Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
During the past one and a half centuries, the rapture of the saints has been a troublesome matter for many seeking Christians. Mainly, there are three schools of understanding concerning the rapture: the school of pre-tribulation, the school of post-tribulation, and the school of the so-called partial rapture. Those in the school of partial rapture say that the overcomers will be raptured earlier than the majority of the believers. In each of these schools there have been some very spiritual saints who knew the Bible quite well. Because of conflicting opinions, there has been much debate about the rapture. Soon after I was saved, I began to study prophecy and, as a result, I became quite familiar with all these schools. As the fruit of many years of study, observation, and consideration, I wish to present in this message and in the message following a clear and simple word on the rapture according to the pure word of the Bible. Let us forget about all the schools and care only for the pure Word.
In the Bible we see two aspects of the rapture: the rapture of the overcomers and the rapture of the majority of the saints. That there are two aspects of the rapture does not mean there are only two raptures. With the rapture of the overcomers there are at least three categories. For instance, the rapture of the firstfruit differs from the rapture of the man-child. The man-child (12:5) is composed of the dead overcomers in resurrection, and the firstfruit (14:1-5) are the living overcomers, those who have never passed through death. When we come to chapter twelve, we shall see that the man-child, like the woman clothed with the sun, is a symbol. The man-child in Revelation is begotten, brought forth in birth. Consider the Lord Jesus. He was begotten of God to be the Firstborn Son in resurrection (Heb. 1:5; Acts 13:33). The man-child will also be begotten in resurrection. The resurrection of the man-child will be his birth. Revelation 12:11 says that the overcomers who are a part of the man-child are faithful unto death, overcoming the enemy by the blood and by the word of their testimony, and not loving their soul lives unto death. This indicates that all those included in the man-child are faithful unto death. Many of them have been martyred. Hence, the man-child, which includes all the dead overcomers, is different from the firstfruit, who are the living overcomers. In addition to the man-child and the firstfuit, there is another company of overcomers in chapter fifteen: the late overcomers who overcome Antichrist, his mark, the number of his name, and his image, and who will be raptured to stand on the sea of glass to praise the Lord. Therefore, with respect to the overcomers, there are at least three different raptures. Besides this, there is the individual rapture of the two witnesses in chapter eleven.
The rapture of the overcomers is the first category of rapture, and the rapture of the majority of the saints, considered in Revelation as the harvest (14:15), is the second. In Leviticus 23:10 we see a type of the rapture—the type of the crops ripening in the field. Some crops ripen earlier and others ripen later. Those that ripen first are considered the firstfruit. In Old Testament times, the firstfruit was always brought, not to the barn, but into the temple of God. Exodus 23:19 clearly says, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God.” The firstfruit was brought from the field into the temple of God for God’s enjoyment and satisfaction. When the field was completely ripe, that was the time of the harvest. After the harvest was reaped, it was brought into the barn. This is a type. The crop is God’s people (1 Cor. 3:9), and the first of the crop to ripen is the firstfruit which will be brought directly to God’s temple in the heavens. After that transpires, the sunshine will become brighter, and the unripened crops, which are still green, will begin to ripen. When all the crop has ripened, the majority of the saints will be harvested and taken to the air. The air corresponds to the barn. On most farms the barn is between the field and the farmhouse. The harvest is stored in the barn, but the firstfruit is brought into the farmhouse for the farmer’s first taste. While many teachers have written concerning the rapture, most of them have not taken care of this matter of God’s crop. In Matthew 13 the Lord Jesus revealed that He came to sow seed into the field. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul tells the Corinthians, “You are God’s farm.” Finally, in Revelation 14, we have the firstfruit and the harvest. This gives us the basic concept with respect to the rapture.
Many Christians are too shallow and shortsighted. They do not read or study the Bible in a thorough way. Rather, selecting a few verses as their basis, they teach that all Christians will be raptured before the tribulation. They say that we were sinners who have been washed by the Lord’s blood, who have been regenerated by the Spirit, who have been saved, and who are now waiting for the coming back of the Lord Jesus, at which time we will all be raptured. Generally speaking, this is correct, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, it is a brief, careless, and superficial consideration of the matter. As an illustration of the vagueness and generality of the traditional teachings concerning the rapture, let me use the example of my former apartment on Arden Place in Anaheim. Everyone unfamiliar with the area had difficulty locating Arden Place. Some who knew that it was in the vicinity of Ball and Euclid have spent as much as an hour looking for Arden Place. They knew how to get to the corner of Ball and Euclid, but they did not have the detailed directions to get from there, by means of many small streets, to my apartment. Although it was correct to say that we lived near Ball and Euclid, the precise spot, Arden Place at Juno, was somewhat hidden. In order to get there, one had to travel through a maze of small streets.
Understanding the matter of the rapture in the New Testament is also like driving through a maze. It is very difficult to know this matter precisely. Perhaps the Lord meant it to be this way in order to arouse our watchfulness. Do not be confident that you know all about the rapture, for you may be like those who thought that they knew where I lived, but only knew the general vicinity of Ball and Euclid. Perhaps you know the rapture in a general way, but you are not familiar with the details. What we need is not a general map, but a detailed map. Most of the talk among Christians regarding the rapture is too general. It is like knowing the corner of Ball and Euclid without knowing the specific directions to my apartment. During the past fifty years, I have spent much time studying the rapture. Since 1925, whenever I could read or hear about this matter, I seized the opportunity to do so. Concerning the matter of the rapture, I have the assurance to say that the Lord has shown us the minute details, and in these two messages we need to examine some of these details.
The Lord Jesus will definitely come back before the millennium. Once there was a school of theology which taught that the Lord’s coming back would be after the millennium. Although this school was still there fifty years ago, it may be out-of-date by now. When I was young, I studied both the school that said the Lord would come before the millennium and the school that said He would come after the millennium. During the past fifty years, the second school has faded away, and hardly anyone seems to care for it. Perhaps you have never even heard of it. To say that Christ will come back after the millennium is absolutely unscriptural. Thus, only one school remains—that Christ will come before the millennium. This, however, is very general. We need to be much more exact and specific. It is absolutely correct to say that the Lord Jesus will come back before the millennium and that all Christians will be raptured, but we must still become familiar with the details.
I am concerned for some of the readers of this message. Whatever first enters into our mind is difficult to extract. Once anyone has taken in the thought that all the believers will be raptured before the tribulation, it is difficult for him to be delivered from it. Nevertheless, all the old, inaccurate concepts must be cleared away.
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