"RAPTURE," OR THE FIRST RESURRECTION
Perhaps the Most Destructive of the Current Heresies
Copyright © 2016 Robert B Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
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 20:6)
The doctrine of the “rapture” is so commonly accepted that I think numerous Christian people suppose that it is found in the Bible.
The doctrine of the “rapture” is not found in the Bible.
The doctrine of the “first resurrection” is clearly found in the Bible. Why, then, is it not preached more often? The answer is, the non-scriptural doctrine of the “rapture” has taken the rightful place of the first resurrection.
It is easy to understand why people would flock to the “rapture” teaching.
Let’s say twenty years ago, due to pressure from the elders, you “accepted Christ.” You actually did not “accept” anybody. You gave the Christian password, but your life may not have changed dramatically.
When you were baptized in water, you did not actually agree to exchange your old life for the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus. You went down dry and came up wet. This was the principal difference.
Yet the exchanged life is the only valid Christian salvation.
Now, twenty years later you are going about your business. Thanks to the pastor’s emphasis every Sunday on the “rapture,” buried deep in your mind is the idea that at any moment you may be swept off your feet and be carried up through the roof of the church, fly through the air, and suddenly find yourself in the Paradise of God.
What will you do there? Perhaps converse pleasantly with your friends, having no responsibilities of any sort. This will be true for eternity.
As I said, this hope is somewhere in your mind. What is in your mind, perhaps, is who is going to be elected President in November.
How many millions of Christians have the hope of momentarily being caught up to Paradise, there to do they know not what—-but anything to escape from the problems of this world.
No preparation is needed. You still are self-willed and self-centered. There are people who hurt you that you have not forgiven. You are still the same old personality, perhaps a little more bitter because of your experiences over the last twenty years.
But how about First Thessalonians? This is the passage often relied upon to prove that doctrine of the “rapture.”
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. 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 4:16,17)
“The dead in Christ will rise first.” A multitude of victorious believers, some of whom have been living in the spirit world for thousands of years, will return with the Lord.
They will stop at their staging area in the air above the earth, a place formerly held by Satan and his lords.
At that point the Lord, His angels, and His white war stallions, will stop.
Now the Lord Jesus will send His champions down to the earth to pick up their bodies.
“The dead in Christ will rise first.” This means they will be resurrected before “we who are still alive and are left,” that is, those of us who are alive on the earth when the Lord returns.
This is the “first resurrection,” the resurrection of the Royal Priesthood—-those who will govern with Christ throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age (Millennium).
Now, it does not state clearly that “we who are still alive and are left” will be part of this first resurrection. But our resurrection is implied strongly by two facts:
- First, if the believers who returned with Jesus are resurrected “first,” then obviously there are others who are standing in line waiting to be resurrected.
- Second, if we are to be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” it is logical that we who are alive on the earth at that time, and are caught up together with those who had returned with the Lord Jesus, would also receive the change in the body, that we term “the resurrection.”
It is difficult to believe that we, in our flesh and blood body, would be joined with the multitude of victorious saints—-all in glorified bodies.
The change in the body, not the ascension, was Paul’s expressed goal.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
Not only is the redeeming of our body Paul’s goal, but it is our adoption as a son of God.
There is no hint of a “rapture” in Paul’s goal.
In fact, I believe the context of Romans 8:23 indicates that Paul wanted his body to be redeemed so he might practice righteous behavior.
There is no passage of Scripture that supports the idea that being caught up to Paradise will cause us to practice righteous behavior, nor does the Apostle Paul ever, in his writings, suggest that being snatched up to Paradise will cause us to practice righteous behavior.
It is true that our pastor might encourage us to live righteously because of the possibility of being caught up to Paradise. But all too often, the encouragement does not provide the strength to change our behavior. But the redemption of our body, the resurrection, does provide the strength to change our behavior.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)
Do you see in the passage above any hint of our being caught up to Paradise to escape Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, and the problems in the world?
Notice that the emphasis is on our being “changed,” not on being caught up to Heaven.
It is a shame that the principal goal of the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is the change in our body, has been replaced by a doctrine that is not concerned with our being changed into the image of God but with our escape from pain and problems!
That we will be resurrected is not at issue. The Lord said everyone shall be resurrected, that is, experience a change in the body.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
I think the verb “rise” has caused us to think of resurrection as meaning rise from the earth to Heaven. Actually, it means arise from death to life. It has nothing to do with being transported from earth to Heaven.
There are doctrinal questions in our day that may not have a great impact on how we conduct our discipleship, such as whether there are three Gods in one Person, or one God in three persons.
But the concept of an imminent escape from danger and trouble has a major impact on the way we live the Christian life. It puts us in a waiting mode, that is, waiting to be carried away from trouble. And who wouldn’t want that!
However, we see from the Apostle Paul that our hope of the change in our body from mortality to immortality should be occupying a central role in our thinking, not an unscriptural hope lurking in the recesses of our mind.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
“Attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Since we know from the words of Christ that all people at one point or another shall experience the change in the body that we term “resurrection,” when Paul speaks of “attaining” he must be referring to the first resurrection.
We might conjecture that his pressing forward in this exhaustive manner has to do only with the Apostle.
But notice what he says further:
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (Philippians 3:15)
What we are examining to this point is, is the “rapture” of the believers at some unknown time to go to an area in which we have no idea that we will be doing. One elderly man in our congregation said he would like to play golf in Heaven.
However, the Scripture states that the role of Christ, Head and Body, is to bring justice to the nations. So I guess our friend will have to ask the Lord Jesus for some time off so he can play golf.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)
So a “rapture” is not based in Scripture. Furthermore, it is not what we truly desire. Would you like to play golf for eternity? Me neither!
Now let’s look carefully at what the Scripture has to say about the destiny of the Royal Priesthood. Remember, these people will govern the creation of God for eternity.
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)
Notice in the above that it says nothing about golf, nor does it mention being caught up to Paradise.
This passage is the only place in the Bible that the term “first resurrection” is employed. In fact, it is used twice in this passage.
I saw thrones. The “rapture” teaching would never mention “thrones.” People do say we are going to “rule and reign” with Jesus. Is this what they truly want to do, govern the rebellious of the earth? I doubt that!
Also, the expression “rule and reign” reveals that they are not thinking about what they are saying but parroting something they have heard.
On which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. It is no wonder they desire to be caught up to the great play land in the sky. They understand in themselves that they are not competent to judge mankind and the angels. Playing golf is another matter! Quite so.
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. The prophets of today appear to be proclaiming with one voice that severe persecution is going to come to the American Christians. I bear witness to that.
Notice that the ISIS soldiers emphasize cutting off of the head of Christians. The enemy is raging because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. When we of the Christian churches return to the Word of God, instead of emphasizing the grace of forgiveness to the virtual exclusion of the New Testament admonitions to righteous and holy living and behavior, the rage of the soldiers of the enemy will increase.
They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. We Americans, Christian or not, tend to worship money. I am not certain what the image of the Beast is, or its mark on the forehead of the hand. I am sure, however, that the Beast, Antichrist, is the worship of money.
America, as is true to a certain extent, of the rest of the countries of the world, worships money. A glance at a newspaper will reveal that the gaining of the most money possible, by all means fair and foul, is a major concern of a significant part of our society.
I believe that money is not used in Paradise for the exchange of goods and services. If this is the case, we American Christians will have to be very careful that we are trusting in Jesus more than we are trusting in money.
With the help of angels, it would be a fairly simple matter to get used to giving freely of the goods and services we accomplish to those with needs; and receiving freely from them of their contributions. I say with the help of angels enabling the transactions; because it will be a long, long time before some people will become accustomed to having more of the available goods and services than is true of most other people.
Yet it is impossible to have a decent, constructive society when some people are determined to be richer than other people.
Would Heaven be “heaven” to you if Jesus would not permit you to be richer than other people?
So Antichrist (money) has quite a grip on the citizens of America. It takes a believer as determined as the Apostle Paul to put the seeking of the Lord Jesus as more important than the seeking of money. We tend to worship the image of wealth, and its mark is in our hand (doing) and on our forehead (thinking).
They came to life. The “rapture” is not a “coming to life.” It is the movement of the old adamic nature to Heaven. “Coming to life” is the attaining to immortality in the body, to the first resurrection. The second resurrection, according to my understanding, is that which shall take place at the final judgment of mankind and the angels.
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. (Revelation 20:12)
This is the judgment of all mankind as well as of the angels. The rulers were given immortality one thousand years previously. Those experiencing the change in the body at this point are not members of the Royal Priesthood. Rather they are the inheritance of the Royal Priesthood, the balance of the Kingdom of God.
And reigned with Christ a thousand years. We understand from this statement that these are victorious believers. They through Christ have overcome all the forces that have come against them as they have sought to obey the Lord Jesus.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
Revelation, Chapter Two and Three speak of the rewards to the Christian who gains victory through the Lord Jesus over those forces that seek to conquer them.
The rewards are more responsibility in the Kingdom of God.
I do not think I ever have heard anyone speak about what it means to be an overcomer. It is like this is not an important topic.
You know, the teaching of the “rapture” may be responsible for this lack of attention to overcoming and the resulting rewards. We do not have to do anything special except to say, “I accept Christ.” Then we go to the unbelievable beauty of Paradise and have no responsibilities.
With this in mind, who cares about ruling with Christ.
To all of those worn out by the cares of life on the earth, the idea of flying away to Paradise, without having to make any special preparation, sounds like a dream come true. This is why the “rapture” has gained such popularity.
It is not a case of believers wanting to be close to Christ, which was Paul’s consuming passion. Rather, it is the natural human desire to have no fear, no dread, no responsibilities, no danger, no enemies, and so forth. The “rapture” is an invention of the adamic nature.
(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) Notice that the emphasis is on immortality in the body. The assumption is that we are not alive until we are living in our body.
Here we see the importance of immortality in the body, an importance certainly not emphasized in much Christian teaching.
The first resurrection of those whom Jesus finds qualified and competent to govern with Him will occur when He appears. They shall govern the works of God’s hands for one thousand years, whether literal or figurative.
Then, when these firstfruits of the Royal Priesthood are sitting on the great throne of judgment, the bodies of the remainder of mankind will be summoned and stand before the judges.
This is the first resurrection. There is no ascension of the saints to Heaven before or after the first resurrection, the first redemption of the body that the Apostle Paul was seeking.
Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. These are not the casual, lukewarm believers of our day. They are blessed because they are sternly obedient to the Lord Jesus. They are holy because God has chosen them; and also because through the power and wisdom of the Spirit of God they have purged themselves from filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
The second death has no power over them. The second death is the Lake of Fire. The Father has given to the Lake of Fire authority over specific behaviors, whether the person is a Christian or not. If the Lake of Fire has no power over us, it is because through the Lord Jesus we have overcome the eight behaviors that are an abomination to God.
- The cowardly.
- The unbelieving.
- The vile.
- The murderers.
- The sexually immoral.
- Those who practice magic arts.
- The idolaters.
- All liars.
It probably is a fact that numerous people who have “accepted Christ” are sexually immoral, idolaters, and liars. They may have been told by their pastor there is no problem with their behavior. The truth is, that if we do not go to Christ, confess and renounce our sinning, we are not covered. We may be cast into the Lake of Fire.
God means what He says! Be warned now before it is too late!
But they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
During this time they shall have intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus Himself. I know the Apostle Paul will be happy with that. They will have this opportunity to grow to full stature in Christ. They also will have opportunity, as I understand it, to go to the new Jerusalem in Heaven and help those of lesser attainment, possibly a relative or close friend.
This may be a literal thousand years. In any case, a thousand years is a long time. This is necessary so the Christians in the new Jerusalem in Heaven, who were not qualified to participate in the first resurrection, can be brought to the stature of Christ so they can serve as members of the Royal Priesthood.
From what I just have written, there may be Christian people who reason, “If I do not qualify for the first resurrection there is no problem. After I die I will grow to maturity during the thousand-year Kingdom Age while I am enjoying the teaching in the heavenly Jerusalem.”
Do not be so foolish! You do not know what it will be like on the earth during the thousand years, after the Lord Jesus leaves Heaven with the victorious believers. Even if after a short period of time you die and go to the new Jerusalem in Heaven, you will not have earned that special place with Jesus reserved for the firstfruits.
In addition, I expect that if the Lord accepts you, after you die and before you are allowed into the holy city in Heaven, you will have to undergo whatever Christ decides—-and some of your instruction may be prolonged and painful.
And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:2,3)
(“‘Rapture’ or the First Resurrection”, 4284-2, proofed 20210724)