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The Rapture: Now, More Than Ever

06_therapture.jpgFor years, the world has known that just one deranged dictator with nuclear weapon capabilities could send the planet over its shaky precipice into oblivion. We have known that one rogue nation with poisonous chemicals could wipe out major population centers. Weapons of mass destruction detonated by an evil regime could cause destruction on a scale unknown to man. The difference between what we have known in the past and conditions that presently exist is that in 2008, we now have two such dictators, at least one such rogue nation and an unknown number of states armed with chemical weapons. Academic scenarios drawn up in war rooms of the generals have been replaced with a clear and present danger.

The scriptures boldly prophesy that catastrophic events like this will take place in the end of time. As we grow closer to the appointed time, the blurred images that prophecy preachers of the past construed from Bible passages have continued to sharpen in focus until it takes little imagination to picture such scenes around the world today. Add to this the present evidence that the other calamities outlined in Revelation have progressed to the imminent threat level, and you have a serious case for the rapture of the church.

The United Pentecostal Church, International believes that Jesus Christ will rapture His church at the appointed time in the future and we have incorporated this doctrine into our Articles of Faith. Yet, despite the frightening trends of our present world, we do not base our belief upon the status quo but upon clear statements from the Word of God. Readers who profess even a modicum of faith in the Bible need to know about the rapture of the church. We all need to understand that it could happen much, much sooner than we might imagine.

Christ’s coming is twofold. First, He will come for the church. This is really the core of the Rapture doctrine. “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” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Also, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him” (II Thessalonians 2:1). Phase one of Christ’s coming, then, will not actually occur upon the earth, but rather above it. Phase two of Christ’s coming will happen when He comes with His church. “The LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zechariah 14:5). This will begin the thousand-year peaceful reign of Christ on the earth (Revelation 20:6). These are the two elements of the coming of Christ. They are coordinate actions, each one complementing the other.

The rapture of the church holds great significance for believers. Paul referred to it as our “blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Jesus set it forth as a great incentive for Christian living. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:34-36). Finally, the Scriptures tell us that the Rapture is a great comfort to the church. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18).

Immediately following our Lord’s ascension into heaven, two men (angels) gave this message to discouraged disciples: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up unto heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). This message clearly describes a literal, physical event. It places deliberate emphasis upon the identical person (“same Jesus”), the identical method of return (“shall so come in like manner”), and the identical means of perception (“as ye have seen him go”). I Thessalonians 4:16-17 spells out the exact order of events in which the saved who have died, the saved who are still living, the archangel and Christ Himself shall participate in the Rapture. Revelation 1:7 tells us, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” Without question, Christ will appear personally and visibly.

The Rapture will signal a marvelous change in the material makeup of the bodies of the saints. Our bodies will undergo a transformation from mortal flesh to a new, glorified substance designed to inhabit heaven throughout eternity. “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” (I Corinthians 15:51-52). The properties of this new body will apparently be like that of the resurrected body of Christ. He appeared and vanished at will and defied even the force of gravity. Such a change will enable the saints to be “gathered” to Christ. The transportation of our bodies will follow their transformation. In I Thessalonians 4:16-17, the phrase “in the air” signifies an actual journey from this earth to heaven. However it may occur, we shall appear with Christ in glory. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). The Scriptures always refer to heaven as a place above, up, or beyond. In Revelation 21:2, John saw the New Jerusalem as a place separate from the earth, coming down out of heaven.

A study of the rapture of the church inevitably leads to the question: When will it happen? The exact time is classified information, known only to God. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Forecasting the exact date of the Rapture is a sure sign of a false prophet. It is within the realm of man’s knowledge, however, to understand seasons, trends, and times with reference to Christ’s second coming. In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus pointed out that “When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves

that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:30-31). To illustrate this principle from nature, someone may not know exactly when it will snow on a given day, but during the winter months it could be anytime. Therefore, everyone must be prepared for bad weather throughout the winter season, even though the skies may be clear on many of the days. In the same vein, merely because we cannot know when the Rapture will happen does not relieve us from our responsibility to be ready for it. In fact, our very lack of specific knowledge calls for sustained preparedness. We do know that a certain spiritual climate will exist in the world at the time Jesus comes. Last-minute preparation is impossible simply because God has made sure we would not know when the last minute would be. Many visible signs now in existence point toward the soon return of Christ. A large number of books have been published on this subject alone. Some of the most commonly known signs are these:

  • The return of the Jews to their homeland (Ezekiel 36:24).
  • The increase of knowledge, technological advance, and travel (Daniel 12:4).
  • Social chaos and widespread evil (II Timothy 3:1-7).
  • International distress (Luke 21:25-26).

Those who devote much time to studying the signs emphasize that there is nothing to prevent the Rapture from taking place at any moment. Our response should not be to stop all activity and go into hiding, but rather to keep our hearts right, continue working for the kingdom of God, and comfort one another with this blessed hope.

Up to this point, we have considered the Rapture from the standpoint of the future. It will be an awesome, miraculous event. But unless each Christian is scripturally qualified to be translated with the saints when it happens, all his knowledge about it is meaningless. Jesus Christ is not coming for “just anybody.” The Bible is replete with qualifying factors for each person who wants to make the Rapture. None of them require wealth, ability, talent, fame, pedigree, or human power. All of them require faith and desire.

  • The raptured must be in Christ. “The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Dying in Christ or remaining in Christ is necessary to be “caught up.” (See also II Corinthians 5:17-21.) Getting into Christ requires the new birth experience (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38).
  • The raptured must belong to Christ. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (I Corinthians 15:23). Christ is coming to claim His own purchased possession. Those who want to go with Him must belong to Him at the time of His coming.
  • The raptured must be accounted worthy. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). Of course, Christ stands in our stead, reckons Himself worthy, and then imputes that worthiness to us. We, in our flesh, could never be worthy, but we do have the responsibility to live by obedient faith. We can and must live a repented, holy life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The raptured must be pure. “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. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:2-3). The purifying agent is always the blood of Christ. Those who long to see Jesus will make continual application of the blood to their souls to stay pure from the contaminants of this world. The raptured must be without spot or wrinkle. The church is like a bride in her wedding dress awaiting her husband. Jesus used this analogy in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. The Rapture is like the presentation of the bride to her husband. “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). That great moment must find the church at her best.
  • The raptured must be spiritual. Spirituality is in direct contrast to carnality, or a flesh-governed life. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest … they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). A man who gorges his fleshly appetite cannot hope to make the Rapture. Instead, he must deny, or crucify, his fleshly tendencies and cultivate true spirituality. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). The inward hope generates outward righteousness.
  • The raptured are blessed and holy. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:6).

In conclusion, just as Jesus Christ actually lived, died, and rose again, He is also returning to complete His work on the earth in an actual, literal sense. Those who have this hope are indeed a blessed people. In light of this, each person should ask himself, “Am I ready for Christ’s coming?”

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Reader Comments (1)

Yes every one should think and ask themselves are they ready for Christ's coming its important and thanks for author to remember this valuable question.

December 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJesus

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