[Editors note by Terry James: The following was
a chapter Dr. Dave Breese, my dear friend who went to be with the
Lord May 2, 2002, wrote for one of my books published in the
early 1990s. It is like a self-contained education on Truth
wrapped up in what God's Word has to say about Christ's calling His
Church in the Rapture.
The chapter, although written nearly 2 decades ago, couldn't be more
relevant than during these present days of stage-setting for prophecies
that will come to pass following Jesus' sudden shout, "Come up
hither!"(Rev. 4: 1)
In my view there has been nothing written that is more instructive in
matters concerning these closing days of the Age of Grace, while we look
for the blessed hope of Titus 2: 13.]
A stunning event is quickly approaching for our world! That event
will be thrilling beyond measure to every Christian. It will be
dismaying and most frightening, however, to each person in the world who
has not believed the gospel and has not become, thereby, a possessor of
eternal life. We have come to call that event "the rapture of the
Church." It is that coming awesome moment that enables us to promise
that there is a generation of Christians who will not die. Rather, they
will be caught up while yet in their living physical bodies, taken
suddenly from this world to meet face to face with the Lord Jesus
Christ. They will meet Him in the air and then be personally escorted by
Christ, the Maker of the universe, into heaven and the presence of God.
The fact that the Bible describes in the clearest terms the utter
reality of this event cannot be denied by clever detractors or
contradicted by coy pretenders to faith. Rather, this promised event of
the catching away of Christians is the right and proper source of great
anticipation on the part of genuine believers across the world of our
The Hope of the Christian
The subject of the rapture of the Church was introduced to believers
in the New Testament era in a most interesting fashion as the answer to
a critical doctrinal question.
How did that question arise?
In the early days of the Church, the believers had a general
knowledge about the coming of the Lord, the end of the world, and the
consummation of history. They paid no attention to any theory that
argued the world has been here forever and would, in like fashion, go on
The disciples one day asked Christ, "Tell us, when shall these things
be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the
world?" (Matt. 24:3).
With this question, the disciples revealed that they wisely did not
believe the various views of the uniformity and eternity of nature -
false doctrine that was floating in that time and continues today. The
disciples were very conscious that existence on earth, and even the
existence of earth itself, was a finite and passing thing. Their
knowledge that the world would come to an end is obvious from their
question. Our Lord himself instructed us that this view is true.
Christ's response to the disciples' questions compose what we know
today as the Olivet Discourse, two full chapters in Matthew's Gospel
account. The general view of the consummation of things, however,
becomes more refined in the epistles of the New Testament.
In the letters of the New Testament writers to the early churches, we
see the emergence of a people who are given a very special destiny by
the Lord. These people came to be called "Christians," believers in
Jesus Christ who constitute a mysterious entity in our world called "the
Church." Of this the apostle Paul speaks when he says that, following
Christ's crucifixion, His burial, and His resurrection, our Lord has
taken His seat at the right hand of the Father,
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and
every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which
is to come: 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 fullness
of him that filleth all in all (Eph.1:21-23).
Out of the wounded side of Jesus Christ, God created a totally
marvelous entity, which is called in Scripture the body of Christ. The
existence of the body of Christ, however, was unknown and unforeseen by
the prophets in Old Testament days. It was a "mystery, which from the
beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by
Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers
in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of
Christians are, therefore, instructed that they live in a very
special age in which God is taking out of the world a people for His
name and forming them together into a mysterious and beautiful living
entity in the world, the body of Christ himself. One of the
less-realized, but most wonderful, aspects of Christianity is that to be
a Christian is to be in indissoluble union with God through Christ.,
The Believer's Destiny
The New Testament Christians were then instructed that they were
inheritors of a stupendous eternal destiny. Speaking to them, the
apostle Paul said, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up
for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
So, wonder of wonders, the Christians are to inherit not merely the
world, which is the case with Israel, but they are inheritors of the
universe. "All things" are in the process of being given to them by the
Lord, the totality of which Will one day be their inheritance. Expanding
on this, the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians,
... For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or
the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all
are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's (1 Cor. 3:21-23).
This awesome destiny of the believer needs to be better understood by
Christians today. One of the greatest motivations for the believer to
live a splendid Christian life is a sense of the eternal destiny that is
his. Every one of us should be lifted up from ordinary circumstances by
reading that the Bible says, For unto the angels hath he not put in
subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain
place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or
the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower
than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set
him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection
under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left
nothing that is not put under him ... (Heb. 2:5-8).
What then is God doing today in the light of the bright destiny that
He has prepared for us? The answer is that He is bringing many sons into
glory (Heb. 2:10). All of the events of life are, therefore, calculated
by God to produce maturity in His sons in preparation for the rulership
What wonder must have progressively taken over the minds of the
members of the New Testament body of Christ as they thought of their
destiny. Living as ordinary, lowly individuals in Corinth, Athens, Rome,
or the provinces of Galatia, they are now offered a greater hope beyond
this life. Some of them were wicked sinners, prostitutes, whorermongers,
thieves, and even tax collectors. Out of their degenerate pasts, the
believers crossed over the bridge of faith in Jesus Christ to become
heirs of God.
Coming from nothing, from a life of sin, they were overwhelmed with
the teaching that, as a gift from God, they possessed eternal life and
along with it, the never-to-fade riches of the universe. They were even
promised by Jesus Christ that they would never die. Had not He said,
I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though
he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in
me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26).
Their understanding of future glory was expanded by reading from the
apostle Paul about the work of Jesus Christ, Who hath saved us, and
called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but
according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ
Jesus before the world began, But now is made manifest by the appearing
of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought
life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:9-10).
Receiving letters like this and listening to the face-to-face
teaching of the apostle Paul, these early Christians pursued with joy
and astonishment the truth of the resurrection of Christ and, therefore,
of their own personal resurrection.
What About Those Who Have Died?
Five years, ten years, twenty years had gone by, and Christ had not
come. Believers were burying their brothers and sisters as the
inevitable ending of life took place for one Christian after another.
Those first Christian funerals must have been most moving occasions. But
they also produced a series of questions in the minds of the believers
These Christians, knowing that their departed loved ones were present
with the Lord, wondered how they would share in the coming of Christ.
They were certainly also concerned about when these departed loved ones
would be resurrected from the dead. The bodies were in the grave, and
their spirits were with Christ.
Jesus was coming again; therefore, the believers asked, "How does the
coming of Christ for His church relate to those Christians who have gone
before? How do those who have already died in Christ share in the moment
of His return with those who are yet alive? Is there a special
resurrection for the Christian?" These were understandable concerns and,
to be sure, concerns that remain today among untutored believers.
The New Testament Christians corresponded with the apostle Paul,
asking him about those who had died and how they will share in the
return of Christ. We can rejoice in this because we have Paul's answer
to the questions about death and resurrection that were raised by the
A Special Resurrection
In the letter of the apostle Paul to the saints of Thessalonica,
given by divine revelation, he revealed that wonderful truth of the
special resurrection of believing Christians:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them
which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who
sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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: Then
we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the
Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
This passage presents the truth of the rapture of the Church. What
lessons can we learn from Paul's writing? They certainly include the
1) Spiritual ignorance is not complimented in the Word of God. By
paying attention to the sure word of prophecy that God has given us in
His Word, we can become knowledgeable, rather than ignorant Christians.
2) Christians who have died are with the Lord, and they will be
brought by Christ to the Rapture. Many Christians are concerned about
the location and state of mind of departed loved ones even today. The
Scriptures reassure us that they are "safe in the arms of Jesus" and are
tenderly cared for by Him. 3) Christ will descend from heaven to meet
believers in the air. Notice that the Lord Jesus does not return the
entire distance to this world but, rather, awaits that rendezvous in the
air and will catch us up to that point of greeting and reunion. We can,
therefore, suggest that this moment of tender reunion will not be
observed by the people of earth. Indeed, even their observation would
profane so holy an occasion.
4) The Rapture will be the occasion of the resurrection of believers.
One of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith is that of the
resurrection of the body. This resurrection for believers will be on the
identical occasion of the Rapture, at The Rapture which time the bodies
of Christians, glorified, will be reunited with their spirits which have
been in the presence of Jesus Christ.
5) The Rapture will reunite believers with loved ones who have died
in Christ. First, we will have the opportunity to greet one another, and
together we will then be taken into the presence of Jesus Christ and
into the presence of God.
6) This event will unite believers with Christ, never again to be
separated. One of the great promises of the Rapture is that we will be
present with the Lord, no longer to walk by faith but, rather, by sight.
What an awesome occasion that Will be, as John discovered when he met
the Lord on the occasion of the writing of the Book of the Revelation
By so writing, Paul gave us the classic passage in the New Testament
that tens us in no uncertain terms that there is a generation of
Christians who will not die. Rather, they will be caught up into the
presence of Christ along with resurrected believers whom Christ will
bring with Him when He comes for that last set of living Christians who
will be alive when Christ comes for His church.
The Mystery Revealed
We must note that the doctrine of the catching up of the Church was a
mystery, which in this passage was made known to people who already knew
the general outline of the prophetic future. This is clear because Paul
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I
write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord
so cometh as a thief in the night (1 Thess.5:1-2).
This same message, that of the hitherto unannounced rapture of the
Church, is also emphasized by the apostle Paul when he wrote to the
Corinthians. He said,
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall
all be changed, Ina 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 (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
As we have noticed, the general message of the coming of the Lord was
no mystery; the Thessalonians knew this perfectly well. The mystery was
that the Church, in the form of the last generation of living
Christians, was to be instantly transported and transformed without
experiencing physical death itself.
By this, it then becomes clear in Scripture that God has produced a
special entity in the world, the body of Christ, and for that Body, He
has a special destiny. That destiny is to inherit all things and to
participate in the rulership of the universe one day.
What a joy this truth became to the members of the early Church. We
know that the first Christians were called upon to live for Christ in
the midst of adverse circumstances. Sometimes, they were the object of
severe persecution, even martyrdom. Because of the blessed hope which
they now understood, they could receive the Word in much affliction,
continuing to rejoice despite their circumstances.
From their example, the lesson is clear that one derives joy not from
present cooperating circumstances but from the promise of the prophetic
Word. The believing Christian knows that the fleeting joys and the
temporary adversities of this world are to be accounted as little by
comparison to the joy that awaits us when we step into the presence of
Christ. The apostle Paul says this most strongly:
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man may perish,
yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction,
which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen:
but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are
temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor.
The best of this life is not then to be compared with the joys of the
future. This life is not final reality, it is the prelude to that
reality. The worst circumstances imaginable in this world are but light
affliction that lasts but for a moment. Reality, fullness of joy, comes
to us from God when we pass from this life into the life to come.
The Body of Christ
We learn, therefore, from the Word of God, that the Lord has produced
a special period of time, which is the Church Age. During that period of
time, there is being fashioned by God himself that wonderful entity, the
body of Christ.
When the body of Christ is complete, of which each believer is a
member, we will be caught up into heaven to be with Christ. The bodies
of those who have gone before will be resurrected, and a living
generation of Christians will be caught up without dying to meet with
those who have gone before to be taken by Christ into heaven.
There is an exact moment when this completion of the body of Christ
will happen. That moment, at this present time known only to God, will
bring the translation of the body of Christ into heaven. All believers
at that moment will move from the Church militant to the Church
In eternity, the believers will realize their true destiny: to be the
inheritors and the co-rulers of the universe with Jesus Christ. It is no
small thing to be a Christian! Believing in Jesus Christ is not merely
the emotion of a moment, it is to be eternally joined with God himself
and literally a partaker of the divine nature. It is to have the hope of
eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world
The proper attitude, therefore, of the believer is to brightly
anticipate the joys of heaven. The proper sentiment is also to allow for
the possibility that, "Perhaps today, perhaps this very hour, I will be
caught up into the presence of Christ and so to be with Him forever."
Let us remember, then, that there is not one but two possible ways in
which the believer will go to heaven. One of them is via physical death.
Concerning this, we ought not to be afraid because, in fact, the
Christian does not die. Christ has abolished death and promised that
when we believe in Him, we will never die. The Christian, even in
"dying," does not even lose consciousness but discovers the marvelous
truth that absent from the body is present with the Lord.
The other possibility for going to heaven is the Rapture, the
catching up of the Church into the presence of Christ. So thrilling is
this prospect that we ought to learn more about this event in which many
of us may well participate. Happily, then, though there are many related
questions concerning the Rapture, we can discover the answers by looking
into the blessed pages of the Word of God.
What Is the Tribulation?
We have learned that the Rapture is the method by which Christ will
take that last generation of believing Christians home to be with
himself. There is little disagreement by those who pay the proper,
studious respect to the Word of God that the Bible teaches the physical
transport of believers from the earth to heaven. That is a fact which is
presented undeniably and without apology in the Scriptures.
The questions which then arise have to do with the timing of the
Rapture. People ask, "When?" The Rapture event is the object of much
discussion with reference to the timing, relative to a special era in
history called "the Tribulation." Therefore, the question often takes
the form of "Will Christians go through the Tribulation?" and "Will
Christ come for His own before the Tribulation?" and other related
To discover the answers to these questions, we must think concerning
the basic question, "What is the Tribulation?" A proper understanding of
the days of the Tribulation can go a long way toward answering the
question of the timing of the Rapture relative to the Tribulation. What
then is "the Tribulation" so commonly spoken of in Scripture?
The 69th Week
The first and most basic answer to that question is that the
Tribulation is the seventieth week of the prophecy of Daniel. One of the
most consolidated histories of the world, of the divine intention, is
found in that prophecy.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city,
to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make
reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,
and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy
Here we have the goals that God is determined to fulfill in that
seventy-week period of time that will bring us to the consummation of
Daniel's prophecy says that a most notable and tragic event will take
place at the end of the sixty-ninth week, namely that Messiah shall be
cut off. So the somber prediction of the death of the Messiah of Israel,
Jesus Christ, is presented to us by the prophet Daniel. So stunning is
this event, so awesome a proof of the rebellion and sin of the people of
God that the crucifixion of the Son of God stops the clock of prophecy.
On the occasion of the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was
rent in twain, split from top to bottom, and the program of God for His
people, the Jews, came to an abrupt halt. The unspeakably sad result is
pictured in most moving fashion in Matthew's Gospel, presenting us the
words of Christ.
Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest
them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy
children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I
say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed
is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Matt. 23:37-39).
Here we have Christ stating in advance the results of the rejection
of their Messiah by the Chosen People of God. Their house would be left
unto them desolate!
So it is that the house of Israel has been left desolate now for
nearly 2,000 years. The children of Israel have been scattered across
the world and have been subject to calumny, persecution, and rejection
in nearly every nation of the world. This period of time has been the
era of Israel being cut off from the true vine and the Church grafted
During the Church Age, therefore, God has had no specific program
with the nation of Israel. Rather, in this day of grace, He has been
calling both Jew and Gentile to faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of
the world. All who so believe in this day are members of the body of
But God has not entirely forsaken His people. He has one last cycle
of discipline for Israel. That period of discipline will come during
Daniel's seventieth week, the week of the Tribulation.
The Time of Jacob's Trouble
The Tribulation is, therefore, the time of Jacob's trouble. Jeremiah
says, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even
the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer.
Israel is held responsible by the Lord, along with the Gentiles, for
the crucifixion of Christ. This is the reason for the awesome silence of
Jehovah in relating to His people during the two millennia that have
transpired since the death of Christ. Clearly, however, the Word of God
declares that God has not finally and completely cast away His people.
Indeed, the Scripture speaks of the casting away of Israel and
announced that that produced the reconciling of the world. The Scripture
then speaks of the receiving of Israel, which will be life from the dead
for the nations. Israel moved into a period of blindness and
estrangement from God until a point of time called the fullness of the
At this point, God promises to work in goodness and severity with His
people so that, under the discipline of the n a on, Israel will be
brought to a place of decision and faith. This is always the intention
of divine discipline for His own, in any era of history.
The Tribulation, then, will be a time of the conversion of Israel.
Most boldly, the Scripture announces,
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come
out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins
The Tribulation will, therefore, be a time of great spiritual
revival. It will mark the conversion of Israel and great activity by
Israel for the conversion of the world.
The Book of The Revelation, therefore, announces an amazing multitude
of 144,000 witnesses who represent the twelve tribes of Israel. These
will have been converted during the days of the Tribulation and will
have a profound effect upon the world. When one remembers that there is
only a fraction of this number of Christian missionaries in the world
today, one is impressed with the zealous response that will come out of
Israel in the form of faith in Jesus Christ as its Messiah. "The gospel
of the Kingdom" will be preached with great zeal by them to the world.
The Tribulation will also be a time of massive conversion of Gentile
multitudes. The Revelation says, after this I beheld, and, lo, a great
multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and
people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb,
clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands (Rev. 7:9).
So remarkable is this sight that one of the elders around God's
throne asked who these people are. The answer from the Word of God is:
"These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and have washed
their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14).
Amazing spiritual results occur when the world comes to the end of
itself, realizing that nothing on earth is of any value. It then turns
in great numbers to faith in Christ as Messiah, bringing in a time of
evangelism that will be one of the largest and most effective in the
history of the world. The anguish of the Tribulation produces a most
salutary result. But a fearful time it will be!
God's Wrath Poured Forth
The Tribulation is the time of the outpouring of the wrath of God
upon a wicked world. In the account of the horsemen of the Apocalypse,
when the fourth horseman rides forth, the Scripture says, power was
given unto them over the fourth part of the earth to kill with sword,
and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth (Rev.
In the beginning days of the Revelation, therefore, approximately 25
percent of the world is killed in the opening wars and pestilences of
those days. Very quickly, the Scripture says,
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them,
having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the
heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths
issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part
of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone,
which issued out of their mouths (Rev. 9:17-18).
A third part of men killed! This already mounts up to one half of the
world's population, and beyond this point in the Revelation many other
natural catastrophes take place. As the Tribulation unfolds, there are
mighty earthquakes, occasions of scorching heat, the advent of the
Antichrist, world occult religious organization, and finally, the Battle
of Armageddon, which will be fatal to scores of millions of soldiers.
This time of natural catastrophe combined with divine judgment will
bring awesome carnage across the face of the earth.
The Day of the Lord
The Tribulation is the beginning of "the day of the Lord." As we have
seen, the Christians were conscious - because they read about it in the
Old Testament - that there was a time of fearful judgment coming upon
the world called the day of the Lord. The churches, however, needed
instruction as to how to discern the presence of the day of the Lord and
the way to know that the day of grace was finished. Concerning this, the
apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, saying,
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 Thess. 2:1- 2).
Here, the apostle Paul admonishes the believers of that faithful
early church at Thessalonica not to think that the day of the Lord had
in fact come upon the world. Paul says they should not be troubled by
the idea of this prospect being present by (reason of) the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ and by (reason of) our gathering together unto Him. In
other words, the day of the Lord was not present because Christ had not
yet come and gathered the saints to himself.
The apostle Paul is, therefore, saying that the rapture of the
Church, concerning which he had carefully instructed the Thessalonians,
was the watershed point ending the day of grace and beginning the day of
the Lord. In that the Rapture had not taken place, the day of the Lord
was not yet present.
Here, the apostle Paul gives us a clear line of demarcation between
the Church Age, the day of grace, and the day of the Lord, which is the
day of divine judgment. That line of demarcation is the rapture of the
During this day of Grace, God deals with the world with near-infinite
forbearance. The Lord has said that unrepentant, sinful man is to be
seen as follows:
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto
thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous
judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds
During this age of grace, therefore, God tells us that man is, as it
were, putting iniquity in the bank. He is treasuring it up, but the
judgment of man's iniquity is sure to come. It does not come by way of
naked vengeance from God during this gracious era, but it will come
during the period of time called the day of the Lord, which begins with
What Can We Expect?
Why does not the judgment of God come strongly upon the world in our
time? It is because of the presence of the Church, the bride of Christ,
in the world. Christ is not intending to bring His bride to heaven
bruised, battered, bleeding, and badly damaged by the dreadful
persecutions of the Antichrist, which will come upon the world during
the Tribulation. Rather, He has promised to take His Church home in
timely fashion, so that she will be kept from the hour of Tribulation in
Speaking to the Church in the last days of church history, the Lord
himself says, Because thou has kept the word of my patience, I also will
keep thee from that hour of temptation, which shall come upon all of the
world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).
What then is coming upon the world? An hour of temptation, an hour of
trial, an hour of tribulation. What promise does Christ make to the
Church concerning that time of Tribulation? The promise is that she will
be kept from that hour. Here we have a remarkable clue as to the timing
of the rapture of the Church relative to the Tribulation. The Rapture is
positioned in Scripture as coming before the Tribulation, by reason of
which the Church will be unscathed from the judgment of the Tribulation.
Some have expressed concern about the teaching of the Bible that the
Church is the bride of Christ. This will be dispelled when we read the
Scriptures, which say,
Therefore' as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be
to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as
Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he
might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or
wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without
blemish. 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. 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 (Eph. 5:24-32).
We think Paul was speaking of human marriage ... and he was. But, in
the highest sense, he has Christ and His bride, the Church, in mind.
Does the Church deserve to escape the Tribulation? Of course not!
But, the condemnation which every Christian knows he richly deserves has
already been vicariously absolved via the condemnation of Jesus Christ
on Calvary's cross. Because the iniquity of us all was laid upon Christ,
we are, therefore, saved by righteousness which is imputed, accredited
to us by virtue of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. The result is that
we have the announcement, "'There is therefore now no condemnation to
them which are in Christ Jesus . . ." (Rom. 8:1). No condemnation!
Kept from the hour is the faithful promise Christ gives to His church
and that can be the object of joyous confidence on the part of us all.
This Day of Grace
In this day of grace, we who are Christians have been made custodians
of the most precious possession imaginable, the gospel of the grace of
It will be different once the Tribulation begins! The message which
the Church has presently to preach to the world is the thrilling word
that, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should
boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Here we have this wonderful offer of salvation by
the unmerited favor of God because of Christ. It is the core of the
What is the core of the gospel? It is grace. By what price does this
precious gift become ours? The apostle Paul clearly says, For I
delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was
buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures
(1 Cor. 15:34).
This marvelous message the apostle Paul declares to be "the gospel."
It consists of the announcement of the death, the burial, and the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. The declaration is that the sacrifice of
Christ on Calvary's cross was fully sufficient, enough to save us to the
uttermost who believe in Him.
Therefore, the apostle Paul is able to declare, "For all have sinned,
and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24).
We are saved, therefore, not by our own righteousness but because we
are justified freely by the grace of God. To be justified means to be
declared righteous. It does not mean to be made righteous but, rather,
the righteousness by which we are saved is that which we have by
imputation. Therefore, the apostle Paul is able to expand on his message
and declare that, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for
In this passage, the word for "believed" is the word amen. Salvation,
therefore, because the world is guilty and unable to work for God, comes
"to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the
ungodly . . ."' (Rom. 4:5).
The Church of our time, therefore, is custodian of the thrilling
message that God has a gift for the world and it comes on an absolutely
free basis. No work of man - before, during, or after salvation - is a
part of that salvation, nor does it make his eternal life any more sure.
This is the day of grace and salvation, and salvation is by grace alone.
So, the gospel of the grace of God is the message that everlasting life
is available to all by faith alone.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
During the Tribulation, however, the message that will be announced
to the world is called "'the gospel of the Kingdom." What is this
message? It was the same message our Lord Jesus presented to the nation
of Israel in His earthly ministry, particularly as is represented in the
Gospel of Matthew. The earthly ministry of Christ was the King speaking
to his errant subjects and announcing, as Matthew describes it,
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17).
So, Matthew describes the ministry of Christ by saying, And Jesus
went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the
gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner
of diseases among the people (Matt. 4:23).
The people of Israel, as we have seen, rejected both the King and the
kingdom He offered - the kingdom of heaven. This rejection was not
merely verbal, but the Scripture announces that, with utter cynicism,
they nailed Christ to the cross.
Stupendous is this blindness, this cruel rejection of their King,
this deocide. That's when everything changed. A sinful humanity was now
utterly disqualified from salvation merely by repenting and receiving
the kingdom. Without moral credentials or capacity, man, if he is to be
saved at all, must be saved by utter grace. No deal, no arrangement, no
Man is guilty! All humanity is bankrupt! God, if He would save man,
must open a bankruptcy court. There, He can declare guilty sinners, when
they admit their bankruptcy, to be forgiven. He has been conducting that
bankruptcy court for nearly 2,000 years. There, He declares sinners
guilty (Rom. 3:19) and then, if they agree, they are cleansed in the
blood of Christ. That agreement is called "faith." There is, there could
be, no other way.
The parenthetical period (the Church Age) that followed the death,
the murder, of Christ was not, characterized by the announcement that
"the kingdom of heaven is at hand- but, rather, that a guilty humanity
by faith in Christ could be saved by grace. By this, they would inherit
not merely the kingdom of heaven but, rather, be heirs and perhaps
rulers of the universe. What incredibly fortunate people form the body
There is coming a day, however, when the body of Christ will be
complete, and the group to rule the universe will have been raptured out
of the world. At that time, God will renew His program with the nation
of Israel, and then will come again the announcement: The kingdom of
heaven is at hand. So it is that believers in Jesus Christ during the
Tribulation are saved by faith as has been the case in all ages.
However, they are saved into participation in the kingdom of heaven.
That is the Kingdom that will, during the Millennium, and then
throughout eternity, produce heaven on earth.
We must remember, therefore, that believing Jews and believing
Gentiles during the Tribulation will be heirs of the world (Rom.4:13).
Believing Christians, saved during the day of grace, will be heirs of
the universe. The event of demarcation between those two eras in the
divine dealings with mankind is the rapture of the Church.
The Day of the Lord
This is a point not well understood by Christians in our time and
understood not at all by the world. This pitiful world still believes a
sadly mistaken view of Christianity. It thinks that the Church makes the
announcement, "If you come to church, you will go to heaven" or "If you
clean up your life and go straight, you will be forgiven of God and you
may make heaven some day." This is, of course, not at all the message of
The message of the Church is that, because of the death, burial, and
resurrection of Christ, God has a free gift for man. "For the wages of
sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ
our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
All who believe in the finished work of Calvary's cross and accept
salvation as a free gift from God are given everlasting life. Upon
making this decision, they become heirs of-God, joint heirs with Christ,
and objects of His blessing for all of eternity.
But the message of the Tribulation as presented to us by Jesus Christ
is not the same. Christ warns about the coming of the "abomination of
desolation" as signaling that the Tribulation is fully upon the world.
Continuing in that same address, He then says,
And woe unto them who are with child, and to them that give suck in
those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither
on the sabbath day (Matt. 24:19-20).
So there will be a reconstitution of the Sabbath Day. The rule is
that a Sabbath Day's journey must not be violated on that day. In the
very next verse, Christ reveals of what era He is speaking: "For then
shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the
world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21).
The religion of the Tribulation will also bring the rebuilding of the
temple (2 Thess. 2:4), the establishing of temple sacrifice (Dan. 9:27),
and other forms of Old Testament-like Jewish worship. So, the certified
religion in the world during the Tribulation will be Judaism, or as some
moderns might call it, "neo-judaism."
It is clear that the Church must be taken out of the world before the
days of the Tribulation. This is because it would be impossible to have
the message of the gospel of the grace of God and, at the same time, the
gospel of the Kingdom as concomitantly certified by the Lord. The
Rapture is the event that pointedly punctuates the end of the era of the
Church and the beginning of the era called the day of the Lord, which
commences with the Tribulation.
The Middle East
The timing of the Rapture with reference to the Tribulation is clear
- the Rapture will take place before the days of the Tribulation. The
timing of the Rapture with reference to the Church Age is also clear -
the Rapture will end the Church Age.
This being the case, thinking people everywhere wonder how soon the
Rapture will take place when we observe the remarkable developments of
this present time. Across the nations of earth there now is transpiring
a set of events that has set the world to thinking once again. Not since
World War II has there been such a spirit of expectation in the world -
the religious world and the secular society. We do well to take a brief
look at some of the areas and occasions that have newly ignited an
interest in the prophetic Word.
In the Middle East, and especially with reference to the state of
Israel, we have observed a set of circumstances that appear to be
remarkably similar to the events predicted in the prophetic Word. In our
time, the Jews have been regathered from a period of dispersion among
the nations of the world, and they are in their own land once again.
The Israeli nation, having been reconstituted in 1948, has been able
to survive despite hopeless odds and the many wars leveled against her.
In the more recent Gulf War, called "Desert Storm," Israel was the only
non-belligerent nation attacked by those devilish Scud missiles. Still,
doubtless by divine protection, the casualties were very light - one
person killed by direct debris from the sky. That's an amazing
Now, Israel is being forced by the major powers - particularly the
United States - to make peace with the Palestinians and Israel's Arab
neighbors. This amounts to the program of "Land for Peace," which should
be considered absurd by all thinking people.
But alas, that absurdity will become a reality! Israel will make a
peace treaty with the prince that shall come (Dan. 9:24-27), the leader
of Europe. This treaty will virtually signal the beginning of the
Europe - the Revived Roman Empire
We look also at Europe and find ourselves provoked by a new set of
thoughts coming from the developments there. The Scripture indicates
that Gentile world power will be encompassed in the hegemony of but four
great empires. These are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The
last of these, the empire of Rome, will be revived at the end of the
age. The closest approximation to that is present day Europe. As we hear
of "the United States of Europe," we sense an empire creating itself
before our very eyes.
Europe - Rome revived - will bring to pass the rise of Antichrist.
His emergence must take place after the rapture of the Church. It is at
the beginning of the Tribulation that "the man of sin" will be revealed.
Russia continues its strange course as well. The leaders of the world
announce "the breakup of the Soviet Empire," and "communism is
dissolving before our very eyes." These things are true, but the
troublesome aspect is that they are too good to be true. When observing
this, we must remember the adage that "If something is too good to be
true, it probably is.' (Meaning, of course, that it is an illusion or a
Still, despite all these strange gyrations of the former Soviet
Union, the cold reality is this: the central establishment of what was
the Soviet Union has, despite all the rhetoric, eleven thousand nuclear
warheads pointed at the United States. Just prior to the Soviet Union's
dissolution, General Colin Powell reminded us that "the Soviet Union
could destroy the United States in thirty minutes."
All other developments notwithstanding, we must remember that the
Commonwealth of Independent States, as Russia and her fellow republics
presently call themselves, forces us to face two considerations. The
first is that it has a diamond-hard military establishment. The second
is that it is running short of everything else, including oil.
We must bear in mind, therefore, that the Communist empire is not
going to be allowed by God to die with a whimper, saying, "Sorry about
that." Its doom will take place as it loses its army on the northern
mountains of Israel. Whatever our hopes may be, the shortages of
everything and the unfulfilled ambitions in the former Soviet Union will
force it to attempt a lightning strike to the South.
This presses a serious question for the United States! Over the
years, there has been but one entity, humanly speaking, that has
prevented Communist world conquest. That entity is the United States of
America, its nuclear capability and willingness to use it. What then has
happened to the United States that makes the Prince of Rosh feel that he
can move with impunity to the South? Many things, of course, are
One of the great possibilities, however, is the rapture of the
Church. This event would take from America its leadership class. The
United States, if it lost fifty million of its people, would be hard-put
to reconstitute itself quickly as a major power. Certainly this
reconstituting, if it were even possible, would take a large amount of
time. This potential scenario alone may explain why it is difficult to
find America in the final prophetic picture as is presented in the Word
Think again of the Middle East as we consider the situation in our
present world. During Operation "Desert Storm," thirty- two nations
gathered against "Babylon" and its mad, unstable leader. This remarkable
gathering was the assembling of the most powerful army that history has
We must not ignore the similarity of this gathering to the prediction
of the prophet Isaiah against Babylon; "They come from a far country,
from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his
indignation, to destroy the whole land" (Isa. 13:5).
We must notice, then, that in the very next verse, Isaiah says, "Howl
ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; and it shall come as a
destruction from the Almighty" (Isa. 13:6).
Now, as we have seen, the day of the Lord, that time of divine
judgment upon the world, cannot come until first comes the Rapture.
Isaiah, being an Old Testament prophet, did not foresee the rapture of
the Church or even the Church itself. What might Isaiah's warning be
were he to speak in our time? Might he not say, "The day of the Lord is
at hand and therefore, the Rapture comes soon. Wail, for a time of
judgment is coming upon the world from which the Church win be
delivered." The prophet Jeremiah indicates that there will be three
stages in the destruction of Babylon; three military powers will cause
its downfall. Those will be: 1) An international military alliance.
For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an
assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set
themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their
arrows shall be as of a mighty and expert man; none shall return in vain
2) A single nation from the north. For out of the north there cometh
up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none
shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and
beast (Jer. 50:3).
3) The nation of Israel. ... Israel is the rod of his inheritance:
the Lord of hosts is his name. Thou art my battle axe and weapons of
war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee
will I destroy kingdoms (Jer. 51:19- 20).
Thinking students of the prophetic Word will agree as to the
similarity of the action taken in Desert Storm to the first stage in the
destruction of Babylon - the similarity to the prophetic description.
There, then, awaits stages two and three. Stage two, the coming of
Russia and her allies against Babylon, can also be seen as described in
Ezekiel 38. This battle takes place after the beginning of the
Stage three, the destruction of Babylon by Israel, could well be the
act that draws international consternation and even military action
against what the nations will see as "presumptuous" Israel. This is
indicated by Jeremiah in saying, "At the noise of the taking of Babylon
the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations" (Jer.
50:46). Reading this, we remember Zechariah's prophecy. He tells us that
at a day to come, all nations will gather to war against Israel.
What could be the aggravation, the trigger mechanism that could bring
this to pass? It could be that "arrogant" Israel has taken independent
action against Babylon, even at a nuclear level. The indication is that
the last two of these judgmental events take place during the days of
the Tribulation. This would, therefore, suggest that the Rapture may
happen between stages one and two. If this is indeed the case, we must
not disallow the possibility that the Rapture could be a part of the
near-term plan of God.
It is most instructive to think of the possibilities linked within
the Old Testament announcement that "the day of the Lord is at hand."
The timing of the fulfillment of that expression is in the midst of
events that certainly resemble the events of our time.
At this point, a helpful word may be said about the timing of
prophetic events. The indication of the Scripture is that the events
themselves are inevitable, but the timing is always subject to
adjustment in the hand of God.
This is apparent from the account of the prophet Jonah. Jonah was
sent to Ninevah with the announcement that Ninevah would be destroyed in
forty days. Jonah arrived in Ninevah via a circuitous route - and began
preaching with that announcement central to his message. After forty
days of preaching, he stepped outside of the city and waited in the
anticipation of beholding before his eyes the destruction of Ninevah. To
the chagrin of the prophet, this destruction did not happen. In fact,
God gave Ninevah eighty-five more years of opportunity.
Why was this the case? It was because Ninevah repented. These pagan
people turned to the Lord and, therefore, saw the forestalling of divine
judgment that was scheduled for them.
That lesson should be learned by all. The events delineated in the
prophetic Word are a part of this mysterious continuum called "time."
The total picture is controlled by the God who stands above time and is
certainly able to do with it what He will. For this reason, we are to
have a sense of surety about the events of prophetic history and the
certainty that comes from faith that God will bring it all to pass.
Of the timing however, we are advised against announcing that we know
the day and the hour of His return Still, the provocative developments
we are seeing in our contemporary world surely should cause us to took
up for a redemption that draws nigh. Christ is coming again for His own!
Each of us must be ready.
The Believers Attitude
What then is the recommended attitude of the believer when he thinks
about the future, especially the rapture of the Church? In thinking of
this, we recall that there have been dramatic occasions where whole
companies of people went to nearby fields to await the rapture of the
Church. Dressed in white gowns, they looked up with ecstatic faces,
believing that Jesus would return at any moment. one element in the
attitude of these believers was commendable, that of bright
anticipation. They really believed that Jesus was coming again and were
moved to a form of action in response to that belief.
The weakness, however, was in biblical exegesis. Their lack of
careful knowledge of Holy Scripture led them to be excessively specific
about the time of the return of Christ. Believers do well to sing,
"Jesus may come today," but they are excessively specific if they sing
"Jesus will come today." He denies us the knowledge of the day and the
hour of His return because He would have us to be expecting His coming
at every day and in every hour.
Other believers have reacted in a different fashion, becoming fearful
at the prospect of the return of Christ. Excessively settled in the
things of time, they resent even the suggestion that all of that will be
quickly gone some day. It is a mistake to attach oneself to the things
of time in any manner that would make the instant initiation of eternity
the object of our resentment. Nothing in this life should be held with
so tight a clutch.
The proper attitude when one contemplates the return of Christ is
suggested to us by our Lord himself. Speaking to His disciples and
intimating the special nature of His return of His own, Christ said, 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 (John 14:1-3).
In these words to His disciples, the Lord Jesus makes to them the
promise that He will come again and receive them to himself. In this
passage, He also suggests an attitude on their part. In fact, there are
a number of lessons that we do well to learn from these instructions by
our Lord himself.
1) We are not to be troubled but confident in faith. The believer who
knows that his eternity is secure and who walks by faith will be
characterized by an untroubled heart. Fear of the future is dispelled
when we believe in God and truly believe in Christ.
2) There is plenty of room in heaven. Christ promises us that His
Father's house is characterized by many mansions. We may be confident of
a splendid dwelling place on high that is infinitely better and more
beautiful than the best we can know in this world. There is room also in
heaven for neighbors and friends, and we do well to be inviting them to
share heaven with us.
3) Christ is preparing a special place for His own. What is Jesus
doing now in heaven? He is making the arrangements perhaps the final
arrangements - for our accommodations in glory. We may be sure that such
accommodations, prepared by the loving hand of the Lord Jesus, will be
splendid beyond our ability to describe them.
4) Christ is coming again for His own. Here we have the promise of
the "special coming" of our Lord Jesus, the rapture of the Church. He is
not now speaking of His coming in power and great glory, but rather, of
His intimate, special relationship with those who believe in Him. For
them, He is to make a special journey.
Reviewing this set of wonderful promises from the Lord Jesus, the
believer will see grow within him the confidence of solid anticipation,
looking forward to that day in which the promises of Christ will come to
pass for him.
The proper attitude of the believer, therefore, is that he is neither
fearful nor cynical. Bright anticipation is to be recommended,
especially in our time.
Yes, before the sun returns again to the morning landscape, Christ
may come again for His own. Before we live another day, we may be
translated from this world into the wonderful environs of heaven. Before
too many hours, the commerce of earth may shudder and then stop,
awe-stricken by the disappearance of the world's best people. Each one
of these things is well within the realm of possibility and the
certainty of their occurrence grows more sure every day. Bright
anticipation, that is the proper attitude.
But someone will ask - perhaps with sincerity - the question, "Will
not anticipation produce irresponsibility?"
"If a person is constantly anticipating the return of Jesus Christ,
will he not become so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good?"
We may remind ourselves again that there was a group of Christians in
the New Testament whose lives and testimonies became the answer to that
question. The apostle Paul compliments his friends of Thessalonica and
says that they were waiting for the return of Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, to come from heaven (1 Thess.1:10). We have the word for it; their
attitude was bright anticipation, watchful, waiting.
What was the result of this attitude? It was not laziness nor
disinterest, not at all. Rather, the church at Thessalonica became one
of the classic churches of the New Testament as a result of their
anticipating the return of Christ. The apostle Paul says that they did a
number of things that made them one of the great churches of the early
age of Christianity.
1) They received the Word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy
Spirit (verse 6). Constantly conscious of the reality of heaven, these
people had little confidence in the word of man. Correspondingly, they
had ultimate confidence in the Word of God.
We may well remind ourselves that the rapture of the Church will
bring an abrupt end to the foolish, mindless, human discourse of this
world. Grandiose schemes and vast human enterprises will be of little or
no consequence when Jesus comes again. Our generation is greatly
mistaken by living on philosophy and vain deceit rather than the Word of
God. Our foolish generation is ruled by human philosophers who are
already in the grave. This would never be if proper attention had been
given to the Word of God.
2) They became followers of Christ. The path of life is a deep
mystery to many as they wonder about the purpose of their life. For the
dear Christians at Thessalonica, this was no problem. They should live
for Christ, of course. Soon, they believed, He would come again and,
therefore, every step taken in pursuit of His perfect will would be
certified and validated by that coming.
A reminder here is also appropriate. The rapture of the Church will
not merely deliver a generation of living Christians who are caught up
to be with Him. It will also vindicate the purpose for which every
Christian has lived a godly life in all of the ages of the Church. His
coming will be a testimony to this and all previous generations that the
life committed to Christ was not that of a fool. The wisdom of
consecration will certainly be forever certified when Jesus comes again.
3) These Christians became an example of the believers. The onlooking
world, looking at the lives of "anticipatory believers" in that day, was
much impressed. These individuals exemplified the Lord Jesus as against
being mere creatures of time.
One who anticipates the return of Christ is careful not to go
anywhere, to do anything, to commit himself to any principle of which he
will not be proud when Christ comes again. So it is that the doctrine of
the return of Christ is a purifying hope. And every man that hath this
hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure (1 John 3:3).
4) These believers became broadcasters of the Word of the Lord (1
Thess. 1:8). Being totally confident in the return of Jesus Christ, the
believers saw themselves as having a great message, a transforming hope
to bring to the world. The result was a mighty and most effective
program of evangelism so that, "In every place your faith toward God is
spread abroad, so that we need not to speak anything."
Much could be said of this. In the Church of our time, the need for a
strong, explosive program of evangelism and world missions is great.
Still, a major proportion of the world, probably 75 percent, awaits the
opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Preoccupied with other
things and overly engaged in time-serving efforts, the Church of our day
could well use a new motivation for global conquest.
Broadcasting the gospel everywhere became the activity of the
Thessalonians. Why? Because they believed that Christ was coming again.
This doctrine produced such motivation as the world had seldom seen No
one must miss the opportunity of hearing that Jesus is coming back and
that, therefore, we should trust Him. This was the motivating hope of
the Thessalonians and could well be ours today.
A Glorified Body
The bright anticipation of the Christian could be greatly enhanced by
remembering one glorious fact that is promised in connection with the
rapture of the Church. What is that glorious fact: we shall receive a
glorified body. With great conviction, the apostle Paul declares, But
our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring
everything under his control ... (Phil. 3:20-21;NIV).
Echoing this same wonderful promise, the Scripture says, 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 3:2).
Yes indeed, a glorified body will be ours when Christ comes back for
His own. This means, of course, that we will instantly move beyond pain,
sorrow, human suffering, and death itself. We will receive bodies like
that of the Lord Jesus and be glorified forever in His presence.
This means that the unfortunate characteristics of life in this
sinful world will be forever past. Our bodies of flesh, even though we
are Christians, are forever subject to the process of deterioration.
Paul declares that the outward man must perish while in this life the
inward man is renewed day by day.
When Christ comes, however, this will all be changed. Never again
will the shocks and sicknesses of this world beset the believer. Forever
transformed into his glorified body, he will be beyond that. That change
will take place the instant that Christ comes again for His own.
For all of these reasons, therefore, may we suggest that each
believer be confident and filled with anticipation about the return of
Christ. For many reasons, the prospect of the deliverance of the Church
into the arms of the Lord Jesus grows with every day that passes. Upon
hearing this, the earnest believer will surely say, Amen, even so, come,
Questions and Answers
There are hundreds of prophetic questions that live in the minds of
people. Many of them are asked openly at prophetic conferences, on radio
programs, and certainly in private conversations. We do well to deal
with some of the frequently asked questions, believing that the answers
will be helpful to us all.
What qualifies a person to be caught up in the rapture of the Church?
The Word of God teaches that Christ will return again for the delivering
of His Church. Everyone who is among those called "brethren" (1 Thess.
5:10) is a member of the body of Christ and will be the object of the
deliverance that will come at the Rapture. The single qualification,
therefore, is that an individual be a Christian. A Christian is one who
has believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and knows God's Son as his
What prophetic events must be fulfilled before the Rapture? There are
no prophetic events that must precede the Rapture. The predicted events
of prophecy have to do with the period of time following the Rapture
leading up to the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the
Rapture could take place at any given moment. It is well for the
believer to regularly tell himself, "Perhaps today!"
How shall I prepare for the Rapture? Surely the greatest experience
in life will be to be brought into the presence of God as a good
soldier, a faithful servant. The essential preparation for the Rapture
is that I be a Christian. Then, the fact that I could be taken to heaven
at any given moment should motivate me to exemplary Christian service.
Earnest prayer, faithful witnessing, godly living - all of these will be
a part of the approval that can come in heaven. We all must so live so
as to hear Jesus say in that day, "Well done, good and faithful
When the Rapture comes, what will happen to the children of
Christians? All children who have not yet reached the age of
accountability are counted as "believers" under the doctrine of
prevenient grace. We, therefore, conclude that the children of
unbelievers will also be included with the children of believers and
taken home to be with the Lord. As one person said, "'All the children
of the world will be taken to heaven and all the unborn children of the
world as well."
What impression will the Rapture make on the world? The answer, of
course, depends upon the preoccupations and involvements in which the
world finds itself at the time of the Rapture. Still, we must conclude
that the disappearance of the Christians of the world and the children
of the world will leave a stunning impression upon the minds of people.
The Antichrist will be hard-put to come up with an explanation. In lieu
of this, the dismay at the teaching of Scripture now being so well
proved by the Rapture may well cause minions to come to faith in Christ
during the Tribulation. They, as Tribulation saints, will face a time of
Can we take anyone with us at the Rapture? Certainly not by holding
on to them, as much as we might desire this. But, we can take all of our
loved ones and friends with us to heaven if we will have led them to
Christ so that they themselves have become Christians before the time of
the taking away of the Church. When the Rapture comes, it will be too
late to do any additional things in this world for Christ. The record of
each person's life will stand as indelible forever after that instant of
How can heaven receive and process so many millions of individuals
all arriving at the same time? This is no problem to God. The arrival of
the Church, the body of Christ, at heaven will be a time of great
reunion and rejoicing. A home in heaven will have long since been
prepared for every individual by Christ himself (John 14:3). A place at
the feast of welcome, of betrothal, called "the marriage supper of the
Lamb," will have been set for each one. No one will arrive at heaven as
a stranger; rather, as a brother beloved.
Isn't it cowardly to wish for the Rapture to deliver us from the
problems of life? Anyone who does not particularly wish to be beheaded
during the days of the Tribulation can certainly be expected to
anticipate with a welcoming sentiment the rapture of the Church and the
deliverance from the wrath to come. To want to go into the Tribulation
is not courage; it is mere foolish bravado. The doctrine of the Rapture
is true, unrelated to human attitudes. Especially remember that we are
to love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).
Didn't the doctrine of the Rapture come from a strange source? The
doctrine of the Rapture comes from the Word of God. It is the apostle
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who presents this
marvelous truth. It is best to avoid silly stories, from whatever
source, related by people who would draw our attention away from any
doctrine of the Word of God.
What is the difference between the Rapture and the second coming of
Christ? The Rapture is a very special mission by the Lord to deliver the
Church from the awful scenes of the Tribulation. The Rapture, therefore,
comes before the Tribulation and takes Christians out of this world
before that seven-year period of the wrath of God. Notice that, in the
Rapture, Christ does not come all of the way to this world. Rather,
Christians are caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:17).
At the second coming of Christ, His glorious return, He comes with
His saints. In fact, He returns with an army from heaven for the
conquest of the world (Rev. 19:11-16). Remember, since this is an army
of His saints (Jude 14), you and I will be a part of that glorious
conquest that centers on the return of Christ in power.
Why is the Rapture not mentioned in the Old Testament? The prophets
of the Old Testament were not given the revelation of the Church, the
body of Christ. Neither were they told of the rapture of the Church.
This is particularly a New Testament revelation. The Scripture speaks of
the message of salvation by grace, given to the Church to preach to the
world, and testifies of the concern of the prophets. It says,
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched
diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in
them did signify, when he testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ,
and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not
unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now
reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with
the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to
look into (1 Pet.1:10-12).
So, the Church and its message was a mystery in the Old Testament.
Paul says, For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you
Gentiles, If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God
which is given me to you-ward, How that by revelation he made known unto
me the mystery, (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read,
ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other
ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto
his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should
be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in
Christ by the gospel (Eph. 3:1-6).
Does Israel then have a different calling and destiny from that of
the Church? The Scripture teaches that Israel is the heir of the world
(Rom. 4:13). But it teaches that the Church is the heir of the universe.
"All things" are the inheritance of the Christian, of the Church (1
If the Kingdom is now, why the Rapture? Why can't the Church just
grow and take over everything? There are various kinds of "kingdom now"
teachings in the world. The fact, however, is that the Kingdom was
rejected by Israel and will not be instituted in the world until Christ
comes in power and great glory. The Kingdom in its external form is not
promised to the world in our time. In this day and age, God represents
himself in this world via the unseen body of Christ and through the
seen, observable lives of individual believers. The program of God
becomes "visible" in Christians who testify for the Lord Jesus and live
holy lives before the watching world. The Kingdom, by the way, will not
"grow in the world," but it will come suddenly, imposed upon the world
by its King, the Lord Jesus Christ. [Read Dan 2: 44-45]
Where does the Rapture fit into the "big picture" of history? The
Rapture ends the day of grace and begins the day of the Lord, which
begins with the Tribulation. It will end a day of grace, the time of
divine forbearance, and begin a time called the day of the Lord, in
which God is at liberty to work with His promised program of judgment
upon the world.
I recommend a book called The Two Futures, which will give you a
presentation of "the big picture." To get it, write and ask for it by
title to: Christian Destiny, Inc., P.O. Box C, Hillsboro, KS 67063, or
call (316) 947-2345.
The Glory to Come
Let each of us be finally reminded that the story of the future is
not simply that of one day after another ad infinitum. No indeed! There
is a glorious future for the Church, and there is a dismal future for
the world. The sojourn of the Church in this world will come to an
instantaneous end, at which time every believer will be taken from this
dark planet to the glory which is to come.
At the moment of that transition, each of us will receive a new body,
a glorified body that is not unlike the body of Christ himself. We will
at this point be given the capacity to feel, to appreciate, to enjoy all
of the unspeakably wonderful things that will be ours in eternity. The
Scripture says, "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand
are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).
So great will be the delights of heaven that they are impossible to
describe under the constraints, the limitations of human language. It
may, therefore, be well to exercise a sanctified imagination, to ask the
question, "What will it be like when Jesus comes?" The answer, of
course, is that it will be like nothing we can imagine in all of life.
There is no human experience that resembles in any but the palest
fashion the ecstasy that will be ours when we step across the great
divide into the fadeless light of heaven.
What is heaven like? The answer must be that heaven is not exactly
like anything that we know in this world. We do well to take the
greatest joys of earth and multiply them by a thousand times. Only then
do we have even the beginning of the joys that will be ours in heaven.
The Christian is invited to use his "sanctified imagination" to think
of golden streets, ivory palaces, a city where there is no night, and
endless "pleasure forever more." In heaven also, we will have the
opportunity to meet the saints who have gone before and, of course,
loved ones who have in earlier days moved from the Church militant to
the Church triumphant. How wonderful to contemplate that golden moment
when the Church will be translated from this world to the world to come.
What a moment that will be!
The real point is that we be prepared for that moment. The
preparation is that we must be Christians. A Christian is one who
believes the gospel of Jesus Christ, who has accepted the Son of the
living God as personal Saviour. Because of the shed blood of Jesus
Christ, the sufficient sacrifice for sin, each person in all of the
world is invited to receive the free gift, the gift of God, which is
everlasting life. The single requirement is faith alone. By believing in
Jesus Christ - who He was and what He did for man on the cross - by that
act of faith I receive the gift of God, which is life eternal.
Meanwhile, in these days, let us gather together at the cross,
recognizing Jesus Christ as the Saviour whose sacrifice made eternal
life possible. While laboring for Him here, let us also anticipate the
sound of the trumpet when we will be caught up to be with Him.