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Rapture: What is the meaning of this term?

Gary Googe Mar 05

The term “Rapture” is used by Christians in this present Dispensation of Grace for the moment of their resurrection. Suddenly all believers of our time will gain a new resurrection body with the features of our Lord’s resurrection body.

Philippians 3:20,21

20 For our conversation [our citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]

There is a need for such a transformation because we cannot enter into the presence of God and heaven in our present state. Therefore, God is going to provide us with a transformation. This occurs at the time of that which is called the Rapture.

I Corinthians 15:50-54

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. [Emphasis added]

The word Rapture is used because it is a term that refers to an act or fact of being transported, a state of being rapt [lifted up] or carried out of oneself. On the occasion of the Rapture, believers are suddenly transformed into their resurrection body. Their new body will not be subject to the suffering and death of their present body, along with all its other limitations. They are then lifted off this earth to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air to be with Him forever.

The term Rapture is not found in the Bible, but the event certainly is. It relates specifically to the present age of grace known by many believers as the Dispensation of The Grace of God.

Ephesians 3:2

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [Emphasis added]

The Rapture is called a mystery, that is, a secret held in the mind of God. This whole period of history of which we are a part today, where we get to be a part of such an event and blessing as the Rapture, was not made known to the prophets of Old Testament times. This means there is nothing about this occasion and the blessing it provides anywhere in the Old Testament writings. In fact, it is only revealed and discussed in the writings of the Apostle Paul. God only provided this special revelation to us through the Apostle Paul.

Ephesians 3:3-5

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [Emphasis added]

The word “as” in verse five is used to show contrast. Never before had this information and this provision been made known.

Probably the most commonly cited passage of Scripture that describes the occasion of the Rapture is I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [believers who have passed away], that ye sorrow not, even as others [unbelievers] which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him [a reference to believers of this present age of grace who died before that time].

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord [a reference to the Rapture, not the Second Coming] shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first [a reference to those members of the Body of Christ who have died before this occasion]:

17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. [Emphasis added]

Please notice that as believers we meet the Lord in the air. On this occasion He does not come to touch down and remain on the earth, as He will at His Second Coming. At the Second Coming He comes to rule and reign here, but that does not happen at the Rapture. This great event is mentioned many times in Paul’s thirteen epistles [Galatians as 1:4; I Corinthians 4:5; 11:26; 15:51-54; II Corinthians 4:14; Philippians 1:6; 3:11; Colossians 3:4; I Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; II Thessalonians 2:1-3; Titus 2:13].

The fact that the Rapture is a “mystery” doctrine, one totally unknown to the apostles and prophets of the Old Testament, is given in I Corinthians 15:51-54, a passage we noted earlier.

The subject of resurrection for Old Testament saints before this present age of grace was taught by the prophets of old [Genesis 22:5 cf. Hebrews 11:19; Psalm 16:10,11; 49:14,15], but Paul says the occasion of our resurrection is a “mystery,” something totally unknown by any of those prophets. It was the Apostle Paul who first revealed it.

The purpose of the Rapture is to provide members of the Body of Christ with a resurrection body and to transport them to the place of their inheritance in heaven. This can be known by comparing the I Corinthians 15:51-58 passage we saw earlier to Philippians 3:20,21.

Philippians 3:20,21

20 For our conversation [our citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]

The Rapture is often confused with the Second Coming of Christ. They are not the same. The contrast between these two events is as follows:

1st–The Rapture is a mystery doctrine [Ephesians 3:3-5 cf. I Corinthians 15:51-53]; the Second Coming is not. Among other things, this means the subject of the Rapture is only found in the epistles of the Apostle Paul.

2nd–The Rapture is a private event (Thessalonians 4:13-18); the Second Coming is not [Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:23-27]. When the Rapture occurs believers will suddenly be taken off this world, but life for the unbelievers of the world will carry right on as usual.

3rd–The Rapture is imminent; the Second Coming is not [Matthew 24; Revelation; Luke 21:25-28]. Before the Second Coming can occur, many prophecies must first be fulfilled. Therefore, quite unlike the time before the Rapture, there will be many signs leading up to the Second Coming of Christ [Matthew 24:29-36; Luke 21:25-28; Acts 2:19-21; Revelation 6-19]. Two other things should be noted about this coming time after the Rapture and before the Second Coming.

1.] There must be a seven-year period of Tribulation before the Second Coming can occur [Matthew 24:21; Revelation 12:6 [reference to the last half of the Tribulation period]].

2.] The world must be evangelized with the Gospel of the Kingdom [which is not the same as the Gospel of the Grace of God] before the Second Coming can occur [Matthew 24:14; Revelation]. Contrary to what is often taught, the world has already been evangelized many times with Paul’s Gospel of the Grace of God, but it has not yet been evangelized with the Gospel of The Kingdom [Colossians 1:23; I Thessalonians 1:8].

4th–At the Rapture Christ meets believers in the air; He does not touch the earth [I Thessalonians 4:17]. At the Second Coming Christ will stand on the Mt. of Olives [Zechariah 14:4], arriving precisely where He departed at His ascension [Acts 1:11].

5th–At the Rapture only believers will be removed from the earth [Thessalonians 4:16, 17]; at the Second Coming only unbelievers will be removed [Matthew 13:24-30, 13:36-43—the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares; also 24:45-51; 25:31-46].

6th–At the Rapture there will be no changes in nature on the earth; at the Second Coming there will many changes [Isaiah 35; 65:19-21; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Romans 8:18-23].

7th–At the Rapture the world is not judged; at the Second Coming it is [Jude 14,15].

8th–At the Rapture the covenants to Israel still remain unfulfilled; at the Second Coming they will all be completely fulfilled [Acts 15:16; Romans 11:26,27; Revelation 5:10 cf. Matthew 6:10].

9th–At the Rapture Satan is not judged; at the Second Coming he will be judged, cast off the earth and bound [Revelation 20:2].

All these comparisons clearly demonstrate that the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are two different and separate events. One is not to be confused with the other, as they often are in some “Christian” circles.

Knowledge of the Rapture provides positive motivation for every believer to be obedient to the Lord and highly productive in good works of one kind or another. The context of this next passage is a discussion of the Rapture.

I Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. [Emphasis added]

II Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. [Emphasis added]

Question: If you knew the Rapture was going to occur very soon, what changes would you make in your life?

The Rapture should by no means be an event that is feared or dreaded. The responsive believer eagerly anticipates it. Please notice the Apostle Paul’s attitude about it.

II Timothy 4:8

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. [Emphasis added]

The Rapture is immediately followed by this which is called the Judgment Seat of Christ, a judgment in heaven for believers only.

I Corinthians 3:11-15

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. [Emphasis added]

The Rapture is the occasion when the production of all members of the Body of Christ will be evaluated. Furthermore, it is on this occasion that there will be a glorious distribution of rewards that will be enjoyed by each member of the Body of Christ forever and ever. This should serve as a primary motivator for good works, that is, the learning and application of God’s Word to be carried out by every believer. This involves making applications that are consistent with God’s Word that is directed specifically to us as members of the Body of Christ Church.

II Timothy 2:15

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

II Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. [Emphasis added]

The Rapture is imminent, meaning it could occur at any moment. Are you ready? As I mentioned before, what changes would you make in your life if you knew it was going to happen within a year? Remember: Your status and your rewards for all eternity are being determined in this life.

 

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