March 29, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
Many of what I refer to as, “rapture critics”; speak and write against what they call the, “Secret rapture.” They say that there will be no rapture prior to the tribulation period. There will, according to them, only be the Second Coming when Jesus returns to judge the Nations and set up His millennial reign from the city of Jerusalem. I of course disagree with this position. I believe that we get a glimpse of the, “secret rapture”, an event that will only involve the disciples of Jesus in Acts 1.
By the time we get to this passage it has been forty days since the resurrection of Christ. During this period of time Jesus had appeared on several occasions to His disciples. He had eaten with them and visited with them. During these forty days He would appear and re-appear in their midst. On one occasion they were sitting together in a room and Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, walking right through the door! [See John 20:25 – 27] As a side note here, it appears that the Law of Physics operates differently in the spirit realm. When we are in our glorified bodies as Jesus was, limitations of the natural realm won’t affect us then.
At any rate, on the day in which Jesus was to be taken up out of their midst, we find Jesus gathered with His disciples on the Mount of Olives. We pick up at verse 8. The Word says,
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:8 – 11 NIV]
Why do you suppose that the disciples stood there staring into the sky as Jesus was taken up into a cloud? I submit to you it was because all during this forty day period, as we noted before, Jesus had appeared, disappeared, and reappeared to His disciples. They stood there gazing up into the sky thinking maybe He was going to reappear shortly. Two men dressed in white, we assume they were angels, had to tell them that Jesus was coming back, just not right away. They were to take the gospel to the Nations in the power of the Holy Spirit until He comes back. This is our assignment too.
I used this passage and event to illustrate the fact that the Ascension was a picture of the rapture. On the day of the Ascension Jesus didn’t take the multitudes that had followed Him everywhere He went, He took those who were His own. So shall it be at the rapture. On the day Jesus was received up into a cloud in their midst, He didn’t appear to the Nations at large, He appeared to His followers. So shall it be at the rapture. The two angels declared, This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. He went into Heaven bodily. He will come back the same way. He went into Heaven secretly, being seen by only His disciples. He will come back the same way. There will be one Second Coming, but it will be revealed in two distinct phases; seven years apart.
As we stated last time, the rapture or catching away of the Church was a revelation given exclusively to the Apostle Paul, and no other New Testament writer. Other writers like Peter and James, for example, wrote of Jesus’ Return as judge; however it was to Paul that detailed information was given not only concerning the Church itself but also of the order of resurrections and the rapture of the Church. This being the case, we should look more closely at this special word given to the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the Thessalonians,
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. [1 Thess. 4:13 NKJV] The revelation of the rapture was given primarily to deal with the sorrow and confusion existing in that day concerning the saints who were dying. No doubt these deaths were a shock because the believers had been expecting Jesus to return at any moment. Paul continues,
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. [Vs. 14 NKJV] This statement beautifully supports Paul’s great statement that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. [See 1 Cor. 5:8] The dead saints are with God and Jesus. They are no doubt conscious of what is taking place. This is not soul sleep, which would be the same as the unawareness of death. They are alive and will return with Jesus to claim their new spiritual and incorruptible bodies. [See 1 Cor. 15:52 – 54] Paul continues,
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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 thus we shall always be with the Lord. [1 Thess. 4:15 – 17 NKJV]
This is one of the greatest doctrinal statements ever made by the Apostle Paul. It is the first and only statement ever uttered through a mortal man describing exactly what will take place at the climax of the Church Age. This announcement to the Church and the world should stand alongside all other major doctrinal statements of grace and faith. This declaration concerning the end of this dispensation, which will climax with the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the Rapture of the living saints, gives the Christian a hope that cannot be matched by any religion of any age. This great revelation to the Apostle Paul of the Rapture and Resurrection ends with this note of encouragement:
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. [1 Thess. 4:18 NKJV] It would be no comfort to the saints whatsoever to be told that they should forget their departed loved ones and prepare to meet the Antichrist, the wicked destroyer that is to come. Let’s take this a bit further, shall we? Consider this passage from the book of Revelation.
5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. [Rev. 20:5, 6 NKJV] Scholars through the years have attempted to use various passages of scripture to prove to their satisfaction that the Rapture and Resurrection will take place after the Tribulation. They would have great proof if this interpretation agreed with the rest of the scriptures. Consider,
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt. [Daniel 12:2 NKJV] And,
25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. [John 5:25, 28, 29 NKJV]
If you compare Revelation 20:5, 6 with the verses above, you will find a contradiction if you still believe in a general resurrection of all the dead. It can only make sense if we allow all the scriptures to speak, and that can only mean that there will be more than one resurrection which will take place at different times. It would cloud things even more to hold to the concept of one general resurrection if we try to fit the second death into the picture. Just as there was one harvest but two reapings – the first fruits [1 Cor. 15:20], and the chief or final fruits that were gathered later – so there must be more than one resurrection. Otherwise, we find ourselves contradicting the rest of the teachings on resurrection given elsewhere in the scriptures.
Make no mistake; the resurrection we are looking for now is the time when God will join the living saints together with the ones who have already died. The living ones at the time of this resurrection will be caught, snatched, raptured, out of this world by a force greater than the force of gravity. The Greek word that is translated “caught” in the King James Version is harpazo. According to Vincent’s commentary it means, “By a swift, resistless, divine energy. In his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine says, “Snatched for forceful seizure.”
It really doesn’t matter which word we use, whether, rapture, caught, or snatched – it will not change the meaning of the passage. When the dead in Christ are called from their graves, we, the living ones, will join them to meet our Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The Weekly Word is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 – 4. Here the Bible says,
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. [2 Thess. 2:1 – 4 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson