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

Called to be Married to Christ

The Person of Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the sheep who wanders over the hillsides to find the one lamb that becomes conscious of being a long way from the Shepherd of the flock (Luke 15:4). He knows and calls His people by name. Over a long period of time, He has gone to great lengths to show man his need of a Savior from sin. God’s plan called for the most loving thing that anyone could ever do for his or her beloved. He died for them to set them free from sin. This act of love brings about the strongest, most powerful thing in the universe—the power of love, agapé love. This kind of love is self-sacrificing and brings about a love response from the one who receives such grace. God has sent His Son into the world to win and woo His bride to Himself, especially those who are far away from Him and wandering near wolves. To show us just how special we are to Him, Paul the apostle, in writing to the church, the people of God at Corinth, deliberately speaks of those who are born-again believers as being prepared for a wedding with Christ Himself:

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Corinthians 11:2).

The God of all creation wants us home and in a marriage covenant with His Son, the Lord Jesus. A wedding ceremony between a man and woman is just a picture of what God in Christ has done for His Church, the people called into a marriage relationship with Jesus. Paul the Apostle sees the ministry that God gave him as one who prepares the bride of Christ so that she may be pure and spotless for her wedding. No matter what you have done and no matter where you have been, the Bridegroom can make you clean or has made you clean, pure and spotless. If you are a Christian, you have been clothed with a robe of purity and righteousness that He bought for you at Calvary’s cross. He is calling for His bride to come home. Paul is not alone in using this analogy of a marriage relationship. The prophet Isaiah, also speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote:

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5).

When you think of a wedding ceremony between a man and woman, of what traditions can you think of that perhaps symbolizes and represents the relationship between God and His church? One of the first things that speak of this heavenly union in a wedding ceremony, is that of the bride leaving her father and mother and the new couple becoming one with her betrothed. Paul the apostle writes in another letter about becoming one with Christ when he writes about marriage:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Paul is speaking on two levels, about a man and his wife’s relationship but also about the heavenly union between Christ and His bride, the Church. How wonderful it is for our heavenly Bridegroom to call us into union with Himself. How loved we are!

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

Eternity is Written on Our Soul

We are continuing to meditate on the topic of eternity, so today we begin our look at the Millennium. Somehow, in our inner soul, it just does not ring true that this life that we experience in our short time on earth is all that there is. First, when one looks at the complexities of life, the closer we get to the structure of atoms, one who really examines the evidence, finds it completely illogical to buy into any theory that denies our Creator. There are questions that science cannot answer. There is something in our hearts that tells us that there is more to life than what we experience in the here and now. King Solomon, known as one of the wisest men who have ever lived, said:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Solomon spoke of God’s creative design by saying that our inner nature is divinely imprinted with impressions of eternity. The French Bible translates the original Hebrew by saying that God has “set the thoughts of eternity in our hearts.” Prince Charles once talked about the inner emptiness of the human soul. He said, “For all the advantages of science, there remains deep in the soul a persistent and unconscious anxiety that something is missing.” Princess Diana, speaking at a charity event, spoke of “an overwhelming sense of loss and isolation that undermines many people’s efforts to survive and cope with the complexities of modern life. They know,” she said, “something is missing.” Deep in our heart of hearts, until we come to Christ, there is an awareness of a void, an emptiness of soul. We try to satisfy it with drugs, alcohol, sex, possessions, power, money, and prestige, but nothing satisfies because we are created with that emptiness. As Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, wrote, “Within each human being there is a God-shaped void.”

C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, wrote:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

The fifth-century philosopher Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are unquieted until they find their rest in Thee.”[1] This missing piece is God Himself.  He is the Living Water, the Bread of Life. He alone is the only One that can satisfy us. Haggai the prophet writes: “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Haggai 2:7). The One who is desired of all nations, the Holy One of Israel, Jesus the Messiah, will come and stand upon the Earth, and in our resurrection bodies, we shall see God. This is what Job told us:

25“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26“Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

The Second Coming of Christ and His presence on Earth will precede a glorious time of peace. Over the next few days, we will examine what the Bible says about the thousand years of righteousness, joy, and peace under the reign of the King of Kings, Messiah Jesus.

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

[1] http://www.newlife.org/know-god-personally