THE BODY OF THE FIRST RAPT
By D. M. PANTON. B.A.
One sentence photographs for ever the body of the first rapt at the moment of their arrival in the heavenlies. Their miraculous ascent, as destined supplanters of the fallen angels, at once draws on them, in mid-air, the full fury of Hell: their guardian and transporting Angels closing round the ascending human hosts, for one critical moment the hostile angel-squadrons are locked in the Armageddon of heaven: then, overborne by sheer force as well as outmatched in subtilty, the Dragon and his hosts are cast headlong to earth. Exactly as Satan disputed (Jude 9) over the corpse of Moses, to prevent his arrival at the Mount of Transfiguration, so Michael again forces deliverance for a myriad corpses, as also living myriads to reach the Kingdom. This delivered body of the first rapt, thus isolated and radiant in Heaven, are the birth out of earth, the begotten from the tomb (cp. Acts. 13: 31-34) - the Man-child - who are "to rule all the nations with a rod of iron" ( Rev. 12: 5) - a sceptre, that is, which can neither be broken nor resisted, governing, disciplining and controlling all the peoples of the Millennial earth.*
[*That the Woman is the Holy Jerusalem, the centre of all dispensations, see Govett's Apocalypse. "In the Apocalypse Christ Himself applies to believers the words here used (12: 5), which are literally true of Himself alone - ‘He that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron' (Rev. 2: 26) Thus Christ Himself interprets the vision before us." (Bishop Wordsworth).]
The translated host are introduced in a triumph-song. "And a great voice in heaven" apparently from the victor angels - "saying, Now is come the salvation" - a miraculous deliverance shot upward - "and the power" - proved in the massed overthrow of Hell - "and the kingdom of our God" - not ‘the Kingdom of the world’ (as in 11: 15) for only now is the Kingdom arrived in heaven - "and the authority of His Chrst" - the spear-head of the Kingdom: "for the accuser of our brethren"- for we are brothers of the Angels - "is cast down, which ACCUSED them before our God" - impleading the law courts of Heaven - "day and night" - in a ceaseless prosecution and appeal in the council-chambers of God. Satan fastens supremely on the one vulnerable spot in the Church - her sins: he seduces the believer on earth, and then accuses him in heaven. It is a masterpiece of wisdom; because, while he knows that he is powerless to shake the Christian’s foundation, he can, by seducing him into [wilful] sin, embroil him with God: for none knows better than Satan two things - (1) that God compounds sin in no one; and (2) the tragic frailty of the child of God. Therefore final salvation is impossible for us until we are above and beyond the considered charges - true or false - of the Accuser; and until he is cast out of it, Heaven itself is not Heaven.*
How secret the pavilion created by the darkness of the skies - "He made darkness His hiding
place, His pavilion round about Him; darkness of waters, thick clouds
of the skies" (Ps. 18: 11);
an airman, entering a cloud, reveals: "It was
like a huge black wall into which we dived headlong; and I had to switch on the
lights to see the instrument board a foot in front of me". So it
was "thick darkness where God was" (Ex. 20: 21) in the Parousia
of the clouds on Sinai. Recent discovery
modifies the physiological changes we imagined essential for life above the
therefore there follows, in a photograph taken in a heavenly exposure and of
extraordinary value, an exact moral delineation of the souls miraculously
removed, and of exactly how they successfully rebutted the
Satanic prosecution. It is a disclosure of the innermost secrets of
THEY" - the ‘they’ is emphatic: they alone; they,
the Man-child just named as caught up to the Throne of God; they, in contrast
to all the undelivered down below - "OVERCAME him" - that is, they are overcomers: angels
wrestled and threw Satan above, physically; these wrestled and threw Satan
below, spiritually (Eph. 6: 12): and their
ground of victory, the inspired reason for their miraculous removal beyond
Satan’s reach into the heavenlies, is a threefold maturity before God. The first ground is the Blood. "They overcame him by" - because of, in virtue of,
on the ground of - "THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB."
It is not the blood of Christ,
but the blood of the Lamb; not the blood of a martyr
Messiah, but the blood of the slaughtered Sacrifice: for
But a second weapon is revealed as vital to the victory. Passive acceptance of the Blood of Calvary, though enough for eternal life, is not, alone, sufficient for translation: the worthiness for which our Lord commands us to pray (Luke21: 36) is obviously not His worthiness, which all disciples already possess, but (as is transparent in the context) a worthiness, by vigilance and prayer, of the saint himself.* "And" - as a second weapon of overthrow - "[they overcame him] by" - because of, in virtue of, on the ground of - "THE WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY;" not "the testimony of Jesus" only, for these are overcomers risen and rapt out of all dispensations. "The strict sense of the Greek ... with the accusative must again be kept: it is because they have given a faithful testimony, even unto death, that they are victorious" (Alford). The block to Satan, the exposure of his craft, the dissolution of his plans, his spiritual paralysis - all lie in Scripture loved, lived, preached: as with our Lord in the Wilderness, "it is written" unmasks and paralyzes every Satanic imposture and wile. John states the same truth elsewhere:- "I have written unto you, young men because the word of God abideth in you, and ye have OVERCOME the evil one" (1 John 2: 14). So the second ground for rapture is lip and life squared to the Word of God.
[* "Prevail to escape" - Revised Version.]
"The Sacrifice of the Death of Christ," - as Dr. Swete expresses it, "does not spell victory except for those who suffer with Him" (Rom. 8: 17; 2 Tim. 2: 11): thus a secondary cause of the martyrs’ victory is found in their personal labour and self-sacrifice."
But a third and final weapon, the subtilest and most difficult of all to achieve, is also indispensable for removal in the dawn. It is not necessarily martyrdom, but the martyr-spirit; "they LOVED NOT their life even unto death"; “did not hold their life too dear to be given up to death” (Seiss); “their non-attachment to life was carried to the extent of being ready to die for their faith” (Swete); “so little did they value their present life, that they preferred death to apostasy” (Moses Stuart). These had mastered the things that usually master men. Pope Pius IV., on hearing of Calvin's death, exclaimed:-"All the strength of that proud heretic lay in this - that riches and honour were nothing to him. With a few such men our Church would soon be mistress of both shores of the ocean." Such build on the other side of the grave: they invest their whole wealth for God: they risk life itself in the cause of Christ. Paul has expressed it once for all:- "I hold not my life of any account, as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20; 24).
Suddenly the camera tilts, and, in a moment's earthly exposure, it picks up a scene far down below. The Devil, now finding all heaven impenetrable to him, and maddened by the brevity of his chance, "went away to make war with THE REST of her seed"- plural: two separate remainders; a double remnant: namely - they (1) "which keep the commandments of God" - regenerate Jews and Gentiles - and they which (2) "hold the testimony of Jesus" - unrapt Christians: not in bodies, or in church states, regularly formed, as heretofore, but in private families, and some here, and some there (Dr. Gill). As the Pulpit Commentary says:- "The members of the Jewish Theocracy were they to whom ‘the commandments of God’ were specially revealed: and Christians are they who specially ‘hold the testimony of Jesus.’"* In the words of Dr. E. C. Craven, editor of Lange’s Apocalypse :- “These are left on the earth after the removal of the Firstfruits. There is a growing conviction in my mind that the Firstfruits do not include all true Christians, but consists of a select portion of these - the specially faithful. These ‘remnants’ are strongly confirmative of this view." For it is impossible to say that all the saved - a gross backslider, for example - reach the triple standard here revealed, or fulfil the three conditions named as the grounds of the removal: it is impossible to deny that such believers as combine all three are, on the whole, exceptional: moreover we are actually shown the undelivered below; "so," as Dr. Seiss says, "we are taught, as Ambrose, and Luther, and Kromayer admit, that other particular resurrections and translations of certain eminent saints occur at intervals preceding the full completion of the glorified company."
[* Prophetic students who believe in a universal and simultaneous harvest, with no first-fruits but Christ, confess the difficulty of this phrase. "It might be a difficulty to some," says Mr. William Kelly, "that a Jewish remnant should have ‘the testimony of Jesus’" but the difficulty, he says, is "not insuperable." But so far from being ‘Jewish'- an exposition manifestly invented to grind an axe, for it is the reverse of the meaning of the words - the phrase is never so used; nor could it be, for the testimony of Jesus has been entrusted peculiarly to the Church; and John elsewhere gives it as a definition of himself as a Christian apostle, - "who bare witness of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1: 2). It would take very powerful reasons indeed to dispossess it of its obviously Christian meaning. "The verse includes all the people of God who will at that time be exposed to malice, whether they be pious Jews, or Christians who were not found worthy to escape the impending woes" (G, H. Pember, M.A.). Rev. 14: 12 - a Tribulation verse - lends remarkable confirmation.]
So we see the exact point which at this moment we have apparently reached. With the subtilty of a python, the venom of a rattlesnake, the crushing power of a boa-constrictor, the invisibility of a fer-de-lance, "the dragon stood" -all eyes - "before the woman which was about to be delivered, that when she was delivered he might devour her child." For Satan is ignorant of the moment of the First Resurrection; and, as his empire trembles to its fall, his anxiety grows to white heat; and he plants himself at the spot of supreme peril. As the moment of the birth out of the tomb approaches, the Dragon, dyed all over with the hue of murder, watches, with intensity of alertness, for the first quiver in the sleeping sod, the first flash upward of an ascending saint; and seeks to block supremely the ripening of the firstfruits (Mark 4: 29) on which depends the exact moment of the bursting of the tombs.*
[*I have called the Manchild (apparently identical with the Palm-bearers of (Rev. 7: 9) the body of the first rapt; but it is possible (as Govett thinks) that a prior rapture - indicated by John's summons heavenward (Rev. 4: 1) "occurs at the moment when the throne of judgment replaces the throne of grace. The Manchild ascends somewhere between the Sixth Seal and the Fourth Trumpet.”]
SAINTS IN THE HIGH PLACES
In Dan. 7: 18, 22, 25, and 27, the Authorised Version translates, "Saints of the Most High," whereas it should read, "Saints of the High Places." Daniel could not of course understand who these would be, for the mystery of the Church was not then revealed; but we can easily recognise those who will live and reign with the Lord in the heavenly regions, taking the place of "the host of the High Ones that are on high." In verse 25, the reference is specially to that portion of them which will be upon earth during the great tribulation, but will suffer martyrdom rather than worship the Beast or his image. In verse 27, there is also mention of another class, "the people of the Saints of the High Places;" that is, the people which stand in close relation to these saints, namely, the Israelites. To the latter "the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the Kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given." That is, they shall become "the Kings of the Earth upon the Earth," in the stead of the destroyed Gentile powers (Isa. 24: 21). In verse 21, the simple expression, the saints, seems to embrace all the people of God who are upon Earth at the time, the believers who pass through the tribulation, and the pious Jews. In verse 22 it includes still more, nothing less indeed than the completed Millennial Kings and the whole Israelitish people; for the reference is to the Millennial age, and "the Kingdom" comprehends both the heavenly and the earthly portions of Christ's government.
-G. H. PEMBER.