Summary: This message sets out to affirm that the teaching of the 'rapture' is biblically sound. It discusses why and when it will occur - as well as the nature and purpose of the great tribulation period.
The Bible: A Love Story
Pt 6: The Rapture of the Bride (part 1)
The truth of the 'rapture' of believers, though widely-held among evangelical Christians in the past, appears to have fallen into disrepute among many of late.
One has only to go to the Internet (particularly YouTube) to get an idea of how much the concept of a 'secret' rapture is now not only denied even derided by many believers today. The word 'secret' is often used pejoratively (as if the doctrine were something sinister) and the concept is now portrayed in many quarters as having no basis in Scripture whatsoever. Instead, it is regarded as an almost cult-like belief springing from a perverse movement in the church during the early nineteenth century. At the very least, the 'rapture' is often touted as a doctrine 'invented' by John Nelson Darby in the 19th Century.
I believe that this perspective represents a superficial view of Scripture - and how it's used by the Spirit of God. It's true that the doctrine of the 'rapture' of believers has only come into real prominence since the 19th Century but this is perfectly in line with the observable process of Divine revelation. Not that new doctrine has been revealed (2 Peter 1:19; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) but that certain truths are more emphasised and brought into a fresh perspective as they become particularly relevant to the Church at specific points in history.
Accordingly, truths concerning the walk of the believer and response to persecution were paramount in the early church because these truths were particularly pertinent to conditions prevailing at that time. Again, in the reformation, the truth of justification by faith was urgently called for and Martin Luther, among others (Calvin, Zwingli; Melanchthon etc), was instrumental in reviving and emphasising the great doctrines of grace (the five 'solae').
And it has been the same with the doctrine of the 'rapture' of believers. In these last days, as world events rush to their inevitable conclusion, as Israel are gathered back in the land, and as everything points to the return of the Lord to this earth in judgement, it has become time for the Spirit of God to bring to our conscious awareness the truth of a separate return of the Lord for his Church. In order to do so, as with He did with the great reformers of the 16th century, the Holy Spirit has similarly used men such as J.N. Darby (1800-1882) to highlight the truth of the Lord's soon return for the Church.
I now hope to show that the truth of the 'rapture' is not some fanciful imagining - nor a concocted conspiracy, but is actually perfectly consistent with New Testament teaching! You may not agree with my conclusions, but I pray that at the very least, you will concede that there does appear to be some grounds for arriving at these conclusions.
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As believers in Christ, we all agree that the Lord is going to return to the earth in glory.
Zechariah 14:1-9 contains a graphic description of this event! Our Lord, as the Messiah/King, will reign over this earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4) in a kingdom known as as "The Kingdom of Heaven" (see message: "Millennialism").
So how does the Church, the 'Bride' and 'Body' of Christ, fit into all this?
Well, we know of four groups that will inhabit the millennial earth:
1. All the Israelites who survive the Great
* These Israelites will presumably be born-again in the same way as we are as they will have been made spiritually alive by the in-breathing of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:9-10,14). This will be the fulfilment of the New Covenant in respect of the nation as a whole (Jeremiah 31:33).
2. Those among the nations who (i) survive
Armageddon and (ii) do not worship the Beast or his image (Matt.25:31>> et seq.).
* These individuals will be in natural bodies
and some will live and die on the earth although they will be much longer-lived than people today: a man will be regarded as a mere child at 100-years-old: (Isaiah 65:20).
3. The 12 apostles who will sit on thrones -
judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt.19:28).
* However, as members of the Church, they will presumably possess glorified bodies.
4. Saints who are martyred in the Great Tribulation (Rev. 20:4).
* These martyrs will be resurrected and reign with Christ a thousand years. Because they take part in the 'first resurrection" (like us) and rule for a thousand years, they must either receive glorified bodies (like us in the Church) - or at least bodies under very different conditions than before. We aren't told anything specific in this regard.