One reason why I would have no incentive to prepare for Christ’s coming is if I believe the Rapture of the church includes all members of the church, without exception. For other believers, the promise of a Rapture from a loving Savior prompts them to lay down their lives for Him in gratitude. This is a wonderful response to the Rapture promise, but it is not shared by those whose love for the Savior is absent.
To those of you who are lukewarm in your affections for the Lord, and are depending on a universal Rapture, what if I could show you that the Rapture is conditional? We’ll find in Revelation chapters two and three that Jesus makes a difference among believers regarding who will be rewarded and who will not. One of the conditional rewards offered is the Rapture.
Jesus spells out specific praises and concerns regarding His church in Revelation chapters two and three. He expressed His concerns in a series of seven letters, each one directed to an angel of a particular local church. In the first letter, in Rev. 2:1-7, directed to the church in Ephesus, we learn that the people had left their first love. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev 2:4). Does this letter reflect the problem with the entire church body today, or does it refer to particular people in the local church?
At the end of the letter Jesus promises a blessing to those who overcome the problem. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7). He will make a difference between those who continue in the problem and those who overcome the problem, by either rewarding their commitment to change or withholding that reward from those who don’t repent.
So just because He wrote a letter to a local church body in Ephesus does not mean that the worldwide church will share in the reward or the consequence as a unit.
Jesus addressed grave concerns to the church in Thyatira in Rev. 2:18-29. Their sexual sins were so serious that the Lord was ready to cast the church into tribulation, and kill their children with death. Does this letter mean that the entire church shares the sexual sins mentioned in the letter? Will the entire church be cast into the tribulation for her sexual sins? No, for Jesus makes a difference among believers in that local church: “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden” (Rev 2:24). The rewards and punishments will be divided individually, not to the worldwide church as a unit.
In the letter to the Ephesians, we find one problem mentioned. In the letter to the church in Thyatira, we find a different problem addressed. We see different problems in the local churches, and different rewards and consequences promised to each. One size does not fit all local churches.
In Rev. 3:7-13 we find a wonderful promise given to the local church at Philadelphia. The promise is to “keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10b). The Bible speaks of a specific time when the whole world will enter a trial of temptation, and that period matches the prophetic Scriptures describing the years leading up to the coming of Christ.
At any rate, the Lord promises to keep this local body from that hour. Is this promise which is directed to this local church supposed to be applied to the worldwide body of Christ as a unit? Does this passage indicate that every individual believer will escape the hour of temptation that is coming? On the contrary, for the Lord explained His conditions, as He did for receiving the blessings in the other letters.
Jesus tells this group of believers why they will be so blessed: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience” (Rev. 3:10a). He did not say, “because you are saved.” No mention was made regarding whether they were born again, believers, or baptized. As in all the other letters, they were addressed according to their works!
What we do as believers will determine how the Lord will apportion rewards and consequences. This applies to the Rapture of the church before the hour of temptation that will come upon the whole earth. As the Lord made a difference among the members of the local church in Ephesus and Thyatira by pointing out their works, so He made a difference among the believers worldwide by singling out those who are doing a particular class of work as ready for the Rapture.
If any of our works match up with the negative evaluations in the letters to the churches in Revelation, we can be sure that we will miss out on the blessings promised. If you have found this to be true in your case, then you have reason to get ready. Read carefully and prayerfully the letters to the churches and see what direction the Lord wants you to take. He wants all to share in the rewards to come – He does not want you to miss out!
If any of our works match the conditions of those who will receive blessings, then we have need to hold fast to what we have. This will be the thrust of our readiness. We have an enemy who will do anything in his power to wrest our victories from our grasp. He has many specialized temptations to divert our attention from the Savior and corrupt our walk with Him.
Jesus plainly makes a difference among the saints according to their works. He will not treat the entire body as a unit. Just as each individual letter does not match the condition of the worldwide body of Christ, so the letter to the Philadelphians, including its promise of a Rapture, does not apply to each believer worldwide.
We will each receive individual evaluations, then be rewarded according to our own works. As we see in the seven letters to the churches, certain blessings, even the Rapture of believers, are conditional. We have a strong motivation to continue patiently believing Him in our troublesome hours – for if we persist in thanking Him in our trials, He will keep us from the most dangerous hour to come!