"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: 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. " (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17, KJV).
This is an exciting study. Exciting because it is happening to us as we speak. I remember when I first heard what Pastor Gary Garner was preaching, it was like I was raptured, and in a since I was, I was caught up into another dimension of God's word, it was a revelation and an understanding of the WORD I had never experienced before, I truly was raptured, caught up into something that had caught hold of me. Apprehended by something I had not yet apprehended. I will tell you that I was "gripped" by a higher revelation of the gospel.
There are many theories and concepts today about this "catching up" experience. The most common thought among most Christians is that it is a yet future event, that could happen at any moment. You had better be ready or you might just miss it and then you will have to go through hell on earth in order to be saved. Throughout the 1980's in the churches I was involved with; the mentality was one of, "Beam me up Jesus" and this was in reference to the Star Trek show when Captain Kirk would tell Scottie to beam him up, out of the environment he was presently in, back to the starship. Sadly to say, this is mostly the Christian attitude surrounding the "catching up" or "rapture" as most call it.
Christians find themselves in a little bit of a tough situation, having to deal with the world and life, and they just want to be beamed up out of here and let the rest of the world go to hell. Rather than looking to Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith, and learning how to be an overcomer in the situations we find ourselves in, we want to get the heck out of here, we want the great escape. This is the same way the world thinks, it is called the easy way out! I don't want to have to deal with this, just get me out of here. So, we find the world looking for a U.F.O. to come flying by, so hopefully they can hitch a ride while the church wants Jesus to come flying by, snatching them out of this world into another.
All over the world people are looking for the Lord to return in what ever fashion their end time teachings will allow them; yet, sad to say, in most cases the doctrine of the Lord's return has been mixed with error and unfounded theories. This is because the people's vision has not been raised up into a spiritual dimension, but rather, most interpretation has been on an earthly, or carnal level, which understands only the forms of the earthly and material things and not the things of the Spirit. The words that Jesus speaks are spirit, and they are life (Jn. 6:63), and we must be caught up in the spirit to understand what he is saying to us today.
The rapture theory has only existed for about one hundred and fifty years or so, and is spreading throughout the church world like a forest fire that is out of control. Most believers are looking for Jesus to come and "snatch" or "rapture" them away into the clouds, to disappear off into space. As another brother has said: "If you are looking at things you can see with your natural eyes, you are missing the point of meaning in the scriptures. When Paul spoke of our being 'caught up in the air' he was not looking at the physical bodies of old Adam which are only temporal and return to the dust from whence they came (the first man is of the earth); he was looking at the inner man, the new creation, the heavenly body, the offspring of the flesh and blood of the Son of God, which is the real person, and which bears the image of the heavenly." -Eby.
I am not setting out to take away your rapture, even though the word "rapture" is not found anywhere in the Bible; but... "When Christ comes to lift our inner-man nature UP into the fullness of UNION IN HIM, we certainly do experience a rapture."-J.P. Eby.
Consider, Eph. 2:4-6, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (KJV). He has RAISED US UP together in HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ Jesus. Some other translations are as follows:
"and in Christ Jesus He raised us up with Him from the dead, and seated us with Him in the heavens" - Con.
"raised us with Him from the dead, and enthroned us with him in the heavenly realms as being in Christ Jesus" - Wey.
"and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ Jesus in the Heavens" - Phi.
"And, through our union with Christ Jesus, God raised us up with Him, and caused us to sit with him on high" -TCNT.
Could it be, that to be "caught up" is to realize the fullness of what in means to be in Christ -- raised and seated in the heavens with Him? You were never raised up into heaven in your physical body, were you? Of course not, this is a spiritual picture of what happened to you in Christ. The word declares that we are to be caught up with Him, it should be obvious that these scriptures are speaking of the same thing. "In both cases we are elevated to a higher plane in Christ, and with Him."-Eby. It is a higher realm of love, peace, joy and victory in the spirit that we enjoy right here on this earth.
Here, we encounter a divine principle. "'The Lord Himself shall descend' and 'we shall be caught up.' The Lord descends and we are caught up - producing a 'meeting' or the experiencing of UNION WITH CHRIST. Most Christians only know the Lord in His descending, not in their being caught up to 'meet' Him - made one in Him."-J.P. Eby.
In Ex. 19 we read that the Lord descended on the mountain in fire. The people were not able to ascend the mountain, so God had to descend upon it. He had to come to them, as He comes to us, right where we are. They knew nothing of being caught up to meet the Lord, they could only experience God in the realm where God must come down and meet them on their level. This is where we have been for the last two thousand years; God come and meet my need, and praise God He has come down and met us right where we needed it the most; weather in mercy, or grace, or healing, or salvation, or whatever our need has been, God has been faithful to come and meet our needs. He has, will, and continue to come and meet man on his level of humanity. But now at the dawn of this new day there is a gospel being preached that will bring man UP to the reality of truth. The reality of what has been true of us for two millenniums in the heavens, the realm of the spirit, where Christ is seated.
Jesus said "I go to prepare a place for you...that where I AM, there YOU may be also" (Jn. 14). Where is He today? He is in the heavens, in the spirit; it is a spiritual plane of existence. A place where the word declares that we are already seated with Him; as Eph. 1:2 says, "who has crowned us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ." -Wey.
Everything we need can be found in the heavenly realms in Christ. "He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off," (Isaiah 33:15-17, KJV).
Isaiah prophesied of a people who would "dwell on high." I love to go up to the top Mt. Magazine. It is only a two thousand foot high mountain, but when I get up there everything else seems so far away. I have gone up there to pray and to spend time with the Lord; some of my most special times with the Lord have been on that mountain. But that physical experience is but a shadow of what we are talking about. We don't have to physically leave this earth to go to the heavenly experience Paul is talking about, we can and will, be "caught up" right here on this earth. A people who see into the heavens and declare what is true, and live out the life (of God) that Christ died to provide for us. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, ON THIS EARTH, as it is IN HEAVEN. We just need to look at things through a new perspective, the perspective of the REIGNING CHRIST and who we are in Him!
Let me say at this point, that I do not want to take away from you a literal interpretation of this passage of scripture; I do however, want you to see a spiritual interpretation of this scripture. As I see it there is a natural and spiritual application to the Word of God. This principle runs throughout the Bible; for instance, in Lev. 4:3 we find the Sin Offering. It was a young bull without blemish that had to be offered up as an offering for sin. The Sin Offering provided atonement - reconciliation of sin; the result being forgiveness for the offender. This was a very real and a natural occurrence in the Bible; but the spiritual side to this is: the Sin Offering represents Christ as our sin bearer, taking the sinners place for sin, thus bringing reconciliation from God to man. And this view opens up a new dimension to us of what happened to us at the cross of Christ. Remember, the first man is of the earth (natural), the second is the Lord from heaven (spiritual). First the natural then the spiritual.
I would like to share what Kelley Varner has to say on this subject; "Those who are living at the time of the Lord's coming will be "caught up" together with the resurrected dead." And, "When Jesus returns, those saints who come back with Him shall receive their bodies again, ascending or rising out of that state of death into a blessed state like His body of glory. Then those who are still dwelling in these mortal bodies shall be "caught up" into that same place. This mortal shall put on immortality. Death shall be swallowed up in victory!" ("Whose Right It Is" ).
This is could very well be the final and natural outworking of this passage of scripture. But this view is a yet future event and will not help me in the NOW, other than the comfort Paul said it would bring. However, I do believe that being "caught up" is a process that can, and is happening to us right now. We are forever being lifted into higher dimensions of TRUTH. The more of the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the Knowledge of Christ that we are ascending in, the more we are "caught up". It is a work that God does to us by the Spirit, it is not something we can do ourselves; but we must expose ourselves to the word and prayer, and spend time in the spirit, and not be satisfied with the status quo of Christian thought.
The word "rapture" cannot be found in your Bible, although its synonym "caught up" does. When the Bible speaks of being "caught up" it is not speaking in terms of being taken miles or light years away. "The word used in the Greek New Testament is HARPAZO. Its literal meaning is "to take something or someone firmly, quickly, or rapaciously." It is a derivative of HAIREOMAI whose meaning is "to take for oneself." It conveys the idea of an act quickly done by someone of great skill and strength - thus, TO SEIZE." My Concordant Literal Concordance says, "seize with a sudden grasp," in other words "GRIPPED." Has the Gospel ever gripped you to the point of where it changed your life? If yes, then I would say that you were "caught up". There you are strolling along doing your own thing, and then one day you hear a powerful Gospel message, and you are "gripped" you will never be the same, you have been seized by a higher power other than yourself, you feel raptured. This is what I am talking about. But it does not have to happen only one time in your life. This catching up, or gripping, can, and should, happen to us over and over until we have grown up into the fullness of Christ.
We do not ascend in direction but in dimension. If it were literal direction, then all those in China and all those in the US would all go up into a different direction. Heaven is not a million miles off in outer space somewhere, it is all around you, it is a different dimension, not on some planet in space. If you were to get in a starship and go looking for heaven, all you would get is lost in space.
You can stay right here on this planet and find heaven right inside you;
Mk. 1:15- "And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mk. 12:34- "And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." Lu. 11:20- "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you." Lu. 6:16- "The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." Lu. 17:20-21- "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Mt. 10:7- "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The word "at hand" means; 1) to bring near, to join one thing to another. 2) to draw or come near to, to approach. The kingdom of heaven is so close that you can reach out and touch it. Heaven is not a location, but a realm of the spirit in which we touch, experience, and know God.
Caught up into new dimensions of divine life and glory, with such power, that we never again respond to the gravitational pull of the flesh. How awesome and utterly glorious this will be, caught up into the highest of heaven, where Christ is seated, and where He is reigning from, and where the church is to be reigning from also.
Let us explore this realm of heaven. "It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, KJV).
"caught up to the third heaven," and "caught up into paradise," are undoubtedly speaking of the same experience. In studying this "paradise" it leads us back to the garden of Eden. It is that state of existence that man was first created in before he fell. When man fell, he fell from an existence with his Father God in which he was able to walk and talk with God in the spirit. Man was on the earth and in the heaven at the same time. Man was the mediator between the heavens and the earth.
Eden is not a geographical location somewhere, that turned into a desert over time and was lost. If you go searching for it on an expedition you will never find it. Eden was, and is, a realm in which God and man walked and talked; an interface of the visible and the invisible. When Stephen was being stoned he saw into heaven, he was right here on this earth with carnal men all around him, but he was looking right into the realm of heaven. No one else could see what he was seeing, yet it was right there. "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God," (Acts 7:55,56, KJV). Other translations say, "he looked right into heaven" and "I can see heaven wide open," the heavens were opened to him and he could see right into it, and it was not a million miles off in space, it was right here on earth. When Jesus came up out of the Jordan river, God spoke out of heaven, the Spirit descended as a dove right out of heaven. Again, heaven is not a location, but a realm of spirit in which we touch, experience, and know God.
The third heaven corresponds to the third room in Moses Tabernacle, The Most Holy Place, where the Shekinah Glory of God dwelt. This is where God and man come together at the Ark of sacrifice, and is but a figure of where we are in the spirit. The third heaven also typifies the fullness of the feast of Tabernacles, which is the fullness of our inheritance in Christ, that realm of LIFE, that dimension of GLORY, that we enter into by the power of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. This gospel, which is the power of God, will cause us to be "caught up."
A spiritual ascent in the Person and work of Christ is what I am talking about, not a journey beyond the Milky-way, but a journey into Christ. After all, He is the substance of all that we have. He is to have preeminence in ALL THINGS (Col. 1:18). Jesus came to give us "life" more abundantly (Jn. 10:10). This is not talking about material and physical things, He is talking about spiritual life. The word "life" is "ZOE." this is spiritual life, not your possessions as some preach. To have abundant life is to have, over and above, more than is necessary, superseded exceeding abundantly, supremely, something further, more, much more than all, more plainly, superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, pre-eminence, superiority, advantage, more eminent, more remarkable, more excellent, ZOE, the God kind of life. Super abundant spiritual life, lifted to a higher realm in the Spirit, where the spiritual is reality. Caught up into Him.
I think we see the same thing in Ephesians 4:15 - "...grow up in all things into Him...". And this is the point: TO GROW UP not to go up! We grow up into Christ not go up into Christ. Grow up into what is true of us in the heavens - in Christ. This is the flow of the New Testament, and it makes since, otherwise we would see a grave contradiction, do we grow up or go up? And why grow up if we are going to go up?
There are so many things true of us that we have yet to experience. We are living far below what God has provided for us to be through the finished work of Christ. As another brother has said, "The tragedy I see among God's people today is they live so far below their privileges which have been purchased for them. Religion has failed to teach that through Jesus Christ there is no longer any limitation put upon us. One who understands that the veil has been rent, that the way into the Most Holy Place is now open, begins to come to an end of all limitations and to partake of the provision of that realm."-Demetris.
I am not writing about the Church blasting off like a rocket from the Florida shore into the sky and meeting Jesus on a puffy white cloud, and then going off to some far away heaven for seven years while the rest of the world goes through the great tribulation, and then we come back slaying the enemies of God and set up a kingdom for a thousand years. I'm talking about us being "caught up" into a new relationship, and a new reality in the sphere of His resurrection power, in the heavenly places in Christ. It is our inheritance, it is our destiny, some must enter into His rest.
In closing, I would like to share with you a few scriptures out of Colossians. In Col. 3:1-4, we read, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory," (NKJV). Can we grasp what Paul is writing, "seek those things above," just what things is he talking about? I don't think it is a mansion on a street of gold, or a cabin over in the corner of glory land. He says, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "set your MIND on things above," he is talking about being spiritually minded, not earthy. The natural mind seeks a house on a cloud with diamond doorknobs, and to float on clouds of ease, strumming harps for all of eternity. The spiritual mind seeks to be caught up in the spirit, and to see and experience the realities of the heavens, so he can do some good on this earth. Paul sums it up with, when Christ appears, we appear with Him. Can we even fathom this, when he is manifested in the earth, we are manifested with Him, "IN GLORY." The glory is coming here to us, we are not going anywhere. We will be caught up in His glory, "...the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee." (Isa. 60:1). Paul is saying the same thing in Romans 8:4-6, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace," (KJV). God is calling us to a higher call in Christ. To be carnally minded is to be "fleshy," it is earthy, natural; it is to only be seeing the natural view, the letter of the word, instead of the Spirit of the Word.
We must remember that Jesus said in John 6:63, "It is the spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life," (NKJV). It is in the spirit of the word that the life is found, not in the fleshy, earthy, natural preaching that is so abundant today, especially among the so called "end time" preachers, who interpret prophesy with a news paper and a TV newsreel.
The fulfillment of God's plan is seen in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven." The whole point of all this is to bring it to this earth. Paul was a man who was caught up into the heavens, and did more for the advancement of Christianity than any other. As we are caught up, we too will do more, for we will see Him as He is, and we will be like Him. While most of the world wants to be like Mike (Michael Jordan), My desire is to be like Jesus, and bring the manifestation of His kingdom to this earth.
"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth," (Colossians 1:5-6, KJV). The hope in heaven is the GOSPEL, and it has come to us, and as we are "caught up" to understand what has been true of us, knowing the TRUTH, it will set us free from the bondage of corruption that has held us under its power of carnal mindedness and death for so long. Paul prayed that we would be "filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding," (Col. 1:9) that too, is my prayer. To have spiritual understanding is to be "CAUGHT UP" in another dimension of God's glory. I hope to be caught up, seized, and gripped, over and over again, until Christ is all and in all that I do or say.
"That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," (Colossians 2:2-3, KJV). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in a WHOM--CHRIST. We are to be "caught up" into Christ, the Person and His work! Amen, Praise His Holy Name.
"Were you not raised to life with Christ? Then aspire to the realm above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, and let your thoughts dwell on that higher realm, not on this earthly life. I repeat, you died; and now your life lies hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is manifested, then you too will be manifested with him in glory" - NEB.
Richard Morton 3-98