RAPTURE OR RESURRECTION?
"RAPTURE" OR RESURRECTION? From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth and the raising of the bodies of the saints have been the hope of the godly from the days of the Apostles of the Lamb, and ought to be the hope of the believers of our time. Instead, an unscriptural emphasis on the catching up ("rapture") of the saints has been inserted in place of the historic hope. The emphasis on the catching up of the saints rather than their resurrection has destroyed the spiritual vitality of the Christian churches.
"RAPTURE" OR RESURRECTION?
The resurrection from the dead is one of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Gospelthe Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The fifteenth chapter of the Book of First Corinthians is devoted to the topic of raising the bodies of the saints from the dead.
If our bodies are not going to be raised from the dead our faith in Christ is in vain.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (I Corinthians 5:19)
In fact, the Scripture does not consider we have been brought to life until our body has come forth from the grave.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christs at his coming. (I Corinthians 15:22,23)
We shall have attained the fullness of victory when our mortal body has been made alive by the Spirit of God. This will take place at the coming of Christ.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:26)
The resurrection from the dead, which is the final victory of the saint, must be attained.
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection [Greek, out-resurrection] of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
We attain to the resurrection by overcoming the world, the satanic lusts that dwell in our flesh, and our self-will. If we live in the appetites of the flesh we will die spiritually. If we, through the Holy Spirit of God, achieve victory over the world, sin, and self-will, we will attain to eternal life.
For if ye live in the appetites of the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
Eternal life, immortality, that which Adam and Eve forfeited, has been lost to mankind from the time of the fall. Death has been working in our flesh and spirit since our physical birth. God has given Christians the gift of eternal life, that is, He has brought us into His Presence with a view to immortalizing all that we arespirit, soul, and body.
The gift of eternal life must be grasped. Eternal life is a demanding gift. God has not given us the gift of life as one would make a present of money but as the opportunity to attain to life. There is a difference between these two concepts.
If we Christians choose to employ the grace of God in order to live righteously, we attain to eternal life; we attain to the resurrection out from among the dead. If we do not choose to serve righteousness, do not learn through Christ to behave righteously, we will not attain to eternal life (Romans, Chapter Six).
The return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth and the raising of the bodies of the saints have been the hope of the godly from the days of the Apostles of the Lamb and ought to be the hope of the believers of our time.
Instead, an unscriptural emphasis on the catching up ("rapture") of the saints has been inserted in place of the historical hope. According to Dr. Ladd of Fuller Theological Seminary, the doctrine of a pre-tribulation translation of the believers came into existence in the nineteenth century. It was not known before this time (George E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956, p.19).
The emphasis on the ascension of the saints rather than their resurrection has destroyed the spiritual vitality of the Christian churches. The doctrine of the ascension, as it currently is presented, appeals to the unregenerate nature of man. The ascension is perceived as a means of escaping suffering, a doctrine with no scriptural support (see, for example, the fourth chapter of First Peter for the scriptural attitude toward the suffering of the believers).
The Old Testament speaks of the resurrection of the saints but never, to our knowledge, of their being caught up. The fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians is the "resurrection chapter" of the Scriptures; yet, this chapter does not mention the catching up of the saints. Paul was not seeking to attain to the catching up (Philippians 3:11).
Except for I Thessalonians 4:13-18, a passage written for the comfort of the bereaved believers but which is now regarded as a special, secret appearing of Christ, none of the epistles of the Apostles alludes to the ascension of the saints.
There is no indication in the fourth chapter of I Thessalonians, that Paul is referring to a flight to Heaven or a flight to escape suffering. These ideas have no basis in Scripture.
The fourth chapter of I Thessalonians, with its "shout," its "voice of the archangel," and its "trump of God" is speaking of raising from the dead the army of Christ in anticipation of the Battle of Armageddon (Ezekiel 37:10).
The Epistles emphasize the resurrection but not the ascension. The Book of Revelation emphasizes the return in Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and speaks directly of the first and second resurrections from the dead. The ascension of the witnessing saints is mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
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 11:12)
If the ascension of the saints had one-tenth the importance being assigned to it today it would be discussed in several passages of the New Testament, as is true of the doctrine of righteousness, for example.
The Book of Revelation, which is the definitive unveiling of the future, does not reveal a withdrawing of the believers to Paradise for the purpose of escaping suffering or escaping the Antichrist. It is the resurrection, not the ascension, that is the victory.
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)
Once we have been raised from the dead we have no need of being caught up to deliver us from suffering. We shall have immortal bodies. Therefore it is not logical to speak of the ascension as being for the purpose of escaping suffering or danger.
Rather, the ascension of the saints is for the purpose of arraying the army of Christ in battle formation under the Commander in Chief.
It is Christs resurrection, not His ascension, that saves us, that justifies us. We are being pressed into His crucifixion and His resurrection. The power of Christs resurrection is associated with the fellowship of His sufferings. Christs ascension, which took place forty days after His resurrection (as may prove to be true also in our own case), was not an act of redemption on a level with His resurrection.
Redemption is the reclaiming of that which disobedient man forfeited to Satan. Man forfeited access to eternal life, not residence in Heaven.
To our knowledge there is no inkling of such an emphasis in the Old Testament, while the resurrection from the dead indeed is presented in the Old Testament (Job 19:25,26; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:12; Daniel 12:2).
Resurrection into eternal life in the Presence of the Lord Jesus is the great hope of the Christian Church. Ascension into the realm of spirits is no guarantee that we will not suffer. Indeed, there is much suffering in the spirit realm. The worst suffering anyone can experience is found in the spiritual Hell and the spiritual Lake of Fire. There is no release there by means of unconsciousness or death.
Numerous believers in Christ are facing stripes (or worse!) in the spirit realm because of their halfhearted, disinterested, disobedient walk in Jesus. The concept of a "rapture" to deliver them from suffering is not taught in the Scriptures. Indeed, it may be "out of the frying pan into the fire" for multitudes of the church-attenders of our day.
If the present generation of Christian "believers" were to be caught up into the Presence of Him whose eyes are a flame of fire there would be scenes of agony, remorse, wailing, terror, that no person could bear to watch
The believers have been taught that once they make a profession of Jesus as Christ they no longer need to fear the judgment of God. While such a concept can be derived from one or two passages, the bulk of the New Testament writings declare the opposite.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8)
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)
None of the above passages is addressed to the unbelievers.
Nowhere in the New Testament is there a suggestion that Christ will deliver the believers from tribulation by lifting them up to Heaven. Are we preaching and teaching that which is not taught clearly in the Scriptures?
A change in emphasis from the doctrine of the ascension of the immature believers to Heaven to avoid tribulation, to an emphasis on the pursuit of righteous and holy behavior such that the resurrection from the dead is attained (which was the expressed hope of the Apostle Paul), will restore spiritual vitality to the Christian churches.