THE DESTINY OF THE CHURCH
A. THE CHURCH WILL BE STILL HERE WHEN JESUS COMES.
“…And upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
“Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51).
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thessalonians 4:17).
There are two main truths that prove that when Jesus returns the church will be still here waiting for the return of her Lord.
The first is that there is no power that can overthrow the church. Thousands have been martyred but the church has still grown. No amount of persecution or opposition can destroy the church. Hell itself cannot prevail against the church. The church is indestructible. Fire cannot burn her; floods cannot drown her; tempests and storms cannot move her. Jesus built her upon the rock and she will overcome all the powers of hell thrown against her.
Secondly, the Scriptures make it very clear that the rapture of the church will take place at the time of the first resurrection, both of which will take place when Jesus comes. The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which “are alive and remain.” When Jesus returns there will be a church on earth that will be caught away without experiencing death.
B. THE CHURCH WILL ESCAPE THE GREAT TRIBULATION.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass” (Luke 21:36).
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10).
When the signs of the times are being fulfilled telling of the Lord’s coming, we are exhorted to lift up our heads and look up (not down or around) for our redemption draweth nigh. The
coming of the Lord is our redemption, not the tribulation. The church is never exhorted to look for the tribulation, but rather for the coming of Jesus.
In both of these Scriptures, Luke 21:36 and Revelation 3:10, there is a definite promise of the church escaping the tribulation. These promises would be meaningless if the church had to pass through the tribulation.
The tribulation is primarily a time of God’s dealing with the Jewish nation and before this can take place the church age must come to an end. This of course, takes place when Jesus returns and takes the church out of this world.
The church has a glorious hope of being caught away. In no way can the coming of the tribulation be looked upon as a hope, while on the other hand the return of our Lord can be looked forward to with joyful anticipation.
There are two main objections to this doctrine, which we shall deal with briefly here:
1. Matthew 24:29-31: The word “Elect” means chosen and may refer either to the church or to the nation of Israel. In this Scripture it refers to Israel. The angels have nothing to do with the rapture of the church; it is the Holy Spirit, which quickens the saints. These Scriptures refer to the gathering of Israel (Isaiah 27:13).
2. I Corinthians 15:52 & Revelation 11:15: The last trump in I Corinthians 15 is not the trumpet of Revelation 10:7 & Revelation 11:15. Undoubtedly Paul was making reference to Jewish tradition to emphasize the resurrection. The trumpet here is one of glorious victory; the trumpet in Revelation is one of judgment. We should know that there is another trumpet at the end of the tribulation (Matthew 24:31).
C. THE CHURCH WILL BE READY WAITING FOR HER BRIDEGROOM.
“That he might present it to himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27).
“Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3).
Jesus exhorted his disciples to be ready (Matthew 24:44). Readiness is the watchword of the church.
Jesus will return for those who are ready, not those who are getting ready. The hope of Christ’s return sanctifies and purifies the saint and helps him to be ready. The Scriptural correct attitude of the heart of the New Testament saint is that: Jesus may come NOW; I am ready to go NOW. Thus the hope purifies him.
To be ready one must be a member of the church by being baptized in Jesus Name and filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 15:14; Romans 8:11; Matthew 25:1-13). He must also be living a holy life and looking for the return of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:14, Hebrews 9:28).
D. THE CHURCH WILL BE RAPTURED WHEN JESUS COMES.
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51).
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds” (I Thessalonians 4:17).
There were two characters in the Old Testament who were taken from this world without dying. Enoch and Elijah were raptured. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not: for God took him” (Genesis 5:24. “And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (II Kings 2:11).
What happened to Enoch and Elijah will also happen to the living saints when Jesus comes. When a person is raptured or translated his physical body is changed in a twinkling of an eye (I Corinthians 15:52). This corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality. As this is done he is caught away into the clouds of glory to meet the Lord in the air. There will be no intermediary state of death and decay but an immediate glorification and catching away.
It is to be understood that the greater part of the church already has passed on into eternity through death and will be sleeping in Jesus. The living saints will not precede the saints who are asleep in Jesus.
“That we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep (I Thessalonians 4:15).
The Apostle Paul states that the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then the living saints will be caught away and all (those who are already dead and those who are still living) will be gathered together by our Lord in the air.
We must not overlook one of the key phrases in the Scripture: “in Christ.” Only those who are “in Christ” will be resurrected and raptured at this glorious event. The Holy Ghost places us “in Christ” (I Corinthians 12:13).
E. THE CHURCH WILL ATTEND THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB.
“Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
“And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10).
Many Scriptures clearly teach that the church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:32). When will Jesus present unto himself a glorious church? There can only be one answer: at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The marriage supper of the Lamb will be the most glorious event of all eternity. The bride will have made herself ready (Revelation 19:7) and she will be arrayed in fine linen clean and white. It will be a time of great rejoicing. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come” (Revelation 19:7).
Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” It is for this glorious event that the church is preparing and joyously anticipating.
F. THE CHURCH’S ETERNAL HOME IS NEW JERUSALEM.
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
“…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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Jesus is preparing an eternal home for the church. Knowing how much He loves the church, and knowing that He is the mighty creator who created the beauties of this universe, one can begin to understand in a small way the beautiful home Jesus is preparing for His beloved.
A description of this eternal home is given in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation. It is called New Jerusalem, a city foursquare. The glory and beauty of this city exceeds anything that has been seen in this world.
G. THE CHURCH WILL REIGN WITH JESUS IN HIS KINGDOM.
“But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
“And they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
The Bible speaks of the saints ruling, judging and reigning. Certainly the church will take a very active part in Christ’s kingdom. In the Scriptural references given here the church is spoken of as reigning with Christ. Undoubtedly as the bride of Christ she shall reign at His side in His kingdom. However, her place of power and glory will not end with the close of the millennium but throughout all eternity she shall reign. Hallelujah!
What a glorious future is in store for the church!
Let us make certain that we are a member of this Apostolic Church by being born of the water and the Spirit and ready for the coming of our Lord.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
SELF HELP TEST SELF HELP TEST
A. Give a Scriptural argument why the church may expect the return of Jesus before the Great Tribulation.
B. Who are the ‘elect’ in Matthew 24:29-31?
C. Give a full explanation of I Thessalonians 4:15-17.
D. What is the final destiny of the Church?