The apostle Peter makes a profound statement in 1st Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Peter is describing the believers as “lively stones:” stones used to build a spiritual house.
To build a house you need stones, bricks, blocks, lumber, steel, and concrete. The ultimate destiny of all these materials is to be used in putting the house together so that it can be occupied.
As the work progresses, the day comes when the last stone is placed into the walls of the house and it is finished. What happens then? The owner comes and occupies the house!
Solomon’s Temple Made by Gentiles
We need to take a look at the building of Solomon’s temple as the spiritual temple. Unlike the tabernacle in the wilderness that was built by the Israelites, the glorious temple that stood on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem was prefabricated by Gentiles. We find the record of this project in 2nd Chronicles 2:17-18, “… Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the numbering wherewith David his father had numbered them; and they were found an hundred and fifty thousand and three thousand and six hundred. And he set threescore and ten thousand of them to be bearers of burdens, and fourscore thousand to be hewers in the mountain, and three thousand and six hundred overseers to set the people awork.”
Today’s modern machinery manufactures all kinds of goods for average people to put together. Most of us have bought furniture such as a shelf or a cabinet that needed to be assembled. Excitedly we brought it home, took it out of the box, unwrapped it, and looked at all the parts. After carefully reading the instructions, we assembled it. Yet, often we were disappointed because the parts did not fit together perfectly. We might have had to drill an extra hole or enlarge an existing one. If that has been your experience, you are not alone. This kind of thing happens every day.
Yet, when we read about the assembling of the temple in Jerusalem, we notice it was absolutely perfect, “… the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building” (1st Kings 6:7). For all practical purposes, we can say that the temple built of stone in Jerusalem was a technological miracle.
The Spiritual Temple Will Be Finished
After the temple was finished, it was dedicated. We read of this in the fifth and sixth chapters of 2nd Chronicles. Solomon prayed extensively and in very precise detail, then followed God’s answer in chapter 7, “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (verses 1-3). God took possession of His house. Even the service of the priests became insignificant; the holiness of the Lord had filled the temple.
Church And World Look Alike
This is a wonderful picture of the Church of Jesus Christ. Right now, we are insignificant “stones “in our earthly tabernacle, yet nothing is apparent of the glory of God which already dwells within us.
In an airport, a shopping center, or a large city, thousands of people walk by, none of whom have any visible characteristics that would identify them as Christians. That is because we are still in our “old tabernacles” which have no promise. However, within these old tabernacles are the perfect “stones” that will fit perfectly into this new glorious spiritual temple but will remain hidden from all natural eyes.
Silently, without any spectacles, and neither depending on nor disregarding the organizational structure of the local church, Christian ministries and denominations, the Lord is building His Church, adding to it daily such as should be saved. The moment the last “stone ” is added to the temple, “fire will come down from heaven, ” that is, Jesus will appear in the clouds of Heaven and our old, natural body will be consumed and translated in a split-second. In the twinkling of an eye, we will suddenly be transformed into the likeness of His glorious body. In that instant, we will recognize the perfect, glorious, spiritual habitation of God!
Prophetic Necessities Of The Rapture
While no signs are directly connected to the Rapture, we do know that the regathering of the nation of Israel is a visible sign that the time is close at hand. At this moment, Israel is still blind and remains an enemy of the Gospel for our sake. But we know that God will fulfill every promise He has given His people. In the near future, they will recognize Him whom they have pierced.
The fact that this time grows closer every day, and that at least seven years must lie between the Rapture of the Church and Israel’s salvation, we realize that time is indeed running out. Are you ready?
Another Gospel=Another Church
The apostle Paul’s great concern was the building of the body of Christ. Read his words, “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” (2nd Corinthians 11:2). Paul’s concern was justified because many were preaching another Jesus. “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” (2nd Corinthians 11:4). False doctrine produces a false gospel, a false Jesus, false apostles, a false angel of light, and false ministers of unrighteousness. Let’s read this important statement, “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 13-15).
This warning exposes the fact that Satan, with his cunning devices, is imitating the Church of Jesus Christ. What is his reason? So that people will not be able to distinguish between the counterfeit and the genuine! Jesus is building His Church based on election and segregation; only those who believe can become genuine members. The devil builds his global church through integration; all become one in his religion.
When Will The Church Be Complete?
The fact that the Lord used a building as an example of the Church helps us to understand that the work of laying the foundation was completed almost 2,000 years ago. The building has been under construction ever since, and it is my personal conviction that it is almost finished. I believe the roof is on the house, the painters are inside and the furniture is being delivered. Therefore, the attempt to raise a Church in the likeness of the original one in Jerusalem is not only destined to fail, but the great imitator is the major driving force behind such ideas. Satan is building another church, but it is a false one!
We have already seen how the Old Testament temple of Solomon was built; it was perfect. The Church of Jesus Christ is perfect. We must not permit ourselves to become ensnared by the imitation being offered today. In the same way that the presence of the glory of God filled the house, God intends His presence to fill His Church. That, however, cannot fully take place while we remain in our old nature of flesh and blood. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the Rapture take place, and at that time we shall receive our glorified bodies. The Church simultaneously constitutes the Bride of Christ and the perfect habitation of God in the Spirit.
It is significant that we repeat our admonition to make a distinction between the Church and Israel. In the April 1995 edition of Pre-Trib Perspectives, Thomas Ice quoted the following from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s, Issues in Dispensationalism:
Six reasons supporting the notion that the Church is a distinct work in God’s household from His people Israel.
1) The first evidence is the fact that the Church was born at Pentecost, whereas Israel had existed for many centuries. This is supported by “the use of the future tense in Matthew 16:18 which shows that it did not exist in gospel history.” Since the Church born at Pentecost is called the “Body of Christ” (Colossians 1:18), and entrance into the body is through “Spirit baptism” (1st Corinthians 12:13), Jew and Gentile are united through the Church. It is evident that the Church began on the Day of Pentecost since Acts 1:5 views Spirit baptism as future, while Acts 10 links it to the past, specifically to Pentecost.
2) The second evidence is that certain events in the ministry of the Messiah were essential to the establishment of the Church—the Church does not come into being until certain events have taken place. These events include the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to become head of the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23). “The Church, with believers as the body and Christ as the head, did not exist until after Christ ascended to become its head. And it could not become a functioning entity until after the Holy Spirit provided the necessary spiritual gifts” (Ephesians 4:7-11).
3) The third evidence is the mystery character of the Church. A mystery in the Bible is a hidden truth not revealed until the New Testament (Ephesians 3:3-5, 9; Colossians 1:26-27). Fruchtenbaum lists “four defining characteristics of the Church [that] are described as a mystery.
(a) The body concept of Jewish and Gentile believers united into one body is designated as a mystery in Ephesians 3:1-12.
(b) The doctrine of Christ indwelling every believer, the Christ-in-you concept, is called a mystery in Colossians 1:24-27.
(c) The Church as the Bride of Christ is called a mystery in Ephesians 5:22-32.
(d) The Rapture is called a mystery in 1st Corinthians 15:50-58. These four mysteries describe qualities that distinguish the Church from Israel.
4) The fourth evidence that the Church is distinct from Israel is the unique relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians 2:15.” During the current church age, God is saving a remnant from the two previous entities (Israel and Gentiles) and combining them into a third new object-the Church. This unity of Jews and Gentiles into one new man covers only the church age, from Pentecost until the Rapture, after which time God will restore Israel and complete her destiny (Acts 15:14-18). 1st Corinthians 10:32 reflects just such a division when it says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God.”
5) The fifth evidence for the distinction between Israel and the Church is found in Galatians 6:16. It appears logical to view ‘the house of God’ (Galatians 6:16) as believing Jews in contrast to unbelieving Jews called ‘Israel after the flesh’ (1st Corinthians 10:18). This passage does not support the false claim of replacement theologians who claim that Israel is supplanted by the Church. Instead, the Bible teaches that a remnant of Israel is combined with elect Gentiles during this age to make up a whole new entity the New Testament calls the Church (Ephesians 2).
Replacement theology tries to teach that because Gentile believers are described as the “seed of Abraham” (Galatians 3:29) that this is equivalent to saying that they are Israel. This is clearly not the case. Paul’s description of Gentile believers in Galatians 3:29 simply means that they participate in the spiritual (salvation) blessings, i.e., that come through Israel (Romans 15:27; 1st Corinthians 9:11, 14). “Those who are the spiritual seed are partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings but are never said to become partakers of the physical, material, or national promises.” Therefore, Israel’s national promises are left intact awaiting a yet future fulfillment.
6) In the book of Acts, both Israel and the Church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twenty times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.”
Thus, the replacement theologian has no actual biblical basis for his claim that Israel and the Church have become one, or that the Church has replaced Israel as the fountain of God’s blessing and the Jews are cursed forever for rejecting Christ.
The Significance Of The Distinction
If Israel and the Church are not distinguished between, then there is no basis for seeing a future for Israel or for the Church as a new and unique people of God. If Israel and the Church are merged into a single entity, the Old Testament promises for Israel will never be fulfilled. These promises are usually seen by replacement theologians as spiritually fulfilled by the Church. The merging of Israel’s destiny into the Church’s not only molds into one what the Scriptures understand as two, but it also removes the need for the future restoration of God’s original elect in order to literally fulfill His promise that they will one day be the head and not the tail, “… the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them” (Deuteronomy 28:13).
The more the believer sees the distinct plan for Israel and the Church, the more he realizes the two separate callings.
A distinction between Israel and the Church, as taught in the Bible, provides a basis of support for the Pre-Trib Rapture. Those who merge these two entities, or replace Israel with the Church, cannot logically support the biblical arguments for the Pre-Trib position.
Before The Foundation Of The World
We do well to understand that the act expressed by our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross with the words, “…It is finished” was an accomplished fact from eternity and for all eternity. But it had to be fulfilled in “…the fulness of time.” Jesus was before the foundation of the world because He is from eternity. In John 17:24, we read, “…for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” And Ephesians 1:4 makes this statement, “. ..he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world….” Peter confirms, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1st Peter 1:20).
Jesus came in the fullness of time and demonstrated His status as Messiah with great power, accompanied by signs and wonders. He defeated the devil on Calvary’s cross, died, was buried, arose on the third day and ascended into Heaven. He was Raptured! With His Rapture, He became the firstfruit from among the dead.
Victory Over Death
While victory over death has already been accomplished, it is not a visible reality as far as the body is concerned.
Every day, countless believers in the Lord Jesus Christ die and are buried, fulfilling the Scripture, “…absent from the body, and…present with the Lord” (2nd Corinthians 5:8). However, the visible final victory over the last enemy, which is death, has not been fulfilled so the Rapture is absolutely necessary.
First Corinthians 15:25-26 reads, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
In order to solve this problem, the apostle Paul begins verse 51 with these words, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1st Corinthians 15:51-53). The mystery is beginning to be revealed to us; we shall be changed. Our mortal body will be translated into a glorious body of immortality.
Verse 54 explains why this is necessary, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Only at the Rapture will death finally be defeated for the Church! Triumphantly, the next verse exclaims, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (verse 55).
In view of this wonderful prophetic fulfillment that is yet to come, the apostle Paul cautions believers, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (verse 58).
(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)