“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” – 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 51, 52 we also read: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Step by Step Process
Now we come to the rapture properly. The catching away of the saints by Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts, is the most joyous and glorious event to some on this side of eternity just as it will be the most startling and unsettling event for those to be left behind. The revelation we have in both Scriptures above is clear account of the ‘how’ of the rapture. It represents the step by step process of it; but the latter part of the process i.e. after the sounding of the trumpet, will be all accomplished by an Omnipotent and Omniscient God in a twinkling.
Let’s see a combination of issues here that adds up to one or that is all components of the rapture. Part A: There is the descent of the Lord from Heaven; there is the Lord’s shout (command) for the dead to arise (we see this faintly prefigured by the case of Lazarus – John 11: 43); there is the shout (voice), not the ordinary meaning we associate with the word ‘shout’ as in Acts 12: 22 but keleusma (cry of incitement, an order, command in war and call to prepare for action) by or of the Archangel – a cry of incitement, an order, command, call for action that flings them as it were from their graves; there is the Trump of God, (faintly prefigured on Sinai). Then the resultant part B: There is the raising of the righteous dead incorruptible and ascension into the clouds yonder above; and there is the changing of the living saints from mortality to immortality and making them to catch up with the risen and ascended righteous dead in the clouds. We repeat: All of part B takes place in the twinkling of the eye! He is God!
The rapture is a catching away! And this must be well understood. The Greek word: harpazo translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4 actually means to carry off, snatch up, grasp hastily, seize and overpower, and plunder. Ponder over all words and phrases and a great picture builds up. Look again. What do you see? As for me, I see the Lord of Host, the Man of War and Captain of our Salvation hastily grasping and snatching His own up, carrying them off (carting them away), seizing them and overpowering the foe with his hosts and indeed plundering those he thinks he could take with him to his eternal damnation; grandiosely leaving for Heaven with Satan hundred percent helpless! All this, in a twinkling of an eye! Ever before the first dose or hint of imagination could hit Satan, we are there with the Lord in the air.
It must remind us of different types or degrees of speed: There is speed of light, of sound, of the airplane, different automobile, of different athletic racing sports including the marathon etc. There is also the speed of the rapture: a twinkling of the eye. Twinkling-of-the-eye speed! Though this is both the longest ‘marathon’ and movement of the largest population ever, yet it will be in a-twinkling-of- the-eye speed. Scientists now tell us more appropriately that the speed of light in a vacuum defined is exactly 299,792,458 meters per second or about 186,000 miles per second. There is also the speed of the rapture: a twinkling of the eye. And that includes all that go with it as is already noted i.e. the raising of the righteous dead and who are also now made incorruptible and their ascension into the clouds; and we who are alive and remain physically (and also remain in the Lord spiritually) being caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air! It is recapped on purpose.
We have seen sundry artists’ impression of the rapture. But really no one sees the rapture. No one in the entire world would see any part of the process of the manifestation, including the ascension of the saints into the sky or air, for it happens at the speed of the twinkling of the eye. Fear God! They would’ve been fully manifested far up there in the sky before any living being, including Satan, would have known such a thing ever took place. The ‘creature’, despite all its earnest expectation of the manifestation of the sons of God, would not see the process leading to these ones appearing in the sky. Everything would have been completed or the saints would have met with the Lord in the Sky far, far above before it (the creature or the rest of creation) realizes that such a thing ever took place; but it (the creature or the rest of creation) would nonetheless be exceedingly glad, for its own freedom, as we have already visited in earlier parts of this series, is tied to this!
Do you remember or know that it is written that Jesus is coming like a thief in the night for His people. So awesome a scene we must necessarily reiterate or represent it again: Like a thief in the night Jesus comes to snatch up, grasp hastily, seize and overpower, and to plunder, for so the phrase ‘caught up’ which we call ‘rapture’ means in the Greek word translated ‘caught up’ in our English Bible. No creation would be able to see the action life, and no creation will be able to see those being caught up, let alone know them as they go.
Not even a family on a table together would see a qualified member of the family there going in the rapture. Such would’ve been far, indescribably far in the sky with the Lord before they know one of them is missing. Not even one of two people talking together would see the other that is qualified going in the rapture. He would have been there far, and very far up in the sky with the Lord before it occurs to him.
No man, no devil sees them in flight. But they will eventually know those who are gone through those left behind. No flight like this! All creation (including Satan and his hosts and sleeping Christians) will only awake to hear stories and see newspapers’ screaming headlines that some people are missing; that there are disasters everywhere because those handling some sensitive objects like machines, flying objects etc are nowhere to be found; and, of course, the attendant wailing is not known in history. Well, they are gone and gone from among men! Mysterious disappearances it will rightly be called.
But Satan, his hosts, and hitherto sleeping Christians, and ‘church’ people, etc would’ve already now known what has happened. Then the word: ‘rapture’ or catching away of the saints that the Bible so promised and which Christians of all ages so harp on will now explain this ‘mysterious’ happening with the screaming banners it occasions.
But the Holy Spirit has told His own long time ago of this mystery: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruptible, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15: 51-58.
Yes, this is what Romans 8: 19-27 our major text in this series on the rapture is looking forward to, and here it is in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-58. Glory! So, let’s see those Romans verses again: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”.
For all, the rapture will come as breaking news; after it has happened. In a twinkling it will happen. We would have already been in the sky with the Lord, before it will be a matter of knowledge. The more reason, perhaps, the creation is more earnest in its expectation, actually with outstretched body as we have seen previously! Completely outstretched in expectation of the manifestation of the sons of God, if perhaps…! But it wouldn’t see any beat of the process but will rejoice in the accomplishment or the final outcome though. And that leads us to something else, and that is, the fierceness of one of the creation of God, the being called Satan, with his cohorts.
Satan and his Hosts
Don’t miss it: not even Satan and his hosts, who are among the creation in this earnest expectation of the manifestation of the sons of God (albeit for negative motives), will witness the rapture life. We would have been very far into the air and in the company of the Lord Jesus Christ before they know it. The more reason Satan is even more all eyes! In the meantime, he tries to deplete the number that will make the rapture with all his vices in the world and in the uninformed and world-loving church. Satan is extremely very conscious of the rapture and doing everything he can to abort it like a man watching after his things and putting out his best to secure them, knowing that the thief could come anytime. Satan, you know, remains the god, the usurper-god, of this world. And he, as he supposes is doing everything to prevent his domain for now (the earth that is) from being invaded into.
But that shall be done and he will be completely rendered helpless. The Lord: the Man of war, the Captain of our salvation, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and, indeed, the Lord of Hosts is coming. He is coming for His own. He is coming to take them home. Amen!
Satan and his host are among the crowd of witnesses on the evil side of the divide. Whilst they, given their evil network spanning over ages, may be able to know all things about men including children of God; in the matter of the rapture he and his fallen angels are totally blank: concerning its timing. This is a matter God has kept to His chest.
All of that partly explains why Jesus is coming like a thief in the night. He is coming not only like a thief but like a thief in the night. The secret nature of it cannot be missed. To repeat it: Like all creatures of God, Satan is all darkness about it. The saints would have been gone with the Lord before Satan knows.
But whether the rest of humanity and Satan and fallen angels would see the saints far, and very far in the sky for its gathering hugeness with its glory and rays or beams of that glory (as with the sun and our earth) before it goes majestically and gloriously with the Lord to Heaven proper is only conjecturable. That is, whether the very place in the sky they will join with the Savior is near enough to earth for earth below to catch a glimpse of the startling glory above given the hugeness of that mass of humanity can only be a guess work because that meeting point with the Lord before the movement to Heaven could be anywhere in that vast expanse called universe! And for how long that introductory union in the sky would be before the triumphant entry properly into the eternal home of glory of the saints nobody can really know now. Suffice to say that from the rapture to the triumphant entry into Heaven much is kept to the chest of God. May we not be left behind! It is very disastrous to be left behind.
A Very Serious Charge
Luke 12: 35-40: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”
The charge is so clear. William Dunn Longstaff (1822–1894) got that message and charge and he represented it in his ‘Take Time to be Holy’, and we are expected to get it too. This ‘modern’ preaching that has almost blurred completely the difference between the Church and the world must not sweep us along. The rapture is coming unexpectedly and suddenly and there is way to get prepared. Longstaff:
1. Take time to be holy, Speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, And feed on His Word. Make friends of God’s children; Help those who are weak; Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek. 2. Take time to be holy, The world rushes on; Much time spend in secret With Jesus alone; By looking to Jesus, Like Him thou shalt be; Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see. 3. Take time to be holy, Let Him be thy guide, And run not before Him Whatever betide; In joy or in sorrow Still follow the Lord, And, looking to Jesus, Still trust in His Word. 4. Take time to be holy, Be calm in thy soul; Each thought and each motive Beneath His control; Thus led by His Spirit To fountains of love, Thou soon shalt be fitted For service above.
Living our lives to glorify God is the key to everything! “… Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above”. That is the glorious dawn, and subject matter of the concluding part of this series that we shall be looking at after now. But this prayer or anyone like it may be necessary presently: “O God, help me to be there, in that place supernal; take me through Your path here that leads there whatever it takes and make me by grace to conform to all demands of Your will and purpose on that path until I get to You and remain so with You throughout all eternity. In Jesus blessed Name I pray! Amen. Thank You Lord.”
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