Today I close out this series with the question: Does the whole body of Christ go in the rapture at the Last Trump, or just a bride who has faithfully lived for Him? (Are the bride and body the same?)
Related to that question is: If all go in the rapture how do we explain verses that say He is coming for a bride without spot or wrinkle (sinless) on the wedding garments of righteousness, from Ephesians 5:25-27?
First rule of Bible interpretation
The first rule is that the scripture must make sense to the original hearers and readers. Anything understood in our time must be built upon the foundation of understanding held by the original recipients and readers, and agree with how they understood it. If what we think it says contradicts or would not agree with how they understood it, we drop our understanding and adopt their understanding.
For instance, if someone told you God doesn't heal today, you'd look at Acts 3:16 where Peter said the lame man was healed by this: "And His name, through faith in His name this man stands before you whole."
You'd look at Peter's words, how his audience understood him, and conclude there is no other way to understand it than faith in the name of Jesus healed the lame man. Then you would know your friend is wrong because we still have faith in the name of Jesus, and faith got him healed, so healing is for today.
Those dysfunctional Corinthians!
So when Paul told the believers in I Corinthians 15:51 "We will not all die, but we will all be changed...at the Last Trump..." our understanding must agree with and be built on how they understood it - they were all going in the rapture living or dead. This would have been a great relief to the Corinthians, because they were by any standard, extremely carnal and immature. I Corinthians lists 10 separate issues they had:
1) In chapter 3, envy, strife, and divisions. Paul told them they were living like un-born again people.
2) In chapter 4, arrogance thinking they didn't need Paul anymore, independence from his leadership.
3) In chapter 5, a man having a sexual relationship with his stepmother.
4) In chapter 6, 2 men in the same house church suing each other in public court. Also, some were having sex with prostitutes.
5) In chapter 7, confusion about being single, staying married or getting divorced.
6) In chapters 8 & 10, some were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols, which was fine, but they were flaunting their freedom by eating in front of believers they knew were bothered by it.
7) In chapter 9, even though Paul had worked for 18 months to support himself while discipling them, they still didn't want to support his ministry though they financially could - in 30+ years of ministry we only have record of him working for those 18 months at Corinth yet they had no integrity to give back even a little.
8) In chapter 11, class envy was an issue as the rich refused to eat with the lower classes in the house church meeting where meals were common. Also, wives were using their freedom in Christ to cast off their veils -the culture of the city expected married women to be veiled. He told them they could pray and prophesy in the meetings as long as they were veiled according to the local custom.
9) In chapters 12 & 14 it was about the gifts of the Spirit and orderly home church meetings.
10) All these issues were related to them not knowing and living true love, which he defined in chapter 13.
In spite of listing and dealing with all these things through the first 14 chapters, in chapter 15 he tells them "... we all will be changed..." The original readers would have breathed a sigh of relief I think.
Considering he also taught the Feast of Trumpets to the Thessalonians, and quoted parts of the Feast's instruction to the Ephesians who in chapter 4 alone have sins listed equal to the Corinthians - sexual sin of every variety, stealing, laziness, cursing, strife and division, outbursts of anger, to name a few, we'd have to conclude they too thought they would be going in the rapture.
And yet...Paul also told those same Ephesians in chapter 5:25-27 "...as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it might be holy and without blemish..."
The reference of being presented is to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb which is found in the Feast of Trumpets and seen in Revelation 19: 6-9 at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where the bride is given "fine linen clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." How can the churches with all their dysfunction and sin he names be considered as having no spot or wrinkle on their wedding garment?
What qualifies us
Here we are in the 21st century and all those people are long dead and in heaven, yet according to Paul they will be raised and changed in the rapture. Are we to believe that all believers in Corinth, Ephesus and Thessalonica died having achieved a level of perfection we would consider as no spot or wrinkle in their robes of righteousness? Or were they normal people living for the Lord as best they could as a life-long process of discipleship? If so, at what point does one cross the line to be considered 'pure enough' for the rapture?
Isn't the fact they died in Christ what qualifies them for being raised and changed at the Last Trump, not how mature and sinless they were in life? Therefore isn't the qualifier now the same; If you are in Christ dead or alive, you are participating in the rapture, and it is not based on perfection in life?
Paul further said that to the world Jesus will come like a thief in the night to take (what they think) doesn't belong to Him. But He is coming for what belongs to Him - those who know Him. Paul doesn't say they have to know Him AND be perfect, just that He comes for those who are His.
Paul told the Philippians, "Not that I have now attained this ideal or have already been made perfect, but I press on..." , yet he included himself in the 'we will all be changed', group when he wrote to the Corinthians.
So if Paul wasn't perfect what hope is there for you and I? Therefore if we think the whole body of Christ will come to some level of uniform maturity and sinless-ness in order to be worthy of the rapture, we are clearly wrong. What qualifies us is whether we are truly in Christ, or not. (With some, only they and God know.)
About those robes
The confusion enters when we compare our imperfect human life with our pure born again spirits. We think our physical lives must rise to the same level of purity our spirit man has now, then we get discouraged at our every failure, thinking we will never 'get there'. (Revealing we aren't really living a faith that walks with God, but rather a performance based faith that thinks He wants us jumping through hoops.)
We need to settle it that if Paul said he had not attained the level of maturity he desired, we won't either...so rest in the fact you are a human being and in this body you'll never 'arrive'. To quote a good friend: We aren't accountable to perfection; but we are accountable to growth.
Living in clean robes
In I John 1:7 it says this: "If we walk in the light we have and have fellowship with Him (vertical walk) and fellowship with our brethren (horizontal walk), the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us (as an ongoing process) from all sin."
That verse says if you walk in what you know towards the Lord and the brethren, there is an ongoing cleansing process of our sins in our lives. These are the sins we do but are ignorant of in our immaturity.
For instance, 10 years ago you saw a movie and thought it was great. Then you saw it last week and were horrified how carnal it was and ashamed you thought it was a great movie at the time. The movie didn't change, you did, but because of your immaturity 10 years ago but right heart, the Lord forgave your sin as you were walking in the light you had at the time. That is the ongoing process of cleansing of v7.
Verse 9 says: "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgives our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." These are the sins we know about.
If we confess the sins we know we did, He not only wipes out that sin, but automatically wipes out any other sin at the same time. Wow. So if we are walking with Him to the best of our ability and walking in love to the brethren, we are continually having our sins wiped away meaning our robes are clean and white, without spot or wrinkle. And when we do realize we've sinned, and admit that to Him, He wipes that away along with any other unrighteousness to once again restore those robes.
Spiritually then, a body of Christ walking in the light it has, has clean robes of righteousness. That isn't a perfect body of Christ, but one that is walking in what it has. Beyond that, the Lord alone knows.
What we do know is that with the blowing of the Last Trump the dead in Christ will receive their new bodies, those alive will also receive their new bodies, and we will all join the Lord for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. None of us will attain perfection before, for we wouldn't need a Savior if we could do it on our own.
I hope this has been a thought-provoking series that helps you sort out what you believe and why, and like I always say, it isn't important we agree 100%, just that you know what you believe and why.
Next week a new series begins...until then, blessings,