THE RAPTURE SERIES 6: THE CHURCH’S ROLE

0 RAPTURE

Pentecost

In order to fully understand the position of the Church, we begin with the birth of the Church. Acts 2 records that approximately 120 devout Jews “… were all with one accord in one place” {Acts 2:1). There is no question that there was perfect unity among this group. As we read on, we see that “…suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (verses 2-3). This documents the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ, in a one-time event.

The Abiding Spirit

The disciples were already believers at that time, however, they were not born again of the Spirit of God. Jesus said to His disciples, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knowth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Notice that Jesus says, “For he (the Spirit) dwelleth with you.” Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon a person to fulfill a certain task. Thus, the Holy Spirit was with the disciples but not “in” them.

Verse 17 reveals that He “shall be in you.” This prophetic word from the Lord Jesus to His disciples was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost!

What Greater Works?

When we understand the significance of the rebirth, the statement that Jesus made in John 14:12 begins to make sense. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” How is it possible for us to do “greater works” than the Lord did? What are these works that are supposed to be so great? They obviously must surpass opening the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, causing the lame to walk, and raising the dead to life.

The answer is relatively easy when we understand that these people who were healed by the Lord, or raised from the dead, did not continue to live forever. They are no longer among us, just as the Bible declares, “It is appointed unto man once to die.”

When the Lord said we will be doing “greater works,” He was speaking of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit leading to the new birth resulting in the reborn person becoming an eternal person! By our preaching the Gospel, people will be born again. That is indeed greater works! This is our God-given responsibility. Whether by praying, by going to the mission field, or by giving, we are preaching the liberating Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the outermost parts of the earth so that many more will be born again and added to the kingdom of God.

The First Church

The first Church was so rare and so segregated that there was no question regarding her identification. Its uniqueness was based on perfect unity. After reading the first few chapters of the book of Acts, we can almost with certainty conclude that the early Church believed in the establishment of the visible kingdom of God on earth in Israel at that time. Acts 4:34 seems to support this: “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were posssessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold.” Of course, sharing of possessions didn’t last, as we will see later.

Is The Church God’s Kingdom On Earth?

How would you like to join a church today that expects you to sell everything you have, regardless of how much, and donate it all to the church? Few of us would be willing to do so. God almost certainly intended to establish the kingdom of God on earth through the Church in Jerusalem at that time. It would seem natural for the early Church to strive towards the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth because they were all Jews residing in the land of Israel and were indeed waiting for the imminent return of Jesus.

We all know that this did not happen. As a matter of fact, it was against God’s will. By establishing this new communal system for the Church, they neglected to obey the commandment of the Lord to go out from Jerusalem into Samaria and to the outermost parts of the world. Thus, persecution was the tool that God used to get the first Church to obey His instruction. This is evident from Acts 8:1, “…at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad….”

For this reason, we warn about the various religious groups which require their members to surrender all of their worldly possessions to their leaders or the organization. This is completely contrary to God’s intention for the individual. The Church is not composed of the kingdom of God on earth; it does not have a physical, geographical or political promise to do so.

Segregation And Infiltration

There is a distinct difference between Israel and the Church: Israel was to be united as a special, peculiar people segregated from the rest of the world. On the other hand, the Church was to infiltrate the entire world, preaching loudly and clearly that Jesus saves and that He is coming again!

In the beginning, the Church continued to grow. Acts 6:7 says, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multipled in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Jerusalem was the holy city for the Church, yet the rest of the world remained in darkness.

We know from the report given in the Acts of the Apostles that great persecution happened next. From that point on, the early Christians were chased by their enemies to every corner of the earth and they preached the Gospel wherever they went. God fulfilled His intentions through the enemies of the Church!

Having finally reached Rome, the apostle Paul reported, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:7-8). The persecution of the Church flamed the fire of the Gospel so it encompassed the world!

A Holy Nation

For almost 2,000 years, the Word of God has been proclaimed and millions have been added to the Church worldwide. Israel is the visible manifestation of God’s selection on earth. However, the Church is in the world but not of the world; it is not an organization but a living organism. In biblical terms, it is the body of Christ.

The Church is not a visible entity, yet it is everywhere. First Peter 2:9 states, “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.” The Church cannot be identified despite the fact that she is a “holy nation;” on the other hand, Israel can be identified.

Universities, colleges, and seminaries are filled with books about the history of the Church; however, no one can scientifically explain the Church of Jesus Christ. No geographical, political or cultural boundaries identify the extent of the Church.

The Church In Danger Of Annihilation

Because the Church has no earthly parameters, and consists of individual members who walk among people of all races and nationalities, the Church is in danger too, just as Israel is in uniting with the world.

It is no wonder that the Church is continuously admonished not to be part of this world. Romans 12:2 warns, “… be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

James also supports this statement when he says, “. ..know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). John compassionately cautions us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1st John 2:15-16). Clearly, we are in the world but not of the world. We walk among the people of this world with no physical or visual distinction between us. We are citizens from every country on the face of the earth; nevertheless, we are different! As Christians, we have no promise of an abiding place on this earth because we are destined for Heaven.

The danger in which the Church finds herself lies in the possibility of being integrated into the world which is contrary to the instructions given in the verses we just read.

These days the spirit of integration is so strong that it will become virtually impossible to keep our identity as Christians. Therefore, it becomes important to realize that God must interfere supernaturally by taking the entire Church out of this world. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye. We will be heading toward the clouds of Heaven to meet the Lord in the air which is another reason for the Rapture.

Persecution Or Integration?

The greatest threat to the Church of Jesus Christ will not be persecution as many think, but rather it will be a friendly, tender, and peaceful invitation to be part of the great global church which will encompass all the religions of the world.

Let us learn from Israel, which, as we have discussed, is to be separate, holy, and not part of this world. Likewise, we, the Church of Jesus Christ, must not be integrated into this world. The entire world, as far as economy, finance, politics, and religion are concerned, is undeniably becoming one. There is absolutely no escape for the Church except by the shout of the archangel and the trump of God which will call us to our heavenly home!

The false peace and prosperity in modern history, paves the way for the rise and rulership of the Antichrist. Today we are seeing many businesses merging with other businesses. This process is advantageous for all of us but it will lead to a united global world which ultimately will be controlled by one man, the beast called Antichrist.

Self-Declared God

We know from Scripture that the Antichrist will declare himself to be God, sitting in the temple of God commanding worship.

This is not at all unusual. The popular message being proclaimed by todays “teachers” is that man is able to become some type of god. Not only do we hear this from other religions, but it is coming out of the mouths of the “professing” Church of Jesus Christ as well! It may be hard to believe, but many preachers are proclaiming such heresy.

The answer for the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ whose sudden appearance in the clouds of Heaven will prevent total integration of the Church into the world.

To summarize, Israel and the Church are two distinct entities; Israel has an earthly calling and the Church has a heavenly calling. Israel has an unmistakable geographical promise which they will have to claim possession of in due time. On the other hand, the Church has been given no such promise. The Church is a “chosen nation” with no political identity whose task is to be a light to the world and to proclaim that Jesus alone saves and that He is coming again!

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)