July 1, 2014

Ready for the Rapture

Recently our weather in Portland has changed from mostly cloudy and rain to partly cloudy with some sunshine. As we look up in the sky to assess the weather, it often comes to mind that one of these days, the Lord will part the clouds and come back to earth. We do not want those who attend our church services to say, “I didn’t know. I didn’t realize the Rapture was about to happen.” We want everyone to be aware that Jesus is coming soon!

The word rapture literally means “to be caught up.” In Matthew 24:40-42, we find details regarding what will take place. “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” When the Rapture of the Church occurs, it will become evident that the human family is divided into two groups—those who are ready and those who are not, those who will be taken out of this world and those who will be left behind. In a moment of time the saints of God are going to be missing from this earth.

On March 8 of this year, we heard the news that Malaysia Flight 370 had vanished while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard. The largest maritime search in history ensued; it was front page news for many days, involving ships and aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Japan, the United States and other nations. Thousands of man hours and millions of dollars were spent in the search for that missing plane. For some time after the news broke on March 8, I would go to my computer each morning and look online to see if the airplane had been found. The attention of the world was focused on the fact that the plane and its passengers had not been found.

This is not the first time in world history, however, that people have suddenly gone missing. In Hebrews 11:5 we read of one such event: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him.” The fact that Enoch was not found suggests that some were looking for him—they searched but could not find him because God had translated him! That is what will happen when the Rapture takes place. Those who are ready will not be found because they will have been caught up to be with Christ.

The prophet Elijah was another who did not die; he was taken up to Heaven in a whirlwind. The sons of the prophets came to Elisha, Elijah’s successor, and urged him to search for the vanished prophet. We read in 2 Kings 2:16, “They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.” Elisha knew that Elijah would not be found. He had been with him when the chariot of fire came down and took Elijah up to Heaven in a whirlwind.

One of these days the saints of God will not be found. Some will look for those who are missing and wonder what has happened. However, others will know. Those individuals will drop to their knees, weeping because they were not ready for the Rapture. We are not going to be among the ones who are left behind; we are determined to be ready!

Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 24 in response to questions asked by His disciples. In verse 3 we read, “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus responded by issuing a warning, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Deceptions will abound before Jesus returns. We see that in society today—not just in the world generally, but even in the realm of religion. We do not want to be ignorant of the deceptions that are propagated regarding spiritual matters; we want to be aware of them and avoid them.

One of the great deceptions of our time is that sin is denied, justified, and excused. However, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.

One of the great deceptions of our time is that sin is denied, justified, and excused. However, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. We must not accommodate sin; we need to be delivered from it! God offers victory. We can live without sinning. Sin brings separation between God and man, and we do not want to be deceived or caught unawares regarding this vital teaching of God’s Word.

We can state with assurance that deliverance from sin is possible because we know those who have experienced it. I am one of them. As a young college student, I was living a sinful life. My friends and I went out every weekend looking for a good time. But the day came when the Spirit of God spoke to me, and I prayed a prayer of repentance and was saved. At the time I did not even know what “being saved” meant. I had no knowledge of how to live a Christian life, but my life was completely changed. In a moment my temper was gone. God gave me victory over the old habits and appetites that had been in my life.

My intention was to keep the whole matter low key and not make a big deal of telling others, but you cannot low key salvation. When you separate yourself from sin, it becomes apparent before long. When my friends came over the next Friday evening and suggested we go out and do what we typically did on Friday nights, I said, “I am not going to do those things anymore.” That was not something I had been taught; it was something God put in my heart. A couple of months later, when I stepped into an Apostolic Faith meeting and heard people testify that God had delivered them from sin, it registered. God had done that for me!

Jesus offers a way of life that is distinct from the way of the world. Those who are truly serving God will not blend in. Those who are Rapture ready will not look or behave like sinners. We read that “one shall be taken, and the other left.” The difference will be that one chose to separate from the world and its sinful elements, while the other chose to blend in. If we are going to serve God, we are going to live differently. Choosing to serve God creates a great gulf between us and the world.

Those who are taken up in the Rapture will not only have been saved, but they will have stayed saved. We must keep walking humbly with God and look His way daily. That will take effort. We read in 2 Timothy 3 that in the last days “men shall be lovers of their own selves . . .” The trend toward self-absorption is very apparent in our day. People are motivated by what makes them happy; the mindset typically is, What do I want? What is best for me? However, when we get saved, we no longer seek to please ourselves; we seek to please God.

Paul the Apostle, writer of those words in 2 Timothy, went on to speak of those who “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” Those with corrupt or sinful minds reject Biblical teaching. We must not be deceived. True Bible teaching inspires and instructs us to live godly lives and stay close to God.

Looking again at Matthew 24, Jesus went on to tell His disciples of other signs that would occur in the days before His return. “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Those who once had the zeal and fervor of first love will become lukewarm and disinterested in wholeheartedly following God. However, drifting into a lukewarm state spiritually is not necessary. Continuing on we read in verse 13, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” That is what we want—to get started, and then to endure to the end.

Yes, there will be activities along the way that will be distracting. There will be trials and tests in our spiritual lives. Some will fall by the wayside, but we cannot allow that to impact us. We will stand alone before God. We are accountable as individuals, so the choices others make must not influence us.

Enoch was translated during a period when there was a great deal of disinterest regarding God. I suppose others of his day could have pleased God to the extent that Enoch did, but he lived in a manner that distinguished him from others. He “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Enoch’s translation foreshadows the Rapture. If we live as he did, we will have a similar experience. As we are walking along with God, we suddenly will no longer be there because God will take us. Others will look for us and will not find us.

As we read the account of Enoch, we might assume he was absolutely perfect and never had a discouraging day or a moment when he wavered. The Bible does not tell us much about him, so we cannot know for sure. However, we do know about Elijah. Scripture records that he had his moments of discouragement—he sat under a juniper tree and prayed that he could die. We read that he was a man subject to like passions as we are. However, we also see in James’ writings that Elijah prayed. So we can learn from these Old Testament characters who were translated to Heaven without seeing death. We must walk with God, please God, and be a person of prayer. Those are the kinds of people who will be taken up in the Rapture.

We read that the Rapture will be sudden. Jesus said in Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” In 1 Corinthians 15:52, Paul said it would take place “in the twinkling of an eye.” As quickly as we can blink our eyes, the Rapture will occur. The dead will rise first and then those who are alive and are faithfully serving God will 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

God has not revealed the exact time of this great event. In Matthew 24:36 we read, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” However, while we do not know the hour, we do know the season. We are living in it!

No dramatic event signaled that the rain was about to start, and no dramatic event will indicate that the Rapture will take place in a day or two. We must be ready day in and day out.

We read that in the time of the end, life will be going on as it was in the days of Noah. When the flood came, Noah’s peers were living life just like they had lived it the day before, the week before, and the month before. No dramatic event signaled that the rain was about to start, and no dramatic event will indicate that the Rapture will take place in a day or two. We must be ready day in and day out. After the door of the ark was shut and the rains began, the people of Noah’s time realized that they should have heeded his warning. Then they knew, but it was too late to prepare.

That is how it will be at the time of the Rapture of the Church. Once it takes place, people will know, but it will be too late. That is why Christ warned again in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” The time to prepare for the Rapture is now. Jesus said, “Watch.” We must be ready when the trumpet sounds.

Some years ago, my wife Debbie went to Hawaii with her sisters. Our daughter and son were teenagers at the time, and I encouraged them to make their beds and keep the house vacuumed as if they expected Mom to arrive home that day, rather than waiting until the day before her return to prepare. I wanted to be sure that when Debbie did come home, things were in good shape. When the Lord returns, we want to be sure that our lives are in order. We must not neglect taking care of details or resolving matters that need to be resolved. If we put off doing what we know we should do, we risk being left behind! When Christ comes back, it will be too late. The time of opportunity will be over.

This world is preoccupied; people pay little attention to making spiritual preparation. In Matthew 25 we read the parable of the ten virgins who slumbered and slept while the bridegroom tarried. Then the call went out, “The bridegroom cometh.” Five of the virgins had made preparation for that event, but five had neglected doing what was required. The purpose of the parable is given in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” We want to be watchful regarding our Lord’s return, making sure that we are prepared to welcome Him.

Are you ready for the Rapture? You can be! If you are not saved, make preparation today. Take inventory of your life, repent, and seek God for salvation. God will not turn away one who comes to Him in true surrender. If you are serving God, make sure that your spiritual life and your earthly relationships are in order, and that there is nothing left undone. Let us always, in everything we say and do, purpose to be “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

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