What is the Rapture of the Saints?

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV).

There are some Christians who do not believe that there will be a rapture of the saints. I don’t know how they get around the plain understanding of these verses. Sure, I agree with them that the word rapture is not found in the Bible. The word Rapture is a word we use to describe the church, the people of God, being caught up to heaven. The English word comes from the Latin word rapere, meaning rapid. The Latin word rapere is from the original Greek word, harpazō, translated as “caught up” in theKing James Version and English Standard Version, as in the passage above. Harpazō means: “to strip, spoil, snatch. To seize upon with force; to rob. It is an open act of confiscatory violence…to snatch or tear away, yank away, pluck out of, remove by swiftly and aggressively grasping.”[1] There is coming a time when the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout (how those that have refused and scorned His grace and act of love will tremble), and at that instant we will be snatched from this earth and changed as we are gathered together to be forever with Christ. It goes along with what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the change in our nature:

“in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

This word, changed, what does it mean? That which is on the inside, the real you, the character that God has been working on throughout your life, will someday be revealed. Our new bodies will not be the same as our old nature that we inherited from Adam; Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). It will no longer be perishable but imperishable (15:53). We won’t all sleep; there will be some who are transformed instantly without going through the death process. This is the rapture or being caught up, whichever word you wish to use. When Christ comes, in a flash, in the batting of an eye’s time, we will be changed from having a perishable body to being clothed with an imperishable body (Verses 51-52).

…the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21 Emphasis mine).

Isn’t this your longing and desire, to be like Jesus?—I hope it is. What a wonderful thing. This word that is translated transform is the Greek word Metaschēmatizō. It is a construction of two Greek words. Meta means a change of place or condition, and schēma meaning shape, or outward form. To transform, change the outward form or appearance of something, refashion, reshape.[2] There is a rapture of the saints at the coming of Jesus, a transformation. That which is on the inside will be revealed—and it will be glorious:

2Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:2-3).

Taken from the series The Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. Click on the study, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG publishers. 773 Harpazō.

[2] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1651.

Is the Great Tribulation the Wrath of God?

9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been (Revelation 6:9-11).

In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus was asked as to what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age (v.3). Verses 4 through 31 are an outline of the major events that will happen at the time of the end. These verses describe events almost exactly the same as the outline that the Lord gives us in Revelation 6-7 in the opening of the Seals. After chapter 7, the Lord gets into specific details. We are not told that these events all happen in the seven-year period that starts with a peace treaty in the Middle East (Daniel 9:27) over the land of Israel, but it is an assumption on most Bible teachers’ part. Jesus calls the first three and a half years after that peace covenant is signed “the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). As each seal is opened in the Book of Revelation chapter six, a corresponding event happens on the earth that makes the situation on earth so much worse, similar to a woman’s birth pains getting worse as the time for the birth gets near.

At the opening of the fifth seal (Rev. 6:7), a great persecution will be initiated against believers in Christ and those Jews who will not take the mark and worship Antichrist. Some, perhaps many, believers will be martyred for Christ at the time of the fifth seal. The opening of this seal, I believe, corresponds to Jesus’ warning about the Great Tribulation (KJV) or great distress (NIV) that He spoke about in Matthew 24:21. I believe this time should be called the Great Persecution. However far ahead in time this is, we as Christians need to be ready to endure and not compromise our faith. Many will fall away when this persecution starts (2 Thessalonians 2:3). We cannot expect to be delivered (raptured) from the earth until sometime into this Great Tribulation or Persecution of the saints.

There are some teachers who say we needn’t be worried about this time that is ahead (how far ahead, we do not know). They say that this period of time is the wrath of God being poured out on those who are left on the earth. They believe that the church will be raptured out of here before the Antichrist comes on the scene and the seals begin to be opened with terrible consequences on earth. They say that the tribulation is the wrath of God, and that Paul taught that, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). How can the Tribulation or Persecution be the wrath of God? In the passage at the top of the page, we are told clearly that some believers who had died in the Great Persecution, will ask God, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10). This happens at the fifth seal, some way after the mid-point, perhaps well into the second half of the seven-year period. The wrath of God is the judgment on those who are persecuting His church. At the fifth seal and the persecution, the wrath and judgment has not started yet. The Lord answers for those believers to wait, “until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been” (Revelation 6:11). The rapture will not happen until sometime into the second half of the seven-year period and before the wrath and judgment of God begins. We need to be spiritually ready and learning God’s Word and growing in our dependence upon Him. It’s time to put away our toys and get serious about our faith. It’s time to get close to Jesus. When the darkness gets worse, God will pour out His Spirit and the Church will shine with His love, life and light (Isaiah 60:1-2. Daniel 12:3).

Taken from the series called the Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. The study is titled, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

What is the Great Tribulation?

15“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matthew 24:15-21. ESV).

Many of you have heard of the time that Jesus warned us about, the time He called the “Great Tribulation”. The Lord said that an event called the “Abomination of Desolation” would precipitate this time of great distress in Israel, along with the rest of the world too. So the first question for us to consider is, what is meant by the term great tribulation? What will happen at that time?

The Greek word that the term is translated from is Thlipsis. I have a Key Word Study Bible, which enables me to search how the Greek word was used in other passages. The word literally means, “to crush, press, compress, squeeze. Tribulation, trouble and affliction.” This Greek word “conveys the picture of something being crushed, pressed or squeezed as from a great weight. It is used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental or spiritual distress.”[1]

How this word was used in context in other passages of the Bible will shed some light on what the Church should expect to happen during that time. In Acts 8:1, the word thlipsis is translated as great persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen:

1And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

In Acts 11:19, the same Greek word, thlipsis, is translated again as persecution:

 19Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews (Acts 11:19).

And lastly, Paul used the same Greek word when he wrote to the Thessalonian church about the persecution they had been going through:

4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4).

We need to prepare ourselves for that time by living in close relationship to the Lord. The Great Tribulation, when it comes, is a time of worldwide persecution against those who serve the God of Israel, true Christians and Jewish people too. I believe the persecution will be aimed at all those who will not take the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17) or worship his image. We should not think that the Lord will rapture us out of here before the tribulation, but we should prepare to endure. The tribulation is never called the wrath of God. The wrath of God is only poured out after the church is taken at some point (no man knows the day nor the hour) during the time of great tribulation that breaks out after the mid-point of the seven-year period. Let’s grow in our dependence and trust in Him.

Taken from the series called the Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. The study is titled, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

[1] New Testament Lexical Aids, Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Thlipsis, Page 1632

Are There Two Second Comings of Christ?

1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:1-13 Emphasis mine).

What is the message that Jesus would have us take from this passage of scripture—what stands out to you? There are many things that we can learn, but two things in particular stand out to me:

1) Those who were waiting all began to get tired, but half of them, even though they were tired, had made provision for the night—they had extra oil to see them through the darkness. We are told that the bridegroom was a long time coming, but at the darkest point of the night, midnight, the bridegroom came. The emphasis is on being ready for His coming.

2) Only the five who were ready went to be with the bridegroom and the door was shut immediately afterwards. The five foolish people, did they get to come in later? Of course not! They were shut out. It was too late! We don’t like the implications, but the truth is that the door is never opened again after the Lord comes. There is only one rapture of the saints, not two.

I am going to get stones thrown at me here, but here goes anyway.  There are those who believe that there are two comings of Christ, one before the seven-year period of trouble starts, and one towards the end. They tell us that if we miss the first coming, not to worry, He will come at a later time and those who miss the first coming will still get in. The Left Behind series of books in the USA are all about this fallacy. Of course, they warn us, this is not a good option for there will be lots of trouble and hardship during the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-31). In my belief, this is deception of the highest magnitude. This doctrine fosters the belief that if you miss the coming of Christ, you can still become a Christian later on. There are those who put off salvation today, because they have been told that they can get still give their lives to Christ after the Christians have been raptured. They will then believe in Christ when they see the rapture take place. Do not believe it!  There is only one Second Coming of Christ and He will come at some point after the Great Tribulation has started (no man knows the day nor the hour) but before the wrath of God is poured out. We must be watching and preparing ourselves spiritually for the darkness that is coming on America and the rest of the world. We must grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His Word; this will be oil in our lamps that will keep us in the darkness of the hour that is approaching.

Taken from the study of the Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column, entitled The Rapture of the Saints. It is also one of the Parables (number 2 of the Parables of Christ) in the middle column too. Keith Thomas

The Bride, the Wife of the Lamb

Over the last few days we have been thinking of Scripture about the end of the age, that when Jesus comes, all those who have called upon the Lord and repented of sin, will be married to the Lord and live with Him as His bride. Let’s read what John the apostle writes in the Book of Revelation:

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long (Revelation 21:9-16).

 The wall around this city is 144 cubits thick. That is equivalent to 216 feet. We are also told that the size of the New Jerusalem is 12,000 stadia and as wide as it is long which today measures 1400 miles wide and 1400 miles long. That is an area extending from California to the Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States, and from Canada to Mexico. The ground level alone is nearly two million square miles. Don’t forget, though, the distance is as high as it is wide and long (verse 16). If each story is a generous 12 feet, that would make 600,000 stories. Billions of people will be able to live there with many square miles per person. The dimension of the city is a perfect cube. In Solomon’s Temple was a room that only the High Priest, once a year, with the sacrificial blood of a slain animal, entered beyond the heavy curtain that kept man separated from the very presence of God. This curtain was the one that was torn at the very time of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The room of the Most Holy Place, where God alone dwelt, was a cube of twenty cubits (1 Kings 6:20)The New Jerusalem’s dimensions reflect the fact that God wants for man to live with Him forever. It is a picture of man being invited into the very presence of God and to enjoy Him and His people forever in the Holy of Holies.

How wonderful it must have been for John the Apostle, the person who wrote down the Revelation, for He sees his own name on one of the foundation stones (Revelation 21:14). We don’t yet know how our efforts for Christ in this world affect others, only God knows, but it is interesting that John gets to see that his life has made a difference for eternity

 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:22-27. Emphasis mine).

The New Jerusalem is the place where Christ enjoys eternity with His bride. A place where there will be oneness of heart and mind, where we will live with Him forever and ever.

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads (Revelation 22:4).

What joy that will be! To see the face of Christ, behold His beauty, and live in relationship with Him. Are you beginning to see the value that God Himself places on you? “What is man that you are mindful of him?” David said. How special we are to God, for of all the places in the Universe for the Lord God Almighty and His Son to live, God chooses to live with man in the New Jerusalem. No matter where you are, the God of heaven is looking for you to come to His home and live with Him forever and ever. The invitation is for you and your family. There’s nothing you can do to earn it, for it is only by grace, God’s undeserved favor. Will you give your life to Him? He wants you to know that Heaven is your eternal home.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas