Author’s note: With most every indicator of the advance toward the Tribulation era in view upon the prophetic horizon, Christ’s call to the Church stands brightly against the darkening gloominess. Thus it is time to again consider what God’s Word has to say about being Rapture ready–to be worthy of Christ’s call to that great event.
This article, written some years earlier, stands more than ever as a reminder of the fact we might at any moment appear before our Lord to give an account for our lives spent here on this fallen planet.
On Being Rapture Worthy
Lately, emails and articles I’ve been receiving are trending toward the thought that Christians not living exemplary lives as believers will miss being taken in the Rapture of the Church, should they not be fully “repented up” and ready to go. These will be “left behind,” as the LaHaye and Jenkins novel title puts it. First, it is perhaps best to consider what is meant by the “exemplary life” in terms of prerequisites for making it to Heaven in the Rapture.
Those who insist that one must be living the exemplary life usually frame that as “living a life of holiness” or “living righteously.” By this, I presume they mean for the most part that one must be doing “good works” rather than living life in the “broad way” along which the pedestrian world moves. I would, of course, agree that the born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ should be doing exactly that every day. There’s no question that God’s Word calls us to that model for life while upon this fallen planet.
However, the question is now raise—and it is closely akin to the question raised whenever the declaration is made that one can lose one’s salvation: At what point does one “lose” his or her salvation? What particular “sin-point” is reached that causes the salvation meter in Heaven to go “TILT,” removing the sinner’s name from the Lamb’s Book of Life? Or, for our purposes here, at what point does one sin enough to be taken off the list of those who hold tickets into Heaven, who will be lifted to be with Jesus Christ in that millisecond of time known as the “twinkling of an eye” when Jesus calls: “Come up hither!” (Revelation 4:1–2)?
Those who believe that the names of the redeemed can be removed from the Lamb’s Book of Life, of course, use the following Scripture as one that prove their position is true: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
This is proof, say the “conditional security proponents,” that one’s name can be removed from the Book of Life. But, let’s have a closer look to examine whether this is true.
Those who hold that believers’ names can be erased from this blessed Book of Life insist that the born-again must “overcome” sin. In their belief dictionary, this means we must stay sin free—that is, either live above sin or stay continually “repented up” in order to keep our names in the Book.
They miss the point entirely as to who actually does the overcoming. It isn’t the believer who overcomes all sin, but the Lord Jesus who died in order to take sin away from those who believe so that we are no longer separated from God the Father in the eternal sense. This is seen, for example, in the following: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
It is simple belief in the Savior who takes away the sins of the world that makes us overcomers. We still sin and come short of the glory of God, but His precious blood shed at Calvary covers all of our sins—past, present, and future. We overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil–all sin in this earthly sphere—only by belief in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). Our overcoming is only through God’s great grace, through faith. We can never overcome by our own power.
When we sin, we break fellowship with our Lord, but we never break the eternal, family relationship. We do the following to take steps toward making right the sinful break in fellowship that we have caused. First, we must realize and admit that we are not sinless, because repentance cannot truly be made unless we confess that we have sinned. Upon such confession and repentance there is given blessed remedy: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
God’s Word shows us that our salvation and our ability to overcome is totally based on what Christ did for us and our faith in Him alone. This brings us to the matter of being “Rapture Worthy.”
Going to Christ when He calls, as Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 15:51–55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and given by John in Revelation 4:1–2, is a salvation matter. We know that from the overall gospel message and from the total context of God’s dealing with His family. Remember when Jesus prayed that beautiful prayer to His Father, as the Lord faced the cross (John 17)? Read it again, and you will see that it is absolutely clear that born-again believers are forever secure in the Father’s hand, based upon what Jesus did on the cross.
We know with absolute certainty that we are once and forever in God’s family because of the words of the One who created all that exists: “My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
Paul confirms that the Rapture is a salvation matter as follows: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11).
The Rapture will be Christ keeping us from the hour of temptation or Tribulation (read Revelation 3:10). The Tribulation is the time of God’s wrath–to which Paul tells us we are “not appointed.” However, there are many who insist that Christians who haven’t properly confessed their sins will go through that time of God’s wrath (and the entire seven years of the Tribulation will be God’s judgment and wrath). These use the following verse to make their case: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
The key word they hold forth as relevant here is the word “worthy.” Does this word not mean that we as born-again believers must be good enough to stand before Jesus in that raptured throng? Does this word not mean, therefore, that if we fail to live up to God’s standards while on this Earth, we will (at some point in God’s holy view of what it takes to fall from being Rapture ready) lose our ticket in that translation moment, thus not be taken when the shout is heard, “Come up hither!”?
Like in examining the issue of salvation, in looking at the term “overcoming,” we now look at the word “worthy.” What does it mean to be “worthy,” as given in this Rapture example? Again, the answer is wrapped up in the same name as before: “Jesus.” Jesus is the only person “worthy,” in God’s holy eyes, to be in the heavenly realm.
Remember what Jesus said to a man who addressed Him as “Good Master”? “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God” (Luke 18:18).
Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, was not seeking to chastise the man for addressing Him in this way. The Lord was confirming through this question that He is indeed God, the only good, the only righteousness. Righteousness is the only ticket to Heaven–either through the portal of death, or through the Rapture. Only through Jesus–being born again into God’s family through belief in Him–can a person enter the heavenly realm.
Jesus spoke to this all-important matter by addressing Nicodemus: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
God’s Word says about fallen mankind: “As it is written, There is none righteous no not one” (Romans 8:10) and, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 8:23).
So, Jesus is the only person “worthy” to enter Heaven. It is through Him that any of us are worthy to stand before Him in that heavenly realm. That is the truth found in the Scripture in question.
On a less magnificent scale, the word “worthy” in this passage means that we should be in a constant mindset of prayerful repentance. We should always want to be found “worthy”–cleansed of all unrighteousness, as stated in 1 John 1: 9, so that we will hear our Lord say to us on that day, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).