” is a teaching that does not come from God. Paul went even further and offended his audience by saying....those who believe this "different gospel" are "bewitched" and have fallen from God's Grace. (Galatians 1:6-8, Galatians 3:1-3, Galatians 5:4, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
[Since this problem is discussed in other commentaries, we won't go into great detail in this abbreviated insert]
The authentic gospel and the counterfeit gospel BOTH HAVE THEIR OWN INTERPRETATION OF THE RAPTURE AND THE TRIBUALTION PERIOD. Few church members understand that one interpretation is right and one is wrong. The conflict between these two versions of the gospel is the root cause of the confusion. The authentic gospel correctly claims that God provides the rapture (a salvation event for the Church) for all true believers 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" and given as "a reward for righteous behavior, faithfulness and Christian service". It makes our qualifications to participate in the rapture dependent on religious performance and some form of obedience to Old Testament Law -- INSTEAD OF CHRIST'S FINISHED WORK AT THE CROSS THAT PURCHASED OUR COMPLETE SALVATION, INCLUDING ITS FULFILLMENT AT THE RAPTURE. Under the "different gospel" and its association with the Law, only a few meet the high religious performance standards to be worthy and righteous. But, God warns that no one meets these standards to His satisfaction.
Christ's New Covenant gospel of Grace THAT STARTED AFTER THE CROSS gives all believers far better news:
"For as by one man's disobedience (Adam) many were made sinners, SO ALSO BY ONE MAN'S OBEDIENCE (JESUS CHRIST) MANY WILL BE MADE RIGHTEOUS." (Romans 5:17-19)
The righteousness THAT COMES FROM CHRIST'S OBEDIENCE, WHICH IS THEN IMPUTED TO THE BELIEVER qualifies (or makes worthy) MANY 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 the critics.
Did 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). He deliberately used the phrase, “WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED” to silence religious critics and Christian tread-mill theologians who teach that the rapture is a reward only given to a few high-performance devoted believers. If it didn’t include ALL, Paul would have said so. When he used the word ALL, he was emphasizing a New Covenant truth that those with a high level of spiritual performance AND THOSE WHO ARE LACKING OR DEFICIENT IN THESE THINGS (Paul called them "carnal Christians") are both included, along with everyone in between. The popular teaching that the rapture is a special reward for Christian service and holy living, reserved for a few Christians with exceptional behavior is misleading and false. THE RAPTURE INCLUDES THE WHOLE BELIEVING CHURCH MADE RIGHTEOUS AND WORTHY BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, which is known as "The Body of Christ" on earth and will become "The Bride of Christ" upon its arrival in heaven.
However, there are dangerous errors, masquerading as fundamental Bible teaching such as the more recent "bridal rapture theology". It’s a derivative of the "partial rapture error", which is foundational in many Bible prophecy circles. It teaches that "The Bride of Christ" is a special sub-group within the believing Church and does not include "all saved Christian believers", but only the more committed Christians, who attain (or achieve) some high level of devotion to Christ and sinless "holy living". It warns that only this special group will leave at the “catching away" (or rapture), while those deficient in these godly attributes and behavior will be left behind for more "purification" during the tribulation. Here's the problem: How can you know (or have any assurance) what group you're 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 torment. Being "left behind" will result in an automatic death sentence for many remaining on the earth during the tribulation period. The same ones preaching this end-time “bridal theology” message project the illusion that they’ve satisfied God's performance requirements to be part of "Christ's Bride". Yet, this is only an illusion based on a dangerous assumption. The truth is...under their aberrant theology, they can't really know that they qualify until the rapture occurs - and by then it's too late to change. This is why we call their teaching "tread-mill religion". Saint Paul called it deception and religious bondage. You are terrified of being "left behind" so you keep trying to be righteous enough, holy (or sinless) enough and faithful enough - hoping to satisfy the qualifications to become one of God's "chosen few". Here's the tragedy: These unfortunate congregations are taught to reject the liberating truth that the blood of Jesus Christ washed away all their sin. It's only His blood that makes them perfectly righteous, perfectly worthy, perfectly holy and fully qualified to participate in the "catching away" of the Church when it happens. The cleansing power of Christ's blood is sufficient to "fully qualify" the whole believing Church (from the least to the greatest) to participate in the rapture – AND NOT JUST A PRIVILEGED FEW.
A Dismembered Body of Christ
Partial rapture theology dominates most churches that teach end-time Bible prophecy. It's directly tied to a modified "merit-based" Old Testament conditional salvation that the apostle Paul called "a different gospel" and condemned in his epistles. He warned that it was a false system of faith THAT GOD DOES NOT HONOR. While the few churches and ministries that teach Bible prophecy are to be commended for their efforts, the way many treat the blessing of the rapture (also called "the believer's blessed hope"--Titus 2:13-14) is misleading and spiritually deadly. In the New Testament, the rapture represents the future fulfillment of the believer's salvation. THIS MEANS THE RAPTURE IS A SALVATION EVENT FOR CHRIST'S BLOOD-BOUGHT (REDEEMED) CHURCH. However, many in these Bible prophecy churches and denominations like to illegally strip the rapture from its place in Christ's salvation (also called God's unmerited gift to the believer--Romans 10:8-13, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9 Romans 4:4-8, Romans 3:24-26 and Titus 3:4-7) and transplant it into an "optional" Bible eschatology format or context where they can redefine it into anything they want -- or even ignore it. A vast majority choose to redefine the rapture as a major end-time event reserved for only the most obedient and devoted believers. This common teaching carries horrific spiritual consequences. It perverts the fulfillment of the Church's salvation through Christ (at the rapture) into a works and merit-based religion that the New Testament labels a heresy.
Partial rapture theology is found under countless names and labels designed to hide its real characteristics. Bridal rapture theology is only a more recent variant of this error. Here's another example :
Some evangelists and prophecy teachers claim that the rapture is only for what they call, “the overcoming remnant Church”. They define this group, not as the whole Church that consists of all believers, but as a special high-performance sub-group that are few in number (hence the word "remnant"). Similar to bridal rapture teachings, the leaders insist that this "remnant church" does not include all believers. It excludes those who are living in or struggling with some kind of sin or fails in some way to be "an overcomer". The believers in the “overcoming remnant church” (as they call it) are those who ACHIEVE some high level of sinless living and are given a place in the rapture as a "special reward for faithfulness". The key word here is "achieve". It is believed that this special position is achieved (or earned by self-effort) through a personal “deep devotion to Christ”, which places them in a separate and privileged class above all other nominal true believers who are "less devoted" and fail to overcome sin. They insist that only this "overcoming remnant church" is "caught up" to meet Christ in the rapture, while all other true believers who continue to struggle with sin and fail in some way to practice "christ-like" character are penalized and left behind for more purification during the tribulation on earth. (Personal note: This is exactly the kind of religious hypocritical arrogance practiced by the Pharisees that angered the Lord Jesus christ.) The New Testament condemns any doctrine or theology that dismembers and divides the Body of Christ into some "multi-leveled class system” based on a member's achievement of some sinless spiritual state of what they call "holiness". The apostle Peter condemned these doctrines and called them, "damnable heresies that denies the Lord who bought (or redeemed) us" (2 Peter 2:1-2). It’s the same kind of misguided theology found in the "bridal rapture teaching" and is nothing but an old error with a new modern name. (It was rejected by the first century apostolic leadership in Acts chapter 15). Saint Paul exposed it as "a different or counterfeit gospel" THAT GOD DOES NOT HONOR (GALATIANS 1:6-8).
BEWARE OF THESE FALSE DOCTRINES THAT DENY THE COMPLETE REDEMPTION AND TOTAL SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST'S BLOOD SACRIFICE TO WASH AWAY ALL SIN (PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE) OF ALL BELIEVERS IN THE CHURCH.
Note: See the teaching entitled, "Who is The Bride of Christ?"
that follows this commentary for more insight.
When we use the phrase “all saved Christian believers” WE DO NOT MEAN “all those who profess to be Christian”. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE IN THOSE TWO GROUPS. According to Christ's New Covenant program that began after the cross, an “authentically saved Christian” is one who receives God’s gift of eternal life obtained only through His unmerited favor (also called Grace) as outlined in Romans 10:8-13, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9 Romans 4:4-8, Romans 3:24-26 and Titus 3:4-7. A vast majority of religious people refer to themselves as a “Christian”, yet refuse to accept eternal life as the free, unconditional and unmerited gift of God fully purchased by the blood of Christ. They attempt to obtain eternal life (salvation) the Old Testament way through good works, trying to achieve (through self-effort) their own righteousness and holiness, striving to keep Old Testament Law -- and through church affiliation. THESE WELL-INTENTIONED AND HIGHLY COMMITTED PEOPLE ARE ZEALOUS FOR CHRIST AND HIS TEACHINGS. HOWEVER, they are part of a stealth group that the apostle Paul calls “false brethren, false apostles of Christ and false ministers of righteousness", who fellowship among us. They openly carry Bibles, attend church services, pray, evangelize, participate in praise and worship -- and act like real Christians. Unfortunately, they are also highly educated and respected spiritual leaders. IT IS LIKELY THAT MANY IN THIS GROUP WILL NOT LEAVE IN THE RAPTURE WITH THE REST OF THE CHURCH. Why? They have placed their faith and trust in "a different gospel", which is a close counterfeit (or look-alike) of the real Gospel of Christ. The counterfeit gospel motivates its followers to obtain salvation in a way that Christ’s New Covenant declares to be illegal. It means that God does not honor, nor does He grant salvation according to its principles and rules. This is why the apostle Paul labels those that teach and propagate this "different gospel" as being "accursed", WHICH SUGGESTS DIVINE REJECTION. Paul gives one of the most terrifying warnings in the Bible on this topic of “a different gospel”. Do not make the spiritually lethal mistake of thinking all of this doesn't matter and is just some "difference of opinion". It represents a popular false theology that's been plaguing the Church since the first century - and believers should avoid it at all costs.
GOD DOES NOT USE THE TRIBULATION
PERIOD TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL
PURIFICATION FOR UNDER-PERFORMING
Here are some Scriptural references, which
are repeated throughout our commentaries.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12 KJV)
"...BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS, whom God set forth as a propitiation BY HIS BLOOD, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26 -- Emphasis Added)
"I MARVEL THAT YOU ARE TURNING AWAY SO SOON FROM HIM WHO CALLED YOU IN THE GRACE OF CHRIST, TO A DIFFERENT GOSPEL, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. BUT EVEN IF WE, OR AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, PREACH ANY OTHER GOSPEL TO YOU THAN WHAT WE HAVE PREACHED TO YOU, LET HIM BE ACCURSED." (Galatians 1:6-8 NKJV -- Emphasis Added)
"And this occurred BECAUSE OF FALSE BRETHREN SECRETLY BROUGHT IN (WHO CAME IN BY STEALTH TO SPY OUT OUR LIBERTY WHICH WE HAVE IN CHRIST JESUS, THAT THEY MIGHT BRING US INTO BONDAGE), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, THAT THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL MIGHT CONTINUE WITH YOU." (Galatians 2:4-5 -- Emphasis Added)
"O foolish Galatians! WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU THAT YOU SHOULD NOT OBEY THE TRUTH, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:1-3 -- Emphasis Added)
"But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have obtained from [which was entrusted to me by] the Lord Jesus, faithfully to attest to the good news (Gospel) of God's grace (His unmerited favor, spiritual blessing, and mercy)." (Acts 20:24 Amplified Bible, WHICH DEFINES THE GOSPEL OF GRACE AS GOD'S UNMERITED FAVOR AND MERCY)
But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, TRANSFORMING THEMSELVES INTO APOSTLES OF CHRIST. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. THEREFORE IT IS NO GREAT THING IF HIS MINISTERS ALSO TRANSFORM THEMSELVES INTO MINISTERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:12-15 -- Emphasis Added)
"FOR AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW ARE UNDER THE CURSE; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” BUT THAT NO ONE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW IN THE SIGHT OF GOD IS EVIDENT, for “the just shall live by faith.” YET THE LAW IS NOT OF FAITH..." (Galatians 3:10-12 -- Emphasis Added)
"You have become estranged (separated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; YOU HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE." (Galatians 5:4 -- Emphasis Added)
"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: FOR IF RIGHTEOUSNESS COME BY THE LAW, THEN CHRIST IS DEAD IN VAIN (THE WORD "VAIN" MEANS THAT CHRIST'S DEATH BECOMES MEANINGLESS)." (Galatians 2:19-21 NKJV -- Emphasis Added)
Who Is The Bride Of Christ?
A Special Rock of Offence Commentary
Most students of the Bible understand the rapture to be a future event where Christ returns and calls His bride away from the earth. There are four major references in the New Testament concerning Christ's Bride. One well-known reference is found in the book of Revelation. Yet, Paul mentions “the Bride” three times in Romans 7:4, 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:28-32. There are more indirect references when you include the parables Jesus taught about the wedding feast.
Paul, speaking to all believers in Christ
at Rome made the following statement:
"Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, THAT YOU MIGHT BE MARRIED TO ANOTHER - TO HIM WHO WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD, that we should bear fruit to God. (Romans 7:4)
Once again, in his epistle to all believers
at Corinth, Paul writes;
"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor 11:2)
Why do we draw attention to the fact that Paul is making these comments about the “Bride of Christ” to all believers?
A growing number of end-time prophecy teachers are attempting to redefine "The Bride of Christ" as an elite group of Christians, who possess a high level of devotion to the Lord. They claim that this special "high performance" group does not include all true believers. These Bible teachers (and their followers) insist that "the Bride" represents only the most faithful and devoted members of the Church. They claim that this special group of “overcomers” (some preachers call them “the overcoming remnant church”) will be the only ones God chooses to participate in the rapture. It also means that all other authentic Christian believers, who failed to “overcome” will be left behind for additional purification during the tribulation. As previously stated in other commentaries, this is another variation of what is often called, "the partial-rapture error" found in many Bible prophecy circles. It represents a continuing effort by legalists (or those that preach a "different gospel", which was condemned by Saint Paul) to divide Christ's body. The popular, yet misleading theology of legalism (and its countless variants) began in the first century. In his epistles to the Church, Saint Paul attempts to expose and condemn this dangerous false teaching.
There are two terms that describe all true believers in Christ. The first is "The Body of Christ" - and the second is "The Church". Scripture teaches that both terms describe the same group of people, which is all those in every place, who have trusted Christ as their Savior and Redeemer. Concerning this group, Saint Paul gives some important insight :
"AND HE (JESUS CHRIST) IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18 KJV)
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things TO THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph 1:22-23 KJV)
Paul announces TO THE ENTIRE CORINTHIAN CONGREGATION...
"NOW YE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, and members in particular." (1 Cor 12:27 - Emphasis Added)
Notice that Paul is declaring ALL BELIEVERS IN CHRIST AT CORINTH TO BE MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. He did not say that Christ's body was a special group of only the most devoted and faithful. Understanding this all inclusive term is important because Paul rebuked the Corinthian believers as being some of the most "carnal" under his care. Yet, these "carnal Christians" are also part of the body of Christ, despite their deficiencies. In his epistles to both the Colossians and the Ephesians (Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22-23 quoted above), Paul reveals an important fact; that "the body" (or the Body of Christ) of which Christ is the head - IS ALSO KNOWN AS THE CHURCH. This means ALL BELIEVERS WHO MAKE UP "THE BODY" IS THE SAME "ALL" WHO IS CHRIST'S CHURCH.
Paul brings these facts together in an important truth, when teaching about the relationship between a husband and his wife.
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, EVEN AS THE LORD THE CHURCH: FOR WE ARE MEMBERS OF HIS BODY, OF HIS FLESH, AND OF HIS BONES.
Pay particular attention to the next statement.
"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. THIS IS A GREAT MYSTERY: BUT I SPEAK CONCERNING CHRIST AND THE CHURCH." (Ephesians 5:28-32 - Emphasis Added)
When teaching about the relationship between a husband and a wife, Paul reveals "a mystery" about Christ and His Church. Here's another way of saying the same thing: "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and His bride (and future wife), THE CHURCH". At a marriage ceremony, a bride becomes a wife.
The "Bride of Christ" is not a special group (or sub-set) of devoted high-performance Christians, who are rewarded for their works and performance with the rapture - while other under-performing and works-deficient (or carnal) Christians are left behind to endure additional purification and punishment for their failures. Jesus condemns this common religious practice that divides His body into different classes based on their spiritual performance. Jesus Christ has "one undivided body" - not a collection of dismembered body parts, where some leave at the rapture - while others are rejected and left behind. If you've obeyed the simple conditions of the Gospel found in Romans 10:8-13 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - then you've successfully received God's gift of eternal life and are now "freely justified" by His Grace through a faith without works (Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 4:4-8). We should remember that "being justified" (the Bible calls it "justification by faith") means that God now considers (reckons) you to be perfectly sinless. This sinless state is "imputed" and overrides your current sinful and imperfect spiritual condition. It covers all of the believer's sin; past, present and future. The simple act of believing on Jesus Christ as your savior makes you a member of the Body of Christ, which also makes you a member of Christ's Church and the Bride of Christ.
The Church (body of Christ) consists of all true believers on earth. However, when the Church moves to heaven at the rapture, it becomes Christ's Bride (and His future wife after the marriage). Those who attempt to ensnare you by claiming that "The Bride of Christ" is a special group of "elite believers", selected by God to be in the rapture because of their exceptional level of faithfulness and religious performance - are not giving you the truth. It may sound reasonable to a religiously minded person, but the Bible calls it; "the way that seems right, but ends in death" (Proverbs 14:12).
Additional information is available
at the following links:
Imputation: The New Covenant Method God Uses
To Transfer His Spiritual Benefits To Us
The New Testament Believer's Position
This is Part 1 of a two-part Bible study.
Click on the link below to access
the next section.