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1st Thessalonians 4:16-18


“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:  and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”


At The 1st Resurrection We Will Be Raptured, Caught Up, And We Will Be Changed


“1st Thessalonians chapter 4, we had come to the end of chapter 4, where it says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:  and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (verses 16-18)  Wherefore, because of these truths, comfort one another with these words.  So, this exhortation to comfort one another in regards to the resurrection, but specifically part of that resurrection will be those who are resurrected at the Lord’s coming, those who are already dead physically, who are with the Lord, whose physical frames will be raised, then those of us who are alive on the earth when the Lord comes, that will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  That’s what the Scripture says here.  And we talked about that last week, two weeks ago, to a degree, this idea of being caught up.  Ah, we speak of the Rapture, as believers, again unbelievers don’t know what in the world we’re talking about.  Or sometimes as believers we don’t know what we’re talking about.  We talk about the Rapture of the Church, being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and the fact that we can search the Scripture, we won’t find the word Rapture in the Bible.  We find this phrase “caught up”, the Rapture coming to us from the Latin Raptus, the Greek word’s harpodzo.  So most of us believe in a pre-tribulation harpodzo.  But Rapture sounds so much better, so we’re going to stick with that.  This idea of being “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air, and we looked at it in Matthew chapter 11, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, but the violent, harpodzo, take it by force.”  We looked at it in Matthew chapter 12 in regards to “you must first bind the strong man, then you will be able to, harpodzo, spoil his goods, take away his goods.”  We followed that through the New Testament in many places, and it’s always “taken away, plucked out of, take away by force, caught away,” this idea.  So there’s this idea in the Scripture that there is a time when believers will be caught away, snatched away, taken away, now that has to happen.  That fact itself should never be something that is disputable.  Jesus said, ‘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.  Behold I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may also be.  And if I go to prepare a place for you I’ll come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am you may be also,’ clearly stating that he’s going to prepare a place, and then come again to receive us unto himself.  That was not the hope of Israel, the Jewish hope.  They were waiting for a Messiah to return, and take control of things on the earth so that every man could sit beneath his vine and his fig tree, and there’s a new idea that begins to be introduced in the New Testament [which gets added to the prophetic details of the ‘Jewish hope’ taken from the Kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament] of the Lord coming for the Church to receive the Church to himself, to take that Church to be with him.  1st Corinthians chapter 15, again, ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, atomos, in the twinkling of an eye, the speed of light, this corruption must put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality.’  The idea is there has to be both a transformation and a transportation, that we can’t go into the Lord’s presence in heaven the way we are.  To be with him in heaven forever there has to be that this corruption puts on incorruption, and this mortal puts on immortality, and there has to be a transforming and a transporting of the believer into his presence.  [Comment: Now the Calvary Chapel’s also believe we come back with Jesus, where Jesus becomes King of kings and Lord of lords, ruler of the whole world during and after the Kingdom Age, for 1000+ years, ruling over mankind with us ruling alongside of him as kings and priests in that Kingdom of God now ruling on earth.  So why he says we’ll be in heaven forever is beyond me.  In the end, even the New Jerusalem comes to reside on earth, that Heavenly City Abraham looked forward to, where our “mansions” reside, mentioned in Hebrews 11 (cf. Revelation 21:1-23).  So there is a slight problem with their connecting of the prophetic dots, at least in how they explain these things during a sermon.  For more about this Kingdom Age Jesus will institute over the whole world at his physical return to earth with his Church, the Bride of Christ, see]  Our 1st Thessalonian passage here of being “caught up”, and the power, to me, unimaginable, for you and I both to be transformed and translated, is a force far greater than the power of gravity and any natural law that we know for that to take place.  We have to change [i.e. we have to “be changed”].  It shouldn’t be debatable.  Enoch was taken, and changed, “he was not, because God took him.”  Moses, went up on Mount Pisgah, and God asked him to die there, but somehow it says Satan was disputing for his body, the Lord taking that.  Elijah, taken up in a fiery chariot.  There had to be a change for that to take place.  When they appear with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration there is the glory of the Lord there, the Shikinah, as they’re there [shining in glory just like the Lord was].  So, it shouldn’t be an argument amongst believers that there has to be a change for us to go to heaven.  I suppose you agree, and you don’t think you’re going to heaven just the way you’re sitting here tonight.  That would be a bummer for some of us, because we know people, we’ll be glad they’re changed when they get there.  Of course they’ll be glad that we are also.  But all should agree on the fact itself, that there will be a change. 


Ongoing History Of Man Must Be Interrupted Before Mankind Kills All Life On Earth


And it will be at a point, that human history doesn’t roll out indefinitely, and that when the Lord comes and interrupts history---it tells us in Matthew he has to, because if he wouldn’t interrupt history, there would be no flesh left alive on the planet.  Now that’s applicable to the day we live in.  There has never been a generation that faced that possibility before.  In the Civil War, and World War I, the Revolutionary War, there was never a time with muskets when everybody on the planet was going to be killed.  It has only been since we entered into nuclear proliferation that we actually now live in a day when every human being on the planet could die.  The United States maintaining a 5-Earth arsenal, so we can disintegrate every cubic inch of the planet 5 times over, in case we don’t get everybody the first four times, I don’t understand all of that.  The Russians maintaining at least a 4-Earth arsenal [and Russia still maintains that, worried about China, not the U.S.].  Jesus saying if he didn’t come when he came, there would be no one left alive on the planet.  So, there’s a time, God in his mercy interrupts human history, and as he comes, he comes for his Church, first.  Those who have died [in the faith] will be raised, those who are alive and living will be “caught up.”  The Church [Body of Christ in general] argues about the timing of the event.  Now, you have to understand what I’m saying, first of all, there’s a whole section of the Church that doesn’t believe in the virgin birth, they don’t believe in the physical return of Christ, they don’t believe in a literal resurrection, and they don’t believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  Of course they can’t believe that if they already threw everything else out the window.  [Comment:  And that group of so-called Christians, usually members of the older what I term dead and dying parts of the Body of Christ, are actually not really an active part of the Body of Christ anymore, they’re not real Christians.]  I’m talking about amongst us who believe in the Jesus of the Bible.  You see the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus who was prophecied in the Old Testament, who came according to the Tribe of Judah, who was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, who lived, was crucified, buried, rose on the third day, ascended and is returning for his Church.  That’s the Jesus I’m talking about, and those are the believers I’m talking about.  [see to read those prophecies about the real Jesus and his first coming.]  Some people believe in a different Bible and a different Jesus, and I don’t understand. 


The Various Parts Of Body of Christ Debate Over The Timing Of The Rapture, Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib


But amongst those of us that believe, there’s a debate over the timing, and there’s a number of views.  There’s the pre-tribulation view or the correct view [correct according to Pastor Joe J].  Of course that’s my bias, I’m joking, if you have another view that’s fine.  The pre-tribulation or the pre-70th week of Daniel view.  There’s a 7-year period set aside for God’s judgment to take place on the earth on a Christ-rejecting world, and before that begins he will remove his Church.  There is a mid-tribulation view, which is fuzzy to me, and I don’t understand it completely, they just assume that that second half will be worse, maybe properly you could call it the Great Tribulation, and therefore we’ll get out of here before midway into the whole process.  But anybody whose ever studied the first half knows the fun doesn’t begin three and a half years into the tribulation, it begins right away.  There is a partial Rapture view.  This one’s not worth considering, it’s stupid, because basically it says that spiritual Christians will be raptured and carnal Christians will be left behind.  So Jesus raptures on a curve [according to this interpretation].  Where that curve is, is where you want to be careful.  It’s a great doctrine to beat the Church up on Sunday [or on the Sabbath] with, about their carnality.  You know, the church has just got beat up all week in the world by Satan, and you love to get them in church on Sunday and beat them one more time, it’s a great doctrine.  It’s kind of like a Protestant purgatory, is really what it is, it really belittles the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Because the only reason that any believer pre, mid, or post anytime would ever be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, this corruption put on incorruption, this mortal putting on immortality, that can only happen by the Divine, miraculous power of an all-sufficient Saviour, and not by anybody’s performance.  [Comment:  But on the other hand, if you’re not wearing “a wedding garment” as Jesus brought out in the Wedding parable, then you will not be in the 1st Resurrection/Rapture to immortality.  You have to be an active participant in the process of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not just giving it lip-service.]  You might be able to jump high, you can’t jump that high.  So that’s the partial Rapture view.  Now there’s the three-quarter, as if we didn’t have enough confusion, pre-wrath, three-quarter, ‘no one ever knew it through Church history but me’ view, which is, I’m not going to address that.  Dr. Carlene did a great book to address that issue, and I think we keep it in the book store.  And then there’s the post-tribulation view, which many great scholars uphold.  You have to understand, before 1948, for all intent purposes, it looked like Israel no longer existed.  And theology through the Church Age developed to where many of the promises to Israel in the Old Testament fell then to the Church [called “Replacement Theology”, which is terribly wrong, and contributed to 1700 years of Catholic persecution and murdering of millions of Jews], because there was no Israel.  Of course in 1948 we see a nation reborn, and it starts to bring God’s calendar prophetically before the world again.  And clearly the Scripture knew what it was talking about when it said that Jerusalem would be the stumblingblock of all of the nations of the world, a cup of trembling.  You read Joseph Zisen, 1860 or C.H. MacIntosh or some of these men over a hundred years ago that clearly wrote “the way we read Scripture Israel has to be reborn as a nation again,” that was remarkable to be written 140, 150 years ago.  And some earlier than that.  The post-tribulation view basically says that the Lord comes at the end of the 7-year period, the end of the Tribulation, and as he’s descending, he blows the 7th Trumpet and catches up believers to come up and meet him in the air, and then they descend with him [back down to the top of the Mount of Olives, as Zechariah 14:1-15 shows].  And there are some Greek words that can be used to indicate that kind of a movement.  But of course if that was true and the Lord came down, there’d be no sheep and goats to separate, there are some problems with the view.  [There are serious problems with all the views, but I won’t get into that here.]  And it creates a survivalist mentality, ‘We’re going through the tribulation, so move to the Northwest, get your sacks of brown rice and your ammo, and get ready to survive.’  And that’s really dumb.  Because if you could survive the tribulation with bullets and brown rice, that doesn’t say very much about the Lord and the judgment he’s able to bring on a Christ-rejecting world.  I mean, there’s things that are going to be released from the abuso that man hasn’t seen probably from before the Flood, and they don’t care about bullets and brown rice, you can’t shoot them and you can’t build walls to stop them.  It’s not called the Tribulation, period, because it’s something we can survive.  But there are great scholars who hold that view.  So, the post-tribulation view and the pre-tribulation view to me are the ones that have been the most substantiated as a view.  I think that only the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church is constant with imminence, and I think that’s at the center of all this. 


There’s A Difference Between Christ Coming For His Church And Coming Back With His Church


Because there’s confusion sometimes between the Rapture of the Church and the 2nd Coming.  Those are not the same events.  There is a difference between Christ coming for his Church, and Christ coming with his Church.  At some point he comes for his Bride.  And the Scripture clearly says that in a number of places, that he’s coming for us.  But then we read of Christ coming with his saints in other places, when he returns to set up his Kingdom [see to see what that’s all about].  There are no signs that precede Christ coming for his Church, it will be like a thief in the night, it says “watch and be ready, because you know not what hour.”  No signs.  No warning.  When Christ comes with his Church, there are many signs that must precede the 2nd Coming of Christ to earth to set up his Kingdom, and we’re told of those clearly.  There is an immanent return, Christ could come at any moment, and there is a return when he comes to set up his Kingdom that is well documented and has many signs set out in front of us.  Jesus says this to us in Matthew chapter 24, verse 36, he says, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only.”  He tells us that they will be like as in the days of Noah, men were going about their business, and didn’t know until the day the Flood came and took them away.  So the exhortation is for you and I, believers to learn a lesson from the unbelievers in the days of Noah.  We know that it’s not written for Tribulation saints, believers that will be in that period, because they know when the Lord’s coming back to earth to rule as King of kings, they can mark off the days.  It’s 1260 days from the desolation of abomination, it’s clear (cf. Matthew 24:15).  We know that it’s not written to unbelievers during the Tribulation, because they’re not going to read Matthew.  Jesus warns that there’s a time where no one knows the day or the hour, but it will be like the days of Noah, people will be going about their business as usual, until the day it came.  One will be taken, one will be left.  And he says, ‘So the Lord will come take’ and he uses a different word there, and it means ‘take unto oneself,’ verses taken away in the Flood.  Then he says ‘If the goodman of the house had known what hour of the night the thief would have come, he would have stayed up and watched.’  He says it’s going to be like that, the thief in the night.  So Jesus says, it tells us, ‘there’s a coming that is unexpected,’ that could happen at any time.  He warns the Church to be ready and watch for that coming.  Paul tells us this in Romans 13, and I’m going to page through some verses, you can follow if you want, or just listen is what I would do.  Romans 13, verse 11 says, “And that knowing the time that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed, the night is far spent, the day is at hand.”    Now, Kenneth Wiess, who taught Greek at Moody Bible Institute for years, I’ll give you the way he translates this.  He says, Paul says here, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.”e Her   He translates it, “the day has arrived.”  And what he says is there’s an exhortation here to live godly, because the Day of Christ has arrived, that it is at hand.  Philippians chapter 3 tells us this, “For our conversation, our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we also look for the Saviour.”  Wiess translates that “From whence we also are eagerly waiting.”  “We” including himself, Paul, “eagerly waiting,” expecting the Lord’s coming in his day.  In Philippians chapter 4, verse 5 it says, “Be careful” or worried “about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” and in verse 5 it says, “let your moderation be made known to all men, the Lord is at hand,” Wiess translates that “the Lord is near” in that his coming may occur at any moment.  Hebrews chapter 10 tells us this in regards to the coming of the Lord.  The author of Hebrews says, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the day approaching.”  Wiess translates it, “as you are seeing the day drawing near,” exhorting the Jewish believers in his day that they were watching the Day of the Lord come upon them.  James, the Lord’s half-brother says it this way, in chapter 5, “be ye also patient, stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”  Wiess translates that, “the coming of the Lord has drawn near and is imminent.”  1st Peter chapter 4, verse 7, says, “The end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer,” Wiess translates that, “the end of all things has come near.”  The idea is, as we look at this idea, and much of the Church agrees on the truth of it, the fact of it, as the timing of it becomes the point of contention, we do have to understand that the New Testament Church, the apostles and Jesus Christ, put forth the idea that his return could happen at any moment.  The New Testament Church embraced that idea.  Jesus and the apostles put that idea forth.  The New Testament Church lived in the light of the return of Christ.  Paul tells us right here in Thessalonians, “then we which are alive” using the personal pronoun, including himself, “will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air,” ‘never surrender the blessed hope of the Church.’  Never surrender that, it’s yours.  That you can live each day, believing that Christ could come today.  Gibbons, the historian who wrote the history of the Roman Empire [1777], said, “the imminent return of Jesus Christ was one of the driving factors in the New Testament Church.  And he was an unbeliever that stood outside that was able to make that observation.  What would I do if it were my children or my bride, and I had already paid the price so that they didn’t have to suffer with a Christ-rejecting world.  Would I stand by if I had all authority and power and watch these things described in the Tribulation period come upon them, when I had already paid the price so that it didn’t have to happen.  He saved us, the Scripture says, “from the wrath to come.”  And that of course is in the Tribulation period. 


The Cause Of Daily Tribulation Is Satan, Christ Takes Responsibility For The Great Tribulation


Now look, John chapter 16, verse 33, tells us, “in this world you have tribulation,” and that’s been the history of the Church.  In this world we have tribulation, and that’s because of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We have an enemy.  We have a traitor within.  We have a carnal world that constantly appeals to us.  And there is tribulation.  But there’s a much different period of time, always marked by a definite article in the Greek the tribulation.  And just for the tape, you can read about that in Matthew 24:21,29, Revelation 7, 14, it talks about those who come out of great tribulation.  Of course Revelation chapter 3, Jesus speaking to the Church of Philadelphia (that’s us and it’s not us), in verse 10 says, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience” that is, you have kept the word of what I have endured, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of the temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.”  Jesus promises to those who have kept the word of his patience, that he will keep them.  Now look, the origin of that tribulation is the throne of Jesus Christ.  The origin of the tribulation we face every day is the enemy.  The origin of the Great Tribulation, you’ll find in Revelation chapter 6, as the Lamb is found worthy to take the scroll, that as he begins to open the Seals, that period of tribulation is let loose on the face of the earth, by the Lamb himself.  He warns that we would see signs of deception, false christs, but ultimately when he no longer restrains, when he opens the first Seal, all false christs and false antichrists will be fulfilled when finally the antichrist comes forth.  We’re warned about wars and rumours of wars, that’s all restrained, because when Christ opens the second Seal, the Red Horse rides, then finally war breaks forth over the whole planet.  When we look at Revelation chapter 6 we see him [Jesus] opening the seals in his redemptive form, the Lamb that was slain, opening the seals so all of those things can break forth on a Christ-rejecting world.  Some say, ‘Well, you know what?  Every generation in the Church has been in tribulation, why should the last generation escape?’  No, every generation of the Church has faced the general tribulation that every believer faces.  But when Christ opens the Seals, that tribulation comes from the throne of God on a Christ-rejecting world.  [Comment:  And even though it is Satan and some special demons being unleashed, it is Jesus Christ who is now allowing the world to experience Satan full-force, undiluted, since the world has clearly demonstrated they don’t want Jesus Christ or true Christians around.  In essence, it’s God saying the buck stops on his desk, he takes full responsibility for what is about to befall planet earth.  Jesus Christ opening these 7 Seals is God taking full responsibility for everything that’s going to happen, and this, for the ultimate salvation of mankind.  Mankind has to learn a vital lesson first, the hard way, since he doesn’t want to learn it any other way at this point.]  And we invert the question, ‘Why should every generation of the Church escape the wrath of the Lamb, and the last generation of the Church be forced to go through the wrath of the Lamb?’  To me that doesn’t make any sense. 


Will Believers Go Through The Tribulation?


You know, will believers go through the Tribulation?  Well yes and no.  We know that there are some believers that will escape, and everybody believes on this, whether you’re a pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, partial-trib, 3/4 –trib, whatever trib you are, wherever you’re tribbing out, everybody agrees there is one group, and they’re the majority of believers, that will not go through the tribulation, and those are the dead ones.  Everybody, from the time the Book of Acts started on Pentecost, and every believer up until the present who has died in Christ [I’d also say going right back to righteous Abel, and everyone listed in Hebrews 11] will not go through the tribulation, and that’s the vast majority of believers.  They’re not going through the tribulation, everybody agrees on that.  The dead ones are not going through.  We know that there are 144,000 believers, Revelation chapter 7, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, it names the tribes, that are sealed on their foreheads by angels, that will be 144,000 Israelites that will go out through the earth, and they will be sustained and preserved through the tribulation.  They will be believers who go through the tribulation.  It is not the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  There are lots of groups who claim that they’re the 144,000.  When a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door and tells you that you can join the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are 144,000, it’s a bad organization to join, because they have way more than 144,000 members, so there’s no room for you anyway.  No, these are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes, the Bible’s very specific about that.  These are Jews [no they aren’t, these are Israelites.  The Jews, from the tribe of Judah, make up only one tribe of Israel.  This is all 12 tribes], virgin males, that will be preserved through the tribulation.  Revelation chapter 6 and Revelation chapter 7 tell us of a great number that come out that are martyred during the tribulation, they will be believers that are in the tribulation that are “saved” after the Rapture of the Church.  Now look, there are those who say, and they want to build an altar in 2nd Thessalonians, that because they didn’t accept Christ before the Rapture, if they were presented with Christ before the Rapture and didn’t accept Christ, that therefore after the Rapture and the Tribulation, they can’t get saved.  I don’t believe that.  You could get saved.  Did you get saved the first time somebody presented Christ to you?  I loved to argue with Christians before I was a believer, I loved to get them mad.  And I was so spaced out on LSD they couldn’t talk to me anyhow, I was on astroplains, meditating, you know, I just loved to get them aggravated and blow their testimony before I even knew what it was.  But Christ was patient with me, and I had many opportunities before finally the truth came, and I was washed and cleansed and saved.  The Holy Spirit is not going to be removed in his saving work, we’ll come to that in 2nd Thessalonians.  He will be removed in his restraining work. 


The World As It Is Now verses The Tribulation World


Understand, as you look at the world tonight, what you’re seeing is the restrained version.  34 million abortions [it’s up to over 65 million abortions now] in the last 25 years, the restrained version.  Nuclear weapons all around the world, the restrained version.  Thousands of people dying in war, it’s the restrained version.  Immorality, spiritual deception, we have no idea what this world is gonna be like when the Holy Spirit stops restraining, and fallen angels and principalities and powers that haven’t been active since the Flood will be let loose on this earth again.  The post-Rapture world is going to be stranger than anything we can imagine.  But it will be also one of the greatest times of harvest and evangelism the world has ever seen, multitudes will come to Christ, and be beheaded, be martyred.  We see them in Revelation chapter 6 and 7, so there will be those believers. 


What About The Church?---We’re Not Appointed To Wrath


What about the Church [greater Body of Christ]?  I mean, that’s our concern, right?  Selfishly, my concern, it’s your concern.  I know what you’re concerned with, don’t look at me like it’s not.  If we took a group picture tonight, put it on the wall out there, next week when you come in, who’d be the first person you’d look for?  ‘Where am I?  Oh there I am.  I look dumb, they should take this picture over again.’  What about us?  What about the Church?  You know Romans chapter 1, verse 10, tells us that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, those who turn away from God and hate God.  It’s revealed against all ungodliness.  And yet it tells us in Romans chapter 5 and verse 9, that we have been saved from wrath, by him, by Christ, by his blood.  Interesting, 1st Thessalonians chapter 1, verse 10, there’s a lot of 1-10s and 5-9s, 1st Thessalonians chapter 1 and verse 10 says ‘that the Christians there had turned from idols to worship the true and the Living God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, who had saved them, delivered them from the wrath to come.’  That’s what the Scriptures says, ‘we have been delivered from the wrath to come.’  Chapter 5, verse 9 in Thessalonians, well I’ll begin at the beginning, “But of times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.  For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”--- And when you read through this for next week, note the difference between “they” and “you.”---“For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”  And here’s the difference.  “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.  Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day:  we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep,” and it means spiritually “as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.  For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (verses 1-9)  We are not appointed to wrath, the Scripture says clearly.  Revelation, if you’ll turn there, chapter 5. 


What Is Perfect Worship, A Worship Service?---A Great Model For Congregational Worship


And by the way, I can digress here for a minute.  In Revelation you can digress in lots of different directions.  I’ll digress in this direction.  Do yourself a favour when you get a chance, and read through Revelation chapters 4 and 5.  Take note of the worship that is taking place there.  1st Corinthians 13 says ‘When that which is perfect is come,’ describing this scene in heaven, the Lord is reigning supreme here.  When you look at the worship here [in Revelation 4-5], take note of the order, please, because it’s our model.  When we gather to take Communion and people are goofing off, telling jokes, distracting people here in the church that are trying to do what they’re doing in remembrance of the Lamb that was slain, I guarantee you, in this scene there’s nobody goofing off, around the throne of God, there’s nobody drawing attention to themselves.  Everybody’s standing there in complete God-fearing awe, filled with reverence and filled with wonder.  And all of the attention is on the Lamb.  That’s a picture of perfect worship.  Take note of this too, there’s nobody during this worship service, drawing attention to themselves.  And I know that we love to worship, but there’s nobody in this scene, right in the middle of it going ‘Yeah!  Amen!’  There’s nobody standing up in the middle of the song, no, no, it says they all stand up at the same time, they all fall down at the same time, they all throw their crowns at the same time, they all sing the same songs at the same time.  And I say that for this reason, and I love you guys, sometimes I watch during the worship and sometimes, and some of you in your exuberance, you’re out and you’re dancing (and some of you should never dance, you know), but some of you are up dancing, and ah, I watch a visitor, looking across, and watching.  Or I watch someone whose come to worship Christ, and they’re sitting over there, and all they can see is somebody down here carrying on, and the attention is being taken off Jesus Christ.  Look, there is a time, and you can watch it, it happens spontaneously, some time when we’re worshipping here and we’ll all of a sudden, everyone starts to stand, and you can sense the leading of the Holy Spirit, and nobody can complain about that.  Because it’s real and it’s genuine.  There are times during our Communion service where all of a sudden everybody begins to put up there hands, and everybody stands up, and it’s spontaneous, and there’s a unity to it.  And that’s something that overwhelms these pictures of worship here.  But there are also times when one person makes a spectacle of themselves, and it draws attention from Jesus Christ.  And I might say to that person, ‘Hey, would you do that while I was teaching while I’m right up here in the middle of a sermon?’  ‘oh no, I’d never draw attention from you,’  Wait a minute, I’m just a man.’  You mean, you’re willing to draw attention from Jesus Christ when the saints are raising their hearts to worship him, but you’re not willing to draw attention from an old druggy hippie like me that got saved?  There’s a beautiful order in this picture, and it’s a model for us.  Because this is when that which is perfect comes.  And we can see the way perfect worship takes place around the throne of God, the order of it, the beauty of it, the unity of it.  And I’m not trying to quench anybody’s spirit.  You know, some spirits need to be quenched though.  Not the Holy one, but there are some others that do.  But as we worship as a congregation, I think it’s a great model for us, to look there, to read through it, to take note of the collectiveness of that worship, of the order of it, when worship becomes perfect in the presence of God, and it’s not based around anybody but Jesus, no one else is getting attention, no one else is distracting.  But look, I’m not stumbled when somebody stands up.  But think about some beautiful old Baptist saint, who comes in and sits in the back row, maybe hasn’t heard the Word of God taught for years.  They’ve been scared to death to come here for months, because they know we’re rolling in the aisles, screaming in tongues, we’re holy laughing up and down the aisles, they just know it [that’s what they must be thinking, even though it’s not really true].  And their poor grandkids are coming here getting deceived, and they finally walk in some Sunday, and they’re having a hard enough time with the drums and everything else [used during the Praise & Worship part of the service], then all of a sudden, and they go, ‘I knew it!  There they go.’  And of course we want them, you know, the song service, and when we’re singing, that’s not the worship service, that’s just the song service---the worship service, to me, again, is that when people drive on the parking lot they feel safe, they have security people to watch their cars, you can check your kid into the nursery without somebody drooling, taking your kid, you know, the nursery looks clean so you can actually sit and rest and listen to the Word, the ushers at the door handing out the bulletin, the service starts on time, the song service goes through its procedure, the Word of God is taught, that’s the whole, to me that’s the whole worship service.  Where the people can come and open their hearts to the Lord, and the songs are a time when we pour out our hearts in genuineness and clear the air to hear the Word of God, and to sow the Word of God into our hearts, so that God’s Spirit can do that.  All of that is the worship service.  [Comment:  Calvary Chapels are actually a modern-day form of Baptists with a “very slight” Pentecostal twist thrown in for good measure, and there’s a link in the Church history section on this site showing where the Baptists came from.  So the thought of an old Baptist couple coming in for a visit isn’t so far fetched J]  Worship is a mode of life, it’s a lifestyle.  It isn’t just singing, it’s a lifestyle.  But it’s interesting for us to look at the model here, to see the order of it.  Because we never want to turn anybody off to the Word of God.  The song service prepares the way for the Word of God to be sown into people’s hearts, and that’s what it’s for, to clear the air.  Some of those great old hymns, with tremendous lyrics.  I love it when we sing some of our songs in the first person, as they’re singing here, ‘Thou art worthy,’ you know, to sing directly to the Lord.  Look, as an aside, ok, because we’re going to look at one of the songs here, there, that’s my little shtick on behavior, children behave. 


Men In Heaven Before The Tribulation Begins?


Revelation chapter 5 says this, “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.”  A scroll.  “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?”  And notice this, “And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.” (verses 1-3)  “no man in heaven…” now wait a minute, this is before the Tribulation begins.  There’s already men in heaven?  “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” (verse 4)  Now that should be a tremendous relief to us, especially those of us who thought for years we were the ones who had to be found worthy.  No man was found worthy, to open, to read the book, neither to look thereon.  “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not:  behold, the Lion of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.  And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”  (verse 6)  He turned, expecting to see a Lion, notice, in the midst of everything stood a Lamb, as it had been slain, having the marks of slaughter, it says.  “And he came and he took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.  And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.  And they sung a new song, saying, Thou are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof:  for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests:  and we shall reign on the earth.” (verses 7-10)  “us, us, we”  Now some of you I’m sure have something else written there, this is the King James Bible I’m using, verse 9 “for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed” come on, fess up, what do you have there?  ‘Men? Them?’  I know, some of you have “us.”  Some of you have “them”, some of you have “men.”  And then they put a note [marginal note] in the column in some of the Bibles you’re using that says something like this, ‘the best manuscripts say “men” or “them.”  The ancient manuscripts say “them.”  Or this is what always kills me, “the original”, nobody’s ever laid an eye on a signature.  We have plenty of textual evidence, don’t get me wrong, but nobody’s got an original, I can’t believe they would write that, that sells Bibles.  “The original manuscripts say”, well you see there’s a problem, because if it says “Thou hast redeemed us”, whose singing the song?  If it’s “us” then you have the Church in heaven.  Even Ladd says “If the word is “us” the Church is in heaven, before the tribulation begins.”  Gundry says “If the word is “us” the Church is in heaven before the tribulation begins.”  What does it say, if it’s “them”, “thou hast redeemed them from every nation” then it can be angels singing, it could be somebody else.  If it’s “thou hast redeemed us by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;” then we have to have the Church in heaven.  Now a friend of mine received a call from a seminary professor who had heard us teaching on Revelation chapter 5.  And because my friend believed that the text said “us”, and the seminary professor said, “You know, I listened” he’s a Greek professor, “I listened to your tapes on Revelation chapter 5” “Really?”  And he said, “You know what, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” My friend said, “Oh really?  What are you talking about?”  He said, “Well I heard you say that the manuscripts say “us”, and he said, “Did you know that the Book of Revelation is a compilation of about 95 ancient manuscripts.”  My friend said, “Yes, I knew that.”  And he said, “Well, didn’t you know that only 23 of the 95 manuscripts says “us”?  And my friend said, “Yup, I knew that.  But professor, you know a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”  He said, “Really, what are you talking about?”  My friend said, “Did you know that there are only 24 manuscripts in existence out of the 95 that have Revelation chapter 5?, and 23 of the 24 says “us”?  And there’s only one manuscript, the Codex Alexandrius, that says “them.”  There’s a Coptic paraphrase, it’s not even a manuscript, that agrees with Codex Alexandrius.  Those of you who study the Wesley Allan text, you know it’s funny, because they give their text in Koine Greek, and tell us “When there’s ever an argument over the text, that Vaticanus is the final authority. Well Vaticanus is written in Classical Greek and doesn’t even have the Book of Revelation in it.  I think, this is more guys selling books to make money, because if they were honest, they’d have written their texts in Classical Greek, because that’s their final authority, instead of Koine.  But they know that the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, so they say their final authority is the Classical Greek text that doesn’t even have the book, but they write it in Koine.  I know, that’s for some of you, ok?  I know.  Sinaiticus, every other early manuscript, 23 of them that we have in existence, we have 24 manuscripts, ancient, that have this chapter in them.  23 of the 24 say “us.”  Now the final proof is very simple.  If you turn back to chapter 1 in the Book of Revelation.  Beginning in verse 4, it says, “John to the seven churches”, so it’s clear who Jesus Christ is revealing this to, it’s to the churches “which are in Asia:  grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.  Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.” (verses 4-6)  And there is not a variance on a manuscript anywhere in the world on the word “us” there, and the song in chapter 5 is simply taken from that.  And the point is, we have the Church in heaven before Jesus Christ opens the seals and the seven year period of the Tribulation begins.  It’s Daniel’s 70th week, we know from Revelation chapter 11, three and a half years into it, that it’s a seven year period.  Yes, the last half is marked by greater things than the world has ever seen, and in that is called Great Tribulation.  But the whole period is a period of torment.  The two prophets killed in Revelation 11, the people celebrate for three days and say “those prophets who tormented the whole earth are dead.”  There is global torment for the first three and a half years [no, some think Revelation 11 is about the last three and a half years, so there’s disagreement there within the Body of Christ also, which is a shame].  Supernatural.  One fourth of the world’s population killed when the horsemen go forth.  Again that’s all of South America, Central America, Mexico, the United States, Canada and western Europe [population wise, not necessarily these countries], every human being gone.  That’s the first half of the tribulation.  That doesn’t sound like Great Tribulation to you guys, wrath?  It’s unimaginable what will be taking place during that time period.  And Jesus Christ is coming to get his Bride, and carry her across the threshold, before he punishes a Christ-rejecting world.  He tells us to treat our wives as Christ treats the Church.  But if you’re a post-tribulationist your wife’s in trouble.  [laughter]  But people say to me “Aren’t you afraid, aren’t you afraid to teach, you teach a pre-trib Rapture, you get their hopes up, and what happens, what happens if Jesus comes and the Church doesn’t get Raptured?” No, I’m not afraid to teach what the Bible says.  And if the Bible says “us”, I’m not afraid to teach it.  If the Bible says we are in heaven worshipping Jesus Christ before the tribulation begins, why should I be afraid to teach that?  In fact, I’m afraid not to teach that, because at the end of this book [Revelation] it says ‘If anybody takes away from the things written in this book, I’m going to take away his part in the Book of Life.’  So, I’m afraid not to teach it.  I’m not amazed at God’s love.  The miracle is this, the miracles is that at some point human beings are translated, beamed up, “Beam me up Scotty!”  That’s the miracle, that at some point, in the twinkling of an eye, this corruption puts on incorruption, this mortal puts on immortality.  It’s not a miracle to me that Jesus loves us enough to take us out of the world before he punishes those who reject him, and haven’t had the benefit of his atonement, that doesn’t amaze me.  I expect that kind of love from him.  And he’s made me, vulnerable, and expecting that kind of love from him.  And I do.  And I live with my head lifted up because I believe Christ is coming anytime now.  You see what’s happening in the world.  And I challenge you tonight.  If you’re here and you don’t know Christ, ‘Well, I don’t believe in that, I believe in a post-tribulation Rapture.’  Ah, well, as your faith is, so be it done to you, you know.  [chuckles]  You can either come with us, and stand in heaven, and sing “us” or you can stay here and sing “them.”  [laughter]  That’s up to you.  [No, actually, as I said before, our lack of understanding on any prophetic event in the Bible will not prevent the Lord from fulfilling that event the way it is supposed to be or intended by him to be fulfilled.  And if it is meant to  be a pre-trib Rapture of the greater Body of Christ to heaven before the 1st Seal is opened, then we’ll all be there singing “us.”  Prophetic ignorance will not prevent God from doing his will, prophetically or otherwise.  That’s why our particular interpretations are secondary, because all of us know in part, as looking through a darkened glass, then, we will know perfectly, when it happens.  There must be unity in the Body of Christ in getting the Gospel of Salvation out to the world prior to that event (cf. Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).  Personally I believe Pastor Joe has given “us” a very good argument for a pre-trib Rapture to the Sea of Glass in front of God’s throne.]  The early Church believed that Christ was coming.  Paul told single men, 1st Corinthians chapter 7, to stay single, because the Lord was coming soon.  He’d have wiped out the Church had everybody listened to him.  He expected the return of Christ in his day.  James did.  Peter did.  It is a purifying hope, and it is a blessed hope.  And we are to comfort one another with these ideas.  Not woe, woe, woe, like the trumpets in the Book of Revelation, and the Last Trumpet in Revelation 7 lasting for days [no, actually for about 3 or 4 months, Pentecost to Feast of Trumpets], no this is a single trumpet that calls the Church home, that happens in an instant.  And this corruption [he’s slapping his chest], right here, is going to put on incorruption.  I plan on being 30 again, somewhere around there.  This mortal will put on immortality, Christ will descend for his Bride.  ‘Those who have died in Christ---Kirk, how many that we saw go home and be with the Lord this year that we love?---will be raised first.  Then those of us who are still alive will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, so shall we ever be with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, wherefore comfort one another with these words.’  Doesn’t say ‘We’re all gonna be here, better dig in and get some brown rice and get some ammo, get some water, ‘cause you’re in for a time you ain’t never dreamed of.’  What kind of blessed hope is that, that’s a blessed bummer.  You know, again, people will scream ‘That’s not historic Church doctrine, it’s Margaret McDonald and John Darby, NCI Scoffield…’  Now wait a minute, it’s Biblical doctrine, it’s New Testament doctrine.  Historic Church doctrine is a mess.  When Huss, Calvin and Luther tried to bring justification by faith back to the Church they were threatened, people wanted to put them to death, because justification by faith was not historic [Catholic] Church doctrine, it was New Testament doctrine, it was Biblical doctrine.  The imminent return of Jesus Christ, that it could happen at any moment, is not consistent with any other position, three and a half years in, seven years in.  It produces bad fruit, ‘Whose that wicked servant who says in his heart the Lord delays his coming, and begins to drink and beat his fellow servants, and so forth.’  No, no, watch, because you know not the hour the Son of man comes.  It will be like a thief in the night.  I guarantee you this, if he waits much longer, it won’t be, we’ll all be standing around saying ‘Come on Lord, come on Lord, come on Lord.’  No, when he comes, there always seems to be an element of surprise about it.  Anybody ever been robbed?  You go home, it’s a bummer.  There’s a sense of violation, you can’t believe somebody broke in, it’s a shock.  That’s the same thing, it will be like a thief in the night.  Like the days of Noah, where everybody was just going about their business until the day the flood came and took them away.  And Jesus says ‘Learn the lesson of the unbelieving world in the days of Noah.’  It will come that way.  No man knows the day or the hour.  Oh there are plenty of signs to the 2nd Coming.  But for Christ’s coming for the Church, not the coming with the Church, it can happen at any time.  Therefore we are to leave this place tonight, and live our lives like that.  You shouldn’t be in a bar this week [not because drinking in extreme moderation is wrong, but because the sinful atmosphere in a bar is extremely dangerous, plus that atmosphere leads to overdrinking as well as many other sins], if you believe Jesus Christ could come at any moment.  You should not be living in fornication, if you believe that Jesus Christ could come at any moment.  You should not be on the Internet looking at pornography, if you believe that Jesus Christ could come at any moment.  It should measure us, and give us a meter of holiness to our lives, that we should be set aside for the things of God, evangelizing, praying, living with a level of zeal.  Me, too, it’s a rebuke to me too.  That’s what it should do within us, if we really embrace what we say we believe.  And we do.  [transcript of a connective expository sermon given on 1st Thessalonians 4:16-18 by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116]


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