A Voice in the
"Because the Lord Himself shall come down from Heaven with a commanding shout of an archangel's voice, and with God's trumpet. And the dead in Christ will rise again first. Then we who remain alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to a meeting with the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord." (1Th4:16-17)
"And saying these things, as they looked on, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him from their eyes. And as they were intently looking into the heaven, He having gone, even behold, two men in white clothing stood by them, who also said, Men, Galileans, why do you stand looking up to the heaven? This Jesus, the One being taken from you into the heaven, will come in the way you saw Him going into the heaven." (Acts1:9-11)
Typically, these monthly articles are intended to be received on or around the first of each month. Thus, with the assumption that 'today' is June 1, 2000, most calendars that include religious observances show 'today' being "Ascension" this year.
Here is one event which doesn't seem to have an O.T. type. Jesus claimed to have "fulfilled" the Law. (Mt5:17) And as He died and rose again, He fulfilled all the prophecies about Him and those events. (Mt26:54, Jn17:12, 19:24,28,36, etc.) When He died and was buried, He fulfilled Passover and Unleavened Bread. (Lev23:5-10) Resurrection was typified with the waving of "the sheaf" on "the next day after the sabbath". (Lev23:11-14) And then, right on schedule, "seven sabbaths" or "fifty days" later (Lev23:15-22) when the Firstfruits was celebrated "with leaven" (vs17), Pentecost was fulfilled at the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Acts2)
But nowhere am I finding an event which was to happen 40 days after the first waving of the sheaf of firstfruits in the O.T. traditions. But we find that after His resurrection Jesus spent 40 days, proving His resurrection and "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." (Acts1:3) And then, He ascends to Heaven.
We have observed in past writings that Passover and Pentecost events were fulfilled right on schedule; to the day and hour. We also see that ending events have definite time tables. "Seventy weeks" (Dan9:24) 1290 days, 1335 days. (Dan12:11-12) "Time, times and half a time". (Rev12:14) "Forty-two months" (Rev11:2) 1260 days (Rev11:3) "..hour, and a day, and a month and a year.." (Rev9:15) These events, on their timetable, leading up to the moment when Christ will come back to the Mt. of Olives (Zech14:4), "as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Mt24:27) as He comes to judge "..the world, to try those who dwell upon the earth." (Rev3:10b)
But if you recall from our study series in Matthew, while Jesus is foretelling His return, and Israel's regathering "from the four winds" (Mt24:31), He then also makes some parenthetical notes to His own. He speaks of "what hour -YOUR- LORD comes." (Mt24:42) Of that hour He says, "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not the angels of Heaven, but only My Father." (24:36) Once a certain event occurs; the revealing of the "son of perdition" (2Th2:3) and the "confirming of a covenant" (Dan9:27); then, there are "seven years". Those months and days can be counted off, and known. But this event of Jesus coming for those who call Him -their- "Lord"; that hour is not known. And, while we speculate often that it might be the fulfillment of "Trumpets" (Rosh Hashana); that, too, is a date/time that we -could- 'know' about. But Jesus said that "no one knows".
Very much like Jesus' Ascension. A date/time which doesn't appear to have a type or precedent in the O.T.
We have read the account. As Jesus is talking, He is taken up from them, and they stand there -watching- Him go up into a cloud. (Acts1:9) And the "two men in white clothing" address, "Men of Galilee". This statement has often been used by many, including me, in reference to Jesus' return to the Mt. of Olives to Israel, in discussing the differences between Israel and the Church; coinciding this with the passages in Zechariah where Jesus returns to rule from Jerusalem.
But notice more specifically. They address "Men of GALILEE", not "Israel" or "Judea". Jesus was from "Nazareth of Galilee". (Mt21:11) And when Peter was being questioned while Jesus was on trial, he is labelled a "Galilean" (Mk14:70) in the context of being a "follower of Jesus". These men in white address "Men of Galilee...Followers of Jesus". The term "Christ-ian" (Ac11:26) hadn't yet come into being.
Notice what they say. This Jesus is going to return in just the same way you saw Him going into Heaven. Jesus did not go into Heaven like a 'lightning bolt' (Mt24:27) did He. This is obviously referring to another event from His coming to rule.
The disciples "saw" Jesus going up. We are told that "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1Jn3:2) at the event when He is "revealed".
The event commonly called the "Rapture" is when "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up..to meet the Lord in the air." (1Th4:17) For years most Believers have assumed, as have I, that this would be a 'split-second' "blink-of-an-eye" event, where one instant the Believer is visible to other people, and the next, "Poof!", they have vanished. And this has been assumed from reading 1Cor15:52 where it says that we will "be changed; in a moment, in a glance of an eye..." But notice again exactly -what- happens during that split second. We are "changed" from "corruption" into "incorruption". That passage doesn't say that we are also whisked into Heaven during that same "split-second". That is the "change" of our physical bodies, making them into "spiritual bodies" (vs44)
Some will say from 1Th4:17 that "caught up" means to "snatch"; which is quite true. But that does not necessarily mean "not visible". Do we have any Scriptural precedent to substantiate this?
Elijah was about to be taken up into Heaven, and Elisha is following him around. And then, the moment comes. And Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, and Elijah says, "..if you see me taken away from you, it shall be so.." (2Kg2:10) It seems as though Elijah might have been expecting to suddenly be whisked away in the blink of an eye. After all, it seems that God did this with him throughout his ministry as he would appear or disappear before people. (1Kg18:12) And, indeed, Jesus did this, too, after His resurrection. He would just suddenly appear, and then disappear. (Lk24:31, Jn20:19,26) But when Elijah was being taken up to Heaven, yes, the violence of the "chariot of fire" and "tempest" might have been compared to a "snatching". But the snatching event was -visible-.
No! The Rapture is not, as its detractors would suggest, a "secret" event. Believers are not cowering away, being ushered up into Heaven "secretly" through some 'back door' as though they are "afraid" of the coming judgment. Most Believers I talk to who look for the Lord's return, are anxious for the day to come. Let's 'get it on', and get this evil world judged. Have God's Just Retribution meted out against wickedness. Get rid of the evil and clean it out! And usher in Christ's Righteous Rule. Yes, it will be a horrendous time. But, the sooner we "get on with it", the sooner it will be accomplished.
It is a time of Jesus' "GLORIOUS APPEARANCE" (Tit2:13), with a "COMMANDING SHOUT of an archangel's voice" and "with GOD's TRUMPET". (1Th4:16) It will be, as we suggested in a January commentary, the "starting gun".
Back when I used to consider the -sudden- "disappearance" theory, I used to wonder what we might be doing -just- prior to the event. Would we hear that trumpet? Would we see Jesus coming and be able to tell those around us at the moment what we saw? ...as Stephen did just prior to his martyrdom, when he said, "Behold, I see Heaven opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts7:56)?
When Jesus comes to rule it says, "..and every eye shall see Him, and all the kindreds of the earth will wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." (Rev1:7) That describes Jesus' "Revelation" at which time "we shall be like Him". (1Jn3:2) His Revelation begins with the 'Announcement' with the angel's voice, as Christ 'Appears' to give the 'starting gun' for the final seven years of judgment. With such an "open" bold announcement, does it even make sense that Believers would -merely- "disappear"? Even thinking logically, that could leave too much speculation to those remaining, as to "what happened" to us; defeating the whole purpose to 'reveal' Christ and His work to creation. But notice that when the judgments come, the world -knows- Who and Where they are coming from. They will know that it is "the great day of His [God's] wrath.." (Rev6:17) But even so, they will be blaspheming God, (Rev16:21) and refusing to repent. (Rev9:20-21, 16:9,11)
This knowledge will begin with Christ announcing Himself to the world, as He invites His own to "go up higher" (Lk14:10) as Believers are watched going, and it will become known 'who' really did belong to Christ. Will we be watched "intently", just as Jesus was that day as He ascended?
When that day comes, what will be the testimony left behind as we go? Will we have been in a bed of adultery, leaving a bitter taste of immorality? Having to call out, "I'm sooo sorry!" as we leave?
"But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of day; we are not of night, nor of darkness. So then, we should not sleep, as the rest also do, but we should watch and be sober. For those sleeping sleep by night, and those having been drunk are drunk by night. But we being of day should be sober..." (1Th5:4-8)
Having received the "knowledge of the truth" we should not be "sinning willfully" as we "see the Day approaching". (Heb10:25-26) God is not to be trifled with. We do not want to appear before God in fear, because we have "trampled the Son of God..." (vs27,29) God is a God of vengeance. (vs30) By the fruits, a person is known. (Mt7:20)
A True Believer, looking forward to that Glorious Day when we will be "like Him"... "everyone who has this hope on him purifies himself, even as He is pure." (1Jn3:3)