To deviate from the normal posts, I want to offer some clarity on an important doctrine. To do that requires some foundational understanding.
But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and arose again, so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Some may scoff that the word rapture doesn’t appear in the text. It’s true, the English word rapture does not appear in the text. But the Greek word harpazo (rapture) translated as caught up is.
The Rapture, to and for Who?
It’s specifically for those in Christ.
You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.Galatians 3:26–29 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
We now have a clear understanding that the rapture is for those in Christ. To be in Christ is to be baptized into Jesus Christ.
That’s Great. But What Does it Mean?
The rapture is for the body of Christ, His church. We must have a clear understanding of what the church is. That is, we must have a proper ecclesiology.
Let’s get started.
He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in all things He may have the preeminence.Colossians 1:18 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
What we learn here is exactly what the church is. The church is the body of the Messiah.
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called the “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” in the flesh by human hands, were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were formerly far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:11–16 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
For He is our peace, who has made both groups one and has broken down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of the commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile both to God into one body through the cross, thereby slaying the enmity.
This passage basically explains what the composition of the church is.
Paul begins by explaining the initial conditions of God’s dealing with people. There were basically two groups of people, the Israelis, and the Gentiles. There was an advantage to being Israeli because God had a special relationship with those people. One of these groups was set aside by covenants that God made with them. Of those covenants, one called the Mosaic covenant (containing the ten commandments) served as the dividing wall or partition between the two people groups. Gentiles were alienated and far off from the benefits of these covenants even though they could be saved by the same faith as the Israelis.
When Messiah died, He broke down this partitioning wall and took it out of the way. As the wall is now removed, God creates of the two separate groups one new man. The one new man is now a third entity that had not heretofore existed. It is one body through the cross. The body is the church of the Messiah.
The composition of the body is all Israelis and Gentiles who believe.
How Does One Enter this Body?
For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are slaves or free, and we have all been made to drink of one Spirit.1 Corinthians 12:13 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
The way to enter the body is by baptism by Spirit. This is the one baptism. It isn’t by water.
There is one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.Ephesians 4:4–6 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
One body. One God. One Spirit. One Father. One Lord. One faith. One baptism.
When did the Church Begin?
This can be a confusing point. There are many different ideas presented on exactly when the church began. Some see it in the Tanakh, thinking it started with Adam or Abraham.
Since we know that entrance into the body called the church is by Spirit baptism, let us see if we can find where Spirit baptism began.
Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples to tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.Matthew 16:17–20 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This is the first and only occurrence of the word church in the four gospels. The setting for this is in Caesarea Philippi. It is home to the Grotto of Pan or as Jesus said the gates of Hell. Reading further on from this passage, it can be learned that the church being built is a consequence of Israel for their rejection of the Messiah. The important part is that the church is yet future… I will build my church. It is simple present tense informing us that it is not something that had existed before and will be expanded.
For John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”Acts 1:5 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Jesus promises Spirit baptism, not many days from now. It is yet future. We know now that the entrance into the church body was still yet future, therefore the church as a body was still to come. But when did Spirit baptism begin?
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues as of fire, being distributed and resting on each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.Acts 2:1–4 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
On the Day of Pentecost, as the disciples were gathered, the Spirit entered them. They were filled with the Spirit. This is not a new idea, many
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.Luke 1:15 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.Micah 3:8 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of craftsmanship to devise artistic works for work with gold, with silver, and with bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of craftsmanship.Exodus 31:3–5 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
I posted these to show that being filled with the Spirit is not a new thing. It happened to John the Baptist and to Micah. It happened to Bezalel the son of Uri.
Acts 2 declares nothing about Spirit baptism. Being Spirit-filled is not the same as Spirit baptism.
To understand clearly, we need to move forward in Acts to Chapter 10.
Peter, after receiving a vision Peter was instructed there were three men looking for him. These three were sent by a centurion named Cornelius who had just previously been visited by an angel. Peter invited these three men and provided lodging for them. The next day he went to Joppa with them. Peter entered the house filled with relatives of Cornelius. He spoke to them and shared the details of the Gospel with these Gentiles. We pick it up in the text.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. All the believers of the circumcision who had come with Peter were astonished, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and magnifying God.Acts 10:44–48 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Then Peter continued, “Can anyone forbid water for baptizing these, who have received the Holy Spirit as we have?” So he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
When Peter returned to Jerusalem to report on what happened, there was a bit of controversy. Peter had entered a Gentile home, something forbidden in the law.
Peter tells of his vision, and not wanting to be disobedient to the vision, he did as he was instructed to do.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as He fell on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”Acts 11:15–17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
He tells us succinctly that what happened with these Gentiles was the same as what happened to those Jewish disciples gathered on that beginning Pentecost. He remembered what Jesus said in Acts 1:5. The church began in Acts 2 with Spirit baptism. Because that is when Spirit baptism began.
The church is a distinct body that is not Israeli or Gentile. The church had a beginning that is clear. It was the Pentecost day described in Acts 2. That is when Spirit baptism began.