The Rapture – Part 1: The Qualifications

Will all the Christians be raptured before the great day of God’s wrath? According to the Bible, the answer is NO. In fact, most Christians who are alive at that time will be left behind to go through the persecution of the beast (Antichrist) at the great day of God’s wrath (Rev. 12:17; 13:7). Why would God allow His people to go through such sufferings? It is because it depends on how a Christian conducts his/her life after receiving the initial salvation; and the Scripture says all the believers must appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account to God (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).

To receive salvation from eternal damnation, Paul said clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9, “for by grace, you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Though this is wonderful, it is only the INITIAL salvation; but what happens after a person receives the Lord? He needs to follow the Lord faithfully. And for this, the Lord said: “If anyone desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Obviously, to believe in Him is one thing, but to follow Him is another matter. Below are just a few examples in the Bible:

Remaining as Babes vs. Spiritual Maturity
Paul says: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1). There is a need to grow spiritually just like our human life. It is not normal for one to be born and remain a babe. He also says, “we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,” (Eph. 4:23), but that we should arrive at a full grown man, “at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13). God our Father desires His children to grow up and reach perfection. The author of Hebrews writes: you should have been teachers but “you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for those who have matured, who are practicing to have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).

Loving the World vs. Loving the Father
John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). James was even stronger, he said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God,” (James 4:4). This word is not for the unbelievers, but for the believers. Unfortunately, many Christians still love the world. Peter warns us that we Christians can again be entangled and be overcome by the world (2 Pet. 2:20). This does not mean we will lose our salvation, but we may lose the reward of the kingdom.

Practicing Lawlessness vs. Doing the Will of the Father
The Lord gave a serious warning: “‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:21-23). Again, this word is definitely for the believers. Today Christians are doing many good works in the name of the Lord Jesus, but why would the Lord deny and reject them? Because for God, it is not only a matter of what we do, but a matter of who is doing it: you or Christ? Paul says, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). He also said, “… but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10). It is not surprising that to follow Him, we need to deny our fallen self. Whatever our ‘self’ does, even things seemingly for God, is not acceptable to Him.

Being Complacent vs. Pursuing Christ
Paul, although he was an apostle, encouraged us all to pursue Christ and to gain more of Him. He said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14). This prize is definitely different than the initial salvation. The prize needs our diligent pursuit of Christ. Many Christians think they are saved and that is it, not knowing that this attitude will cost them the prize. He continues to say, “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind” (Phil. 3:15a). Even the apostle was concerned that he could be disqualified for the crown. He wrote, “… Run in such a way that you may obtain … an imperishable crown … I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27). If the apostle Paul had this concern, how much more should we! Salvation we will not lose, but we may lose the crown!!! Furthermore, Colossians 1:28 says, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” God is looking for this perfecting work in His people today.

Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen
The Lord Himself said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:13-14). These verses are not referring to salvation, but to our manner of life after we are born again. The Lord is calling for the overcomers today in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. He addresses the fallen condition of the churches and God pleads with His people seven times to overcome their fallen condition. At the end of each epistle He writes: “He who has an ear let him have an ear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The Bible mentions two general aspects for rapture which differ in time and place: the rapture to the throne before the great day of God’s wrath, the last 3½ years (Rev. 12:5, 14:1-3), and the rapture to the air at the sound of the last trumpet near the end of the last 3½ years (1 Thess. 4:16-17). How you lead your Christian life today will determine when you will be raptured.

Next up: The Rapture to the Throne of God – click HERE.