The Rapture Of The Church - 1 Corinthians 15d
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Stephen Caswell © 2001
The Rapture Could Happen Today
After church, where she had been taught about the Second Coming, a little girl was quizzing her mother. Mummy, do you believe Jesus will come back? Yes! Could he come back this week? Yes darling! Could he come today? Yes! Could he come in the next hour? Yes! Could he come in a few minutes? Yes, dear! Mummy, can you comb my hair?
Tonight we will look at the rapture. Last Sunday night we saw a very graphic portrayal of this event. I want to focus on different aspects of the rapture and its relationship to the Church. We will look at six questions about the rapture. Why? What? When? Where? Who? How?
Firstly, Why? Transportation
John 14:2-3: In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Why will the rapture happen? For transportation! Jesus promised to come again to take us home. The word rapture is a Latin word that means to be caught up in estacy. Whilst the word rapture is not found in the Bible the meaning is clearly expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. In verse 17 it says that living believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The word caught up ajrpazw means to seize, to snatch away, to transport hastily. The rapture will demonstrate God's great power. He will snatch up millions of believers simultaneously into the clouds. What an event this will be!
Perhaps some of you have seen the T. V. show Star Trek. The crew of the star ship enterprise investigate the universe to discover new civilizations. On their star ship they have a special transporter. With it they can transport people from a planet to their space ship on a beam of light. The phrase they use when ready to go is, beam me aboard Scotty! The transporter can only do a few at a time. Of course this is only science fiction. But when the rapture takes place Christ will transport millions of people simultaneously into the clouds to be with Him.
Paul had an experience like the rapture. 2 Corinthians 12:2: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago — whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows — such a one was caught up to the third heaven. God wants us to live with Him in His heavenly home. We don't belong here; this isn't our home. We are part of God's family and belong with Him. In fact Jesus has made a special place for us. We're God's precious children and He loves us deeply. The rapture is God's way of gathering His people together to Himself. The rapture involves both the gathering together and transportation of God's people into heaven.
2 Thessalonians 2:1: Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him. God will take his own and allow the rest of the world to continue as normal. The rapture won't affect unbelievers.
Secondly, What? Transformation
What will the rapture involve? A transformation! Philippians 3:20-21: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Why do we need this transformation? Because our bodies have been ruined by sin. The physical bodies aren't suitable for eternity in heaven. Therefore God will change them into bodies that are suitable. The rapture of living saints and the resurrection of dead saints happen together. But the result is the same. All Christians will receive new glorified, sinless bodies.
Corinthians 15:51-54: Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.
The word change ajllassw means to exchange, to transform, to alter, to change. Paul uses many comparisons to describe the changes that occur at the rapture. Corruptible To Incorruptible - Corruptible are sinful and experience the consequences of sin. They age and wear out with time. They feel pain and weakness. They are subject to sickness and deformity. Corruptible bodies are made of the earth and will return to the dust from which they came. Incorruptible bodies will never age. They will remain strong and healthy forever. Incorruptible are sinless and perfectly suited for heaven.
Mortal To Immortal - Mortal bodies die. At best, they last about eighty or ninety years and then die. At worst they die during infancy. But immortal bodies will never die. They are in fact impervious to death. Yes death is swallowed up in victory. Natural To Spiritual - In 1 Corinthians 15:44 we read there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. The natural body consists of flesh and blood. Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. However a spiritual body like Christ's resurrection body consists of flesh and bone. No Blood! Sin has corrupted human life which depends on blood. We will receive a spiritual body at the rapture. Paul talks about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:42-49:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living being.
The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord [Jesus Christ] from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
The Rapture - Transformation
The story is told of an old farmer who brought his family to the big city for the first time. They had never seen buildings so tall or sights so impressive. The farmer dropped his wife off at a department store and took his son to the bank -- the tallest of all buildings. As they walked into the lobby, they saw something else they had never seen before. Two steel doors opened. A rather large and elderly woman walked in, and the big doors closed behind her. The dial over the door swept to the right and then back to the left. The doors opened and a beautiful young lady came walking out. The farmer was amazed. He turned to his son and said, You wait right here. I'm going to get your mother and run her through that thing! At the rapture we'll be taken up and transformed along the way.
Thirdly, When? Completion
1 Corinthians 15:51-52: Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
When will the rapture happen? Do we know when? Yes we do! At the Church's completion. Firstly, the rapture will happen very suddenly. It is imminent. There is no prophecy of Scripture that must be fulfilled first. Jesus Christ can return at any time. There will be no time to prepare just beforehand. It will happen instantly and without warning. It will happen in a moment of time. Paul says it will be all over in the twinkling of an eye. Scientists have computed that it takes one-fiftieth of a second to blink an eye. That means you need to be ready before hand. You won't have time to repent when it happens. It will be too late then!
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Although the rapture will occur suddenly don't think that the time is unimportant. Secondly, at a specific point in time Jesus will come to collect His bride. The time is very significant. Some time after the last believer has been added to the Church Christ will come to take her home. God is working to a divine program. Although the rapture happens suddenly be assured that God has planned it since the beginning of time. When the Church is complete Christ will most certainly come to collect His bride. Revelation 4:1-3 agrees with this:
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this. Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
If Revelation 1:19 is God’s inspired outline of this book, then Revelation 4 ushers us into the third division: the things which shall be hereafter. In fact, that is exactly what God said to John when He summoned him to heaven! It would appear that, in this experience, John illustrates what will happen to God’s people when the Church Age has run its course: heaven will open; there will be a voice and the sound of a trumpet; and the saints will be caught up to heaven. John experienced a foretaste of the rapture. He saw the first three chapters of Revelation on Patmos. Chapter 4 verse 1 says after these things I was summoned to heaven where I saw the great tribulation unfold. The Morning Star first, then Sun of Righteousness.
After what things? The Church Age, or age of grace. These chapters deal with the seven Churches. They also represent seven Church ages closing with the Loadicean age. John, typifying the Church was taken out of the world before the tribulation began. He heard a voice like a trumpet commanding him to ascend into heaven. Immediately he was carried to heaven in the Spirit. These expressions are used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52. Trumpets were used to summon people together for religious feasts or for battle. They were used to announce the king's arrival. Christ will assemble His people with a trumpet sound and a shout of command. He may well say to us, Come up here my beloved. We will respond like John. We will immediately rise in the Spirit to meet Christ in the clouds.
Fourthly, Where? In Every Nation
Matthew 24:27: For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Where will the rapture happen? In every nation! The rapture will take place simultaneously all over the world. God will summon His people from every country, nation, tribe and family. It won't happen in just one place. As the lightning flashes from the east to the west in a millisecond so to the rapture will happen all across the world simultaneously.
Luke 17:34-36: I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.
For some people it will be night time. Others will be raptured in the morning. I personally believe that both of the Scriptures I have just read apply to Christ's second coming to the earth. But the principle is the same. Jesus will gather His people from all over the world simultaneously. Therefore they will be taken at different times of the day. Some will be in bed whilst others will be at work or school. Yes, God will gather people from all sorts of places and involved in all sorts of activities.
Fifthly, Who? God's New Creation
Philippians 3:20-21a: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body. Who will be taken at the rapture? God's new creation! Paul describes us as heavenly citizens in Philippians. And so we are. In Philippians 4:3 we find that we are recorded on the city's register, the Lamb's Book of Life. Yes, only believers will be caught up at the rapture.
How will God distinguish His children from the rest? Very easily, His children have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 4:30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. The Holy Spirit guarantees that God will complete the good work that He's begun in us. Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Romans 8:18-23: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Right Components Only
A boy, took a tour of the Henry Ford factory in Michigan. There we saw an electromagnetic crane move over a large railroad car filled with what seemed to be junk steel. At the flip of a switch, everything in that car leaped up to the magnetic crane. Then he saw a strange thing: some pieces of steel fell back into the car. He waited until others had left on the tour and then climbed up to look inside and find out why these pieces fell back in. He found they were not steel at all. Lying on the bottom of the car were some old two-by-fours, a broom handle, and some broken pieces of wood. Only objects made of the right component responded to the magnet; the rest were left behind. The same is true at the rapture. Those who are sealed with the Holy Spirit will be caught up into the clouds but everyone else will be left behind.
1 John 3:2: 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.
Sixthly, How Should We Respond? Dedication
How should we live in light of the rapture? In a word, dedication! Since we expect Jesus to come back and take us to Heaven we should dedicate our lives to Him. This is summarized well by Paul, Peter and John.
a. Abide - Confidence
1 John 2:28: And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
Firstly, John commands believers to abide in Christ that they might have confidence when Jesus appears. Why will abiding provide confidence? Because nothing ruins the fellowship of someone abiding in Christ. They are living in close fellowship with their Lord. They walk with Him each day and seek to do His will. They rely on His strength to stand up for the truth. They look expectantly for His return. Paul brings this out in Titus 2:13.
Titus 2:13-14: Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
b. Avoid - Consecration
1 John 3:3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Secondly, John tells us that those who are looking for the Blessed Hope keep themselves pure. They don't get entangled with sin or worldly pleasures. Christians looking for the Blessed Hope know that Jesus is pure. They want to be pure too. They keep themselves clean for their heavenly bridegroom. Are you avoiding the sins of the flesh? Are you turning down the pleasures of sin for a season? Is your life different to the life of unbelievers?
c. Abound - Commitment
1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
After revealing the wonderful changes that the rapture will bring Paul commands believers
to be about the Lord's business. In fact he tells us to be consumed with it. The word abound perisseuw means to increase, to exceed, to abound, to overflow. This all speaks of increased service for God. Is your service increasing or decreasing? Have you served the Lord faithfully in the past? Are you putting in the same time and effort today? Or do you think that you have paid your dues in the past? Christ wants us to serve until He comes back!
Peasant Looking For Christ's Return
I was told of a poor peasant in the mountains who, month after month, year after year, through a long period of declining life, opened his casement every morning, as soon as he awoke, and looked toward the east to see if Jesus Christ were coming. He had not calculated the date of Christ's coming, or he would not have needed to look at all. He was ready for Christ's coming, or he would not have been in such a hurry to seek him. He was willing for Christ's coming, or he would rather have looked another way. He loved, or Christ would not have been the first thought of the morning. His Master did not come, but eventually a messenger did, to fetch the ready one home. The same preparation sufficed for both; his longing soul was satisfied with either.
Why the rapture? To provide transportation for God's people to Himself. What is the rapture? It involves the transformation of God's people from mortal to immortal. When will the rapture happen? It is imminent, it could happen at any time. It will happen at the completion of the Church. Where will the rapture take place? In every nation. It will happen simultaneously around the world. Who will be taken in the rapture? Only new creations. Jesus will only take believers at the rapture. Unbelievers will be left behind. Are you ready for the rapture? Do you know Christ as Lord and Savior? How should we live now? We should abide in Christ daily. We should avoid all sin and we should abound in God's work.
Revelation 22:20-21: He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.