I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We are currently involved in a series on Dispensations, or Dispensationalism, as this area of biblical studies is sometimes referred. By way of review, the word Dispensation is from the Greek word, oikonomia; which refers to the management of a household, or household affairs. The study of dispensations sets forth how God has dealt with man, and how man has been responsible to God down through the Ages of time.
There are again, seven Dispensations: Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and Divine Government (the Millennium). We have been talking of late about the sixth Dispensation, grace. We have already covered a great deal of material along this line, so I would encourage you to review the previous posts for that material.
What is grace? Before we look at just what the Grace of God is, I think it is important to understand that grace is not uniquely a New Testament concept. In other words, God did not just decide when Jesus came into the earth-realm to extend His grace to mankind. In fact, “grace” in the Old Testament was basically the same as it is in the New Testament. The Hebrew word, chen (pronounced hane), appears some 69 times in the KJV. In 38 of those occurrences it is translated, grace, and is defined as, “graciousness, kindness, and favor.” It is from the root, chanan, which means, “to bend or stoop in kindness.” So even under the Law, God was extending His kindness, favor, or grace to mankind.
The Greek word for, grace is, charis. It appears some 156 times in the KJV, and 130 of those it is translated, grace. It is defined as, “kindness, graciousness, favor, or gift.” Thayer says of this word, charis; “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” [Thayer Greek Dictionary]
Grace really is not only God’s kindness and favor, but it is His power. It has been said, “Grace is God’s willingness to use His power on our behalf, even though we don’t deserve it.” That is a pretty good definition, in my opinion.
Every Dispensation has come with a test and expectations. It is no different in this Dispensation of Grace. The test for mankind during the Dispensation of Grace is to have faith in the Atoning work of Christ and to believe His promises. Obedience to the “Law of Christ” (see Gal. 6:2; James 1:25; 2:8 – 12) through the “grace of God” (Titus 2:11) is expected of every believer in this Dispensation.
There are numerous blessings for mankind during this Dispensation, in fact, too many to really list; however, I will list a few:
- Salvation is of all the blessings of God the most wonderful. Salvation really includes all of the benefits of redemption: forgiveness, justification, sanctification, glorification, prosperity, healing, deliverance, etc.
- The New-Birth is to become a New Creation in Christ Jesus and a Child of God. It is the result of Repentance and Justification and Regeneration.
- Repentance is both a condition and an act, because it is the state of being in godly sorrow for sins committed and the act of turning from and forsaking those sins (2 Cor. 7:10) Repentance from a Hebraic perspective is also to return. In sin we wandered far from God and His ways. We became transgressors of the Law of God. In repentance then we forsake our sin and disobedience and return to God and His ways. This is a blessing of grace.
- Justification is both a state and an act, because not only does God declare the believing sinner not guilty, but He views the believer as though we had never sinned (Rom. 5:1,2; 1 Cor. 6:11).
- Regeneration is the connection of Divine life to the soul, and the impartation of a new, righteous nature, thus producing a New Creation in Christ Jesus (John 3:5; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 5:11 – 13).
- Sanctification is the separation of the believer from that which is unholy, and the dedication of the believer to the service of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:22, 23; Rom. 12:1, 2).
The Dispensation of Grace began with the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it continues today. There are some future aspects of this Dispensation which are clearly revealed in the Word of God. From a standpoint of Bible prophecy, God’s promise that Israel would be restored as a Nation back in the land (Jeremiah 31:35, 36; Ezekiel 37:21), was a major key in the fulfillment of end-time prophecy. With the formation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, Bible prophecy took a giant leap forward, and I believe the prophetic clock began counting down the time of the Return of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the future of the Dispensation of Grace?
The next event scheduled to occur during this Dispensation, according to the prophetic Word, is the Rapture, or Catching Away of the Church (Luke 21:34 – 36; John 14:1 – 3; 1 Cor. 15:23, 51 – 58; Phil. 3:20, 21; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:13 – 17). While I understand that the word, rapture, does not appear in our English translations, it certainly conveys the truth of this glorious event. Incidentally, I have discussed in past teachings how this particular word came to be used to describe the catching away of believers to meet the Lord in the air, so I won’t reiterate all of that material here. Suffice it to say that the teaching of the “catching away” or, “Great Assembly” of believers did not originate with a vision from young Margaret MacDonald, or the teachings of James Nelson Darby or C.I Scofield, as some are fond of saying these days.
Rather, the rapture of the Church is a solidly biblical teaching referred to by the Apostle Paul as the “blessed hope” of the Church:
“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” [Titus 2:13 emphasis added]
This scripture and others demonstrate that the New Testament saints were looking for this event to occur in their day, proving that the Rapture could occur at any moment. This is the doctrine of imminence. The most vivid description of the Rapture of the Church is given in Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians:
“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. 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. 4:16, 17]
The purpose of the rapture will be to resurrect all of the righteous dead, from each Dispensation, reuniting the soul and spirit with a glorified body (1 Cor. 15:35 – 55). They then will be “caught up” (Greek, harpazo), along with all of the saints still alive on the earth, to meet the Lord in the air and return with Him to Heaven (John 14:1 – 3).
Almost all Bible believers acknowledge that this event will occur at some point in the future. The debate among sincere brethren is as to the timing of this event, and when it will occur in relation to the Second Coming. Some of my brethren see one event, with the saints being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, at the end of the Great Tribulation period to welcome Him at His Return to the earth, and then immediately returning to the earth with Him. This is known as the post-tribulation view.
Then there are those who see believers on the earth for the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation, with the rapture occurring at the mid-point, prior to the outpouring of the wrath of God, which these brethren contend does not occur until the final half of the seven-year Tribulation period. This is known as the mid-tribulation or pre-wrath view. This particular viewpoint has gotten quite popular among many teachers in recent years.
Anyone who has followed my teaching for any length of time knows that I personally subscribe to the third most popular position on the timing of the rapture, known as the pre-tribulation rapture. This view of course states that Jesus will return to resurrect the righteous dead, and to catch them up together with the living believers, taking them to heaven to be with Him prior to the revealing of the infamous “Man of Sin”, and the beginning of the Great Tribulation period.
I won’t divide with my brethren over these matters, but that fact shouldn’t stop us from declaring what we believe the scriptures clearly teach on the Coming of the Lord.
I submit to you that the rapture is presented as a pre-tribulation event in several passages of scripture:
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things [Tribulation events] that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. [Luke 21:36 emphasis added]
For God did not appoint us to wrath [the tribulation], but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Thessalonians 5:9]
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He [the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church] is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed… [2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8a emphasis added]
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” [After the things concerning the Church Age, and after the catching away of the Church]. [Rev. 4:1 emphasis added]
I find it worthy of noting that while the Church is mentioned some 17 times in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, it is never mentioned again as being on the earth, but is immediately pictured as being in Heaven (See Revelation 4:1 – 11). The inhabitants of the earth will then experience the most horrible time in history (Matt. 24:21), followed by the Second Coming of Christ with the saints (Matt. 24:29, 30; Jude 14; Rev. 19:11 – 21).
There are clear contrasts between the event I am referring to as the rapture, and the Second Coming.
The Rapture The Second Coming
|Occurs before the Tribulation (Lk. 21:36)||Occurs after the Tribulation (Matt. 24:29, 30)|
|Christ comes for the saints (1 Thess. 4:13 – 17)||Christ comes with the saints (Jude 14; Rev. 19:11 – 21)|
|Christ takes the saints to Heaven (Jn. 14:3)||Christ brings the saints back to Earth (Zech. 14:4, 5; Rev. 19:14)|
|Christ returns in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:17)||Christ returns to the Earth (Zech. 14:4, 5)|
|Christ is not seen (1 Cor. 15:52)||Every eye shall Him (Rev. 1:7)|
|It is the “blessed hope” of the Church (Titus 2:13)||It is the great day of His “wrath” (Rev. 19:15)|
I believe it is clear that the rapture (catching away, gathering together, Great Assembly), and the Second Coming are two separate events, I believe occurring at separate times, separated by at least seven years.
After the rapture, while we the Body of Christ are in Heaven with the Lord, while the inhabitants of earth are enduring the Great Tribulation, one of the things we will do is appear before the Lord at the Bema, or Judgment Seat of Christ. We will also partake of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This will all be occurring in Heaven, while the Great Tribulation is occurring on the Earth.
The catching away of the Church will bring the Church Age to a close, but not the Dispensation of Grace. It will continue throughout the Tribulation, being brought to a close by the Second Coming of Christ to Earth to rule and reign.
The Second Coming will usher in the seventh, and final Dispensation, the Dispensation of Divine Government, the Millennium. We will begin our look at this Dispensation next time. The Bible says more about this time than you may imagine.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson