THE APPEARING OF CHRIST (EXCERPT OF IT IS TIME FOR A REFORMATION OF CHRISTIAN THINKING)
From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking by Robert B. Thompson Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
A prior judgment and transformation of our spiritual nature is necessary if we are to participate in the first resurrection—the resurrection from among the dead that will occur when the Lord Jesus appears. The Bride must prepare herself to meet her Lord. Let us make certain we attain to the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6), becoming part of the appearing of the Lord Jesus.
The saints who will be glorified in the resurrection that occurs when Jesus is revealed, who will be like Him and who will see Him as He is, will not be judged after their glorification. They already have been judged and sentenced to everlasting life, to the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:11). They are alive forever with the Lord, being an integral part of Christ’s appearing. The second death no longer possesses any authority over them.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (I John 3:2)
The above verse often is used to mean every believer in Christ will be transformed in personality when Christ appears. It is our point of view that many Christians do not make a strong effort to practice righteous behavior in this world because they think when Christ appears they instantly and effortlessly will become like Him in personality.
It is true that if we have lived a victorious life during our discipleship, then the perfection in righteousness we were not able to attain during our pilgrimage on the earth will be given to us in the Day of the Lord. However, believers who have neglected the present opportunities will not be given the perfection in righteousness at the coming of the Lord.
To those who look for Him, Christ will appear without sin unto salvation (Hebrews 9:28). (It is possible this verse is not referring to the Lord’s appearing in the clouds but to His personal appearing and cleansing of His saints, as set forth in Malachi 3:1-3 and John 14:18-23).
In any case, it seems likely that most of the transformation that will take place in the Day of Christ will occur in our body, in our external appearance. We shall receive righteousness, immortality, and glory.
We shall be able to behold the glorified Christ as He is because we will be given spiritual strength in that hour.
The problem in the current thinking is that we do not always understand the role of the prior judgment and transformation of our spiritual nature. A prior judgment and transformation of our spiritual nature is necessary if we are to participate in the first resurrection the resurrection from among the dead that will occur when Jesus appears. The Bride must make herself ready. The way of the Lord must be prepared.
The verse that follows I John 3:2 points toward a prerequisite judgment and transformation:
And everyone who has this hope [of being like Jesus] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:3)
We must, through God’s grace, purify ourselves and our conduct. If we do not, it is not possible for us to participate in the first resurrection, in the revelation of Christ to the world.
Let us see why this is true.
When Jesus comes He will call forth from the grave those who belong to Him. He will cause them to stand on their feet in immortal life. His Glory will fill them causing great light to enter the darkness of the world (Isaiah 60: 1, 2).
Christ then will call up His saints to Himself. Christ’s own Glory will shine in them so His coming will be as the lightning that shines from the east to the west. Christ will appear in and with His saints, being revealed in them. We shall be an integral part of His appearing.
when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. (II Thessalonians 1:10)
“To be glorified in His saints.” “To be admired among all those who believe.”
Christ is coming in us and with us.
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (I Thessalonians 4:14)
Christ is coming in and with His saints.
Christians who adhere to the Dispensational model of biblical interpretation believe in two different comings of the Lord: a first coming, in which He receives His Church, and then a separate coming to the world.
The claim is made that there will be a seven-year interval between the two comings during which Antichrist will reign on the earth, and the believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and then be married to the Lamb.
There are at least three reasons why two different comings, separated by a seven-year interval during which Antichrist reigns and the believers are judged, are impossible:
- The Scripture teaches plainly that the moment the saints are removed from the world the wrath of God will fall on the ungodly.
- The saints will not stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ after they are glorified.
- The Scripture teaches expressly that the coming of the Lord to be glorified in His saints, the coming that delivers them from their sufferings in this world, is the same coming that will destroy Antichrist and his followers.
The moment the saints are removed the wrath of God will fall. This is the teaching of the Scriptures and it was foreshadowed by the events of the days of Noah and Lot. There will be no interval of time after the saints are removed during which business will continue as usual on the earth.
“but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone [burning sulfur] from heaven and destroyed them all.
“Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.
“Remember Lot’s wife. (Luke 17:29-32)
Here is a picture of the saints leaving the world just before destruction falls. Does this sound to you as though there will be a seven-year interval after the Church leaves during which Antichrist conducts his business in the earth?
Paul says the same thing:
For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:3)
Paul here is speaking of the coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord, which he had described a few verses previously and which he portrays again in the first and second chapters of II Thessalonians.
Paul teaches that the Lord will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. This is Christ’s appearing from Heaven. It will not come upon the saints as a thief because the saints are walking in the light. But it certainly shall catch the world and the worldly Christians by surprise just as Sodom was taken by surprise.
As in the days of Lot (who knew in advance of the coming destruction), the moment we leave “Sodom”—in that very moment—the wrath of God will fall on the world. It will not fall seven years after we leave. This is not scriptural.
The saints will not be judged after they are glorified. When Jesus appears we shall be like Him. We shall see Him as He is. His Glory will fill us. We shall be changed, immortalized, glorified—all in an instant. The brightness that glorifies the saints will destroy Antichrist and his followers.
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. (II Thessalonians 2:8)
We then shall be alive forever, being with the Lord as His Bride and royal priesthood.
There is no period of seven years after His coming during which we will be judged. We must be ready beforehand, as we note in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew, Chapter 25).
There is no scriptural evidence, and it is not logical, that resurrected saints will be filled with the Glory of God, and after that stand and be judged, receiving the good and the evil they have practiced in their bodies (II Corinthians 5:10).
Adam and Eve were driven from the garden because they had sinned. The tree of life is not available to those who are filled with sin and rebellion. Before we are eligible to eat of the tree of life, to participate in the resurrection to eternal life, we first, through the grace of God, must overcome Satan, the world, and our own evil personality (Revelation 2:7). We first must obey God’s commandments (Revelation 22:14).
The saints who are glorified in the resurrection that occurs when Jesus is revealed, who are like Him and who see Him as He is, will not be judged after their glorification. They already have attained everlasting life, the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:11). They are alive forever with the Lord, being an integral part of Christ’s appearing. The second death no longer possesses any authority over them.
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power [authority], but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
The order of events for the members of Christ’s Body, the holy remnant of believers, as we understand it, is as follows:
- Christ’s judgment of all our sin and self-seeking, and the transformation of our personality by His body and blood and by the Holy Spirit of God.
- The entrance of the Fullness of God into us while we yet are on the earth—just prior to the Lord’s return.
- The return of our spiritual form from Heaven with Christ.
- The resurrection of our flesh and bones.
- The clothing of our resurrected flesh and bones with our spiritual body of glory. Our spiritual body of glory, our “house from heaven,” has been created in Heaven as the consequence and counterpart of the sowing of our physical body to the death of the cross, to the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.
We shall not be judged after we have attained the first resurrection from among the dead. After we have been raised in the first resurrection, we shall then be forever with the Lord as an integral, eternally indivisible part of His Person.
The order of events for all other human beings is as follows:
- The resurrection of their bodies from the grave.
- The judgment of their works, of what they have practiced while alive on the earth.
- Their entrance into eternal life, or into eternal fire, according to Christ’s evaluation of their works.
It is possible that the judgment of the Lord’s servants regarding the use of their “talents,” and the judgment of the peoples of the nations of the earth concerning their kindness (or lack of it) toward the Lord’s “brothers” (as described in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew), are referring to the judgment of unprepared believers and of the peoples of the nations of the earth who are alive on the earth when the Lord Jesus comes in His Kingdom.
Or, the two judgments (the talents and the cup of cold water) may be a description of what takes place in front of the “white throne,” mentioned in Revelation, Chapter 20.
Neither the judgment of the talents nor the judgment of the cup of cold water is referring to the judgment of the victorious saints.
How could it be possible for a saint to be glorified in Christ’s Presence, to “ever be with the Lord,” and after that be judged for his use of Kingdom money or for his willingness to assist Christ’s “brothers,” and then be sent away into outer darkness or everlasting fire?
The first resurrection, in which we will be revealed in the splendor of Christ’s majesty and caught up to meet Him in the air to be with Him forever, is a special resurrection of spiritual kings and priests.
The first resurrection is an integral part of Christ’s own resurrection. It is not a part of the general resurrection of the dead of mankind. It is not the resurrection of the dead people but the resurrection out from among the dead of mankind: not of the dead but from the dead. The first resurrection from among the dead was Paul’s stated goal—that which Paul was striving to attain (Philippians 3:7-21).
It is not possible we can be raised in glory, being like Christ and appearing with Christ, and after that stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The next coming of the Lord is the appearing that will destroy Antichrist. Some are teaching that the next coming of the Lord will remove the saints from the earth, and after that Antichrist will reign on the earth while the believers are in Heaven standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is contrary to the express teaching of the Scripture.
Notice carefully the first chapter of the Book of II Thessalonians. The saints of Thessalonica were suffering “persecutions and tribulations” (verse four).
Paul tells the saints that Christ at His coming will bring them rest from their troubles and sufferings (verse seven).
According to much current Christian teaching, the deliverance of the saints will come in the form of a “rapture” that will occur before they suffer persecution and tribulation.
It is evident in the first chapter of II Thessalonians that Paul is pointing toward the coming of the Lord, when the Lord destroys Antichrist, as the time and means of saving the Lord’s flock from persecutions and tribulations.
The current teaching is that there will be a removal of the saints while Antichrist continues to reign on the earth for seven years. But the Scripture indicates that our release from tribulation will come as a result of the destruction of Antichrist by the brightness of Christ’s appearing.
Do you perceive the difference in the two concepts?
since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,
and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,
in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10)
Paul understood that the Lord would come and rescue the Thessalonian believers by taking vengeance on those who were persecuting them. Paul qualifies the sense of urgency by showing them, in the second chapter, that a falling away from the faith and the revealing of the man of sin must take place before the Lord comes and saves them by the radiance of His Glory.
Paul held out to the saints in Thessalonica the hope that Christ would come and destroy their persecutors. Paul never once, anywhere at any time, suggested to the Christian saints that they would be lifted out of the world to prevent their being exposed to tribulation, and after they were lifted from the earth the Antichrist would rule over the world for seven additional years.
A simple, unbiased, straightforward study of the first chapter of II Thessalonians will confirm what we are teaching. In order to derive another interpretation it is necessary to force the text to mean something other than what it states.
What appears to be an innocent disagreement of theologians concerning the events of the end-time is not nearly as harmless as it seems; for the manner in which the Christian addresses himself to his discipleship depends, at least in part, on his vision of the coming of the Lord.
If we believe Christ will come and catch us away in our immaturity, and after that judge us at a sort of sports-awards banquet in which no believer is seriously rebuked or punished, we will not seek after our personal transformation and union with the Lord with the sincerity, integrity, and diligence necessary for its accomplishment.
We will not understand the purpose for our sufferings. We will trust that we shall see Him and be like Him because we have assented mentally and verbally to the facts of the atonement and resurrection of Christ. No prior preparation will seem to be necessary.
It is our opinion that the doctrine of the pre-tribulation disappearing of the saints is one of the main reasons why the practice of righteousness has been largely destroyed from the lives of many of the Christian believers.
If we truly believe, on the contrary, that Christ’s coming will reveal what we are, and that the judgment and transformation of our personality and our union with the Lord must take place before Christ returns, we will begin to live righteously in the Presence and power of God.
Because it is true that there will not be a preadvent coming of Christ, a secret translation of the saints followed by their judgment and their marriage to the Lamb, and because we shall be glorified and made like Him in outward form at His appearing and His Kingdom, it is necessary we be judged and transformed before Christ returns.
The coming of the Lord will take place suddenly. Either we shall have made ourselves ready, having washed our robes in His blood so we are practicing righteous behavior, or else we shall be caught unprepared.
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (I John 3:7)
This is the meaning of the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Each of the ten had “lamps,” that is, they had the Word of God. They were Christian believers.
The “oil” represents the resurrection Life of Jesus Christ that is dwelling in those who actively are pressing forward in the pursuit of eternal life, who are coming to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
The interpretation of the parable of the ten virgins is that some of the believers will be prepared for Christ’s appearing and some will not be prepared for His appearing. There will be no time for preparation when the Bridegroom comes. Those who have prepared themselves will go in with Christ to the marriage. The remainder of the Christians will be left behind to face what will come to pass on the earth.
Christ spoke to the church in Sardis:
“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
The remainder of the believers of the church in Sardis will not be part of Christ’s glorious appearing. They will not walk with Him in white.
We are not stating nor do we believe the remainder of believers necessarily will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. There are rulers and then there are those of lesser maturity. There are greatest and least in the Kingdom. It is our point of view that it is the rulers of the Kingdom who will appear with the Lord at His parousia (Revelation 20:6).
The Bride must make herself ready for her appearing by washing her robes in Christ’s blood. This means she must put to death, through the authority of the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the deeds of the flesh and begin to practice the righteous works of Christ (Romans 8:13; I John 1:7-9).
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)
When Christ comes, His Bride will be clothed in her righteous works, the works that show forth in her because of her union with the Lord. What she is, after having been transformed through the grace of God under the new covenant (II Corinthians 3:18), will be revealed in glory when Christ appears.
And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)
We will not be clothed in the fine linen of righteous works, judged afterward, and then be married to Christ! Rather, the fine linen is the spiritual clothing we receive as a result of pressing forward in the Lord each day, confessing and repenting of our sins, and coming to the Lord for His Virtue so we will not continue to practice sin. The fine linen is kept in Heaven for us and will be given to us when the Lord comes.
We now are being judged. We now are being cleansed if we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit. We now are being brought into restful union with God through Christ.
When the Lord comes the marriage will be perfected. God and Christ will enter us in Their Fullness through the Glory of the Holy Spirit. We shall shine as the stars when the white robe of Divine righteousness and Glory, the result of our patient sowing to the Spirit, is placed on us.
The Scripture states that the Judgment Seat of Christ began in the first century:
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
Christ is judging the living and the dead—now. Our tribulations are part of the judgment of Christ on us (II Thessalonians 1:5).
Perhaps we can pass through the Judgment Seat of Christ while we yet are alive on the earth. This seems to have been true of Paul, who expects to receive a crown of righteousness when Christ appears (II Timothy 4:7,8).
It probably will be true for most of us that we shall be judged—at least in part—after we die physically.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, (Hebrews 9:27)
Thus the deceased saints of all ages are being judged in the spirit realm. The Judgment Seat began, according to Peter, in his day. It commenced with the living and the dead (I Peter 4:5,17).
Other passages point toward judgment in the future:
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (I Corinthians 4:5)
Perhaps it depends on the individual as to the time and place of his judgment.
The faithful and purified remnant of Christians who are alive on the earth when the Lord appears will not have the opportunity to be judged in the spirit realm, for they will be changed and glorified when the Lord appears. Therefore they will be required to complete their judgment while living in the flesh on the earth. They indeed shall be prepared while yet alive in the body, according to the Scriptures:
And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion [tested Christians] and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem.
When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, (Isaiah 4:3,4)
If we Christians sow to our flesh instead of to the Spirit of God, we will not be like the Lord, seeing Him as He is, when He appears in glory. It is not scriptural that our participation can take place by “grace,” by imputation (ascribed righteousness), by the forgiveness of the Lord, by the application of de jure righteousness.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8)
The above was written to the “churches of Galatia,” not to unbelievers.
The purified royal priesthood’s resurrection from the dead will be the greatest of the fulfillments of the Kingdom law of sowing and reaping. This is why Paul spoke of “attaining to” the resurrection from the dead.
The Christian believers of today are relying on “grace” to take care of all aspects of their resurrection and glorification. The believers are under the impression they suddenly will be made like Jesus when He appears.
If they would read the entire Book of First John and learn how strictly John defines the true follower of Christ, they might come to understand that one cannot discover the mind of God by lifting “key” verses from their contexts, and deducing theology from them.
If we would “attain” the glory of Christ’s appearing we must, through God’s grace, serve the Lord in faith, in holiness, and in union with His Person and will. Eternal life is given to those who perform the will of God (I John 2:17).
Living a righteous, holy life by Christ’s grace brings us into eternal life (Romans 6:22; 8:13).
Living in total consecration and in faith in God brings us into the power of the first resurrection (Philippians 3:7-14).
Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood, living always in union with Him as He lives in union with the Father, bring us to a state of eligibility and readiness for participation in the glory of His appearing (John 6:53-57).
The Lord Jesus Christ Is the Resurrection and the Life. It is as He is formed in us and dwells in us that we are prepared for His sudden manifestation to the world. Some believers will be taken to be glorified with the Lord, while the less faithful will be left to face the horrors of the Divine judgment on sin and rebellion. The Lord warned us clearly concerning this.
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, (Hebrews 2:3)
It is time for a reformation of Christian thinking. We actually are encouraging unrighteousness today in that we are leaving our hearers with the impression that Christ came to earth so men will not reap what they sow.
It is time for us to commence preaching and teaching God’s holy Word.
We who teach and those whom we have taught will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. If we have lived righteously and have taught God’s way of righteousness and holiness, we and those who have followed us shall enter the Glory of Christ at His appearing and His Kingdom.
who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:
eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; (Romans 2:6, 7)
It is currently taught that Romans 2:6, 7 does not apply to the believer because he has been saved by “grace” and not by works; that the Christian does not need to continue patiently in well doing in order to attain eternal life.
This understanding is incorrect. Such doctrine makes Divine grace an alternative to godly behavior. This never can be the case.
If we have disobeyed the laws of life and have taught others to disobey the laws of life, they and we shall reap corruption in the Day of Christ. Christ does not know those who are wicked—even if they have performed many powerful works in His name.
but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, (Romans 2:8)
Numerous Christian believers are contentious. They do not live according to the commandments of Christ and His Apostles but in the lusts and passions of their flesh and soul. According to the unchanging Word of God they shall receive indignation and wrath at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
We are living in the greatest of all hours. This is the day in which many can become first in the Kingdom of God. It is possible for us to attain the fullness of life and glory. Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily distracts us, and press forward to the full possession of the fullness of the eternal Life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us make certain we attain to the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6), becoming part of the appearing of the Lord Jesus.
(“The Appearing of Christ”, 3207-1)