The Scope of the Rapture
|The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with
all His saints| (1 Thess.3:13).
We come now to a phase of our subject which has given rise to much controversy. Sad it is that the |Blessed Hope| should have been an occasion for contention. But, just as men have divided into different camps over every fundamental doctrine of Scripture, so have sides been taken in regard to various points which bear upon our Lord's Return. Alas! |What is man?| Surely |an enemy hath done this.| One of the points upon which Bible teachers and students are divided is that of the scope of the Rapture. Some have taught that at our Lord's descent into the air all of His saints will be caught up to meet Him; while others insist that only a small part of the Church will be removed from the earth at that time -- that part which is obedient, faithful, spiritual. Thus, translation to heaven at the second coming of Christ is made a matter of merit and reward.
What saith the Scriptures? Do they teach a partial or a total rapture of the Church which is Christ's body? Do they declare that all believers will be removed from earth at the time our Lord descends from His Father's throne, or, that only a few of them will? Clearly, they cannot teach both, and surely a matter of such moment is not left indeterminable. We cannot believe that a question of such importance is left an open one. Yet, we are not unmindful of the fact that the advocates of each position referred to above, appeal to the Word in support of their views. But just here we would ask, Are the Scriptures pressed into service really relevant to the point at issue, and will they actually bear the interpretation which is given them?
What saith the Scriptures? and particularly, What is the explicit teaching the the Church Epistles? If we are seeking to find the inspired answer to the question, Will the whole Church or only a part of it, escape the judgments of the Great Tribulation? then, surely, it is to the Church Epistles we must turn for information. We are not here arguing that there are no Scriptures which treat of the first stage of Christ' second coming outside of the Church Epistles, for doubtless there are -- for example John 14:1-3 -- yet, we repeat, If the question before us concerns the Church, then the testimony of the Church Epistles must decide the dispute. If this much be granted -- and personally we do not see why it should not -- then the range of our inquiry is narrowed down and the issue is simplified. It is highly significant that almost all of the passages which are in dispute (as to interpretation) between the advocates of the conflicting schools are outside of the Church Epistles: in other words, the verses which are made the occasion for controversy are found, for the most part, in the Gospels, in Hebrews, or in the Apocalypse.
To one who is a beginner in the study of Dispensational truth and is unacquainted with human writings upon the second coming of Christ, the teaching of the Church Epistles on this subject appears to be simple and harmonious. Those passages which deal at greatest length with the return of our Lord and the taking of His people to be with Himself, seem to set forth no limitations in regard to the number of the saints which shall be translated. Such expressions as, |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| (1 Thess.4:16, 17); |They that are Christ's at His coming| (1 Cor.15:23); and |We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye| (1 Cor.15:51); certainly appear to teach the rapture of the entire Church, and, ought not we be very slow to accept any conflicting line of teaching which would compel us to abandon the obvious meaning of these verses, and instead, have to give them a strained interpretation so as to harmonize them with something which is foreign to their plain signification? Yea, is it not evident that any system of teaching which would compel us to do this carries with it its own condemnation?
What then saith the Scriptures and what is the testimony of the Church Epistles? The present writer believes there can be only one answer to this question, namely, that every member of Christ's body will be raptured at the time our great Head comes to conduct His blood-bought people to His Father's House. We believe this, not only because a number of Scriptures expressly affirm it, but also because some of the great basic principles which underlie both the Gospel, and what is known as |Church truth,| demand this conclusion and repudiate the other alternative. We would now humbly submit to the prayerful and careful attention of our readers some of the grounds for our belief in a total rather than in a partial rapture of the Church which, in faithfulness to our apprehension of God's Truth on this subject, we must denominate the partial-rapture theory.