The Rapture & The Glory of God
by Lonnie Lane
Israel is always God’s indication of where we are in prophetic history. Consider this verse: “Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days” (Hosea 3:5). King David, of course, was a pre-cursor to Messiah Yeshua, the One who is forever King of the Jews. The Magi declared Him King of the Jews upon his birth (Matthew 2:2) and Pilate identified Him as King of the Jews at the end of His life, asking, “Do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:39). Even the plaque above His head, declaring that for which He was crucified on the cross read, “YESHUA THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). I’m grateful to be able to say, this Yeshua is my King. How about you?
If you read my articles, you may notice that I’m somewhat pre-occupied with the Lord and His goodness. I became convinced, though the devil would like to have given me (and all of us, starting with Eve) cause to distrust His goodness toward each of us in particular and about His character in general. What better thing is there to be preoccupied with than the goodness of God? I wonder if it’s part of the calling of those who are “of Israel” for Hosea 3:5 does say, “they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.” Perhaps that is part of the draw to Jewish believers. We are invariably quite conscious of His goodness to us, not taking it for granted, being so grateful that He brought us to Himself. We know our “family” history — the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s right out there on the pages of the Bible for all to see. Even so, He has “loved us (Israel) with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3a).
Anyway, my point is that Israel’s coming “to the Lord and to His goodness” is a sure sign that we are “in the last days.” This is certainly not a new thought. Prophecies and their fulfillment abound at this time about the end of days. If we were to go by what was projected in the seventies, if you were around then, many expected we should have been ‘raptured’ away by now. I had no expectation then that we would still be here in 2009. And now, with such times of uncertainty as appear to loom before us, it causes us to look to the sky for the Lord’s return.
But when? How soon? What will precede His coming? What we can count on happening is this: “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 Messiah 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” (1 Thes. 4:16, 17).
The term that has been used in modern times for when Yeshua gathers His people to Himself “in the clouds” is not in the original Scriptures. The Greek term harpazô means “to snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly and vehemently.” This is the same meaning of the Latin word rapio “to seize, snatch, tear away.” The English word was developed from the Latin which we use today known as “rapture.” I do realize that the topic of the rapture is one that people feel pretty strongly about. There is, as we know, more than one interpretation from Scripture as to when it might take place. I have various friends, including pastors, who believe with all their hearts respectively that the rapture will take place:
- before the tribulation (my personal favorite though not necessarily my confident expectation),
- in the middle of the tribulation (Consider Rev.11:11, 12),
- for those who are ready while those not ready must endure the rest of the tribulation (as per the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-3), or
- at the culmination of the age with all its tribulation when “the last trumpet” is blown. (as per 1 Cor 15:51, 52).
Much of the “rapture” doctrine expects that God’s people will be removed from times of difficulty or “tribulation” in the earth while others will be left behind to suffer, presumably until or unless they repent and realize who Yeshua is. I have some reservations about that interpretation, since many Christians throughout the world have suffered terribly over the centuries and gone through what they would have called “tribulation.” Some from nations around the world who visit this website and read our articles and watch Sid’s shows online are suffering even today. First World nation folks have been relatively free of life-threatening persecution for our faith. But what if we find ourselves faced with such persecution and suffering? What if the rapture does not take place in the way many have hoped or expected?
This isn’t an academic question. My heart is concerned for those of us who have put our trust in being sure we would not go through times of “tribulation” if it turns out that difficult times do come about. Is our vision of the Lord such that our faith remains strong in Him even when what we have trusted in isn’t happening or working out as we have believed?
If our government continues to be instrumental in pressuring Israel to divide her land, for instance, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of God’s Genesis 12:3 commitment to Abraham. Likely some of the troubles we’re having now are already the outworking of that and will continue unless we take our national hands off that situation and cease to be instrumental in pressuring Israel to divide her land.
To get back to the issue of this article, a question has come to me: Is my faith really in the Lord or is it in what we are expecting He will do to or for us? I recall a time when a man many looked to was repeatedly teaching that on a certain date the Rapture would take place. It didn’t. I happened to be working at a ministry at the time and a call came to me from a man who was despondent that it hadn’t happened as was expected. He had his faith in his expectations of what the Lord would do and when it didn’t happen as he expected, he lost his faith. I tried to reassure Him that our faith in the Lord is based primarily on who He is — He is Creator, Lord, Sustainer, Provider, and Lover of our souls; He is our Righteousness and our Redeemer — but our faith is not to be based on prophecies, even of how and when we expect His return, which may or may not come to pass as we expect.
Whether or not we go through difficult times, it would seem that now is the time to strengthen our faith in the Lord. There is a shaking going on. Things are changing in the natural and in the spiritual. This is when we
“Now is when we would be wise to secure our faith in Who He is TO US personally…”
need to get alone with God so that our faith is in our relationship with God, not borrowed from what others are telling us about a relationship with God. Now is when we would be wise to secure our faith in Who He is TO US personally, so that we can stand poised in Him, stable and unmoving in our faith, regardless of what comes. We need to know (as in intimately, personally, experientially know) that we can trust Him; that we know we can trust Him because we know Him as ours and our trust is in Him alone. Not just trusting that He would keep us out of harm’s way, or not just that He would provide so we don’t have to suffer or lack, but so that we know Him! This kind of knowing Him is what leads us to be so committed to the Truth that He is, that we remain faithful to Him whatever might come. Happily, it also stirs up faith to believe Him for what we do need from Him.
I am convinced that God is so much bigger, so much “gooder” and more glorious than we have yet come to know. All I know of Him causes me to believe that He is so far above all that I can yet imagine Him to be. The most amazing thing is that in all that He is, if we are born again of His Spirit, He lives in us! How awesome is that? He dwells in our inner-most being, and consequently, He is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). Most of us have yet to experience what He intends to do in and through His end time church. But it’s coming.
Giving this considerable thought, both the expectation of His return and how we might prepare ourselves for the most glorious event in all of creation, this article is the first of two articles to humbly attempt to stir us to some faith-inspiring thinking about Him, and to give us some new glory-expecting pictures of Him.
The one over-arching truth that all of us, regardless of our perspective, can rely on is the fact that Yeshua will return! Hallelujah!! One glorious day He will come “with”, not through the clouds: “He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7a). While I cannot give you chapter or verse because it’s not in there, we have heard a few prophetic voices saying that they have had visions of the clouds actually being a host of angelic beings. That seems more in keeping with ushering the King’s return to claim the earth as His own (or to usher the saints into heaven in Rev. 11;12) than atmospheric pressure and humidity, doesn’t it?
Could the cloud that covered Israel during the day to keep them from the burning heat of the sun in what can be up to 140 degrees on the Sinai desert have been an angelic cloud of God’s protection? Yeshua in talking about what will take place in the end of days made reference to clouds saying, “Then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). During Yeshua’s trial when “the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61, 62). This was enough to cause the high priest apoplexy: “Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? (:63)” because this statement was one in which Yeshua equated Himself with God. The clouds of heaven or clouds of glory belong to God alone!
King David must have had a vision that God “makes the clouds His chariot” (Psalm 104:3). So we see that clouds — however they are comprised — accompany the Lord in His comings and goings. So it makes Biblical sense to expect that He would come “with the clouds” when He descends upon us again.
When Yeshua left the earth forty days after His resurrection, He ascended into the sky and “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). From what we read, it sounds like He ascended quietly. He just went up as they watched Him go. No fanfare is recorded, no angelic entourage was evident. Unless, of course, the cloud that received Him was actually the welcoming committee of His loyal angelic subjects who came to bear Him up before His Father with great joy.
Perhaps the Lord is now granting us revelation into these things as time grows closer to His coming. We know so much more than the church has known since the early church. All would seem to attest to the reality that we are being prepared by God to be less and less attached to “the spirit of the world,” and more drawn to “the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12).
Many of Sid’s guests tell us of their visits to both heaven and hell, and of being with the Lord beyond this life, yet
“Faith that is informed of the reality of both heaven and hell is greatly motivated toward holiness.”
they have been sent back to give testimony to the reality of what they witnessed. It does seem that we are more privileged than any other generation to have available to us eye-witness testimony of the reality of such things. Faith that is informed of the reality of both heaven and hell is greatly motivated toward holiness. It should also serve as incentive toward sharing the truth of the gospel of salvation with others who don’t know of its truth.
Perhaps we even know more than the disciples did who lived with Yeshua day by day. When Yeshua ascended into heaven and the disciples’ eyes were upon Him, angels in white stood beside the disciples as “they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing” and they said to them, “This Yeshua, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts. 1:9,-11). There seems to be a message in those words that says how we see Him as having departed is how we expect to see Him when He comes again to us. I’m not saying that’s how He will come, but rather what our faith and expectations are regarding His return. So how do you picture that? Take a moment to ask yourself what you expect you will see.
Most of the pictures of His ascension that I’m aware of have verbally (in stories) or artistically (in paintings) portrayed Him as just kind of lifting up like a helium balloon when you let go of the string, only straight up, not floating on breezes. Sometimes in older paintings He has one finger in the air as if He’s giving directions: “I’m heading up,” or perhaps we see Him with arms raised to bless them which stay uplifted even when He’s far into the sky, all with not a hint of emotion on His face. I’ve never seen joy in any portrayal that I can recall, even in the movies when they dared to portray this event. Have you? I would think He would exude pure unhindered joy owing to the greatest sense of accomplishment possible in the universe, besides the fact that He was headed “Home!” You’d think it would show on His face, right?
His desire for his disciples was that “they may have My joy made full in themselves” (John 17:13). How full is full? How joyful is that? Is your Yeshua joyful? Is that what you believe He wants in fullness for you? Joy comes from being in His presence. He is our joy-source. Joy comes from receiving His righteousness and from a cleansed and clear conscience. I do believe that our faith for a cleansed conscience is related to our faith for His return. If we’re compromising or harboring something we shouldn’t be, and we’ve allowed our consciences to remain uncleansed (as in holding onto sin or unforgiveness) then are we not so likely to be anticipating His return with joyous expectation. Friend, nothing is worth costing us free access to Him and the anticipation of joy at His return.
So, if how we picture Him when He ascended will have some effect on our faith about His return, perhaps this is true not just about this rapture issue but about anything related to the Lord; the greater the revelation we have of
“…the greater the revelation we have of Him, the greater our faith. And the deeper our worship.”
Him, the greater our faith. And the deeper our worship. So again, what are your images of the Lord at His return? Does He just hang there in the sky waiting for us all to come to Him like metal filings are drawn to a magnet? Is it just Him you see or do you see Him wrapped in and surrounded by glory? Do you see Him alone, in a white ankle length robe like He might have worn walking the fields of the Galilee, with a winged angel nearby with a silver horn? Or do you see Him clothed with light brighter than the sun at midday accompanied by myriads of angels announcing His arrival? Do you see Him as the Man He was while on earth, or in the might and power as the Resurrected Lord of the universe and full of glory?
Or, if I may respectfully ask has your focus of the rapture been more about what happens to you or even to those who are “left behind” than on Yeshua at His coming? Most of the teaching I’ve received on the rapture (and admittedly I may not have been given the full understanding some others attest to on the subject) have been that day when I will hear His trumpet call and find myself being air-lifted into the sky with millions of other Believers and then we will be with the Lord (who was never described to me) and the heavens will close and we go in with Him. Not to rehash this, but I’ve heard more teachings and stories about the evil that will take place on the earth after the church is gone but very little about the Lord Himself. Lots of conjecture but little revelation, if I may say so.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned to be a bit skeptical about conjecture. When does God ever do things as we expect Him to? It’s true that He gives us prophecies so we can recognize when He does do something, but almost never is it what we would have expected. Take for instance things like: a pregnant virgin; the Son of God born in a barn, angels announcing Him to shepherds while ignoring the priests; sinners and tax collectors as His friends; the Samaritan woman with five ex-husbands as the first evangelist; the King becoming the criminal to overcome sin; dying to conquer death; and then there’s the resurrection — who would have expected that? I ask you, is God predictable? Dependable, yes. Faithful, yes. Consistent, yes. But predictable, I don’t think so.
We in this generation are having God open up to us insight and entrance into things of the Spirit as no other generation has known. I keep wanting to put !!! after everything. Can you tell I’m excited about Yeshua? And though the days we live in might prove to be more “tribulation” than we had anticipated being here for, for those who are His, a confrontation between His Light and the darkness is one in which we get to be His Body on the earth, acting as His ambassadors in His righteousness and in His power. I expect to be a part of the most glorious thing that has happened since God said, “Let there be light?” and there was!!!
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2009.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.