The Church

The Church – Part 9


I Thessalonians 4:16-17

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: Then 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

first question I must ask is where do we find the word church
mentioned in this passage? A person must view this passage with a
preconceived idea of a universal church to which all saved people are
added upon their salvation if they find a universal church here. If
one doesn’t come with this presumption, one cannot find the church in
these two verses.

catching up here is often wrongly called the “Rapture of the
Church.” What we see here is the Rapture of the saints which
includes the dead in Christ, and those who are in Christ yet still
alive at His coming.

the Rapture there will be a calling out of all who are in Christ,
both dead and alive. This will form an ecclesia. This church still
will not be universal because it will not include the Old Testament
saints, nor will it include the Tribulation saints or the Millennium
saints. Another thing about this ecclesia that differs from the
universal church theory is that it will be both visible and local.
That is, you will be able to see it with your eyes and all of its
members will be gathered together in one place.

reads this universal church proof-text with astonishment since there
is no mention of the word church here at all. Of course, those who
are already convinced of the existence of the universal church would
assume that it is the “Rapture of the Church” because they
believe that all the saved make up the universal church. Paul gives
no basis for such an assumption, not in this passage or anywhere else
in Scripture.

the Bible supported the doctrine of a universal church, then the
Rapture could be called the “Rapture of the Church”. Since
the Bible does not support a universal church doctrine, a more
accurate term would be “Rapture of the saints”.

from preconceptions, there is no universal church found in these
verses. Again, we must take what the Bible says over what theology
books say.

Hebrews 12:22-23

But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto
the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an
innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of
the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of
all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

is obvious that what is referred to here is future even though this
passage speaks in the present tense (ye are come). We are not yet
come to the heavenly Jerusalem, that event is yet future.

thing that is obvious is that there are two groups of people
mentioned here, the general assembly, and the church of the
firstborn. Some interpret these as being the same thing, the general
assembly equaling the church of the firstborn. This does not hold up
grammatically. We have two entities here, the general assembly, and
the church of the firstborn. The word “and” indicates that
these are two separate entities. It is true that the word “and”
used here could mean that they are two different names for the same
thing, but that is not what would first come to mind when reading
these phrases. There is further evidence in the passage that shows
they cannot be the same thing. We are told that they “are”
in heaven, not that “it is” in heaven. The plural here
proves that these are two distinct entities.

word ecclesia means a called out assembly, but the Greek word
translated general assembly is not ecclesia. It is πανηγυρις,
which means a mass meeting. Who would be in the general assembly? The
Bible doesn’t tell us so I can only speculate that it would include
the Old Testament saints, the Tribulation saints, and the Millennium