Summary: This article was written and published July ’14. In this article I discuss how general biblical principles taught to us by the Spirit of God govern the understanding of the detail of scripture. Whether we believe or not in the event of the rapture, every Christian can point to I Thess. 4:13-18 and admit that this is the passage of scripture from which all the discussion begins. The second book I wrote is a detailed and methodical look at this doctrine. In this article I simply emphasize the importance of maintaining this principle: never lose sight of the forest for the trees. Understanding the Christian believer’s relationship with God, with the responsibility and privilege that is associated in that new relationship, are some of the principles by which we keep the forest in view. In my opinion, dissecting Greek and Hebrew words in a single passage or verse, is the easiest way to be caught starring at a tree and forgetting you are standing in a forest. Most of the writing I do as a Christian teacher involves detailed explanations of the points I present – it may require concentration and effort on your part, and your time. If you choose to commit such things as needed, then you’ll want to read on past this short summary.
The second book in the series, ‘The Blessed Hope of the Church’, was written to prove from Scripture the doctrine of the rapture of the church. This event will take place before the coming tribulation, which itself precedes the dispensation of the fullness of times – the millennium. It particularly emphasizes the position of the believer ‘in Christ’ and the privilege of that relationship in view of the doctrine. When corporate failure has completely set in for the professing church, then the Lord’s coming is the thought presented by Christ to the faithful remnant (Rev. 2:24-25). His coming for the true church is our joy and our hope to sustain us when all else fails. This blessed hope (Titus 2:13) serves to separate the believer/church from this world. The church has not only lost her first love (Rev. 2:4), but has lost her expectation. If we hold the hope of the Lord’s coming it will make Him very close to our souls, so as to judge the condition in which we are as believers.
The rapture of the true church will be the exceeding greatness of God’s sovereign power to remove Christ’s body and bride (the church) physically from the earth, going on to the Father’s house in the heavens.
It amazes me how different theologians and bible teachers create such detailed arguments, both for and against the doctrine, from bible minutiae they find in passages – Hebrew and Greek ‘roots’ and ‘fragments’ of words by which they conclusively determine what God meant by choosing to use these particular words. I am convinced that God does not see these methods as biblical or Christian scholarship. Isn’t this human wisdom, or the wisdom of the Greeks proudly attempting to determine the meaning of divine teaching and God’s wisdom? It is the foolishness of man, even on both sides of the discussion. It is the wisdom of this world trying to fathom the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory (I Cor. 2:7). We have to realize that the pulling apart of Hebrew and Greek words is not the way the Spirit of God teaches divine truth. Without doubting for a moment the commitment and love in their lives for our Lord, these gentlemen should take a prayerful look at I Corinthians chapters 1 and 2 to better discover what Christian scholarship is suppose to be from a divine perspective (I Cor. 1; and I Cor. 2).
What is of importance in the understanding and teaching of the doctrine of the rapture is to see the biblical and divine principles, as well as the character that speaks to the privilege involved on behalf of the church – these principles and character in the background surrounding the event itself. These are the ‘things of God’ taught only by the Spirit of God, teaching that is only available to believers – those that have the seal of the Holy Spirit. There are always biblical principles necessary to be understood in order to comprehend divine truth and teaching.
One of the greatest hindrances concerning this subject is the wholesale denying of the revelation of the church, the body of Christ, as being the mystery of God now revealed by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven (Eph. 3:1-11, Col. 1:24-27, Rom. 16:25-27). Large groups of theologians and Christians treat the mystery of God as an invention of the human mind, even though it is clearly and directly taught in Paul’s epistles. When this important revelation is accepted, the difficulty then becomes the proper application of it as a biblical principle in its influence and consequences on other biblical topics (i.e. prophecy, government, calling, covenants and dispensations…). When was this revelation made known? Not until the Holy Spirit was sent (Eph. 3:3-5, Rom. 16:25-26). When was He sent? When Jesus, the Son of Man, was exalted to the right hand of God and became the Head of His body (John 7:39; 16:7, Eph. 1:20-23, I Cor. 12:12-13). God uses Paul (not Peter or John), giving him in sovereign grace a special dispensation (stewardship), to reveal, by the Holy Spirit, this mystery that is the true church and body (Eph. 3:2-3; 3:8-10, Col. 1:25-26).
What is so interesting is that it seems that all groups, those for and those against the doctrine of the rapture, as well as those who devise improper and strange understandings of the event and its timing (i.e. the U-turn in the sky theory that brings the church immediately back to the earth), in unison discard the validity and importance of this special revelation. If you do not properly understand Paul’s special stewardship, you will not properly understand church doctrine. If you do not properly understand church doctrine, you will not understand the church’s calling. If you do not understand the church’s true calling, you will not understand the reasoning and privilege of the rapture – how and why the church ends its time on the earth. Further, without accepting and properly applying understanding of the mystery, you will never have a coherent view of biblical prophecy, nor the proper application of covenants and dispensations in your doctrine.
The mystery of God is just one of many biblical principles so necessary to the proper understanding of the detail of scripture. You may find teaching about the ‘mystery of God’ dispersed throughout all three of the books, as well as the proper application of this revelation to the understanding of certain bible topics (In ‘The Son of Man Glorified’ book is a chapter titled ‘The Heavenly Calling’ in which you will find an explanation of the mystery of God. I would suggest you start reading at the subtitle in the text ‘The Character of Prophecy’. In ‘The Blessed Hope of the Church’ book you will find teaching about the mystery in chapters titled, ‘His Coming or His Appearing’ and ‘The Coming Tribulation’. You may read any chapter of any of the three books on this web site). A detailed explanation of all the implications of this revelation cannot be entered into here, as it would be lengthy.
Let’s just consider a simple example of what I speak of, applying the proper understanding of the mystery of God to the subject of prophecy. If the mystery is hidden from the prophets and prophecy, then the details of biblical prophecy will never be about the body of Christ. This is what we find to be true concerning all Old Testament prophecy. If we examine biblical prophecy we find that it has a certain character and straightforward application – it is about Israel (directly or indirectly), it is about the earth, and it is about God’s government of the earth. This is the character of all biblical prophecy. God intentionally hid His mystery from the prophets, their thoughts, words, and writings. When you view prophetic passages, they always skip over any reference to the church or the time of the church on earth. Why? Because the body of Christ is the mystery.
Consider this prophecy:
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder…Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”
A child is born was Christ’s first coming to Israel. Isaiah’s words were spoken some 800 years before Christ’s coming to that nation. However, He was rejected by Israel as their Messiah, their Davidic King. Unto us a Son is given will be when Christ comes a second time to Israel. At this future time He will defeat all their enemies, a Deliverer come out of Zion, and the government of God will be placed on His shoulders; a government with no end over a restored Israel and the remaining Gentile nations on the earth. Yet it is obvious that this prophecy, as does all prophecy, skips from the first coming of Messiah to the second coming of Messiah, deliberately passing over the time of the church that fits in between. Why? The body of Christ is the mystery of God, hidden from the prophets and prophecy.
How do we know the ‘us’ in the prophecy refers to Israel and not the church? This is fairly simple. First, Isaiah is a prophet for Israel, who speaks to Israel – all believers who want to be serious students of the word should become comfortable with this type of linear examination of Scripture. Who is God speaking to? What is the context of the passage? These are the first questions you should always ask yourself. Second, Jesus Christ was not born of the church. He was born of Israel. He came to Israel according to the flesh as the son of David (Rom. 9:3-5). Not only does that make historical sense, but the prophetic language found in Rev. 12:1-6 confirms the prophetic idea that Christ, the ManChild destined by God to rule the nations with a rod of iron, was born of Israel. The woman that gives birth is symbolic of Israel in the counsels of God, which at the end of the age translates in meaning to the chosen Jewish remnant on the earth in the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period – a short period of time also known as Jacob’s trouble. Understanding these things we also see how this prophetic passage skips over any time associated with the mystery of God. Jesus is born, and the intensions of God’s counsels are for Him to rule the nations. But this does not happen and the Child is caught up to the throne of God (please notice it does not say the ManChild was caught up to the throne of David, which somehow, mysteriously no doubt, happened to be in heaven at this time instead of being in Jerusalem. No, He is caught up to God’s throne, not David’s). So then, the period from His being caught up to the woman fleeing is totally passed over. After He is caught up, the woman is immediately seen on the earth fleeing into the world, being preserved by God for a short span of time – 3 1/2 years. The mystery of God, the church, is hidden from any direct consideration in this prophetic passage.
The eye of faith of the believer should be able to see that the ManChild’s body (the church) would be ‘caught up’ with Him to the heavens. It is the reason why you see the result of war breaking out in heaven (Rev. 12:7-9). The reason for war is that the true church has taken up her rightful place in the heavens (Eph. 2:6). As for Satan and his angels, no place was found for them in heaven any longer (Rev. 12:8). And those rejoicing in the heavens are the raptured and glorified church (Rev. 12:10-12). Needless to say, the catching up is the rapture of the church. It is the blessed hope all true believers are to constantly expect and patiently wait for. (More discussion of prophecy jumping over the period of the mystery may be found in ‘The Blessed Hope of the Church’ book in the chapter titled ‘This Present Evil Age’)
Just a few more points of interest. When Satan and his angels are cast out of the heavens and down to the earth, he immediately begins his persecution of the women (Rev. 12:13). Also in this verse is the subtle implication of the reasoning that because Satan is cast down to the earth he would, even must, turn his attention primarily to the woman. When he is in the heavens (not cast down to the earth as yet), Satan exercises an anti-priestly function against the church. This anti-ministry is in opposition of the present priestly ministry of Jesus Christ, which is a ministry of intercession at the right hand of God solely on behalf of the church (Heb. 9:24; 8:1-2; 7:25-26; 4:14-16; 2:17-18). Satan’s anti-priestly work in the heavens accuses the brethren (Rev. 12:10). Although the true church/brethren will always overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, still there are certain effects from his work. Because he is in the heavens, the true church will be persecuted on the earth. His accusations result in the true believer, in this present age, having to suffer with Christ (Rom. 8:17-18), being hated and persecuted by the world (John 15:19-21, II Tim. 3:12). In the world we will suffer tribulation (John 16:33, I Pet. 5:8-9; 4:12-16; 2:19-21).
The other consequence of Satan in the heavens is his own work being added in to compromise the integrity of the crop in the field (Matt. 13:25, 37, 38, 39). The field is the world, the crop is all Christendom, and Satan’s work in this age has deceived, corrupted, and ruined the testimony of the professing church. This is the subject of the third book, ‘The Corruption and Death of Christendom’. Although he cannot harm the wheat, he has corrupted the crop by sowing in tares and bringing in leaven (Matt. 13:33).
Satan will be cast down to the earth because the true church, all together and at once, will be brought into the heavens to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3, Matt. 13:30, I Thess. 4:13-18). Yet, we see from the passage, his being cast down to the earth does not happen until there is only a short time (3 1/2 yrs.) remaining in the present age. So for the majority of the present age his place is in the heavens and not down on this earth. But when he is removed from the heavens and is on the earth, having only a short time, we must understand this is at the close of the age. Towards the close is the time when the tares of Christendom are bundled together and left in the world to be burnt (Matt. 13:30, 39, 40). Satan will have no purpose for what remains of the professing church after the wheat is removed from the world (the rapture of the church).
When on the earth, in the last 3 1/2 years, Satan will turn his attention to that which God has turned His attention to – the women who gave birth to the male Child (Rev. 12:6; 12:13-16). This short time of Satan’s rage is known in Scripture as Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7-10, Dan. 12:1). Now this begs us to ask a simple question; Is this woman, depicted as she is in Revelation 12, the church or Jacob? All the way through the chapter she is the symbol of Israel in the counsels of God. When she is on the earth she is the sealed Jewish remnant (Rev. 7:1-8), chosen and preserved by God (Rev. 12:6), with 3 1/2 years of her trouble remaining. She is that which is associated by God with the earth and with the world. She has an earthly calling, a relationship with the first creation and the first Adam, and will be redeemed or bought from the earth (Rev. 14:1-4). It is no surprise that when the serpent tries to destroy her, that it is the earth that rises up to save her (Rev. 12:15-16). This is not the church by any biblical principle or stretch of the human imagination. It is the Jewish remnant that God seals with a decidedly earthly seal (Rev. 7:1-8), preserves in the world (Rev. 12:6), and saves through judgments. From her beginning this has always been the distinct character of Israel – saved by God on the earth through His judgments of the world (Egypt symbolizing the world at Israel’s beginning and Pharaoh symbolizing Satan, the god and prince of this world).
One last important point. Never confuse the character of Israel for that of the true church. For example; the life of Jacob, the patriarch, stands as the most profound type of the history of the nation of Israel. He always struggles in his walk before God, looking for signs and desiring the prosperity of the world. He spends the majority of his time outside the Promised land and in the world. When in the land he struggles to show any real faith in God – quite the contrast from his grandfather Abraham. Jacob wrestles in the flesh with God all the night long. The entire history of Israel is a people who struggle in the flesh with God. This was not real bible faith and so, at that time, God refuses to reveal His name to Jacob (Gen. 32:29). At the end of his night of struggling in the flesh, God puts his hip-joint out of place – this is symbolic of Israel, at the end, being delivered through trouble and tribulation. All these incidences in Jacob’s life are shadows prefiguring the character and experiences of the nation of Israel. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, thus setting up Jacob as a type, in his character and behavior. Jacob receives a blessing after the dawning of a new day – Israel will have to wait for the future millennium for their blessing from Jehovah; this only follows their walk in the flesh and by sight all the night long (their entire history).
This however, is not the character of the church. The believer/church distinctly has a walk of faith, which by definition is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (II Cor. 5:7, Heb. 11:1). She does not seek after signs from God as the Jews (i.e. no looking for red moons rising – I Cor. 1:22). We are described in Scripture as those who do not look at the things which are seen (II Cor. 4:18, John 20:29). The church has a unique calling from God, different from that of Israel. We have a heavenly calling, while Israel has an earthly calling (Heb.3:1). Also then, there is the privilege of the church which is based on her distinct relationship and calling with God, very different from Israel’s relationship. The church is composed of all the sons of God in the house of the Father, made free and made sons by the one true Son of God (Gal. 3:26, John 8:35-36). It is our privilege to wait for God’s Son from heaven and to be delivered from the wrath that is to come upon the whole world (I Thess. 1:10, Phil. 3:20-21, Rev. 3:10). This will be by the rapture of the church. It is the rapture which fulfills the believer’s heavenly calling.
The future Jewish remnant (Psalm 1) is what is connected with the direct government of God that is to come upon the earth, as told in all of prophecy. The Psalms are the expression and voice of this remnant in all the circumstances and trials they will experience that form the transition from Gentile world government to God’s immediate government of the earth (Psalm 2). In this transition period (Jacob’s trouble) leading to God’s direct government, evil must be judged and destroyed so the Jewish remnant may be free of their sufferings (Psalm 9-15 and many other passages in the Psalms). It is this future remnant of Israel that cries out for vengeance and deliverance, as depicted in the Lord’s parable of the widow (Luke 18:2-8). “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” His own elect is always reference to the future Jewish remnant in our Lord’s prophecies (Matt. 24:22, 24, 31, Mark 13:20), and this passage well describes their character and behavior.
However, the believer/church has a totally different character and is of different circumstances. We will leave the evil behind and be taken up into the glory. The rapture of the church fulfills the church’s calling. But if you do not know the church’s calling, you will not have the believer’s proper hope. What I speak of are the proper biblical and scriptural hopes for the Christian as spoken by God in His word. These hopes are in contrast with the humanistic goals, comforts, and aspirations thought up by man that are so prevalent in many contemporary Christian teachings. Our redemption through Jesus Christ has justified us before God by removing all our sins. Our justification has given us peace with God instead of impending judgment and wrath. Also the redemption freely given to us through Christ provides us, at this present time, access to the grace of God by which we may stand (in our life in the wilderness without being in the presence of God). But what we rejoice in is the sure hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2).
We may be able to associate other things with God’s glory, but what is certain is that the glory of God is the presence of God. The hope of the glory of God is the believer’s entrance and abiding (living) in the very presence of God. For the Christian this hope is sure and steadfast, a real anchor for our souls. In the Old Testament God made promises to those He called which were the source of all their hopes. God confirmed these promises to them in two ways – by His word and by His own oath (Heb. 6:17-19). The immutable God Himself makes His promises sure and steadfast. But for the New Testament believer, living beyond the accomplished work of redemption, we have even something better, if that is possible – a forerunner representing us. And what does a forerunner do? He goes to a specific place and location preceding the arrival of others. Jesus Christ is our forerunner into the presence of God (Heb. 6:20). This gives us utter confidence in the reality of our hope, even though we do not see it at this time with our eyes; then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance (Rom. 8:24-25).
“The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26-27) Or we read in Eph. 1:18, “…that you may know what is the hope of His calling…” Our calling as believers is heavenly (Heb. 3:1). It is to be seated together in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). This will not be a going in and out depending on whether we are judged to be fit for His presence. In Christ the believer is fit forever, and we will sit as abiding and living in God’s presence. Our calling is to live in heavenly places, conformed into the image of His Son, and to be holy and blameless before God in His love (Eph. 1:3-4, Rom. 8:29).
The only way we come to such perfection – the very image of His Son – is through the sovereign power of God in the rapture of the church. So many ministers teach that passage in Romans (8:28-30) as some great human endeavor, but such teachings are false and couldn’t be further from the true meaning of the passage. It shows the eternal purpose of God specifically relating to the believer/church. It shows His purpose in His will as only can be fulfilled through a very specific means – God has to do the work Himself. There cannot be any human effort or human will in the matter of God’s counsels, or in the means of accomplishing them. They have to be done by God Himself and God alone. Also the five words – foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified – are all used in the past tense. From God’s viewpoint His purposes are already accomplished. This shows that one of the characteristics of God’s work is that it cannot be stopped and it cannot fail. God’s work never falls short of accomplishing His purpose. In this sense His work is irrevocable (Isa. 55:11, Rom. 11:29). That is why in the passage there is no reference to human effort, there is no mixing in of human work. In this particular text, being conformed into the image of the Son is not the sanctification of the believer on the earth while we walk in the way, but it is the sovereign work of God by resurrection or change that takes us to the heavens (I Cor. 15:51-53, II Cor. 5:4, I Thess. 4:15-17, Phil. 3:20-21). It is the rapture of the church. “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing (the rapture) is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (II Cor. 5:5)
The seal of the Holy Spirit in the believer guarantees all the believer’s proper biblical hopes. It is His presence inside us which guarantees we will receive everything God has promised to us. So we read in that same chapter in Romans, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11) Our glorification is in the event we call the rapture. The seal of the Holy Spirit, which makes us sons of the Father, also is what guarantees our glorification (Rom. 8:15-16; 8:23-25).
However, it is not just the rapture and our glorification that is assured, but the seal of the Spirit in us also guarantees all the things that God will give us – the inheritance of the saints (Eph. 1:13, 14, 18). For truly what we inherit from God are the same things that Jesus inherits from Him as the glorified Son of Man. We will be glorified men like Him. Our glorification will make us into His very image (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 3:21, I John 3:2). It is by our glorification that the Son becomes the firstborn among many other brethren. Jesus has the first place among the heirs of God, but we are made co-heirs with Him of the inheritance (Rom. 8:17, Gal. 4:6-7). What is the inheritance? It is all things created, visible and invisible (Col. 1:16). Christ will inherit all things that He created, and we will inherit the same as co-heirs of God with Him.
Allow me to make an important point concerning the seal of the Spirit in the believer. The Holy Spirit is what we presently have. He dwells in us, making the believer’s body the temple of God. As sealed we enjoy the benefits of the indwelling Spirit. Being justified we are free from guilt and have peace with God eternally. Through Christ we also presently have access into grace by which we stand in our life on this earth (Rom. 5:1-2). It was the sending of the Comforter as the seal of the believer that teaches us the value and understanding of all these blessings – the Spirit takes what is Christ’s and makes them known to us (John 14:26; 16:13-15). The love of God for us, as demonstrated by everything God has done for us through Christ, has been made known to us by the Holy Spirit given to us (Rom. 5:5-8). The fruit of the Spirit is produced by the indwelling Spirit, if we cooperate with His grace working in us (Gal. 5:22-25). The fruit is for the present time, for this present age, or better, for your walk on this earth. The same is true concerning the peace with God, the grace to stand, and the love of God revealed to us – it is all for our present walk. So Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
However, none of these things are the hopes of a Christian for which the Holy Spirit is given to us as a guarantee. All the believer’s proper hopes are unseen. That means we don’t have any of them yet. If they are seen in this present age then they are not Christian hopes (Rom. 8:23-25). And no amount of “exercising faith” will bring them into our present reality. (This is a big hint for you to be very careful about your involvement in many of the Christian teachings today. Often these doctrines amount to being the reasoning of the carnal mind and the gratification of self and flesh, given in a religious setting and attaching the name of Christ to them.)
I want to share two examples involving the experiences of Israel that may help explain some of the truths discussed above, as they relate and may be applied to the believer/church. The first involves what I described concerning the purposes of God for the believer/church, and how God’s purpose excludes the work and will of man (Rom. 8:29-30). In Exodus 6:1-8 we see Jehovah speaking to Moses concerning His purpose towards Israel. It is a parallel passage of sorts to the passage in Romans. They both speak of God’s counsels, but are directed towards two different groups. If you read the Exodus passage you should notice that God’s purpose towards Israel does not include spending forty years in the wilderness. His purpose was to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt and to bring them directly into the land (vs. 6-8). The wilderness was never God’s purpose for Israel. When we read the passage in Romans it is a similar impression made concerning the purpose of God for the believer/church – there is nothing in the passage that has you believe that the believer’s walk in the wilderness of this world forms any part of God’s eternal purpose for us. That is why human responsibility is excluded from any involvement in the passage. Human responsibility is excluded from God’s purposes. So then, the believer’s walk on this earth, as well as Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, forms no part of the purpose and counsels of God.
It is only in our walk on the earth, before we are glorified, that the believer has any responsibility in which he may fail. And this responsibility is as a son of God (Gal. 3:26). I hope you realize that all your human responsibility as a son of Adam, and all its failure, was met on your behalf in the cross of Christ. Jesus bore away all the believer’s sins. This was our responsibility in Adam. But “in Christ” we are no longer sons of Adam. We are sons of God. This is an entirely new position. It is an entirely new relationship. It is the new creation of God (II Cor. 5:17). All responsibility flows out of the relationship the individual is in. So then, our new responsibilities are as sons of God. And I hope you realize that the believer’s old relationship with Adam has come to an end – the old man was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). We walk as sons of God, because we are born of God (John 1:12-13). We walk as children of light, because God is light (Eph. 5:8, I John 1:5). We walk in love for the brethren, because God is love and Christ loved us (Eph. 5:1-2, I John 4:8). We are responsible to walk just as Christ walked (I John 2:6).
Then we should be able to see that our walk on this earth in our responsibilities forms no part of God’s purposes for us. God’s work, apart from man and his efforts and will, alone can fulfill His own purpose. Now let me ask you this simple question. If what I am teaching here is a truth and an understood biblical principle, who is it that I am glorifying by saying such things? Is it man or God? Another simple understanding concerning the fulfilment of God’s purpose is that there is no room for human boasting. It is excluded by believing in God’s workmanship and grace alone (Rom. 3:27; 4:1-5; 11:6;Eph. 2:8-10).
The second example from Israel’s experiences is how their adult generation, except Joshua and Caleb, did not believe God’s word and despised the pleasant land (Ps. 106:24-26, Num. 14:31). For Israel, the land was God’s rest He had purposed for them. However, through their unbelief they all died in the wilderness. God had sworn in an oath He would not allow them to come in to His rest (Heb. 3:16-19). But this was not the only consequence to Israel’s failure. God’s rest for Israel is the land, yet even when they went in under Joshua, the land did not provide them rest (Heb. 4:8). Therefore David, who came long after Joshua, spoke of a future time for Israel when the land would be God’s rest for them (Heb. 4:6-8).
So how does this concern the church? Well, Israel’s land as God’s promised rest for the Jews is a type/shadow of God’s promised rest for the individual believer. As I teach in all my writings, you must always keep Israel and the church distinct and separate. Israel’s teachings are not the teachings for the church. Israel’s promises from God are not the promises given to the church. Now because we have a heavenly calling, God’s rest for the believer is our entrance into the glory and presence of God in the heavens. If you examine the passages referred to in Hebrews, you will see that from Heb. 3:16-4:8 the Spirit is speaking about Israel, but in Heb. 4:9-11 the Spirit speaks to the Christian believer. The believer’s rest is the glory of God.
In a similar way that Israel despised the pleasant land, many true believers, in their minds, are not thinking and considering the hope of glory which is set before us. They do not hold the rapture as an imminent event; they are not looking for and expecting His return. The ten virgins were all asleep instead of being awake, alert, and watching. The land was set before the people and they all were looking at it when the twelve spies went out to examine the land. The glory of God is set before the believer – Christ in you, the hope of glory, and, the seal of the Spirit as the guarantee of the glory! What will be the practical effect? When our affections are fixed on being with Jesus in God’s glory (I Thess. 4:17) and our thoughts on being in the Father’s house (John 14:1-3), our own present troubles and difficulties will have the character of being only bumps in the road along the way. Having these hopes we can rise above all difficulties, however they may come against us. When we have such hope and it is fresh on our minds, our thoughts of God are not merely that He will help us in our circumstances, but rather, if God gave us His Son, how will He not with Him give us everything? (Rom. 8:31-32) Make no mistake concerning the believer’s position before God – God is for us. This is the true believer’s privilege, and the rapture of the church is the event that embodies such privilege.