It was a day not unlike any other day. The sun rose and set as it had done for all 6000 years of man's history. Rivers flowed. Tides rose and waned. People around the world, believers and unbelievers alike, were going about their normal business as they always did.
People like Sally Raines. Sally grew up in a Christian home, and accepted Christ before her tenth birthday. Now grown, she still attended church regularly and prayed at every meal. She spent most of her time at her job: a court stenographer for six years.
She hoped to find 'Mr. Right' someday (soon), and was keeping herself pure until he finally arrived on his white horse. She knew it sounded old-fashioned, but that was how she was raised, and the evenings spent with her 'praying' grandmother were indelibly engraved into her character. She knew that Jesus would never leave her or forsake her, and that He would keep her in the palm of His hand. She was not exactly a 'Bible thumper', and though her faith was pure and unwavering, she let many an opportunity go by without sharing the gospel with others. She believed in Jesus, but had also come to the conclusion that most people were generally good, and that they were following their own path. Sally knew that Jesus had said that He was the only way to God, but she wasn't sure how things would play out for the rest of humanity, so she just kept a low profile and went about loving her Savior.
There was Cliff Hayes, a farmer of 55 years. When his dad died twenty years ago, he inherited the family farm, where he had worked for as long as he could remember. Low profit margins and ever-increasing costs kept him busier than he would have liked, and he finally understood why his father never really had much time for anything besides work and sleep.
Cliff didn't attend church, although he had been to one a few times with his mom in his youth. There just weren't enough hours in the day. He did read the Bible some, but that was pretty much the extent of his devotional time. He did, however, do a lot of praying. Growing up on a farm had taught him one thing for sure: there really was a God. He knew that he could plant, and do his best to irrigate, but he couldn't make anything grow. That was God's part. So Cliff prayed. He prayed for rain: not too much, not too little. He prayed for sun. He prayed for good harvests. He even prayed for the wisdom to make an honest living. He didn't want to cheat anyone or take any unfair advantage, although, come tax time, he knew that not everyone was as interested in what was fair.
But he didn't complain. He trusted God. He had seen his share of lean years, and his share of plentiful ones. He knew it all balanced out in the end.
Maurice Johnson was a Gospel firebrand. He was very active in his local, inner-city church. Although he was never ordained into the ministry, his knowledge of the Scriptures and his love for God and his fellow man would put many a pastor to shame. He took part in the prison ministry in the county correctional facility, and he regularly spoke to people on the street, as he passed out tracts. He had a great burden for addicts and alcoholics. He spent most of his time either studying the word or sharing the good news with those most in need of it. Not only that, but he spent a great deal of time with the fellow saints. He was a great encouragement and such an inspiration. Many of the other church members were compelled to service, as well, by his example, no less than half of whom were there because of Mo's efforts. There was never any shortage of volunteers: from driving the church bus, to cleaning the pews on Tuesday nights, to playing in the band, or handing out flyers. His legacy was evident in the actions of his fellow brethren, and the many lives that Christ had affected by his willingness to share God's love.
And little Tyler Webb. Barely four years old, he knew little of the world at large. His life consisted mostly of sleeping, eating, and playing. He knew nothing of sin, of despair, of pain, or of hardship. The bed was always warm and soft. There was always food in the refrigerator, and the slightest yelp meant mommy and daddy would be running to see what had happened. Life was good.
This late-August Tuesday, as every other day, Sally, Cliff, Maurice and Tyler went about their daily routine, as did the six billion or so other people that lived on planet Earth.
At 10:42 a.m. est, a strange cloud formation appeared in the eastern sky. The brightness of the cloud was beyond compare. A glimmering figure, all in white, burst forth with a shout. The sound of a trumpet could be heard above all of the commotion at the display. It did not sound like your typical brass-section trumpet, mind you, but more like an animal horn, yet something not altogether of this world.
At that, the earth shook, and, unbeknownst to most of mankind, the righteous dead left their graves and lifted to meet the Lord. Abel, who suffered death at the hands of his brother was there. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men who had received the promises of God were there. King David, a man after God's heart was there, too. Moses, Samuel and Elijah took their places. Isaiah, Joel, Daniel, and Amos arose also, and were joined by the throngs of men and women of old who lived by faith. The Early Church, as well, assumed their place at the Lord's side, as did the millions of saints - both Jew and Gentile - that had believed on Jesus throughout the Grace Age. Prominent, effective ministers like Smith Wigglesworth, Jonathan Edwards, Ambrose Tomlinson, together with many other high- and low-profile, latter day preachers could also be found in that number. What a company of faithful saints!
Immediately, Sally, Cliff, Maurice and Tyler, joined by millions of other living believers, felt a change in their bodies, and a sudden rush as they began to ascend to their place with the Lord, and the resurrected saints, in the air. They all arose to heaven, as the earth plunged into a time of great darkness: seven years of tribulation, including a time of terror at the hands of an evil world ruler. All of the believers in Christ were spared the horror of the persecution at the hands of this wicked regime, and all creation waited, with great anticipation, for the day when Christ would destroy this wicked prince with the brightness of His coming.
No terror was on the minds of the saints, however. They were now rapidly ascending to the dwelling-place of angels: Heaven. Stars flashed by. Time seemed to stand still. No human language could express the emotions being experienced by these men and women of God, who had just taken on the form of Christ Himself.
They arrived in the place which Jesus had gone to prepare for them. Immediately, they all had perfect knowledge of all of the things that they had wondered about in their life. In the blink of an eye, they knew the Word of God by heart. Everything made sense: from the creation, to the fall of man, to the life and ministry of Christ - every mystery was now made perfectly clear. And then . . .
With perfect understanding of the scriptures, and an intimate knowledge of every word spoken by the Lord, something seemed amiss. God had spoken by the mouth of Malachi, the prophet, saying, "I am the Lord, I change not." The Word of the Lord by James, the brother of the Lord and leader of the Early Church, agreed, saying, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Wise Solomon also attested to this truth about God, and, suddenly, every believer considered the word of God, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past."
But God had changed. Something He had always required of His people, somehow was no longer necessary. How could this be? A life of faith was always good and right, but, whenever there was a great move of God - at "crunch-time" - God always required his people to move by faith. Daniel went to the lion's den, without a struggle, in faith, knowing that God would take care of him. The children of Israel stepped into the Jordan River in faith, on their way to take the promised land, believing that God would make it possible to cross to the other side. Abram left his home, and all that he knew, in faith, not even knowing where he was going, but believing that God was leading him.
The word of God contained example after example of how God dealt with His people since the beginning of time - until today, that is.
For the first time in human history, the people of God were taken by the Lord without the need of a step of faith on their part. Not that they did not express faith at times throughout their lives. They had. But so had every believer in every age. The difference was that, on the big day, the day of the biggest move of God, past faith seemed sufficient. Even Jesus faced His great trial in the garden, just before His crucifixion, and, having overcome, went forth by faith to die for the sins of the world.
SNAP! Then we woke up. Although this all-to-familiar story is preached from the pulpit across the country and around the world, and books about it fly off the shelves every day, it simply does not agree with the rightly-divided word of God. Although 1 Thess. 4:13-18 seems to speak about the 'rapture' (a term taken from the Latin word translated 'caught up' in this passage), when analyzed in the context of the whole Bible, it becomes apparent that there is more to the story than is revealed in this one passage.
Will the dead in Christ rise first? Yes! Will we which are alive and remain unto His coming be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye? Yes! Will we meet the Lord in the air? Yes! The words written by Paul, with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, are true. But they are not the only words on the subject.
Jesus said, in Luke 17, that the days of the Son of man will be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. In both cases, people ate, drank, married, etc. In other words, it was life as usual, "until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all," and until the day "that Lot went out of Sodom" and "it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all." Speaking of the end of the world, Jesus said that there would be no real indication that any trouble was, as they say, "looming on the horizon," apart from the severity of the wickedness of mankind. That notwithstanding, the righteous few, as revealed by Noah and Lot and their families, moved by faith: the one to get on the boat of refuge, the other to leave town and head for refuge in the hills. Once they had, by faith, gone to their place of safety, the judgment of God on the unrighteous was poured out.
Jesus further prepares us for the step of faith that awaits the believers living at the moment of His return, as recorded in Luke17:30-37. He says, "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left."
Oh, the righteous will be taken, but they will be taken like Lot and his family were taken. Unlike the story we are told, where the angels of God snatch us up before we know what hit us, here Jesus warns us of the possibility that, after we have been taken out and are on our way to safety, we could, like Lot's wife, turn our hearts again to our earthly life, and lose all.Next Article - From the Editor