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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. Used by permission.

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 passage above is describing the parousia, the same Greek term used in Matthew chapter 24. It is not a “secret coming”; it is the appearing of Christ in the historic Day of the Lord.

The doctrine of the “rapture” is based on I Thessalonians 4:17. The rapture doctrine is harmful. The Bible admonishes us to prepare ourselves to stand in the evil day. The rapture doctrine tells us there will be no evil day. As a result, God’s people are unprepared for the moral and physical chaos of the closing days of the Church Age.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

There indeed is coming a “day of evil.” The rain of Divine judgment is going to fall on the world. The only safety will be in the Ark, Christ. So we need to press into Him fervently without delay. I am certain that Noah and his three sons, and his wife and their wives if they helped, did not build the massive ark in a week or two. In like manner, as we are learning to press into Christ, our entrance into the “ark” will be occurring throughout our lifetime.

When you think back about Noah, Daniel, Peter in jail, and the three Hebrew young men in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, we can see that God can deliver us in the most unlikely circumstances. However, as in the case of the Christians in the Arena in Rome, we may be delivered from danger by dying. In no instance that I can think of did God deliver people from trouble by lifting them bodily to Heaven to escape problems on the earth.

But we are not going to prepare ourselves to stand our ground if we believe we will be taken out of the world before the days are evil, before it “rains,” we might say. All of the familiar expressions, such as “the Lord will carry His waiting Bride to Heaven,” are nothing more than unscriptural traditions. The idea that I Thessalonians 4:17 (quoted above) means that Christ will remove us from the earth in order to avoid the Great Tribulation and Antichrist is totally false. Read the passage and its context and see whether you notice anything about escaping Antichrist, or the Great Tribulation, or going to Heaven. If you cannot find any references to these three ideas, then perhaps the Christian churches are teaching a delusion.

If that is the case, what is the passage speaking of? It is speaking of the coming of Christ in the historic Day of the Lord. This is why we find a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. These expressions hardly fit a secret rapture of the believers!

The passage in question is describing the first resurrection. The second resurrection will not occur until the thousand years of the Kingdom Age have transpired.

But is chapter 4 of first Thessalonians speaking of a resurrection?

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 dead in Christ will rise first.” “Will rise.” The verb “will rise” does not mean rise into the air. It means to be resurrected—like Christ rose from the dead. The saints who come with Christ, while Christ is stationed in the air, will come down to earth and pick up their assembled flesh and bones, just as Christ was raised from the dead. Then their bodies shall be made alive by the Holy Spirit, not by blood.

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. (Romans 8:11)

They also shall receive the crown of righteousness.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)

At that time, the blood in the bodies of those qualified to be caught up to meet Christ in the air will be replaced by the Holy Spirit, and then glorified. I am referring now to people who are alive on the earth at the time of the appearing of Christ. Then these newly changed persons will join together with the saints who have returned with Christ, and the entire company will be caught up to meet Christ in the air. As I have written in previous essays, can you imagine the time of fellowship among the glorified saints while they were on the earth waiting to be caught up to meet Christ in the air?

Here is the point of all of this. They are not caught up to meet Christ in the air (not in Heaven) in order to escape Antichrist or the Great Tribulation. They already have been resurrected, or changed, and then glorified. Neither Antichrist nor the Great Tribulation could harm them in any manner. So they are not caught up to escape the Great Tribulation.

The widely spread doctrine that the Christian people are about to be caught up to Heaven to be with the Lord is without any foundation in the Scriptures. To keep on believing this will prevent the Christian from preparing himself or herself for the chaos that is near at hand.

There is another dimension of the vision of Christ’s appearing that is in need of modification. And that is, “Exactly who will be resurrected and go to meet Christ in the air when He appears?” Please keep in mind that when Paul was writing, he was thinking of the small groups of Christians who met in homes, sometimes in danger of violent persecution. There were no church buildings in Paul’s day. No doubt their standards of discipleship were much higher than we would find in a large church or cathedral of our time.

In order to answer the question of who will be resurrected and caught up when Jesus appears, we must know why people will be caught up to meet the Lord. Then we will be able to understand the qualifications and competence required of those so honored.

Before we go further, we must rid our mind of the false idea that the catching up will include all professing Christians. Rather, it will be a relatively small number of believers. Stop and think. Is the Bible a record of large numbers of people serving God, or of a few outstanding saints? One of the greatest of the events of earth’s history is the episode on the Mount of Transfiguration. We have Christ, Moses, and Elijah, if you can imagine, standing on the earth. How many of earth’s millions witnessed this extraordinary event? Three! Three people. Not even all of the disciples! This may help free us from the idea that a great number of Christians, much less all the Christian people, will go to meet Christ when He appears.

What, then, is taking place here? The Lord Jesus is appearing in order to prepare His army to descend to the earth, drive out all the works of Satan, and establish His Kingdom.

If you are acquainted with Christian church-members, you will realize how far from reality is the idea that these good people will want to return to the earth with the Lord Jesus and fight against Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet. Most Christian people are not living the overcoming life of victory in Christ. They are counting on “grace” to bring them to Heaven when they die. They are not hoping to return with Christ, after they die, and face Satan and his demons.

Victorious saints are not plentiful. Yet, they are the only believers who are qualified and competent to ride with Christ in the greatest of all cavalry charges.

To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28)

How many believers do you know who are walking with Christ and living in victory? We have been taught we are saved by grace and don’t need to do the will of Christ. Do you see now what I mean when I say those who will go to meet Christ when He appears will be a relatively small number?

The “morning star” is the Divine Nature of Christ that is given to those who carefully and diligently obey His commands and those of His Apostles.

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (II Peter 1:19)

An individual who is not living by the Life of Jesus is neither qualified nor competent to govern the nations alongside of Jesus Christ.

Can you see how far from reality is the current teaching of the “rapture to escape tribulation”? It is a false doctrine, devised and set forth to prevent God’s people from growing to the maturity where they are a threat to Satan’s kingdom.

I have stated that the passages we are studying are telling us about the first resurrection. The second resurrection will occur at the termination of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. At the second resurrection, everyone will be raised, some to life and some to condemnation — everyone who was not qualified or competent to be raised in the first resurrection.

Immediately we begin to understand that the first resurrection is a firstfruits of salvation. It reminds us of David’s mighty men. It is not a general resurrection of “all Israel,” we might say. Let us now examine what God’s Word says about the first resurrection, the resurrection and catching up that will occur when Jesus next appears:

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share 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 20:4-6)

“I saw thrones.” This tells us the whole story, doesn’t it? The first resurrection, which will take place when the Lord Jesus appears, is for rulership. It is not a resurrection for life in a mansion in Heaven. These are God’s kings, a firstfruits of the Royal Priesthood.

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

I know it is difficult for us Americans to understand that God chooses people for ranks in His Kingdom, for specific roles to play. But that is the way it is. We would prefer that everyone be equal.

If we are wise, we will follow Christ carefully so that we may grasp that for which we personally have been grasped, and not seek to go beyond that. Christ’s rulers, although exalted to an unimaginable height of spiritual glory and splendor, have the heart of a child, just like their Father, God. They have chosen to be servants of all.

There is to be no jealousy in the Kingdom of God!

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.” One of the lessons we must learn is to not judge people according to our own understanding. For one thing, our standards of behavior are not always God’s standards. We absolutely must stop criticizing other people and always look to Jesus for truth. As the Lord said, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” This is what we must do if we hope to go to Christ when He appears.

Paul spoke of the authority to judge given to the saints:

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! (I Corinthians 6:2,3)

Judging and criticizing our fellow believers is a widespread practice in the Christian churches. Can you imagine such people being given the authority to judge the world, and angels as well? They would judge out of their personal irritations and standards, not waiting to hear God’s decisions. Therefore they are neither qualified nor competent to go to meet Jesus when He appears.

No, I do not believe the average church-goer in America today is capable of judging the world and angels. I think the angels would laugh him out of court. I do believe, however, that those who attain to the first resurrection will sit with Christ on the Throne at the second resurrection and judge the newly resurrected persons.

So we see that the tasks and roles appointed to those who participate in the first resurrection eliminate all but the most faithful candidates.

“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.” (Revelation 20:4)

This may include physical decapitation. However, one of the most important qualifications of Christ’s witnesses of the closing days of the Church Age is they have set aside their own lives, their own planning and thinking, in favor of living by Christ’s planning and thinking. Maybe this is what is meant by “beheaded.”

The idea of living by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ instead of our own adamic life is so utterly important that I scarcely could overemphasize it.

“They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.”

We who live in America today are worshiping Antichrist to a certain extent, in that the chief goal of many of us is to acquire money. Money is the power of Antichrist, just as the Spirit of God is the power of Christ. Christ commanded us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. To place acquiring money as our chief concern is to have the mark of Antichrist on our forehead or right hand.

“They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

This is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the firstfruits of the Royal Priesthood. They are not the average lukewarm believers. They are filled with the iron righteousness by which they govern, with fiery holiness, and with stern obedience to God.

“(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)”

The purpose of the thousand year Kingdom Age, as I understand it, is to provide time for the majority of God’s elect to grow to spiritual maturity. I believe they will be assisted by the stronger saints who attained to the first resurrection, in keeping with the Bible injunction that the stronger should assist the weaker.

This may mean that in addition to their duties as kings over the earth, some of the victorious saints might be assigned to God’s elect who are waiting in the spiritual Mount Zion, to prepare them for their roles as members of the Royal Priesthood when the heavenly Jerusalem descends to the new earth.

“This is the first resurrection.”

As I stated previously, the second resurrection will occur at the termination of the thousand year Kingdom Age. At that time, everyone will be resurrected who was not qualified to be resurrected in the first resurrection.

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.”

Have you noticed that no books were opened? This is because the participants in the first resurrection were judged beforehand. Participating in the first resurrection is their sentence.

Perhaps the Spirit of God is pointing out the sins you are committing as a Christian. If this is happening to you, you are appearing at the Judgment Seat of Christ. You are to confess the sin pointed out to you and to turn away from it with all the strength you have, and the strength the Lord Jesus gives to you. Those who are ready to be caught up to Christ in the first resurrection will have successfully turned away from their sins before the Lord appears. This is why no books are opened. Their judgment has been completed.

“The second death has no power over them.”

The Father has given the Lake of Fire authority over eight kinds of behavior:

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

The Lake of Fire maintains authority over these eight behaviors whether or not we profess to believe in Christ. The only way we can escape from the power of the Lake of Fire is by gaining, through Christ, victory over these practices. Once we gain victory over each of them, the Lake of Fire cannot harm us.

Can you see from this the quality of the people who are qualified to be raised in the first resurrection?

“But they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

So we understand that it will be the firstfruits of the Royal Priesthood who will participate in the resurrection and catching up when Jesus appears, not the casual believer who is comfortable in the Antichrist system of buying and selling.

I say “firstfruits” of the Royal Priesthood, because I believe the majority of those whom God has called to the Priesthood, the Christian Church, are not prepared to participate in the first resurrection. They will need to wait in the heavenly Zion in the spirit world until they are ready to fulfill their roles in the new world of righteousness, until they are ready to be part of the new Jerusalem when it descends to the earth.

If you are not resurrected and caught up to meet Christ in the air when He appears, you will remain on the earth to be with Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet. These will not be driven from the earth until Christ appears with His army of saints and angels.

The question arises, “What will those who are caught up be doing between the catching up and the time they return with Christ?” Remember, they are not caught up to Heaven but to the air where Christ and the army of angels are waiting.

As soon as the victorious saints are caught up to the staging area in the air, they will need to be organized into an army. The place of each saint in the army will need to be established. Each one will need to be given a white war-stallion and mounted on it. They will need to know who their officers are. Throughout their lives, they have been sternly obedient to Christ, so they will need only a short reminder of the importance of obeying their officers promptly.

The saints will be introduced to the army of angels so they will be aware of their situation relative to the angelic army.

I have heard that events on the earth move more slowly than those in the spirit world. So what may seem to those caught up to be a brief orientation period may be a longer time on the earth. However, since the vials of wrath are being poured out during this period, it probably will be a relatively short time, lest there be no people left for Christ and His saints to govern. The vials of Divine wrath will be poured on the earth as soon as the saints are caught up to Christ, to prepare the world for His coming with His saints and angels. So each of us will do well to learn to live by the Life of the Lord Jesus in order that we may be ready to be with Him when He next appears.

When we think of the multitude of Christian people who are hoping for a rapture that will place them in mansions in Heaven, we realize the importance of warning God’s people that they are entertaining a false hope.

If we desire to attain to the first resurrection, we need to prepare ourselves by living righteous, holy lives.

Many American people, including Christians, are living in the Antichrist world system without realizing it. Mom and Dad are happily reviewing their retirement plans. The children are engrossed in their electronic games and the television, diligently absorbing the values of Satan. “Time to go to bed, kids,” while mom and dad watch the late-night shows in which the comedians make fun of Christ and our moral values. All this while we may be in danger of attack from more disciplined nations!

That is the American culture in the present hour. Because of this, severe pain is to come upon our nation. This is not because God does not love us; it is because He does love us and does not desire that we continue in the bondages of Satan. We are worshiping material wealth and comforts. We are spreading this god to the rest of the world through our television programs. And we are looking for a “rapture” that will bring such self-centered, pleasure-loving people to mansions in Heaven because they have “accepted Christ”!

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) (Revelation 19:7,8)

“His bride has made herself ready.” This again is referring to the first resurrection.

Perhaps some of God’s elect will say to themselves, “I will wait in the heavenly Jerusalem until I am prepared to descend to the new earth. I don’t need to prepare myself to join in the first resurrection.” This sneakiness is to play games with God, and God always wins. He will see the deceit in your heart, and you will lose your crown. You will be treated as a heathen and stand in your place at the second resurrection, where you will be judged according to your works.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. (Revelation 20:12,13)

(“Who Will Be Caught Up?”, 3339-2, proofed 20210827)

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