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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Rapture Of The Saints

Commenting on another posts some one had indicated that they had been raised in a church that taught a pre-tribulation rapture of the saints. It was also indicated that this person had come across an number of websites and such that argue that the teaching of the rapture is false doctrine. The person was wondering what I thought about this and so here is my understanding of that event that is often referred to as the rapture of the saints.

There are some who do not believe in a rapture, they are generally Amillennialist in their eschatology. They see every passage dealing with the coming of Christ as a single event. They do not recognize the appearing of Christ and the coming of Christ as two different phases of the second coming. But.....before I get to bogged down here let me give the basis upon which I believe that there will be a rapture of the saints.

First of all it is important to note that their is a clear distinction made between the appearing of Christ and the coming of Christ.

2 Timothy 4:1 - I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

The Lord is going to judge the living and the dead at both his appearing and his kingdom.

Several verses in the New Testament make reference to the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:4 - When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

1Timothy 6:14 - That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Titus 2:13 - Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Hebrews 9:28 - So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

1Peter 1:7 - That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

1Peter 5:4 - And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

1John 2:28 - And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

While there is a sense in which we could call this a coming he does not in fact come all the way back to earth but we will, as the Scripture declares, meet him in the air. This is the reason why the word "appear" is the word of choice because it more accurately describes what will take place.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

This passage teaches us several things about a future event:

1. Jesus will return with the spirits of the dead saints.
2. The dead in Christ will be resurrected.
3. The living saints "shall be caught up" together with the resurrected saints.
"Shall be caught up" is translated from a Greek word that means to seize, catch away or up.
Thus the term "rapture" is applied.
4. We will meet the Lord in the air. He does not return to earth.
5. We will be with the Lord. Living and resurrected saints both.
6. These are to be comforting words.

What happens to the living saints at the event described above? The Scripture does not leave us to speculate.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 - 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.

Not all of the saints will be deceased when Christ appears. At the last trump the dead shall be raised incorruptible. And we, Paul says shall be changed. Notice the "we", Paul obviously was anticipating a personal experience with this. That he would be among the living and that he would be changed. What is the nature of the change? Our corruptible will put on incorruption. Our mortality will put on immortality. We will be glorified at the appearing of Christ when we are caught up to meet him in the air.

Paul expressed it this way to the Philippians:

Philippians 3:20,21 - For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

We are to be looking for, anticipating, expecting the Saviour from heaven. When he appears he will change our vile bodies. They will be made like his glorious body. Our corruption will be changed to incorruption. Our mortality will put on immortality.

Then will be brought to pass the saying, "that mortality might be swallowed up of life."

John explains it thus:

1John 3:2 - Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

When he appears we shall be like him. Our vile bodies will be fashioned like to his glorious body.

This appearing is referred to as the believer's blessed hope.

Titus 2:13 - Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

The above passages should leave little doubt as to why it is characterized as a glorious appearing!

This is the short answer. If there is any specific questions I would be happy to answer them, if I can? After studying the Bible for 30 years I realize that every short answer also has a very long answer, and every answer provided has the potential to give rise to more questions, leading us to realize that the Bible is one vast series of connections and related parts. As overwhelming as this can seem at times it is for this very reason that we believe that Scripture is the very best interpreter of Scripture!
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