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|Twelve Reasons for the
By Prof. J.S. Malan, University of the North, South Africa
The rapture is a very important event in the chronology of end-time events. It must be properly understood if we wish to be ready and worthy to escape the coming tribulation period. Twelve reasons for the rapture are discussed.
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
With the rapture the Lord will swiftly take away His disciples for whom He has gone to prepare a place in heaven. This action can be likened to a harvest which is gathered in a heavenly barn. The circumstances in which the rapture will occur are of the greatest importance, as is evident from the following twelve reasons for the rapture:
1. It marks the end of the church age
The rapture ends the dispensation of the church on earth as the true church will then be removed from earth and taken to heaven. Only the false church and all the false religions that will enter into a covenant with the false messiah (Antichrist) will remain on earth. The signs of the times indicate that we are at present very close to the end of the church dispensation. The Bible describes this time as a period of great falling away from the truth and the occurrence of intensified demonic activities. Satan is lulling parts of the church into a deep spiritual sleep, and occupies the attention of other parts with deceptive signs and wonders performed by false prophets.
At the same time the coming antichristian dispensations all-inclusive ideology of universal or cosmic unity (holism or monism) is actively propagated. Structures are also created for the world government, world religion, and world economy of the Antichrist. It is not without reason that the Lord Jesus urges us to stand firm against the deception of the last days, and to watch and pray always that we may be found worthy to escape the coming tribulation period.
It is important to consider the rapture in its dispensational context i.e. at the end of the church age and just before the beginning of the tribulation period. Within this perspective we should resist the moral collapse and spiritual falling away that are typical of the last days of the church dispensation, while also opposing the reforms aimed at promoting the global governance and ecumenical alliance of world religions that will allow the Antichrist and false prophet the opportunity to gain control over the world and to institute the new world order. We are dispensationally in a terminal situation in which most people sadly grow cold in their love towards Christ while the unrighteousness is increasing due to an emerging international culture of sin. We should actively denounce this trend, as well as the globalising reforms aimed at instituting the next dispensation.
In times like these, preaching about the approaching rapture is critically important. We are like long distance runners who hear the bell ringing to announce the last round of the race. This message motivates us not to relax but to persevere to the end. Peter says: "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God?" (2 Pet. 3:11-12). We should not lose perspective and start compromising under the pressure of a rapidly changing world. We should keep on fighting the good fight of faith while resisting all forms of evil.
2. It affords the Antichrist the opportunity to be revealed
The rapture is directly related to the revelation of the Antichrist:
"And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains [the church of Christ] will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one [the Antichrist] will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thess. 2:6-10).
The true church of Christ is withholding the Antichrist, who can clearly only be revealed after the church has been taken out of the way. The Holy Spirit in the church is stronger than the spirit of error that is operating in the evil world to deceive people. When the true church is suddenly taken away the light of the world will vanish and the hour of complete spiritual darkness will take effect. Under these circumstances, the man of sin will be able to reveal himself without any opposition. The rapture has to occur before he can come to the fore!
To prepare people to be ready for the rapture calls for a spiritual disposition of absolute loyalty to the true Christ and also the unqualified rejection of the false cosmic Christ of all faiths.
3. It is a strong motivation for steadfastness in a time of backsliding
The coming of the heavenly Bridegroom will occur during a time of religious compromise and worldliness. There will be a great falling away from the truth of Gods Word. A relatively small group of evangelical Christians will shine like lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). As in the times of Noah and Lot, the earth will be filled with violence, materialism, and sexual perversion. Unfortunately, the spirit of unrighteousness and immorality will also take its toll among Christians. They will relax their vigilance and make downward adjustments in their spiritual standards: "And because lawlessness [sin] will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Mt. 24:12). Many Christians will keep such a low profile that they ultimately lapse into complete passivity (spiritual sleep). Jesus warned His followers against this phenomenon and emphasised the expectation of His sudden coming as a strong motivation for steadfastness:
"Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mk. 13:35-37).
Inactive Christians are obviously not strongly dedicated to the Lord and they have a tendency to grow cold in their love towards Him. The process of growing cold manifests in two ways: firstly, they develop a love for the world and worldly parties where they eat and drink to excess; secondly, anxiety and depression take root in their minds and also pull them down spiritually. Against this kind of waywardness the Lord Jesus warned His disciples and again offered the rapture as a positive motivating force to remain steadfast to the end:
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come upon you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Lk. 21:34-36).
4. It is an escape from the disaster area of divine judgement
The rapture also constitutes a dramatic rescue operation in which the true believers are removed from the scene of divine judgement. Although the rapture is a unique occurrence, there are examples in the Bible of times when God poured out His wrath but provided an escape route to the true believers as they were not the objects of His wrath. In the time of Noah, God announced His judgements over a wicked and perverted generation: "And God said to Noah, The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark..." (Gen. 6:13-14). Shortly before the commencement of the judgements the eight believers escaped the disaster area by entering the ark. God Himself closed the door behind them before He judged the sinners (Gen. 6:16-23).
In the time of Lot the believers were also rescued. The night before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah they were ordered to evacuate the city and flee to the mountains. The angels emphasised that they could do nothing as long as Lot and his family were still among the wicked. Fire and brimstone rained down from the heavens shortly after their departure. The cities with all their inhabitants were destroyed (Gen. 19:13-25).
The Bible says that there is a clear correlation between these historic events and God's end-time dealing with believers and unbelievers (Lk. 17:26-30; also read Gen. 6 and 19). The following comparison between the ancient and modern situation can be made:
People who are cynical about the promise of the rapture and do not heed the admonition to be prepared to escape the coming tribulation period reveal a very reckless attitude. What do you think would have happened to the believers (and the entire human race) if Noah argued as follows: "God is a God of love and I dont really believe that He will send a flood to judge all people; therefore, I am not going to build an ark to escape this so-called judgement." Or what would have happened to Lot and his family if he took the following stand: "I think the prophesied judgement over Sodom and Gomorrah should be interpreted symbolically. I dont have to escape for my life. Even if the disaster does occur I believe that God will protect us from His wrath here in this place."
The coming judgements during the tribulation period are irrefutable biblical facts. Jesus said there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world (Mt. 24:21), and that we should be ready to escape it (Lk. 21:36).
5. It is a direct intervention by God
The supernatural nature of the rapture, in which millions of Christians will be caught up in the air, will be so clearly an intervention by God that no scientific explanation can ever account for this astounding phenomenon. There might be a few absurd explanations which, as in the case of the evolution theory, will only be accepted by those whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). It is only an almighty God who can resurrect and change millions of Christians in a single moment and catch them away from planet earth. He will take away His own while the others will be left behind.
The hand of the Lord will also unmistakably be seen in the judgements that will be poured out over a degenerate humanity after the rapture. The dramatic effect of the rapture as well as the severity of the apocalyptic judgements that will follow in its wake will be a clear message to a multireligious and apostate humanity that their only hope is in returning to the Triune God and His inerrant Word. The rapture will also utterly refute the spiritualisation theology in which many of the plain biblical statements are spiritualised and thereby deprived of their literal meaning. In this way liberal theologians have disposed of many of the precious promises and dire warnings in the Bible by alleging that they are merely to be regarded as symbolic or allegorical expressions.
After the rapture, millions of people will continue to harden their hearts. As a result of this attitude they will receive a spirit of delusion which will induce them to believe the lies of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:11-12). However, there will also be many people who will have a new appreciation for the Word of God. They will seek the Lord and call upon His Name, regardless of the consequences of Christian worship in a Christ-rejecting new world order.
6. It is associated with the first resurrection
The rapture is directly related to the first resurrection when all the believers will get glorified resurrection bodies. Millions of those who are going to be caught away are already dead; consequently they must first be raised from the dead in incorruptible glorified bodies, like unto Christs glorious body. At the same moment the mortal bodies of the living believers will be miraculously changed into glorified bodies and pass from mortality to immortality without dying. Paul explains this promise to a Christian congregation as follows:
"Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
To the Philippians he said:
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21).
The first resurrection is also referred to as "the resurrection of the just" (Lk. 14:14), as well as "the resurrection of life" (Jn. 5:29). These people are indeed blessed to be partakers of the first resurrection:
"Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6).
The godless will have no part in the first resurrection, the rapture, and the millennial reign of Christ. That is why John says: "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (Rev. 20:5). They will be raised during the second resurrection which is also called "the resurrection of condemnation" (Jn. 5:29).
7. It separates true and nominal Christians
Apart from the division that the rapture will effect between the saved and unsaved people in the world, it will also separate the true believers from the nominal Christians within the church. Those who only have a form of godliness will be left behind. This fate will befall them despite the fact that they may have regarded themselves as members of the church of Christ, like the foolish virgins also did. Only after the rapture will many of them discover the lack of the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Although they can still put matters straight then, the Bridegroom wont open the door to them by way of a second rapture, much as they may desire it and urgently knock on heavens door. They will have to remain outside in the cold, face the dark days of the tribulation, and be prepared to die as martyrs for their faith.
How many millions of "Christians" indeed find themselves in this category of self-deceived and unsaved church members who trust in a dead form of godliness! They argue that since they are baptised and confirmed in the church, they have entered into an eternal and irrevocable covenant with God. In the light of this perception they feel quite comfortable even though they dont have a clear testimony of being saved and born again through true repentance toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3). It is only the regenerating work of the Lord that can save your soul!
Be sure that you are not weighed in Gods balance at the time of the rapture and found wanting. Then you will be left behind when the Lord Jesus takes away His bride (Mt. 25:10-13).
8. It is a meeting with Jesus Christ
When the Lord Jesus comes back to earth He will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. Those who died in Christ will be raised from the dead while the living saints will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Together they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
The greatest expectation with regard to the rapture is not just to get away from earth, but to arrive in heaven with the Lord! The longing bride wishes to be united with her heavenly Bridegroom. People who dont believe in the rapture must ask themselves how else, other than by the rapture, can they be caught up from earth and divinely transported to the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus in heaven. The Christians will be caught up ( 1 Thess. 4:17). After His earthly ministry, Jesus was bodily caught up to heaven (Rev. 12:5). Paul was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2). In all these cases the same verb, i.e. catch up (Gr. harpazo) is used, which means rapture. On this occasion the heavenly Bridegroom will not appear in public as He will at the Appearing at the end of the tribulation, when every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). He will come secretly, like a thief in the night, to snatch away his bride. From the viewpoint of the world she will suddenly disappear without a trace! She will then be in heavenly places, in the divine presence of the King of kings!
9. It is a summons to appear before the judgement seat of Christ
To be well prepared for the rapture in regard to what is awaiting the bride at the end of the journey involves various things. One of them is to appear before the judgement seat of Christ. The prospect of the rapture clearly confronts us with the responsibility to give account to Christ of our lives after conversion. Paul says:
"For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:10).
The Lord Jesus said: "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Rev. 22:12).
We must never think about the rapture in isolation as only a journey. It is a means to a wonderful end. We now know why we will be removed from the impending disaster area of divine judgement on earth. But we also need to be thoroughly prepared for what is awaiting us at the end of the journey in heavenly places. The very first appointment that we have after meeting the Lord Jesus in the air is to appear before His judgement seat.
Since only Christians will be caught away during the rapture, only Christians will appear before the judgement seat where their works will be tested:
"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each ones work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each ones work, of what sort it is. If anyones work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyones work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:11-15).
We are not saved by works but by faith. However, faith without works is dead. In the lives of Christians, a true faith will produce works that befit repentance. For these works of dedication which are done with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, rewards of grace will be given at the judgement seat of Christ. On that day it will be evident that some Christians were much more productive in the work of the Lord, having used their talents to their full potential. Others are less productive, and yet others will stand there empty-handed saved as through fire. The following five crowns will be awarded to Christians in the service of the Lord:
10. It is a journey to the marriage of the Lamb
After her appearance before the judgement seat of Christ the bride will be united to her heavenly Bridegroom, never to be separated from Him again. The burning desire for the rapture is, therefore, also the expression of a desire to be at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His ivory palace, and to be led to the King in a spotless garment woven with gold (Ps. 45), prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2).
"Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 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" (Eph. 5:25-27).
11. It is a journey to our eternal home
The Lord Jesus promised that He would return to take His bride away to her heavenly abode. Before He ascended to heaven He said:
"In My Fathers house are many mansions I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn. 14:2-3).
This mansion in heaven is so beautiful that it cannot even be imagined by mortal man. The Bible says: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). John says that the mansions and streets of the new Jerusalem are built with pure gold, like transparent glass. Each of its gates is a large, magnificent pearl. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with all sorts of precious stones, and its light is like a crystal clear stone (Rev. 21:9-21).
This description conveys the idea of heaven being a quite superlative environment of dazzling beauty, magnificence, radiance and glory beyond anything we can imagine at present. To be raptured to such a place is indeed a most desirable thought and something to earnestly look forward to! "As the Scripture says, In Thy presence is fullness of joy; and at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).
12. It leads to the acceptance of our judicial and royal position
After the rapture, the glorified Christians will judge the world with Christ in righteousness (1 Cor. 6:2), after which they will reign with Him as kings on earth. In Revelation 4 and 5, the glorified church is represented by the 24 elders:
"And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10).
EPILOGUE: Do you appreciate how tremendously important the rapture is to every Christian, how highly dramatic the events are that are associated with it, and how exceedingly worthwhile it is to be ready for it? Christianity and the church stand to be spiritually deprived and impoverished if this promise, and all the obligations that it involves, is not clearly proclaimed. Without the Bibles prophetic perspective on the end-time we will grope in darkness and never correctly determine our priorities.
While we are discerning the approaching footsteps of the Lord Jesus in the signs of the times we must be very sure that we really do belong to Him; otherwise He will pass us by when He comes for His bride. The unsaved, nominal Christians who have never had a personal encounter with the Lord will, one day, plead for mercy in vain before the great white throne of the final judgement. The Lord will declare to them: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practise lawlessness!" (Mt. 7:23).
There is no need whatsoever to suffer a tragic end like this. If we have genuinely experienced repentance toward God for our sins and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21), and our hearts have been changed and are burning within us with love for the Lord, we will be worthy to meet the heavenly Bridegroom when He comes in the midnight hour. He said to His disciples: "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Lk. 12:35-40).
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