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HOW YOU MUST PREPARE FOR THE RAPTURE
Copyright © 2004 by Ben Abraham
From Heaven With A Shout!
by Ben Abraham
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guarantees all contents are original and do not infringe upon the legal rights of any other person or work. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author. The views expressed in this book are not necessarily those of the publisher.
Unless otherwise indicated, Bible quotations are taken from the King James Version of the CD Bible: The Bible: A Multimedia Experience Windows Version 4.4
© 1991-1995 World Library, Inc
Irvine, California USA
Celebration & Thanks
I celebrate, with great affection and high esteem, the lives of Abike Afe ('Angel of the Lord') and the young ladies of Evangelical Christian Union (1971-1978) whose devotion to Jesus Christ and matchless care for the brethren left us with no other choice but to be men of God. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name" (Hebrews 6:10)
I thank ‘Bayo, the Pastor of The Bible Church of Reconciliation, Chicago whom I have known for more than 20 years, and Sister Vicky of Pasadena/Los Angeles, one of those women of God from ‘way, way back.’ Their insistence enabled me to see the obvious and to attempt to keep it simpler, more focused and less tedious to read. When they see the final product, they may very well still disagree with me on more than one point of doctrinal emphasis, rigorous biblical proof, and relevance of certain statements to the overall objective of the Book. What are friends for? I also thank Sister Eunice, for her labor of love.
This book is an attempt to go beyond the misconceptions and distractions surrounding the subject of the Rapture, and to focus on the most vital aspect of this approaching event: preparation. Pilots being translated in mid-flight; hapless passengers passing out in out-of-control municipal buses; News Anchors ‘going up’ in full view of a terrified world: none of such elements, mistaken as they are, have anything to do with making the Body of Christ ready for the events that lead to Christ’s Second Coming nor indeed the Rapture which is an integral part of it. If the very time and season were known, they would not, by the very fact, guarantee anyone a free ticket!
Most inconsequential of all is the propensity for breaking up into camps and factions - invectives and stones flying across the various divides. Whatever positions are held: ‘pre-trib,’ ‘mid-trib,’ ‘post- trib,’ and whatsoever other dispensational theories are sworn by; this book will give the reader enlightenment and a delight of recognition. It will bring clarity to the subject, as the word is unveiled concerning the purpose of Christ’s warnings, and what has already been revealed in the Bible about being ready.
There are three broad sections: The Rapture; Certain Questions and Issues; Preparation for the Rapture. The first section deals with what the Rapture is, when it will take place and how it will transpire. The second section addresses certain recurrent questions and issues. The last section, the most important, lists and analyses the required preparation. To put it very bluntly, all the church will not necessarily be caught up, except all are prepared.
The overriding purpose of the three-part structure is to enable the reader skip to the last section at any time, especially if the positions I have taken in any of the first two sections are at variance with the reader’s. The reader may consider such positions intolerable or incompatible with beliefs that he is unwilling to reconsider, modify or even examine in the glow of a different light. After all, all of God’s children have a right to an exercise of their individual wills. When it is all said and done, what really matters is how we get ourselves ready for the Coming of the Lord. This is the purpose of the book and what the 3rd Section singularly deals with.
The underlying approach is to take the Scriptures as the frame of reference and the final arbiter in these matters, especially in a subject as serious as this. I have attempted to ground the book in the Bible and its precedents. Biblical precedence is a predictive and solid foundation for future events. No revelations that plainly contradict its essence can be justified. This is not bibliolatry. On the contrary, it is an acknowledgement that the ways of God are perfect. Since He has no need for the ‘new and improved,’ we can safely position our expectations in the acts and ways of the One that said: ‘That which I am is what I am.’ He is the Unchanging One.
I recommend that the Reader do due diligence. Consult the Bible, ask questions, discuss with trusted friends and knowledgeable Ministers, read this book with an open mind, pay attention to what you read, satisfy your questioning heart, ask for the light of the Holy Spirit of God to guide you into all truth and to apply to your life that which He wants you to grasp. In the final analysis, you alone are responsible for what you believe - not your Denomination, your Minister nor indeed your friends. The Scriptures, in various places, restates the same message: take heed to yourself; take heed how you hear.
This book is not a dictation from God. It is one man putting forth a result of diligent search of that which is commonly believed among Christians, using the precedence of Scriptures and the amount of light granted him by the Spirit at this time. I hope that the Reader will not throw away the kernel of the book because of the chaff that attends human operations on this side of perfection.
Los Angeles, California
April 29, 2004
1. What is the Rapture?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The word ‘rapture’ is an English derivative of the Latin raptus. It is variously used to mean: ‘seized and carried off or away, especially by force;’ ‘carried along;’ ‘carried away or taken up with emotion, delight, excitement, bliss.’ It is also used to signify ‘a state of ecstasy.’ Among Christians, its form: ‘to carry a person away to heaven’ is very familiar and charged with emotions.
The expressions used in the Bible to describe the same concept include ‘translation,’ ‘catching up,’ ‘taking,’ ‘taking away,’ ‘going up,’ ‘carrying away,’ ‘catching away’ ‘receiving,’ and ‘ascending up.’ And such usage cuts across both the Old and the New Testaments. The record is that "Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). The writer of Hebrews describes the same event with a different choice of words: "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God " (Hebrews 11:5).
The Sons of the Prophets wanted to know if Elisha was aware that God would "take away" Elijah before he was translated (2 Kings 2:3, 5). His translation was described as a ‘going up.’ Elijah "went up" (2 Kings 2:11). At an earlier and somewhat less glorious period, Obadiah was afraid to report to Ahab (the King and his master), that he had seen Elijah - a wanted man. He had good reasons to be hesitant. It was well known by the devoted that the Spirit would sometimes carry Elijah away: "And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth" (1 Kings 18:11-12).
In the New Testament, Jesus appeared after his resurrection and taught his disciples for a period of forty days, after which he went up to heaven in clear sight of his followers. This event was described as a ‘taking up’ and a ‘receiving from’: "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). After Philip, the Evangelist, had completed the task of preaching to the Ethiopian Eunuch and baptizing him in water, Luke, the writer of Acts, recorded what happened next: "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39). The Two Witnesses of the Book of Revelation simply ascend to heaven: "And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them" (Revelation 11:12).
Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, described the most singular of all translations as a ‘catching up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ This is the mother of all translations. It is a moment invested with tremendous significance, as the Lord himself - not Messengers, descend to meet his people in the air. It is a gathering like no other. It is, undoubtedly, a joyous meeting. But surrounding this event is an air of expectation, accompanied by a sense of summons to great action. The sounding of a trumpet throughout the Bible was associated with: calls to great or grave action, as in wars; important messages, as in the proclamation of Jubilee; declaration of solemn feasts; the gathering together and the recall of people. Trumpets were also used in worship. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 there is a combination of the shout, the trumpet and the voice.
The image that is created is that of a captain or a commander of an army giving directions. The commander, in this case, is the Lord himself descending with a shout! His personal appearance serves as intimation of momentous events in the heavens and on the earth. It is true that He comes to welcome his people but you do not send an army commander to serve as escort if all is at peace and the occasion is not important enough.
What else is the Rapture?
It is a time of great restoration: the dead in Christ are resurrected and reunited with Christians who remain in the Lord. Then, together as a body, they rise to meet Jesus in the air. God’s timepiece, which has started to tick, will not stop until all things are restored. What a time! It is the most unambiguous evidence that the nations will soon behold Jesus as he returns with the clouds and great glory. It is the definitive sign of Christ’s return to earth.
Signs are not just objects, marks, observances, appearances or phenomena. Events or a combination of events can serve as signs. When Jesus was born, a ‘star’ (a body of supernatural light or a conjunction of heavenly bodies) was the sign given to the wise men from the east. But long before he came, the Lord himself gave a sign: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). The first was an object, the second a series of events. There will be various types of signs pointing to the Lord’s return but the Rapture will be the capstone event.
The Rapture is, also, what in general parlance can be described as the beginning of the end. It is stated in such endtimes idiom as "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," "our gathering together unto him," "the day of Christ" and "the day of the Lord." Paul had encouraged the Thessalonians to look forward to the ‘catching up.’ They were going to be with the Lord forever, along with their departed ones who would be resurrected first. The living would then be reunited with them. This was the coming of the Lord that they looked forward to.
What the Thessalonians knew
Paul’s audience would have been especially expectant of the Lord’s Coming because they lived in particularly difficult and perilous times. Partly for such reasons, the military imagery of the Rapture would not have been lost on them. It is instructive to consider the medium of Paul’s message to them. He wrote them a letter. Paul would not have written them a letter that he did not expect them to understand. Besides, he was not writing a new and strange doctrine. He used such expressions as "For yourselves know perfectly" (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things" (2 Thessalonians 2:5)? The Thessalonians had been taught about the Rapture. In his first letter to them, he used the truth of the Rapture to console those who had lost their loved ones. He had a gentle rebuke for them for mourning like those who had no hope. Then, he told them to be comforted by the truth of the resurrection of their dear ones and their gathering together unto Christ.
They appeared to have taken his comfort so much to heart that he had to temper their ‘rapture-watching’ in the second letter. In such contexts of pre-occupation with single truths, some people are bound to take things a little too far and others a little wrong. A few would be found right in the ditch. The Thessalonians were no exceptions. Paul had to moderate their exuberance. He, also, had to set others straight. Such Thessalonians thought that the Rapture had already taken place! It is clear, that they did not all have a complete understanding of the subject, but it is certain that they had a familiarity with the concept. That was why everybody seemed to have had an opinion. It was not a new doctrine.
How Paul Came About the Expectation of the Rapture
How did Paul come about his teaching on the Rapture, especially when those who were Jesus’ disciples before his ascension seemed not to have paid much attention to the issue? He, certainly, did not learn it from what Jesus taught his disciples either before or after his resurrection. If Paul had an opinion about Jesus’ teaching before his crucifixion, it is not known. This much we are certain of: After Jesus’ resurrection, Paul actively opposed his teachings and viciously persecuted the Church. And, he could not have read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John because they had not been written. It has actually been suggested by Scholars, through careful study, that his first letter to the Thessalonians was his first Epistle. Did Paul arrive at this subject through some deductive reasoning? No.
Like many other subjects throughout his letters, it was committed to him by revelation from Jesus Christ: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:15). The nature and direction of his gospel (of grace through faith, of Gentiles as co-heirs with Jews of God, of God making a new creation, a new nation of people named after Christ) came by revelation: "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). In Paul’s own words, his schooling in the Gospel of Christ was through "abundance of revelations" (2 Corinthians 12:7).
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