Heaven Ascent Interpretations
Heaven Ascent, the Rapture, the Second Coming, and the end-time events predicted in Revelation, as described by John in The Holy Bible, I find confusing and hard to resolve. This observation is strengthened as I peruse some of the many biblical sources of the internet. Many of the sources are associated with Christian organizations, and some are individual writers. Of course I know little to nothing about their credentials for writing. Since I have limited historical knowledge of the world and events during biblical times, no knowledge of the languages of that time, and, therefore, no translation capability, I depend on the translations of others to guide me. But, I tend to interpret the Holy Bible in a literal sense in keeping with my experience and understanding without trying to “read in” meaning not evident in the words presented. Heavenly Ascendancy is one of the first topics that I have researched and on which many writers seem to have varied interpretations. You, the readers, are left to your own understanding, I am making no attempt to influence your beliefs, I am only presenting some evidence of my pursuit to understand Biblical truths and to address and explore some questions I have.
As will be evident throughout this pursuit, my reference standard is the King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible. This Bible is extensively accompanied by on-page commentary. My logic for using the King James Version is that the fidelity of interpretation is best served by a version closest to the Biblical period, using the language meanings most representative of the period. This being said, we know that there are versions earlier than the King James, but this is the more readily available, readable early version. While referencing on-line King James Versions, and especially the other versions (NIV, etc.) I have found that changes in verse structure, modern language substitution, etc. seem to change the messages communicated.
Heaven Ascent at Death
In a previous article I have written about the belief that upon death believers go immediately to Heaven and are looking down on us. My opinion, after reviewing many Bible verses related to death, was that they are not. Central to this position is that, in my logic and literal interpretation of statements, ascending at death would require immediate judgment at death – believers to Heaven, non-believers to a different place, or both to Heaven or elsewhere. What is the nature of the ascendancy? Is it the spirit, the soul, the body, or some combination?
7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
20Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:20, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
My research seems to indicate that the spirit is the same as the breath of life breathed into man, and the soul is the essence of the being – mind, emotions, and will – comprised in the body. The human being is a trinity – spirit, soul, body.
5For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6“Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in any thing that is done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
3Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; (Psalms 13:3, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
29Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. (Psalms 104:29, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
17The dead praise not the Lord, Neither any that go down into silence. (Psalms 115:17, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish. (Psalms 146:4, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15-16, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
4Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:14-16, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
It is my understanding of the above verses that the soul dies (the essence of the being), the spirit (breath of life) returns to God, and the body returns to dust. Man is mortal and dies, awaiting his resurrection and judgement at the Second Coming.
In the book of John, Jesus tells us (2 versions):
2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3, New International Version, Quest Study Bible)
6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
6Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, New International Version, Quest Study Bible)
The promises made by Jesus in the above verses seem very straightforward to me. He says that he will come for his people (The Church) at His time (God’s time) and will pronounce judgment on both the living and the dead. He does not mention intermediate transition of His Church (Bride) to Heaven or non-believers to hell or elsewhere. This also includes the belief of the rapture, which not all Christian denominations believe, apparently. Revelation 20:13-14 does state “13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
It seems also, as for heaven ascent at death, pre-judgement would be required for the rapture. And, if the dead are already in heaven or hell, why is it stated that the living will not precede the dead from the grave, assuming the truth of the rapture and an implied pre-judgement? The belief origin was credited generally to John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century theologian. Some related common terms to help one navigate the technicalities in reading about the rapture, are the words postmillennialism, amillennialism and premillennialism. Several writers discredit the belief of the rapture.
Some verses which seem to have been used to proclaim the rapture, but in total do not seem to do so, are:
34I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken and the other left. 36Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. (Luke 17:34-37, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
Zondervan Study Bible Notes to the above verses state that this is a proverb. Those taken away will become a feast for eagles and other birds of prey (see also Revelation 19:17-18). Apparently the above verses do not refer to the rapture. Other writers have stated that the term “rapture” does not appear anywhere in the Bible.
Another set of rapture-evidence verses quoted by other writers, but which do not seem to fit that purpose upon close reading, are:
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: And the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
The above verse does not fit the explanations I have read of the rapture in secret and of the raptured church meeting Him in the air to be with Him there forever. This last set of verses seem more descriptive of the Second Coming as I have understood.
Perspective from a Practicing Minister
Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX, approaches the current subject in his book “A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths about Your Eternal Home.11” His approach includes:
The Third Heaven: Our Real but Temporary Home
Until the new heaven and the new earth are completed, all Christians who die are immediately transported into the presence of God—the third heaven. The apostle Paul is clear that at the rapture all Christians will receive their new, glorified bodies in which they will live for eternity. “All Christians” includes those Christians who died prior to the rapture (“the dead in Christ,” as Paul calls them), as well as those Christians who are alive at the rapture and never experience death. (p. 87).
Dr. Jeffress points to scripture, supporting these assertions, at 1 Thess. 4:16-18, and 1 Cor. 15:51-52. (pp. 87, 88).
Rapture Teaching in One Seminary
- The first view of the rapture is the pre-tribulational view, which teaches that believers are going to be caught up before the Tribulation, or the seventieth week of Daniel 9.
- The mid-tribulational view, which usually equates the rapture with the trumpet in Revelation 11.
- The post-tribulational view, which sees the church going through the Tribulation and meeting Jesus as He returns in His second coming. We are going to be caught up to Christ, meet Him in the air, and then do a quick U-turn and come right back down to the earth with Him.
- A more recent view is called the pre-wrath rapture, which is something of a three-quarters rapture. It places the rapture about five-and-a-half years into the Tribulation.
There are many solid arguments for the pre-tribulational rapture, which is the view held and taught by Dallas Theological Seminary.
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
This brings us to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ that I have believed since childhood and have had dreams of in regard to its fearsome appearance and its unexpected timing (“as a thief in the night”).
1But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
28 Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
50Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:50–54, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
The Great White Throne Judgment
11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11–15, King James Version, Zondervan Study Bible)
Heaven Ascent Events to Unfold
Dallas Theological Seminary, in their course “The Story of Scripture,” week thirteen, provides a summary of events to come:
An Overview of Things to Come
- A resurrection of believers before a time of trouble (1 Thess. 4:13- 18; 1 Cor. 15:51-58)
- A seven-year time of trouble begins (Rev. 6–19; seventieth week of Daniel, cf. Daniel 9:24-27)
- Israel, nationally, turns to Christ in the time of tribulation
- Return of Christ to earth (Rev. 19:11–21)
- A physical reign of Christ (Rev. 20; 65:17-25)
- New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21–22)
- The Structure of Revelation
- Introduction (1:1-20)
- Messages to the seven churches (2:1–3:22)
- A vision of the heavenly throne room (4:1–5:14)
- The opening of the seven seals (6:1–8:1)
- The sounding of the seven trumpets (8:2–11:19)
- The presence of God versus the powers of evil (12:1–14:20)
- The pouring out of the seven bowls (15:1–16:21)
- The judgment and fall of Babylon (17:1–19:5)
- God’s ultimate victory (19:6–22:5)
- Conclusion (22:6-21)
- Judgment on earth
- The Return of Christ
- Genesis…and Revelation
- Worthy of worship (4:11; 14:7; 19:6)
- Intent on judging evil (16:5-7; 19:1-2)
- Loves and protects His people (7:2-3)
- Jesus, the “Lion Lamb”
- Oneness with God and shares in authority, glory, and worship
- 1:4-5, 14-16; 5:6, 9-14; 21:22-23
- New Heaven and New Earth
- What God began in Gen. 1–2, He now completes in Rev. 21–22
- Community is restored
|“In the Beginning” (Gen. 1:1)||“I am the Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 21:6)|
|God creates heavens and earth—sin (Gen. 3)||God creates a new heaven and earth—no sin (Rev. 21:6)|
|Satan is present (Gen. 3)||Satan and sin are judged (Rev. 19:11-21; 20:7-10)|
|Death enters (Gen. 4:6-8; Gen. 5)||Death is put to death (Rev. 20:14; 21:4)|
|Sinful people lose intimate fellowship (Gen. 3)||God’s people serve Him in openness (22:3)|
|Community forfeited (Gen. 3:8)||Genuine community experienced (21:3, 7)|
|Hide from God (Gen. 3:8-11)||God’s people “see His face” (Rev. 22:4)|
|Sin brings pain (Gen. 3:16-17)||No more tears (Rev. 21:4)|
|Forbidden to eat from Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22-24)||God’s people eat freely and live (Rev. 22:2, 14)|
Heaven Ascent Article Purpose Achieved?
As implied at the beginning, the purpose of this article has been to try and organize and validate my thoughts on Second Coming events and those that precede the Coming. I don’t feel that I have fully accomplished the goal, but I will keep searching. So should you.