Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Part 3 of "The Timing & Significance of the Rapture"

Question 3: Why is it Critical that the Church Understand the Doctrine of the Rapture?

Now that we’ve seen what happens to us, where we’ll be and some of what we’ll be doing in Heaven after the Rapture, we need to reflect carefully on what all of this means for us as children of God now, in our life before the Rapture. Why is it so crucial for the Church to understand fully this great doctrine? The answer is enlightening, and encouraging.

Our Mind is to be set on Things Above

A Christian who is maturing daily in a close and personal relationship with Jesus will begin to find themselves naturally living their entire life, every moment, in the immediate expectancy of His imminent return, which is initiated by this ecstatic event that has come to be known as the Rapture. Not only do we need to know this event thoroughly, we should be living for its outcome and in joyful anticipation of its transcendent climax. The Rapture transports us to the moment of our glorification in Jesus Christ, into His presence forever. Moreover, the Rapture declares the soon coming of God’s Kingdom on the earth, and its King, Jesus, reigning in justice and righteousness. If you are not living to be glorified in Christ and for the establishment of God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven, then what are you living for? Prayerfully consider that the New Testament believers were living for Jesus’ return, as abundantly reflected in the writings of the apostles and the words of the Lord.

The following verses are just a sample of what is underlying the thrust of the whole New Testament. We see this anticipation and expectancy in the Gospels and in Acts, in Paul’s letters and the general epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude, as well as the book of Hebrews.

So think clearly and exercise self-control and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (for the Church, that is the Rapture); as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).”

…looking for and hastening (the Greek word is speudo, “to desire earnestly” –Thayer’s Lexicon) the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12a)…

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:7-8).

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28).

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

And through Paul, the Holy Spirit says again,

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (we are living lives looking for Jesus, and looking for His glorious appearing), (Jesus) who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you (Titus 2:11-15).

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (the wrath to come is God’s judgment of the world in the Great Tribulation and the final “Great White Throne” judgment of the unbelieving dead, both yet future to the Church Age) (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

…eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7b)…

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21).

So, how are we Christians to live in this present age? We are to live our lives looking to Jesus moment by moment as He “purifies for Himself His own special people,” and we should be looking for Jesus at the Rapture of the Church, eagerly waiting for Him to come from Heaven because He brings our blessed hope, our glorification in Him! We are to be resting our hope fully upon Jesus and the grace that is to be brought to us at His revelation, earnestly desiring that day! The grace to be brought to us at His revelation is our glorification, our eternal life in Him and the measureless blessing of our God’s lovingkindness. Forgiveness is the removal of sin once counted against us, but grace is both God’s undeserved kindness toward us in His blessing and power for His Church today and His unending and unknowable blessings that He will pour out on us for all eternity!

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:2-4).

Why do we live our lives with our minds set on Jesus and looking for His return at any time? Because “when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” The closer we are getting to Jesus, the more we groan to be clothed in our new bodies and to be one with Him in glory.

Our Blessed and Living Hope

Let’s look now at Jesus’ own comments on our blessed hope. Most Christians know that Jesus promised His Church that He would come again for her one day, but sadly, some still do not know that He was referring to what we now know is the Rapture, the day of the Church’s great departure from this temporary, fading life and out of this fallen, dying world.

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 (the Rapture takes us to Heaven, where we “appear with Him in glory”, Colossians 3:4). And where I go you know, and the way you know (John 14:2-6).

With this very statement in mind, among others, Peter said,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).”

Our eternal life, in and through and with Jesus, is our living hope (Paul called it our blessed hope). We have been born again to it by our God and Father who has, according to His abundant mercy, begotten us again to a hope that is alive. Our hope of glory is Christ, who is alive through His resurrection from the dead. Because He is alive, we too are alive to God by faith in Him. And our Father has a place for each of us in His house that Jesus is preparing for each of us that are His, an imperishable and undefiled inheritance that will never fade away. Jesus is coming again to receive us to Himself, that where He is, we may be also, a place reserved in Heaven for each of us.

In the verses from John 14, Jesus is speaking to His disciples only. We know they are representative of all of His followers in general because His return for them did not take place during the disciple’s lifetimes. When each of the disciples died, they certainly did go to be with the Lord in His house, in a “mansion” made just for them, as all Christians do who die prior to the Rapture. But, the Lord specifically said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Now, when the Lord returns at His Second Coming, at the end of the Tribulation, He is coming from Heaven to the earth, with the previously raptured and glorified Church, to establish God’s Kingdom on earth for His 1,000 year reign. So, Jesus’ promise in John 14, speaking of taking His followers out of the earth to their Heavenly mansions, must be speaking of the Rapture, not the Second Coming. His promise lines up perfectly with the verses on the Rapture that speak of believers being snatched out of the earth to be with the Lord always (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Today, as Jesus said, we know where He has gone and we know the way. And, we are kept by the power of God through faith for this salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Someone may ask, “How can I know the way?”

Jesus says to one and all the same, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14).”

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).

In light of our daily, personal relationship with the Lord, how critical is it for the Church to understand and live in anticipation of this, the greatest of all moments?

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