My previous article with a similar title elicited quite a bit of response and pushback. In that piece I suggested that God would Rapture His true church, thus potentially leaving behind some number of Christians who didn’t fit that definition. To be clear in what I previously said, I wasn’t redefining salvation and equating it with being Raptured—this isn’t a salvation issue in my mind—nor was I suggesting a partial Rapture with some going up initially and others sometime later in the Tribulation.
The response I received came in the form of “How do I know I’m part of that true church?” The pushback was “No way, no how! ALL who are saved are Raptured.”
I didn’t come to this idea lightly. It’s born of a concern for the state of the church and seeing how lackadaisical far too many Christians are in their salvation. It also derives from my reading of Scripture, which issues many warnings about how we revere and interact with God, or rather our lack thereof. I previously mentioned Christ’s warning to the church at Laodicea. Here is Hebrews 9:28:
so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
We have other verses such as Titus 2:13 that speak of those who look forward to His glorious appearing and 2 Timothy 4:8 which says we’ll receive a crown of righteousness in longing for that appearing.
Obviously, a desire to see Christ return is important. It may also be that what I see in some places as a “withholding” of the Rapture for some may actually be a lack of a crown, not a failure to be Raptured.
Here’s my heart in this, and I suspect that most reading this article will likewise feel the same. God wants His church to be on fire for Him. He wants a fire-purified bride, a church refined as pure silver and gold. Anything else is, frankly, abominable to Him (remember Laodicea). He wants us to not only be born again, but to desire fellowship with Him. The issue for me is that fellowship in much of the church is all too lacking.
My pastor preached a message on a recent Sunday about Naaman, Elisha, and particularly Elisha’s servant Gehazi. The story, found in 2 Kings 5:15-27, describes how after Naaman took Elisha’ advice he was cured of his leprosy. He wanted to reward the prophet, but Elisha would have nothing to do with that, so Naaman went on his way back toward Syria.
The servant Gehazi had other ideas. He ran after Naaman, lied to him, and received silver and clothing, which he then hid for himself. When Elisha questioned him, Gehazi lied to the prophet of God—never a good idea. For his efforts, Gehazi received Naaman’s leprosy for himself and his descendants forever.
As sad as that is, here’s what Gehazi really missed. Recall that Elisha was likewise Elijah’s servant. Elisha wouldn’t let Elijah out of his sight and at the right time requested a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, which he received. Elisha ran after God, while Gehazi ran after the things of this world. Each received his due reward from the Lord.
Gehazi is mentioned in Scripture only one further time, telling the king of Israel about the exploits of Elisha; he had none of his own. Think about this. Elisha pursued God, not the things of the world. Gehazi pursued the things of the world, not God. There was no mantle for Gehazi, simply grief for him and his descendants. It’s a sad story.
What does God want of us? Simply, that we run after Him. Now, here’s the crux of this second look at the question of Whom Will God Rapture? If God wants His church, His children, to pursue Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and a significant number of them don’t and aren’t, what is He to do?
When we consider the martyrs of the church through the ages (Hebrews 11) and see them in operation today throughout much of the world, we realize that it’s through tribulation, trials, persecution, and suffering that people’s hearts are purified toward God. Contrary to human logic, there is joy in suffering. Jesus said that when we follow Him, we will be persecuted.
Okay, so if all are Raptured, the fiery ones among us along with the apathetic, when do the Words of Jesus apply? When does this definitive statement in 2 Timothy 3:12 apply?
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
I’d bet that few of us reading this verse from the comfort of our homes have ever faced true persecution. In America particularly, our comfort is foremost. We have no idea what suffering for Christ truly is.
Scripture is replete with verses that speak of the falling away of the church. Maybe it’s the falling away that actually answers the question. As the church diminishes, so too does the mystery of lawlessness increase. With lawlessness comes hatred toward Christ and those who follow Him.
We can see the effects of this in America and around the world. Things are getting dicey for Christians. How long will it be before the treatment we see toward Christians in the Middle East comes to America and other “safe” areas? Is that even possible? Yes. The darkness is increasing at a rapid rate. Things are deteriorating more quickly than anyone would have expected. The hot term is convergence. It’s plausible this persecution will accelerate in these last days with the unthinkable happening that we comfortable Christians could also be persecuted.
I subscribe to the belief that the Rapture has no preconditions and could happen at any time. Yet, for God to purify His church—as I believe He must—then in the time we have left before Christ returns, the purifying fire may be just around the corner. In this time, those who truly love the Lord and follow hard after Him will be solidified in their faith. Those on the fence will have to make a decision. In the Middle East, time and again, lukewarm and apathetic Christians have learned of God’s mercies through their trials and become ardent followers of Him. Anyone that falls away, perhaps they were never truly saved in the first place.
I can’t imagine any of us who love the Lord want to see the church in its condition today with deviant, heretical teachings and false prophets who lead people astray. Every one of us should have God’s heart for this prodigal church that’s so prevalent.
For God to be true to Himself, tribulation must come to the church so that the bride of Christ truly wants the betrothal. It very well may be that a time is coming soon whereby the virgins in waiting will either bring oil for their lamps or they won’t (Matthew 25:1-13). They’ll either enter through the door to meet their bridegroom, or it’ll be shut with them on the outside because they didn’t care enough to be ready.
Or consider Luke 12:35-48:
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
This is strong language. What does it mean to be shut out as in the case of the virgins? What is it to be cut to pieces and put with the unfaithful? Or for the knowledgeable but negligent servant to receive a severe beating?
Doesn’t something have to give in all this? If the “cutting to pieces” or “beating” doesn’t happen in the Tribulation because all the servants are Raptured, then for this kingdom parable to be true, it must happen prior to the Rapture, and then not just to the apathetic servants, but presumably to all who claim the Name of Christ.
There’s good logic in that. In the early days of Christianity in the times of Nero or Diocletian, there were few who followed Christ—likely whether on fire or lukewarm—who escaped the judgment of these terrible emperors. Persecution was as common as the sun rising each morning in the east. It could well be that those same days are coming for us regardless of the depth of our faith.
In that case, all who believe and are saved would be Raptured.
“How long, O Lord, how long?”