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"The Rapture"! Many an average person on the street may never have heard of it until watching religious programs on television or listening to conversations by "born-again" Christians. "The Rapture"? What's that? But large numbers of Church goers in various denominations hear all about it - often. They live in constant expectation of it. "Christ may come tonight and snatch the Church away to heaven," the preacher assures in revival meetings, in Sunday Church services and on television. "The trumpet may sound before this meeting is over, or before you wake up in the morning," the evangelist warns. When that happens the cemeteries burst open and the dead saints arise, and those still living go zooming off into the sky to meet the Lord. Such a snatching away or "rapture" of the Church, it is claimed, will be the next great prophetic event. And it may take place at any moment. Millions of believers wonder with great concern, "When will it happen? Will it be in my lifetime? Will I be ready? Who of my loved ones will miss it and have to go through the Great Tribulation?"
It is generally supposed to happen this way: Strife, crime, violence and evil doing in the world will become increasingly worse. Civilization will plunge headlong toward a time of intense trouble. Suddenly, just before the world arrives at a period of calamity called "the tribulation," we are told, Jesus will return invisibly and snatch away - "rapture" - all born-again Christians and take them to heaven, or away up in the clouds somewhere, away from the world turmoil, for seven years. It will be a sudden, yet secret event. No one will see it happen. Only the effects - empty cars, empty houses, empty beds, workers missing from their jobs - will be apparent. Some suggest what the newspaper headlines will be like the day after: "Millions Mysteriously Vanish!" "Graves Found Open and Empty!" "Massive Traffic Snarles Due to Missing Drivers!" "Planes Crash, Trains Wreck As Pilots and Engineers Disappear!" "All Children Have Disappeared!" Pictures have been drawn by artists, and distributed by the multiplied thousands, of Jesus standing on a stratocumulus cloud a few thousand feet in the air, while Christians are being lifted out of a city below. Business of all kinds will be disrupted, while tumult, confusion, misery and terror will reign. The airports, trains, bus lines, and the great industrial plants over the world will be hushed, as so many of the head men, the pilots, engineers, managers, foremen, workers and others will be missing. Families will be separated, one taken and the other left; wives will bewail the sudden disappearance of their husbands, husbands will bemoan the loss of their wives. Parents will search in vain with terror-stricken faces for their children.
They go on to describe how all the people who are left on earth will have to go through seven years of terrible trouble and punishment. During this time the great Antichrist will make his appearance and display his power, the apocalyptic judgments the unmeasured wrath of God - foretold in the book of Revelation will be unleashed in dreadful fury upon the inhabitants of the world, and there will be a time of unequalled tribulation. Then, at the end of this period, according to the teaching, Christ will return from heaven once again in a great universal public display, bringing all His saints with Him. The reason for this is, they say, because God is far too good to allow His people to go through such tribulation. The implication is that they are far too weak to survive in the face of such demonic power. So they will be called away to attend the "Marriage Supper in the Sky", receive their "rewards" for their labors here, and have a glorious seven years of feasting, singing and celebration - while their unsaved loved ones, their dear friends and neighbors who had not been born again, and the untaught millions of heathen are suffering indescribable agonies on earth. "Good enough for them!" seems to be the general attitude, "they should have listened and gotten prepared, like me. "
That's the way the "rapture" is usually presented. But is that how Jesus announced He would return? Will He come back physically in two phases - one, secret and unexpected, "for" His saints, to rapture them away; and a second, publicly "with" His saints? Is this "rapture" really the "hope" of the Church as the preachers are wont to proclaim? Let me give you the history of how this theory got started.
It wasn't until the early or mid 1800's that there was any significant group of believers around the world that looked for a "rapture" of the Church prior to a seven-year tribulation period. It may come as a shock to some who read these lines, but it is a fact nonetheless, that the "rapture" teaching was NOT taught by the early Church, it was NOT taught by the Church of the first centuries, it was NOT taught by the Reformers, IT WAS NOT TAUGHT BY ANYONE (except a couple Roman Catholic theologians) UNTIL ABOUT THE YEAR 1830! At the time of the Reformation the early Protestants widely held and Were convinced that the Pope was the supreme individual embodiment and personification of the spirit of antichrist, and the Roman Church the Harlot System of Rev. 17. This understanding was responsible for bringing millions of believers out of the Roman Catholic religious system. It therefore became expedient for certain Romish theologians to turn the attention of the people away from the Papacy, and this they endeavored to a counter-interpretation to that held by the Protestants. This new scheme of prophetic interpretation became known as FUTURISM. Rather than viewing the drama of the book of Revelation spiritually and historically, they would consign it all to a brief period of time at the end of the age. It was a Jesuit priest named Ribera who, in the days of the Reformation, first taught that all the events in the book of Revelation were to take place literally during the three and a half years reign of the Antichrist away down at the end of the age. Thus Ribera laid the foundation of a system of prophetic interpretation of which the Secret Rapture has now become an integral part.
Later, Emmanuel Lacunza, also a Jesuit priest, built on Ribera's teachings, and spent much of his life writing a book titled "The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty." Lacunza, however, wrote under the assumed name of "Rabbi Ben Ezra," supposedly a learned Jew who had accepted Christ as his Saviour. With Jesuit cunning he thus conspired to get his book a hearing in the Protestant world - they would not even permit it in their homes coming from a Jesuit pen - but as the earnest work of a "converted Jew" they would consume it with avid interest! Within the pages of this elaborate forgery Lacunza taught the novel notion that Jesus returns not once, but twice, and at the "first stage" of His return He "raptures" His Church so they can escape the reign of the "future Antichrist." His book was first published in Spanish in the year 1812 and soon found its way onto the shelves of the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London, England.
Now enter the name of Edward Irving. Born in Scotland in 1792, Irving became one of the most eloquent preachers of his time. In 1828 his open-air meetings in Scotland drew crowds of 10,000 people. His Church in London seated one thousand people and was packed week after week with a congregation drawn from the most brilliant and influential circles of society. There were some among them who by prophetic declaration announced that the Lord was coming soon, and this idea became prominent in their prophetic utterances and teachings. Out of those prophetic declarations some began to study the scriptures in the light of a physical, literal coming of the Lord. Up until that time the coming of the Lord was understood as a coming of the Lord TO His people, and IN His saints, and there was no sense of His fleshly coming. Irving discovered Lacunza's book and was deeply shaken by it, in fact, fell in love with it, translated it into English, and it was published in London in 1827. And at this very time Irving heard what he believed to be a Voice from heaven commanding him to preach the Secret Rapture of the Saints. Then Irving began to hold Bible Conferences throughout Scotland, emphasizing the coming of Jesus to rapture His Church.
About this same time there began the emergence of a new movement which came to be known as the "Plymouth Brethren." The Brethren movement had its beginning in Dublin in 1825 when a small group of earnest men, dissatisfied with the spiritually lethargic condition that prevailed in the Protestant Church in Ireland, met for prayer and fellowship. Soon others joined the fellowship and associated groups sprang up in various places. Though the movement had its beginning at Dublin ' , it was Plymouth, England that became the center of their vast literature outreach, thus the name !'Plymouth Brethren" became attached. Although there was interest from the start in prophetic subjects, the center of interest was on the body of Christ as an organism and the spiritual unity in Christ of all believers - in reaction to the deadness and formalism of the organized church systems and the ecclesiastical Heirarchy. A man by the name of John Nelson Darby was the leading spirit among the Plymouth Brethren from 1830 onward. Darby was from a prosperous Irish family, was educated as a lawyer, took high honors at Dublin University, then turned aside, to his father's chagrin, to become a minister.
Thus Irving and Darby were contemporaries, though associated with different spiritual movements. Another series of meetings were in progress at this time, a group of seeking Christians were meeting in the castle of Lady Powerscourt for the study of Bible prophecy. Many clergymen attended, and quite a few who were Irvingites. The Irvingites came to the meetings obsessed with the ideas of the "Secret Rapture" and the future Antichrist, imbibed from the Jesuit Lacunza's book. J.N. Darby and the other Brethren leaders were invited to these meetings and became participators in them. It was there that he was introduced to the Jesuit teaching of the Secret Rapture and the futurist interpretation of prophecy, as well as the famous book by Rabbi Ben-Ezra, or, actually, Jesuit priest Emmanuel Lacunza! Darby was himself a prolific writer and from that time a constant stream of propaganda came from his pen. His writings on biblical subjects number over 30 volumes of 600 pages each. Darby developed and organized "futurism" into a system of prophetic teaching called "dispensationalism." Darby' s biographers refer to him as "the father of dispensationalism." And the crown jewel in the kingdom of dispensationalism is, of course, the so-called SECRET RAPTURE!
The Secret Rapture teaching was introduced into the United States and Canada in the 1860's and 1870's, though there is some indication that it may have been taught as early as the 1840's. Darby himself visited the United States six times. The "new" teaching was spreading. A Congregationalist preacher by the name of C. I. Scofield came under the influence of Darby and the Plymouth Brethren. Scofield became a strong promoter of the teaching that had been promulgated by Darby, whom he considered "the most profound Bible student of modern times." He incorporated this teaching into his SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE. The Scofield Reference Bible was destined to have a tremendous impact upon the beliefs of many, when, three million copies were published in the first 50 years! Through this Bible Scofield shrewdly carried the teaching of the Secret Rapture into the very heart of Evangelicalism. Some ignorant souls look on the "notes" in this Bible as the Word of God itself! I do not doubt for one instant that many who read these lines have been influenced somewhere in their spiritual lives by the "footnotes" in the Scofield Bible!
There is one final link in the chain of the development and spread of the rapture theory that should be mentioned in passing. I would draw your attention again to the SOURCE, the ORIGIN of the rapture doctrine and the chain of contact by which it has been brought down to us today. It began as a Roman Catholic invention! The Jesuit priest Ribera's writings influenced the Jesuit priest Lacunza, Lacunza influenced Irving, Irving influenced Darby, Darby influenced Scofield, Scofield and Darby influenced D. L. Moody, and Moody influenced the early PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT. How? you ask. The Assemblies of God is today by far the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. When the Pentecostal movement began at the turn of the century and the Assemblies of God held their first General Council in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas they were a small movement and didn't have their own Publishing House. They needed Sunday School and study materials for their Churches - so where do you suppose they got it? They bought it from Moody Press and had their own cover stitched on it! So what do you think the Assemblies of God people believed? They believed what Moody Bible Institute taught! This had its impact on Pentecostal theology, because in the early years there were practically NO PREMILLENIALISTS IN THE PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT! Most of the ministers in those early days came from Presbyterian, Methodist, or other historic denominations - men who, being baptized in the Holy Spirit and leaving their denominations, joined themselves to the Assemblies of God or one of the other emerging Pentecostal denominations. That is how the Pentecostal movement became influenced and saturated with the "Secret Rapture" doctrine - by a direct chain right back to the Roman Catholic Church! And now, my friend - you know the REST OF THE STORY!
The church systems are literally filled today with carnal, earthly-minded Christians who sit back in ease and self-complacency and await a future rapture that will translate them out of the midst of earth's Great Tribulation at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. To this generation of Lukewarm Laodiceans the Spirit speaks in certain tones of warning: "Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light" (Amos 5:18). In the vast majority of evangelical circles we are taught that at any moment Jesus will come and secretly, silently snatch away His elect to a heaven in the far-flung skies - to escape the Great Tribulation which shall soon visit the earth. It is not true. The saints shall be "caught up" all right; but it is not speaking of distance in terms of miles or light years, but to glorious reality in the Spirit. When Christ comes to lift our inner-man nature UP into the fullness of UNION IN HIM we certainly know the reality of being raised up and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. This is not a place in the sky, but a spiritual position of eminence, glory and authority. Paul says that we shall be caught up "in the air," that sphere of influence, authority and spirit-control now occupied by "the god of this world," the "prince and power OF THE AIR".
"Rapture" is not a biblical word. Let all of God's people stop speaking of the "rapture." The word rapture is not in the scripture and is at best very misleading. If instead of the rapture we speak of being caught up in the spirit (Acts 8:39; II Cor. 12:2-4; Rev. 4:1-2), translated into the Kingdom (Col. 1:13), raised up into the heavenlies with Christ (Eph. 2:5-6), and caught up into the throne, the spiritual dimension of the Christ's authority, power and glory (Rev. 4:1-2; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 12:5) we will rid ourselves of much confusion and carnal delusion, and we will have a much better understanding of present spiritual realities and the immediate program of God.
Religionists debate loud and long about WHEN THE "RAPTURE" IS TO TAKE PLACE. Some believe in the "pre-tribulation rapture." That means that God's people will be removed from the earth just before the beginning of the tribulation. Thus they will not be here for any of the seven years of plagues, vials, etc. Bumper stickers state: "In case of Rapture, this car will self-destruct". Tracts for airliners say: "In case the trumpet sounds, be prepared for this plane to crash, your pilot may be a Christian." These are fear tactics. Then there are those who teach the "mid-tribulation rapture." They believe that the Bible teaches that the Church will have to go through the first three and a half years of the tribulation while the Antichrist is warring against the saints, but will be raptured and spared the last three and a half years of the intense wrath and judgment of God. Finally there are the "post-tribulation" people. They teach that the Church goes through the entire seven years of tribulation, and that only after the tribulation are the saints "caught up", as according to I Thes. 4:17. They see a Church being empowered by the Spirit of God to survive the worst onslaughts of Satan and pass through victoriously to the other side. This is an admirable concept, and much closer to the truth, but these still embrace the notion of the rapture.
There is a story of King Charles II of England, that he once puzzled the Royal Society (a society of scientists) by propounding the question, Why is a dead fish heavier than a live one? The men of science debated this question with much acumen, and offered various solutions to it. It however occurred to one of them to make sure by experiment that the dead fish was in fact the heavier; and it was found that it was not. Now this trick of the Jesting Monarch is often played upon us by our own minds. We assume, because the preachers and teachers play the incessant drumbeat, that there IS a rapture. But when one carefully examines "the alleged fact" of the rapture he is led to the astounding discovery that in fact there isn't even any such thing!
A German Prince was once visiting a certain city. When greeted by a deputation from the Town Council he expressed great surprise that his arrival had not been heralded by salvoes of cannon. The Burgomaster, who had a sense of humor, replied that there were a hundred reasons for the omission. Asked by the Prince what they were, he began: "In the first place we have no cannon; in the second we - " "Now," broke in the Prince, "your first reason is so good that I don't want to hear the other ninety-nine." That answer comes to mind as one reflects on the theory of the Secret Rapture. We wait in vain for one strong argument that simply compels us to consider their view. Take a searchlight. Take all the suns and moons and stars, break the rim of the Milky Way and pour the compacted brilliance of its infinite depths of light into every crevice of the good old Book; search every page and chatter and verse and line, from Gen. 1:1 through Rev. 22:21, and you can find no trace of it in teaching, in prophecy, in parable or in symbol. The rapture is simply not found in the Bible! That one reason is so good that we have no need to consider any others!
Since so many Christians are steadfastly looking for Jesus to come FOR the Church, to whisk it away up to heaven somewhere, we need to take a closer look at the Word and see if ANYWHERE in the Bible we can find this expression "coming FOR the saints." This may come as a shock to some, but the Bible NOWHERE speaks of Jesus coming "FOR the saints." Let those who carelessly use this term show us where it appears in the pages of God's inspired Book. Let them search! It cannot be found! Never! Nowhere! Not even once! Surely then, a teaching which constantly employs an expression that is foreign to the Word of God should be subjected to close examination. I can hear some dear saint saying, "Oh, but the Bible does say that Jesus is coming FOR a Church without spot or wrinkle." No it doesn't! What it says is that Christ so loved the Church and gave Himself for it "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:26-27). It says nothing about taking the Church anywhere. In order to "present the Church to Himself" in a holy and blameless condition doesn't necessitate changing the Church's physical location at all! There is no reference to a journey; the description is of a CONDITION. Our Lord's coming "for" His Church is nothing more than an invention of ignorant minds, hatched up by men who are reading into their Bibles many fantastic tales which they use to uphold their delusions. The sleeping Church, of course, can think of little else except a physical ride into the clouds, being whisked away into an ethereal state and experience of their own invention, where they intend to sit around dressed in white nightgowns or something similar, eating - eating - eating what?
But let us forget all this nonsense. Let us come on down out of the clouds and get our feet planted firmly on solid footing, and leave them there. We are not going anywhere: not for a long while, at least. We are not yet ready to go anywhere, in fact. These people who think they are all prepared to be physically caught away to the throne on high and there help God run His universe, are simply manifesting the fact that they are just babes living in a dream-world and are not even capable of eating good wholesome spiritual food. Before we are fitted for running God's affairs and ruling with Christ over His universe, we have got to become proficient at running our little earth. This is our proving ground. And we are going to stay right here until we graduate! Before we are even capable of running an earth we must grow up spiritually and become proficient at living by the principles of the Kingdom and walking out the mind, nature and will of the Father in our own lives. The Church has not yet done even this. The vast majority, including the preachers, are just babies who still need a lot of comforts and soothing syrups, need to have their garments changed quite regularly and their bottle filled and held for them. Of course I know that the Church realizes what a horrible mess she has made of things in general, and would like to run away off somewhere to get away from it all. But she is going to stay right here and face the music, whether she wants to or not.
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:13). There is a strange thing happening today, for most Christians are not looking for the "coming" of the Lord - rather, they are expecting the "going" of the saints! It is hard to convince men of the truth when for years their minds have been set in a contrary direction. The truth is that the "blessed hope" is not the rapture; it is the APPEARING of the Lord. The "blessed hope" is not deliverance from the Tribulation; it is HIS GLORIOUS APPEARING in His people. We are not looking for a rapture to take people out of this old world, but we are looking for HIM TO APPEAR out of the innermost being of His sons to transform His elect so that they will be able to change the very courses of this world. This is the time of the appearing of Christ in power and great glory. The Lord has confirmed this fact by appearing to us personally, and to others as well. He is coming and has come to us in His spiritual presence and is uncovering Himself within us to appear through us to the world. With each appearing of our Lord we witness greater growth unto maturity and perfection than we have seen in the past, for the Lord is doing that quick work. This is a very significant hour, an hour of much spiritual activity, accomplished by the arising of HIS LIFE WITHIN.
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted WORTHY TO ESCAPE all these things that shall come to pass, and TO STAND BEFORE THE SON OF MAN" (Lk. 21:36). This verse of scripture has often been misapplied to the rapture theory. However, the words of Jesus are relevant to this hour and should be considered in the light of all present, revealed truth. If the old rapture theory is wrong, as we certainly believe it is, what then did Jesus mean by admonishing us to "pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape" the things that are coming upon the world? Some like to point at Enoch, who was translated that he should not see death, and say that he is a type of those who are raptured before the Tribulation, thus "escaping" the things that are coming upon the earth. But Enoch did not live during the time that judgment was being poured out on the earth in the form of a flood. Enoch had his experience some 669 years before the Flood, and never met Noah. In other words, his translation (and that's another story!) was not for the purpose of helping him escape the flood.
It is NOT Enoch who serves as the type of how one escapes the judgments of God poured out in the earth, but NOAH! Jesus did not say, "As it was in the days of Enoch." He said, "But AS THE DAYS OF NOAH WERE, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away; SO SHALL ALSO THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN BE" (Mat. 24:37-39). How the preachers have distorted and mutilated these wonderful words of our Lord! Songs have been written and sermons preached to urge us to be ready to be "taken" when Jesus comes. The great truth is that Jesus is saying the exact opposite! Let us consider what happened in the days of Noah. Who was taken? Who was left? "For as in the days that were before the flood THEY (the wicked) were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and (they, the wicked) knew not until the flood came and TOOK T-H-E-M ALL AWAY" (Mat. 24:38-39). It was the wicked that were "taken" in Noah's day, for the record states that the flood came and "took them all away." And who was left? NOAH! Noah had spent much time and diligence in building an ark in which to "ride out" the storm. Noah went THROUGH the flood, protected by the ark he had prepared and entered into. When the flood waters abated, and the wicked had been taken away, he stepped out of the ark and inherited the purified earth. He and his family now owned the whole planet! Everyone else who had held a deed to a piece of property was GONE, along with the heirs. Noah inherited the earth and there were none to dispute his claim. The previous owners had been "taken" and Noah alone was LEFT to inaugurate the new age. To which fact Jesus adds this significant statement: SO SHALL ALSO THE COMING (PRESENCE) OF THE SON OF MAN BE!
This great type points to far more than merely the inhabitants of the world being blown off the map and just you and me and a few other elect saints remaining. It points to the way of LIFE instead of DEATH. In this hour God's chosen ones are building an ark of obedience and truth, of wisdom and righteousness, that they might LIVE AND NOT DIE. I declare to you that there is a people who shall live and not die! This is not an outer ark of gopher wood and pitch, but an inner ark of the mind of Christ and the ways of God in the SPIRIT. Our "hiding place" is in Christ. "Your life is hid with God in Christ" (Col. 3:3). It is the fearful, the faithless, or the wicked, who seek a geographical hiding place. Some want to leave the earth and fly away to heaven, while some cry for the rocks and the mountains to hide them, and yet others are seeking a hiding place in some natural place, a farm, a desert, a wilderness area, etc. But it will not work. It will not work because it is natural, physical, carnal, earthly. You cannot escape from death that way. You can only escape death by LIFE! And you can only find life by sowing to the SPIRIT! It is the life of God in your spirit which will swallow up all death, enabling you to "escape" the things that are coming upon the world.
George Hawtin penned the following words of truth: "The three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace were living types of the elect of God as they will be preserved through the fires of tribulation. The fire will not hurt them and the Son of God, who was with those blessed three, will be with us also. The elect will be right here in the world, yet they will be caught up to a new realm of spiritual glory and power, a realm where nothing of the earth can really harm them. Daniel was thrown into the den of ravening lions because of his faithfulness to God, but because he lived in a heavenly realm far above all his associates, the roaring lions became as docile as domestic kittens in his presence. It is quite possible that he stroked their manes and listened with pleasure to their mighty purring throughout the night when angels came to shut their mouths, yet these same lions tore his enemies to pieces before they could fall to the bottom of the pit. And thus I think it will be for all God's elect people. They will be in the fire, but never feel it. They will be in the lion's den, but find no hurt. Yea, they will be like Noah, who rode through the great waters of the flood, but came down on side to people a glorious new age, which in our case will be the age of the Kingdom."
Those chosen ones who shall be blessed with that promised ESCAPE shall be delivered, not by being removed from the earth, but by a more glorious transformation. They shall escape the things that are coming upon the world by appearing before the Son of man - by standing before the Son of man - by union with Him in the incorruptibleness of His divine life. When anyone among us is blessed to stand before the Son of man we are changed into the same image by seeing Him as He is. But let not any saint of God think that we speak of an outward event, for the Son of man is WITHIN YOU, and it is there that you behold Him, are changed into His image, and stand before Him, your outer man brought into harmony and oneness of life with the inner, praise His wonderful name!
Another scripture used to teach the pre-tribulation rapture is Rev. 4:1-2 where John heard a voice "as it were a trumpet talking with me; which said, COME UP HITHER, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold a throne was set in heaven..." They say John was a type here of the Church being caught up off the earth into heaven just prior to the wrath of God falling upon the world in the Great Tribulation. But it says no such thing. Oh, what shame! What deliriums! Men, poor deluded and blind children who know as little of the Christ life and spiritual realities as does the father of lies whom they unwittingly serve, yet parade themselves as angels of light and their carnal imaginings as revelation direct from God! No wonder Paul wrote, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine" (II Tim. 4:3-4). No wonder Isaiah wrote, "All tables (from which the Church is fed) are filled with vomit and filthiness, so that there is NO PLACE CLEAN" (Isa. 28:8). God pity the poor victims who follow these wretched blind leaders of the blind, poor nursing infants who know not their right hand from their left, victims of these messengers of the carnal mind, poor helpless babes, who have never, since the day of their birth, had a good square spiritual meal, and who as a result grow weaker and thinner and more anemic spiritually day by day.
A tremendous revelation was given to John on Patmos. John was one of the "three mighties" who walked with the Lord in the days of His flesh; he was with Him in the Mount, he lay in His bosom and, above all others, has received the distinctive title as "that disciple whom the Lord loved." It was fitting that the man who had leaned upon the breast of God's Son and heard the inmost beating of His heart, should become the depository of His most intimate thought in respect to the course of the Church in this age. And such is the case. This picture is to be found in the book of the Revelation. The seven Churches are saluted by John. He was shown the seven candlesticks "which ARE the seven Churches" (Rev. 1:20). God raised up a prophet that could see and foretell in detail the entire Church age before it could transpire. This is what the messages to the seven Churches in Rev. 2 and 3 are all about.
This prophecy is directed to the seven Churches in Asia as they became the symbolic vehicle by which the Lord quickened a message that is not only to be unto them, but is to be relevant to all Christians throughout the entire Church age. The messages and prophecies that are seemingly directed unto the seven special Churches of Asia actually symbolize and characterize the conditions that have existed in the Church age from the day of Pentecost until now. Seven is the perfect spiritual number of completeness and these SEVEN CHURCHES embody and characterize all the combined conditions that not only existed then, but have existed in one form or another throughout this entire age and are still in some form or another manifested in the Churches today. John beheld the good and the evil of the Church age. He declared the blessings and the curses of this age. He saw the strength and the weakness of the Church. He saw the Church in its beginnings and in its consummation. He beheld the True Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and he exposed the false church systems, the swaggering harlot of this age with her unholy spirit, doctrines, organization and methods. John shows forth the full revelation of all the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church during the Church age and the ages to come.
If you want to know what the Church of this age is like look at the SEVEN CANDLESTICKS! There you have the divinely inspired portrait of the Church painted in awesome detail by the skillful hand of the Holy Spirit. The outstanding fact is that it is a Church of MIXTURE - imperfect, immature, carnal, idolatrous, lethargic, heretical, adulterous - a realm of mixture and duality. Not only is the Church age an age of mixture, but it is an experience of CONTINUED MIXTURE; as in the parable of the wheat and tares, right up to the end of the harvest the field is a MIXED FIELD; it is a field divided between wheat and tares. There is neither time nor space to explore the meaning and fulfillment of all the symbols attached to these seven Churches, but these seven Churches perfectly reveal WHAT THE CHURCH REALM IS IN ITS ENTIRETY, and history and personal experience testify conclusively that John was shown aright! The early Church itself was a mixture of flesh and spirit, truth and error, law and grace, spirituality and carnality, Christ and antichrist. And I do not hesitate to tell you that from that day to this ALL CHURCHES HAVE SO BEEN. They are today! ALL of them! Yes, YOURS too! precious friend of mine, matters not if you call it a "New Testament Church," "Kingdom Church," "Sonship Church," "End-time Church," "New Day Church," or by some other inventive title if it IS a Church - its portrait is graphically and unerringly drawn in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation. Have you been searching for the perfect Church? Forget it! Such a Church does not exist during the Church age. And should this age continue for another thousand years the Church shall not have changed - the Word of the Almighty God declares it! The seven candlesticks ARE the seven Churches and the seven Churches ARE the whole Church throughout the entire Church age. The "New Testament Church" realm can never be different from what John saw in spirit.
Notice now the inspired words that follow: "After this (the vision of the candlesticks) I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, COME UP HITHER, and I will show thee things which must be HEREAFTER. And immediately I was IN THE SPIRIT: and, behold, a THRONE WAS SET IN HEAVEN, and one sat on the throne" (Rev. 4:1-2). An entrance is given to John into the heavenlies of the Most High. A door is opened unto John into the highest spiritual dimension of the divine eternal domain. At the speaking of the trumpet, the spirit translates John into the higher spiritual and heavenly realm of the THRONE OF GOD. I would draw your reverent attention to the wording: "AFTER THIS I looked... Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be HEREAFTER." H-E-R-E-A-F-T-E-R! After what? Why, bless your heart, after the CANDLESTICK REALM! The promises have already been given, NOT TO THE CHURCHES, but to a class in the Churches - to HIM THAT OVERCOMETH. It is divinely significant that not one promise was ever given to even one Church in these Churches of mixture - every single- promise was made to that Church within the Church - the OVERCOMER - the SONS OF GOD. "HE THAT OVERCOMETH shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be MY SON" (Rev. 21:7). Ah, here is a higher realm, the realm of the OVERCOMER. There is no duality, no mixture in this higher realm, no immaturity or imperfection of any kind. And the message sounds forth like the blast of a trumpet: "COME UP HITHER!"
Is it not plain that John is shown TWO REALMS - the candlestick realm and the throne realm? First John is informed about what the candlestick realm is, then he is shown another realm HIGHER THAN THE CANDLESTICK REALM. It is the realm of the overcomer, of the throne (the Lordship realm), of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. The throne denotes the seat of authority, rulership and dominion. It is the realm of HIS LORDSHIP, and ours with Him. Any person who ever enters into that divine realm of the Spirit in the heavenlies must be in complete and total submission unto that Holy One who sits upon that heavenly throne. And "to him that overcometh will I grant to SIT WITH ME IN MY THRONE, even as I overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21). It is interesting to note that immediately following this invitation to the throne John is bidden to leave the candlestick realm of the earthlies and ascend IN THE SPIRIT (not a physical "rapture"!) into this HIGHER-THAN-THE-CANDLESTICK-REALM where the Lamb is in the throne.
This is what the brethren don't want to do! How tenaciously they cling to the candlestick realm with its five-fold ministry, New Testament Order, with its limitation, imperfection, weakness, immaturity, mixture, structures, methods, etc. Even so-called "Kingdom" preachers tell me that unless I am joined to some "New Testament Church" I will never make it into sonship. It is a lie. The truth is just the opposite. COME UP HITHER! Actually, you must leave the candlestick realm and ascend into the higher dimension of the Spirit in order to be a son of God! This revelation was given in A. D. 96. The people in the Churches of John's generation refused to leave the candlestick realm and rise to a higher experience in God and within only a few years the great apostasy set in, by the third and fourth centuries the apostasy was complete, followed by a dreadful night of great and terrible darkness. If we would be overcomers, pressing into sonship to God, our ears must hear with joy the challenging call, "Come up hither!" We must arise and forsake the limitation of the candlestick realm to become related to Christ in that inner union where HIS LORDSHIP SWALLOWS UP OUR LIVES. Oh, yes, the Lord is still out there in the candlestick realm, for as long as that realm endures there is "One like unto the Son of man standing in the midst." I have seen Him there in the midst of all the delusion, foolishness and carnality, I have beheld Him blessing, moving, speaking, saving, baptizing in the Holy Ghost, healing, imparting gifts, I have heard His voice in the praising, in the preaching, in the prayers. Yes, He is there all right, in the midst, as the light that remains in Babylon, ministering on that level, blessing by His wonderful grace. But, my beloved, I would be remiss if I failed to warn you that He is NOT THERE taking men on to perfection, into the incorruptible life, into the fullness of sonship. The "up hither" realm is where that experience is known. If any man can show me any Church order, including the early Church, or their own, that has ever carried God's people on to perfection and fullness I will recant and gladly join it. If such a Church cannot be produced, then John's estimation of the candlestick realm remains valid and I have no obligation to join myself to that which is totally impotent to minister what is needed in this hour to bring us into the depths of Jesus Christ. Here me now! We are not opposed to gatherings, meetings and ministry! It is just that all these things must be kept in the perspective of reality as the "in part" realm and not over-rated as the vehicle to bring us into fullness.
I hear a Voice, my brother, my sister, bidding me to distinguish between the "dwellers on earth" and the "dwellers in heaven." "Therefore rejoice, YE HEAVENS, and YE THAT DWELL IN THEM. Woe to the INHABITERS OF THE EARTH... for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath..." (Rev. 12:12). In the thirteenth chapter of Revelation we are told that the "dwellers in heaven" are the tabernacle of God. The tabernacle of God is that blessed company of the overcomers - the sons of God. The dwellers in heaven are the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion. The dwellers in heaven are the manchild company "caught up to God and His throne." The dwellers in heaven are the enthroned elders. The dwellers in heaven are the four living creatures in the midst of the throne. The dwellers in heaven are the Kings and Priests after the order of Melchizedek. The dwellers in heaven are the tabernacle of God. The dwellers in heaven are the warriors on white horses who come out of heaven, accompanying the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The dwellers in heaven are the New Jerusalem which comes down from God out of heaven bringing the glory of the celestial Kingdom among men. Yea! and Amen! The more you search the more clear it will become that the "open door" in heaven and the invitation "Come up hither" separates between the candlestick realm in the earthlies, which are the seven Churches, the entire age of Church economy - and the higher realm of HIS LORDSHIP WITHIN, the throne realm!
I say to you today as the trumpet-voice said to John in that long ago, "Come up hither!" We have stood on the sidelines and said, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and rapture us out of this world." And He has sat on His throne and said, "Come, My people; enter into my gates, enter into my glory." We have said, "Come and get us Lord Jesus," and He has said, Come up hither, My people; come up into the realm of My Spirit, of My reality, of My glory and power." THE DOOR IS OPEN IN HEAVEN TODAY. You may live in the candlestick or the throne. You may be an earth-dweller or a heaven-dweller. You may be a "Christian" or you may be a SON!
The word "rapture" as used theologically is a misapplied and misappropriated term. Although this word is not found in the Bible, it IS found in the dictionary. The correct rendering of "rapture" has nothing to do with going anywhere. The World Book Dictionary furnishes us with this definition: "A strong feeling that absorbs the mind; very great joy. A feeling of being lifted high in MIND and SPIRIT; being filled with and completely taken up in feeling or delight or bliss." Armed with the true definition of rapture, is it not clear that we have been raptured on occasions too numerous to mention, as we have experienced the life of God in our SPIRIT from glory to glory!
Men gaze steadily into the skies looking for Jesus to come flashing across the heavens to snatch them up and carry them away, but their spirits have never been enravished with these enlightening words: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and HATH TRANSLATED US into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13). Is that not an illuminating statement? And while the preachers rant and rave and speculate about a "rapture", displaying their carnal charts complete with pictures of automobiles wrecking, trains derailing, and airplanes crashing while the bodies of the saints soar away through the atmosphere, there are some humble sons of the Most High God who have EYES TO SEE and have discovered a process NOW TAKING PLACE in every believer who is earnestly pressing on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. From the far distant mountain peaks of revelation the inspired voice of Paul clear as the morning song of the morning dove sounds forth the message: "Even when we were dead in sin, He H-A-T-H QUICKENED US TOGETHER WITH CHRIST, and H-A-T-H RAISED US UP TOGETHER, and made us sit together IN HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5-6). Blessed be God!
He who writes these lines testifies to those who read them that we have ALREADY PASSED FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN! My God, my God! What words are these that Thou hast bidden us believe? Since, then, we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son, is it any wonder that we should discover ourselves to be citizens of the true and eternal realm? By His resurrection and ascension we have been raised up and translated. We have passed from the realm where all is earthly and carnal to the realm where all is heavenly and spiritual. Our citizenship in this present age has been revoked and we have obtained a new citizenship in the eternal and undying realm. For this reason Paul wrote, saying, "Your citizenship is in heaven." We were citizens of another land, a dark land of fear, limitation, sorrow, sin and death. We were of different speech and culture, but we crossed over. We have changed our citizenship and our allegiance from one domain to another. We have renounced our existence on the earth-realm in favor of a new life in the heaven-realm. We have renounced our allegiance to this present world system, its customs, life-style, thought processes, wisdom, knowledge, ways, and religion, to become partakers of a new and heavenly citizenship, speakers of its new language, revelators of the beauty of its customs, culture and lifestyle, partakers of its higher inspiration, its more noble wisdom and knowledge, and manifestors of the wonders of its truth, and the glory of its endless life.
Ah, my beloved, WHAT YOU SEE DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU LIVE. The story is told of a mole who once pushed its head out of the ground and said to a bird who was swinging and singing on the branch above it, "What are you making such a noise about?" Said the bird, "Oh, the sunshine, the trees, the grasses, the shining stream, and the white clouds on the mountainside. The world is full of beauty!" "Nonsense," said the mole; "I have lived in this world longer than you have, and I have gone deeper into it. I have traversed it and tunneled it, and I know what I am talking about, and I tell you there is nothing in it but fishing worms." If all you can see is sorrow and trouble, pain and distress, sin and evil, crime and violence, lust and greed, wrath and judgment, and antichrist and tribulation, then you are living still in the wrong country! "WOE to the INHABITORS OF THE EARTH!"
A "catching up" is taking place today. There is a transference to a new kingdom and a new kind of experience which we have not known before. Unto transformed men today the Spirit is speaking these magnificent words: "If ye then BE RISEN with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). There is a spiritual rapture with Christ and all who partake of it will find that their affections are being set upon heavenly things ABOVE and not on things on the earth. This can be your experience here and now in this present world. Some will be dismayed by the statement I am about to make, but quite frankly, I care not one whit who anyone thinks the Antichrist is, or when the tribulation will begin, or how long it will last, or what technological or economic development may bring the mark of the beast, or what the Illuminati conspires to do, the world bankers, the trilateral commission, the Pope, the communists, or any other event that men's hearts are failing them for fear in looking after. That may all be interesting information but it is for the "earth-dwellers" to concern themselves with. I have no time for such trivialities and even less interest. None of this is of any significance in the Kingdom in which I now live, and holds nothing for me anymore. It all seems quite childish, speculative and boring. I have higher matters to attend to and greater and more enduring things to pursue in the Kingdom of my Father. Hallelujah! I've been "raptured"! And to one and all I say, "COME UP HITHER!" I am no longer a citizen of this world, for I have risen with Christ and am seated with Him in the higher than all heavens far above all principality and power and might and dominion, praise His wonderful name!
Come up hither, in the Son realm, No dragon here abides;
For the sure Word now has conquered, And in Him we have our life;
As the kingdoms of men crumble, Have no fear, just stand and see,
That the Kingdom of our Father Is brought forth in you and me!