Paul’s Two Scheme Dimensional System 

Chapter 10 of Reclaiming The Rapture : Paul’s Two Scheme Dimensional System 

Paul provides enough information throughout his epistles to understand the technical aspects of the rapture and to explain why he chose the Greek word which has been translated as 

“rapture.” The authors reject the proposition that the rapture was something first revealed to the Apostle of the Gentiles. Nevertheless, a wisdom was given to Paul by revelation about how the spiritual realm operates. Peter admitted that some of Paul’s teachings were hard to understand. But we need to understand some of his deeper insights in order to view the rapture from Paul’s perspective. Spiritual concepts are not necessarily complex; but they are contrary to worldly thinking, so that certain definitions and rules we might be accustomed to using could need to be redefined. 

Paul’s concepts of material and spiritual existence were far different from the Dualistic ideas made popular by the Greek Philosophers. To appreciate the weight of the Greek influence upon first century Christians, just remember that Paul’s epistles were originally written in Greek. The rapture is easier to visualize once we realize that Paul described the same dimensional system throughout his writings. When Paul commented on different forms of existence, he was sharing his knowledge of ontology. According to Wikipedia, “Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.”44 

The Apostle John made an ontological observation in his statement on what “we shall be” in his first letter. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 

This verse contrasts two forms of appearance. Both of these forms have, or will be, seen. “Appear”, by definition, means that something is observable. Because Jesus will appear in glory, we understand that these appearances represent existence in both the natural realm, and in a form beyond the natural realm. 

Although the word “metaphysics” has taken on a negative aspect through association with religious spiritualism and existential philosophy, metaphysics examines the form and substance of objects that exist beyond the physical world. We might say – outside of this dimension. This is the very sort of ontological discussion we need to become familiar with in order to recognize and interpret dozens of New Testament verses dealing with the seen and unseen; the natural and the spiritual. Appearances, forms, and schemes are mentioned throughout the gospels and epistles. 

The resurrection – the reconstruction and resuscitation of decayed and scattered molecules – is a miracle. But the rapture involves the transition from one state of existence to another. From the natural (physical, material), to the spiritual (glorious) state of existence; nevertheless, retaining some type of metaphysical bodily form. 

When the Bible speaks of a spiritual body, it does not mean to imply that the spirit will escape from bodily form and become a disembodied spirit. Platonism, Gnosticism, and Dualism all pit a theoretical perfect spirit against the imperfect elements (matter). Within these philosophies, spirit is nothing more than the opposite of matter. The Gnostics insist that the spirit is real and that the material is less than real. Whereas, modern humanists believe matter to be real, and the spiritual realm to be nothing more than superstition – something that is a matter of personal choice. But the living God of the Bible is Spirit, and He is infinitely more than the opposite of matter. 

When we think of body, soul, and spirit, it is logical to contrast the human body, which has form, with the human spirit, which has no visible form. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Rom. 8:16 Only a few times in the Bible does the Holy Spirit appear to take on a representative form; such as smoke, flames of fire, or the dove at Jesus’ Baptism. But generally, when we think of spirit, we have no form or image associated with either the Spirit of the Godhead or the spiritual component of man. So a spiritual body would seem to be an oxymoron. 

But spiritual form, or embodiment, is the very concept that the Apostle Paul was expressing when he wrote about the spiritual bodies that we will receive in the instant of the rapture. 

Spiritual bodies are heavenly objects, possessing real substance. This spiritual substance is (usually) unseen to the physical eye but is just as real, and even more substantial, than the substance of material things. The spiritual form has an appearance, a form that can be manifested into the material world. Jesus began to manifest His glorified (spiritual) body at the time of the transformation. Yet He showed Himself in a more natural form to a select few after his resurrection. 

Now that we have established the biblical concept of spiritual form, we should address some of the errant philosophies plaguing the Christian church today. The spiritual realm is not merely a nebulous World of Souls dwelling in some ethereal cloud. The heavenly state consists of some type of media or substance. Dimensionality of some type will define our heavenly habitat. Otherwise, how might beings in the spiritual realm know where their identity ends and another person or object begins? How would they communicate or have community? Heaven must have dimensionality or else Moses could not have been shown the pattern of the heavenly tabernacle – the heavenly realities. 

Carrying this logic further, for activity to occur in heaven, something must move or change. Some recognition of time over which change can be observed is necessary to recognize that something has happened. Life without measurable activity would resemble our definition of death, not the abundant life promised by Christ. 

Chapter 15 of First Corinthians devotes several verses to contrasting natural and spiritual bodies. The spiritual form is the more substantial, more enduring, appearance of things. 

Schemes, Forms, and Appearances 

In the following verses Paul described the natural world as a “scheme.” The first verse refers to a future transformation of the world – from the natural scheme into another appearance. The second verse comments on the humility of Christ when He took on the scheme of this world. 

For the form (Gr. σχῆμα, schēma) of this world is passing away. 1 Cor. 7:31b; (also interpreted as; the world in its present form is passing away.) 

And being found in appearance (σχήματι, schēmati) as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Phil. 2:8 

The appearance (form) of Jesus was changed from His original glorious appearance, to the form of a bondservant (natural man). Jesus took on the scheme of nature. The natural and spiritual schemes are both very real and apparent forms of embodiment. 

In the verses above Paul referred to the present natural form of existence as the scheme of this world. Both examples describe a change in outward appearance based on the assumption there is more than one scheme of existence. 

Paul also used another term that can be interpreted as “form” or “appearance”. It is the Greek word morphē. Morph is the root of the English word, metamorphosis; “to change in form or appearance.” Both Matthew and Mark use the word μετεμορφώθη (metemorphōthē) to describe Jesus’ transfiguration. This expression for one of Paul’s two schemes of existence is also found in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form μορφῇ (morphē) of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Phil. 2:5-7 

This passage, through the end of the third chapter, is a key section for understanding Paul’s schemes of existence. We will see shortly that this passage even contains the Greek word which has been interpreted into English as “caught up!” 

Mark also used the Greek stem “morph” in his account of the road to Emmaus encounter. After that, He (Jesus) appeared in another form ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ (hetera morphē) to two of them as they walked and went into the country. Mark 16:12 

Now we can look at schēmati and morphē used together to describe our transformation into the spiritual scheme of Jesus’ glorified body. Paul calls this a “trans-schematic” transformation. 

Who will transform μετασχηματίσει (metaschēmatisei) our lowly body that it may be conformed σύμμορφον (symmorphon) to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Phil. 3:21 

Not to belabor the reader with exhaustive Greek studies, please consider the significance of just one more word used prolifically in the New Testament. In the preceding verse we read, “He appeared in another form…” The Greek word for “appeared” is ἐφανερώθη (ephanerōthē). The root word, “phan,” is where we get the word “phantom.” In English we are used to thinking of a phantom as an apparition – something less than real – perhaps like a vision. 

But in the nine occurrences of “appeared” (ἐφανερώθη) below, every single one of them relates to a very real transformation between the spiritual and the natural forms of bodily existence. 

Mark 16:14 Afterward He appeared (ephanerōthē) to the eleven John 21:14 that Jesus was manifested (ephanerōthē) to the disciples 

Col. 1:26 but has now been manifested (ephanerōthē) to His saints 

1 Tim. 3:16 God was manifest (ephanerōthē) in the flesh 

1 John 1:2 and the life was manifested (ephanerōthē), and we have seen 

1 John 1:2 was with the Father and was manifested (ephanerōthē) to us 

1 John 3:5 You know that He appeared (ephanerōthē) in order 1 John 3:8 Son of God was manifested (ephanerōthē), that 

  1. John 4:9 In this was manifested (ephanerōthē) the love of God 

To conclude this preliminary study of bridging the dimensions, we must not neglect the most famous references to Christ’s appearing to the material world; stated below as “appearing” ἐπιφάνειαν (epiphaneian). (Obviously, this is where we get the word “epiphany”.) 

  1. Tim. 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing (epiphaneian) and His kingdom 

2 Tim. 4:8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (epiphaneian). 

Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing (epiphaneian) of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Above we looked at the two forms of appearance, and the transition from glory into the physical state. Now we will begin to look at the essence of the rapture. We could call the rapture our “transfiguration” into glory; or our transition into the glorious state. 

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Col. 3:4 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18 

Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Rom. 8:30 

Power, Resurrection, and Subjection 

What kind of power will be asserted by God when He transforms corrupted matter from a state of entropy – the fallen state – to the state of glorious immortality? This power to manipulate the very fabric of the universe was the most powerful force imaginable in Bible times, and is still being pursued by scientists today. The prophets and Apostles referred to God’s exceeding great power as the force by which He would overcome and subdue both the fallen creation and the waywardness of men and angels. 

Tethered to the power of the resurrection and the rapture is the power of God to assert His authority over areas of creation that have had, or were perceived to have had, free-wheeling autonomy. Just as decay and mortality will be subdued, that is to say, conformed to its perfect state; God’s creatures and creation will be subdued and submit to God’s will. This is the very thing we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done – on earth, as it is in heaven. Matt. 6:10 

The chart below shows the obvious connection between the revealing of God’s mighty power, the resurrection/rapture, and the establishment of God’s government on the earth. Our corrupted mortal bodies will be subdued under the same divine power. The fact that these three factors appear repeatedly within adjacent passages would also support the conclusion that they occur at the same time; or at least during the same event. The left and center columns are the focus of this chapter on the presence of God’s power during the time of the resurrection and rapture. 

Correlation of: God’s Power, The Resurrection, and Subjection to God’s Authority 
Passage Power / Working / Ability Resurrection / Transformation Subjection / Authority 
Rom. 1:4 declared to be the Son of God with power …by the resurrection from the dead  
1 Cor. 6:14 …by His power God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up  
1 Cor. 15:4-58  resurrection… He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power… till He has put all enemies under His feet… Now when all things are made subject to Him… 
Eph. 1:19-22 what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us… according to the working of His mighty power which He worked …in Christ when He raised Him from the dead… …far above all principality and power and might and dominion… He put all things under His feet 
Passage Power / Working / Ability Resurrection / Transformation Subjection / Authority 
Phil. 3:10-21 that I may know Him and the power… … according to the working by which He is able of His resurrection… I may attain to the resurrection from the dead… who will transform our lowly body… conformed to His glorious body …even to subdue all things to Himself 
Col. 2:12 through faith in the working of God …in which you also were raised with Him … who raised Him from the dead  
Rev. 11:17 You have taken Your great power  and have begun to reign 
Rev. 12:10 Now the salvation, and the power  the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come 

Several of these verses apply to the resurrection, but Phil. 3:20, 21 refer expressly to the transformation of our lowly bodies – the very transformation of our bodies that will take place at the resurrection/rapture. 

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. 

For those who are in Christ, the forfeiting of the mortality in order to be conformed to the image of Christ has only positive connotations. But verse 21 above indicates that from Jesus’ perspective, the process involves power and authority going forth from Him in order to subdue our lowly bodies. 

We are reminded here of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood by whom Jesus perceived that power had gone out from Him. God’s subduing of all of His enemies means rectifying all that was damaged because of sin. The corrupted mortal body of sin must be overcome/subdued by the power of God. 

The book of Revelation describes the destructive forces that God will bring upon the earth before its restoration. The appearance of the glory of the Lord will be accompanied by destructive forces such as the world has not known since the beginning. In Romans Chapter Eight, Paul says that creation has been in subjected in the hope of being restored. But even though creation has been corrupted by the fall of man into sin, the world must still undergo a final contortion before its regeneration. The plundering of the planet prior to the Second Coming was prophesied in the 24th Chapter of Isaiah. 

24:1 Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface… 

24:3 The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, for the Lord has spoken this word. 

24:6 Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. 

Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. 

24:19 The earth is violently broken, The earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. 

24:20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; 

Its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again. 

If we equate this time with Revelation’s bowls of wrath, it would appear that this plundering is more of a process then an event. But in Chapter 15 of First Corinthians, Paul describes a similarly destructive process which seems to be required as the natural body is exchanged or transformed into the spiritual body. Transformation into the spiritual body demands that whatever remains of the natural body undergo the death of mortality itself – the swallowing up of death. 

The destructive element in this dimensional change, from the physical state to the spiritual, will be discussed further when we study First Corinthians 15:54 near the end of this chapter. 

Just as Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53 expound upon the events during Christ’s crucifixion, First Corinthians Chapter 15 gives the details about the resurrection and the rapture which are only mentioned briefly in First Thessalonians Chapter Four. In the latter half of the 15th chapter, Paul ventures beyond his own hypothetical question of “How are the dead raised up?” in order to discuss the technical details of the glorification process. We might ask today, “What is the rapture in technical terms?” Or in our common vernacular, “What will it look like?” 

[PART-2] To be continued in the next post.