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Rapture Defined: “In premillennialism, Christ’s removal of the church from the world. It is variously maintained that it will occur prior to, during, or following the great tribulation.”[1] (M. J. Erickson 2001, 167) Is this doctrine biblically true? Many millions of Christian believes that they ‘will be bodily taken up from the earth in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ The primary verse for this doctrinal position is 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The word “rapture” itself is not found in the Scriptures. Of course, this does not itself mean that the doctrine is unbiblical. The objective of this publication is to teach what the Scriptures really teach.

The doctrine that every Christian found in a righteous standing with God is going to heaven when they dies and that some will be caught away to heaven has always been the basic idea of the rapture doctrine. The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary writes, “God’s taking the church out of the world instantaneously. The Latin term rapio, which means to “snatch away” or “carry off,” is the source of the English word.”[2] The Tyndale Bible Dictionary writes, “Christian term used to denote the ascension (or lifting up) of Christians at the time of Christ’s second coming. This is the noun corresponding to the verb used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where those believers who are still alive at the coming of Christ are described as being “caught up” together with their resurrected fellow Christians to meet him “in the air.” (It may be relevant to note that the verb of 1 Thes 4:17 is used in 2 Cor 12:2–3 to denote Paul’s mysterious experience of being “caught up” into the third heaven, or paradise.)”[3]

Different Views of the Rapture

The Bible clearly says that prior the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, there will be a period, which is referred to as the “great tribulation. In speaking of the time before Jesus return, Jesus said, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” (Matt 24:21, NASB) The apostle John wrote, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Reve. 20:6, NASB) There are three main views to the rapture, and it has to do with when that rapture will occur. Some hold that the rapture will happen right before the great tribulation that Jesus spoke of (Pre-Tribulation view), while others argue that it will come during the tribulation (Pre-Wrath view), and others say the rapture will come after the great tribulation (Post-Tribulation view). Dr. Alan D. Hultberg (PhD, professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology) defends the Pre-Wrath view; Craig Blaising (PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary and president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) defends the Pre-Tribulation view; and Douglas Moo (PhD, University of St. Andrews and professor of New Testament at Wheaton College) sets forth the Post-Tribulation view.

The objective of this chapter is not to defend or debunk any of these views of the rapture. What we intend to do is used the Word of God, as the standard by which we will evaluate the truthfulness of the rapture doctrine itself (2 Tim. 1:13; 3:16-17) In other words, what does the Word of God say about the rapture?

When the apostle Paul said that Christians ‘will be caught up together to meet the Lord,’ what was context?

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep [“those who sleep in death,” NIV; “those who have died,” GNT; “the believers who have died” NLT], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Clearly, some Christian in the Thessalonica congregation had died. Paul encouraged his brothers and sisters to comfort one another with the resurrection hope, as they need not grieve at the same level as the unbelievers that have no such hope. Paul reminds them that they know that “Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (vs 14, RSV) In other words, “when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the [Thessalonian] believers who have died.”

Who are those that will ‘be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”? (1 Thess. 4:17)

Looking to verse 15, these ones ‘caught up to be with the Lord’ are those “who are left until the coming of the Lord.” In other words, these are the ones, who are alive at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, they must die before they are resurrected to heaven. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom. 6:3, 5, RSV) Paul said that some might ask, “‘how are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” (1 Cor. 15:35, RSV) He then answers his own question, “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:44, RSV) In other words, those who are taken to heaven at Jesus’ second coming, who are still alive, must die first. However, Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians this will be very brief. “I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52, RSV) Again, these are these are born again Christians who are alive at the end of the last days, when Christ returns in Kingdom power.

The apostle Paul wrote, “In the last days difficult times will come.” On this Knute Larson wrote, “The ‘last days’ is not some future event to which we look. It is now, Jesus Christ initiated this epoch, and it will continue uninterrupted until his return.[4] (2 Tim. 3”1, NASB) In other words, the last days began with the outpouring of Holy Spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. and will continue up unto his second coming. The apostle Peter wrote, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” (2 Pet. 3:3, NASB) On this David Walls and Max Anders wrote, “In the last days refers to all the days between the first advent of the Messiah and the second advent [coming]. Characteristic of that time frame, however long it will be, is the fact that people will make fun of the doctrine of the Second Coming. Scoffing means ‘to make fun of someone.’ It describes the characteristic attitude of the day toward the Second Coming. False teachers argued that the promise of the Second Coming had been delayed so long that we may safely conclude that it would never happen. As far as they could see, the world was going on just as it always had—people lived and died, but nothing really changed. They concluded that God’s promises were unreliable and that the universe was a stable, unchanging system where events like the Second Coming just don’t happen.”[5] On the last days, Thomas D. Lea writes, “In a sense Christians have been living in the last days since the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (see Acts 2:17).”[6]

Will Jesus appear in the cloud and take all remaining Christians to heaven with him as the world watches? What did Jesus say as far as the world of humanity ever seeing him again with their physical eyes? Jesus told his faithful disciples at the end of his life and ministry, “Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also.”  (John 14:19, RSV) In 33 C.E., Jesus returned to heaven as a spirit person, where no human can see. Jesus did appear to his disciples once more in human form, after his resurrection. However, in due time, Jesus will resurrect them to life with him in heaven as spirit persons.

What did Paul mean when he said, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven”?

Is it possible for Jesus to “descend from heaven” without human eyes seeing him? In the days of Abraham, in ancient Sodom and Gomorrah, the Father said, “I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me.” (Gen. 18:21, RSV) When the Father made that assessment, there were no human eyes, which saw him. However, they did see three of his angelic representatives, who had materialized in human form. (John 1:18) Therefore, it is not that Jesus is coming back in human flesh, but rather that he is turning his attention to his faithful followers, the righteous and the unrighteous, some of which will be resurrected to serve as kings, priest and judges in heaven with him for a thousand years. – John 5:28-29; Acts 24:1; Revelation 5:9-10; 20:6.[7]

How, then, are we to understand Jesus own words that says, “They will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”?

Luke 21:27 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Luke 21:27 and other verses like it (Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26; Lu 21:27), are not at odds with John 14:19, which says, “Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more.” Let us consider when the Father Lord said to Moses, “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” (Ex. 19:9, RSV) On this, Douglas K. Stuart wrote, “Moses learned of God’s intention to make personal appearances to Moses in/by means of (or in the form of) a cloud, out of which the people could hear him speaking to Moses. Thus, he would make plain to the people of Israel the fact of his communication to Moses, thus reducing the likelihood that the people would doubt Moses when he claimed to be delivering to them words from God. God wanted this confidence in Moses as his reliable prophet to be continuous and permanent (“so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you”).[8] Yes, the Father was invisibly present. However, the people of Israel saw visible evidence of God’s presence. Yet, no human eyes have ever seen God. Therefore, Jesus words mean that his presence will be known; humans will know that he has invisibly accomplished the Father’s will and purposes. In other words, they will mentally discern his presence.

Acts 1:9-11 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Notice that Jesus will come “in the same way,” not in the same physical human body that he had used to pay humanities debt. Well, what is the “same way”? Verse 9 tells us “a cloud took him out of their sight.” Jesus ascended in from earth in front of his disciples, not the whole world of mankind. The same will be true of his return. The whole of mankind will not physically see him, only those taken to heaven will because they will then be as he is, a spirit person. However, all of mankind will know Jesus has returned, just not physically.

Revelation 1:7 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, everyone who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

The clouds represent invisibility. Again, the Father told Moses: “I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” Did Moses see the Father? No. However, the people were well aware of his presence, listening as he spoke with Moses. (Ex. 19:9; see also Lev. 16:2; Num. 11:25) If Jesus literally appeared in a physical body in the sky, not every human could see him. For example, say he appeared over New York City, even people in Ohio would not see him, let alone in China, the United Kingdom, Australia, the African countries and the like. The seeing is discerning from the events taking place here on earth. This is why Jesus and his apostles gave so many descriptions and signs, so people could recognize the sign of the times. Yes, many will mock and reject his return but Armageddon will quickly follow, where these wicked ones will be destroyed, so, even they will be well aware of his presence. Moreover, they will have been warned by the evangelism of Christians beforehand. Who are those “who pierced him”? This cannot refer to the Roman soldiers, who have long been dead for over 2,000 years. It must be referring to those of mankind that have “pierced him” by abusing and oppressing his disciples in the close of “the last days.” – Matthew 25:40, 45.

Will Christians be taken to heaven in their physical bodies?

1 Corinthians 15:50 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Some might ask, were not Enoch and Elijah taken to heaven in their physical bodies?

Of Enoch, the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says, “The son of Jared who was taken up to God without dying (Gen. 5:18).”[9] The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says of Elijah, “Elisha requested a double portion (the firstborn’s share, cf. Dt 21:17) of his master’s spirit, for he desired to be Elijah’s full successor. Elisha knew his request was granted because he saw Elijah pass into the heavens in a whirlwind bearing a chariot and horses of fire. The young prophets who had accompanied Elisha searched in vain for Elijah in the mountains and valleys around the Jordan, but God had taken his faithful prophet home. Elijah thus joined Enoch as the only other man in the Bible who did not experience death.”[10] Is this true?

ENOCH

Hebrews 11:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

5 By faith, Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his transformation he was approved, having pleased God.

Some translators have chosen to go beyond the Scripture, being more in the realms of an interpretative translation. The Message Bible reads, “By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely.” Worse still the James Moffatt translation states, “It was by faith that Enoch was taken to heaven so that he never died.” All the original says is that “Enoch was taken away;” (why), “so that he did not experience death.” We need to work within what was written and no subject the text to our preconceived doctrinal ideas. Let us look at what Jesus adds to this …

John 3:13 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

13 No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

This is stated by the Son of God, who existed in heaven at the very time “Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death.” We know two primary points from Jesus’ exchange with Nicodemus: (1) Jesus had been in heaven before coming to the earth, and (2) no one was to ever ascend to heaven but those who were ‘born again.’ It is only by faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice that ones can be born again.

Since only Jesus himself had been in heaven before coming to the earth, he speaks with authority. Tenney offers a great line here: “Revelation, not discovery, is the basis for faith” (Tenney, EBC, p. 48). Some Jews of Nicodemus’s day taught that great saints would attain heaven by their godliness and righteous living. But no one ever sees heaven apart from the new birth.[11]

Here again, digging deeper we look at another New Testament writer, the Apostle Paul, who wrote …

Hebrews 11:13, 39-40 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

13 These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 39 And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.[12]

All prior true followers of God before Jesus’ ransom sacrifice would “died in faith.” Thomas D. Lea writes, “The promises for which believers eagerly waited appeared only in Christ. Old Testament saints did not experience the eternal inheritance. Their faith earned for them a remarkable reputation and favor with God. They lived and died in the hope of a fulfillment which none of them saw on earth. The reaping of the benefits did not occur until Christ opened the box of spiritual treasures.”[13]

Why would these ones not receive a heavenly inheritance at death, prior to Jesus’ ransom sacrifice? All of humankind has inherited sin from Adam, including Enoch. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) As man would come to find out in the era of the New Testament, the only means of salvation is by means of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Acts 4:12; 1 John 2:1, 2) Enoch lived three thousand years before Jesus’ days on the earth, and that ransom had not been paid at that time. Therefore, Enoch was simply asleep in death, awaiting a future resurrection. John 5:28-29

How then are we understand the phrase, “he did not experience death”? Enoch was an outstanding example of faith. “Enoch walked with God, and he was not there, because God took him.” (Gen 5:18, 21-24; Heb. 11:5; 12:1) He was a prophet of God, prophesying of God’s coming “with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all, and to convict them of all their ungodly deeds that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him.” Jude 14-15.

Enoch only lived 365 years in an era where everyone lived over 900 years because God “God took him.” Why would God take the only man walking with Him at the time? There is no doubt that this evil world was about to persecute Enoch for his prophecies, to the point of executing him. Instead of letting Satan and the wicked men of that day torture and kill this one faithful follower, God chose to take him in such a way, so as to not experience death. While we do not know how God did this, it is possible that he could have given Enoch a vision, and while in that vision, God took him so that he would not experience the pains of death. God had chosen to do a similar thing with Moses as well, disposing of his body. (Deut. 34:5-6; Jude 9) Like some other Bible details, we cannot be dogmatic. However, we can be certain of the following: (1) God took Enoch, (2) so he would not experience death, (3) but he did enter the sleep of death in such a way as to not experience that entry, (4) and had the hope of a future resurrection, (5) based on Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.

ELIJAH

2 Kings 2:11-12 Lexham English Bible (LEB)

11 Then they were walking, talking as they went. Suddenly a fiery chariot with horses of fire appeared and separated between the two of them. Elijah went up in the storm to the heavens 12 while Elisha was watching and crying out, “My father, my father; the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” But he could not see him any longer, and he grasped his clothes and tore them in two pieces.

What were “the heavens” to which “Elijah went up in the storm”? The Hebrew shamayim (always in the plural), is rendered “heavens,” and references several different meanings. It can refer to the universe, the atmosphere, the place where birds fly, and the spiritual heavens. The biblical evidence does not indicate that Elijah was taken into the physical heavens outside of earth’s atmosphere or the spiritual heavens. The heavens to where Elijah was taken were the sky where the birds fly. Elijah was taken up out of sight and delivered to another place, where he continued to live and serve God for a time. Some years later, in fact, Elijah penned a letter to Jehoram, the king of Judah, communicating God’s judgment, which was achieved soon afterward. – 2 Chronicles 21:1, 12-15

Jesus Christ himself, who clearly stated, also confirms this “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) The opportunity for life in heaven was not available to imperfect humans when they died, until the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. (Jn. 14:2-3; Heb. 9:24; 10:19-20) This is why we are told at 2 Kings 2:10, “then David slept with his fathers [died] and was buried in the city of David.” In other words, David had the hope of a future resurrection, once the ransom was paid. (Gen 3:15) The hope of a heavenly resurrection is not discussed in the Old Testament, nor any time prior to Christ, as he is the first to bring it up. (Matt. 19:21, 23-28; Lu 12:32; Jn. 14:2-3) The resurrection hope was not fully understood until after Pentecost 33 C.E.—Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4, 29-36; Rom 8:16, 17.

Even Job expected that at his death, he would be asleep in death in the grave, until a future resurrection. (Job 14:13-15) Therefore, again, “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.” – John 3:13, RSV.

Should Christians that are alive at Christs return that they will just disappear and be taken to heaven without ever having to die?

Romans 6:3-5 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

What Jesus experienced, a death and resurrection, is what all Christian will have to experience, following the pattern that Jesus hat set.

1 Corinthians 15:35-36, 44 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

Here, we can see that death comes before the person receives the spiritual body.

Will Christians, who are to serve with Christ as priests, kings, and judges (Rev 5:9-10; 20:6), be taken to heaven prior to the great tribulation, during, or after?

Matthew 24:21-22 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect [chosen ones][14] those days will be shortened.

We notice that the texts above do not say that all of the elect will be taken before the great tribulation. Rather, it says that the great tribulation will be cut short for their sake This suggests that some of the elect will still be present on earth during the great tribulation, some even surviving the great tribulation, meaning the are there afterward as well.

Revelation 7:4, 9-10, 14 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand[15] sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel, After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The elect (chosen ones), who had the great tribulation cut short for their sake, are part of the hundred and forty-four thousand, of Revelation 7:4. The great multitude is other Christians, who are not a part of the elect, who are not going to heaven to serve as kings, priests, and judges with Jesus Christ. The good news is that this great multitude of Christians will survive the great tribulation as well. God created the earth to be inhabited, to be filled with perfect humans, who are over the animals, and under the sovereignty of God. (Gen 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps 104:5; 115:16; Eccl 1:4) Sin did not dissuade God from his plans (Isa. 45:18); hence, he has saved redeemable humankind by Jesus ransom sacrifice. It seems that the Bible offers two hopes to redeemed humans, (1) a heavenly hope, or (2) an earthly hope.[16] It also seems that those with the heavenly hope are limited in number, and are going to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges either on the earth or over the earth from heaven. It seems that those with the earthly hope are going to receive everlasting life here on a paradise earth as originally intended.

What protection is there for true Christian during this coming great tribulation?

Matthew 7:21-23 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

1 John 2:15-17 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Based on who can enter into the kingdom, ‘those doing the will of the Father,’ what should we know? What the will of the Father is? Did the many on the path to destruction believe they were doing the will of the Father? What did Jesus say he would say to those who thought they were doing the right thing or thought they were teaching the right thing but were not? ANSWER: ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ Certainly, all Christian would want to make sure that they are doing the will of the Father. One way to do this is to heed the words of the apostle Paul.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

5 Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?

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Will the great multitude of Christians “who have come out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14), be taken to heaven?

The New Earth: The Earthly Hope

In the O[ld] T[estament] the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22) The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by OT authors, but they did express the belief that a humans ultimate destiny is an earthly one.[17] This vision is clarified in the N[ew] T[estament]. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18-21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1-8).

The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).

The fact that the universe will be created anew[18] shows that God’s goals for humans is not an ethereal and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation. (Elwell 2001, 828-29)

Why are these elect or chosen ones being taken to heaven to be with Christ?

Revelation 5:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign over the earth.”

Revelation 20:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Will these elect or chosen ones return to the earth as humans some time later?

1 Thessalonians 4:17 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

We notice that those who are caught away to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, will always be with him.

What if we are asked, ‘do you believe in the rapture?’ We can comment that there are at least four different views or interpretations of the doctrine of the rapture. Then, kindly ask them, what do you mean by the rapture? Allow for a response … After hearing what they have to say, we might ask them a question like, “Is it not important that we inspect our beliefs against what the Bible says? Then, use the material above to respond.

We might add that many Christian denominations feel that the rapture is what God will use so that his true followers do not have to experience the horrors of the great tribulation.  However, Scripture makes it clear that the great multitude of Christians, who actually have a hope of living forever here on the earth, as well as some of the elect (chosen ones who will rule with Christ as kings, priest, and judges over the earth), will live through the great tribulation. This means we will have protection from God. (Zeph. 2:3; Pro. 2:21-22) However, some will die during the great tribulation. If it is one of the great multitude, who have an earthly hope, they will be resurrected after Armageddon, living throughout the thousand year reign of Christ here on earth. If it is one of the elect, he or she will be resurrected to heaven to be with the Lord ( 1 Thess. 4:17), in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51-52), going from a physical body to a spiritual body. (Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 15:35-36, 44) Having a great multitude of Christian survive Armageddon (Rev 7:9-10, 14;), with millions of others being resurrected back here to earth (John 8:28-29; Acts 24:15), taking care of the things originally commanded of Adam (Gen. 1:28; 2:8, 15), God’s originally intended purpose (Isa. 45:18), is biblical. (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) While we await these future things, we want to carry out the will and a purpose of the Father (Matt 7:21-23; 1 John 2:15-17), as well as Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Questions for Review

  • What does the word Rapture mean and is it biblical?
  • When the apostle Paul said that Christians ‘will be caught up together to meet the Lord,’ what was context?
  • Who are those that will ‘be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”? (1 Thess. 4:17) How does this happen?
  • Will Jesus appear in the cloud and take all remaining Christians to heaven with him as the world watches?
  • What did Jesus say as far as the world of mankind never seeing him again with their physical eyes?
  • What did Paul mean when he said, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven”?
  • In what sense, then, will humans “see” the Lord “coming in a cloud”?
  • Will Christians be taken to heaven in their physical bodies?
  • Should Christians that are alive at Christs return that they will just disappear and be taken to heaven without ever having to die?
  • Will Christians, who are to serve with Christ as priests, kings, and judges (Rev 5:9-10; 20:6), be taken to heaven prior to the great tribulation, during, or after?
  • What protection is there for true Christian during this coming great tribulation?
  • Will the great multitude of Christians “who have come out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14), be taken to heaven?
  • Why are these elect or chosen ones being taken to heaven to be with Christ?
  • Will these elect or chosen ones return to the earth as humans some time later?
  • What if someone asks us, ‘do you believe in the rapture,’ how might we respond?

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[1] Rapture, Midtribulational view of the The idea that the church will go through half of the tribulation and then be raptured by Christ.

Rapture, Partial A reference to the idea that some persons will be raptured early and others later: The time depends on their readiness.

Rapture, Posttribulational view of the The doctrine that the church will go through the great tribulation and then will be caught up to meet Christ.

Rapture, Pretribulational view of the The idea that Christ will remove the church from the world prior to the great tribulation. (M. J. Erickson 2001, 167)

[2] Pete Schemm, “Rapture,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1366.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1112.

[4] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 300.

[5] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 141.

[6] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 341.

[7] http://www.christianpublishers.org/resurrection-bible-s-view

[8] Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 425.

[9] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, et al., eds., “Enoch,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 489.

[10] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 691–692.

[11] Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 53.

[12] These verses comprise the final paragraph of the chapter. It serves a twofold function: (1) to summarize the chapter in succinct fashion, and (2) to serve as a transition to 12:1–13. The author concludes his lengthy list of examples by stating two truths in v. 39: (1) all the heroes mentioned “were commended” by God for their faith, (2) “yet none of them received what had been promised.” God’s commendation of their faith gives warrant for the author to use these men and women as examples for his readers to emulate. Yet contrary to expectation, none of these heroes received in their lifetimes the fulfillment of the promise (singular) God had made to them. – David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 566.

[13] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 206.

[14] “But even in judgment, the Lord will display mercy, particularly for the sake of the elect (plural of eklektos, ‘select, chosen ones’). These are those who have placed faith in him and followed him as his disciples. The use of the term elect also highlights the Lords sovereign choice as to who these people will be. – Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 401.

[15] The case for symbolism is exegetically weak. The principal reason for the view is a predisposition to make the 144,000 into a group representative of the church with which no possible numerical connection exists. No justification can be found for understanding the simple statement of fact in v. 4 as a figure of speech. It is a definite number [at 7:4] in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9. If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally. As God reserved 7,000 in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:4), He will reserve 144,000 for Himself during the future Great Tribulation. (Bold mine) – Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1992), 474.

[16] In the O[ld] T[estament] the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22) The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by OT authors, but they did express the belief that a humans ultimate destiny is an earthly one. [It is unwise to speak of the written Word of God as if it were of human origin, saying ‘OT authors express the belief,’ when what was written is the meaning and message of what God wanted to convey by means of the human author. – Edward D. Andrews] This vision is clarified in the N[ew] T[estament]. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18-21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1-8).

The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).

The fact that the universe will be created anew [Create anew does not mean a complete destruction followed by a re-creation, but instead a renewal of the present universe. – Edward D. Andrews] shows that God’s goals for humans is not an ethereal and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation. (Elwell 2001, 828-29)

[17] It is unwise to speak of the written Word of God as if it were of human origin, saying ‘OT authors express the belief,’ when what was written is the meaning and message of what God wanted to convey by means of the human author.

[18] Create anew does not mean a complete destruction followed by a re-creation, but instead a renewal of the present universe.