To be raptured alive is the last way to overcome death. When the Lord Jesus comes back, many believers will be raptured alive. Both 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 teach this. There is no definite day for the Lord’s second coming. He could have come back at any moment during the past two thousand years. Believers have the hope of being raptured alive at any time without passing through death. The time of the Lord Jesus’ second coming is now closer than before. Therefore, believers today have more hope of being raptured than those in past generations. We do not want to say much here, but we can safely say a few words with assurance: if the Lord Jesus comes back while our generation is still here, would we not be raptured alive? If so, we should overcome death, not allowing ourselves to die ahead of time so that we may be raptured alive. According to the prophecy in the Bible, there will eventually be a group of believers who will be raptured without passing through death. Their being raptured alive is a kind of overcoming of death. As long as we live on the earth, we should not say that we may not be those people. Therefore, should we not prepare ourselves to overcome death completely?
Believing that we will never die physically is not a superstition, because the Bible gives us this hope. We may die, but it is not a must that we die. The Lord clearly teaches us: "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day" (John 6:54). But He also says, "This is the bread which came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread shall live forever" (v. 58). He means that among His believers some will die and be resurrected, while others will not pass through death at all.
The Lord Jesus expressed this idea more explicitly at the time of Lazarus’s death: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live; and every one who lives and believes into Me shall by no means die forever" (John 11:25-26). The Lord Jesus is not only the resurrection but also the life. Most of us believe that He is the resurrection but forget that He is also the life. We only know that after we die He will resurrect us, but we forget that while we are living He wants to be our life to save us from dying. The Lord Jesus told us of these two kinds of work, but we only believe in one of them. He said, "He who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live." This is what believers of the past two thousand years are going to experience. But He also said that there will be a group of people who "lives and believes into Me," who will "by no means die forever." We do not know how many thousands have believed in God and have already passed away, but God’s Word says that some will "by no means die forever"—not that some will be resurrected, but that some will "by no means die forever." We have no reason to say that we must first die and then be resurrected. Since the second coming of the Lord Jesus is already near, why should we have to die before then and wait for resurrection? Why not look to Him to rapture us at His second coming so that we may be totally delivered from the power of death?
The Lord tells us that not only is He the resurrection to many, but also the life to some. Although it is marvelous to be resurrected from the dead as Lazarus was, this does not mean that there is no other way to overcome death other than resurrection. The Lord said that there is another way to "by no means die forever." Originally, we were appointed to fall into the gloomy valley of death, but God has built a "pontoon bridge" for us to get to the heavens directly. This pontoon bridge is the rapture.
If some wish to be raptured and if the time of rapture is indeed near, then God would desire that we learn how to overcome death and be among the number who will be raptured alive. Before rapture, the last enemy to overcome is death. On the cross the Lord Jesus fully overcame death, but God desires that the church would experience His victory. We all feel that we are at the end of this age and that before our rapture the Holy Spirit is now leading us to wage the last battle against death.
Satan knows that his time is short. He is trying his best to frustrate the believers from being raptured. As a result, the children of God today experience many physical attacks. Because of such frequent physical attacks, they become accustomed to breathing in the atmosphere of death and lose the hope of being raptured alive. Believers do not know that this is just the challenge of the enemy to frustrate them from being raptured. When a believer has truly received the calling of rapture, he will spontaneously develop a fighting spirit against death; in his spirit he will feel that death is a frustration to his rapture that must be overcome.
The devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). His job is to murder. The goal of all that Satan does to the believers is to cause them to die. In the end time he deals with God’s children in a special way: he wears them out (Dan. 7:25). If he can add a little anxiety to a believer’s spirit, put a little more fear and worry in his mind, give him insomnia one night, and cause him to eat less and become overworked at other times, he has succeeded in bringing in an invasion of death. Although a drop of water is powerless, a repeated dripping over a period of time can wear away a stone. Knowing this, Satan uses little worries, anxieties, and neglect to wear out the saints.
At other times Satan directly attacks believers and causes them to die. Actually, many such attacks have happened, but believers do not recognize them as such. Sometimes the attack comes simply as a cold, sunstroke, insomnia, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Sometimes it may be uncleanness, anger, envyings, or indulgence. Not knowing the deadening significance behind these, believers lack perfect victory. If they recognized these deadening attacks and withstood them just as they withstand death, they would overcome. Because the believers do not have sufficient knowledge to understand the real meaning of these experiences, they attribute them to their age or other factors, not realizing that the enemy is using death to attack them because the rapture is close.
The Lord Jesus is coming back soon; therefore, we should wage a full-scale battle against death. In the same way that we fight with sin, the world, and Satan, we should also fight against death. We should not only strive to overcome; we should also lay hold of victory. In every aspect we should firmly grasp the work of Christ in overcoming death. If we look back on our past experience and ask God to shine upon us, we will see the numerous times that we have been attacked by death without realizing it. We considered these attacks to be something else and, in so doing, failed to have the power to deal with them. If we had identified these as the attacks of death, God would have supplied us with the power to overcome them experientially. We often seem to pass over broken bridges and through torn-up streets; it seems as if our environment and everything else tell us that we are about to die, but we cannot die. We often even despair of life, but we cannot die. Why should we die now? Recently the children of God have had considerable experiences of fighting for their life. It is most painful, yet they feel that they cannot die. It seems as if they are saying that they do not want to die. What does this mean? These are the attacks of death to prevent us from being raptured. God is leading us to pitch our last battle against death before our rapture.
Today we should apply the victory of Christ to shut the door of Hades. We should stand up and refuse to let death have any power over us. Reject everything that has the element of death in it. Apply this view to every sickness, weakness, and pain. Sometimes the body may not feel anything, but death has already done its work. All vexing in the spirit and sorrow in the soul result in death. God is now calling us to be raptured; therefore, everything that frustrates this rapture should be destroyed.
God is putting His children in different environments that strip them of their strength and all that they depend on, causing them to place their lives into His hand and hang on by a thread of faith. Otherwise, they would have no hope of survival. At such times there seems to be no way except to cry, "Lord, keep me alive." The battle today is truly a battle of life and death.
The evil spirits of murder are working everywhere today. Unless the believers stand against them and pray, they will fail. If you are still as passive as before, you will certainly die. You may say, "Lord, make me overcome death." But the Lord will say, "If you stand against death, I will make you overcome death." Prayer alone will not work very well if the will does not resist death. You should say, "Lord, because You have overcome death, I now reject all the attacks of death. I am determined to overcome right now. Lord, grant me a victory over death." The Lord desires that you would overcome death. Grasp the promise that God has given you, pray to be delivered from death, and believe that nothing can hurt you. Do not accept the fact that death can touch you. For example, if you are in a disease-infected area, reject the diseases and forbid them to come close to you. Do not let death attack you through disease.
We should not wait passively for the second coming and presume that somehow we will be raptured. We must be prepared. Being raptured, just like any other matter, requires God’s church to cooperate with Him. Faith never lets things take their own course. Death must be resisted with determination. Likewise, the rapture is something that must be grasped with determination. Faith is indispensable, but that does not mean we may passively abandon responsibility. If we theoretically consent to the fact that we can be completely freed from death, but yield passively to its power, what profit is this?
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 12, by Watchman Nee)