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

Preparing for Death 5 (Scroll Down for Part 4)

In the last few days, we have been thinking through the rewards of the believer, and have come to the conclusion that character is the goal of our faith. We will be rewarded by how much of the character of Christ is in us.

Dictionary.com defines the word character as: “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.” We are being transformed day by day in the area of our souls and spirit through every event that we experience. Everything in life is a test of our character, and a man’s character is accurately measured by his reactions to life’s inequities. Reputation is not character. Reputation is what men think you are; character is what God knows you are. If we respond in obedience to the Spirit of Christ in each situation we encounter, we are made more and more into the image or likeness of Christ. If you are a Christian, you are predestined by God to be made into the representation of Jesus Christ.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28-29, Emphasis mine).

God foreknew you and predestined you to be made in the image of His Son. We can easily go by this passage without thinking through the implications of what the Spirit wants to teach us. We cannot blame God for the bad things that have happened in the course of our lives. Sometimes, these things have happened because of our own choices. What God says is that He will use each situation to work good into our lives if we will be open to His teaching and leading us by His Spirit. The wonderful thing is that God has seen the end from the beginning. He had each of us on His heart before the world was made. He foreknew you and predestined you to be shaped and molded into a person like His Son. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). The Message Bible translates that verse in this way, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” The work of God in the world is to prepare you for eternity.

“Character on earth will prove an everlasting possession in the world to come” (J.C. Ryle). If you want to be great in the sight of God, how are you responding to the difficult circumstances that have come your way? Are you ready and prepared to meet your God? How much of His character will you reflect in that day?

What do you want the outcome of your life to be? What do you want for Jesus to say to you on that day? He will say to many, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and I hope that you are a believer and that He will say it to you, dear reader. If you want to be effective with your life and leave the world a bit better by being here, then it is wise to stop and ask yourself what kind of a difference are you making with your life? Is it a difference that only lasts for this life, or is it something that is eternal? Do you labor for temporary rewards for your skills, time, energy, and money that you spend, or for eternal rewards? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). Please help us, Holy Spirit, to live for eternity.

Keith Thomas. Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death.

Preparing for Death 4 (Scroll down for parts 1-3)

2 Corinthians 3:18.

We have been meditating on the fact that the Lord sees everything we have ever done for Him, and nothing escapes His attention. The day will come when, as Christians, we will gain our inheritance given to us in Christ before time began.

34Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 37“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” 40“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40).

I find it interesting that the believers had forgotten the acts of kindness that they had done, but God hadn’t. He recorded every act of kindness, and He will reward us openly at the Judgment Seat of Christ. To whom was He referring to in calling some the least of His brothers? I think it would be those around us who are little noticed. Perhaps, they are those who cannot help themselves, those sick, or in prison. He is ever close to those who are poor in things of this world, those that are strangers to us, those who are in bondage to a religion of works. He wants to use each of us to set them free, to visit them, to feed them—not only bread and water but also to give them the Bread of Life, too (John 6:35).

The Reward of Christlikeness

Preparation for eternity can only take place while we are here on Earth because we graduate to eternity with the character that we have at death. I believe that our “position” or “rank” in heaven depends on how much of the servant nature of Christ we have demonstrated while on Earth. To whatever degree the character of Christ has been imprinted on your life while on Earth, that will be your degree of reward in eternity. The word character was first used to describe the imprint on paper of the letters of a printing press. God has sought to divinely imprint the nature and the character of Christ deep into your soul for others to read.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

When we come to Christ, our spirit is renewed or made alive from its dead state of being apart from God (Ephesians 2:1, 5), but there is still work that needs to take place on our soul—our mind, will, conscience and emotions. God wants to renew and transform that inner part of us as we meditate on His Word and are obedient to His Spirit. King David said it well in the Shepherd’s Psalm: “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3). Peter, in his first letter wrote: “For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Our mind, will, and emotions are to be brought under the leadership and guidance of the Spirit of God. Character is the goal of our faith. We will be rewarded by how much of the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ is in us. Help us, Holy Spirit, to die to ourselves that we may put on Christlikeness.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

Does the Bible Teach Soul Sleep? (Continued from Part 1 below)

In the Old Testament, 1 Kings 17:17, we find a story about a little boy who was raised from the dead. He was the son of a woman who had helped the prophet Elijah. She was a widow, and this was her only son. The boy was ill and getting worse, until he finally stopped breathing (NIV translation). In the Hebrew, it literally says that his soul (Heb. “nephesh”) had left. In verse 22 of the same passage we are told that the boy’s life returned to him after Elijah prayed for the boy. The Hebrew word again used is “nephesh,” which literally means that the boy’s soul returned! Like Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8, we again see the invisible part of a person’s being, his soul, returning to his body.

We are told that at this moment, in heaven, are the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23), and in another place, that when Christ returns for His church: “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Their bodies were in the grave but they themselves, the unseen part of their nature, their spirit and soul, are with the Lord. They are very much alive, but in a different realm, a different life. Paul the apostle wrote: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). He also writes to the church at Philippi about his desire to die and be with Christ:

22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:22-24).

Note that Paul is not expecting to be unconscious in sleep when he dies; he fully expects to be very much alive. He calls it better by far! The word “depart” in verse 23 above, is translated from the Greek word that was used for the loosing of an anchor. A.T. Robertson translates it, “To weigh anchor and put out to sea.” What a beautiful picture! It reminds us of the scene in the movie “Lord of The Rings,” when Bilbo Baggins departs the Grey Havens and puts out to sea to start a new adventure! It is a wonderful analogy of what some perceive as an end, but instead it really is a new beginning. If Paul was readying himself to go to sleep for two thousand years, I don’t see how that could be called “better by far.” No, Paul was getting ready to go to another place, a place that was “better by far!” A place where; “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him!” (1 Corinthians 2:14.)

Just imagine if a butterfly were to try to explain to a caterpillar what his new life would become. The caterpillar would have no frame of reference to comprehend what it would be like to fly, in a glorious new body, not bound to the earth. If the caterpillar were able to comprehend this, would it choose not to go into its pupa state and be transformed? During our time out of our body, we will have fellowship with the Lord in a spiritual place. The only reason that spiritual things are not as real to us now, is that we are bound to this earth, and only able to function on one level, one realm. But a day is coming when we will experience all that God has prepared for us. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:2-3). Our purpose in this life, is to be prepared for this most excellent adventure into a realm which is described as: BETTER BY FAR! Keith Thomas