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The Rapture of the Church

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 22, 2022 12:01 am

The Rapture of the Church

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 22, 2022 12:01 am

Does God promise that His people will escape tribulation? When will the rapture happen? Today, R.C. Sproul clarifies the hope Christians have in the visible return of Christ.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind the rapture. There are those who have advocated what is called the secret rapture of the church were in this sudden moment. Believers will be taken up into the sky and wish away by Christ for a certain period of time is a great deal of interest in the rapture but also a great deal of mystery surrounding it. So how should we understand, for example, God promised that his people would escape tribulation and will the rapture happen at the same time as the second coming of Christ today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul clarifies the hope the Christians have been the visible return of our Savior. I remember when I was say little boy that I had an aunt who lived in our home with us and she listened on the radio every day to Catherine Kuhlman, the famous faith healer and radio preacher. I don't know how old Ms. Coleman was and she died but she had to be very, very old because she was on the radio in Pittsburgh for decades. Start offer program. Every day the same way should say hello there and have you been waiting for me. That's so nice and she would say I want you to know that as long as God is still on his throne and your faith is still intact. Everything is going to turn out all right. That was her intro. I heard it started once heard hundreds of times, even as a child growing up. Well, later on she became nationally famous when she not only had her healing services in Pittsburgh, which she also had them then in Los Angeles and had a national television program you may know that she was the mentor of any can the current television faith healer. Well, I've said all that to say this, I had the occasion to meet Catherine Kuhlman. After I had become involved as a professor of theology and met with her in her office at the Carlton House Hotel in Pittsburgh and as she gave us a tour of her office. She came to one. What seemed to be a large closet and she took a key and unlocked the door and opened it and inside were shelves and shelves and shelves filled with the radio tapes of her historic ministry and she said let me tell you why I keep these tapes here supplies that she said this is involved in that was lined with some kind of metal and so on. She said these tapes are here for those who are left behind on earth during the rapture so they will be able to hear the teachings of the New Testament when there won't be any Christians around to teach them.

That was a fascinating rationale. I'm sure many of you have seen the bumper sticker on cars that reads this vehicle will be unattended in the event of the rapture and we hear of how Lindsay's late great planet Earth in the popular idea that moment is coming perhaps soon in history when suddenly Christians will be caught up in the air and disappear from sight and have a secret encounter or rendezvous with Christ in the clouds and this is the idea that is commonly called the rapture. Now there's much discussion about this concept in the Christian community and there are those who have advocated what is called the secret rapture of the church wherein at this sudden moment. Believers will be taken up into the sky and whisked away by Christ for a certain period of time and then at a later time. He will return again so that this theory postulates not one return of Christ at the end of the age.

Book 2 returns of Jesus. The first one being the coming that is somewhat secret and it involves the rapture of his people and arguments persist among believers of the secret rapture about when it will take place. Many believe in what is called the pre-tribulation rapture, that is, before the great tribulation that is to come upon the earth before the consummation of Christ's kingdom that Christ will first come and remove all believers from the earth so that believers will not have to endure any of the pain and persecution associated with this great tribulation. Others argue that this tribulation period will run seven years and that the rapture will occur in the middle of that seven year tribulation after 3 1/2 years that transpired of this extreme time of persecution for the Christian community in there called the advocates of mid rib rapture. And then there are those who argue that the rapture will not occur until after the seven years of tribulation, and they are obviously referred to as the post-Tribbett people so you got pretrip mid trip and post trip views of the rapture. No word is all of this business of this concept of a rapture come from what comes from another card saying or text. It is difficult to interpret from the New Testament comes from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians in chapter 4 in chapter 4 of first Thessalonians, Paul begins by saying these words. But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by way of the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. Here is the New Testament text that describes what is called the rapture of the church. Now it's a very brief passage and is filled with a lot of significant thing we notice how the apostle introduces this vivid and graphic description of the rapture.

He begins by expressing his purpose for teaching the church these things he says in the first instance I do not want you to be ignorant about what with respect to those believers who fallen asleep which means for those who have already died.

The question obviously that Paul is addressing is this what happens to those believers who die before Christ's return will they miss this marvelous event of the consummation of the kingdom of Christ. When Christ appears in glory what Paul is saying in this instance is that though those of us. For example, who were believers today who never had the opportunity to be eyewitnesses of the birth of Jesus or of the miracles that he performed during his lifetime, or of the cross or of the resurrection or of the ascension we were not around to see those moments in the life of Jesus, but there is one redemptive historical moment that every believer will be able to witness with their own eyes and that will be his coming again in glory. And again, you can understand why the people in the first-generation church were concerned about this Jesus had left and he said I am going to come back in glory, and so on and so those who waited for the fulfillment of that promise and died before it was consummated left their friends and their relatives with this obvious question.

Are they going to miss out on this event and only those who are alive at the time of the second coming will they be the only ones who enjoy this spectacle of the exalted glory of Christ again. Paul begins to answer that question by saying I would not that you be ignorant.

The word that he uses.

There is the word ongoing gnosis. I don't want you to be agnostic. I don't want you to be without knowledge. And so then he announces to them that he is prepared to give them the answer to this question which answer he says he is received immediately and directly from Christ himself also look at the text again. For this we say to you verse 15 by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep ahead.

In fact, Paul's turning the tables here on the question people assumed that those who would be alive at the time of Christ's appearance would have the advantage over those who perished before the return of Jesus and Paul is saying, hey, that's not the case law and fact, if anybody's going to have the advantage is going to be those who perished before Christ's return because they will precede us to this magnificent event as he speaks about their resurrection for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first and then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air so that the firstfruits of those who will enjoy the reunion with the returning Christ will be the dead in Christ who will be raised from the dead and caught up into the air. First, and then those who are alive at the time will then be caught up in the air to join the resurrected brothers and sisters as well. As Christ no, I've always been puzzled by the idea of a secret rapture because if it's going to be a secret. It's going to be the worst kept secret in all of history because the imagery that the apostle uses here is the imagery of Christ appearing in clouds of glory with the shout of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God.

Like the shofar in the Old Testament that announced the solemn assembly and the Congregational gathering. It was allowed blast from the ram's horn that announced this gathering. So for people to have this in secret. The resurrection must be invisible.

The translation of the saints must be invisible and the unbeliever must be deaf to the sounds of the trumpet and of the shout of the archangel and must be blind to the manifestation of the Shekinah glory of Christ.

In other words, dear friends, everything in this text suggests a public spectacle of the highest magnitude that nobody could possibly miss, and that there be no secret to it whatsoever. Now, from whence comes the idea that they're going to be two returns and all this is going to take place because the church is going to avoid the tribulation.

If we look at Matthew's gospel when the tribulation is announced in Matthew's gospel and Jesus is teaching their talks about these grim days of great affliction, but that the days will be shortened for the elect's sake, which suggests that they will be of a temporary duration so that the believers who are enduring.

It will be able to survive it. Not that we will escape it all together and there's no need to postulate two separate Cummings for Jesus.

I think the primary error that is made here is the assumption that the rapture involves people being removed from this planet and then taken up to be hidden with Christ for another 3 1/2 or seven years, which the Bible never says that anywhere. But how do we understand then the language of this text. What is the purpose of people being taken up in the year to meet Jesus. I think the key to understanding this is to understand the imagery of the first century community. One of the things that Paul does frequently is borrowed imagery from the pageantry of the Roman nation were all aware, for example, of the arches that remain. Even to this day that commemorate great victories accomplished by the Roman legions during the Golden age of Roman conquest even in Paris, there is the Arc de Triomphe. The arch of triumph, there's the arch of Titus, there are several of these arches that have survived to this day to understand what happened in the ancient world.

It went like this, the Roman legions would go away and be gone at times for three or four years in their conquest. As Caesar records in his Gallic wars and after they would conquer the nation they would lead captivity captive. They would bring back some of the leading people from the nation they conquered in chains. They would bring back all kinds of loot and plunder from the vanquished nations and when they went into battle they would carry the banner with the letters SPQR you seen that in Hollywood epics that show Roman centurions in battle caring those flags that say I speak you are, which meant Sonata's popular call Romanus the Senate and the people of Rome that is the understanding was that the Roman armies were representing the Roman people now when they would return to Rome in victory. They would camp about a mile outside of the city and an envoy would come into the Senate and saying the troops are back. We are victorious and immediately preparations were made for the triumphal entry of this Roman soldiers back into the city square and they would quickly build and arch and arch to commemorate the triumph. Hence the term Arc de Triomphe.

They would also come and spray the city with garlands and with perfumes and so on. Chiefly to subdue the owner of the sweaty slaves that they were bringing and they would have this sweet aroma that would be wafting through the streets of Rome, and then after everything that was prepared. Everyone who was a citizen of the city of Rome was notified by a signal from the trumpeter of the Roman legions that the triumphal procession was about to begin, and the Roman citizens then left the city and went out and joined the gathered soldiers and marched together with them back into the city through the arch participating in the victory of their honor. It's exactly the imagery that the apostle is using here for the triumphal return of Christ. The purpose of the rapture is not to vacate the Earth's of saints. The purpose of the rapture is not for Jesus to cover up in the air with them for 3 1/2 years or seven years and come back a second time.

But, as Paul uses the language in Thessalonians. The purpose is to meet him in the as he is descending on the clouds of glory before he touches down to lay claim to this world that he has conquered. First, the dead in Christ are raised to rise up and greet him and meet him to become part of his triumphal entourage and then the believers who are alive are also caught up to be part of the procession as it then descends to the earth. This is not a removal of the church from this world for any period of time, but it is to meet Christ to participate in his exultation, a theme that Paul preaches again and again that if we are marked by baptism we are marked not only with the humiliation of Jesus, but with the exultation of Christ, that we who participate in his sufferings will also participate in his glory and we will all be there to be part of the Army of Christ as it returns in triumph from heaven to this earth. And Paul concludes this brief narrative by saying comfort one another with these words. That is, take courage, be comforted by the sure promise of Christ that we will participate with him when he returns in honor and in glory. I certainly have no desire to scare anybody about the idea frightening idea that we may, indeed, as Christians, have to pass through a time of great and severe tribulation before we enjoy the exultation of Christ. But the warnings that come in the New Testament are sober and in every age.

The church is called to be prepared to endure great affliction and great suffering, and I think it's important for us that should such a persecution and day that we not be caught off guard were surprised. Scripture tells us what's ahead for believers, but the details are still a bit mysterious. We can't be certain when these events will take place but Scripture assures us that those who believe in Christ.

Those were born again and whose sins have been forgiven will spend eternity in his glorious presence.

Dr. RC Sproul series the hard sayings of the Bible is been our focus on today's addition of Renewing Your Mind in 12 messages.

RC examines passages that have raised a number of questions and he carefully addresses each one like today's references to the rapture would like to provide you a digital download of the series simply request it with your gift of any amount to look at your ministries.

You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343 or if you prefer, you can make a request also find answers to your biblical and theological questions.

When you download our free mobile app to your phone or tablet. There are hundreds of resources available to you there from articles and blog posting audio and video resources to question-and-answer sessions with Dr. scroll fight it by searching for ligand here in your app store before we go today have invited Dr. Burk Parsons to join me here in the studio Dr. Parsons as senior pastor of St. Andrews Chapel in one of our teaching fellows here. Later ministries work as we listen to RC address these verses about the rapture and the end times today. I think it really brought out the importance and you said this many times of understanding the context of Scripture that is one of the most significant lessons that every Christian must learn and the sooner we learn that the better we need to understand the context of every verse and every passage and too often we are guilty and pastors we are often very guilty of this of cherry picking verses and words and phrases and pulling them out of context and using them and misapplying them in ways all sorts of different contexts that the Bible never intended for us. We are called to study Scripture in the way that Scripture guides us to study it.

We are called to understand and apply Scripture and the way in which Scripture directs us to apply it.

Thank you Dr. Parsons that is so hot and then next Saturday.

Dr. scroll tackles a difficult passage from Romans chapter 9 what does it mean that some are made to be vessels of destruction will find out next week. I'm Renewing Your Mind

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