The Rapture and Subsequent Events
John Heading, Aberystwyth
The Day of Resurrection of Believers. The commonly-held idea of a general resurrection is a doctrine not taught in Scripture. The Lord Himself made a sharp distinction when He said, "all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation", John 5. 28-29.
Paul taught that there is stupendous power in resurrection, and he made it clear that the "exceeding greatness of his power", Eph. 1.19, manifested in the resurrection of Christ is also available for us. Moreover, this is present power for believers; in 2. 5-6 he shows that those who were dead in trespasses and sins are quickened with Christ, that they are raised up together and seated together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. This present power of resurrection can never deny the reality of the future resurrection of the body, although there are always men willing to deny this future resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15. 12, Paul had to deal with men in the assembly in Corinth who had academic and mental difficulties regarding the resurrection—this amounted to a denial of this future hope, and indeed a denial of the resurrection of Christ. In 2 Timothy 2.17-18, this denial had increased to an organized body of false doctrine; consequently we must "shun profane and vain babblings" since these false teachers "concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already". By this means the future fact of bodily resurrection is spiritualized, and hence the truth is deliberately denied. The only conclusion would be that Christ is not raised, and that believers are still in their sins. But the assertion that Christ is raised means that we shall also be raised.
The fact of resurrection is miraculous, not demanding a physical and rational explanation. Identity is retained in this glorious future change; what is sown in corruption shall be raised in power; the real natural body in age and infirmity will be raised a spiritual body in His likeness. This change will take place at the last trump, 1 Cor. 15. 52, namely the last call of Christ to His people on earth in the Church, and to those in the graves who had previously died. For those in the graves, this corruptible shall put on incorruption; for those still living, they shall put on immortality, v. 53.
Practical Matters for Present-Day Believers. The return of the Lord Jesus is a doctrine of anticipation, yet at the same time it has serious repercussions. It is until that day that we continue "stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers", Acts 2. 42. All service in the local churches is until He come. As far as the Lord's supper is concerned, we eat the bread and drink the cup "till he come", 1 Cor. 11. 26. Concerning the distribution of the apostles' doctrine, we must be faithful and wise, giving the Lord's household their food in due season, "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing", Matt. 24. 46. In the matter of prayer, Peter wrote, "the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer", 1 Pet. 4. 7. Fellowship has many aspects; one relevant verse is, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together ... as ye see the day approaching", Heb. 10. 25.
Meanwhile, we are the salt of the earth, namely Christians have a preserving influence through the Holy Spirit working through them. In the future, the man of sin will be revealed, but in the meanwhile, though the spirit behind him and his activities already works, yet the Spirit of God now "lets", or hinders and prevents his full manifestation. This would be the Holy Spirit working through the testimony of individual believers and the local churches. His presence prevents judgment falling now. For example, in Genesis 19, the presence of Lot prevented the destruction of Sodom. In Exodus 14, no harm could come as long as the children of Israel were passing through the Red Sea, but when they had passed over, nothing withheld judgment falling on the following Egyptians. In Daniel 6. 22, the lions' mouths were shut as long as Daniel was there, but afterwards their ferocity was let loose.
The apostle Paul insists that this wholesome doctrine is accompanied by spiritual service. The great resurrection chapter terminates with, "Therefore ... be ye stedfast, un-moveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord", 1 Cor. 15. 58. Again, he wrote, "Therefore . . . stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle", 2 Thess. 2. 15, concluding the chapter with the words, "Now our Lord Jesus Christ . . . stablish you in every good word and work".
Believers are certainly delivered from the great white throne, yet after the rapture, they will have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Various scriptures provide information on this subject, and they focus attention on both conduct and service. Romans 14.10-12 deals with the future assessment of the motives that govern our conduct; in the context, do we value or despise another brother? 1 Corinthians 4. 5 deals with the assessment of the motives behind our service; the context shows that the minister of Christ must be faithful as a steward of the mysteries of God. 1 Corinthians 3. 13-15 deals with the Lord's assessment of our service; everyman's work shall be manifest and it will be tried by fire. Finally, 2 Corinthians 5. 9-10 deals with assessment of our conduct—the things done, "good or bad". Rewards are distributed by the Lord as a result of this assessment, "unto all them also that love his appearing", 2 Tim. 4. 8.
God's Subsequent Dealings with Man on Earth, in the moral, social, political and religious spheres of life. We have previously noted the difference in the ways in which God deals with the Church, the Jews and the Gentiles. We have also noted that the Church is not the subject of Old Testament prophecy, which traces the subject of the Jews and the Gentiles up to Christ's first advent, to His sufferings, death and resurrection. Prophecy resumes its story after the rapture—God's dealings with the nations and with the Jews (and Satan's and men's dealings with them as well), leading to the final divine intervention when there will be rooted out of His kingdom "all things that offend", Matt. 13. 41, when the vindicated Son of man comes in the glory of His kingdom. The transfiguration was a glance into the future, taking place before His sufferings.
Some of the great chapters dealing with this period between the rapture and the Lord's coming in glory are Daniel 2; 7-12; Matthew 24-25, Revelation 6-19 and 2 Thessalonians 1 -2. We must admit that there are certain differences between pre-millennial expositors at this point; clearly any expositor must take a particular line which seems to him to fit in most accurately with every reference in Scripture. Others may disagree. It is good, however, to note where the difference rests. We do not refer to the interesting speculation that links future prophecy with present-day events, such as the papacy, the common market, Russia, the return of the Jews to their own land, and the infiltration into democracy of cancerous revolutionary anarchistic groups. These are but the foreshadowings of future events, but not the very future events themselves. Rather we refer to the identification of certain prominent personages of the end times. Thus we have the "little horn" of Daniel 7. 8; the "little horn" of 8. 9; the king doing "according to his will", 11. 36; "the prince that shall come", 9. 26; the anti-Christ; the first beast of Revelation 13; the man of sin, 2 Thess. 2. 3. Some expositors state that they are all the same. Others distinguish particularly between the first beast of Revelation 13 and the anti-Christ. No doubt, the matter will be finally clear to all when these personages actually arise, but in the meantime, we must be careful and exercised, taking that point of view that appears to fit the given facts.
General Considerations. God's purpose for the Jewish nation is seen typically in Solomon; "he reigned over all the kings from the river (Euphrates) even unto the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt", 2 Chron. 9. 26. A promise had been made earlier in 1 Chronicles 17. 12-14, "I will stablish his throne for ever ... his throne shall be established for evermore". Nothing could or can disturb this promise and its fulfilment. For example, the Roman occupation and domination of the Jewish homeland when the Lord was on earth could not last for ever. Thus at His birth, the promise was reiterated, "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end", Luke 1. 32-33. This must be taken in conjunction with Psalm 72. 11, "all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him".
In spite of the certainty of the promise, the exact opposite seemed to hold on occasions. Thus, "your enemies . . . that hate you shall reign over you", Lev. 26. 17; "I will scatter you among the heathen", v. 33; Deuteronomy 28.15-68 is also occupied with these predictions. This actually happened when the "times of the Gentiles" began, Luke 21. 24, when the captivity of the Jewish nation commenced. The whole of the then known world was involved; see Jeremiah 27. 1-11, spoken to Jehoia-kim, "I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant". The Old Testament traces the prophetic development of this captivity and Gentile rule until the final restoration under Messiah. The Jews in the Lord's day interpreted the promise of restoration as referring to them, not knowing the existence of the unknown two thousand years that were about to follow. Thus there were those who looked for redemption in Israel, Luke 2. 38; men thought that the kingdom of God would appear immediately, 19. 11; even the two on the Emmaus road thought that He would have redeemed Israel, 24. 21, and the apostles were looking for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, Acts 1. 6. Yet Gentile dominion continued, and although this was God's will, nevertheless such men are responsible for their own actions; they had seized the Son's inheritance and had made a mess of it, Matt. 21. 38. In the Old Testament, God had ruled from His typical throne on earth, namely the ark within the vail, but now the God of heaven rules in the kingdoms of men. Then there was the glory amongst His people; now the glory has departed to Olivet, Ezek. 11. 23, and from thence into heaven until the Lord comes to His temple, Mai. 3. 1. Prophecy deals with God's activity amongst the nations, both in the past, and in the future, but, as we have written before, it passes over what we know as the Church age. Pertaining to these future events, we may make a very rough subdivision as follows: The prophetical part of Daniel deals with men as nations. The prophetical part of Matthew deals with the Jews. The prophetical aspects of Revelation 6-19 deal in order with men in social, moral, political and religious senses, though with many interlockings and over-lappings. Prophecy shows how the righteous activity of God dovetails with the evil activity of men, rapidly heading up to its end. We shall trace this development in subsequent papers.