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Jack Graham - Taken

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    Jack Graham - Taken
TOPICS: All Things New, Book of Revelation, End times, Rapture

Now in the Revelation, chapter 1, verse 19, God gives us an outline in the Scripture as to what the Revelation is all about. It's really not all that difficult to know the various chapters and dividings of the book of Revelation because it's given to us clearly in verse 19. He says in verse 19 of chapter 1, that "Write these things which are", that is, the risen Christ; he had just seen the glorified risen Christ. He'd been in His presence. He fell at His feet as though dead. It was an incredible moment when John the Revelator, the one who was given the awesome vision of heaven and the hope that we have in the coming days, the prophecy of the book of Revelation. He fell at His feet as dead, Christ lifted him up. He's alive in Christ in His presence. That is what was. And then He said, "Write the things which now are".

Chapters 2 and 3 in Revelation are the things that John said now are. And we're going to move on to the rest of Revelation at Revelation 4, beginning at verse 1, talking about as He said, the things which will come after this. And what happens after this, what happens after the churches is the unveiling of the future. So from chapter 4 onward to the last chapter of Revelation you don't see the church mentioned. The church is not present at all. Again, in earlier chapters in the New Testament as well as Revelation it's all about the church, the church, the church. We're living in what we could call the church age, the era of the church.

But beginning here in chapter 4 we see something entirely different, because the church, believers in Jesus Christ will be taken out, and are no longer present. They're conspicuous, we are conspicuous by our absence in the rest of Revelation because the rest of Revelation is going to be about Judgment that comes to the world, about the unveiling that takes place in prophecy. But before that God has a plan for His own people, and that is to take us home to Him. It's called the Rapture. Verse 1 of chapter 4 illustrates this truth. It says: "After this". After what? After the churches. "After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I heard speaking to me was like a trumpet", that's important, "like a trumpet and said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'"

Now we see in this first verse the truth regarding the Rapture. So I want to take some time in this message this morning, at least half of this message to answer some key questions about the Rapture: what is it, why is it and what's it all about? And, of course, we're going to start with Scripture and stay in Scripture. John chapter 14 talks about this truth of "taken". Verse 3, Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again, take you to Myself that where I am there you may be also". Jesus promised us that He would come personally for us and take us into His presence; take us home to be with Him! And then in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 51 and 53. This is in the midst of a great chapter on eternity, on immortality, what's that's going to be like.

And the Scripture says at verse 15, or pardon me, 51: "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed". They have that posted in the nursery over here at the church. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed"! But in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. There's the trumpet sound again. John said "I saw a door open to heaven. I was taken up into heaven. I heard this voice; it was a voice like a trumpet translating me into the presence of the Almighty". And so verse 52 says: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable and then we", speaking of those of us who remain, "will all be changed". That is, we will be taken and we will be transformed; we will be given eternal life and bodies, with the Lord.

And then one of the more famous passages regarding the Rapture or taken is 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4. Believers at Thessalonica were concerned because their loved ones, some of them had passed away. Some had been martyred for their faith. And they were wondering, "Will we ever see them again? Jesus hasn't come yet. Where is Jesus? He hasn't come. Our loved ones have died. Are they somehow lost forever"? And Paul wrote this. God gave this scripture to encourage us and comfort us to know that, yes, if our loved ones die in the Lord, if they know Christ, we will see them again. That 2 Corinthians 5:8, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," and one day we will be with them again. But in that context he gave us a scripture regarding what's going to happen at the Rapture, verse 16: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout (or the cry of a command; it's going to be loud) and the voice of an Archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God (There that is, there's the trumpet again) and the dead in Christ shall rise first".

Now let me explain. These who are dead in Christ, who have died, their spirits already in the Lord, there's going to be a great gettin' up morning as the old song goes, and they're going to get out of their graves, out of watery graves, out of sand graves, out of dirt. They're going to come alive, out of their graves, and their bodies will be united with their spirits forever! When you are buried, if you are in Christ, you will go into the presence of the Lord forever, to await this day, then we, verse 17, "who are alive", who are left; we're not going to be left behind, but those of us who are left, "will be caught up". There's the idea of the Rapture.

Some people say, "Well, the word rapture isn't in the Bible". No, the word Trinity's not in the Bible, but the Trinity is in the Bible: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The word Rapture is actually a Latin word of which means to take away, or to snatch or to pluck out. In the Greek New Testament it's a word that's used numerous times in the New Testament. Again, it means to be caught up as translated here; it means to be taken away. Actually to be seized by force. So we are caught up. Those of us who are alive will be then caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. That's the Rapture. And it's clear in the Bible that both the resurrected and those raptured alive will experience this supernatural miracle.

You say, "This all sounds a little strange to me. This sounds supernatural to me". Duh! Of course, it's supernatural! Our faith is based upon the supernatural birth of Jesus, the miracle of His birth; the supernatural life of Jesus; the supernatural resurrection of Jesus, His ascension; and His supernatural return! This is a supernatural faith that we believe because God's Word has been given to us! And the Rapture then is the tipping point for the end times events that I talked about just a littler earlier, the Tribulation, the antichrist, Armageddon, the final world battle, and so. The Rapture sets in motion all the events that happen when God judges the earth. So in effect, and you need to really pay attention. Remember, Revelation is not for the jayvee, it's for the varsity, right! So you came ready, right?

Alright. So when Christ comes for us in the Rapture, we will meet Him, we'll be taken into His presence in the air. We will meet Him in the air and be translated on to heaven, on to glory. At the Second Coming, when He comes in all of His glory to rule and reign the heavens and the earth, at the end of time, at the end of the Battle of Armageddon, at the end of the Great Tribulation when He comes to all the world to be seen, and every eye will see Him, we're coming with Him. First, we're going to Him, taken to Him, and then when He comes back at the end of the age, we're coming back with Him to reign and rule with Him. So in effect you've got two phases, if you will, of the Second Coming: phase one is the Rapture; phase two is the Revelation, the apocalypse, the Second Coming of Christ. Got it? Got it? Got it! Good!

Alright, because that is very, very important! That we are going to be taken first! God, In effect the Rapture is a rescue; it's a rescue operation. Jesus has given us an exit strategy from the wrath and the judgment that is to come upon the earth. You say, "Well, why should we get that"? Grace. Romans 8:1, "There's therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Jesus Christ". We'll never face judgment. Don't think of the Tribulation as just hard times, or harder times, or, you know, turbulent times. The Tribulation is a judgment, a pouring out of judgment, final judgment upon the world and the world system. So Christians don't experience that kind of judgment from God. Our sins were judged at the cross when God laid on Jesus our sins and He took our judgment and He took God's wrath for us and paid the price, paid the penalty and rose again so that we could have eternal life.

So because of the nature of our salvation... and we're also told, by the way, look in chapter 3 of Revelation. You've got your Bible open to Revelation 1, look over at verse 10 in chapter 3. It says, "But because you've kept My word with patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that's coming to the whole world". That hour of trial is the Tribulation. He said, "I'm going to keep you out of that. To try those who dwell on the earth". We're going to be in heaven and what happens on earth will be horrific. All hell is going to break loose on the earth in the Great Tribulation. We're going to be taking time on our Revelation study to show you from scriptures what that Great Tribulation is going to be like.

Billy Graham once said... you know, sometimes people think, "Well, should Christians really have the excuse, to exit, to leave; you know, the hall pass, the get out of jail card"? Billy Graham said, "By the time the devil gets through with this world all of us will be looking for the exit sign"! Again, I'm telling you, it's going to get much worse before it gets better. You know, philosophers used to think, "Well, the world's going to get better and better and better and we'll evolve more and more until utopia will come; the great society will take over; the one-world order will unite us all". Not going to happen! The world is coming apart at the seams! We can see that! So when this great judgment comes upon the earth, you don't want to be here! And, thank God, you won't because in Christ you'll be elevated, exited into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ!

You say, "How's this going to happen"? Just like that! In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:52 it says, "in a moment". It's going to be a miracle, supernatural, but it's going to happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. God the Father is going to say to His Son, "Go get Your bride, Son"! And Jesus is going to come for His bride, His church, His people and take us into His presence. Death is a terrible enemy but God is faithful and will be present with us when we pass from this life to the next, or present with us when we're taken into His presence at the Rapture. What's true is that millions will be taken alive into the presence of the Lord; transported, transformed. But what is also true is that millions will be left behind. Jesus put it this way in Gospels.

He said, Luke 17:34, "Two will be sleeping; one will be taken, one will be left behind". Husband and wife, the wife saved; husband's not saved. Wife gone; he's left behind. Matthew 24:40, "Two working in the field, just going about their daily business; one taken, the other left behind". Jesus said, "Two grinding at the mill; one will be taken, the other will be left behind". Left behind for what? Left behind for judgment! That's why you need to come to Christ today. Because I'm telling you, there's nothing on God's calendar, there's nothing on the scenario signs of the last times that would keep Christ from coming for us in the Rapture... Bam! Right now! He's coming! He says, "Behold, I come quickly"! And so you need to be ready. Because when we're raptured into His glorious presence we're going to see and experience some unbelievable sights!

Look at chapter 4 again, "a throne stood in heaven, and one seated on the throne", you know who that One is, Jesus the Lord God Almighty, "and he who set there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian", which is basically a diamond and a ruby. It's going to be beautiful in heaven, beyond your wildest imagination! God loves color, glorious colors in the throne! "Around the throne was a rainbow", which speaks of eternality, which speaks of life, which speaks of promise. Typically the rainbow shows up at the end of a storm, right? But in this case the rainbow of promise shows up in heaven before the storm is unleashed upon the earth, because what we then read is that: "Around the throne there were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders".

Very quickly, those twenty-four elders represent believers of all times, both Old Testament and New Testament believers. Old Testament believers were saved by looking forward to the coming of Christ. New Testament believers were saved by looking back to the New Testament Christ. But all who are true believers are around this throne of God: "clothed in white garments, Not garments of their own righteousness, but the pure white garments of Christ and His righteousness. With golden crowns on their heads". Representing the victory. This is the stephanos, the victor's crown that is on our heads.

And then watch this, verse 5: "And from the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne, burning seven torches of fire which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal". John is trying to describe here the indescribable. Don't get caught up in the details! Get caught up in the God and the scene that is being described here! This glorious throne of God! The awesome, powerful place in which God Almighty is reign! The saints of the ages are worshipping Him! Angelic beings that are described in this passage of scripture-the seraphim and cherubim, they're around the throne of God and they're praising God again and again and again!

Our God reigns! He's making all things new! Hallelujah! He is worthy, worthy and worthy again! All this means is that no matter what is happening on earth, all the storms that are coming; no matter what is happening on earth, what is happening in heaven is that God is on His throne! And He is in control forever! There's not a chance or an accident on earth apart from His own divine care. This is all about His great power and His providence over life! You know what that means to you? There's no problem in your life that's bigger than God. There's no weakness in your life but that God is stronger! There's no situation, no crisis that you face but that God Almighty is in charge! He's large and in charge!

And John is describing this beautiful scene around the throne of God. The unseen world that's all around us. You see, I don't think of heaven as being galaxies and galaxies and galaxies and galaxies away. No, God is the God of the galaxy, Christ is the Christ of the cosmos. He's got it all in His hands. But I don't see and view heaven in the Scripture as out there somewhere way, way beyond, but heaven is all around us. Angel beings are around us this very moment. Heaven is the tissue-paper thin separation between earth and eternity, all around us. Very close. And that's what I want you to see, that heaven is very near. And it ought to be very dear to your heart. Heaven ought to be the habit of our hearts. Don't set your affections on things below, but on things above, upon Jesus and all of His glory! Live with your mindset, your mentality focused on Him because the people who do the most for this world are focused most on the world that is to come.

We make a difference because we know that Christ has changed our lives. And oh, when you look at heaven in this passage, all these thunders and rumblings and angels and singing and worship and noise and trumpets, it kinda blows up the whole idea, doesn't it, that, you know, in heaven we're just gonna be around misty skies with weird, creepy harp music and angels like little butterflies floating around and that we're just gonna check out from here and retire from life and waste eternity away! That's not heaven! Heaven's filled with excitement! Heaven is filled with worship! We're destined for the throne of God! This life, this isn't it! There is so much more to come, so much better to come!

Now I know, maybe you think, well, I don't know about heaven. If it's just going to be one long church service I don't know if I'm interested in that at all. Well, let me tell you something, in heaven's worship you're not going to checking your cell phone, you're not going to be sleeping, you're not going to be talking to somebody next to you; you're going to be on your face, on your feet, hands high, lifting up your life to the Lord Jesus Christ! And you will be so excited to get to worship! When they say it's worship time in heaven, you'll want to get on the front row! We will serve Him day and night, according to the Scripture.

So can you imagine in heaven not only will we worship, but worship produces works and we'll be doing things for God and serving Him. His servants serve Him day and night! Some people talk about retiring. You know, I don't know what they're talking about. Retired of what? If you're talking about retiring, some of you older people,you better figure out what you're going to retire to! Somebody says, "I'm going to retire". Okay, what are you going to do? "Oh, I'm gonna play golf, I'm gonna fish, I'm gonna take a cruise, I'm gonna, you know, hunt, I'm gonna take naps, I'm going to sit in a rocking chair". Really? Okay, then what are you going to do after that? "I don't know, sit in a rocking chair some more. Take some more naps". Not interested! Don't retire; re-fire to what God is calling you to do! And in heaven it's not just one big old folks home where everybody retires from life! We're going to be in heaven celebrating, serving, worshiping the Lord God!

I'll finish with what they're singing, Verse 8 says: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come"! Verse 11: "Worthy are you, oh Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created". This is a creation song! Next chapter, next week, chapter 5. Come back next week. Chapter 5 is a redemption song. First, worship You God of creation, God of wonders beyond the galaxies! "Oh, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the world Thy hands have made".

That's a creation song! Why will we sing creation songs? Because God gave us life! You are not an accident! You're not just protoplasm, you're not just plumbing and passion! You're life made by the hand of God! That's why all of life is sacred! Because you didn't evolve from an animal! You were made by God Almighty! And in heaven that will be very clear! You won't be praising God for your evolution! "Once there was a tadpole just beginning to begin; Then I was a monkey with my tail tucked in; Then I was a gorilla in banyon tree; And now I'm a professor with a PhD"! That's the evolution song! That's the evolution song! But we're going to be singing the creation song! That God Almighty has made us! That we belong to Him! "Worthy, worthy, worthy is Jesus"!
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