The Rapture of the True Church

In yesterday’s meditation, we talked about the coming of the Lord for His Church, those who are born-again of the Spirit. We have talked about the rewards that He will give for character, faithfulness and service. Over the next few days we will look at the resurrection body that believers will be given at the coming of Christ. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19), and at the coming of Christ, He will send forth His angels and gather those who have received His free gift of salvation:

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:31).

At the coming of Christ, the church is raptured or caught up together with Him in the clouds:

13Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For 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. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

This passage above is the classic passage about the rapture of the church. As we have said elsewhere in these studies, the word Rapture is not found in the Bible. We get the English word “rapture” from the Latin word rapere which is the translation of the Greek word Harpazo. This word literally means to be snatched up. It is translated into the English in the passage above with the words “caught up” (v.17). This event will be preceded by a loud shout from the Lord Jesus Himself. I wonder what words will issue from His lips in a loud command. Notice that a loud trumpet call will be heard also. Those who have died/slept in Christ, are brought with Christ at that coming (v.14), and are instantly changed and reunited with their body. Although they have been in heaven with Christ, He will bring them with Him—those who have fallen asleep/died in Him (v.14). Those believers who are still alive on Earth at that time will see this happening before they themselves are caught up together with all believers all over the world. As we have been saying over the last few days, it will be a homecoming to the Lord as well as a time of rewards for all those who belong to Christ. What an awesome day that will be. When that Day comes, all who have repented and walked with Christ, yet have passed on from this life will receive a new body. Those also on Earth will be changed in an instant (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). We will think on the new body we will receive over the next few days. I hope to see you in the clouds (v.17).

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

Going Home

1“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3“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 (John 14:1-3).

There is something special about coming home. All of us have experienced what it is like after being away, whether for vacation, work, or some other reason, to come home to what is familiar. There are sounds, smells, and visual reminders when we walk back into our familiar surroundings. It is a very comforting feeling, the feeling of being at home. We even say, about some relationships, that we feel “at home” with a person. What we really mean is, that person makes us feel like we can kick back and be ourselves, like we are when we are at home. I am reminded as I write this, that today, there are many people all over the world who have been forced to leave their homes, forced to leave family in some cases, and all that they hold dear. Everyone should have a place of rest, a place to call their home. Jesus promised us, before He left this earth, that He went to prepare such a place for us. A place where we will dwell with Him, a home like no other. The home we have known in this life, no matter how humble, or how grand, will pale in comparison to what He has prepared for those who are His.

There is the story of an old missionary couple, the Morrison’s, who were finally returning to America after serving Christ as missionaries in Africa. On the same ship was Teddy Roosevelt, the American president at the time, who was returning from an African Safari. Bands and parades were going on in New York as everybody turned up at the dock to welcome Teddy as his transatlantic liner came alongside the quay. The crowds and press were waiting just to catch a glimpse of Teddy finally returning home. The Morrison’s were despondent as they left the port that day as they had little money, only enough for a very simple apartment. Henry was quite sad as he saw the welcome that Teddy Roosevelt received. He told his wife that something had to be wrong, as they had given 40 years of their lives for Christian missionary work, and no one cared enough even to come to the dock to welcome them home. His wise wife told him to go to the Lord in prayer about it. A little while later he returned, with a beaming smile on his face, having been reminded by the Lord, “You are not home yet, Henry.”

If you ever grow weary of this life, remind yourself, “You’re not home yet.” Likewise, if you grow complacent because of an easy lifestyle and put all of your resources and effort into enjoying the comforts of this life, think about this: This is not all there is. This is not your eternal home. This life is just for a short while.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

If you have placed your trust in Christ, the time will come when the Lord will come for us, and we will pull out our tent pegs and collapse the tent, either at departure from the body (death) or when our Master and Lord will return for us according to His promise in the scriptures above.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

At What Point Will the Door of Grace be Shut?

23Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out (Luke 13:23-28).

I think we would all agree that this passage clearly teaches us that there will be no second chances after Christ comes for His people, those who have received the gift of salvation through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. We are told in the above passage that there will come a time when the door of salvation will be shut. God is saying that when this time comes, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This time is called the Rapture or snatching away of the church. Then will begin the wrath of God and the judgments of God on those who have willfully rejected God’s free offer of a pardon. I don’t see anything in this passage to indicate even the slightest hope that if one were to come later he would find the door open again.

There will be no opportunities for one to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God after the door is shut. It is as if God’s drawbridge of grace has been lifted, and that those left behind must face the wrath of God. This is a hard truth to accept because we all have friends and relatives that may be left outside that door when it closes. I do not want to imagine their moment of realization and their pleadings when they find that the door is closed to them. At that time, it will not matter what kind of good life you have led on planet earth. When Christ comes for His church the deciding factor will be, do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? The bridegroom says, “I don’t know you or where you come from” (verse 27). When will this rapture of the saints occur? Jesus told us clearly that the gathering together of the elect (those that have relationship and faith in Him) will take place, “Immediately after the distress (KJV Tribulation) of those days…at that time…he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31). I believe we are now entering that dark time foretold in scripture that will happen before Christ comes.

Only those who have relationship with Him will be allowed to enter through the door. If you are not sure as to where you will go on that day, then God wants you to be sure and you can know for certain that you are prepared for that day. God does not want this truth to be hidden from us (1 John 5:13). Cry out to Him today. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

Keith Thomas

Come; for Everything is Now Ready

16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’…(Luke 14:16-18)

I was separated from my wife and two children for nearly three months in the year 2000 when I left them in England to start work as one of the pastors in a large mega church in Cincinnati, Ohio (I was born in England).  You bet I was counting the days for our reunion! How lonely I was without the ones I loved. It brought me to tears a number of times.  As the time grew closer for their coming and our reunion, I began to prepare everything for us to be close again.  I checked the flight times again and again, I planned where we would eat on the way from the airport, I cleaned the house meticulously where we would be staying, but most of all, I prepared myself. My time was spent in the days before their coming in much preparation.  What joy I had when they arrived, we hugged and kissed repeatedly.  I was so excited to show them around Cincinnati, the city where we would now be living.  My girlfriend (my wife of 37 years) and my two children were coming home to their own country after 18 or so years of serving God in England.  You cannot understand the joy I felt to bring them back to their family and country.

If you are a Christian this world is not your home.  Like me longing for my family, our Lord is longing for our reunion.  He has spent nearly 2000 years preparing a place for us so that where He is we shall be also (John 14:1-3).  What joy will flood His heart upon our reunion, how He longs to show us where we will be living together. It must be disappointing to Him that some would not even be watching for their reunion day–their hearts are not beating with the same passion that is in His.  There are some who are just not aware of the days in which we are living; they are asleep and are not lovingly watching for His return. These are days of preparation. Before Passover and deliverance from Egypt the Jewish people went through days of preparation (they still do) as the Passover lamb was brought into the house for four days before it was slaughtered (Exodus 12:3-6). The houses of the Israelites were swept completely clean before Passover because it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and every crumb of yeast or leaven was swept up and gotten rid of. Yeast or leaven speaks of sin. In the preparation time before our deliverance we are to get ourselves ready to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). We are to be ready and watching for His return. This is no time for sleeping spiritually. Turn off the TV! Forget the sports! People are dying without knowing the Savior! We must do what we can to reach them with the truth! Prepare yourself for eternity!

Prayer: Father, keep me awake in the midst of a world that wants to drug me to sleep.  I really want to be wide-awake and sensitive to you so that I may walk in eager anticipation for that great reunion day. Amen!

Keith Thomas

Deception on Earth.

21At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time (Mark 13:21-23).

Scripture is very clear that a person will come onto the world scene in the days, months or years ahead that will set himself up as a messiah or christ-like figure. This man will be a master of deception; our passage in Mark tells us. He will be a charismatic leader who will solve complex problems on the world scene. I personally think he will solve the Arab Israeli conflict, because we are told that he will set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God and demand to be worshiped (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Of course, this means that a temple will yet be built in Jerusalem. At the moment, it seems inconceivable that a Temple could be built at the center of Jerusalem, but there is growing evidence that Solomon and Herod’s temple was further south nearer the Gihon Spring. Maybe as part of a peace deal the Jews will be allowed to rebuild the Temple that they have been longing for 2000 years.  Revelation 13:3 tells us, “the whole world was astonished and followed the beast” (another name for the Antichrist, the false Messiah, which our passage talks about). Verse 8 of the same chapter tells us, “all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names are not written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb.” Doesn’t it make you wonder how so many people will be deceived into following this person? When one thinks of how Adolf Hitler deceived the German people in the Second World War, what will keep people from being deceived?

The best way to be kept from deception is to know the real Messiah, Jesus. Saturate yourself with the words of Jesus in the Gospels; the truth will keep you from error.  When we allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to direct our lives, we will recognize the counterfeit easily. Those that belong to the Shepherd know His voice (John 10:4). True believers will have discernment when the counterfeit comes along. When you commit your life wholeheartedly to Him, you are one of His chosen, as our passage above tells us.  Chosen to be in Him before the foundation of the world (Colossians 3:12). No one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand, (John 10:29). Let that be your strength and an encouragement to your heart.

 Prayer: Lord, I want to know you and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. Come into my life and fill me with your Spirit, grant me discernment and a love for the Truth.

Keith Thomas