The Coming Rapture of the Church
Eschatological study by Pastor Wesley Darby
THE COMING RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH - I
I. THE MEANING OF THE CHURCH
A. The church had its commencement with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - Matt. 16:18.
- The church is Christ's, "My Church", He is "Head" over the church - Eph. 1:22
- It is Christ who places us in His church, not a church which places us in Christ.
- Could be no church after Christ's death, resurrection, ascension and advent of the Holy Spirit.
B. The term "church" applies to the body of saints of this present age.
- Ecclesia - "Called out ones." - I Cor. 12:13
- The church, as the body of Christ, is distinct from unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles - I Cor. 10:32
- Church began at Pentecost & will continue until Christ comes to take her to Himself.
- This we call the Rapture.
II. THE MEANING OF THE RAPTURE
A. Word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible.
- Latin word, means catch up, to seize, to snatch away with the idea of ecstasy, joy, delight.
- Scripture testifies to this: Titus 2:13, Heb. 6:19, I Peter 1:3.
B. Idea of Rapture not an isolated fact in Bible - Gen 5:24, Hebrews 11:5.
- In Gen. 5 we read of six men who preceded Enoch.
- Note: Gen. 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20.
- Enoch, seventh in order, did not die - caught up alive to heaven before evil rose to height & God's judgment was poured out upon the earth in the flood.
C. What God did for Enoch He is going to do for a whole generation of Christians one of these days.
- For Enoch there was no death, no body to be buried, no grave.
- He was translated, transferred alive from earth to heaven.
- To unbeliever the whole idea of the Rapture sounds preposterous & unbelievable.
D. Another illustration of the Rapture is in II Kings 2:1-11.
- We can look forward to a translation far more wonderful than Enoch or Elijah.
- We must leave the time up to God - I Kings 19:4.
- Elijah's fifth recorded prayer, only one God did not answer.
- Always best to leave the choice with God.
E. Jesus Christ was taken up to heaven on the day of the Ascension - Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9.
- This was Christ's Rapture.
F. There is another Rapture described in Scripture.
- It will occur during the tribulation after the Church has been caught up to heaven to be with Christ.
- Note: Rev 11:3, 11, 12.
CONCL: By the Rapture of the Church is meant the literal, bodily translation of the living saints of this age to heaven just as Enoch, Elijah & Christ were taken up into heaven.
THE COMING RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH - II
I. NOT A PARTIAL RAPTURE
A. All believers in this present age will be resurrected & translated at Christ's coming in the air.
- There are those who believe the Bible teaches that the Body of Christ will be divided into two or more groups at the Rapture
B. Partial-rapturists use such verses as:
- Matt. 24:42 - the one not watching is said to be the believer who is not ready when the Lord comes and will experience Vs. 51.
- This passage does not refer to church but to Israel in the Tribulation - Vs. 21, 29, 30.
- Return of Christ here is the 2nd Coming.
- V. 40, 41 likewise refer to Jews in the Tribulation
- II Tim. 4:8 - those who do not love His appearing are supposed to be left to go through the Tribulation.
- Truth is Paul was approaching death - Vs. 6.
- "Crown" is one of the five crowns to be given as rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
- There will be a reward for those who "love His appearing" but it does not say the rapture will be part of that reward.
- Luke 21:36 - partial-rapturists say that some believers will be translated before Tribulation while others will be left to pass through it.
- Raptures is not mentioned nor inferred in this context.
- "Signs" mentioned in Vs. 25-28 occur at the 2nd Coming.
C. Three observations in this regard:
- The partial-rapture theory conditions the Rapture upon human works as opposed to the principle of Grace.\
- The partial-rapture theory divides the Body of Christ, which is opposite from Paul's teaching concerning the unity of that Body.
- The partial-rapture theory precludes a partial resurrection of those Christians who have died.
II. THE TIME OF THE RAPTURE
A. The exact time of the Rapture is not known.
- It is the next event on God's prophetic calendar - it is imminent.
- The fact of His coming is certain - the time is uncertain.
B. The Lord used the language of imminency - Jn. 14:1-3.
- Clear He was going away, next event after His departure would be His return.
C. There are those who teach that the next event is the Tribulation period & church will go through the Tribulation - Jn. 16:33.
- The purpose of the Tribulation is totally unrelated to the church.
- The Tribulation is a period of wrath.
- The time of the Rapture is before the Tribulation - Rom. 5:9. Rom 8:1, I Thes. 5:9, Rev. 3:10.
- Suffering and tribulation are sometimes the portion of the Christian but not wrath - not the Tribulation.
THE COMING RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH - III
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE RAPTURE I Thes. 4:13-18
A. A Reason - Vs. 13.
- "Sleep" is a synonym for death of a believer only, never an unbeliever - Jn. 11:11, Acts 7:60, I Cor. 11:30.
- Sleep is known to be temporary, so the death of the body will be temporary.
- Sleep has its waking, death will have its resurrection.
B. A Reasoning - Vs. 14.
- The "if" clause is a first class condition & assumes the fact.
- The condition being true, the result is also true - "since we believe."
- The hope of Christ's coming for His own is as sure as His death & resurrection.
- The one who lacks assurance about the death & resurrection of Christ will have no assurance about his own resurrection, Rom. 8:11, I Cor. 6:14
C. A Revelation - Vs. 15a.
- Refers to direct revelation not to quotation.
- Vs. 15b - Living ones will not have a head start on those who have died.
- Obvious Paul was looking for rapture in his lifetime.
- It was imminent to him - Titus 2:13/
- He spoke freely of the alternative possibility - II Tim. 4:6.
D. A Return - Vs. 16a.
- This means the literal, bodily return of Christ.
- Not mean the death of the Christian.
- Not mean the coming of the Holy Spirit.
- The Lord who is to return in Vs. 16 is the Jesus who died and rose again in Vs. 14.
E. A Resurrection - Vs. 16b.
- "Dead in Christ" is synonymous with "them also which sleep in Jesus" in Vs 14.
- There is no reference here to the resurrection of the unsaved.
- Unsaved shall be raised but not at the resurrection of the saved at the rapture - Jn. 5:28,29.
- There are two distinct resurrections.
- Those who teach otherwise are in error.
- "The resurrection of life" does not occur at one time.
- It is in separate stages - I Cor. 15:20-23.
- Christ is the firstfruits, the first part of the resurrection of life.
- The second stage of the "resurrection of life" is the Rapture.
- The third stage is after the Tribulation - Rev. 20:6.
- This is the resurrection of unbelievers - Rev. 20:12,13 - the is Great White Throne.
- The resurrection at the Rapture will include only those saints of the present dispensation who have died before Christ returns.
F. A Reunion - Vs. 17.
- Before either the resurrected dead or the living saints meet the Lord in the air, they are joined together in one group - a wonderful reunion.
- All the divisions among God's people will be removed.
- All strife will have ended & all broken hearts mended.
G. A Reaffirmation - Vs. 18.
- Here is a balm for the brokenhearted, a comforting word for the sorrowing.
- Here is living, vibrant hope.
- The Thessalonians were having a tough time - these words were to give them assurance.
- These words are calculated to give strength at all times.
THE COMING RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH - IV
(Ready for the Rapture - Part 1)
INTRO: No study of Rapture compete without practical application. One thing to know Christ's coming imminent, another matter to be ready at moment He comes. What attitudes & actions safe for Christian & satisfactory to God? One can have good intentions & not be ready.
I. EIGHT STRATEGIC TEXTS ON BEING READY FOR THE RAPTURE
A. I Cor. 4:5, Here is an appeal to charitableness.
- We are not capable of judging the service of others, nor our own service.
- We dare neither justify nor judge others, nor ourselves.
- Lord is Judge & there is a time for judgment.
- There is an exhortation here - "judge nothing".
- Verb is in the present continuous tense - "Discontinue your practice of passing judgment."
- While we judge others we lower the dignity of true Christianity by usurping a right exclusively Christ's - Matt. 7:1-5.
- It is gross pride and brash egotism to presume that we qualify to act the role of a judge in determining the character of another.
- Judging others is tantamount to idle gossip.
- There is also expectation here.
- We can expect the Lord to come.
- There will be an expose' when He comes.
- When Christ comes He will expose the things that were hidden.
- The things we have done under cover to avoid detection, Heb. 4:13.
B. Col. 3:4-5 - "therefore" in Vs. 5 refers to what was said in Vs. 4.
- We are to put to death all that comes under the category of immorality.
- Have nothing to do with moral impurity.
C. I Thess. 5:23 - "wholly" found only here in all the N.T.
- Refers to complete sanctification.
- God desires that believers walk circumspectly, to abstain from every appearance of evil - Vs. 22.
D. II Tim. 4:1-2 - Paul's last charge to a younger servant in Christ.
- An appeal to faithfulness.
- The only issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ is faithfulness.