THE TRUE HOPE: "RAPTURE" OR RESURRECTION?

THE TRUE HOPE: "RAPTURE" OR RESURRECTION? Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Apostle Paul states that we are saved by hope. If we are saved by hope, then it is important we have the true hope. It is the author’s opinion that the Christians of today have an unscriptural hope, a misguided hope, and that this false hope is preventing the spiritual growth necessary for survival in the coming age of moral horrors. The false hope includes an incorrect vision of the events and purpose of the Day of the Lord.

Table of Contents

First Thessalonians, Chapter Four

Verse Thirteen

Verse Fourteen

Verse Fifteen

Verse Sixteen

Verse Seventeen

Second Thessalonians, Chapter One

Verse Four

Verse Five

Verse Six

Verse Seven

Verse Eight

Verse Nine

Verse Ten

Verse Eleven

Verse Twelve

Second Thessalonians, Chapter Two

Verse One

Verse Two

Verse Three

Revelation, Chapter Nineteen

Verse Six

Verse Seven

Verse Eight

Verse Nine

Verse Eleven

Verse Fourteen

Verse Nineteen

Verse Twenty

Revelation, Chapter Twenty

THE TRUE HOPE: "RAPTURE" OR RESURRECTION?

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (Romans 8:24)

The Apostle Paul states we are saved by hope. If we are saved by hope, then it is important we have the true hope. We think the believers of today have an unscriptural hope, a misguided hope, and that this false hope is preventing the spiritual growth necessary for survival in the coming days of horror. The false hope includes an incorrect vision of the events and purpose of the Day of the Lord.

The false hope of which we are speaking is that at any moment all believers in the Lord Jesus will be removed from the earth and carried up to Heaven. The supposed removal will take place before the government of Antichrist controls the world and before the great tribulation of the last days. The false hope is the hope of the any-moment pre-tribulation catching up ("rapture") of the Christian people.

Let us state at the outset that the issue is not whether the catching up of the believers occurs before, in the middle of, or at the end of the great tribulation. The issue is not accuracy concerning end-time events. If it were we would not waste time attempting to prove our point. We all shall be perfect in the understanding of what is to occur—after the events take place.

Rather the problem is the concept of the "rapture"—that it is a device the Lord will use to deliver His people from Antichrist and the great tribulation. The concept of the catching up taking place in order to remove people from trouble is neither scriptural nor sensible.

Let us point out most fervently that the so-called "rapture" of the saints is not the "blessed hope" of the Christian Church. The "blessed hope" of the Church is the return of Jesus Christ from Heaven and our resurrection from the dead to live with Him. The catching up, the "rapture" as it has been termed, is not an integral part of our redemption. It is a going forth to meet Him after we have been raised from the dead. Have we forgotten this?

The "rapture," as it is being presented, is nothing more than a desire of the adamic man to escape trouble and pain. It is not the historical hope of the Christian Church nor is it a truly godly hope, a desire to be righteous or to be with the Lord Jesus. It is a message of escape, dating from the last century. It is associated with an overemphasis on grace to the exclusion of the necessity for godly behavior and is compatible with the humanistic determination that people must not be allowed to suffer.

The faithful, fiery disciple of Jesus does not seek escape. He wants more of God’s fire in his life so he can walk in righteousness and holiness with the Lord Jesus. It is the fleshly, self-centered "believer" who is seeking an escape from all discomfort. The fleshly "Christian" wants to go to Heaven in his unchanged personality, not to the Father as a transformed son.

We are concerned over this error because its effect has been to disarm God’s people, leaving them spiritually and emotionally unprepared for the tribulations of the near future. The "rapture" error has had a devastating effect on the spiritual strength of the believers.

The teachers of this unscriptural hope believe by stressing an any-moment removal of Christians from the earth they will encourage (or frighten) people so they will come to the Lord and serve Him. There are three problems with such an approach to evangelism and Christian growth:

It is not based on the Scriptures but on tradition and emotion.

It may momentarily cause an individual to seek the Lord but does not produce the long-term growth necessary if the believer is to stand in the "evil day."

It is not going to happen, and so the believers remain woefully unprepared for the spiritual darkness that is on the horizon.

Let us say there is a classroom of unruly children. If someone warns that the teacher may come at any moment the children will become orderly and quiet. However if the teacher does not come within ten minutes the classroom will once again be unruly. If a student keeps saying, the teacher will come at any moment, it then will make no difference. Wolf! wolf! has been cried too often.

The obedient child is moved by none of this. Whether the teacher comes or not the good child will keep on doing his studies.

So it has been with the "rapture" teaching. On occasion it has shocked unbelievers or careless believers into a fervent seeking of the Lord. But when the Lord does not come in a year or two the effect wears off and carelessness sets in again. After that, repeated reminders that the Lord may come at any moment does not have nearly the same effect.

It absolutely is true that the Lord Jesus commanded us to watch and pray for we do not know when He will come. This is not a basis for an any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture," however, for the Lord Jesus told us He would come "after" the great tribulation.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Matthew 24:29)

The teacher of the "rapture" will say, but the coming of Matthew 24:29 will take place seven years after the "rapture." He will proceed to explain that if the "rapture" were to come after the great tribulation, and we know the tribulation has not taken place as yet, then we would take our ease because we would know the Lord was not coming immediately since the tribulation has not occurred. So goes the fleshly reasoning.

But a few verses later the Lord tells us that no man knows of "that day and hour," obviously referring to the coming of Matthew 24:29. So the fact that we do not know of the day and hour does not indicate that a "rapture" will take place before the great tribulation.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)

Further down in the chapter, clearly remaining in context with Matthew 24:29, there is a passage frequently used by teachers of the any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture."

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:40-44)

The above famous "rapture" passage is obviously referring to the historic coming of the Lord of Matthew 24:29. To say that Matthew 24:40-42 is not referring to the Lord’s words of Matthew 24:29 is indeed frivolous, indicating that the student is willing to distort the Scriptures in any manner in order to prove his belief is accurate.

The Lord told us He would come after the great tribulation. He also advised us to watch and pray, and remain ready, "for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." The one statement does not invalidate the other.

First Thessalonians, Chapter Four

A few verses taken from the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians are the principal support for the "rapture" teaching. Perhaps if the earnest student examines carefully what actually is stated he will perceive, as we have also, that the current "rapture" teaching cannot possibly be verified by the passage in First Thessalonians.

Verse Thirteen

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:3)

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep." "Concerning them which are asleep"!

The whole "rapture" doctrine is discredited right here. The following passage, the principal support of the "rapture" teaching, has nothing to do with enabling the believers to escape Antichrist or the great tribulation, with the believers disappearing, or with the believers going to Heaven.

Second Thessalonians does present the solution to persecution and affliction and we will describe that solution a little later on. But the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians does not present the solution to persecution and affliction and we ought not to use the passage for this purpose.

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep." Paul was writing to believers who were concerned about deceased fellow saints. They were ignorant of the provision God has made for those who have "fallen asleep" in the Lord Jesus. It is an excellent passage to read at a funeral and this is the way the writer uses it.

What should we do to awaken the Christian churches, because it appears most churches believe First Thessalonians 4:13-17 sets forth a "pre-tribulation rapture" as the manner in which the living Christians will escape from Antichrist and the great tribulation.

Should we fire cannons?—bang on pans?—say, look! look! look!, the passage is about deceased believers? Deceased believers!

Is there anything we can do or say that will cause Christians to perceive that the passage has nothing to do with Christians disappearing and being carried off to Heaven to escape suffering? It is a word of comfort to believers concerning fellow saints who have died.

"That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

This is Paul’s reason for writing to them—that they do not grieve concerning dead Christians. The passage is seldom if ever used today to comfort living Christians concerning dead Christians. It is employed to assure living Christians that they will be carried to Heaven so they will not have to face Antichrist or suffer during the great tribulation.

The sincere student can perceive at once that the passage is not being applied today as the Apostle intended.

He can perceive also the saints in Thessalonica did not view going to Heaven as the goal of salvation. If they viewed going to Heaven as the goal of salvation they would not have been concerned about the death of their fellow believers.

The goal of the Divine salvation is to deliver us from corruption, torment, and death and give us the hope of a return to Paradise. Salvation delivers us by changing us so we no longer are citizens of Hell but of the Paradise of God. Salvation is the change in us, not a change of environment while we ourselves have not been changed.

It was little comfort to the saints of Thessalonica that their loved ones were in Heaven with Jesus. The Apostles did not present eternal residence in Heaven as the hope of salvation.

What, then, did the Apostles point to as the goal of salvation? The Apostles emphasized the righteousness that comes to us as we receive the Lord Jesus and turn away from our sins. When through the Lord Jesus we have our sins forgiven and are able to resist sin and live righteously, then we have the hope of eternal life and of entering the Kingdom of God when the Lord returns.

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)

The Apostles preached salvation in terms of the Day of the Lord, the coming of Christ in His Kingdom with the holy angels, the Day of Judgment. The purpose of salvation is to be received favorably by the Lord and to enter eternal life in the Kingdom of God, and to avoid being destroyed by the wrath of God when the Lord returns.

Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (I Thessalonians 1:10)

The Thessalonian believers would not understand at all our present hope of living forever in a mansion in the spirit realm.

The Apostles used the Old Testament Scriptures to preach the Gospel.

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, (Acts 17:2)

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. (Acts 18:28)

Nowhere in the Old Testament (or in the New) is there any suggestion that the purpose of salvation is to bring the worshiper to Paradise to live forever in a mansion. The Old Testament taught the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, the supremacy of the nation of Israel, God’s blessing on the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked. The world shall be governed from Jerusalem and all nations will be compelled to obey the laws of God.

The believers of Thessalonica were hoping for the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. They were looking for the Lord Jesus to return and establish the kingdom of righteousness promised in the Scriptures.

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (II Peter 3:13)

Righteous people living in a new earth.

The idea we are saved to live forever in the spirit Paradise was not known to the believers in Thessalonica. Eternal residence in Heaven was never taught by the Apostles. The teaching of eternal residence in Heaven was added after the death of the Apostles.

As long as we view the purpose of the Christian salvation as eternal residence in Heaven it is impossible to understand the Scriptures. As soon as the believer views the purpose of being saved as enabling people to enter the righteous Kingdom of God, the whole Bible will begin to be understandable, not just a few "promises" here and there.

If eternal residence in Heaven were the goal of salvation the believers of Thessalonica would not have been so concerned about their deceased friends. Paul would have said, Do not be concerned about the dead believers. They are alive with Jesus and walking on the streets of Paradise. When you die you will see them again and enjoy fellowship in the heavenly mansions.

What did he say?

"I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

Do you see they were not grieving about eternal residence in Heaven? Their hope was to be saved when the Lord returns in His Kingdom and they were not certain that their Christian friends who had passed away would be with them to celebrate that glorious event.

We can already understand from our study that it is indefensible to use Paul’s words to support a pre-tribulation catching up of believers for the purpose of escaping Antichrist and the great tribulation. The passage has nothing whatever to do with what is preached today as a "rapture." If there is to be an any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture" of the saints, it assuredly is not taught in the passage under consideration.

Verse Fourteen

For if we believe Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)

"If we believe Jesus died and rose again."

Notice that our hope concerning deceased believers is based on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The fact that the Lord actually died and actually was raised from the dead is the immovable base on which our hope rests. Our hope is that we and our fellow believers will not die and pass into oblivion but will live once again on the earth.

There is no other hope that compares with the Christian hope. How terrible to believe when we or our loved ones die we cease to exist, that we pass into nothingness as though we never had been!

How utterly marvelous to view the present life as a training ground to prepare us for a far better existence—and on the earth in an incorruptible body!

Because the Lord Jesus died, and then rose again to stand on the earth and eat the honeycomb, our hope is absolutely certain. We will live again on the earth.

Based on the sure knowledge that the Lord died and rose again we know "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."

What does it mean to "sleep in Jesus"? It means to be abiding in the Lord at the time of our death. Saying the "four steps of salvation" is one matter. Abiding in Jesus is something else again.

The following verse describes what it means to abide in Jesus:

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:57)

The saint is to "eat" Christ, allowing Christ to dwell in him. The believer’s life is to be as much a part of Christ as Christ’s Life is part of the Father. The Christian who is abiding in Christ is one with the Lord just as the Lord is one with the Father.

Those who "sleep in Jesus" have maintained the "oil" of the Holy Spirit in themselves. They are the "wise virgins." They will go to be with the Lord when He comes.

"For if we believe Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

"Will God bring with him."

The great hope of I Thessalonians, Chapter Four is not that the living Christians will be caught up to Heaven but that God will bring the deceased believers with the Lord Jesus when He returns.

Here is the "comfort" Paul is offering. It is that the dead saints will return with the Lord. We shall see them again standing on the earth.

We believe those whom God brings with Jesus will be the victorious saints, God’s true witnesses, of every age of the world’s history. When the "rapture" is preached there is not always the Apostle’s emphasis—that it is the time of the returning of the multitude of those who are part of the Lord Jesus.

The passage we are examining is emphasizing the coming of the Lord and all the "sleeping" saints. The coming ought to be stressed more than it is. Can you imagine the delight of those who have been waiting in the spirit realm, from Adam to the last saint who has died, as they are allowed to return to the familiar scenes of earth?

Verse Fifteen

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 shall not prevent [precede; have an advantage over] them which are asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)

"We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord."

When will the coming of the Lord take place?

Based on the second chapter of Second Thessalonians and the twenty-fourth Chapter of Matthew, we are of the opinion that the Lord will not return until after the worldwide rebellion against authority and the great tribulation.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition [destruction]; (II Thessalonians 2:3)

"Except there come a falling away first."

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Matthew 24:29)

"After the tribulation of those days."

Our understanding is that the purpose of the great tribulation is to separate the Bride of the Lamb from the babylonish (manmade, man-centered, man-directed) religious organizations and to purify the members of the Bride.

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:4)

The Lord will have a bride without spot, wrinkle, or blemish of any kind whatever. To maintain that the Christian Church of today is without spot, wrinkle, or blemish of any kind is to be irresponsible and deluded. The Christian Church of the present hour is a valley of dry bones.

Perhaps the churches are of the opinion that the Bride is to be without spot or blemish "by imputation (ascribed righteousness)." Christian theology is in such disorder it is entirely possible that some are viewing the Bride as perfect by assigned righteousness, clothing herself in the borrowed righteousness of Christ.

Can you imagine the Lord Jesus coming for the churches of today? Can you imagine the Lord bringing into the unutterably holy new Jerusalem the unrighteous, unclean, disobedient believers of our time?—stating they are without spot or wrinkle by imputation (ascribed righteousness)? Whoever would agree to such an idea does not understand God or His Christ or the nature or purpose of the Divine salvation.

As we have stated, the purpose of the great tribulation is to separate the members of the true Church from the Christian organizations and to prepare them to meet the heavenly Bridegroom.

First will come the latter rain to bring the Lord’s wheat to maturity. Then will follow the burning sun of tribulation to harden the heads of grain in preparation for the harvest.

The expression "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" suggests a relatively small remnant of believers who have survived the reign of Antichrist, the great tribulation, and every pain and terror that Hell can throw at them.

The survivors indeed shall be without spot or wrinkle.

And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: (Isaiah 4:3)

"We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep."

"Unto the coming of the Lord." The coming of the Lord!

The expression "the coming of the Lord" shows us where the passage fits in God’s program. It is speaking of the promised coming of the Lord, the true hope of the Christian Church (and also of the Jews). Therefore, all of the passages referring to the coming of the Lord, whether Old Testament or New, are called to mind.

The "coming" of the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians is not referring to a special, secret "rapture." A special, secret "rapture" is the kind of thing Jesus warned us against.

Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:26,27)

"As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west." The coming of the Lord will not be a secret. To teach there will be a secret coming before the worldwide revelation of Christ is to go against the express commandment of the Lord. The present-day "rapture" teaching is deception and heresy. As soon as the Christian churches discard this delusion the members will begin to grow in Christ. They will arm themselves with a mind to suffer, preparing themselves to stand in the day of trouble that is ahead.

There are not two comings of the Lord, only the one coming. The term "coming" is never plural when referring to the Lord’s appearing. Therefore we ought never to speak of more than one coming of the Lord, if we would be scriptural.

There is a "coming" to the disciples that is set forth in the Gospel of John.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:18)

The "coming" of John, Chapter 14 is not a return of the Lord from Heaven. It is not a parousia. It is a furthering of the inner work of Christ that began when we were born again.

The Greek term for "coming" is parousia. Parousia is the term employed in Matthew 24:27 (above). Parousia is used exclusively throughout First and Second Thessalonians for "coming," tying the two books together in meaning. There is no sound reason for maintaining that Paul is referring to a "pre-tribulation rapture" in First Thessalonians and a later coming in Second Thessalonians, as is sometimes maintained in an effort to prove that Paul is speaking of a secret "rapture" in First Thessalonians.

Parousia is the term employed in Matthew, Chapter 24 when speaking of the historic return of the Lord Jesus in the clouds of glory.

The so-called "rapture" verses of the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians are referring to the coming, the parousia of the Lord. All of the passages in the Old and New Testaments speaking of the Day of the Lord, the army of God, the deliverance of Israel, the establishing of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, the chastisement of the wicked in the churches, the blessed and holy priesthood, the ascension to the thrones of the air of the conquering saints, are part of the parousia.

The parousia is announced at the beginning of the Book of Revelation and is the bedrock of Revelation.

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

This is the coming of the Lord, and "every eye shall see him."

There is but one coming of the Lord, one Day of the Lord. Paul is comforting the saints of Thessalonica with the hope of the coming of the Lord to destroy the wicked and set up His Kingdom on the earth. This fact is so plain that for an intelligent reader to persist in the special, secret "rapture"" delusion is indefensible. It is to perpetuate a deception that, more than any other factor, has prevented the preparation of the believers for the horrors of the days ahead.

"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 shall not prevent them which are asleep."

"Shall not prevent [go before] them which are asleep." Shall not precede or have any advantage over those who are asleep.

The living saints shall not precede or have any advantage over the dead saints concerning what? Concerning going to Heaven? This is absurd. Some of the saints who will return with the Lord have been in Heaven for thousands of years. How then could there be any thought that the living saints could go before the dead saints into Heaven or have any advantage over the dead saints when the dead saints already have been in Heaven? This is not sound thinking.

What is at issue is not going to Heaven, it is the perfection that is to be brought to God’s saints at the coming of the Lord from Heaven. The perfection includes the gift of a body that is incorruptible, filled with righteous desires, eternally youthful and powerful.

God’s true witnesses of every age will come to perfection together.

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39,40)

The above passage is referring to the saints of past time, to the cloud of witnesses who are looking forward with joy to the moment when they can return with the Lord Jesus and raise their bodies from wherever they are "sleeping."

The Christians of Thessalonica were awaiting the Lord’s return and the rewards of life and glory He will bring with Him. They wanted assurance that their friends who had died in the Lord would be present in that Day.

Paul comforts them: "Don’t worry, we who are alive at the Lord’s coming will not go before the dead saints or have any advantage over them. All of us will enter the Kingdom together."

The thoughtful student can see that the present-day teaching of the secret "rapture" has completely missed the point of Paul’s teaching concerning the saints of all ages coming to perfection together.

Verse Sixteen

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: (I Thessalonians 4:16)

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven."

"With a shout."

"With the voice of the archangel.

"And with the trumpet of God."

Many of the passages of the Old and New Testaments that speak of the coming of the Lord are in a setting of war.

From your point of view, are a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God, suggestive of warfare or of a special, secret "rapture"?

They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. (Isaiah 13:5)

And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2:11)

Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. (Habakkuk 3:13)

. . . the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven."

"With a shout."

"With the voice of the archangel.

"And with the trumpet of God."

Is this a secret "rapture" in which the believers will become invisible and be spirited away to Heaven?

First Thessalonians, Chapter Four fits perfectly the many passages that describe the coming of the Lord. There are several such descriptions in the Old Testament.

However, there is no passage in the Old Testament or the New that states there will be a "rapture" in which the saints become invisible and are caught away to Heaven.

"And the dead in Christ shall rise first."

This does not mean the saints rise up in the air, it means they rise from the dead and stand on their feet on the earth.

The Lord Jesus did not ascend into the clouds until forty days after He rose from the dead.

The central hope of the teaching of Paul is the resurrection from the dead, not the catching up of the believers to meet the Lord.

The fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians is the "resurrection chapter" of the Bible. The ascension is not even mentioned in this chapter. The ascension is not on a same level of importance as the resurrection. The catching up is not part of the Divine redemption from sin and death.

The idea that we are caught up in order to escape Antichrist and the great tribulation has not been thought through. We cannot possibly ascend until we first have been resurrected. After we have been resurrected we cannot be harmed by Antichrist or the great tribulation. This fact alone completely destroys the concept of the "rapture" as a device to protect us from Antichrist and the great tribulation.

The bodily resurrection of the dead is the central hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. There is no comparable hope in any of the religions of the world.

One of the tremendous evils produced by the teaching of the pre-tribulation "rapture" of the saints, a delusion brought forth in the nineteenth century, is the abandoning of the hope of the resurrection of the dead, which is the true hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul groaned for the redemption of his body. The believers of today do not hope for the resurrection, the gaining of an incorruptible body so they can serve God in righteousness on the earth. They hope for a flight to Heaven so they will not suffer any longer. This doctrine has come from the humanistic teaching that people must not be allowed to suffer, that people have a "right" not to suffer.

How totally the doctrine of the "rapture" has destroyed the historical hope of the resurrection can be determined by asking one of today’s believers in the "rapture" about the resurrection from the dead. He knows little or nothing about the basic hope of the Christian Church. He does not know whether our present body is to be raised, or whether it is a spiritual body from Heaven that is to be raised, or whether any body at all is going to be raised.

The hope of the resurrection of the mortal body from the grave has been lost to the churches because of the stress on the ascension. The Scriptures do not emphasize the ascension. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament speak of the resurrection of the body as the hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)

Are not the resurrection and the catching up virtually the same thing? They are not the same thing at all!

The resurrection of the physical body is the overcoming of the last enemy.

Paul was seeking to attain the resurrection, not the ascension. Paul’s "mark" toward which he strove with such fervor was the resurrection that will take place when the Lord appears.

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Can you imagine Paul saying, "If by any means I might attain unto the catching up into the air"?

Paul was pressing toward the redemption of his body so he would be free to behave righteously.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)

The believer of today is waiting for the catching up so he will not suffer.

The difference between the desire to behave righteously and the desire to escape suffering is infinitely great. The one is the hope of the saint. The other is the hope of the believer who is living in the appetites of the Adamic nature.

Paul groaned for the redemption of his body. Paul never once groaned for the ascension, as today’s believers do because of the incorrect teaching they have had.

And not only they [the material creation], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

The redemption of the body is the hope of the saint.

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (Romans 8:24)

Nowhere in the Scriptures is ascension presented as the hope of the believer. Christ is our Redeemer, that is, He came to reclaim that which mankind lost because of sin. What we lost because of sin was immortality in the body. We did not lose eternal residence in the spirit realm.

Enoch and Elijah were carried into the spirit realm. But they were not raised from the dead. Christ is the Firstborn from the dead. Therefore the translation of Enoch and Elijah was significantly different from that which the remnant left alive on the earth will experience.

The seven feasts of the Lord (Leviticus, Chapter 23) portray in type the major acts of redemption, beginning with the Passover and extending through the feast of Tabernacles.

The Lord Jesus was crucified on the Passover, was in the prison under the earth’s surface during the feast of Unleavened Bread, and was raised from the dead on the day of the feast of Firstfruits. The Holy Spirit fell from Heaven fifty days later in fulfillment of the fourth feast, the feast of Pentecost.

As we have stated, the Lord was caught up to Heaven forty days after His resurrection. There was no feast of the Lord ten days prior to the feast of Pentecost. This is because the catching up into the air is not a part of the Divine redemption.

So important is the resurrection from the dead that Paul made the following statements:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (I Corinthians 15:3,4)

It can be seen from the above that the central message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is His atoning death and triumphant victory over death. His ascension is not included as a central issue of the Gospel or Paul would have mentioned it.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? (I Corinthians 15:12)

The hope of the resurrection of the saints is seldom preached in our day. In its place, Sunday after Sunday, the catching up of the believers is stressed.

On at least one occasion that I know of the pastor of an assembling had the members of the congregation jump in place by their pews, practicing for the "rapture." To have people jump in place to practice for the "catching up," instead of overcoming their sins and self-will in preparation for the resurrection, is totally unscriptural. How long will it be before thoughtful Christian leaders realize they have drifted away from the Gospel of the Kingdom?

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (I Corinthians 15:13,14)

Today we might say, but if there is no rapture then has Christ not been raptured. And if Christ has not been raptured, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain.

The holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Easter has nothing to do with the ascension. If Christ has not been raised from the dead our faith is useless. If Christ had been raised from the dead but did not ascend to the Father, the Kingdom of God would be here on earth and our faith would still be valid. So great is the difference between the resurrection and the ascension!

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. (I Corinthians 15:17,18)

Our salvation from sin is based on the resurrection of Christ. No mention is made of His ascension.

Notice the expression "then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." This statement reveals clearly that the hope of eternal residence in Heaven was not known to the saints in Corinth or Thessalonica. Their hope was that they would live on earth again in the Kingdom of God. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, the deceased Christians have "perished."

It was the fact of Christ’s resurrection that provided them with the hope that they also would be resurrected and live again on the earth in a physical body. Otherwise, Paul would not have viewed the believing dead as perishing.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament regard the Divine salvation as restoring life and Paradise to the material earth. The concept of salvation having to do with "mansions in Heaven" is alien to both Testaments.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (I Corinthians 15:19)

Today emphasis is placed on how Christ assists us in this world. Christ helps us make a success of our marriage, our family, our job, our health, our bank account.

While we ought to look to the Lord for guidance in every area of life, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has to do with our future life in the Kingdom. The Gospel of Christ is a hope for the future. If salvation has to do only with our present existence, then we are "of all men most miserable." Our true hope is that we shall live once again upon the earth—this time in an incorruptible, eternally youthful, vigorous body.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (I Corinthians 15:20)

Christ’s resurrection, that which we celebrate on Easter Sunday, is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead.

The marvelous fact is that the cave of Joseph of Arimathea is empty. The flesh and bones of Jesus of Nazareth no longer are there. He is alive! He ate the fish and the honeycomb. Because He is alive we shall live once again on the earth in the Glory of God. This is the true hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and is the Kingdom of God!

It is the power and glory of the resurrection of the righteous that should be preached, not the sneaking away of a weak set of fleshly believers who are unwilling to face suffering.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (I Corinthians 15:21)

Notice how the Apostles viewed life and death. Today we stress spiritual life and spiritual death. Indeed, spiritual life and death are very important issues. It also is important, however, to realize the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has to do with the restoration of immortality to the body of the human being.

The promise that whoever believes in the Son of God should not perish but have eternal life is speaking of the whole person, body, soul, and spirit—particularly the body. It was bodily immortality that was lost in Eden.

Physical death came to mankind because of the sin of Adam and Eve. The resurrection of the body came through the atonement made by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by His triumphant bodily resurrection.

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11)

"Make alive your mortal bodies."

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22)

As in Adam all die physically, so in Christ all who believe will be made alive physically. This is the resurrection from the dead.

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (I Corinthians 15:23)

Christ is the Firstborn from the dead. When Paul states that Christ was made alive he means Christ’s physical body was made alive. When Paul states that those who belong to Christ will be made alive at Christ’s coming he means their physical body will be made alive. Notice that the Apostle does not count our spiritual rebirth as making us alive but our resurrection from the dead as making us alive.

We understand from this the tremendous importance of being raised from the dead. Ought not the making alive of the body be emphasized today rather than the catching up?

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (I Corinthians 15:24)

The resurrection of the believers will take place at the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. This is why the saints of Thessalonica were concerned. They believed that the coming of the Lord would take place momentarily (apparently some of them had quit their jobs) and they were concerned that the dead believers would not be permitted to participate in the setting up of the Kingdom of God on the earth.

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:25,26)

The greatest King of all, Christ, conquered death and came forth from the cave of Joseph of Arimathea. Now His resurrection Life is working in us. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are gaining victory over the spiritual death and darkness in our personality. Little by little we are attaining the inner, spiritual resurrection. Those who persist in the battle will attain the out-resurrection, the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of the blessed and holy royal priesthood.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

We see, therefore, that the Kingdom of God comes as we conquer the sin that keeps our body in the chains of death, not as we jump up and down next to our pew. The Kingdom and the resurrection from the dead go together. The saints of all ages shall be made perfect in righteousness at the same time.

The trumpet of the Lord shall not sound "retreat" but "attack." The trumpet of the Lord shall announce the attack of Armageddon, not a retreat to the spirit realm.

Verse Seventeen

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. (I Thessalonians 4:17)

"Then we which are alive and remain."

The saints who survive the government of Antichrist and the great tribulation indeed will be ready for the change that will be required in order for them to be caught up in the clouds along with the resurrected saints of all ages.

Obviously, flesh and blood humans will not be caught up along with resurrected saints. The living saints must first be changed into immortality.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:50-52)

The "resurrection chapter" (I Corinthians, Chapter 15) does not mention the catching up of the believers, the so-called "rapture." The chapter emphasizes what God emphasizes—the change from corruption to incorruption. This is the true hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

If we are to be caught up along with the resurrected saints of all ages we first must be changed from corruption to incorruption.

Many that are last in time shall be first in the Kingdom of God. The believers "which are alive and remain" will have a unique experience. Their bodily processes will die while they are standing on their feet. Their digestion, breathing, and other functions will change from blood and oxygen to the life and power of the Spirit of God.

They will not die and then be resurrected like all other believers. They will pass from mortality to immortality while standing on their feet.

This will mark the end of their flesh and blood existence, including their family relationships. They no longer will be "Adam" but life-giving spirits. They no longer will be of the race of mankind. They no longer will be mammals, warm-blooded, capable of nourishing their young with milk from the breast.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:50)

Can you imagine the faith that will be required in order to pass through such an experience without "looking back." Every blessing we receive from God requires that we press through in triumphant faith to total victory. The change from corruption to incorruption will be no exception.

How many believers of our day possess enough faith to hold steady in God while their bodily processes wither, die, and pass away, to be replaced by the Spirit of God?

If Enoch, who apparently was not required to experience change from flesh and blood life, was lifted up to God by faith, what kind of faith will be required to change from a human being to a personality animated by spiritual life?

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to change from flesh and blood life to resurrection life without the benefit of going by way of the grave?

The pastors of today need to explain to their congregations that in order to be caught up together with the resurrected saints of all ages we first must be changed from mortality to immortality. Jumping up and down next to one’s pew is not sufficient preparation for participation in the first resurrection. We must press into the resurrection life of Jesus and be willing to share His sufferings if we would attain the resurrection from the dead.

If the believers are not prepared they will seek to preserve their accustomed flesh and blood life. "Remember Lot’s wife"!

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

"To meet the Lord in the air."

We understand that the Greek term for "meet" is sometimes employed to mean to go to meet someone who is coming. The Lord is coming from Heaven to set up His Kingdom on the earth. There is no suggestion in the context or the Greek language that the Lord will then turn around and lead us back to Heaven. Because there is no such suggestion either in the context or the Greek language that the Lord has come to take us back to Heaven, we ought not to preach that this will take place. We ought not to emphasize again and again that which is not expressed clearly in God’s holy Word!

We meet the Lord "in the air," that is, in the lower atmosphere. This is the area from which Satan has been accustomed to filling the earth with evil.

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2)

"The prince [ruler] of the power [authority] of the air."

We shall meet the Lord "in the air" because the nations of the earth are governed from the thrones in the air, the thrones that have been promised to the victorious saints.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: . . . . (Revelation 20:4)

Now, please look carefully at what is stated.

"To meet the Lord in the air."

There is nothing—absolutely nothing—that implies in any manner that the Lord then shall turn around and bring us back to Heaven.

There is no passage in the New Testament, to our knowledge, that suggests the Lord will come and take us to Heaven.

If this is true, if we have to surmise, guess, conjecture, interpolate, with little or no scriptural support that the believers will be carried back to Heaven when the Lord appears, why, then, is the doctrine of the pre-tribulation "rapture" stressed, and stressed, and stressed Sunday after Sunday as though it were a cardinal doctrine of the Scriptures, while the emphasis of Paul that we should seek to attain the resurrection from the dead is not mentioned or even understood? How can we prosper if we depart from the teaching of the Word of God? How can we maintain that we have not departed grievously from the teaching of the holy Scriptures? We who pride ourselves on adhering to God’s holy Word are emphasizing again and again that which is found only in our tradition.

How many ministers of our day have the integrity to say, I have been mistaken all these years; I have been teaching that which is not clearly scriptural. The ministers who will admit to this are lovers of truth. The true saints will follow them.

The pastor who makes such an admission in the United States of America will probably lose most of his congregation. He will discover to his dismay that he has spent his life tickling the ears of churchgoers who are not willing to suffer for the Gospel. They have no chance of participating in the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord returns. They will leave the man of integrity and go where a pastor will keep assuring them that they will not be required to suffer.

In the day of fire that is at hand the pampered believers of America will turn against their treacherous shepherds with great wrath just as an indulged child will turn his wrath against anyone who thwarts him. The self-seeking shepherds and their lukewarm congregations will be thrown into outer darkness. This certainly shall take place in the case of every pastor who "loves his congregation so much" he will not warn them of the days of judgment that are at hand and keeps assuring them that Jesus loves them far too much to ever allow them to suffer.

The false shepherds teach that we Gentiles shall be carried up into Heaven to recline in comfort at our pleasure and watch the Jews without the Holy Spirit struggle to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom in the face of Antichrist. How could any Christian believe such a grotesque warping of the Scriptures, such blatant anti-Semitism?

Pastors, teachers, and evangelists are supposed to be "watchmen on the wall." These leaders of the flock of God have the responsibility of warning God’s inheritance of the wrath of God that soon is to visit the earth.

If they refuse to warn the believers of the coming judgment, choosing instead to tickle their ears with the idea that God loves them and has received them in their sins because of the righteous Jesus, then the believers, being deluded as to the Nature of God and His salvation, will perish in their sins. They will reap corruption. Their blood will be required at the hands of the treacherous watchmen who, for their own enrichment, refused to blow the trumpet in Zion.

Why then do the saints ascend to meet the Lord in the air? It is because the Lord is coming as King of all kings to destroy the wicked of the earth and to establish His Kingdom of justice, righteousness, and mercy.

The dead in Christ have come with Him and picked up their bodies from wherever they have been "sleeping." They then have stood on the earth in resurrection life. The living saints have been changed from mortality to immortality. Apparently the Lord Jesus has remained in the air, from which location He will make His descent in the attack of Armageddon.

And I saw heaven [probably the sky] opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. (Revelation 19:11)

Before the Lord Jesus descends He will call to Himself His officers and men and place them in their appointed ranks in preparation for the invasion of the earth.

It no doubt is true that many of Christ’s officers have spent much time with Him in Heaven as the plans have been made for the attack. The placement of each company of warriors and their commanders has been determined.

Remember that the army from Heaven that returns with the Lord will be very much larger than the remnant of believers still alive on the earth.

The believers still on the earth have not had the opportunity to learn of these plans. When the Lord calls up His warriors, each one will be placed in the position assigned to him.

Also, they will be mounted on the white war stallions.

And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)

The attack of Armageddon will be a cavalry charge. It will be a fierce, violent attack. The legions of Antichrist will be destroyed.

Down from the heavens will hurtle the Lord Jesus followed by a large, powerful army of saints in immortal bodies. The sight of them will be terrible beyond belief.

The Prophet Habakkuk trembled when he saw the Lord’s army in vision.

When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. (Habakkuk 3:16)

We are caught up in the clouds so we may take our appointed place in the Lord’s army. We do not turn around and go to Heaven. We return from the air to the Mount of Olives and from there attack the armies of Antichrist that have invaded the city of Jerusalem. It appears the battle will be fought in the plain of Megiddo. A sea of blood (the Mediterranean) will be at Antichrist’s back. Retreat is impossible. Antichrist and his armies shall be totally destroyed.

This is the coming of Christ, the Day of the Lord, the crushing of Satan’s forces in the earth.

Now we understand why there will be a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God.

"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."

We shall be caught up from the surface of the earth in an immortal body along with the saints of all ages to meet the Commander in Chief in the air, in the region from which Satan has poisoned the nations of the earth. We then shall descend with Him in the relentless fury of the cavalry charge of the Battle of Armageddon.

It is the author’s point of view that only the Lord’s victorious saints will take part in this resurrection, ascension, and violent installation of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. It appears to us that the multitude of churchgoers are nowhere near being spiritually or emotionally prepared for the onslaught of Armageddon.

Now the reader can see what we mean when we say that the doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture" of the believers is destructive of the Gospel teaching. The "rapture" teaching, the flying away to Paradise of untransformed believers, does not produce "a great people and a strong"—the army that made Habakkuk tremble.

So shall we ever be with the Lord. This is our hope.

The Lord Jesus is coming from Heaven, not to "steal His waiting bride away" but to establish His Kingdom in Jerusalem.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)

The victorious saints are coheirs with Christ. They always shall be with Him as He rules from Jerusalem throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age. After that they shall be with Him as the new Jerusalem descends from Heaven and is established for eternity upon the new earth.

They are with the Lord today.

These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)

They shall be with the Lord during the Kingdom Age.

They shall be with the Lord when the new Jerusalem descends from the new sky.

They shall always be with the Lord.

Our deceased brothers and sisters who are "sleeping in Christ" will return with Him at His coming. We shall see them and have fellowship with them—all of us being in immortal bodies. We shall sing together the song of the redeemed. We shall enjoy the fellowship that is known only among the true saints.

At the signal from the Commander in Chief we all shall be caught up together to take our place with Him in the air in preparation for the establishing on the earth of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, the kingdom in which the Father’s will is always done.

We shall never be separated from the Lord Jesus again.

Let us comfort one another with these words.

Second Thessalonians, Chapter One.

As we have pointed out, the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians was not written to comfort the living saints concerning the persecutions and afflictions they were suffering at the hands of the ungodly. However, in the first chapter of Second Thessalonians we do have the provision God has made for the relief of the believers who are being attacked for their faith.

Verse Four

So we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (II Thessalonians 1:4)

Some are teaching today that Christians ought not to experience persecution or tribulation. Apparently neither the Apostle Paul nor the believers in Thessalonica were aware the followers of Christ were not to suffer. The Thessalonians were behaving as Christians must behave during a season of suffering and pain. They were exercising patience and faith in the Lord. Paul was proud of them because of their steadfastness.

Verse Five

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (II Thessalonians 1:5)

The persecutions and tribulations falling upon the Thessalonians were an evidence of God’s righteous judgment. They had been called out of the world that they might partake of the salvation of the Lord and enter God’s righteous Kingdom. Therefore it was necessary they stand true during periods of distress, demonstrating their worthiness of citizenship in the Kingdom.

The concept of Christians suffering because of judgment upon them, a judgment necessary for their salvation, is found in First Peter:

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved [is saved with difficulty], where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (I Peter 4:17-19)

It is difficult for the pampered believers of our day, especially in the wealthy nations, to believe God would send trouble on the saints as a judgment intended to make them worthy of the Kingdom of God. But it is true. As many as the Lord Jesus loves He chastens.

The believers who accept suffering as part of entering the Kingdom of God, who arm themselves with a willingness to take up their cross, will prosper spiritually in the last days. Those who refuse suffering, claiming that God wants us happy all the time, will be sent a strong delusion by the Lord. They shall not be raised when the Lord appears. They shall not march in the Lord’s army. They have not been found faithful.

Verse Six

Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (II Thessalonians 1:6)

We Christians are not to avenge ourselves. But we shall be avenged! The Lord Jesus warned people not to harm the "little ones" who believe in Him. It were better that those who persecuted the believers were drowned in the sea. The Divine woe has been pronounced against the ungodly people who were harming the saints in Thessalonica.

Verse Seven

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (II Thessalonians 1:7)

Here is the verse that provides the hope for those who are facing Antichrist and the great tribulation. The hope is not that we will be carried up to Heaven in a "rapture" several years before the Lord returns. It is the hope of the Lord appearing with His warrior angels to "recompense tribulation" to those who are troubling us.

Verse Eight

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (II Thessalonians 1:8)

This is the coming of the Lord, the parousia. The verse fits all the Old Testament passages referring to the return of Christ. It is the appearing of the Lord Jesus in power and glory to establish His Kingdom by violence upon the earth.

First Thessalonians 4:15 speaks of the coming (parousia ) of the Lord.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming [parousia ] of the Lord shall not prevent [go before] them which are asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)

Second Thessalonians 2:1, obviously referring back to Second Thessalonians 1:7, also uses the term "coming" (parousia ).

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (II Thessalonians 2:1)

Could any reasonable student claim that II Thessalonians 2:1 is not referring to the verses immediately preceding?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in his first letter about the coming of the Lord, and in his second letter about the coming of the Lord, using the same Greek noun for coming, speaking in the second letter of the coming of the Lord as the promised relief of the persecuted saints. It is logical to assume First Thessalonians, Chapter Four and Second Thessalonians, Chapter One are referring to the same event. First Thessalonians tells how the dead saints will benefit by the Lord’s return. Second Thessalonians tells how the living saints will benefit by the Lord’s return.

Parousia is the only Greek term used for "coming" in both First and Second Thessalonians. It is quite reasonable that Paul would be referring to one coming when writing two letters about the coming of the Lord to the same group of believers.

We state all of this to say that the verses in the first and second chapters of Second Thessalonians are a continuation of I Thessalonians 4:13-17. "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not our being caught up into the air that delivers us from Antichrist but the power of Christ that will destroy the enemy at the Lord’s appearing.

The same day that Lot went out of Sodom, fire came down from the sky and destroyed the sinners. The same day that the saints are carried up to the Lord, judgment will rain down from the sky and destroy the sinners.

But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and sulfur from heaven, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:29)

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:3)

For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming [parousia ] of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:39)

First Thessalonians 5:3 (above) obviously is referring back to First Thessalonians 4:13-17. There shall not be a period of time between the calling up of the saints to the Commander in Chief and the falling of the wrath of God upon the world. "In the same day that Lot went out of Sodom . . . ."

Verse Nine

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (II Thessalonians 1:9)

When the Lord returns, those who have believed and been baptized shall be saved. But those who have rejected the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, especially those who have harmed His witnesses, shall "be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord." What it means to be punished with "everlasting destruction" we do not know. However, we know the saints will find rest at the return of the Lord while the wicked shall receive back far more pain than they ever were able to cause the believers.

And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. (Zechariah 14:12)

Those who persecute the saints of the Lord or even refuse to assist His witnesses, His brothers, will be cast into the eternal fire.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41)

Verse Ten

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (II Thessalonians 1:10)

When the Lord returns He will be glorified in His saints. We shall be revealed together with Him and share His glory. His coming will not be a secret but as the lightning shining from east to west. The "lightning" is the Glory of God that will be revealed in His saints.

The nations of saved peoples of the earth will come to the saints for life and healing. Just as no person can come to the Father except through the Lord Jesus, so it will be true that none of the nations of the saved will be able to approach the Lord Jesus, and the Father through Him, except through the saints. In that day the saints will be one in the Son and the Father. The Glory of the Lord Jesus will be given to the saints, and the world will understand that the Father loves the Church as He loves His Firstborn Son. Then the world will believe the Father indeed has sent the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our hope is that the Lord Jesus will come in the fullness of His power and glory, raise us from the corruption of death, clothe us with a body of glory like His own body, and then fill us with Himself so His glorious coming is multiplied by our coming with Him.

This is the Day of the Lord, the one true coming of the Lord. The Lord will come with His army of righteous saints. The land will be as the garden of Eden before them, filled with the fair works of the flesh. Behind them will be a desolate wilderness as they destroy all that Satan and the self-will of mankind have accomplished.

Then, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, the sons of God will rebuild all that has been ruined by the great tribulation and the wrath of God. All who see them will understand that they are an integral part of God, of God’s Christ, and of the holy city of God, the new Jerusalem. This is the royal priesthood, the Bride of the Lamb, the Israel of God.

Verse Eleven

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (II Thessalonians 1:11)

We are called to reveal the glory of Christ when He appears in the clouds of the heaven. Whether or not we actually are raised from the dead, rise to meet Christ, and are revealed with Christ, depends on how faithfully we pursue our discipleship. If we endure patiently the many tribulations we encounter, holding fast to God’s Word, behaving in a righteous, holy, and obedient manner, God will count us worthy to be part of the parousia of the Lord.

The first resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of the blessed and holy royal priesthood, must be attained by an uncompromising seeking of the Lord.

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of [from] the dead. (Philippians 3:11)

Verse Twelve

That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Thessalonians 1:12)

If the Lord desired to be revealed in His Glory by Himself He would have set up His Kingdom two thousand years ago. The purpose of the Church Age has been to prepare the Body of Christ so the Head and Body of Christ, the Servant of the Lord, the Ruler of the nations, may be revealed together in glory.

At the time of the most horrible spiritual darkness of earth’s history the light of God will arise on the members of Christ’s Body. The wicked will be destroyed. The nation of Israel will be delivered. The nations of the saved will come to the Light of God shining from the glorified saints.

The nation and kingdom that refuses to serve God and Christ through the saints will be destroyed. The nations of the saved will bring themselves and their wealth to the Church to receive eternal life, deliverance, guidance, healing, and every other blessing. The nations of the saved are the inheritance of Christ and His saints.

When the saints are one in Christ in God, then the nations will believe God indeed has sent the Lord Jesus. They will come to the Church to learn of the holy God of Israel. All the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Second Thessalonians, Chapter Two

There is no question whether the coming of the Lord will occur before or after Antichrist and the great tribulation. Paul told us clearly the Lord will not return until Antichrist has had his day.

Verse One

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (II Thessalonians 2:1)

Notice the expression "our gathering together unto him."

Other descriptions of the parousia describe our being gathered together to the Lord.

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. (I Thessalonians 4:17)

This is a gathering together unto Him.

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven [of the heavens] to the other. (Matthew 24:31)

This is a gathering together unto Him.

The Lord told us when Matthew 24:31 (above) will take place:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (Matthew 24:29)

We shall be gathered together to be with the Lord "immediately after the tribulation of those days."

But let us continue in Second Thessalonians.

Verse Two

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (II Thessalonians 2:2)

"The day of Christ." "The day of the Lord."

First Thessalonians 5:2, referring back to I Thessalonians 4:13-17, terms the event "the day of the Lord."

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (I Thessalonians 5:2)

"That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled."

It is clear the Apostles of the Lamb did not preach an any-moment coming of the Lord. In fact, they were warning the Thessalonians against this attitude.

Would any conscientious Bible student maintain that Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to avoid being shaken in mind or upset that the day of Christ was going to take place momentarily, while at the same time advising them that at any moment there would be a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God?

Or, if Paul was teaching that the coming described in II Thessalonians is to take place seven years after the coming mentioned in I Thessalonians, then the Thessalonian Christians would understand that they would not be here when the Lord came. Why, then, would Paul caution them about being shaken in mind concerning the nearness of the day of the Lord, the day of Christ? This is highly unlikely.

Verse Three

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition [destruction]; (II Thessalonians 2:3)

"Let no man deceive you." What deception was operating? The deception that the coming (parousia ) of the Lord would take place at any moment. Perhaps the any-moment deception actually dates from the first century. It is a very destructive heresy because the believers cease preparing themselves for the tribulations of life. Also it may have had an adverse affect on missionary activity. Why take life seriously if one is going to disappear at any moment?

The following passages may indicate that the erroneous concept of the any-moment coming of the Lord had caused the believers in Thessalonica to cease working and to go from house to house, talking about how soon the Lord would come.

And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; (I Thessalonians 4:11)

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. (II Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Periodically a Christian author writes a book in which he predicts that the "rapture" will take place in the near future. Such books sell very well and no doubt bring considerable money to the author. In one recent episode, people were getting rid of their pets so the animals would be taken care of after the owners left in the "rapture."

Of course, no rapture takes place. However, this does not stop the foolish believers from buying the next book on the market that predicts the date of the "rapture." Nor does it hinder the book store owners from profiteering on the gullibility of the believers.

Christian book store owners should never offer a book stating the date of the coming of the Lord unless they provide a guarantee that if the event does not take place the cost will be returned to the buyer. Christian book store owners should be held accountable for what they sell! No doubt the Lord holds them accountable!

According to the Apostle Paul, two events must occur before "that day," the day of the Lord, takes place:

The worldwide rebellion against authority.

The revelation of the man of sin, the Antichrist.

It has been two thousand years since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. Hopefully the believers did not dress in white and stand on the roofs of their houses, for the day of Christ has not come to the present hour.

It indeed is doubtful that the Apostle Paul spoke to the churches concerning an any-moment "rapture." If he did, he has been discredited as an apostle of the Lord. We now are two thousand years from the writings of the epistles to the Thessalonians. No "rapture" has taken place. However the events of which the Lord spoke in Matthew, Chapter 24 have continued to take place, and will continue to take place until every one of them has occurred—including the great tribulation. Only then will the trumpet of God sound.

Revelation, Chapter Nineteen

We already have noticed some verses from Revelation, Chapter Nineteen. Let us look a bit more closely at this chapter. It begins with exultant praise because of the destruction of Babylon, that is, of manmade, institutional religion. The true Bride of the Lamb has been forced out of manmade religion and now is ready to be with her Lord. The voice of the Bridegroom and the Bride will never again be heard in institutionalized religion.

. . . and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: . . . . (Revelation 18:23)

The head of man never again shall be on the Body of Christ. The Day of the Lord has come. The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

Verse Six

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)

Now that the Bride has been removed completely from babylonish religion she is ready to be married to the Lamb.

Verse Seven

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)

There are two passages of Scripture that announce the marriage of the Lamb. The passage immediately above, and the following passage.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

These two events are separated by the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

It is the writer’s point of view that the first event, Revelation 19:7, concerns a firstfruits of the Church, a holy, warlike remnant that will rule with the Lord Jesus throughout the Kingdom Age. The firstfruits makes herself ready.

In the second event, the Bride is presented as the glorious holy city, the new Jerusalem. In this case the Bride is made ready by others. We think the purpose of the thousand-year Kingdom Age is to perfect the entire Church so it will be prepared to descend from Heaven as the new Jerusalem, the eternal government of the earth.

The entire Church will not be ready at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, that is, at the time of the Lord’s coming. That the entire Church is not in the present hour a bride without blemish is obvious as we look about us. But there is a holy remnant that is overcoming Satan in the present hour, through the grace of the Lord Jesus, and these experienced disciples will be ready to rule with the Lord during the Kingdom Age.

The following verse is critically important:

Verse Eight

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [righteous acts] of saints. (Revelation 19:8)

Unfortunately the Authorized Version says "the righteousness of saints." The proper translation is "the righteous deeds of the saints." This distinction is of the greatest importance. If the Bride were to be clothed in imputed (ascribed) righteousness, then every believer would be ready to rule with the Lord.

But the firstfruits of the Bride is not clothed in imputed righteousness but in the fine linen of her righteous behavior, a righteous behavior produced as she has followed the Lord Jesus through the Divine program of deliverance from the love of the world, from the lusts of the flesh, and from self-will.

More than that, the militant righteousness of Christ has been formed in her. She is "terrible as an army with banners." It hardly is true that the Christian churches of today are terrible in righteous behavior, a terror to Satan and his followers. But there is a holy, warlike remnant in the present hour that soon will be a terror to the lords of darkness.

As we understand the Scriptures, Revelation 19:8 is speaking of the resurrection of the dead, the first resurrection, the resurrection that will take place when the Lord returns. The resurrection that will take place at the appearing of the Lord is the clothing of God’s people with the garments of salvation, the garments of righteous behavior created in Heaven as the saints have cooperated with the Holy Spirit in experiencing Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection.

Their whole personality has been brought down to death and then raised again in Christ. The process of continual crucifixion and resurrection has created a garment of righteousness that will be given to them at the coming of the Lord. As they have sown they now are reaping. Their mortal body has been sown to the death of the cross and a body of righteousness has been raised before the throne of God in Heaven.

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:44)

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)

This is the marriage of the Lamb.

We have for so long pictured the resurrection only in terms of the catching up that the concept of resurrection as a change from mortality to immortality may be difficult to grasp. Revelation 19:8 is speaking of the change from the filthy robes of the flesh to the radiantly white robes of righteous behavior. This is the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection the Apostle Paul was striving to attain.

Let us look once more at Paul’s statements in I Corinthians, Chapter 15. As we know, this is the "resurrection chapter" of the Scriptures.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:50)

The above statement that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God" is an important concept for the believer in the "rapture" to consider. Those who teach the any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture" imagine that Christian people will ascend into the air as unchanged flesh and blood creatures, much as Enoch and Elijah did.

Let us continue:

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (I Corinthians 15:51)

"We shall all be changed."

The crucial aspect of the resurrection is the change that will take place in our body.

Paul is saying some believers will be left on the earth unto the coming of the Lord. They will not "sleep," not die, as did all the other believers of history. However all will be "changed." All will pass from mortality to immortality. This is what it means to be resurrected from the dead.

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. (I Corinthians 15:52)

"At the last trumpet."

There are seven trumpets mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The seventh trumpet, which is discussed in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Revelation, is the last trumpet.

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

The seventh and last trumpet will sound, the dead and living believers will be changed into immortality, and the Kingdom of God will come to the earth, just as the Apostle Paul stated.

The resurrection and ascension are shown as taking place at the time of the sounding of the seventh trumpet.

And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. (Revelation 11:11,12).

Since the Greek language makes no distinction between the "heaven" that is the sky and the "heaven" that is the spirit realm of God, the Lord Jesus, the saints, and holy angels, it is likely that the above passage is speaking of the saints ascending into the sky until a cloud hid them from view. This is how the ascension of the Lord Jesus took place.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9)

Notice that they (the witnessing saints of all ages) are resurrected before they ascend. "They stood upon their feet" is the accurate definition of the term resurrection. They are able to stand on their feet because of their change from dead, fleshly bodies to bodies fashioned from the substance of incorruptible, eternal life.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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 is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15:53,54)

The above is the resurrection from the dead, the true hope of the Christian Church.

Notice the similarity:

"This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."

"To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white."

Can you see that the resurrection from the dead is not a rising into the air but a putting on of immortality?

Notice also:

For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (II Corinthians 5:4)

"Put on immortality."

"Arrayed in fine linen."

"Clothed upon."

Paul’s hope was to be clothed with incorruptible life. Paul’s hope was not to be carried into the air to escape Antichrist or the great tribulation.

Verse Nine

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:9)

When the Glory of the Lord comes upon the saints, the nations of saved peoples of the earth will come to that Divine light.

And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:3)

To inherit the nations is part of the true hope of the Christian saint.

The saints have now been changed and have ascended to meet the Lord in the air. Although the ascension is not mentioned at this point, just as it is not mentioned in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, we know it will take place because of I Thessalonians 4:13-17 and Revelation 11:12. The reader may notice we are viewing Revelation 11:12 and 19:8 as the same event, although the second verse comes much later in the Book of Revelation. This points up the fact that the events of the Book of Revelation are not in chronological order. The Lord Jesus was showing John several different aspects of the Day of the Lord, not a portrayal in order of the events of the Church Age.

For example, notice that the following passage portrays one aspect of the coming of the Day of Wrath.

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:15-17)

Several chapters later we find the rise of Antichrist from the sea of humanity.

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. (Revelation 13:1)

We understand that Antichrist will emerge before the Day of Wrath. Therefore the events are not in order but may be thought of as different aspects of the entire Church Age. It is not the order but the substance that is important.

The next event, after the saints are resurrected, will be the furious attack of the Battle of Armageddon.

Verse Eleven

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. (Revelation 19:11)

Those who ride with the Lord in that day will have been called, chosen, and found faithful.

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)

They will be clothed in the white robes of righteous behavior. They will be terrible in the righteousness that has been created in them by the Lord Jesus.

Verse Fourteen

And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)

The wicked nations of the earth, those that have surrounded and invaded Jerusalem, will attempt to resist the coming of the Lord and His army.

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:2,3)

Verse Nineteen

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. (Revelation 19:19)

But Antichrist and the False Prophet will be slain and cast into the Lake of Fire. They will still be alive and in their bodies, for all people shall be rewarded or tormented while in their bodies.

Verse Twenty

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with sulfur. (Revelation 19:20)

"These both were cast alive (that is, in their bodies) into a lake of fire."

The destruction of Antichrist is precisely as Paul described it in Second Thessalonians.

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (II Thessalonians 1:7)

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (II Thessalonians 2:8)

Revelation, Chapter Twenty

Notice very carefully the following three verses, for they describe the first resurrection from the dead, that is, the resurrection that will occur when the Lord returns. We have referred to the three verses previously.

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)

"This is the first resurrection."

It is not possible that there could have been a resurrection and ascension prior to Revelation, Chapters Nineteen and Twenty. The Scripture states, "this is the first resurrection." If there were a resurrection and ascension before the resurrection described here, then this would not be the first resurrection.

Look again at Paul’s statement:

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: (I Thessalonians 4:16)

"The dead in Christ shall rise first." The rising of the dead in Christ has to be the first resurrection. The Scripture declares that those who belong to Christ will be raised "at His coming."

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming [parousia ]. (I Corinthians 15:23) )

Now let us examine the qualifications for being resurrected, rising to meet Christ, and appearing with Him at His coming.

The souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.

Which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands.

"Beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God."

Although some of the Christian martyrs of history were killed by beheading, most were not. Many believers have been shot, some speared, some crucified, some strangled, some burned to death. Hundreds of thousands of saints have died for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God who were not beheaded.

We understand that God will not limit participation in the first resurrection to the relatively few saints who were beheaded. We must look for a deeper meaning of what it means to be beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God.

At the beginning of Chapter 19 of the Book of Revelation we find great rejoicing taking place among many people in heaven.

And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. (Revelation 19:1,2)

The people in Heaven were rejoicing over the destruction of Babylon the Great.

Babylon the Great represents, as we understand it, the huge religious organization of the last days. Babylon the Great will be the epitome of institutionalized religion, the ultimate denomination.

After the flood the children of Noah multiplied greatly, becoming the families and nations of mankind. At first they all spoke the same language.

Traveling together as one large group they came upon a plain in what now is Iraq, near the Euphrates River.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:4)

The children of Noah had attained that which the nations desire today. They were of one mind. Apparently there was no violence or warring among them. There seems to have been no lack of food or shelter.

They were doing what God commanded. They were multiplying on the earth and subduing nature.

There was nothing that they could not accomplish if they set their mind to it. What an ideal condition for mankind!

They determined to build a city and a tower that would reach into the heavens. Perhaps the tower was part of the city just as the entire new Jerusalem will be a tower that rises 1,500 miles from the surface of the new earth.

Mankind was at peace and building a city and tower. Did God view this world peace and productivity with approval?

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis 11:6,7)

No, He did not. God confused their language and scattered them over the face of the earth.

Why did God lay the groundwork for all future wars and misunderstandings while people were working together in a cooperative manner? It is not stated that they were sinning, only that they were cooperating in a common endeavor.

The answer is in the expression, "nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."

There is one truly important decision a human being makes in the course of his life. Should I build my own tower to Heaven or should I seek God’s will? Should I build or should I seek?

The answer of Christian leaders, and the leaders of Judaism before them, often is, "I will build."

Thus we have the religion of Judaism and the religion of Christianity, two competing religions headed by self-directed people, when God’s intention was not and is not that Judaism and Christian be religions. Both true Judaism and true Christianity are revelations of God to individuals and there is no conflict whatever between them. In actual fact, Judaism and Christianity are part of one revelation of God to man.

The conflict comes from the babylonish confusion produced by the efforts of the human mind to reach God.

God asks people to "lose their heads," that is, to lay aside their own wisdom, understanding, plans, and ambitions, and seek His rest—seek His perfect will for their life.

God requires of people only that they behave righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. This is all. Nothing more than this. But man has "sought out many inventions."

People are unwilling to lose their heads. The result has been the religion of Judaism with its self-motivated leadership. The leadership of the Jews murdered their Christ—murdered the One who always sought the will of His Father.

The result of human thinking and imagining also has been the Christian religion with its self-motivated leadership. The leaders of Christianity have tortured and murdered the Jewish people as well as their own true saints and prophets—those sent of God to teach the Christians the righteous ways of the Lord.

The leaders of Judaism killed the prophets sent to them. The leaders of Christianity kill the apostles sent to them.

Institutional religion always will rage and leap about whenever God sends His messenger. The leaders of Babylon murder the true people of God because of envy. Babylon wants to build a city and a tower that reaches into the heavens. Babylon builds its own kingdom and that kingdom always will fight against the Kingdom of God.

In the last days the government of Antichrist will cooperate with Babylon, the worldwide religious organization, in order to bring about world peace and security, just as in past history there were times when the kings of Europe cooperated with the Pope of Rome.

Finally the desire of Antichrist to be the supreme god will cause him to destroy Babylon. How can Antichrist sit in the restored Temple in Jerusalem and declare himself to be god when there is a religious leader, another god, on the banks of the Euphrates (where we believe the great religious organization will be located)?

Many people in Heaven will rejoice when Babylon is destroyed, for the religious institutions have tortured and killed the saints, casting them out because of their faithful witness of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God in their mouth.

Those who will be raised at the next appearing of the Lord will be free from Babylon. They will have no guile in their mouth. They have been beheaded, that is, all of their own wisdom, knowledge, understanding, plans, ambitions—all of their own desire to build, to achieve, has been given to God. They have been "beheaded." In return they have received the mind of Christ. In their case, the Head of Christ has been placed on the Body of Christ.

No person will sit on the thrones that govern the creation, will participate in the first resurrection, until he has been "beheaded." Most believers have never given their "head" to Christ. Therefore most believers will not participate in the first resurrection. In our day, the head of man, rather than of Christ, is on many members of the Body of Christ.

"Had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands."

The second requirement for being raised in the first resurrection is that we do not worship the beast, or his image, or receive his mark in our forehead or hand.

Antichrist is the spirit who seeks to usurp the place of Christ. Antichrist is the world spirit, the spirit that maintains man is god, the spirit that trusts in money rather than in the Holy Spirit, the spirit that looks to education rather than to the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord God.

Each of us must make the decision. Should I walk humbly with God or should I trust in my own wisdom and efforts? Should I spend my time and energy acquiring wealth or should I trust in God for my needs? Should I seek wisdom and knowledge or should I look to God each moment of each day? Should I be content to live by human, biologic life or should I seek to live by the body and blood of the Lord?

It is impossible to bear a true witness of Christ or to faithfully present the Word of God until we lose our own adamic "head" and put on the Head of Christ.

The Antichrist spirit is prevailing in our day. People, including many believers it appears, are ready to worship themselves, money, and education. How many are waiting humbly on the Lord each day? How many leaders of denominations and churches are waiting humbly on the Lord each day?

What the image of the beast is we do not know as yet. It is the False Prophet who encourages the people of the earth to make an image to the beast, to Antichrist. The False Prophet is the spirit of religious delusion. This is the spirit that has swept into the Charismatic movement, teaching God’s people to worship money, to use faith to get what they want, and lately to use political power to force morality on the secular world.

Somehow the Pentecostal believers will be worked into the position of assisting a government that probably will be Christian in name but will have the head of man, not of Christ.

To have the mark of Antichrist in our forehead is to trust the leadership of man, the head of man.

To have the mark of Antichrist in our hand is to do the works of man in the attempt to create a "better" world.

The builders of the Tower of Babel had the mark of Antichrist in their foreheads and hands.

The Body of Christ is at a fork in the road. We have been saved by the blood of the Lamb. We have received the power of the Spirit.

The question is, will we use our authority as children of God and the power of the Spirit to "deliver" people and help them build their own kingdoms, or will we turn to the Lord Jesus every moment of every day, waiting upon His slightest will in every situation? Will we turn away from Babylon, the kingdom builder? Or will we keep our own head and attempt to reach God by our own wisdom and strength?

Are we willing to "lose our head" in order that we might bear a true witness of the Lord Jesus and proclaim truthfully the whole Word of God? No individual can ever bear a true witness of the Lord and proclaim faithfully the whole counsel of God until he or she has been "beheaded."

The babylonish religious systems always will place the head of man on the Body of Christ.

The third platform of redemption is the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34). We have been at Passover (the blood of the cross), at Pentecost (the power of the Holy Spirit), and now we face the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth by means of the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.

In order to experience "Tabernacles" we must we willing to lose our head and to turn away from the world spirit. We must make the decision to live only and always for the will of the Lord Jesus. We must follow the Lamb wherever He goes. We must become the dwelling place of God and the Lamb.

The choice is ours today. We can choose to try to reach Heaven by using what we know of the Scriptures or we can turn away from the endeavors of flesh and blood and cast ourselves completely on the Lord. There is a further experience in God waiting for every believer who will seek the Lord with renewed determination. There indeed is a land of spiritual milk and honey, ready to be possessed. Those who come to the Lord for the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles will be made ready for the marriage of the Lamb, for the appearing of the Lord from Heaven.

In our own generation we can see the beginning of the rebellion against all authority. Also we can perceive in the religion of Humanism the concept that man is god, thus paving the way for a deceived Christian to finally declare himself to be God Almighty and to take his place between the wings of the cherubim in a restored Temple in Jerusalem.

The Apostle Paul spoke with the voice of Christ. The coming of the Lord shall not take place until first there has been the full mutiny against all authority and a man sits in the Temple in Jerusalem referring to himself as God. These two events are approaching the final stages of development.

The Christian churches have been deceived, just as the Lord Jesus warned.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (Matthew 24:4)

The Lord was speaking of being deceived concerning His return. Such deception has been widespread throughout the twentieth century and continues in numerous churches.

Recently a member our church was discussing the "rapture" with a fellow employee. The employee said, "If I did not believe in the rapture I would live differently," meaning he would become more serious about his consecration.

Our member responded, "Why do you believe in the rapture?"

The reply was, "I will have to ask my Pastor."

This incident caused us to attempt to define and isolate the "rapture" concept in our mind in order to evaluate its effect on the Christian churches. We pondered what the effect would be on the churches if suddenly the belief in the any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture" were removed. Would the believers change their behavior in any manner? If so, how would they change? Would they serve the Lord more fervently or less fervently?

We derived from our meditation that the "rapture" error has created an unfounded optimism concerning the future. There is no doubt that terrible judgments are about to fall on the earth. But the believers will not take heed to their behavior, continuing in their silly, immature fashion because of this unfounded optimism. Instead of preparing themselves and their loved ones for the catastrophes at hand they exclaim, "I know terrifying troubles are ahead for the world. But what do I care! I won’t be here!"

Perhaps most of us have experienced seasons when the future was bleak. We were facing a lawsuit, or an operation, or a tragedy about to take place in our family. How did the dread affect our relationship to the Lord? Did it drive us toward Him or away from Him? With many of us our prayers become much more serious and intense when a great danger is at hand.

What if someone told us we would be taken to Heaven before the lawsuit went to court, or the operation was performed, or the tragedy in our family occurred? How would that affect the sincerity and intensity of our prayers?—our consecration?—our preparation for trouble?

How has the idea that we shall be in Heaven away from all trouble in the near future affected the way we respond to the national financial crisis? Are we seeking the Lord for strength to stand in Him during the days of trouble or are we relaxing in the assurance that "we won’t be here"?

It is certain that one does not diligently prepare himself to be a soldier if he is told there will be no battle.

It is the pastors, teachers, and evangelists who must arise and drive out the "rapture" teaching.

If we are correct that the removal of the any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture" concept would result in much more serious, more intensely dedicated churches, then the "rapture" doctrine indeed is a monumental disaster in terms of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The "rapture" doctrine, aimed as it is at God’s elect, may well prove to be the most destructive of all the errors that have weakened the Christian churches throughout history.

It is not acceptable to say, I don’t care whether it is "pretrib" (pre-tribulation), "midtrib," or "postrib." I just want to be ready. It is not a question of theological accuracy. It is a question of the degree of seriousness with which we regard the future and our determination to save ourselves and our loved ones. As long as there is a trace of the any-moment pre-tribulation rapture concept left in our spirit, any notion that we shall escape the days of judgment that are at hand by being caught away to Heaven, we simply will not prepare ourselves with the sternness the truth calls for.

The error is not in placing the ascension at the wrong time in God’s program, it is in viewing the ascension as an escape to the spirit realm because of trouble in the earth. The purpose of the ascension is not to provide an escape for the saints. The Lord Jesus did not ascend into the heaven in order to escape pain and trouble. The record of the Old Testament contains several incidents in which God protected His saints in the midst of trouble.

Now it is time to cast out the "pre-tribulation rapture" error. The coming of the Lord will be the great and terrible Day of the Lord spoken of by the Hebrew Prophets. It will not be the removal of a fleshly group of churchgoers so they will not be harmed by the terrors of Antichrist and the great tribulation. Rather the future will be marked by unprecedented revival, terrible tribulation, and then unbelievable glory as the saints of all ages arise in their bodies of glory and shake terribly the earth.

The sun and the moon shall be darkened. The archangel Michael shall thunder his commands to the invincible legions of warrior angels. Almighty God shall issue the Word of ultimate power. Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, surrounded by Michael’s chosen host of giant warriors, accompanied by the called, chosen, and faithful of mankind, will appear for every eye to see.

From the sky the Commander in Chief will summon His faithful witnesses from the earth. Together with the glorified kings and judges the saints still alive shall be transformed into incorruptible resurrection life and then caught up in the sight of the wicked into the clouds to be placed in their ranks in the Lord’s army.

The day of the large and powerful army has come.

A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. (Joel 2:2)

Down from the sky with the speed of light will hurtle the two armies, the army of judges and the army of huge angelic warriors. The Mount of Olives will split in two. Through the dried-up bed of the Euphrates will ride the kings from the rising of the sun. Antichrist and his armies will be totally crushed. Antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast alive, in their bodies, into the Lake of Fire. One angel will throw a massive chain around Satan and hurl him into the bottomless pit.

Accompanied by His faithful witnesses the greater Son of David will be brought to the throne of David on the Temple Mount. There accompanied by an earth-shaking roar of praise from the multitude of saints the King of all kings will be crowned.

Now Christ’s legions will go throughout the earth. Wherever there is evil it will be burned up.

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (Malachi 4:1)

Quietness will settle upon the whole earth. Then, little by little, nature will begin to sing with joy. The Spirit of God will fill the earth. The nations of the saved will come to the Light of God radiating from the saints.

The Rock of Israel has come. Jacob has been delivered from all sin and death. Christ has appeared.

Let this be our glorious hope forever and ever.

The Lord is at hand.

Amen.