[H2]. THE LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS:
1Thessalonians 4:14-17, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, 15 for this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep, 16 for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
When we move to 1Thessalonians, we see the order in the Rapture developed much fuller, and the verses we look at are 4:13-18. The purpose of writing this was for Paul to provide comfort as he explained in the final verse – 1Thess 4:18, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The reason there had to be comfort was that the Thessalonians let Paul know they were disquieted and concerned, even agitated, about the fate of the ones among them who had died without the Lord returning.
When Paul was with them, he explained that the Lord was coming back to gather His own (in the Rapture). At that time, they expected the Rapture (that event) to be imminent, and some of their number had died; therefore, those alive were thinking the dead ones had missed out because they died. In verse 13, Paul said he did not want those believers to be uninformed, and he did not want them grieving. Paul then had to explain carefully to them the order of events in the Rapture, and they are these:
- Verse 14 – The whole teaching of the Rapture depends on the resurrection of Christ Himself. He is the first fruits. This AGAIN is another parallel with 1 Corinthians, cementing these two passages closely as one.
- Verse 14 – When the Lord appears in the air for His saints, He is going to bring back with Him the spirits of all those who have already died as believers. The New Testament never speaks of a believer dying; it always says “fell asleep.” These who return with the Lord are the first to be changed, as in 1 Corinthians 15:53.
- Verse 15 – The first order is given: “We who are alive shall not precede those who have died.” (We shall not be caught up before them, it means. They go first.)
- Verse 16 – The Lord leads the way (as He shall also do at the second Coming in Rev 19), and He shouts. I am taking an educated guess that what He says is what is recorded from heaven in Rev 4:1, “Come up here!” 4:1 is the Church being taken to heaven at the end of the Church age, where the great worship scene then occurs in Rev 4 and 5.
- Verse 16 – The voice of the archangel will be heard, but we don’t know here, now, what he says. Michael comes, but with the angel band also, I think. The trumpet is also mentioned in Rev 4:1, a rapture verse, and is heard at the same time. The trumpet is always a summons for an assembly and also was used to rouse the army from sleep in the early morning. This will correspond with the Feast of Trumpets (those 7 feasts are a remarkable study). There are those who think when the Rapture happens, it will correspond with the Feast of Trumpets, “Rosh Hashana,” and it is an interesting thought, but we can’t know for sure.
For those who like to consider things, here is something for you. I AM NOT DATE-SETTING, AND I DON’T BELIEVE IN SETTING DATES. Seven is God’s perfect number. It is used more than 50 times in the book of Revelation. In the Bible, seven means not only perfection but completion, for if it is perfect, it is complete.
I believe God’s completion for the human race in its history before the eternal state of Revelation 20/21 is 7,000 years (whether exact or not, I can’t say). There are about 2,000 years between Adam and Abraham; about 2,000 years between Abraham and the Lord Jesus on earth; about 2,000 years from the Lord until now; and there will be 1,000 years in the Millennial reign. In total, 7,000 years. If you want to break it up a bit more, the Lord was born in 4 B.C., and the crucifixion was in 29 A.D. (some say 30 A.D. [He was about 33 when He went to the cross.]). There will be 7 years of Tribulation. A.D. 30 plus 2,000 is 2,030. Take off the 7-year Tribulation, and you have 2023.
THESE DATES AND NUMBERS ARE ONLY GUIDELINES. I am not date-setting but will draw only one conclusion – The Rapture must be close, and many witnesses testify to that as seen in the R.R. postings!
- Verse 16 – Paul plainly says, “the dead in Christ will rise first.” Consistent with the wording of 1Cor 15:52, the dead will rise first; the perishable are first. The mortals rise second.
- Verse 17 – Those of us who are alive at the Rapture and remaining on earth are next to be caught up to the Lord. He will be in the clouds, and we are caught up in the clouds. The very probable meaning is that we are caught up with clouds, into the clouds, but this following analysis is an interesting thought I won’t pursue.
From Greek scholar F B Meyer – “[ἐν νεφέλαις] not instead of εἰς νεφέλας (Moldenhauer), but either in clouds, i.e., enveloped in clouds, or better, on clouds, i.e., enthroned in their midst.” [the Greek “en” is normally “in, on” whereas “eis” is “into.”] There are some who have made a case for “believers rising in clouds” – clouds of believers rising. When the Lord comes, He invades Satan’s territory with the absolute command of authority. Satan is the prince of the power of the air.
- Verse 17 – From that point onwards, we will always be with the Lord, firstly as the espoused Bride, and then in Rev 19, the actual married Bride.
- Verse 18 – The Rapture is coming. Believers from all ages, look up because your redemption draws near; yes, we are redeemed, but THEN we are “the redeemed,” fully righteous and unflawed in the Lord’s hands. All the slip-ups, all the failures behind us, fully loved in the Lord’s grace.
[I]. IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE:
All which transpired in the points 1-9 above happens in this way – 1Cor 15:52, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” The Greek for “in a moment” is “εν ατόμω” (en atomō). “atoma/o” was the Greek word from which the English “atom” came. The word comes from the Greek verb meaning “to cut.” When the atom was discovered, it got that name because it was thought it was the smallest particle of matter that could no longer be cut = the very smallest particle you could get. Of course, now the atom is itself a whole universe. In Paul’s reference, it means a particle of time that is indivisible. It is instantaneous.
The word rendered “twinkling” (“ῥιπή” = ripe, from “ρίπτω” [rhipto], means “to throw, a cast, jerk,” as of a stone); and then “a jerk of the eye,” that is, “a wink” – Commentator Robinson. It can mean “the downward motion of the eyelid” or a blink of a light, or of the eye. All that is so quick. So shall be the Rapture.
THE CHURCH WILL NOT ENTER THE TRIBULATION!
The Rapture is called “the blessed hope,” and it cannot be called that if what we have to look forward to is fear, wrath and judgment. Titus 2:11-13, “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus.” We do not look out for the Tribulation; we look out for that which is the hope that is within us.
There are definite verses to prove the Rapture must happen before the Tribulation can start. But before that, we consider the following:
The Tribulation does not begin until Revelation chapter 6, and in the two previous chapters, we see the Church in heaven having been raptured in Rev 4:1. It is already there before the first seal is broken. The wrath of God against sin was what the Lord endured on the cross. He did that on our behalf. The Lord took the wrath meant for me in Himself and paid the penalty in full. How awful would be the justice of God if He demanded that I have to suffer that wrath by being in the Tribulation after the Son of God already suffered the wrath for me? I covered that horrible dishonoring doctrine that places Christians in the Tribulation in an earlier section.
Now the verses that prove the Church does not enter the wrath of the Tribulation:
1Thessalonians 1:9-10, “They themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
1Thessalonians 5:9, “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
[J]. ONE LAST THOUGHT:
The Rapture is a glorious hope, and as this world darkens, I want the Lord to come. I really do want the Rapture to happen. For another reason, I want it to happen, there has been a terrible slaughter in the recent past in Nigeria and Sudan at the hands of Islam, and Christians are in terrible torture and suffering. It is horrific. In China, Christians are suffering awful persecution. Afghanistan is the latest place for atrocities against Christians. Indeed, in every place where Islam is in power, there is violence and persecution against Christians. Islam is of Satan. I want the Lord to come to deliver His hurting people.
In a post called “Why Are You Cast Down My Soul in This Present World?” on R.R., I mentioned the heaviness that is holding the world in its clutches. The non-Christian battles to understand the chaotic times and has no hope or any certainty about the future. The Christian should know what is in store in future events, but sadly, many don’t because the truth is denied them for two reasons.
The first is they are not taught it by church leaders who don’t bother to learn themselves. The second is that there seems to be a mentality among so many who claim the Christian name but are so complacent that they couldn’t care less. That is sad.
I recently finished a deeper Bible study on the church at Smyrna, and I asked the people, “Would you yourself like to be in those days of persecution and martyrdom, or would you prefer conditions like the ones we now live in?” Well, they all chose the latter option, as I think we all would, but they understood that the church was more dedicated and holy under persecution. None of us likes to suffer. Then I asked, “When is the church the most vibrant and healthiest?” They knew the answer to that – persecution refines God’s people. All the dross will leave, and the gold remains.
It could well be time that the Lord is going to bring in persecution and hard times into the western church so that the refiner’s fire might blaze among us. We are in the days of the Laodicean mindset. Read the posting to RR I titled “Zebra Matters” that deals with lukewarm Christianity.
However, my wishing for the Rapture so I can leave this sinful scene – is that just me wanting to escape trouble and hardship in the world, and therefore a selfish motive? Am I focusing on M.E. and my desire and not showing compassion or thoughts for a dying world? No wonder Paul said he was torn between wanting to go and to remain. God bless us as that time draws near.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
END OF PART 4