Copyright © 2017 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.

I Thessalonians 4:13-17

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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 4:13-17) [emphasis added]

The purpose of this passage is to keep the living Christians from grieving about their dead Christian relatives. It has nothing to do with escaping from the perils of the Great Tribulation.

So that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind.

This passage is not about the going of the Christians but about the coming of the Christians. We do not grieve because we will once again fellowship with our dead loved ones.

God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

All of those in the spirit world who died in Christ will return with Him.

I do not think enough thought is given to this fact. This may be a great number of people, far outnumbering those who are gathered from the earth.

Not precede those who have fallen asleep.

Those prepared Christians who are living on the earth at the time will be resurrected before those living on the earth are resurrected.

Loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.

Where did the idea of a “secret rapture” come from?

Will rise first.

Will be resurrected before those who are alive on the earth are resurrected.

This is the first resurrection.

(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5)

Don’t you find it remarkable that the multiplied thousands of those who came with the Lord had to be sent down to the earth in order to receive a resurrection body?

Together with them.

We, the living, then will be caught together with those who came with Jesus and had been resurrected, will also be resurrected and brought together with them to meet the Lord Jesus at the staging area in the air. All of us will be seated on a white war-stallion in preparation for the great attack that will drive the evil lords of darkness from the earth.

When Christ appears, the dead Christian relatives will appear with Him, and they and their living Christian relatives will all be changed bodily (resurrected) and gather at the staging area in the air. This gathering together of the soldiers of the army of the Lord depends on their living by the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)

From that staging area all shall descend and work with the Lord Jesus Christ at the task of removing the lords of darkness and establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

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

Since that above passage from First Thessalonians may be the “flagship,” so to speak, of the “rapture” doctrine, we ought to give some thought to the fact that by no means does it support the idea of a sudden, secret, bringing up to Heaven all people who profess faith in Christ so they may escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation.

It may be true that the interval of time between this early resurrection and the catching up of the saints will be the greatest period of Christian fellowship in the history of man. I think one time years ago Jesus implied this to me.

It would be just like Jesus, wouldn’t it, to do a thing like that!

Just think! This resurrection and fellowship will take place during the reign of Antichrist. Maybe Antichrist is not as powerful as we thought, except for his skill in leading astray the believers.

Satan could not prevent the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he cannot prevent the resurrection of the brothers of the Lamb.

The brothers are saved from all the authority of Satan by the blood of the cross of Cavalry.

The brothers are saved from all the power of Satan by the making new of their body by the resurrection Life of Jesus.

They do not need to be caught up to Heaven to be saved from Antichrist or the great tribulation!

Revelation 3:10

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. (Revelation 3:10)

Perhaps the key to understanding the verse above is the verb “keep.” Notice how the verb is employed in the following passage:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect (keep) them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

The verb means “protect.” It does not mean carry up to Heaven.

Christ will protect us from the power of evil. This fact is crucially important, because Satan and his angels will be on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9)

The witness of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth has been overcome, and Antichrist is ruling.

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. (Revelation 11:7)

The testimony of the Kingdom shall be overcome.

As the Scripture teaches, we who are faithful to Christ will be protected both from the perils of the Great Tribulation, and also from the evil angels who will fill the earth at that time. Our protection is the fact that because of our intense consecration to Christ we have been filled with all the Fullness of God.

And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)

We are living no longer. Christ is living in us.

Being filled with all the Fullness of God means we have become one of the chariots of God. Thus Satan and his angels no longer are able to penetrate our personality and express their vile inclinations.

If the protection is addressed to the “hour of trial” that shall “test the inhabitants of the earth,” and if this is the Great Tribulation, then we are not speaking of the destructive wrath of God but rather of an effort to bring some to salvation. It is “protect us from temptation.”

Mark 13:20

If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. (Mark 13:20)

If the Great Tribulation were not cut short, everyone on earth would die. We can see from this how terrible the period will be, so the term “distress” hardly is fitting. It probably will be similar to the Holocaust of Israel.

“I will sweep away both man and beast; I will sweep away the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea—and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.” (Zephaniah 1:3a)
For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. (Luke 21:22)

The fact that this season of tribulation will be cut short for the sake of the elect reveals that the elect, the members of the true Christian Church, the Royal Priesthood, will be on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

It may be true that the Ninety-first Psalm was written to comfort those who are abiding in Christ during the Great Tribulation.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” (Psalms 91:14)
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

What we Christians should be fearing is not the Great Tribulation, but being weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and the day will close on us suddenly like a trap. Because of a misunderstanding of Divine grace, supposing it to be an alternative to a godly life, numerous Christians are guilty of carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.

The expression: escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man has deceived some into believing that they can continue in drunkenness and the anxieties of life and they nevertheless will be caught up to Heaven and stand before Christ.

They do not seem to understand that “escape all that is about to happen” is referring not only to the perils of life on earth at that time but also to participating in the widespread sin.

Standing before Christ is not referring to Heaven or earth, necessarily. Both Elijah and Elisha while on earth spoke of standing before God.

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. (I Kings 17:1—KJV)
And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. (II Kings 3:14—KJV)

If we are to stand before Christ, either in Heaven or upon the earth, we must repent and turn away from our sin and self-will.

In the case of Chapter Twenty-one of Luke, I think the reference is to standing before Christ while we still are living on the earth and surrounded by physical danger, and also a great deal of sin and carousing.

Revelation 7:14

I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

It seems to me that this passage is referring to people who were suffering in the Great Tribulation, but while in this great trouble came to Christ for cleansing from sin and were received at the very Throne of God.

So even if we were enduring the suffering of the Great Tribulation, we still can be saved out of it by confessing and turning away from our sins and self-will.

There may be some who think they can live in their sin and self-will, and then when the Great Tribulation begins, they can sanctify themselves and be caught up to Christ in Heaven.

However, they may find that it will be exceedingly difficult once the witness of the Kingdom of God has been overthrown, Antichrist is ruling, Satan and his assistants are always pressing on our mind, and persecution, upheavals of nature, famine, and disease are everywhere.

Ephesians 6:13

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)

If I am correct, the teachers of the “rapture” say we are not to worry, because when the evil day comes, we will not be present on the earth.

I may be mistaken, but it appears to me that if Paul knew about the “rapture,” he would not have warned the Christians at Ephesus to put on the full armor of God so they would be able to stand their ground.

Does what I am saying sound right to you? We are to be preparing ourselves today because of the coming of the evil day, and it certainly is on the horizon for us in America.

Genesis 6:14-16

So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle, and upper decks. (Genesis 6:14-16)

The deliverance of Noah and his family are sometimes used to support the “rapture error.”

For myself, I do not think this a particular fitting example. God did not tell Noah there was going to be a disaster but not to worry because God would take him and his family to Heaven so they would not be harmed.

Rather, God gave Noah detailed instructions on what to do, so when the flood came, he and his loved ones could ride it out.

This is true today. In John 14:18-23, the Lord Jesus told us about His coming to His disciples before His worldwide appearing. The essence of our preparation would be an exchanged life. If we would keep His commands, the Spirit, Christ, and the Father would make Their home with us.

If we will abide in Christ, obeying all of His commands completely, promptly, and cheerfully, then the Fullness of God will become our life. We will be a chariot for God, always thinking, speaking, and doing what He wants to do. This is the way Jesus lives. He is the Chariot of God, if you think about it.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

There is not much Satan can do to harm us if we continue to obey God in this manner. Satan would have to overcome the resurrection of Christ, because we now are living by that very resurrection Life.

I know you want to live like this. All you have to do is ask, and then obey Christ every day and night until you are filled with all the Fullness of God. Then you have no need to fear the evil day that is coming.

Genesis 19:30

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. (Genesis 19:30)

As is true of the account of Noah, the experience of Lot and his two daughters being saved from the destruction of the cities of the plain is not the best illustration of being carried up to Heaven to avoid Antichrist and the Great Tribulation.

Lot was resistant and wanted to remain in Zoar, when the two angels told him to flee to the mountains. Meanwhile his wife became a pillar of salt.

Lot finally saw the wisdom of the angels and fled to the mountains and lived in a cave with his daughters. There his daughter had relations with him and brought forth Moab and Ammon, two enemies of Israel.

Now if you can picture a “rapture” dragging you from where you live now and making it possible for you to live in a cave in the mountains, get drunk, and bring forth Moab and Ammon by your daughters, then I do not believe I want to be raptured in this fashion.

Matthew 24:40

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:40)

Why is one taken and the other left? Good question, isn’t it?

The answer given today may not address all the facts. The one who professes to be a Christian is taken to Heaven. The other goes to Hell, I suppose.

However, it may not be that simple.

Christ is speaking to His Church today to confess their sins and self-will and to put away from their behavior all wickedness.

The problem is, the believers have been taught that Christ has “done it all,” and any steps they take toward righteousness and holiness are “works.” We are trying to earn our salvation. The result is, they may not see any need to change their behavior.

Those worthy of the Kingdom will be “taken.” Where?

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him,… (II Thessalonians 2:1a)

The answer is, they will be gathered to Christ.

I believe the Lord Jesus has come to us today in the Spirit to prepare us to be gathered to Him. But then the cry will go up, “We cannot earn our salvation. We are saved by grace and not by works of righteousness we have done.”

Paul advises us to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand in the evil day. Paul is not advising us to try to save ourselves by works. Rather, he is speaking practically. Paul is saying that if we do not protect ourselves, we may be destroyed by the spiritual darkness that is coming.

No one but the most hardened “lawless grace” fanatic would claim that preparing ourselves for the coming holocaust is what is meant by “works of righteousness we have done.”

The New Testament warns us to put to death the deeds of the body. It urges us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Putting to death the sins of the flesh and cleansing ourselves from spiritual filthiness is part of putting on the whole armor of God.

If we hope to be the one who is “taken” we need to obey the admonitions of the Scriptures. Some today are teaching that “Jesus has done it all,” so our part is only to believe. This is error!

Paul’s goal was to know the Lord Jesus. He was not attempting to earn salvation, by counting all things as worthless, Paul was seeking to know Christ. He hoped to be so involved in Christ that he would attain to the early resurrection—that which shall occur when Jesus appears and calls the prepared believers to Himself.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:8,9)

If we hope to be gathered to Christ when He appears, it will not be enough to be a mere professor of Christ. We will have to emulate the consecration of the Apostle Paul.

Gideon’s army did not consist of all the available Israelites!

* * *

The prevailing ignorance concerning the unscriptural “rapture” of the Christian people is profound! It appears that a belief of a coming “rapture” is primarily responsible for the fact that the majority of the Christian people are not preparing themselves to stand in the evil day that is near at hand.

O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord (Jeremiah 22:29)

(“Eight Passages That Do Not Support the "Rapture"”, 4308-2, proofed 20210918)

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