Rapture Context

By Joel Hayes 

I once read an E.W. Bullinger book called 10 Sermons on the Second Advent, which he had preached in the 1800’s at Oxford. I wanted to know what a Bullinger sermon sounded like. And (surprise, surprise!), a Bullinger sermon was pure exegesis from beginning to end.

I then fell in love with Bullinger’s fifth sermon in that series called, “The Calling and Hope of The Church of God.” He made a point about the Rapture that I loved so much I actually preached Bullinger’s Sermon at FBC.

The point Bullinger made about the Rapture that I loved so much is this: all the references to the Rapture in Paul’s epistles is always in the context of motivation to serve Christ and to purify ourselves in our walks. Paul didn’t simply speak of the Rapture merely to bring attention to the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church today, the Body of Christ. No, Paul used the Rapture to motivate us to serve Christ with joy and purify ourselves in our walks.

First, consider Romans 8.

Rom 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom 8:21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Rom 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Rom 8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

Consider the fact that all of these verses begin with the word “For” or a conjunction which means that this entire section is connected. Paul defines for us the sufferings of this present time. This is something that involves both humans and animals. This is something that involves the whole of creation itself groaning and travailing in pain together. He’s talking about living in a sin-cursed world. He’s talking about how all of creation, including all of us believers, groan in pain together until we’re all released from the bondage of this curse of sin over all the world, which includes the presence of sin in our corrupted bodies. We are all together, all creatures, including animals, suffering from the effects of sin in the world, suffering with illnesses, and suffering the effects of people making bad decisions because they’re in dead in their sins fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind along with the course of this world under the tyranny of the god of this world. All of creation, even the rocks and trees, are anxiously waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. When is that?

Manifestation is apokalupsis. It’s a revelation, it’s an unveiling. So when is this unveiling of the sons of God? I suspect he’s talking about the Second Coming, because it’s at the Second Coming that we’ll see both the resurrection of the Old Testament saints, and we’ll see something unprophesied also take place. The heavens will be filled with the glory of the Body of Christ when they take up their heavenly seats. At His Second Coming, we’ll have the full unveiling of ALL the sons of God, every believer since the dawn of man, everyone who was part of the kingdom and the grace programs, both prophesy and mystery. In that moment of His Second Coming, we have the unveiling of ALL the sons of God to the Earth for all time.

And do you know what also happens? In that moment, the sin curse will be lifted from creation, although there will still exist in the kingdom regular humans who have sin in the flesh.

But the point here is that we are delivered through all the sufferings of this present time by the hope we cannot see. We are resolute in our service to Christ despite our circumstances because of that hope that we possess in our souls, that hope of Christ’s return and the glory to come. We are delivered through the trials of life because of the hope we have in Christ. Bullinger would make the point, essentially, that we can never neglect so great a salvation not because of the uncertainties of this life but because of the certainty of Christ’s coming.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1.

1Co 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 1Co 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 1Co 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 1Co 1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 1Co 1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Co 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

While this Corinthian epistle as a whole addresses issues with spiritual gifts in the assembly, Paul opens the letter mentioning the greater gift, the testimony of Christ… confirmed in you, which is why they are not lacking in any gifts, because the greatest empowerment they possess is their identification with Christ Himself, which is why they had spiritual gifts, which is why they were enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge, and this also speaks to their motivation (and ours) to serve.

We live to serve Christ, because we’re empowered by His grace while we’re “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:” 1Co 1:8 “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Confirming us to the end is our assurance of eternal security which will be fully realized at the Rapture of the church today, the Body of Christ. Our identification with Christ ensures our blameless standing before God, which empowers us through this entire victory program by grace to purify ourselves in our walks, and this is our possession until the coming of the Lord when all that is promised to us shall be fulfilled.

1 Corinthians 4.

1Co 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 1Co 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

So the question we might ask ourselves is, what’s the motivation to not judge and not care when others judge us? Because the next verse tells us. 1Co 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

Make no mistake. Every man shall be judged.

In 2 Tim. 4:1, Paul says “the Lord Jesus Christ… shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.” The quick and the dead shall be judged. Those who are alive unto God shall be judged as well as those who are dead in their sins. Rev. 20 tells us that the unbelievers will be judged according to their works at the Great White Throne. The nation of Israel shall be judged according to their works at the onset of His kingdom, at the Lord’s Second Coming. And the church today will be judged by Christ at the Bema Seat at His appearing, which is when the Rapture takes place. Every coming of Christ brings with it judgment. Do not listen to those teachers who say we will not be judged. They speak heresies.

Paul said in Rom. 14:10 “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” How do we know that we’ll be judged at the Rapture? Because Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness…” Every man, those who are alive unto God and those who are dead in their sins, every man shall be judged by God. But here the judgment that will take place at the Rapture was the reason for Paul to not be bothered when these high-minded carnal Corinthians were belittling him. There is a two-fold reaction by Paul to their arrogance.

1) Paul doesn’t answer to them. He answers to the Lord, and the Lord will judge him.

2) Because of their arrogance, carnality, and poor spiritual condition, the Corinthians were in no position to pass any kind of judgment off on him. He’ll be judged by the Lord at the Bema Seat at His coming, as will the Corinthians, and the rest of us.

1 Corinthians 15.

Now the context of this chapter is, essentially, the doctrine of resurrection, because if resurrection doesn’t exist, then we would of all men be most miserable because if Christ isn’t risen from the grave, then we’re all still dead in our sins. But Paul also gives us some direct application at the end of the chapter.

1Co 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1Co 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 1Co 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. And what’s the application? 1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Because the Lord is coming, we must rejoice always. Because the Lord is coming, we must be unmoveable from the doctrine of resurrection. And because the Lord is coming, we must always abound in the work of the Lord because our labor is never in vain in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 16.

1Co 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

Bullinger said, “Is love for the person of Christ set before us as the greatest and most important of all things? It is so in consideration of the fact that He is coming again. ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema [accursed], Maranatha [our Lord cometh]. It is the fact of the Lord's coming which puts everything in its right place. The apostle had much to complain of in this first epistle to the Corinthians… but when he comes to the last verse in that epistle; when it is a question of Maranatha; when things are weighed in light of that all-pervading fact of the Lord's coming, then he does not say, if any man be not moral or orthodox, etc., but ‘if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ…’” let him be Anathema.”

Bullinger is making the point here that no professing believer should have any standing with us if there is no love for the Lord. And there are professing believers like that who exist. Bullinger says that “A man may be perfectly moral, orthodox, and correct in ritual, and yet have no love for Christ!” I would also add that the point of these closing thoughts in 1 Cor. is that the Lord’s coming means we cannot be yoked with those who do not love the Lord because He may return at any moment.

Ephesians 4.

Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Notice our connection here between the day of our redemption to the principle that we should not grieve the Spirit. Why? Because He is going to remain inside of us until the Rapture. This is yet another verse guaranteeing our eternal security. We are sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption. But the Holy Spirit has an emotional reaction to the things we do. And so what do we have here? We have the Spirit through Paul pleading with us to not grieve Him because He will always be inside us until the Rapture.

Philippians 1.

Php 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; Php 1:10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ

The idea here is that we pursue abounding love, sincerity, purity in our walks until the Lord comes and because the Lord is coming. Because the Lord is coming, we’d want to perfect holiness in our walks, in our thinking – why? Because we love Him, and we know that we will be judged when He comes.

Philippians 4.

Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Php 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Notice in vs 4 to rejoice in the Lord always. In vs 5 we have a call to moderation, calming the tempers and the passions of us humans, the idea of being gentle, mild mannered, patient toward everyone. Why should we be this way? Because the Lord is at hand. The doctrine of imminence. We live our lives knowing that the Lord is at hand. He may return for us at any moment. His imminent coming motivates our walk, inspires us to rejoice every single day, and informs us we should live moderately. It’s like - we might as well align our earthly walk with our heavenly identity because all of this may be over in a moment. Bullinger focused on moderation in terms of forbearance and gentleness, and he makes the point that “if His coming be so near, such things are not worth contending for.”

Colossians 3.

Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ… Are we dead with Christ? Gal. 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live…” Are we buried with Christ? Rom. 6:4 says that we are “buried with him by baptism…” And are we risen with Christ? Col. 2:12 tells us “…ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” We already know we’re dead, buried, and risen with Christ.

Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Col 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Because of our identification with Christ, because of our transformation into new creatures, which has freed us from the power of sin, and because of the coming of the Lord, we’re to seek those things above, we’re to set our affections on things above, and we’re to mortify our members. The fascinating thing here is that immediate context to the exhortation to mortify our members is that the Lord shall appear and we shall also appear with him in glory. We’re to put to death the practice of sin in the flesh, because we’ve been freed from sin and because the Lord is coming!

1 Thessalonians 1.

1Th 1:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 1Th 1:7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 1Th 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 1Th 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 1Th 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Bullinger said that “the church of Thessalonica… received abundant and almost unqualified praise... ‘Ye were ensamples (the apostle writes I Thess. i. 7, 8) to all that believe, in Macedonia and Achaia, for from you sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad.’ And this church was all this because of the Christian character of its members. That character was formed on ‘all truth,’ and hence it was not deformed. It was perfect in its threefold completeness.

(I) They had ‘TURNED to God from idols,

(2) to SERVE the living and true God, and

(3) to WAIT for God's Son from Heaven’.

“Yes. They waited for God's Son from Heaven. Not for Death, or Providence, or Titus, or the World's conversion, or the Restoration of the Jews… but for God's Son.” He makes the point that “Every chapter contains a reference to His coming... No wonder it was a Model Church!”

1 Thessalonians 4.

1Th 4:16 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: 1Th 4:17 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.

And what is the application to all of this? 1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

We’re motivated to serve Christ that much more because of the comfort His coming brings us. We don’t worry about those believers who have passed away. We don’t worry about those believers who are living but are spiritually asleep. We never worry about ourselves. We comfort one another because all believers in this age of grace shall be at the Rapture. Bullinger said, “What is true comfort in bereavement? Comfort one another with these words. What words? Words which tell of the reunion of those who have fallen asleep with those who are alive and remain, when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven to receive both into His presence. ‘So (lit., thus, in this manner) shall we ever be with the Lord’ (I Thess. iv. 13-18)…”

1 Thessalonians 5.

1Th 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

Bullinger writes, “Are we exhorted to ‘be sober’? the exhortation is based on the same motive (I Thess. v. 2-6)” – His coming.

Titus 2.

Tit 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Tit 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Tit 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

On the one hand, we certainly should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world because the Lord is coming – and that’s true. Those principles were articulated in Phil. and Col., but this group of verses is about what His grace teaches us. His grace teaches us to live righteously and His grace also teaches us to always live with hope. Wouldn’t be much grace if we didn’t have hope.

It’s interesting to me that hope of all mankind in eternal life by grace through faith is utterly inseparable from our hope upon the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

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