The Rapture: Part 3
Aug 01, 2006
During my early years in the Church, I heard contradictory teachings from the same pulpits in regard to the final home of the saints. One week the preacher would long to "go to heaven to live forever," and the next week he would say "the meek shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5) and that "we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10).
I was too young at the time to see the inherent contradiction. But since then, confused people have asked me this question: "Where are we going to be for eternity?"
The first law of Christ's coming is found in Gen. 2:22-24. It is in the context of marriage itself and is relevant because Christ is coming as a Bridegroom to marry a Bride. The wording in Gen. 2:24 is most interesting, because it appears to reverse the pattern of normal thinking:
"For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
It is NOT the bride who is said to leave her parents, but the man. Does this not portray Christ leaving the Father to come to the earth (Kingdom), rather than the Bride leaving the earth to go to heaven?
The wording of Paul's statement in 1 Thess. 4:15-17 (quoted in Part 2) is taken from the book of Exodus. This is because the pattern of Christ's coming was established when He came down upon Mount Sinai to establish and rule His Kingdom (Israel). Exodus 19:18-20 says,
"(18) Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because THE LORD DESCENDED upon it in fire . . . (19)When the SOUND OF THE TRUMPET grew louder and louder . . . (20) . . . and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and MOSES WENT UP."
Moses made eight recorded trips up the mountain in order to foreshadow the eight days of the feast of Tabernacles. But each trip contains a few prophetic patterns that determined Paul's terminology in His exposition of the second coming. The wording above pictures the feast of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, because this is the day that prophesies the resurrection of the dead.
Thus we read "the Lord descended" with "the sound of the trumpet," and "Moses went up" to meet the Lord. This was Moses' third trip up the mount just before God spoke the Ten Commandments to the people in Exodus 20.
On Moses' sixth trip up the mount, we are shown other types of Christ's coming in the wording in Exodus 24:15, 16,
"(15) And MOSES WENT UP into the mount, and A CLOUD covered the mount. (16) And the glory of the Lord covered it SIX DAYS; and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the CLOUD."
Drawing on this scene, Paul says in 1 Thess. 4:17 that we "shall be caught up together with them IN THE CLOUDS to meet the Lord in the AIR."
The Greek word for "clouds" is nephele, from the root word nephos. Vine's Expository Dictionary says that nephos . . .
"denotes a cloudy, shapeless mass covering the heavens. Hence, metaphorically, of a dense multitude, a throne. Heb. 12:1."
Hebrews 12:1 speaks of a "great cloud of witnesses." A CLOUD was often used as a metaphor for a CROWD. Thus also Deut. 33:2 says, "He came with ten thousands of saints." This is also quoted in Jude14. The word for "saints" is kodesh, "holy ones," which can refer to either people or angels. In Psalm 68:17 we read further,
"The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of ANGELS [shinan]; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place."
The Hebrew word translated "angels" is not the usual word for angels. It is shinan, which literally means "repetition" (or replication). It is the only time this word is used in the Bible, so we have no other examples. It had to do with replicating Himself, because an angel is an extension of the Creator who represents Him in a particular capacity or calling.
I believe it also prophesies of Sonship, because the whole idea behind the Sons of God is for Him to replicate Himself in the earth. He is bringing forth an Amen people, those who are in full agreement with Him, who can be an extension of Himself in full accordance with His will. Jesus was the Amen of God (Rev. 3:14), because He only did what He saw His Father do, and said what He heard His Father say.
In other words, He REPEATED, because He was the Father's Replication.
This is ultimately the purpose of the second coming of Christ. It is to bring forth a cloud of witnesses, an Amen people, sons who are in the Image of God. Like Jesus, they will be "a faithful and true witness" (Rev. 3:14).
Thus, when Moses went up into the mount to meet the Lord who was descending, he went into the cloud. In essence, he prophetically joined the cloud of witnesses, the "repetitions" of God. Whether one views these as heavenly angels or as the spirits of just men made perfect, the word picture is the same.
The other word that Paul uses in 1 Thess. 4:17 is the Greek word aer, or "air." Paul says we will meet Him "in the air." It has been assumed, of course, that this pictures an upper-atmosphere reunion, since that is where most physical clouds appear to be located. But if the "clouds" are actually the "holy ones" and not literal clouds at all, then a high-altitude meeting would be unnecessary. Perhaps Paul was using symbolic terms.
The Greek word aer simply indicates that the meeting place is above ground, rather than underground. The word is used in Acts 22:23,
"And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air. . ." [Greek: aer]
In 1 Cor. 9:26 Paul says,
"Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air." [Greek: aer]
In other words, Paul was not just shadow boxing. He was serious about following God. But in each case the air was not high in the atmosphere, but above ground. Paul was simply telling us that the dead will be raised so as to meet Christ above ground, "in the air." They will be the cloud of witnesses that the living overcomers will join, even as Moses went up into the cloud in Exodus 24.
The point of Paul's statement is not to define a precise mile-marker in the atmosphere where the living saints will join the resurrected ones. To argue that point is like the old theological debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Ultimately, who really cares? The important point to see is that regardless of the meeting place, the purpose of meeting (apantesis) is to escort Christ to the earth, not to go to heaven for seven years or for three-and-a-half years while the Antichrist rules and the earth burns.
1 Thess. 4:17 ends with, "and thus [in this manner] we shall always be with the Lord." Where will we be with Him? Psalm 2:8-9 and Rev. 2:27 tell us that He will "rule all nations with a rod of iron." In fact, Psalm 2:8 says, "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance."
It would be hard to receive such an inheritance if those nations were destroyed. No, those nations will come to learn His law (Is. 2:3). The light of God is His truth. Rev. 21:24 says,
"And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it."
There will be nations in the Age to come, and there will be much evangelism to do. The overcomers will certainly have ACCESS to heaven, but they will reign with Him on the earth (Rev. 5:10; 20:6).
This is the third part of a series titled "The Rapture." To view all parts, click the link below.