by Finley Hunter
The Rapture of the Church is a wonderful subject and doctrine that has taken its share of beatings. Probably its worst enemies are sincere, godly theologians who have confused it with other basic doctrines.
The doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ was itself hidden for many years. Reformation teaching, in general, was that the promises of God not fulfilled in Israel’s past were being fulfilled in the present-day church. Post-millennialism and A-millennalism were the result. The church became austere and, of course, its hope was lost. Those who wanted to go deeper were led into legalism and ceremonialism by their denominational leaders.
There did not exist in the pulpit or in song that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our Great God, the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, in His earthly ministry, taught much about the coming Davidic Kingdom (Mk. 11:10). It is said that there is more in the Scriptures concerning the Second Coming of Christ than the first. The prediction of the throne of David is very plain in 2 Samuel 7:16.
And Thine house and Thy Kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: Thy throne shall be established for ever (cf., Acts 13:23).
Also, the prophet Jeremiah has plenty to say along this line:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform the good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (33:14-15).
The sequence of events in Daniel, Chapter 9, lead to the resurgence of the old Holy Roman Empire. The great statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of Chapter 2 is destroyed by the stone, without hands, out of the mountain (34:35). This stone becomes a kingdom which will never be destroyed. The kingdom will never be left to other people (vs. 44).
The Second Coming of Christ to establish the Kingdom of David has nothing to do with the Rapture of the Church which happens seven years prior. There are four primary passages that teach a major aspect of the Rapture: Titus 2:12-13, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Philippians 2:30-31, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
- TITUS 2:12-13
The Millerites, 215 years ago, were the fanatical believers in the literal return of Christ. There is no problem with that, but Mr. Miller did not stop there. He set a date for the event. Donning white robes, he and his followers waited in vain (on two separate occasions) for the Lord to come and take them to Heaven.
This ridiculous teaching in the light of Christ’s statement that no man knows the day nor the hour—not even the Son, but the Father only—set back pre-millennialism fifty years and pre-tribulationalism one-hundred years.
When I mentioned the Rapture of the Church to a fine evangelist, he responded that he didn’t want to teach his people to sit around waiting for the Lord to come. There is work to be done!!
Our text, of course, says that expecting the coming of Christ teaches us several things: (a) to deny ungodliness: worldliness; (b) to live soberly: serious minded, righteously, law-abiding, godly, looking for that blessed hope—namely, the appearing of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 15:51-52
One of the major reasons to notice a difference between the Rapture an the Second Coming is that at the Second Coming, there will be two kinds of bodies that God’s people will possess: some will have bodies of flesh, blood and bones, and others will have bodies of flesh and bones only—like that of Christ in the resurrection. Those with flesh, blood and bone bodies will be a remnant that will survive the Tribulation. These will be the nucleus that will reproduce and fill the earth. Those Old Testament saints, with only flesh and blood bodies, will return with Christ and the Twelve Apostles to set up the restored Davidic Kingdom.
At the Rapture all of the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, will be the same as each other. There are no differences between Jew and Gentile. Those who have died and have passed into the heavenlies will have their bodies resurrected and glorified at the Rapture. At the same time, every living believer, who is in a body of flesh, blood and bones, will be instantly glorified.
“Behold, I show 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 in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed “ (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
This is part of the later Mystery committed to Paul (Col. 1:26-27).
- PHILIPPIANS 3:20-21
Our text informs us that we are already “citizens” of Heaven (“conversation” / politenma). It’s where we get our word “politics.”
One of the major accomplishments of the Rapture as over against the Second Coming of Christ, is that each and every believer of the present Dispensation of the Grace of God will get a glorified body. The body, in which we presently abide, is called “vile” in the Authorized Version of the Bible. It is the “body of humiliation” in Greek. Illustration: Mrs. Hunter was mowing the yard and went in to prepare our lunch. I thought, “I’ll push the mower around while she is making sandwiches.” I couldn’t do it! My vile, weak body of humiliation would not permit it!
Now, think of the energy (working) I would have had in my glorified body! I’m confident we will not be mowing grass after the Rapture but we will be able to do many other wonderful things. Our glorified body will be like that of the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection.
¨ Luke 24:15 & 31 … He could appear where He wanted without having to travel there.
¨ Luke 24:42-43 … Although not to sustain life, He ate solid food.
¨ John 20:19 … He walked through closed doors.
¨ Acts 1:3 … He continued in His teaching ministry.
¨ Hebrews 9:28 … He will appear without sin. Of course, the sins He had on the Cross were not His but our sins. When He comes again, it will be “without sin.”
- 1 THESSALONIANS 4:16-17
The passage cited is the key passage on the subject of the Rapture.
The word “Rapture” is translated “caught up” in the Authorized Version and in many others. The original word is very close to our word “seized” or “snatched away.”
An interesting observation is that the Lord Himself is the one Who activates the great work which results in this snatching away of the Church which is His Body (Eph. 1:22-23). Members, all of them, will be caught up to meet Him “in the clouds.” (There is no article in the original.) Scholars call this anarthrous. What a day that will be!
The destiny of the Second Coming will be the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4; cf., Acts 1:11-12). The destiny of the present-day Body Church, conversely, will be “in the air.”
The Rapture of the Church will be a terrific close of the present Dispensation of Grace. The completed Body Church will be glorified. Those who have heard and rejected the Gospel of the Grace of God cannot be saved under the Gospel of the Kingdom because:
“…God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe [the] lie, that they all might be damned…” (2 Thess. 2:11-12).
If the reader of these lines has never acknowledged the difference between the prophesied Kingdom preached by Peter and the Secret message about the Body Church preached by Paul, let him do so now. May the Lord bless you. If the reader of these lines has never placed his/her trust in the finished work of Christ on the Cross and in His resurrection, please believe now and be saved before the Rapture.