Many different groups have come in the past claiming that they were the true church, and that all others had fallen away, and only they retained the truth. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it has roots back to the “first pope,” Peter. The Mormon founder Joseph Smith claimed that he received ‘revelation” from the angel Moroni who gave him golden invisible plates engraved in the 4th century AD, that he was to transcribe from (in KJV apparently) because all the other churches roundabout had apostatized. So let us go back to the very beginning of the church, and see what the Bible has to say about this.
Origin of the Church
“ In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples who men said that He is? They responded…
“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-20).
In here, Jesus does (a play on words) with Peter’s name and the rock. Peter in the Greek is petros, which is masculine and means small stone. The “rock” is Petra, which is feminine, and means large rock. It was not Peter who Jesus would build His church upon as the Roman Catholic Church would have you believe, but upon his confession…that “Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter understood this as he refers to this in Acts 4:5-12, 1 Peter 2:3-8, as did Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:11, and Ephesians 2:20-22.
Keys of the Kingdom vs. Keys of the Gates of Hell
Another part of this that has been taking out context is the ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’, which many churches have thought meant to be a literal kingdom here. As we discussed earlier, the Kingdom of heaven is the mystery form of the church, so it can’t be a real kingdom. So the keys to the Kingdom (of heaven) would come through this confession, first to the Jew (Acts 2:14-47) and then to the Gentile (Acts 10:34-48). Contrasting with this, is the ‘keys to the gates of Hades’ is found in Revelation 1:17-18, which Jesus states that He alone holds the keys to death and hell.
The Rapture of the Church
At the conclusion of the age of the church, as laid out chronologically in Romans 8:28-30 and Revelation 2-3:22; God removes the church to finish the last week of Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy with Israel. I believe that just as there was a three year gap (Christ’s ministry on earth) between the Holy Spirit residing in the Temple to the Day of Pentecost, so too will there be a three year gap between the removal of the church and the rebuilding of the Temple. The Rapture is a picture of God’s removal of his own and can be found in several places both in the Old and New Testaments.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
Both Enoch and Elijah were “caught up” to God without seeing death. Paul later clarifies this in 1 Corinthians 15, where he distinguishes between the dead with resurrection, and the living who are translated: 1 Corinthians 15:54-55:
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?” (Translation of the Living.)
”O Hades, where is your victory?” (Resurrection of the Dead.)
We see a picture of the Rapture at the Mt. of Transfiguration:
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2).
But it pictures Christ meeting the church (His Disciples) in the air (high up on a mountain). The appearance of both Moses and Elijah at the Mount of Transfiguration were a picture of the two types who would be present at the Rapture…Moses would represent the resurrected Saints, and Elijah the translated Saints.
When Lazarus died, and Jesus went to the place he was laid, Martha told him that if He had been there earlier, He could have saved him. Then…
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:24-27).
Jesus stated that He was the “resurrection” and the “life”. If they were both the same thing, then He wouldn’t have needed to state it twice. Jesus is delineating the difference here in subtle terms, clearly, because as Martha demonstrated, she already believed in a general resurrection at the end. Jesus was saying, no, there is also a group of people who will never taste death. How do I know this? Because Jesus reiterates this promise in John 14:1-3, to the disciples at the Last Supper:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
Those that deny the Rapture, or even deny that it happens prior to the Tribulation love to point to Matthew 24:31 as evidence of the Rapture happening at the end, but it’s not there. It only states that Jesus sends His angels to gather the elect, which is different than the believers being transformed from mortal to immortal and meeting Christ in the air. Nor is there any mention of a resurrection that happens at any of these. So it can’t clearly be the same thing. There is no translation or resurrection event that coincides with any of the major Second Coming passages (See Revelation 19; Zechariah 14; Jude 1:14; Matthew 24:29-31, 26:64.)
The Rapture of the church is a singular event, designed to unite Jesus with His Bride before He pours out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. The Tribulation is designed to be filled with signs and wonders, and correction, to bring Israel back into a covenant relationship with their God through Jesus the Christ. (See Jeremiah 30:7-11; Daniel 9:24; Revelation 6:16-17.)
Among all the other reasons why we will see a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, one more stands out as an obvious reason why so many have come to deny it. The Rapture of the church will prove once and for all, WHO the true church is. We won’t get raptured by denomination, nor will it only be Protestants. Many who didn’t even attend formal churches will be taken as well. Christ will remove His own and all that remains, will be those who were relying on their religion to save them rather than the Savior Himself.
There are so many events, types, and signs that point to the soon return of Christ, that one is hard-pressed to deny that Scriptures all but scream the soon return of Christ. As His body, we should be “pressing the flesh” in sharing the gospel so that we may bring with us those who we care about. You can’t take money and things with you to heaven, but you can bring people. Let us redeem what little time we have left, and be about our Father’s business.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).