The ecclesia or church of the present, is
preponderantly "gentile," but not exclusively so. It
began with the ministry of Paul, and will be completed when the last one
who is chosen in Christ before the disruption of the world, has been
called into spiritual touch with God through Christ. After that,
the ecclesia will be taken to heaven. It is figuratively called
the body of Christ.
The Pentecostal ecclesia, which came into prominence
on the day of Pentecost, was preponderantly Jewish. No gentiles
have had membership in it, except proselytes. To that ecclesia the
twelve apostles belonged. It ceased to exist after God turned to
the nations, but will come back into existence in the future. It
is figuratively called the bride of the Lambkin.
Paul, chief of "the last apostles," (I Cor.
4:9), is the one through whom God completes His word for the ecclesia
which is the body of Christ, Col. 2:24, 25. When he mentions, in
Eph. 2, the reconciliation of two groups - Jews and gentiles - in one
body, he does not mean that the bride is incorporated in the ecclesia
which is the body of Christ. He has reference to those Jews who,
like himself, were members of the body. The time has come when the
two groups have become a joint body.
The King James Version, in Eph. 1:12, makes Paul say,
"we - who first trusted in Christ." Of course, Paul said
no such thing, for he and those associated with him were not the first
to trust in Christ. The Concordant Version correctly renders it,
"we - who are in a state of prior expectancy in the
Christ." I think the Revised Concordant Version will have it,
"we - who are pre-expectant in the Christ." This will be
better, because it is shorter.
The passage teaches that we - members of the body
ecclesia - are to be with Christ before He comes to Israel, to establish
the kingdom on earth. This should be emphasized. Those
passages in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, etc., that describe the
future coming of Christ, are of only secondary concern to us. They
picture His coming to establish the kingdom. He will come for us
earlier. But we find information regarding it, only in the
writings of Paul. This, however, he could not do by calling
attention to any, then, existing passage of scripture.
So he gave them an entirely new revelation.
Nothing like it had ever been written before. It deals with the
coming of the Lord, but is different in almost every detail, from those
passages to which I have already referred.
1. Paul tells it trough the word of the
Lord. That is, it has been directly revealed to him. He did
not get it from any passage of scripture.
2. It is the Lord, Himself, Who will have the
trumpet. It is in the hand of no messenger of His.
3. A new phrase in introduced, "the dead
in Christ." No circumcision writer thus refers to dead
4. The dead shall be roused before the living
saints are affected. This is entirely different from what we are
told about the rousing of Israel. Seventy-five days are to elapse
between the coming of Christ to bless the living saints of Israel, and
the rousing of the dead ones, Dan. 12.
5. The living will be snatched away "at
the same time," "together," with the roused ones.
Why this redundant statement, if not to emphasize that it is different
from the coming of Christ to Israel, when the living saints WILL NOT
enter the kingdom at the same time the roused ones enter, but some time
6. The Lord will descend from heaven into the
air, but not to the earth. This is in contrast to His coming to
Israel, for as we have seen, His feet shall stand upon the Mount of
Olives. A brother suggests that He will be on His way to the
earth, when He comes into the air, and that we will meet there, to
escort Him to the earth. No passage of scripture gives us the
right to say this.
7. We will be snatched away for meeting the
Lord in the air. Israel will not be snatched away at all.
Those in the land will see him when He comes, and He will send His
messengers to bring those not in the land. "The land,"
is a phrase often used to denote the land of Canaan.
8. When He comes in the air, it is not said He
will be seen by the people of earth. When He comes to Israel He
will be seen, as surely as a lightning flash is seen.
Let us quote the passage in I Thess. 4:15-18:
"For this we are saying to you by the word of the Lord, that we,
the living, who are surviving unto the presence of the Lord, shall by no
means outstrip those who are put to repose, seeing that the Lord Himself
will be descending from heaven with the shout of command, and with the
voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead
in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living who are
surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in
clouds, for meeting the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always
be together with the Lord. So, that, be consoling one another with
A very live question at that time, was the day of the
Lord. Was it present? Was this why the saints were having to
suffer so much? If it was not present, will the "body"
saints have to endure it when it does come? Paul answers this in
the verses that follow those already quoted.
The saints were aware that the day of the Lord will
come as a thief in the night. It will come at a time when THEY,
not YOU, will be saying, "Peace and security." In other
words when men are satisfied that they have established peace and
security. Extermination will then be standing over them unawares,
"even as travail over the pregnant, and they shall by no means
After speaking of some whom he calls
"they," Paul now speaks to YOU - that is, to saints of the
body ecclesia. "You are not in darkness, that the day should
be overtaking you, as a thief, for you are all sons of the light, and
sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor of darkness.
He then exhorts them to be watching and sober. Drowsing and
drunkenness is expected of those who are of the night and darkness, but
not of the sons of the light and the day. We may be sober, putting
on the cuirass of faith and love, and the helmet, the expectation of
salvation. God did not appoint us to indignation. All right,
then, He charges Himself to keep us out of the day of indignation, for
this is what the day of the Lord is, at first.
God has appointed us to the procuring of salvation
through our Lord Jesus Christ, the One dying for us, that whether we may
be watching or drowsing, we should be living at the same time together
with Him. Read I Thess. 5:1-10. If we were to be here when
the day of the Lord comes, it would come to the great majority of us a
thief; for saints are asleep on the job. Only one out of several
thousand is awake. The only reason why the day of the Lord will
not come on us as a thief, is, we will not be here when it comes.
We will have been snatched away for meeting the Lord in the air, before
that day comes.
Some think that drowsing saints will have to go
through the horrors of the "great tribulation." That
would be a strange time for God to abandon grace. He saves us to
grace; He calls us in grace; He deals with us in grace; He forgives our
offenses in accord with the riches of His grace. Will He abandon
grace and begin to deal with us in law, at the crucial time when we need
His grace most? Perish the thought! If He did so, He would
stand disgraced before His universe. John Newton had it
right, when he wrote; "Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home." Yes, grace will take us up to
meet our Lord in the air, not because we have been wide-awake and on the
job, but because grace is what it is - God's unmerited favor.
The address of James A. Webb is 1860 Broad St.,