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Rapture, resurrection, judgments and the millennium.
When Will The Rapture of The Church Take Place?
The word RAPIO is a Latin word meaning "seized." As far as I can tell, the word RAPTURE does not appear in the Bible. It is a term people us to describe the catching up of Christians when Jesus comes back. Paul said that we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (see I Thessalonians 4:17). That is what we call the Rapture of the church. It will happen at the end of this age when Jesus Christ comes back to earth again. As He comes from heaven, we will be caught up to meet Him in the air, and then we will be forever with the Lord.
I believe it will happen after the Tribulation and before the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth called the Millennium
What Is The Resurrection of The Dead, and Who Will Be Resurrected First?
The resurrection spoken of in the Bible is the uniting of man's spirit, which is immortal and leaves his body at physical death, with a new spiritual body. The spiritual body will become immortal and will have incredible powers, such as being able to move through physical objects like walls and doors and travel great distances instantaneously. These will be the bodies that Christians will have forever.
There is confusion regarding the word RESURRECTION. Jesus raised Lazarus form the grave, but this was a resuscitation, not a resurrection (see John 11:43-44). Lazarus came back in his original body that was still subject to death. Some years later Lazarus died again and stayed dead.
When Jesus Christ comes back again, He will resurrect those who have been born again. They will then be joined with the spiritual bodies that have been prepared for their spirits.
The apostle Paul says that those who are alive will not be resurrected ahead of those who sleep (see I Thessalonians 4:16-17). So those who are dead will rise first, followed by those who remain alive when Christ comes back. Those who are still alive will be changed in a moment. These mortal bodies will be transformed into bodies like the one Jesus had after His resurrection. These bodies will be eternal and have the same qualities that Jesus Christ had, for the Bible declares, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).
There also will be a second resurrection, which will come at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ. At that time there will be a great resurrection of all people. Those who have done evil will be sent to hell. Forever. But those who have lived in accordance with the righteous teachings of the Lord will live forever with God (see Revelation 20:11-15).
What Is The Millennium?
A millennium is one thousand years. The biblical Millennium will be a period of peace, love, and brotherhood when all nature lives in the harmony that was intended in the Garden of Eden (see Revelation 20:6). The book of Isaiah speaks of a time when the wild animals will live at peace with domestic animals, when the serpents will no longer bite. A little child will be able to play by a cobra's den or lead wild beasts around and not be harmed. Military schools will close, and implements of war will no longer be manufactured. The money and resources that now go into warfare will then be devoted to peaceful pursuits. When this day comes, every person will have his own plot of ground, his own home. All will live in harmony with their neighbors. No one will be afraid that someone will try to steal his belongings. There will be universal peace, for the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (see Isaiah 11:6-9). I believe the Millennium is a transition period, when Jesus Christ comes back to earth to show mankind what it would have been like if sin had never entered the world. It will be a time when Jesus Christ will reign as king, and the Kingdom of God will be established on earth. There will be a one-world government under the leadership of Jesus with nation-states subject to Him.
The Bible says representatives of the nations of the earth will come to Jerusalem each year (see Isaiah 2:2-4, Zechariah 14:16). Apparently all governments will be subject to godly people and, at that time, Israel will be the key nation on earth.
What Is Hell Like?
There are two descriptions of hell in the Bible. One is of a burning fire. Jesus often used the word GEHENNA to describe hell. Gehenna was the refuse dump outside Jerusalem that was always on fire. Jesus said hell was a place of worms, maggots, fire, and trouble. From that we get the image of a lake of fire and the concept of perpetual burning. The evil ones there are full of remorse and torment (see Mark 9:43-48).
Jesus also said that hell would be "outer darkness." He said that some in His day "will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12, see also Matthew 22:13). Here the image is one of terrible loneliness. There will be separation from God and man. Those who are consigned to hell will be put out into the inky blackness of eternity, with nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and they will be constantly alone. They will suffer the remorse of knowing they had the opportunity to come into heaven with God but turned it down.
The Bible speaks of a lake of fire reserved for the devil and his angels (see Matthew 25:41). Human beings were never intended to go into hell. But the ones who choose to reject God will one day follow Satan right into hell.
There will be no exit from hell, no way out, no second chance. That is why it is so important in this life to receive the pardon that God extends to all men through the cross of Jesus Christ.
What Is Heaven Like?
Heaven is where God is. He is the light of heaven, the joy of heaven. As you mature in your understanding of the Bible, you realize there is no material concept of heaven that will do it justice. The Bible talks about streets of gold as clear as crystal and walls made out of precious stones (see Revelation 21:18-21). All sorts of images immediately come to mind when we mention heaven. More than anything else, heaven is a spiritual condition where one spiritual being is in touch with another spiritual being, and there is total communication and fellowship.
Whatever we consider to be a joy here on earth will be heightened millions of times beyond anything we can conceive when we get to heaven. The apostle Paul put it this way: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9).
In the Middle Ages philosophers talked about the "ultimate good." The ultimate good to them was being in the presence of God. That will be the greatest aspect of heaven. Those who are there will be in His immediate presence, in a way no one can possibly know this side of eternity.
Being in God's presence will bring an intensity of delight that will far exceed anything we could know here on earth. Furthermore, in heaven there will be neither death, nor sorrow, nor sickness, nor poverty.
"He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be nor more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).
The Bible also talks about crowns and thrones in heaven, so we do know that heaven is not just a huge democracy where there is no differentiation of function (see Revelation 4:4-11). There will be different functions and different levels of responsibility assigned to different people. For there will still be levels of order and structure throughout God's universe.
The Bible says that those human beings who are fortunate enough to enter into heaven will actually judge angels (see I Corinthians 6:3). The fallen angels--or demons--will come before us and we will decide their fates. Perhaps people will be assigned to watch over a planet or two. We do not know for certain what tasks we will be performing in heaven, but there will obviously be an ongoing, functioning universe. We will be God's messenger-agents in ordering and running it.
There are many things about heaven we do not really know. Will there be animals in heaven? The Bible says that Jesus will be riding on a white horse when He returns to reign on the earth, but we do not know if this is a literal horse (see Revelation 19:11). A white horse represents purity and power, so this may be symbolic. We cannot say for sure if there will be animals of any kind in heaven, but I believe there will be.
We do know that we will be able to recognize our loved ones in heaven, and we will experience great joy over being reunited with them (see Luke 23:42-43, Hebrews 12:22-23). Your real self will live on in heaven, not some shadowy part of you. You will never feel so alive as when you enter into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem God has prepared for the saints.
There is also going to be an extension of man's mind beyond anything we could begin to understand now. There will be an opening of understanding into the secrets and mysteries of the universe. Furthermore, in heaven there will be no fear of any kind of evil, and God will provide magnificently for His people.
What is heaven like? It is better than anything any human being could ever imagine when he tries to picture the best thing that could ever happen to him. Beyond that, there is not much else we could say!
Can I Ever Lose My Place In Heaven?
Heaven is forever (see Revelation 22:5). In order for heaven to be heaven, there can never be the nagging possibility of a revolt which would cause us to lose the glory of it again. There will be no doubt, no confusion, and no fear in heaven. God will remove from the scene the cause of all rebellion--Satan and sin.
Consequently, God cannot allow people who rebel against Him to enter heaven. Everyone must be born again before he or she can enter heaven. Anyone who has not been transformed in his spirit would be a source of spiritual contagion, contamination, or rebellion in heaven. A little tendency to sin today could grow into a hideously dangerous nature in, say, a million years. Therefore, the seed of rebellion will never be allowed to enter heaven.
Will I Have My Family In Heaven?
I see no reason to suppose that there could not be families in heaven. However, all Christians are part of God's family now, and the bonds that draw human families together probably will not be necessary in heaven. There, we will all be part of one enormous family, and we will all feel a deep love for everyone else. There will not be the idea that "I am here with my wife and the two of us are separate from everyone else." We will all be one in Christ.
Having said that we will probably have families in heaven, however, let me add two things. First, your husband or wife or child or parent will be in heaven with you--if you are a Christian--only if they have been born again by the Spirit of God. If you are saved, your closeness to God will not save the members of your family. They must have their own personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
We should understand that there will no longer be human procreation in heaven. The necessity of mating and child nurture will cease. Jesus said of the resurrection, "They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mark 12:25).
What Is The Great White Throne Judgment?
The Great White Throne Judgment (see Revelation 20:11-15), according to the book of Revelation, will take place at the end of the Millennium, prior to the time when God will "make all things new" (Revelation 21:5). This will be the final and irreversible judgment of Satan and his angels and of all the redeemed. According to the Bible, the great books recording the deeds of all mankind will be opened. Those people whose names were not recorded in the "book of life" will be cast into the lake of fire reserved for the devil and his angels. This experience is called "the second death" to distinguish it from mere physical death.
However, Jesus taught that anyone who believes in Him "shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (see John 5:24). We therefore must conclude that those who have been "born again" by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be transformed into a heavenly state when Jesus Christ comes back again. All of these people, according to the apostle Paul, will answer for their Christian service and stewardship at the "judgment seat of Christ" at that time (see Romans 14:10, II Corinthians 5:10). None of these true believers, however, will face eternal condemnation at the Great White Throne, because Jesus Christ has already paid for their sins at Calvary.
Everyone else will have to come before God and account for the way he or she has lived. It will be an awesome day of judgment. Some people think there may be those who lived before Christ, or who never had a chance to hear of Christ, who will be judged worthy of heaven. This is extremely doubtful, because the Bible says none has lived righteously (see Romans 3:10). But God, who is the judge of all the world, is going to judge by the standard of righteousness. He will allow each person to come before Him and present his case. In each case, the accuser or excuser of the individual will be his or her own conscience (see Romans 2:15). What did each one do in relationship to what he or she knew to be right or wrong according to the revelation they had of God's will?
Are Credit Cards Associated With The Mark of The Beast?
In the book of Revelation, there is a discussion of an individual who will become a world dictator, ruler of a domain that looks very similar to the old Roman Empire. This individual is called the "living creature," or the "beast." The Bible tells us he has a number: 666 (see Revelation 13:11-18).
Six is the biblical number of humanity. It is one less than perfection. The man whose number is 666 will lead humanity's revolt against God. There are some who feel that Nero could have been that man whose number is 666, and various other names have also been put forward as that person. But Revelation says that, when he comes onto the scene, he will have such dominance that no one can buy or sell without taking his mark, either on the forehead--which indicates will--or on the hand--which indicates action.
So, how will that mark come to be accepted? There are a couple of possibilities. Today we have developed devices called smart cards. These are tiny credit cards that have a microchip implanted in them. They can be put through a card reader at a store that will reveal a person's entire credit history, including the amount of his bank account. The person's transaction in the store can be sent back to a central bank and one master account can then be kept in a computer.
Now there is also the SWIFT system, which means Society of World-wide Interfunds Transfers, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It ties together about seven hundred major banking systems around the world. Every day, hundreds of billions of dollars in bank transactions are processed by this vast world-wide computer network. Clearly, mankind now has the technology to link up virtually all the credit in the entire civilized world from the local retail outlet right through to the international banking center.
So, it would not be too difficult, technologically, to move from the smart card to a microchip implanted in the hand. This could be read by a laser-type device that would in turn be connected to a master computer. This could lead to a time when there would be no need for cash or checks: Everything would be done by computer. With these developments, it becomes easy to see how the world may be controlled.
Banks are moving in the direction of ever more efficiency with the advent of so-called "transaction cards." These are not charge cards, but they debit an account immediately. As a charge is made, they immediately subtract the money from the bank account. This entire electronic funds transfer system is gaining momentum in the drive toward a checkless, cashless society. This society will not necessarily occur, but it certainly is technologically possible, and could easily fulfill what Revelation says: That people could not buy or sell without the mark of the Beast.
Of course, with all our discussion of technology, we should never lose sight of the deeper implications of the "mark of the beast." The forehead signifies volition, while the hand signifies action. Together, they indicate a willing spiritual acceptance of a satanic being (or system) that has been put forward against God and in place of Jesus Christ. Nothing short of this would lead a just God to send these people to be "tormented with fire and brimstone" as we are warned by Revelation 14:9-11.
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