A NEGLECTED CLAUSE

A NEGLECTED CLAUSE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The so-called "rapture" of the believers is preached regularly in numerous Christian churches. One would think the catching up of the Christians was a major topic of the New Testament. It assuredly is not.

The teaching of the "rapture" is drawn from a passage in First Thessalonians that was written by the Apostle Paul to comfort saints whose fellow believers had died. However, there is a clause in this passage that often is neglected.

A NEGLECTED CLAUSE

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (I Thessalonians 4:16)

The so-called "rapture" of the believers is preached regularly in numerous Christian churches. One would think the catching up of the Christians was a major topic of the New Testament. It assuredly is not.

The teaching of the "rapture" is drawn from a passage in First Thessalonians that was written by the Apostle Paul to comfort saints whose fellow believers had died. However, there is a clause in this passage that often is neglected.

The neglected clause is: "the dead in Christ will rise first."

If this clause were not present, we might be led to believe at any moment every person who has made a profession of faith in Christ will suddenly begin to rise into the air and then be carried into Heaven. However, it always is dangerous to derive a doctrine from one passage when there is no confirming passage in the Old or New Testament.

The popularity of the "rapture" doctrine is due to the pleasant thought that at any moment we will have no more troubles but will find ourselves in Paradise. Obviously such a teaching will cause people to come to church and be comforted.

The popularity of the "rapture" doctrine is not due to the fact that it is scriptural. No sound exposition of the Scriptures will support the doctrine of the "rapture"—not even the fourth chapter of the Book of Thessalonians.

The first evidence that the idea of an any-moment rapture is an unscriptural vision of the coming of the Lord is the fact that Paul is writing, in First Thessalonians, concerning the grief of the believers over the death of relatives and friends.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13)

Paul had not preached "going to Heaven when we die" to the believers in Thessalonica. Paul, as well as Christ and His Apostles, preached the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.

Therefore, when a Christian died, his or her relatives and friends were grieving because they were not certain when the deceased would enter the Kingdom of God. They did not possess the "mansions in Heaven" concept that is true of us today.

This is why Paul stressed that when the Lord returns, the living saints will not go into the Kingdom before those who have passed away.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)

The disciplined scholar will not ignore the intent of a given passage when attempting to arrive at its meaning.

But the problem we wish to focus on in the present essay has to do with the clause "the dead in Christ will rise first."

Right here is the cause for concern. The verb "will rise" means will rise from the dead. As far as we know it has no reference to rising into the air.

Christ rose from the dead on the third day. He did not rise into the air until forty days later.

So the Apostle Paul is telling us that when the Lord Jesus returns He first will permit those who have returned with Him to reclaim their bodies from wherever they have been interred. Then (if we understand the sequence correctly) He will transform those who have been raised until their bodies resemble His. Next He will transform the living saints so that the entire company of believers, those who have died and those who are alive and remain, may attain perfection together.

Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21)

God had planned something better for us so only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40)

Now, why is it important whether we hold to the current idea that suddenly all who have professed faith in Christ may be lifted up into the air and then into Heaven; or whether we adopt the scriptural statement that a resurrection must take place prior to the catching into the air?

It is important because the resurrection that will take place when the Lord Jesus next appears must be attained, whereas there is no attaining necessary if we are to be caught up into Heaven by grace. No preparation is necessary other than taking the "four steps of salvation."

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)

The resurrection that the Apostle Paul was striving to attain to is not the resurrection of the dead but the resurrection out from among the dead. This is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the members of the blessed and holy priesthood.

The general resurrection of the dead will not occur until the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.

The first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood, must be attained to, or arrived at as another translation maintains. It is a marvelous resurrection to eternal life in body, soul, and spirit. No judgment will occur at the first resurrection for the participants had been judged previously as they confessed and turned away from their sin.

Sin no longer has authority over them. Therefore the Lake of Fire no longer has authority over them.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

Satan strives continually to turn our attention away from the resurrection, and proclaims the catching up of the believers to Heaven. Satan is terrified at the thought of the resurrection of the victorious saints. This is because the saints who return with the Lord Jesus will be resurrected, transformed, caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and then descend on the white war stallions and bring an end to Satan’s kingdom on the earth.

Satan much prefers we concentrate on being caught up to Paradise in our immature condition. In fact, Satan would be delighted if all the victorious saints would be removed to Heaven so he could delight himself in the flesh of mankind.

Immature believers present no threat to Satan or his rulership over the nations of the earth.

Paul was seeking to arrive at the first resurrection. How do we do that? The idea is that we must attain to the resurrection in our inward nature. Then we are competent and authorized to attain to the resurrection in our outward nature.

No believer who has not attained the inner resurrection has any hope of being raised at the time of the Lord’s next appearing. The promises of Kingdom glory are made only to the victorious saints.

But how is such victory attained?

Victory, the inner resurrection, is attained as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the daily work of character transformation.

Each day the Holy Spirit brings to us a challenge to our peace, to our resting in the will of God through Christ.

Let us say that someone, perhaps a relative, or a friend from the church we attend, says or does something that wounds us. Such a wound will challenge our peace, our resting in the will of God.

Immediately our adamic nature, our first, sinful personality, rises up in anger. We want to fight back, to exact revenge on the individual who brought pain and upset to us.

If we yield to our fleshly nature and fight back, we will maintain our adamic nature. But our adamic nature will not be permitted to inherit the Kingdom of God!

We have an alternative. Instead of fighting back we can bring our pain and irritation to the Lord. We can ask the Lord, "Why have I lost my peace? What is there in me that is disturbed by this incident"?

We realize fighting back against our adversary will accomplish nothing, except hinder him from coming to Christ. We see this hindrance symbolized as Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, figuratively preventing the servant from hearing Christ.

We ask the Lord why we have lost our peace. The Spirit will show us what fear, or doubt, or desire, or seeking of justice is causing us to be so upset. Then we are to confess our adamic tendency or passion to the Lord and ask Him to forgive and heal us.

This is how we grow in Christ. We keep on working with the Spirit as the Spirit probes the recesses of our personality. We continually renounce and denounce all areas of behavior that are not Christlike. In their place is formed Christ who Himself is the Resurrection and eternal Life.

This is how we enter the Kingdom of God. There is nothing in the adamic nature that is qualified to enter the Kingdom. We must be thoroughly, totally transformed if we are to be eligible for the changing of our body into the likeness of the body of the Lord.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:11-13)

The inner resurrection must precede the outer resurrection.

Now we can see why it is so terribly necessary that we look carefully at the clause that states "the dead in Christ will rise."

There can be no catching up into the air to meet Christ until first we have been resurrected. This is obvious.

Also, we cannot be resurrected outwardly until we have attained to resurrection life in our inner personality. This is not emphasized today, because the stress is on the catching up of the believers rather than on the resurrection of the believers.

There are at least two forceful words employed in First Thessalonians 4:13-18. The first is a noun, a noun used only once in the Greek New Testament. It is translated "loud command."

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (I Thessalonians 4:16)

The second is a verb. It is "caught up."

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (I Thessalonians 4:17)

The noun translated "loud command" may be thought of in terms of the following verse:

The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

The Lord gives a thunderous shout, a loud command.

The verb translated "caught up" implies that the ascension of the people is being resisted.

A shout by the Commander-in Chief, and possibly by the soldiers returning with Him as well as those who are alive and remain at His coming. It is the shout of war. We may remember that the walls of Jericho toppled when the Israelites shouted.

Now, why must there be a shout (not necessarily a command of any kind, but an utterance inciting to action)? And why the forceful "catching up"?

Strong terms are used because of what is taking place. It is because of the resistance of Satan.

If the forces of Hell had been able to they would have resisted the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. By His resurrection we have been saved. Not by His ascension into the clouds but by His resurrection.

It is the resurrection that is the destruction of the last enemy, physical death. It is the resurrection that is our goal—the resurrection out from among the dead. It is the resurrection that is the climax of redemption. It is the resurrection from among the dead that was Paul’s goal.

None of these Kingdom objectives is true of the catching up. The New Testament has very, very little to say about the catching up. But a great deal is said about the resurrection—the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and also our resurrection.

In our day the blessed hope of the Church has come to be the catching up of the believers to Heaven.

The Lord Jesus is the Resurrection, not the catching up.

The truth is, the blessed hope of the Church is the return of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead.

It is true also that the catching up is not into Heaven but into the air. This point often is overlooked, but it is the scriptural statement. The overlooking of the fact we are caught into the air and not into Heaven reveals the deadly bias in the deception termed the "rapture."

The Commander-in Chief descends from Heaven to the level of the air above us. We are caught up to meet Him in the air for two purposes. The first is so we can be mounted on the white war-stallions. The second is that those saints appointed to sit on the thrones that govern the earth, the thrones in the air, may take their places of authority and power.

There is no mention whatever in any passage of the Old or New Testament that describes a "rapture into Heaven" as it is taught today. There is only the one Day of the Lord. That day is the Day of Resurrection, the return of Jesus Christ to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.

The Spirit of God is announcing in the present hour that we must prepare ourselves for the return of the Lord Jesus. If it were true that at any moment we were going to be caught up to Heaven, then no preparation would be necessary. You can be certain Satan does not want us to prepare ourselves to stand in the evil day, as Paul admonishes us.

But because we must be resurrected before we are caught into the air (not into Heaven!) tremendous preparation is required.

My opinion is that it is not possible for the Lord to return within the next few years. If He does, many American Christians will be harmed by His appearing. They gossip, they slander, they lie, they steal, they use profanity, they covet, they sow discord, they engage in adultery and fornication. Do we truly expect that such are going to be caught up into the Presence of Jesus Christ? How unscriptural and ridiculous! Any such "Achans" would bring defeat to the army of the Lord at a critical time.

Much Divine judgment must fall on the United States of America before the people awaken to the fact that God is displeased with us. There must be widespread turning away from worldliness, lust and self-centeredness before an appreciable number of American Christians are prepared for the coming of the Lord.

There is talk of revival today. We thank God for every bit of spiritual life that is appearing.

However, a massive roadblock is in the way of genuine, lasting revival. That is, we are not preaching the true Gospel.

The true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ insists on repentance, on turning away from sin, as being necessary to salvation.

First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

We of today are not preaching that people must prove by their deeds that they have turned away from sin. We invite them to "let Jesus into their heart" (which the Apostles never did) and then inform them they are "saved by grace" and need not concern themselves overly with the purity of their behavior.

But look what the Scripture says:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, (Hebrews 10:26)

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (I John 3:6)

It is obvious the current lawless-grace-rapture-Heaven teaching and preaching is not of God but of Satan. What purpose does Satan have in promoting such unscriptural fantasies? Satan’s purpose is to maintain as long as possible his control over the nations of the earth. He and his angels and demons find release and expression through the bodies of people—even Christian people.

God will not bless the believers when they are continuing to sin. Because of this, Satan has invented the mammoth lie that Christians do not have to live righteously. Grace covers them so God does not see their behavior. He then has added that regardless of a lack of faithful discipleship, the believers will be caught up at any moment into the Paradise of God, there to do nothing of significance for eternity. Here is a formula for spiritual and moral disaster!

Compare this with the Bible picture of the faithful Christ returning on His great war-stallion, followed by those who have made themselves ready; who have been called, then chosen, then proven faithful by numerous testings and afflictions.

Christ and His warrior-saints will install the Kingdom of God on the earth, driving out Satan and all who serve Satan. This will happen during the Day of God’s wrath. It is a terrible, terrible period of Divine fury that is on the horizon. Therefore we must prepare ourselves.

The controversy is not whether Christ will return before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, or at the end of the tribulation. This is an eschatological detail of minor significance because the purpose of the catching up is not to enable us to escape Antichrist or the great tribulation. After we have been raised from the dead and transformed there is no need to remove us from the earth in order to escape Antichrist or the great tribulation. What unscriptural foolishness is preached in the present hour!

Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:18-20)

The entire vision, the image of the "rapture," is unscriptural. Not only is it unscriptural, it is keeping the believers in a state of eternal babyhood. They have no concept of the resurrection that is out from among the dead. They are drifting along in their mediocre Christian experience supposing the Lord Jesus will return at any moment, and then their troubles will be over.

The truth is, when the Lord returns their troubles will have just commenced, unless they are a genuine, cross-carrying, self-denying follower of the Lamb—which most American Christians are not, it appears.

We have had unscriptural teaching for so many years, error building on error, until the Christian people are deluded concerning the Person, ways, and will of God and His eternal purpose in Christ.

It is the power of the resurrection that is to be demonstrated. After the resurrection that same Divine power will catch us up to meet the Lord in the air. It is a time of the unleashing of unimaginable power that will totally destroy the power of Satan.

In addition to neglecting the clause that mentions the raising of the dead prior to the catching up, we seldom hear an emphasis on those the Lord will bring with Him when He appears. Yet it was concerning these deceased saints that Paul wrote the familiar passage in First Thessalonians.

We believe Jesus died and rose again and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)

Let’s think for a moment about the great host of saints whom the Lord Jesus will bring with Him at His coming.

Who are they? It is my personal opinion that they include all of the righteous dead from the time of Abel, including all the heroes of faith mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews.

We notice that Moses and Elijah were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

One may wonder, How could Abel be one of those who have "fallen asleep in Him"?

I think, as it says in the Book of Hebrews, we all will come to perfection together—all of the true saints of all history.

This means multitudes of them will have received Christ and been taught by Him in the spirit realm. I am perfectly comfortable with this. Otherwise the patriarchs and saints of old would have no part in the Body of Christ, and I am not comfortable at all with that idea!

So if we envision the Body of Christ as continually being built up into the Head, with a small fraction of that Body being on the earth at any given time, we have no trouble with the thought of all the saints of all history being raised from the dead and going to meet Jesus in the air in their new bodies.

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. (Daniel 12:13)

How could the Bride of the Lamb be without spot or wrinkle unless she is being ministered to in Heaven and on the earth at the same time?

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

Let us then place it all in perspective.

The Lord Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God, waiting until His enemies have been made His footstool.

Finally, in the fullness of time, the all-wise Father gives the Word.

The Lord Jesus arises from His throne at the right hand of the Father and then descends to the level of the air above us.

The Lord Jesus, the Commander-in-Chief gives the awful command.

To His saints: "Gather to Me, you soldiers of the cross."

To Satan: "Let My people go."

The vast multitude of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus are gathered to Him.

Now the omega of redemption takes place. The awesome power of the Father is ready to destroy the last enemy. Here is the point on which our attention should be fixed, for it is the climax of the conflict of the ages. The cross of Calvary has been vindicated as the spirit of death is driven from the saints.

Then Christ sends down His warrior to retrieve their bodies from the places of interment.

Graves all over the earth explode open. The flesh and bones of the holy warriors are joined once more with their spirits. Then they are transformed by the power of Christ until they are shining like the sun.

The victorious saints who are alive at the time will also be transformed by the power of Christ.

The wicked of the earth will see this but there is nothing they can do. God has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies.

There were forty days between the resurrection of Christ and His ascension into the clouds. Perhaps there will be forty days from the time we are raised and changed until God’s power reaches out to catch us up to meet the Lord in the air. If so, those forty days will witness the greatest time of Christian fellowship ever to transpire on the earth. Part of Jesus’ forty days were spent in fellowshiping with His beloved disciples. Maybe the resurrected saints before they are caught up will, as did the Lord, appear to relatives and friends who are in need of assurance or some other sort of help.

Then, to the terror of the onlookers, the power of almighty God will seize the saints and lift them from the presence of Satan and his followers. Just as in the beginning, the light will be separated from the darkness.

Great power and authority were revealed as the power of death was broken and the bodies of the saints arose from the grave.

Now great power and authority are revealed as the saints are caught up to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air.

The necessary preparation for the catching up is the resurrection from the dead.

The necessary preparation for the resurrection from the dead is the inward resurrection of the disciple.

The inward resurrection of the disciple takes place today when we give ourselves fully to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as He destroys the sinful nature from us and creates Christ, the Resurrection, in us.

Here is the terrific decision we must make today—each one of us.

Will we continue in the way of the average American Christian, who has made a profession of Christ and now is jumping up and down next to his pew in anticipation of being carried up Heaven?

Or will we deny ourselves, take up our personal cross, and follow the Master?

If we do not turn to Christ and offer our body a living sacrifice, we will succumb to the Antichrist spirit in the world. We will worship money as our god and education as our wisdom and knowledge. Thus we will have in our head and hand the mark of the world spirit. Our end will be torment in the Presence of the Lamb and His angels.

If we do turn to Christ, offering our body a living sacrifice to God, we will endure many tests as the Spirit of God changes us from an adamic soul to a life-giving spirit. We will find comfort in Job and in the Book of Lamentations.

We will continue for many years deprived of our most intense desires, sometimes being compelled to perform wearying tasks day after seemingly endless day.

If we remain faithful we will receive the crown of life and righteousness.

When the Lord returns we will participate in the first resurrection, which is out from among the dead.

If this sounds like something you desire, then do not let another day go by. Call on the Lord and ask Him to make you a victorious saint, a true disciple, a true Christian.

God will hear you and the work will commence. Do not be amazed at the fiery tests that will examine your faithfulness. Fasten your seat belt.

Before you know it, the roller coaster will slow down and finally stop. As you unbuckle your seat belt you will think, "I wish I had one more day to carry my cross for the Master!"

But He will smile and say, "Well done, My servant. You were good. You were faithful. Now come and experience My joy with me."

"It will be worth it all when we see Jesus."