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Our Gathering Together Unto Him

The coming of the Lord to the air for the believer and our gathering together unto Him will surely rank as one of the most sensational, dramatic and mystifying events ever to take place in human history. The purpose of this article, however, is to consider firstly what this future events means to the Lord and then consider its effect on the Christian believers of this dispensation. The world will be plunged into confusion, speculation, ignorance and rebellion against God, but for us believers, let us rejoice in knowing that we will actually participate in this event. I emphasize "us believers" just in case some interested reader does not know the assurance of God's forgiveness1 and the gift of eternal life2 through faith in Jesus Christ. If you have rejected Jesus Christ as your Saviour then the event about which we write is not for you. You will be left behind to face a fearful time on earth such as the world has never known. If, on the other hand, you are prepared to trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then in addition to receiving His forgiveness and salvation, the promise of the Lord's return will be a definite prospect for you.

Often we are so taken up with ourselves, we fail to appreciate that many precious truths are revealed to give us an insight into how such things affect the Lord. So let us now make this our starting point.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, God has been robbed of true fellowship with man, and even the most saintly of the redeemed must have been aware that practical fellowship with the Lord was greatly hindered through personal sin and failure. Divine pleasure at the prospect of such a restored relationship is expressed in these Scriptures: If a man love Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and

We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him;3 and

Behold, I stand at door and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.4

Also the Saviour Himself is spoken of as having endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. That joy must include the perfect fellowship resulting from the sharing of eternity with His bride, gathered together unto Him without spot or blemish. Further, since the Lord Himself6 is coming for us the event must mean a lot to Him. In fact it is a major appointment in His eternal diary. So at the rapture the Lord's joy will be very full and, furthermore, at this coming He does not have to carry out any distasteful judgements on the world He loves.

Now we can consider what all this means for the believer. Firstly, the revealing of the rapture is intended to be a strong comfort7 when we think about our loved departed dead in Christ. We know that they are safe with Him from the moment of death, for Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord8. However, although we have no reason to doubt that this is a joyous state for these departed believers; a soul in a disembodied state is just a temporary expedient until the dead can join with the living in divinely ordered eternal bodies. The revelation of the rapture provides additionally a detailed account of the raising of the believing dead and our being reunited with them. The meeting place is the air9, to which location both the living and resurrected believers unitedly ascend.

Let us now look at some descriptive detail, remembering that God's truth can only be communicated to us in terms men understand. For example, how can the old body be raised to be reunited with the soul and at the same time the soul receive a new body? I would suggest that the old is changed in such a way as to make it new. Thus the resurrected, mortal, corruptible body is reformed into a completely new building10, in which the soul and spirit will again dwell. This new body is necessary for the eternal environment. If we think about what happens to the bodies of living believers then we can be helped to understand what will happen to the bodies of the believing dead, for both will spend eternity in a compatible state. The living believer, at the moment of rapture, is changed". The earthly body which is mortal (subject to death) and, in death, corruptible (subject to decay) will become immortal and incorruptible. Therefore in resurrection the original body of the dead believer will, I suggest, be reformed and changed into an incorruptible (and immortal) entity similar to that of the living changed believer. At this point the form of the individual will be sealed for eternity.

We turn now to the expression "the last trump."11 This may imply a series of trumpet sounds, from which some have deduced that living believers will know the rapture is taking place some time before being caught up. During this time, be it short or long, some have suggested that opportunity will be provided to give loved ones and friends a last chance to be saved. The difficulties encountered by such a notion lead the present writer to reject it and decline to speculate on what Scripture does not tell us.

Another real difficulty concerns what happens to the young children of believing parents. How many of us secretly hoped that the Lord would delay His coming just that little bit longer until our children were old enough to have trusted the Saviour? In the absence of specific guidance in Scripture, all we can do is consider general principles for our help. It is not God's way to punish the innocent with the wicked12, and God's mercy in relation to the children is often reflected in Scripture, as in the sparing of Hagar for her child's sake13; and probably many of those Ninevites pitied by God were children14. So in this sensitive matter there is no alternative other than to trust in the goodness of God and leave the matter there. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"15

Finally, the rapture will be one of God's greatest triumphs. Although death will continue on earth (for the last enemy that will be destroyed is death)16, the rapture demonstrates that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead was a firstfruits. Death will then be seen to have no hold on the living believer, which truth was referred to by the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry, "Whoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die."17 He also referred to the fact that the grave will be seen to have no hold on the dead believer. "He that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live."18

To sum up, let us remind ourselves of the practical implications of the rapture, for it is set forth in the Scriptures to galvanize us into a sense of urgency in serving the Lord, and put us in a state of preparedness to meet Him. Many feel that the Lord's coming is very near because the scene is set for prophecies to be fulfilled which happen after the rapture. So in preparing to meet Him consider such questions as these: Are there any disputes and differences that should be hastily resolved? Are there friends and neighbours to whom we meant to witness for Christ but delayed? Are there continuing failures and sins in our life that are spoiling our devotion and communion? The list is almost endless. So, in conclusion, may consideration of this subject leave a strong challenge to all of us to serve the Lord better because time may be very short.

Should we die, then resurrection,

Then the glorious mystery;

Raised to know a long perfection,

In Thy likeness we shall be.

In a moment

Raised to incorruption we.

We who live, on earth remaining,

Till Thy coming, ne'er shall die,

Never need a resurrection,

Changed and gathered in the sky;

In a moment made immortal,

In the twinkling of an eye.

Thus in living or in dying

We have here a wondrous word;

On that faithful word relying,

We are happy in the Lord;

For in living or in dying,

Life and joy it doth afford.

References:

1 Acts 10:43

2 Romans 6:23

3 John 14:23

4 Rev. 3:20

5 Hebrews 12:2

6 1 Thess. 4:16

7 1 Thess. 4:18

8 2 Cor. 5:8

9 l Thess. 4:17

10 2 Cor. 5:14

11 1 Cor. 15:52

12 Exodus 23:7

13 Genesis 21:17

14 Jonah 4:1l

15 Genesis 18:25

16 1 Cor. 15:26

17 John 11:26

18 John 11:25