Rapture and Resurrection
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
In our last paper we endeavoured to show the uncertainty of the time of our Lord's return, and it is, therefore, incumbent upon us to " watch and pray." In this paper we shall consider the following matters :—
(1) The Resurrection of the dead saints.
(2) The 'Rapture' of the living saints.
(3) The effect of the ' Rapture ' upon the world.
(1) The Resurrection of the dead saints. It was given to the Apostle Paul by the Spirit of God to give the details of what had to that time been referred to in general terms. We must remember that whilst there is progress in the purposes of God, so also is there progress in revelation. Thus the Apostle could write to the Thessalonian believers and give facts about the Lord's coming hitherto unknown, yet nevertheless with the full authority of divine inspiration, even as he said, " This we say by the word of the Lord "—1 Thess. 4. 15. In this instance he was writing for the comfort of those who had lost loved ones, assuring them that those who had fallen asleep would have their portion in the manifestation of the glorified Christ, for " them who have fallen asleep through Jesus will God bring with Him." In order, however, that the sleeping as well as the living saints might share in the triumph of that manifestation, resurrection is necessary, for the complete man must be there, not only soul and spirit but also body.
In his last paper Mr. Lovering wrote of resurrection. 1 Cor. 15 is the classic chapter on this theme and should be studied repeatedly with the utmost care. " By man came death—by man came also resurrection." In our conception of resurrection we must beware of an ultra-materialism, ever remembering that the resurrection-body is a spiritual one, a body of glory; but, on the other hand, we must beware also of the other extreme which would deny the identity of the spiritual body with the body of humiliation. Such teaching is the very thing that the Apostle controverted in this chapter. What is sown in corruption and dishonour, that is raised in incorruption and glory.
Chrysostom's comment is worth quotation : " These heretics say, The body is not raised because it dies. I reply, The body because it dies is, therefore, raised. Again they say, If there be a raising, one body falls, another is raised. I reply, Resurrection is a raising of that which is fallen : whatever body falls, the same is raised and yet raised not the same, in many respects different, in all superior."
" The dead in Christ shall rise first." When the Lord descends from heaven with the assembling shout and when the trump of God is heard, then will the sleeping Christians awake and join the living ones to meet the Lord in the air, " in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."
(2) The ' Rapture ' of the living saints. The living saints will be raptured. " We which are alive and remain shall be caught up ..." 1 Thess. 4. 17. The catching up is associated with the change spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15. 52, " We shall be changed." What is this change ? The answer is supplied by the apostle in Phil. 3. 20, R.V. " For our commonwealth is in heaven ; from whence also we look for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory." The mental and moral transformation which is even now taking place in the believer as the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will then be perfected, and the body also shall be redeemed and made like Christ's. " We shall be like Him."
Will any believers be left behind when the Lord comes ? Is there such a thing as 'partial' or 'selective' rapture? In 1 Cor. IS, the apostle was writing to a carnal church, yet he says, " We shall ALL be changed." Our being transformed into the likeness of Christ is a matter of grace, and not of attainment; it is part of the great salvation which God purposed when, " in bringing many sons to glory," He made " the Leader of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Whilst the New Testament never encourages slackness and always urges and exhorts to a life of holiness, we must not for one moment harbour heresies that would rob the believer of the assurance of the completeness of his salvation in the Person and Work of the blessed Lord Jesus. For a full and a clear refutation of ' Selective Rapture ' teaching, the reader is referred to the little book by Messrs. W. R. Lewis and E. W. Rogers, " Who Will Go When the Lord Comes ?"
(3) The effect of the ' Rapture ' upon the world. The immediate effect upon the world of the rapture of the living saints can be nothing but of the most profound and startling character.
Will the unbelievers hear the trump of God or the voice of the archangel ? We cannot tell. Whilst, however, Scripture is silent on this matter, it is suggestive. In John 12 we read that when the Father spoke to the Son, the people heard it and said that it thundered ; others said, " An angel spake to Him." For the child of God the voice will be ' the voice of our Beloved, saying, " Rise up, my love, and come away "—for us, the rapture ; for the world, ' it thundered.'
In his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the mystery of lawlessness which was already working; but there was a force which hindered the open manifestation of the Lawless One Who, or What is the hindering power ? The explanations of this passage are so varied and the ' experts ' have differed so much among themselves that one is left in a state of bewilderment after reading them. Perhaps it is one of those cases where it is for us to pray that the Lord may show to the ' babe ' what is dark to ' the wise and prudent.' In all humility may it be suggested that our Lord's words to His disciples are a clue to the meaning ? " Ye," He said, " are the salt of the earth." Salt checks corruption, and such is the church of ('rod, indwell by (he Spirit of Holiness, who is with and in Christ's own for ever. When the Church, (he temple of God, is caught away at the Rapture, the great restraint to evil will be gone. Lawlessness will abound, and the Lawless One will have his manifestation. Whilst, therefore, the immediate effect of (he rapture will from its very nature be startling to the world, the progressive effect will be one of rapid deterioration. j The position of the unsaved at the time of the rapture, however, needs to be considered. The natural thing to suppose would be (hat the shock of the mysterious disappearance of SO many would lead to mass repentance. Such, however, is not indicated in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the disappearance of Enoch did not lead to a general turning lo God (see Jude, verses 14 and IS, for conditions in Enoch's day). The translation of Elijah had no effect on the ungodly, other than that they mocked his successor, telling him to go up too ; " Go up, go up, thou baldhead." Coming to (he New Testament and looking again at 2 Thess. 2, we read that those who " believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness " will be utterly deluded that they might be condemned. Cowper expressed this well in his " Progress of Error " :—
" Hear the just judgment of the skies,
He that hates truth, shall be the dupe of lies,
And he that will be cheated to the last.
Delusions strong as hell shall bind him fast."
In this matter, however, let us not go beyond what is written. The Scriptures include for certain condemnation after the rapture, only those " who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." For the remainder of mankind we rest on the fact that the judge of all the earth does right, and we remember that there will be multitudes who come out of the great tribulation, having washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.