The Hearing of Faith
To many of our listeners the term, the rapture of the overcomers, may be unfamiliar. In general, Christians have heard that at a certain point in time, when the Lord is ready to come, He will descend on the clouds and the multitude of His believers, both the living and the dead, will be caught up to meet Him in the air. This is based upon the statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, which describes the general rapture of all believers at the end of this age just before Christ’s descent to judge the world. It will take place at the time of the last trumpet (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52).
Through a careful reading of the New Testament, however, one can discover other events of rapture. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord cautioned the believers to be watchful: “Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord comes” (24:42). He tells of two men in a field—one shall be taken (in rapture) and the other left. Likewise, two women grinding at a mill—one is taken and the other is left (vv. 40, 41). That these ones are all believers is proven by the words “watch therefore” and “your Lord.” Then in the same chapter of Matthew, through the parable of a slave who is set over his master’s household, the Lord further warns the disciples to be faithful and prudent. If he is faithful, that slave will receive a reward at the coming of his Master. But if he is not faithful, thinking that his Lord is delaying his coming, he will be punished (vv. 45-51). (To be cut asunder indicates a cutting off from the glory of Christ in His kingdom for a season, not an eternal judgment in the lake of fire.) Thus there are some believers who, having been watchful, are ready for our Lord’s return prior to the great tribulation; they will be caught up in rapture, and will receive a reward for their faithfulness. According to the Scriptures, this occurs earlier than the general rapture described in 1 Thessalonians.
The book of Revelation speaks frequently of him who overcomes (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Then in chapter 12 we are told that the man-child who would rule with an iron rod (cf. 2:26-27) “was caught up to God and to His throne.” This is a rapture to the throne (not just to the air), a rapture of the overcomers who will initiate the expulsion of Satan from the heavens to the earth. Later in chapter 14, we read of the firstfruits who are standing with the Lamb on heavenly Mount Zion, an indication that they, having ripened earlier, are raptured to the heavenly dwelling place for the Father’s enjoyment (vv. 1-5). They precede the general harvest (corresponding to the general rapture of 1 Thessalonians) which is depicted in verses 14 and 15 of the same chapter. Based on these portions of the Bible in Matthew and Revelation, we speak of the rapture of the overcomers. May the Lord’s word to us cause us to be watchful and live a life preparing for His coming that we could be raptured as His overcomers.
For further reading on this subject, please see the footnotes on 1 Thes. 4:17, Rev. 12:5, footnote 2 of Rev. 14:4, and the footnotes on Rev. 14:15 in the New Testament Recovery Version; Life-study of Matthew, messages 63-66; and The Kingdom chapters thirty-nine and forty, by Witness Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry.
From Issue No. 23, March 2000