Will the Rapture Be Instantaneous When Jesus Returns?
By Huan Bao
Editor’s Note: Many brothers and sisters believe that when the Lord returns, we’ll instantaneously change into another form and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, but is that idea in line with the truth? That’s unveiled for you in this article.
At a coworkers’ meeting, Wang Jing, Xiao Ya, Gao Mingyuan, Liu Jie, Fan Bing and the others had just wrapped up their discussion of the work of the church.
Wang Jing then said gravely, “Brothers and sisters, the world is currently rife with famines, earthquakes, and plagues, plus wars are constantly breaking out—there have been also so many blood moons. These are all signs of the last days and the Lord Jesus’ return! We can see from the trends in the world that we’ve reached the critical time of the Lord’s coming, and perhaps He’s already returned. We remain alert and pray so that we can welcome His return. There’s something else on my mind now that I’d like to discuss with everyone. I don’t know why, but for the last few years I’ve been feeling more and more like I’ve grown spiritually distant from the Lord. All that enthusiasm and love I used to have has gradually dissipated, and even though I’ve been preaching the gospel and working for the Lord all these years, and I’ve suffered a fair amount, I’ve discovered that I just can’t seem to uphold His words. I still frequently find myself sinning and going against His teachings. The Lord Jesus very clearly requires us to be innocent, honest people, and only honest people can enter the kingdom of heaven. But in my interactions with others, I often lie and deceive just to protect my own interests. If I see that there’s a brother or sister in the church who isn’t doing as well as I am, I get arrogant and look down on them, and when there’s some disruption in my home, or a family member falls ill or suffers some sort of disaster, I misunderstand and blame the Lord. I’m constantly bound by sin, and I really haven’t experienced or put the Lord’s words into practice; I haven’t been able to live out the reality of the Lord’s words. Do you think that people like us who are always sinning, confessing, and sinning again can really be raptured into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes? I really wonder if we’ll be cast out by the Lord when He returns.”
A number of coworkers deeply identified with what Wang Jing had to say and began discussing it.
Xiao Ya said uneasily, “It’s so true. I’ve been reflecting on this lately, too. From everything that’s happening in the world now, we can see that the Lord’s day is upon us, but we’re still living in this state of continually sinning and confessing. Even though we’re working hard, we still covet vanity, and revel in the pleasures of sin. When someone else does something to impinge on our face, status, or interests, we engage in petty intrigues. We’re totally lacking tolerance and patience and we particularly don’t possess loving hearts. Even the pastors and elders wrangle for name and personal benefit, and have conflicts out of jealousy. They only explain the Bible and theology in their work and sermons, and they’re still always making a show of how much work they’ve done for the Lord, how they’ve run everywhere preaching the gospel—they’re not living out the reality of the Lord’s words at all. The Lord is holy, but we are sinful, through and through, yet every day we’re hoping for the Lord to return and rapture us into the heavenly kingdom. Isn’t that just a foolish dream?”
Fan Bing already had a response prepared. “How can there be any doubt about this? Even though we still frequently sin and are constrained, bound by sin, and don’t practice many of the Lord’s words, we can’t lose hope! In the Bible, Paul said: ‘That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Romans 10:9–10). ‘And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace’ (Romans 11:6). We have been justified by faith, so the Lord no longer sees us as sinful. And it says in Philippians 3:20–21, ‘For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.’ In 1 Corinthians 15:51–52, ‘Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.’ When the Lord returns, our fleshly form will change in the blink of an eye and we will no longer be tethered and bound by sin—we’ll be totally purified and then we can be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. We just have to have faith in the Lord!”
Some coworkers nodded their heads in agreement, while others furrowed their brows. Gao Mingyuan stood up, poured himself a glass of water, and paced the room while saying, “These passages that Brother Fan just mentioned were all things said by Paul. Would it really be right to tailor our practice to Paul’s words? Over these years of gathering and preaching we’ve hardly ever talked about the Lord Jesus’ own words, and we particularly don’t put them into practice. Instead, we’re constantly elevating and bearing witness to Paul’s words, even on something as critical as getting into the kingdom of heaven. We think that we’re entirely justified by our faith in the Lord alone, and in spite of the fact that we’re constantly sinning and have not achieved purification, we’ll just instantaneously change form and be taken up into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord returns. Our practice has been based on Paul’s words all these years—have we had confirmation of this from the Holy Spirit’s work? Have we reaped a good harvest? We work and preach according to Paul’s words and it seems all our brothers and sisters have faith in them being raptured into heaven upon the coming of the Lord. But no one focuses on putting the Lord’s words into practice and keeping the commandments in their daily lives. Some of them are even indulging themselves more and more, following their fleshly preferences, pursuing name and status, following the evil trends of the world, just preoccupied with eating, drinking, and making merry. They have no fear of God whatsoever, but are living in sin without even true repentance. All our brothers and sisters seem to feel that since the Lord has pardoned our sins, even though we haven’t yet become pure, the Lord will be able to make us holy in a flash when He comes, and then we’ll get into the kingdom of heaven as expected. Do all of you really think that this kind of faith conforms to the Lord’s will? God says, ‘you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:45). And the Bible says, ‘… holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). The Lord is holy and righteous, and only those who have been freed from sin and purified can get into heaven. We can’t achieve that purity, so we’re not worthy of seeing the Lord’s face. We are constantly sinning and don’t put the Lord’s words into practice, but we’re constantly waiting for the Lord to take us up into the heavenly kingdom—isn’t that just a castle in the sky?”
Stunned, Wang Jing thought to herself, “What Brother Gao said is true! Our seeking is based on Paul’s words, and even though it’s easier, we don’t experience any growth in our lives. Not only has our faith in, love for, and submission to the Lord not increased one bit, but we’ve been paying less and less attention to practicing His words, at times indulging ourselves and wantonly sinning, and over time we don’t even reproach ourselves anymore…. By practicing Paul’s words, not only have we failed to sin less, but we’ve been constantly living in sin with no true repentance. The Lord is holy—if we continue on like this, we can’t possibly see His face, so how could we even dream of being raptured into the kingdom of heaven?”
Fan Bing wagged his finger at Brother Gao and said with irritation, “Brother Gao, you can’t say that! The Lord Jesus was crucified and redeemed us from our sins, so we are very clearly justified by our faith in Him. No one can condemn us for our sins. Just as Paul said, ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns?’ (Romans 8:33–34). Since God has justified us and we’ve already been saved once, then we are saved for all eternity and we don’t need to worry about whether or not we sin, or whether or not we’ve been cleansed. As long as we believe Paul’s words, when the Lord comes, in the blink of an eye we’ll change form and be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. If we don’t have faith in even this, then are we still believers in the Lord?”
Fan Bing had barely gotten his last word out when Liu Jie offered this rebuttal: “Brother Fan, I disagree with what you’ve just said. Who are God’s elect? Those who constantly sin and confess, who know nothing of repentance? Are they believers lacking hearts of reverence for God, who cannot obey Him but always rebel against and resist Him, steal His sacrifices, who are promiscuous? Could people like that be God’s elect? Based on your ideas, it doesn’t matter what sorts of sins we as believers commit—the Lord will forgive us regardless, and when He comes we’ll just be raptured up into the kingdom of heaven. If that really were the case, how can you explain Revelation 21:27? ‘And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ There’s also Hebrews 10:26–27: ‘For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.’ I feel that only those with true testimony, who are able to practice in accordance with the Lord’s words are God’s elect. On top of that, the Lord Jesus prophesied that when He returns in the last days He’ll separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the good servants from the evil. If we could get straight into the kingdom of heaven because we’re justified by faith, because we’re saved by grace, then how would those prophecies from the Lord Jesus be fulfilled? I really don’t think that being raptured is as simple as we’ve imagined it is.”
Gao Mingyuan opened up a Bible and said, “Sister Liu’s fellowship was on point—entering the kingdom of heaven isn’t as easy as we think it is. In Revelation 22:12, it is prophesied that ‘behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.’ This shows us that when the Lord returns in the last days, He’ll reward or punish every person in accordance with their actions. As believers, being able to get into the kingdom of heaven is directly related to whether or not we put the Lord’s words into practice and keep to the Lord’s path. Based on what Paul said, it wouldn’t matter if we adhere to His path or how much we sin—when the Lord returns we’ll just immediately take on a new form and be taken straight up to the kingdom of heaven. So then how would the Lord Jesus’ statement ‘to give every man according as his work shall be’ be fulfilled? We can see from this that Paul’s words completely deviate from the path that God set out and His requirements of human beings. If we follow Paul’s words in our faith, it will ultimately be self-defeating and we’ll grow farther and farther from God. There’s no way we’ll be able to meet God’s requirements to enter the kingdom of heaven. This even further clarifies for us that what Paul said about justification by faith and instantly taking on a new form when the Lord comes isn’t remotely in line with the truth—it was nothing but his own notions and imagination! The Lord Jesus is the Lord of heaven, and only God can determine what sort of person gets into the kingdom of heaven. Paul was just a corrupt human being, so it wasn’t up to him to determine whether or not we’ll be let into God’s kingdom. If we don’t take the Lord’s own words as our basis in waiting for His coming and being raptured up into the kingdom of heaven, if we don’t carry out His words but instead cling to our delusions according to whatever Paul said, just waiting for the Lord’s coming to be totally changed in an instant, we run the risk of being cast out by the Lord! That’s why we as believers need to go according to the Lord’s words in all things, particularly regarding the Lord’s coming. We especially have to make the Lord’s words our basis—this is the only way to do His will.”
Wang Jing nodded in agreement at this and said, “I give thanks to the Lord. This fellowship really contains light and comes from the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment. Thinking of how we believe in the Lord but don’t focus on putting His words into practice or seek to cast off our corruption and be cleansed, but instead uphold the words of Paul and base our seeking on Paul’s words, isn’t that using his words in lieu of the Lord’s words? This way, we’re believers in the Lord name only, but in practice we just believe in Paul. This is in opposition to God! Isn’t it terribly blind and foolish of us to seek in accordance with Paul’s words, not the Lord’s, regarding something as important as welcoming the Lord’s coming?”
Xiao Ya also exclaimed, “That’s right, now I realize that if we don’t put effort into the Lord’s words or seriously ponder them and seek to know His will, but instead base our practice on the words of a human being, that really would be going against the Lord without even realizing it. That is really terrible!”
This suddenly brought something to mind for Wang Jing and she hurriedly asked, “Brothers and sisters, since only those who have been freed from sin and purified can enter into the kingdom of heaven, how can we cast off the bonds of sin? I’d like to free myself from corruption but I just can’t help but sin all the time. I try to rein myself in but I simply can’t do it. What on earth can be done?”
Gao Mingyuan looked around at everyone there and said with a smile, “We live in sin and we can’t resolve the root of the problem through self-control alone. Only God can save us from the shackles of sin. In fact, the Lord Jesus pointed out the way for us a long time ago. The Lord Jesus said, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). ‘And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:47–48). ‘I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. … Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth. … And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth’ (John 17:15, 17, 19). We can see from the Lord’s words that in the last days when the Lord Jesus returns He will express the truth and do the step of His work of judgment, leading us to enter into all truths. This way we can escape from sin, achieving purification and full salvation. God’s work is very practical, not at all the way we imagine it to be, completely changing form in the blink of an eye and making us pure. Instead, His work and words are very real, very practical. He uses words to judge and cleanse man’s sins so that we can be freed from corruption. If we accept the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, undergo His work, and put His words into practice, only then will we be able to fully escape the bonds of sin and be cleansed, and then be worthy of being brought into God’s kingdom by Him, and receiving His blessings and promise.”
Xiao Ya’s eyes lit up, and she said happily, “Oh, so the Lord’s going to return in the last days, express more words and do the work of judgment, allowing us to understand all truths from God’s words and be cleansed. This makes so much sense and I can’t help but think of what’s written in 1 Peter 4:17, ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?’ It was prophesied in the Bible long ago that the Lord would come in the last days and do a step of the work of judgment to cleanse us. Thanks to the Lord, now we have a path to escape from sin and be purified!”
Wang Jing also said with emotion, “Yes, the Lord’s work really is so practical! If we want to seek purification and entry into the kingdom of heaven, we have to undergo the judgment and cleansing of God’s words in a very practical way, and seek transformation through God’s words. I give thanks to the Lord for this enlightenment and guidance. Today’s fellowship has really shifted my incorrect perspectives, otherwise I would still continue to seek based on the words of Paul. The consequences are unthinkable! I truly give thanks to the Lord! Oh, Coworker Gao, what was the source of this enlightening fellowship you shared today?”
Smiling, Gao Mingyuan said, “I didn’t understand any of these things until I read a certain book, which I’ve brought here today. How about we read some of it together?”
Everyone exclaimed, “Great!”
With the exception of Fan Bing, who had a very dour look on his face, everyone else at the meeting felt that this fellowship contained the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit and had resolved some of their deepest quandaries. They couldn’t help but give thanks for the Lord’s guidance.