FREE EBook – THE FIRST AND THE LAST by Ira Surface 1921
Republished by TheBibleGuy Thomas Spencer 2014
After careful study of the previous chapters of this book, we must have anticipated the truth of the rapture, which we hope to make clear in this chapter. If we study the chart which is folded in this book, we will see that the first resurrection commences at the rapture, and continues until the Glorious Appearing of Christ. This is the resurrection of which John speaks in Rev. 20:4-6, as follows:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
I. NOT GENERAL RESURRECTION
The idea that all the dead are brought forth at the same time, and that there will be a general judgment, to which all, both good and bad, will be called, and judged at the same time, is an error that grows out of not rightly dividing the word of truth. So, it is scripturally certain that all the wicked and those who have received the mark of the beast will be resurrected after the thousand years re finished. In other words, the holy ones will live and reign with Christ a thousand years before the wicked ones will be resurrected. This, of itself, is sufficient to cause us to reject the idea of one general resurrection.
One of the evident things in God’s word is that there is a first resurrection, and that this resurrection will precede the millennium. The scripture says, in Rev. 20:5, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”
1. First Resurrection Not New Birth
It is quite common to hear, from those who seem to be careless in the reading of God’s word, that the first resurrection is the new birth. This is not authenticated by the scriptures. Resurrection, as referred to in the quotation given above, Rev. 20:5, is not figurative, but is a word literally applied to the dead body.
The new birth has reference to the regeneration of the spirit, which makes us new creatures in Christ. We re distinctly told in Eccl. 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: but the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This explains the verse given in I Thess. 4:14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” The spirits of those who have died in the triumphs of a living faith in Jesus go at once to God, only their bodies go into the grave. But at the first resurrection, all the bodies of those righteous dead will hear the call and come forth to meet Jesus, their spirits will take possession of their resurrected and glorified bodies, and they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
Paul says, in I Cor. 15:23, “But every man in his own order.” Order here means regiment, or rank. This is an important fact, and helps us to decipher the manner of the resurrection. Some will be in rank A, and some in Rank B. The dead and the living will take the rank peculiar to the state they possessed while they were alive. The fact that multitudes will have died before that day will make no difference in their rank. Those who remain until the moment of that call to come forth will be changed, and they will join those whose rank corresponds with theirs. This makes it plain that the church of the Gentiles will be made up of orders, according to the measure of the Holy Ghost’s work in their lives.
The firs resurrection is not the new birth, because we are told, in Rev. 20:6, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” This is evidence that the new birth must be first experienced before we can ever have part in the first resurrection. That experience of blessedness and holiness, which the new birth gives is not the first resurrection, but a pre-requisite for it.
Again, order is one of the first principles of God, the Creator; and it is reasonable to believe that order will be the character of the summons to the judgment. That order is plainly set forth: first the just, then the unjust. It will be first the righteous, then the wicked; for in no case are the wicked represented as coming to be judged with the righteous. God does not mix things. Sometimes man gets things mixed, but it is because he does not carefully read the scriptures.
We have seen how the previous chapters of this book have set for the order of the reckoning time. That order is that the Gentiles shall be first and Israel last. If you will refer again to the chart, you will see that the great regiment of the first resurrection is divided into the following orders:
- The rapture of the Gentile full overcomers.
- The tribulation saints, or the fullness of the Gentiles.
- The rapture of believing and full overcoming Israel.
- The glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, or His coming back to earth again.
Our purpose is to take the first two orders, or the church of the Gentiles, and scripturally define their position.
2. The Scriptural Fact of the Rapture
We will notice that there are two orders in the church of the Gentiles: their rapture, as seen in the fourth chapter of Revelation, and their fullness, as seen in Rev. 7:9.
The scriptural fact of the rapture is suggested by the fourth chapter of Revelation. John is caught up by the Spirit into heaven. In order that he might have the real experience, John is not only caught up, but he is thrust forward into the very time and place of the rapture.
Those whom John first saw, when the door was opened, were crowned ones, and were not the multitude he saw in the seventh chapter, for that order had no crowns: but they were seen as a Blood-washed multitude with palms in their hands. That fact puts this multitude in another rank, different from that occupied by the raptured ones whom he saw.
The four Living creatures, who were in the raptured body, seemed to be so closely identified with the great throne, upon which God sat, that when they spoke their voice seemed to come from the midst of that throne, and to be the voice of the throne. These four Living creatures seem to be the heavenly choristers: they lead the thanksgiving service, they lead the worship, they direct the anthem of praise. Then in one spirit of adoration and homage, that happy raptured multitude, represented by the four Living creatures and the twenty-four Elders, fall before the throne; they cast their crowns at the feet of Him who sat upon it, saying (Rev. 4:11), “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” Again we see this same multitude singing the new song (Rev. 5:8-14):
“And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
“And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
“Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne . . . .
“And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.”
It was the gospel of the Son of God; the song of redemption, sung by those raptured ones, from the midst of the throne. This will be the raptured company; that glorified, selected body which Jesus will call up to meet Him in the air. These raptured ones are a prophetic picture of the first fruits of the early harvest, the promise of the coming full harvest. This full harvest will be the completion and fullness of the Gentile church. Paul speaks of this in Rom. 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
These four Living creatures and twenty-four elders are a prefigured representative body. They are not only dictating the anthems of praise, but they are voicing the very essence of the inner hearts of all who are in that company. Hear the responsive chant, or ratification, by the innumerable host which compose that company, and then the echoes that come from all the living. Rotherhams translation of verse 10 says, “And didst make them unto our God a kingdom and priests.” The King James version says, “And didst make us, “ etc. Whether it be “them” or “us”, they are evidently, identifying themselves with this raptured company, and representing, in voice and heart, all who are around the throne at this prophetic moment. They are there with the hosts of others, who, with one mighty voice, accept and sing that new song. And when the music of that angelic host subsides, we hear the ratification in Rev. 5:14: “And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.”
It seems to one who studies this question, that there must be a reason for the rapture. You will remember that Jesus said, in the parable of the laborers, “Many are called, but few chosen.” Where there is a choice to be made (and Jesus says there is a choice), there is a difference; and where there is a difference, there are merits possessed by some which others do not possess. Jesus says that in the reckoning time there will be many called, but few chosen. It is evident that the ones chosen are those who have qualified, especially, for this rapture.
There is no one who can say, as he looks over those who believe in Jesus and belong to His body, that all are equally qualified. Some, while they believe in Jesus as their Savior, do not welcome the operation of the Spirit in their lives. We can not say they are not Christians, but we can say they are not Spirit filled. They have been born again by the Spirit, but they have not received the Holy Spirit since they believed. “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” Acts 19:2. Not only are they not advancing but they are resisting the power that would set them on fire for God, and make them efficient in their testimony. They do not stand with the class of Spirit filled workers whose whole being is alive to God. Even the casual observer would not class them together. Then why should we expect them to be in the same rank at the reckoning time? Jesus taught this difference in the parable of the pearl of great price: in the parable of the pounds: in the parable of the laborers: and in the doctrine of rewards, where very man shall receive according to his deeds.
This being so taught, may we not say the same is true of the church which Jesus is calling from among the Gentiles? He will not only call the church, but from that church which He has called, washed, cleansed and sanctified, He will CHOOSE a people for His special glory. That choice will be on the ground of special equipment and efficiency. God has provided that equipment, and he who carelessly refuses to perfect himself will certainly not deserve a place in the rapture.
This suggests our next thought:
3. The Time of the Rapture
The time of the rapture will be the time of Christ’s second coming, which will be in two stages. In the first stage, He will come for the Gentile church. In the second stage, He will come to Israel as their Messiah.
He will come for the Gentile church at a time when the world is not thinking of looking for Him. His coming will be before the tribulation has commenced. If you will notice the chart, you will see that the first stage of His second coming will be immediately after the utterance of the message to the Laodicean church, which is the last message. The effect of that last message will be felt until every Gentile who will believe has been reached. That message will be carried through the first six seals of the tribulation period. Therefore, those who are not ready to meet Jesus when He comes at the rapture will pass into the first six stages of the tribulation. John says of these (Rev. 7:14), These are they who come out of the great tribulation.” – Rotherham.
But those who are qualified and worthy will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air, when He comes for them at the rapture. I Thess. 4:15-18
“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.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, 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 Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The time of that coming, we believe, is very near, but the time will not be announced. Even the angels in heaven do not know, as that time is known by God the Father only. This is the element of hope in the gospel, for Paul says, in I Thess. 4:18 “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” If the whole church were to pass through the tribulation, as some believe this verse would have no meaning. The hope which Paul holds out to the church is the fact that those who are qualified, at the coming of Christ, shall be (not may be), caught up to meet Jesus in the air. Thus they escape the fearful tribulation which is to come upon the earth, the commencement of which will be at the entrance of the white Horse Rider, Rev. 6:2.
- Be Ye Ready
Now, since the exact time of the rapture can not be known, although we know from the fulfillment of prophecies that the tie is near, let every saint of God be ready; for there will be no trumpet to announce this coming. It will be preceded by a calm, like that which settles down before the breaking of a terrible storm. I Thess. 5:3 says, “When they shall say peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.”
It is possible for us to be so absorbed in the cares of life, that we will not notice the deception of the times. It is even possible for us who are deeply absorbed in the study of this long looked for event to be overtaken and miss God’s best for us, the rapture. “Therefore e ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh,” Matt. 24:44. Pray that ye may be accounted worthy to escape, Luke 21:36.
- The Manner of Christ’s Coming
We are told that He will come as a thief, and this statement reveals two things: first, it defines how Jesus will steal away His bride; second, it reveals, more clearly than ever, the fact that this stage of His coming will be for a different purpose than the second stage. The second stage will be a revelation to the whole world; for “every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him.” Rev 1:7.
This is additional proof that His coming for His precious ones, at the rapture, will be as a thief comes, and will not be seen by the world of unbelievers. We see, in Heb. 9:28, that “unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” So those who look ardently for Him (as Rotherham translates it), and have made themselves worthy, will be the only ones who will see Him at that time. “There shall be two men in one bed; and one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left,” Luke 17: 34-36. Doubtless, in each case both were Christians, but both were not Spirit filled and no overcomers.
As a Thief
But, how does a thief come, and for what purpose? He comes silently. No trumpet announces his approach; he carries no flaming torch. He comes to steal, and enters stealthily. Then, he does not take everything of value. He leaves the furniture, which is not what he wants. He looks for the diamonds, the rubies, the silver and the gold – the things that are most precious.
Jesus will so come, not with a flaming sword to execute vengeance. No one will see Him at this time, except those who are ardently looking for Him. He is coming for just one thing, which is not to reveal His glory, for the time of that revelation is at the second stage of His coming. That one thing will be to catch out His precious Bride. Ah!! You say His Bride? Yes!! Among the raptured ones the Bride of Christ will be hidden away. The church is the body for which He gave Himself. Paul says in Eph. 5: 25-27, “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any suck thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” This is the pearl for which the merchantman made the supreme sacrifice.
There is something very beautiful in this manner of Christ’s coming at the rapture. The Bride will be ardently and earnestly looking and longing for her Bridegroom, as the Bridegroom is longing for her. That meeting in the air will be a blessed, glorious, and mutual greeting. It will be the fruition of the hope so long entertained. It will be the escape of the precious and beloved Bride from the awful throes of the great tribulation, which must come before the earth is restored to its Edenic purity. “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come pon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take they crown,” Rev. 3:10,11.
Jesus will be the resurrection life of which He spoke when He said, “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.”
The unbeliever will not recognize this coming of Christ. To him, this catching away of the prepared and Spirit-filled ones will be a strange coincidence, which he will explain in a materialistic way. The believer who is converted, but has not yielded his life to God, will be stricken with a spirit of remorse, because he has not given credence to the doctrine of Christ’s second coming. He will remember all the sermons, testimonies, and messages he has heard, and will say, “Yes it is all true, and I have missed it. I have missed God’s best, and the joy it would give me now.”
It is pleasant to believe that between the rapture and the gathering in of the last straggling Gentile, at the end of the church period, there will be a mighty turning unto the Lord. Millions of church members who are not living a victorious life, will then turn to God and yield themselves to Him. Many ministers of God who have, amidst much reproach, given out the word of the kingdom, and warned the people against the encroachments of this deceptive age, will rejoice to see the fruits of their labor. The word shall not return voice, it shall accomplish. They have strewn the word in hard places, and under much discouragement; but they shall come forth rejoicing, bearing precious sheaves.
This rapture is our high calling in Christ. We may now take possession of it. If you are not ready, you must get ready quickly. This is no fancy or dream; Jesus is really coming soon. Do not miss God’s best. Let not another day pass before you get right with God, “for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”
- This Rapture Exclusively Gentile
It has been shown that God does make a separation between Israel and the Gentile. You will see on the chart that the barley harvest includes only the Gentiles. The house of Israel will be reckoned with as the wheat harvest. The house of Israel will be reckoned with as the wheat harvest. But both harvests had the sheaf of first fruits. This sheaf of first fruits, in each case, was gathered before the full harvest, which they represented, was gathered. Great care was taken to keep the barley sheaf separate from the wheat sheaf. This, unquestionably, is a type of the Gentile harvest ad of the Jewish harvest.
This subject will be treated more fully in the next chapter on the Bride of Christ.