Summary: A KEY DOCTRINAL AREA IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS THE AREA OF THE RAPTURE.
WHAT IS THE RAPTURE
WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT SOME OF THE KEY DOCTRINAL ISSUES OF OUR FAITH. WE HAVE STUDIED THE ORIGIN OF SIN, AND HOW WE WERE ALL INFECTED BY IT. WE LOOKED AT THE ISSUES OF DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION, STUDYING THE WORDS OF PAUL TO THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH. THESE WERE STRENGTHEN BY A MESSAGE ON WHY I PREACH AND BELIEVE IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
TODAY WE ARE GOING TO LOOK AT A KEY AND VERY CONTROVERSIAL THEOLOGICAL ISSUE OF SCRIPTURE, AND THAT IS THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH.
IT IS A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE BECAUSE THERE ARE THEOLOGIANS WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN A LITERAL RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH. THERE ARE ALSO THEOLOGIANS WHO BELIEVE THAT THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND ADVENT OF THE LORD ARE THE SAME THING.
SUFFICE IT TO SAY THAT I BELIEVE THAT THE ARGUMENTS OFFERED BY THESE THEOLOGIANS ARE MINOR IN NATURE, AND RATHER EASILY DEFEATED SO WE WILL NOT GET INTO THEM TODAY. RATHER I WANT TO STATE CATAGORICALLY THAT I BELIEVE THE NEXT GREAT EVENT ON THE CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR THE CHURCH HAS TO BE THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH.
SCRIPTURE INDICATES THAT THERE IS NOTHING THAT NEEDS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED BEFORE THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH. WE DO NOT KNOW THE TIME OF THE RAPTURE, BUT WE DO KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE TIME OF THE RAPTURE.
THE RAPTURE IS THE TIME THAT BELIEVER BOTH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT AND IN THE CHURCH AGE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO. PAUL SPEAKS OF IT IN
“51 ¶ Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 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. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
THE RAPTURE IS THE “MYSTERY” OR SECRET THAT PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT IN THIS PASSAGE. HE IS SPEAKING TO CHRISTIANS HERE BECAUSE HE USES THE WORD “SLEEP” TO DESCRIBE DEATH, AND HE IS TELLING US THAT ALL CHRISTIANS WHETHER LIVING OR DEAD WILL EXPERIENCE A TRANSFORMATION, WHERE WE WILL RECEIVE OUR “GLORIFIED BODIES” WHICH ARE WITHOUT THE INFECTION OF SIN AND WE WILL BE FOREVER IMPERISHABLE.
PAUL IS VERY CERTAIN ABOUT THIS COMING DAY OF TRANSFORMATION. HE KNOWS OF THE PROMISE JESUS MADE TO HIS DISCIPLES.
JOHN 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
THIS IS A PROMISE THAT HAS COMFORTED ME AS I STOOD BEDISE THE GRAVE OF LOVED ONES, AND I KNOW MANY OF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED THAT SAME COMFORT.
IT WAS THIS CHANGE THAT THE PEOPLE OF CHRIST’S DAY WERE ANTICIPATING. MANY IN THE CHURCH BELIEVED THAT CHRIST WAS GOING TO COME BACK DURING THEIR LIFETIME. THEY DID NOT BELIEVE THAT THEY WOULD FACE DEATH.
MANY TOOK THIS BELIEF TO REDICULOUS EXTREMES. THEY WOULD QUIT THEIR WORK, NOT PLANT THEIR FIELDS, ALL THE TIME EXPECTING JESUS TO SUDDENLY COME BACK AND TRANSFORM THEM.
MANY STILL BATTLED WITH THE FALSE BELIEF THAT THERE WAS NO RESURRECTION AFTER DEATH, SO WHEN MANY FROM THEIR CHURCH DIED THEY WONDERED WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THEM. THEIR BODIES WERE DESTROYED BY DECAY, OR MADE TO ASH BY FIRE, HOW COULD THEY BE TRANSFORMED.
WARREN WIERSBE DESCRIBES THEIR THINKING BY TELLING US A TYPICAL INSCRIPTION THAT WOULD BE WRITTEN ON A GRAVE.
“I WAS NOT, I BECAME, I AM NOT, I CARE NOT.”
THE SAD FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE TODAY WHO FOLLOW THIS SAME TRAIN OF THOUGHT. I AM AMAZED AT THE EXTENT OF HOPELESSNESS THAT THERE IS IN THE WORLD TODAY. SOME OF THE POETRY AND OTHER WRITING THAT I HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO READ IN SCHOOL IS SO NEGATIVE AND DARK. THERE IS NO HOPE, NOTHING FROM WHICH TO FIND ENCOURAGEMENT. IT IS NO WONDER THAT THE LARGEST PERCENTAGE OF SUICIDES IN THE WORLD IS UNDER TWENTY.
PAUL ADDRESSED THIS ISSUE IN 1 CORINTHIANS AND 1 THESSALONIANS FOR THE PEOPLE OF HIS DAY, BUT HE IS ALSO SPEAKING TO US AT OUR PRESENT TIME AS WELL.
WE CAN FIND REASSURANCE AND ENCOURAGEMENT AS PAUL REVEALS TO US THE “MYSTERY” OF THE RAPTURE. FROM PAUL’S WRITING WE CAN KNOW THAT THERE WILL COME A TIME OF WONDERFUL REUNION, AS WE ARE TRANSFORMED WITH IMPERISHABLE GLORIFIED BODIES TO FOREVER LIVE WITH CHRIST AND WITH THE FELLOW CHRISTIANS OF THE AGES.
THIS IS WHY PAUL GIVES US THESE WORDS OF HOPE:
“54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.