The subject of this commentary title is admittedly among the hardest I’ve tried to wrap the aging gray matter around. This, of course, is because it isn’t a provable thing to consider by mere intellectual endeavor. And it is so deep in its implication that it is too labor-intensive if we can’t just allow that we can only look at matters involved with self-agreement that we can’t for sure know the truth about it.
Although I’ve thought about the question/possibility many times, especially since my Good Friday clinical flat-line experience on April 22, 2011, it was a friend of our Rapture Ready website who prompted me to write this article.
The gist of her email to me follows.
“Something you wrote in your ‘Home Going’ blog post was extremely intriguing to me. You stated: It has been conjectured, and I believe, that when Jesus calls us to Himself (Revelation 4:1), those still alive will somehow arrive at that face-to-face meeting with our Lord and Savior at precisely the moment those who have gone through the portal of death will see His wonderful face. God’s eternal realm is outside of the thing called time that He created for man. Anything is possible in that eternal sphere.
If you are saying what I think you are saying, those who have passed on before us, no matter how many years they died prior to that blessed event, could possibly arrive to see Jesus and thus enter Heaven at the same time we who are raptured see Him.”
It is a fascinating question to be sure. Will my dad, who went to the Lord in October of 1992, and my mother, who passed away in February of 2020, arrive at the same twinkling-of-an-eye moment as will I when the Lord Jesus calls us in the Rapture?
This might be a bit presumptuous of me—but you get the question. Like you, I fully expect to hear that call at any moment.
But the question involves further asking whether it makes any difference in terms of God’s timing regarding those who have died arriving in Christ’s presence more than a split second before those who are still living at the moment of Rapture.
The Rapture Ready friend who emailed asked if I could provide more information about my statement. I suggested that she check my late friend Chuck Missler’s website. I know he did lots of things in this area. Sure enough, she found some fascinating studies, learning that another great prophecy scholar, Lambert Dolphin, has done tremendous writing on the topic. She sent me the link to one of Lambert’s articles; here it is if you want to get really deep into the subject of God’s timing in regard to death, the Rapture, and many other areas: http://www.ldolphin.org/time.html.
Our column space here is much too limited to give this subject the treatment it deserves, but the article above will certainly give more than one needs to delve as deeply into these questions as one could want. Here are a few excerpts from Lambert Dolphin’s major study.
“In the experience of the Christian, one’s personal death corresponds exactly with the Second Coming of Christ, though this event will also happen on earth at the definite date and time in recorded human history. This is what Paul meant when he said to be absent from the body was to be at home with the Lord, not as a spirit, but in a resurrection body along with everyone else who knows God. This can be seen at the Martyrdom of Stephen in the book of Acts.
‘Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.’ (Acts 7:56–8:2)
“As Stephen died he saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Throughout the New Testament Jesus is ordinarily pictured as seated at the right hand of God. Evidently He stands to receive His bride, the church, at the rapture. Thus all Christians get to heaven at the same moment. In one sense, then, heaven is now empty. There is no value in praying to the Virgin Mary or St. Jude since they aren’t there yet! But as will be seen shortly, there is another sense in which all believers are already in heaven…
“Although our spirits and souls are made new if we know Jesus Christ personally, our bodies are not yet redeemed. It is our present mortal physical bodies (connecting us by the five senses) which link us to the ‘old creation.’ In spirit we already have been ‘raised’ from the dead, we are dwelling in the heavenly places—we are already seated with Christ at the right hand of God. If we had our resurrection bodies ‘put on’ instead of our old earth-tents, we would immediately perceive that we all had arrived in heaven together…
When Time Ends
“All this may sound quite confusing, and it is true it contains great elements of speculation. But let us return to the Scriptures and the problem of what happens to the believer when he dies. Holding firmly to the essential point that time and eternity are quite different, then when a believer steps out of time, he steps into eternity. What was perhaps a far-off distant event in time is suddenly present in eternity if one is spiritually prepared for it. Since the one great event for which the Spirit of God is now preparing believers here on earth is the coming of Jesus Christ for his own, that is the event which greets every believer when he dies. It may be decades or even centuries before it breaks into time, but this particular person is no longer in time. He is in eternity. He sees ‘the Lord coming with ten thousands of his saints,’ just as Enoch did when he was permitted a look into eternity, and at a time when he was the seventh from Adam and the population of the earth was very small (Jude 14).
Where The Ages Meet
“But what is even more amazing is that in the experience of that believer he does not leave anyone behind. All his loved ones who know Christ are there too, including his Christian descendants who were not even born yet when he died! Since there is no past or future in heaven, this must be the case. Even those who, in time, stand beside his grave and weep and then go home to an empty house, are, in his experience, with him in lorry.
“Dr. Custance carries this even further.
‘The experience of earth saints is shared by all other saints, by those who have preceded and those who are to follow. For them all, all history, all intervening time between death and the Lord’s return is suddenly annihilated so that each one finds to his amazement that Adam, too, is just dying and joining him on his way to meet the Lord: and Abraham and David, Isaiah and the Beloved John, Paul and Augustine, Hudson Taylor and you and I–all in one wonderful experience meeting the Lord in a single instant together, without precedence and without the slightest consciousness of delay, none being late and none too early.’ (Doorway Paper No. 37, p. 28)
“This truly astonishing quality of eternity is the reason Jesus could promise his disciples with absolute certainty, ‘And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also’ (John 14:3). That promise not only applied to that generation of Christians, but would apply to all, directly and personally, through all the intervening centuries. This also explains the strange promise at the close of Hebrews 11. Speaking of Abraham, Moses, David, Jacob, Joseph, and others the writer says, ‘All these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.’
“To be ‘made perfect’ is to be resurrected, so this passage specifically states that the saints of old will not be resurrected without us. Either they are disembodied spirits waiting for the resurrection (which we have already seen is not likely) or there is some way by which we can leave time one by one and yet participate together in one glorious experience of resurrection. The proper understanding of eternity supplies the answer.
Eternity Invades Time
“There are other references in Scripture that present this same phenomenon of the apparent eclipse of time. For instance, in Revelation 13:8, Jesus is referred to as ‘the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.’ Now the cross occurred at a precise moment of history. We know when the Lamb of God was slain. But the Bible says it occurred before the foundation of the world. How can an historical event which occurred at a certain spot on earth, in the biblical reckoning be said to have occurred before the earth was even made? The passage does not say that the Lamb was foreordained to be slain before the foundation of the world, but it says he was actually slain then. Surely it means that the cross was an eternal event, taking place both in time and eternity. In time, it is long past; in eternity, it forever occurs. So also would the resurrection, and in the same way, the second coming of Christ. When any Christian dies, he passes from the realm of time and space into timelessness, into the NOW of God when the full effect of these timeless events is experienced by him to whatever degree his spiritual state requires. But the Lord’s return is an event yet to take place in historical time when the Church is complete and the end of the age has come. Perhaps this is the meaning of the Lord’s words: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’ (John 5:25). (“Complexity of Time,” Lambert Dolphin, http://www.ldolphin.org/time.html)
Again, Chuck Missler always stressed that God created time for mankind on earth. Time, in that regard, is linear. It stretches from one of its ends to the other. God is outside of time, thus we can’t put death and the Rapture within linear time constraints. Both death and the Rapture, for the Christian, is not an ending, but a beginning. I, like my great friend, Chuck, believe that both portals are somehow, inexplicably to the finite mind, infinitely inseparable wonders of the homeward going.