This is about Easter, but I promise it ends with a twist that will cause you to imagine the rapture, the resurrection, from an entirely different angle.
Easter--the day Christians in every nation on earth celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus. Without this miraculous event, Christianity would be as irrelevant and ineffectual as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and all the other empty, man-made religions that try in vain to connect with God, or the religious men and women who claim to be Christians but deny the central doctrine of our faith.
The impossibility of the resurrection is without question, the objection most often raised by skeptics and enemies of Christianity. This skepticism isn't limited to the sophisticated men and women of the twenty-first century. In Paul's memorable address to the men of first-century Athens (remember, "the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas"--Acts 17: 21), he warned them of a coming day when God would judge the world with justice. To support his claim, Paul cited the resurrection of Jesus as proof that God has the authority to someday sit in judgment of the world.
However, when the brilliant men who filled the beautiful Areopagus heard Paul's talk of the resurrection, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, records that some of them sneered. The notion that someone could be raised from the dead was foolishness, utter nonsense to these learned representatives of the people.
Later Paul, then a prisoner of Rome, had an opportunity to present the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15: 1 -- 4) to King Agrippa (Herod Agrippa), the first century Judean monarch. After capturing the King's attention with a riveting speech, Paul said,
"I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen--that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and the Gentiles" -- Acts 26: 22b -- 23
At the mention of the resurrection, Herod rudely interrupted Paul shouting, "You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!"
Skeptics smugly smile and wink at the story of a Jewish boy, born to a naïve young virgin in the dusty shepherd's outpost called Bethlehem. The enemies of Christianity admire the noble character of the man named Jesus, so long as they're not required to emulate his life. But let someone mention a literal resurrection of the dead, and all hell breaks loose.
Why is that?
The Apostle John records that Mary Magdala was the one who saw the resurrected Jesus first. Luke elaborates on John's account, noting that Joanna and Mary the mother of James were with Mary Magdala. Luke also says Jesus appeared to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus.
Paul writes that Jesus "appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of who are still living ... then he appeared to James." If Paul's account was false, you can be sure that the first-century equivalents of CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and Yahoo News would be all over the story, loudly protesting the exaggerated tales of a new religion.
Resurrections are never secret events in the Bible.
Before Jesus raised a ruler's daughter to life, the crying and wailing crowd began to laugh when they misunderstood the words he spoke to them. But moments later, Jesus raised the little girl from the dead, astonishing her grieving family and the mocking crowd - Matthew 9: 8 - 26; Mark 5: 21 -- 45.
A noisy group of mourners was accompanying a widow who was on the way to bury her son. But Jesus interrupted the mournful procession, commanding the young man to get out of his coffin. The stunned throng was filled with awe, praising God for the miracle - Luke 7: 11 -16.
In one of the most touching scenes in Scripture, Jesus restores life to his dead friend, Lazarus, who had died three days earlier. So many people placed their trust in Jesus because of this very public resurrection that the religious leaders began to plot the murder of Jesus and his friend - John 11: 1 -- 54.
Perhaps the most astonishing resurrection took place upon Jesus' death. Matthew records that when Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. And then a mass resurrection took place. Matthew writes that "the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many people." -- Matthew 27: 50 -- 54.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reveals some new information about the future resurrection of Christ's followers:
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep [die], but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we [believers who are alive at that moment] will be changed [translated]." -- 1 Corinthians 15: 51 -- 52
Paul describes these twin events in another letter, this one to the Thessalonians:
"For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." -- 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 -- 17a
Most of my life, I've believed that when the Lord returns for his church, the dead believers will be resurrected and the living Christians will be raptured--and immediately both groups are transported to heaven.
But in his excellent book, Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord, the author, Alan Kurschner, raises the possibility that our departure from this earth may not be immediate:
"It is often assumed that the alive will receive their new bodies as they are being raptured to the sky. But the text does not state this. Presumably, the alive in their newly transformed bodies will join with the newly resurrected on earth as a testimony to the world, then shortly after that union they will be raptured. The dead in Christ receive their transformed bodies before the alive receive theirs, but both groups--the resurrected and the remnant--will be united together on earth before they are raptured at the same time."
Think on that possibility for a moment!
Earthly kings demonstrate their power by public executions. King Jesus proves his power by public resurrections.
We saw the very public resurrections time and again in the examples I cited from Scripture, didn't we? Why would the most profound and eagerly anticipated event in all of history, the parousia of Christ, announced by spectacular signs, his visible coming with power and great glory, and the rapture of his saints, be hidden from public view?
Perhaps it's my unwholesome desire for vindication--of the world's deliberate rejection and suppression of the truth--that has me longing for a public demonstration that we are, indeed, members of God's family. Maybe Paul is hinting at this possibility when he writes,
"To them [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." -- Colossians 1: 27
In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes,
"I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall "stand before" Him, shall appear, be inspected.
"The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God ... to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness ... to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or father in a son--it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But it is."
Imagine God so delighted in us, even as an artist delights in his work or a father in his son, that he chooses to put on display the results of his substitutionary death and resurrection. For a brief period, hours or even days, we would be living testimony to the work of Christ.
Envision a resurrected Abraham Lincoln, slowly making his way through a cadre of TV crews and cameras as he walks to the White House. Or thirteen martyred Coptic Christians, alive and praising God before a band of ISIS terrorists in the Middle East. Visualize the raptured professor who was shamefully dismissed for teaching the creator of the universe is God, now victoriously stepping through the halls of the university, vindicated by her Creator. How about bankrupted bakery owners and wedding photographers, clothed in their immortal bodies, dancing in joy before the judges who wrongfully deprived them of a livelihood?
We don't have a full understanding of what all will happen at the rapture. But judging by the examples of resurrections in Scripture, our personal Easter will be unimaginably glorious.
I can hardly wait!
Author of "The god-man: seed of Satan"
Most Recent Posts at Magic City
Obama's Dangerous Game in the Middle East
Mar 22, 2015
The god-man: seed of Satan is the first in a two-part, pre-wrath rapture thriller that tells the riveting story of the rise of the treacherous Antichrist, the god-man who will come to prominence during the seventieth week of Daniel.
Obama was humiliated by Netanyahu's victory, as tens of millions in the U.S. and Israel view the results of Tuesday's contest as a referendum on Obama's failed Middle East policies. The Saudi Daily Al-Jazirah published an article by Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj who was in favor of Netanyahu's speech before Congress. Dr. Al-Faraj called Obama "one of the worst American presidents", claiming that he is "the godfather of prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world, and since he is the ally of political Islam [which is] the caring mother of [all] the terrorist organizations, and since he is working to sign an agreement with Iran that will come at the expense of the U.S.'s longtime allies in the Gulf, I am very glad of Netanyahu's firm stance ...".
Bruce Biller, a longtime student of the Bible and the End Times, believes that Christians will live through the Great Tribulation before Christ's return, rather than being taken to heaven first. His novel set during the last few years of human history, The god-man: seed of Satan, is his vision of how life may be for Christians during the rise of the AntiChrist.
"The god-man: seed of Satan"
by Bruce Biller
Author Solutions-WestBow Press
Nook book $9