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Written by: C. W. Booth

Sunday, February 03, 2008

How are you doing?

In parts of Taiwan the traditional greeting of politeness is not "Hello," or "How are you doing?" It is, "Have you eaten yet?" If one has recently eaten, it is assumed they must be doing well. I just love this concept!

Christianity really has no such equivalent. We mindlessly ask each other, "How are you?" And we vacuously respond, "Just fine," regardless of how depressed, ill, or stressed we might genuinely be. No meaningful information is exchanged, and we in no way feel obligated to seek for a deeper answer or to offer assistance to another, content in our ignorance of the condition of our fellow believers.

What if, like the Taiwanese, our Christian brotherhood greeting of politeness contained some level of necessary meaning? Perhaps something like, "Have you prayed today?" To pray, one’s heart must be right with the Lord, Jesus Christ. God does not hear prayer from those who are presently sinning, or unwilling to confess a sin (Psalm 66:18, Proverbs 28:9, 15:29, Isaiah 59:2). Consequently, those who are harboring unconfessed sin have probably not bothered going through even the pretense of prayer. Only those who are truly "well with God" can honestly answer, "Yes."

Too intrusive into one’s private matters of the heart? Overly prone to abuse by those who feel spiritually superior? Perhaps. So the search continues for a reasonable and relevant Christian greeting. I am open to suggestions. Still, I wonder, have you prayed today? Oh, and yes, I have just eaten, thanks for asking.



Thursday, February 14, 2008

This Event Called the Rapture

Some of you know that my wife and I have been meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses for the better part of a year. They explain their dogma to us, we try to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. It has been a growing, stretching, and learning time for myself. I mean that with all sincerity.

These meetings have forced me to study the end-times (aka: eschatology). For orthodox Christians this must involve the doctrine we have labeled, "the Rapture." Oh, to be sure, the word is not technically in our English Bibles, but the concept is certainly there. When I was in Bible school (so very many years ago) we used to sit in the cafeteria and debate forever about pre, mid, or post-Tribulation timing for the Rapture. By the end of my limited time in Bible school I decided the timing was unknowable, and that it really did not matter. And here I am, back again, to reopen the discussion.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

In my recent studies, I have come to conclude that this event must describe what Revelations refers to as "the first resurrection" (Revelations 20:5-6). By this, John means the first of the bodily resurrections prior to the Millennium. This first resurrection is for believers in Christ only, the righteous dead. Jesus comes back to call us to meet Him in the air. The spirits of the dead believers are already with Jesus in front of His throne in Heaven, but when He decrees the first bodily resurrection, He reunites the dead bodies with their living spirits in the clouds of Earth, then, we who are still alive on the Earth will be brought up as well, without having died, being changed from perishable flesh and blood to imperishable perfect "bodies" (whatever form such bodies might take). This first resurrection is the Rapture.

Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)

Sometime after the first bodily resurrection (the Rapture), the righteous ones in Christ will return with Christ to the Earth to rule for one thousand years (aka: the Millennium or Second Coming), during which time the prophecies of a peaceful Jewish state will finally be fulfilled as the Messiah reigns in Jerusalem. I am now convinced that the first resurrection, the Rapture, will occur before the Great Tribulation begins. And I have come to this opinion on perhaps the most trivial of perceptions. When we are caught up in the air, in the clouds, and meet with Christ at the Rapture, it seems unlikely that we suddenly and immediately turn around in the sky and come back down to the Earth to reign for one thousand years, which only happens at the end of the Tribulation. I find it more likely that we are taken to Heaven to watch the unfolding of the Great Tribulation, the judgment of the unrepentant Earth.

From out of that tribulation period, many more will be saved, and martyred for Christ (Revelation 6:10-11, 7:9-17). They rest with Christ for a little while longer in Heaven. Then, Christ cuts short the Great Tribulation and visibly returns to Earth where every eye will see, accompanied by the saints (Revelation 1:7, Daniel 7:22). The saints will reign (or perhaps this is simply language that means we will live like kings) for one thousand years. At the end of the Millennium of peace, Satan is released from the pit one last time. A massive war is waged, and Christ disposes of Satan. Only then does Christ conduct the second bodily resurrection, in which even the unbelievers are resurrected, but not for eternal life, but for final judgment before the Great While Throne of Christ. The unbelievers are placed into the eternal Lake of Fire, along with Satan, Death, and Hades.

Christ then dissolves the entire universe in fire. He then creates a new earth, a new expanse of stars, called the heavens, and a new city called new Jerusalem (Revelation 21). The Father and the Son move their thrones into this "city" and reside with the people of God for the remainder of eternity.

To be sure, I am aware that my timing of the Rapture may be in error, give or take a few years to allow for the Tribulation period. After all, my opinion on this is not exactly based on the most solid of rationales. Yet, whether the first resurrection happens pre, mid, or post-Tribulation, it gives the believer in Christ great hope and comfort knowing what else is yet to come after that! "And so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."



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