“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 which 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” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17).
What a tremendous encouragement! We will meet the Lord and then be with Him forever. This is a fundamental teaching in the Holy Scriptures. This should remind us of the Lord’s invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ” (Matthew 11:28). The next to the last verse in our Bible reads, “… Surely I come quickly, Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). Those who have accepted His invitation now desire His coming, which is expressed throughout the entire Bible.
For almost 2,000 years, believers in Christ have yearned for the experience described in the above verses. This unique, one-time event in the Church of Jesus Christ has not yet happened. Before and during this event, which will take place suddenly, and without announcement, the news media will be silent. However, they will quickly try to conjure up an explanation for this occurrence soon after. Judging by the media and entertainment industry today, we can well imagine that they will concoct some explanation.
When the Rapture does take place, the removal of millions of “fanatic, fundamental Bible-believing Christians” will be easily accepted by most of those who have been left behind. Based on the succession of events in the book of Revelation, recognition of the truth and subsequent repentance will virtually be non-existent.
The following verses indicate that those left behind will remain unrepentant. “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21); and Revelation 16:11, “And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
The Two-Phase Coming
2nd Thessalonians 2:1, begins with the statement, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.” This verse depicts two events: the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering unto Him.
The coming of Jesus Christ is clearly identified as “the day of Christ.” This is not speaking of the Rapture, but of the literal return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. Quite apparently the believers during Paul’s time were confused by some false teachers who were proclaiming that “the day of Christ is at hand.” Paul corrects them and writes, “…for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed…” (verse 3). Paul is referring to the revelation of the Antichrist, which must take place before the day of Christ, not before the Rapture.
Surprisingly, he asks, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” (verse 5). Notice that Paul reverses the direction of events, then reveals the answer in verses 6-7, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. As a result, the revelation of the Antichrist cannot take place while the Church remains on earth. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in the Church and within each believer for eternity, must “be taken out of the way.” Only “… then shall that Wicked be revealed….”
His Coming At His Appointed Time
The saved will be gathered to the Lord and the lost will be left behind, ready to be fully deceived by the powers of darkness.
The coming of the Lord for His saints is based upon His appointment alone and will be based solely on His own eternal resolution.
Israel will be just as surprised as the rest of the world. This element of surprise makes the Rapture so exciting. We know with absolute certainty that it will take place; we just don’t know when.
Before we go any further in our study, it is vital to highlight some key points from the first three parts of our series.
• “The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven” is a unique, onetime event. He will come to receive the Bride whom He purchased with His own blood. There is no doubt that instead of confusing the languages as He did during the building of the Tower of Babel, He will unite us, so that we will understand each other perfectly as we communicate in a heavenly language.
• The “Voice of the Archangel” is also unprecedented. No where else in Scripture do we read about the Lord Himself coming from Heaven with the “voice of the archangel.” We’ve determined that the archangel would be Michael, who will defend the children of Israel. The moment the Rapture takes place, Israel will lose her spiritual protection, and she will be exposed to the enemy. Therefore, Michael will have to intervene on her behalf: “…at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people…” (Daniel 12:1).
• “The trump of God'” is another absolutely unique occurrence. The “trump of God” must not be confused with any of the other trumpets mentioned in the Bible. Because it is the “last trump of God,” we asked about the first trump of God. We found the answer in Exodus 19:16-19, which revealed that the trump is identical to the voice of God, which was so loud that the people in the camp could not bear the sound. This obviously illustrates that in their sinful state, they were not able to face the Living God as He spoke directly to them.
• “The dead in Christ shall rise first” brought us to the conclusion that this is only natural because “the dead in Christ” will have waited longer for the coming of the Lord.
It is important to understand that the statement, “The dead in Christ shall rise first,” is not addressed to all people who have died; only those who have died “in Christ” will rise first.
Two Types Of Dead
1) Those who die without faith
More than 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah spoke of those who died without faith in the substitutionary sacrifice that was to be accomplished in the fullness of time through Jesus, the Son of God (Isaiah 26). Those who rejected faith in God’s prophesied salvation were considered this way, “They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish” (Isaiah 26:14). Clearly there is no hope for those who refuse to accept God’s provided atonement; they are lost for all eternity. The Bible does not make any provisions regarding a second chance in such cases.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches the existence of purgatory, which is supposed to purify sinners and make them ready to enter Heaven. On the contrary, the Word of God makes no such promise.
2) Those who live by faith
The second type of “dead” are those who lived by faith. Verse 19 reads, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” Here we see a very clear contrast between “They are dead, they shall not live” and “Thy dead men shall live.” Prophetically speaking, this might just as well be a picture of the Rapture, during which the dead in Christ will rise first.
First Thessalonians 4:18 clearly shows that the Rapture has been the hope of the Church from the very beginning: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Throughout the millennia, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been comforted by knowing that Christ could come at any moment. Think of those who have suffered so terribly during times of persecution, particularly under the Roman government and later under the Roman church. Those believers who were condemned to death and prepared to die drew strength from knowing that Jesus could come at any moment, and indeed, they were greatly comforted.
The First Living Rapture
In the listing of biblical genealogy, beginning with Adam, we read in Genesis 5:22-24, “And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” What a testimony! Twice we read that “Enoch walked with God.” We will discuss Enoch later in this part of the series.
We Are Already Dead
We must never underestimate the fundamental fact taught in Scripture that the Spirit of God dwells in us: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). This pertains to the living believers. For all practical purposes, we are dead in sins and trespasses. But in Christ we have died with Him, as proclaimed in Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Our body is only the vehicle in which the newly-born Spirit dwells.
It should be pointed out that our flesh and blood, in which the Holy Spirit dwells during the very short span of our lifetime, is not what counts. Our bodies (outward man) will perish; they must be done away with. However, our inner man, created through the new birth, is what is important.
This helps us understand the apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
This may be a very difficult fact to accept, but for all practical purposes, our body is dead. The devil, who is the father of lies, has reversed this simple, biblical doctrine in the opposite direction. Satan says, “You must recognize your self-worth, build your self-esteem and consider yourself extremely important. When someone insults you, be sure to defend yourself to the utmost to preserve your ‘good name.’
This is typical of the spirit of the Antichrist, “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”‘(2nd Thessalonians 2:4).
Daniel describes the Antichrist in chapter 11:36 with the following words, “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods….” Only when we are spiritually alert can we clearly recognize the ways of the spirit of Antichrist within the Church today.
The gospel of the Antichrist is being preached with great success around the world. A perfect description of end-time Christianity is given to us in 2nd Timothy 3:1-4, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despis-ers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” From pulpits all over the world, we are being taught to love ourselves, yet the Bible clearly identifies those who are “lovers of their own selves” as anti-Christians. In writing to his spiritual son Timothy, the apostle Paul concludes his description of anti-Christians with these words, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2nd Timothy 3:5).
Fellowship Of Suffering
What is this power that they are denying? It is none other than the power which enables us to live a holy life in the presence of God. The power of the precious blood of Jesus that cleanses the sins of the worst sinner and presents that person spotless before the throne of the Father. It is the same power which made the apostle Paul pray this prayer, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).
This prayer request diametrically opposes the tendencies of our day. Paul is actually praying to be integrated into “the fellowship of his suffering.” Who wants to suffer? Surely, no one does. It is contrary to our nature, for we want to pamper the flesh and serve our egos.
Paul sought the Lord in prayer three times for an unspecified physical ailment. That was and is quite normal; however, the answer to his prayer was contrary to his request. Yet he accepted it, “My grace is sufficient.”
When Paul prayed about being integrated into the fellowship of his suffering, he was speaking on a much higher level. He no longer cared about his physical body; he wanted to be closer to his Lord.
In today’s world, the greatest battles are not being fought against politicians, or against the abominable practices of sodomy, abortion, or crime. The greatest battle is described in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Who is winning the battle in your life?
If we could fully understand that the Bible teaches that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, we would better understand Paul’s prayer. Our bodies, in the flesh, are never sanctified and will always remain under the curse of sin. Therefore, our task is to subject our physical bodies—with all of their desires, habits and passions—to the guidance of the Spirit. The Bible says, “… Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Fellowship With Death
The apostle Paul goes one step further in his prayer, “… being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10). This fact testifies that he had, in practical terms, accepted the death of Christ for himself. He was finished with his life on earth; he knew that there was no future for him in his mortal body.
We live in our bodies on this earth temporarily, yet within these perishable tabernacles dwells that which is born again of the Spirit of God, and is eternal. Thus, we understand the contradictory relationship between flesh and blood and the Spirit. Paul testified, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:23-24).
Enoch Walked With God
We have discussed what it means to walk with God, and as mentioned earlier, we know from the Bible that Enoch did just that. As a result, “he was not, for God took him.”
Not only did Enoch “walk with God,” but he believed God to the extent that God was pleased, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). Enoch did not die; the Bible testifies that he did “not see death.” Instead, we read three times that he was “translated.” This is precisely what we are waiting for! The coming of our Lord for us will result in our translation.
What will happen at the moment of our translation? We will no longer be burdened with the “old tabernacle,” our bodies, which are not subject to the Spirit. For that reason, Paul rejoices, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”‘(Titus 2:13).
Rapture Of Enoch
Enoch demonstrated how we are to walk with God. His testimony was very clear: he believed God and as a result, the Lord had pleasure in him. Jude 14 confirms that Enoch prophesied about the coming of the Lord, “. ..Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”
Clearly, this is not a prophecy of the coming of the Lord in humility, born in a stable in Bethlehem. Rather He comes “with ten thousands of his saints.” Enoch, therefore, was a prophet for the end times. Before Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Israel, Enoch had already spoken of the return of the Lord. Undoubtedly, he meant the Rapture as well, because the Lord cannot come with the saints unless He first comes for His saints, that is, His Church. Enoch experienced the translation of his body into the glorious image of the Lord. Had he not, he would not have been with God.
When Enoch spoke of the coming of the Lord, as many prophets had throughout the Old Testament, he mentioned all three comings in one breath: His first coming in Bethlehem when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; His Second Coming which will take place in the clouds of the air to call His blood-bought Church to Himself; and His third coming when His feet stand on the Mount of Olives.
At that time, He will implement salvation for Israel and pronounce judgment upon the world. Verse 15 of Jude reads, “To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” That verse refers to the final coming of the Lord for the purpose of judgment. The word “all” and “ungodly” are each mentioned four times in this verse. This will be the result of the Great Tribulation when the Lord Himself will descend upon the Mount of Olives and cause unprecedented change in Israel and world history.
When Enoch spoke about the end times, he included the coming of the Lord, the Rapture. We must not make the mistake of separating one event from the other. The coming of the Lord is one, yet it occurs in two stages.
The Rapture Of Elijah
The story of the Rapture unfolds when the Jordan River is divided: “…they two went over on dry ground” (2nd Kings 2: 8). Elijah and Elisha walked side-by-side to their destination. Then came the point of their parting, “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so” (verses 9-10). Although this is not a direct prophecy, we can conclude that this is an indirect prophecy demonstrating the Church of Jesus Christ pictured by Elijah, and Israel pictured by Elisha. The Church will be taken out of the way, but Israel will be left behind.
The Church was founded when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the waiting disciples. From that day forward, the Spirit continues to flow into the empty vessels of repentant sinners and will continue to do so until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Undoubtedly, Israel is yet to experience mighty things unprecedented in history. Through Israel, the Lord will fill the world with His precious Word.
Rapture By A Whirlwind
Finally we come to the Rapture of Elijah, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2nd Kings 2:11).
As far as the Church and Israel are concerned, this will definitely happen. Although organically we belong together, we will be parted. Let’s take a closer look at the unity of Israel and the Church.
The Olive Tree
Israel, symbolized by the olive tree, never ceased to exist. Contrary to nature, the Gentiles were grafted in, as Romans 11:24 confirms,
“For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” Israel will stand alone when the Church is raptured.
Church To Be Separated
Hear the words of the apostle Peter, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1st Peter 2:9). The distinct difference between Israel and the Church lies in the fact that Israel has a national calling, “above all the nations” and we have a spiritual calling as a “royal priesthood” to let His light shine in the darkness. The danger of mixing with the world is a strong warning to every child of God.
Sadly, it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish Christians from non-Christians. Both speak the same language, use the name of Jesus, claim to believe the Bible, build churches, proclaim the message of God over the radio, publish literature, operate successful television ministries, and even send out missionaries. Both do everything that can possibly be done, yet one is real and the other counterfeit.
The False Gospel
The apostle Paul warns us emphatically of the false Jesus that is preached by another spirit, that constitutes another gospel, and that is promoted by false apostles and ministers of unrighteousness. He writes in 2nd Corinthians 11:2, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Then he explains, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. ..For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (verses 3-5, 13-15).
Only those who are born again of His Spirit heed the clear call to separate from the things of the world. The true Church is in the world but not of the world and the true members hear the voice of the one true Shepherd. Those are mentioned in 1st Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we which 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.” May the Lord, by His grace, protect each one of us from the deceitfulness of the works of Satan. As our time on earth is rapidly coming to an end, “He who hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.”
(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)