The Rapture FACT OR FANTASY?
FACT OR FANTASY?
Pastor Jannie Viljoen
Introduction – Three Comings 1
The Rapture 3
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 12
The Great Tribulation 16
The Old Jewish Wedding Tradition 19
God’s Outline of History 23
INTRODUCTION – THREE COMINGS.
To fully understand the Biblical teaching that the Church will be taken or “raptured” into heaven, we need to first understand that the Bible reveals three comings of Christ:
First coming – His birth.
Second coming – the Rapture of the Church.
Third coming – to reign for a thousand years on earth.
In the Old Testament we find many prophesies of the first coming of Christ – that He would leave His glory in heaven and be incarnated as the Son of God on this earth. Isaiah 7:14 is one example:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [which means `God with us’].”
This, and other similar prophesies from the Old testament were fulfilled when Christ was born of a virgin in Bethlehem as recorded in Matthew 1, Luke 2 and John 1:1,2 and 14. This was the first coming of Christ.
But when it comes to the return of Christ, His second coming is often confused with His third coming and visa versa. This is due to the fact that the second and third comings of Christ are seen by many as one event. Yet the Bible clearly distinguishes between His second coming to take His Bride into heaven, and His third, or final coming, in power and glory to execute judgment. The events surrounding these two final comings are so different, as we shall see, that it is impossible to place them at the same time as one event.
In the Word of God, the second coming of Christ for His Bride, the Church, is clearly discernable from the final coming of Christ with His Bride to this world in judgment due to the vastly different circumstances surrounding these two events. As we shall see, the second coming of Christ, which leads to therapture of the Church into heaven, precedes the final return of Christ to this world by at least seven years. At the final return of Christ, at the end of the ages, He descends from heaven with power and glory with the raptured saints all the way to the earth to destroy the Anti-Christ’s kingdom, bind Satan and set up His Millennial reign.
Between the rapture and the final coming, the Bible reveals a period of judgments upon a God-rejecting world. In the following chapters we will look more intently, and with Scripture references, at these events.
The word “rapture” does not appear in our English translation of the Bible. But the Greek word for “ suddenly caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17) is “harpuzo.” Translated into Latin it is “raptiere,” which can be translated as “rapture” in English. So in this sense, the word “rapture” is an acceptable word to describe the sudden removal of the Church into heaven. Therefore the word “rapture,” in its Biblical sense,means to be “suddenly transported” from one place to another. The terms that the Scriptures use are “caught up” as in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be CAUGHT UP (raptured) with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
The Bible clearly distinguishes between (1) the rapture of the Church and (2) the final return of Christ.
1.1 The Rapture.
In the rapture Christ comes forHis Church (all born-again Believers) to take them to heaven:
“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, … and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up (raptured)with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16 –17).
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; … I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2 – 3).
1.2 The Final Return.
At His final return He descends to the earth to execute judgment:
“On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, …” (Zech. 14:4).
“The great day of the Lord is near – That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom … for He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth” (Zeph. 1:14,15,18).
“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn [will make lamentation as in fear]. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with great power and glory” (Matt.24:30).
2.1 The Rapture.
The rapture takes place before the Great Tribulation:
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen (the Great Tribulation – verses 34,35), and that you may be able to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
2.2 The Final Return.
Christ’s final return takes place after the Great Tribulation and the purpose of His final return is to make an end to the Great Tribulation:
“Immediately after the distress of those days … all the nations of the earth … will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory …” (Matt. 24:29,30).
“The armies of heaven were following Him. Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Rev. 19:14,15).
3.1 The Rapture.
At the Rapture the Believers are taken into heaven to the Father’s home with many mansions:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).
3.2 The Final Return.
At Christ’s final return He will restore all things by creating a new heaven and a new earth:
“… as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of the righteous” (2 Peter 3:12-13).
4.1 The Rapture.
At the rapture no judgments are poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. Speaking of the suddenness of His coming at the rapture, Christ then says:
“That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two woman will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matt. 24:39b – 41).
4.2 The Final Return.
At the final return of Christ the people of the earth, who have rejected Him, will face His wrath and judgment:
“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His saints to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly …” (Jude 14b – 15a).
“The armies of heaven were following Him … Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” (Rev.19:14,15).
“Therefore wait for me, declares the Lord … to pour out my wrath on them … The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger” (Zeph. 3:8).
5.1 The Rapture.
The rapture of the Believers into heaven is a joyous occasion:
“… so that your faith … may be proved genuine and mayresult in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:7).
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven … we … will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air … Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16 – 18).
5.2 The Final Return.
Christ’s final return is a day of fear and destruction:
“The great day of the Lord is near … The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter … That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom … I will bring distress on the people … Their blood will be poured out like dust … on the day of the Lord’s wrath … the whole world will be consumed … He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth” (Zeph. 1:14 – 18).
6.1 The Rapture.
Life on earth, just before the sudden rapture, will be normal and uneventful, without the realization that something tremendous is going to take place:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of man. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord may come” (Matt. 24:37,3839,42).
6.2 The Final Return.
The days before the final return of Christ will be catastrophic on the earth and in the heavens:
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25 – 27).
7.1 The Rapture.
At the rapture Christ comes FOR His Bride the wedding feast of the Bride (the Church) and the Bridegroom (Christ) takes place:
“… the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet … Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour when the Son of man comes” (Matt. 25:10,13).
7.2 The Final Return.
At the final return of Christ the Bride comes WITH Him to the earth.
“The armies of heaven were following Him … dressed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:14).
These armies are dressed in “white and clean” robes. They cannot be angels for only the redeemed and the Blood-washed children of God are depicted in the Scriptures as wearing white and clean robes (Rev. 7:9). For the Believers to accompany Christ from heaven at His final return they had to be raptured to heaven previously. In speaking of Christ’s final return, Jude says:
“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His saints to judge … to convict all the ungodly …” (Verses 14 – 15).
8.1 The Rapture.
At the rapture only His own see Him:
“But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we (the believers) shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
8.2 The Final Return.
At the final appearance of Christ, every eye will see Him:
“At that time they (the nations – verse 25) will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).
“At that time (after the Great tribulation – verse 29) … all the nations … will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky …” (Matt. 24:30).
The above Scriptures clearly distinguishes between the Rapture of the Church and the final Return of Christ. The Rapture scriptures cannot be confused with the final Return scriptures, and visa versa. These scriptures makes a clear distinction between the Rapture and the final Return of Christ and places these as two separate events at two distinct different times.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 – 17
“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
The above Scripture is one of the clearest passages when dealing with the rapture question. Let’s take note of the order of events:
Jesus descends from heaven “with a loudcommand.” What this “command” will be we are not told. But we see that it causes all dead Believers to be resurrected, “… and the dead in Christ will rise …”
With the resurrection of Lazarus in John chapter eleven, we also read that Jesus called out with a loud command: “… Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out …” (John 11:43,44). The rest of the dead in that graveyard stayed in their graves. Only Lazarus responded to the Lord’s voice. And here, at the rapture, it is the same – only the Christians who are in their graves hear the call of Christ and come out of their graves. The rest of the unsaved dead stay in the grave until the final resurrection at the judgment day: “But the rest of the dead did not live until the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20:5).
At that moment, when all the dead Believers’ bodies are resurrected, the living Believers are taken up with them to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever. “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever”
Paul adds additional information concerning these events at the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51 – 53,
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep [die], but we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [at the rapture – see 1 Thess. 4:16]. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we [the mortal living] will be changed. For the perishable [the dead] must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal [living] with immortality.”
Paul reveals here in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians that the rapture will be at a time when many Christians are still living, “ … we will not all sleep…” (1 Cor. 15:51)and that it could be at any time, “… for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night … So then … let us be alert… “ (1 Thess. 5:2,6). The bodies of Christians who are dead will be resurrected and given imperishable new bodies. Paul further reveals that the living Believers will suddenly be transformed in their mortal bodies “ … in the twinkling of an eye …” and be clothed with a new immortal body, fit for heaven!
The Bible reveals to us that we cannot enter heaven with our earthly, corruptible and sinful bodies: “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50). Because we cannot enter heaven with our earthly, corruptible and sinful bodies, they must be changed!
“The body that is sown (that dies) is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor (it decays), it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:42,43).
Another reason for the dead [corruptible] Believers being resurrected [made incorruptible], and the living Believers [mortal] being changed [made immortal], is so that “ … He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle … but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
The rapture of the all born-again Believers is an irrefutable fact of God’s Word. There are about fifty Scriptures in the New Testament and some related ones in the Old Testament that reveal the fact and manner of the rapture.
But what is the reason for the rapture? Why would God want to take His Church into heaven while leaving the unsaved behind on the earth?This question brings us to the reason for a period in earth’s future history which the Bible reveals as the “Great Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21) or “The Day of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:10).
THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
To fully grasp the Biblical revelation of the Rapture, we need to understand what the Bible teaches about a certain period of time, which is called the Great Tribulation. There are many Scriptures that reveal a time of terrible judgment from God upon a Christ-rejecting world towards the end of this age. Although the world, and especially the Church, has known and experienced tribulation of various kinds throughout its existence, the tribulation that the Bible speaks of is more specific in its purpose and revelation.
The tribulation that the Bible speaks of deals with the end-times and has to do with God’s judgment on a world that has rejected Him. But more specifically, this tribulation reveals God’s final dealings with Israel as a nation.
It is interesting to see that Israel has been restored as a sovereign nation in her old historical land. This took place during 1948 and is the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophesies:
“I will bring back my exiled people Israel … I will plant Israel in their own land never again to be uprooted from the land that I have given them …” (Amos 9:14 – 15).
“He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over His flock like a shepherd” (Jer. 31:10).
“… God will … gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you … He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it” (Deut. 30:3,5)
(See also Jer. 30:10-11; 31:10-11; Ezek. 11:16-17; 34:11-13; 36:16-24; 37:11-13, 21-22; Zeph. 3:20)
For Israel, the purpose of the Great Tribulation period is to bring her back to her God and to reveal Christ, whom they have rejected, as her true Messiah.
“When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you [the Great Tribulation], then in later days [end-times] you will return to the Lord your God and obey him” (Deut. 4:30).
That God will deal specifically through the Great Tribulation with the restored Jewish nation is made clear in many references given in the Bible. In the Old Testament, which deals specifically with the Jews, the following names are given for this time of tribulation which they will experience:
· The time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7)
· The Day of Israel’s Calamity (Deut. 32:35)
· The Time of trouble (Dan. 12:1)
· The day of wrath, distress, desolation, darkness, gloominess and alarm (Zeph. 1:15,16)
The end-time Tribulation is therefore a specific period in which God deals with Israel. This is known prophetically as Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:25 – 27). What was to happen during this “week” or seven-year period was not revealed to Daniel in detail, but it was made known by Jesus in Matthew 24:4 – 31 and to John in Revelation 4:1 – 19:21.
Not only is this seven-year Tribulation period a time of God’s dealing with Israel, to bring her to repentance, but it is also a time of God’s wrath upon a gentile world that has rejected Him as the true God. The following Scriptures reveal some of the horrors that will befall humanity during this terrible time of God’s wrath:
“See, the Day of the Lord is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger – … I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins … I will make man scarcer that pure gold, … and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord almighty, in the day of His burning anger” (Isaiah 13:9,11 – 13).
“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive …” (Matt. 24:21 – 22).
“There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11).
“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, `Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Rev. 6:15 – 17).
“A third of mankind was killed …” (Rev. 9:18).
“They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him” (Rev. 16:9).
No wonder Jesus said that if those days were not shortened, no one on earth would survive! (Matt. 24:22).
Having seen that this Tribulation period deals specifically with Israel as a nation and also an unbelieving humanity, we may ask:
BUT WHAT OF THE BELIEVERS?
What will happen to Jesus’ Church during this time of God’s terrible judgments upon a world that has rejected Him? In referring to this specific time of tribulation, Jesus made the following statement in Luke 21 verse 36:
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to ESCAPE ALL THAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN [the Great Tribulation – verse 35], and that you may be able TO STAND BEFORE THE SON OF MAN”
HERE WE HAVE THE REASON FOR THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH: “ … to escape (this time of terrible tribulation) … to stand before the Son of Man.”
The true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ consists of all those who have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb and have been born-again. It is made up of those who have been forgiven and made righteous through faith in Christ. This Church is not under God’s wrath anymore! Some hold to the theory that the Church must go through the Great Tribulation to be purified. This theory is un-Biblical due to the fact that WE ARE CLEANSED AND MADE RIGHTEOUS BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS AND NOT BY TRIBULATION (1 John 1:7). Tribulation may draw us closer to God and help us to lay aside sin, but salvation and justification is by faith in Christ and not by works! (Eph. 2:8).
In Revelation chapter three, the letter to the Church in Philadelphia (verse 7 – 13) is of great significance when dealing with whether the Church will go through the Great Tribulation or not. Although the letters to the seven Churches in Revelation three were written to seven existing churches in John’s time, these seven Churches are also prophetic of the seven dispensations of the Church, spanning from the beginning of the Church (Ephesus), to the last Church (Laodicea).
That the Church in Philadelphia is prophetically a last-day church, is revealed in the words of Jesus to this church, “I AM COMING SOON. Hold on to what you have, so that no one can take your crown” (verse 11). Jesus further reveals that this end-time Church is a true Bible-believing church: “ … you have kept my Word and have not denied my Name” (verse 8). And because they are a true and faithful church, Jesus promises them that they will not go through the Great tribulation: “ … I will also keep you from [Greek: `out of’] the hour of trial [Great tribulation] that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (verse 10). Jesus’ promise here to this faithful end-time church is that she will not go through this time of testing (tribulation) that “… is going to come upon the whole world …”
Another indication that the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ will not go through the Tribulation, but will be raptured into heaven, is seen in the Book of Revelation, between chapters three and four. In chapters one to three, the Church is dealt with quite extensively. From chapters four to eighteen, which deals with the Tribulation period, the Church as a Body on earth is never mentioned, not even once! Only again in chapter nineteen, which deals with Christ’s final return to earth, is the Church mentioned again, and here in connection with returning with Christ from heaven in power and glory (verse 14; See also Jude 14). The Bible is clear, when speaking of the Believers, that “… God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).
That Christ will rapture the Church before the Great Tribulation, so that she will not be under God’s wrath, is also clearly pictured in the Old Testament dealings of God with His children when He brings His judgment upon the wicked. The Apostle Peter gives clear examples of this in 2 Peter, chapter two:
“ … if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but PROTECTED Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others, if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly, and if He RESCUED Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men … then the Lord knows HOW TO RESCUE godly men from [Greek: `out of’] trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment …” (2 Peter 2:5 – 9).
According to the context of this letter, Peter was dealing with end-time events – false prophets (2:1), those scoffing the return of Christ (3:3), and the Day of the Lord [the Great Tribulation] (3:10 – 11). And so Peter uses these Old Testament examples to show that God will rescue His children before He brings His wrath on the unbelieving and the wicked.
Many Scriptures refer to Israel in the future Tribulation, but not one mentions the Church as being on earth during the Tribulation. Bible history reveals that God dealt mainly with Israel from Abraham to Christ, but when Christ came, and Israel rejected Him as their Messiah, they were put aside only for a time so that Christ could be revealed to the Gentiles, and the Church, His Body on earth, could be established.
“God did not reject His people [the Jews], whom He foreknew … Again I ask, did they [the Jews] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles … Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved … “ (Rom. 11:2,11,25).
After the rapture of the Church, when “… the full number of the Gentiles has come in …”, God will now turn His attention to Israel as a nation, by allowing them to go through Great Tribulation, so that they will eventually turn to God and accept Christ as their Messiah when He comes to rescue them from the terror-reign of the Antichrist and the heathen nations. The prophet Ezekiel prophesied concerning this day:
“I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them (the Great Tribulation). From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezek. 39:21,22).
God is busy working out His plan and purpose with Israel, the Church and the nations. That God will deal with Israel as a nation in the end-times is clearly revealed in the many prophesies of the Bible (Jer. 30:7; Jer. 33:6 – 9; Ezek. 36:24 – 27; Zech. 12:10 – 11).
God’s “last-days” plan is clearly revealed in His Word for us. God has not rejected His people Israel, but has put them aside for a time so that He can establish His Bride, the Church, during this dispensation. As soon as the Bride is complete, He will rapture Her into heaven so that He can begin to pour out, in great tribulation, His wrath on a world that has rejected Him. At the same time, God again turns His attention to the nation of Israel, who is now gathered in her own land, by rescuing her at the end of the Great tribulation from the power of the Anti-Christ and his forces. They will then, at Jesus’ coming to rescue them, realize that He is truly the Messiah, and will accept Him as such.
THE OLD JEWISH WEDDING TRADITION.
Until such time that God starts dealing with Israel again, the Church, which came into being after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, is being prepared in this dispensation as the Bride of Christ. When the Apostles Paul and John speak of the Church, they use the symbolism of the “Bride.”
“I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I may present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Cor. 11:2).
“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9).
When the “times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled (Luke 21:24), Christ will rapture His Bride up into heaven for the Wedding Feast (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 21:9).
In John 14:1 – 4 Jesus used the old Jewish wedding custom of the Bible to portray and explain how He is preparing the Church, as the Bride of Christ, for the rapture and the wedding feast:
The young groom would go to his espoused bride’s home with the following three things: An amount of money to pay the father of the bride. This points to the price in blood that Jesus “paid” to the Father to purchase His Bride, the Church:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ …” (1 Peter 1:18,19).
Then the young groom also took with him a marriage contract and some wine. If the father of the bride was satisfied with the contract, it was sealed by sharing a goblet of wine. In Matthew 26:39 Jesus said:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
“Then he [Jesus] took the cup … and said to them, `This is my blood which is poured out for many …’” (Mark 14:23,24).
This points to the contract with the Father that Jesus sealed in His blood to purchase His bride, the Church. After the contract was thus sealed, the bride and the bridegroom were now officially betrothed. Because Christ has purchased His Bride, the Church, with His Blood, the Believers are seen as being betrothed to Christ at this time.
“I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him” (2 Cor. 11:2).
The bridegroom would now announce that he was going to his father’s house to prepare a place for his bride. In John 14 Jesus said to His disciples,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you” (verse 2).
While the bridegroom was away preparing a place for them, she would prepare herself for her husband. While Christ is preparing a place for His Bride, the Church, she is to prepare herself for Him at this time while she expectantly waits for His return:
“But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is. Every one who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).
During this time the young groom starts to prepare the “chadar” or wedding chamber. If any one would ask him when he was going to fetch his bride, he would reply, “Only my father knows.” In Israel it was the custom that the groom’s father, only after he was satisfied that the wedding room was properly prepared, would give permission for his son to go and fetch his bride. In speaking of His return to fetch His bride, the Church, Jesus said:
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).
When the groom fetches his bride, the wedding ceremony takes place. On this day, according to Jewish tradition, they are seen as holy and blameless. When Jesus fetches His Bride in the rapture, He will “present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27).
After the wedding the groom and bride stay in the “chadar” or wedding chamber for seven days. This points to the seven years that the Church will be with Christ in heaven after the rapture. After the seven days the bridal couple appears to start the wedding feast. After the seven years in heaven, Christ and His Bride, the Church appears from heaven to start the Millennial reign of peace on earth (Rev. 20:6).
The Bible is clear that the Bride of Christ, the Church, is to be raptured at the coming of Christ in the air. He will then take her into heaven to be with Him (John 14:3). This can take place at any time! “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come … So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matt. 24:42,44).
After Jesus revealed in Matthew 24 verses 42 and 44 that His coming at the rapture will be unannounced and sudden, He told the following parable:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has putin charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns … But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away for a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will … assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Verses 45 – 51).
Remember, there will be tremendous physical signs in the heavens and earthjust before and during Christ’s final coming (Matt. 24:29 – 30). But here, at the rapture, there are no signs. The rapture takes place suddenly! Are you ready to meet Him? Are you saved? If you are a born-again Christian, are you living for Christ daily and are you busy serving Him faithfully?
“You can study books about going to heaven in a so-called `rapture’ if that turns you on. We want to study the Bible to learn to live and to love and to bring heaven to earth.”(1)
The above words from a prominent Bible teacher reveals the growing attitude of many Christians towards the Biblical teachings concerning Christ’s second advent. The decline in expository teaching and preaching about Christ’s return for His Bride, the Church, to take her to heaven, is mostly due to the confusion brought about by the teachings of the Latter Day Rain, Manifested Sons of God and Dominion teachers. Heaven, as an imminent reality have become such a vague concept for Christians that it has been relegated to mostly sermons at funeral services.
Jesus’ teaching concerning this particular hope for the last-day Church, to rescue Her through the rapture from an evil world that is being ripened for Divine judgment, has been lost for the average Christian. The political and social agenda of the church at large has become such an important issue, that the actual role and purpose of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in this world, to prepare man for heaven, is being largely ignored. That the Bible predicted this state of affairs in the last days is clear in the words of the apostle Luke when he says:
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to ESCAPE all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).
Is the role and purpose of the church the subjugation of society to conform to Kingdom values as some teach? Is the church tasked to take dominion over the nations as Ern Baxter proclaims?:
“God’s people are going to start to exercise rule, and they’re going to take dominion over the power of Satan. They’re going to bring diabolical princes down. The dark powers that hover over parliament buildings of the nations are going to be paralyzed by the corporate prayer of an authoritative community. As the rod of His strength goes out of Zion, He’ll change legislation. He’ll chase the devil off the face of God’s earth, and God’s people together, doing the will of God, will bring about God’s purposes and God’s reign.” (2)
Is the church going to change the world for the better? Are people going to turn to God in great numbers in the last days as some teach? Will there be a great last-days revival that will sweep the world and bring whole nations into an earthly kingdom in which Christians will rule and reign and which will then be presented to Christ, as John Wimber proclaimed at a Docklands, England 1990 conference?:
“There is something higher than being a Denomination and that is to be the end time army and involved in this greater prize of bringing everything on earth and above the earth and below the earth to the feet of Jesus.” (3)
The teaching that we are to Christianize the whole world before Christ can return has become the dominant theme of many churches and denominations. George Grant, who holds to Dominion teaching, once said, “The army of God (i.e. the Church) is to conquer the earth, to subdue it, to rule over it, to exercise dominion.”(4)This false teaching, which originated through the Latter Day Rain movement during the late 1940’s, and which was condemned as a false teaching by most at that time, has now become, under the banner of Dominion teaching and the Transformations movement, the dominant emphasis of the church’s evangelistic endeavors.
To many Christians the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His Bride, the Church, has become a vague event that lies somewhere far in a distant future at the end of an undisclosed time. For many Christians it has become so distant that they do not even hold it in their Biblical framework anymore. That the imminent return of Christ for His Church would become a ridiculed and forgotten teaching was long ago predicted by God’s Word:
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, WHERE IS THIS `COMING’ he promised?” (2 Peter 3:3 – 4).
But what does the Bible say concerning the return of Christ? Are we to listen to the imaginations of men, or are we rather to heed the Word of God? God’s Word, and God’s Word alone and rightly divided (2 Timothy 3:16) must be our sole guide when we study the Biblical teachings concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming again and He is coming to take His Church to heaven – that is His promise!
“HEWHO TESTIFIES TO THESE THINGS SAYS, `YES, I AM COMING SOON.’
AMEN. COME, LORD JESUS”
(1) How Close are we? Dave Hunt, Harvest House Publishers, 1993. P. 212
(2) National Men’s Shepherds Conference, Kansas City, Missouri. September 1975
(3) The New Prophets, Bill Randles, Plumbline Publishing, Pietermaritzburg, S.A. 1999. P. 108
(4) Bringing in the Sheaves, George Grant, American Vision Press, 1985. P. 98