In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul defines the gospel in the first few verses and declares its effect on their lives, saying, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”
He continues with the core of the gospel: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
“After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
This volume of Scripture is listed to emphasize the total transformation of Jesus from mortal to immortal in His Son of Man humanity identity. A remarkable fact of His transformation is that He did not experience corruption of His body—it did not return to dust as is the destiny of the human body.
(Job 34:15 – “All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” And Ecclesiastes 3:20 – “All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all return to dust.”)
Psalm 16:10 tells us this: “For You will not leave My soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” His body was in the tomb three nights and three days, just as one of those disciples on the road to Emmaus that Sunday afternoon exclaimed, “And this is the third day!” (Tip: Count back three days and three nights to learn what day Jesus was crucified.)
What happens, then, when ordinary mortals like you and me reach our time of departure? In the words of 2 Corinthians 5:8, we are “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” The body goes to the grave, and the soul and spirit go into the Lord’s presence.
All born-again believers in Christ of this present age are waiting for His return for them, for Jesus said this in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also.”
However, it looks like the scene in Revelation 4 is evidence that the redeemed saints, represented by the twenty-four elders, appear before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ. No elders are in heaven previously, and no one has been promised a crown for their service to the Lord before this time, except the redeemed ones.
Twelve of those elders apparently represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and the other twelve, the apostles. Will Jews who believed in the promise of a coming Redeemer be among those before His throne at that time? That answer is not clearly revealed. If they are” in Christ,” certainly, they are there. Of course, Jews of all their tribes may have believed in the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in this age of grace and are, therefore, among those before His throne, as shown in Revelation 4.
The manner of transformation that takes place when the coming resurrection of the church age believers are caught up is told in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Let’s cross-reference some parallel verses to determine the “whole counsel of God” on the issues:
1 Corinthians 15:53: “For this corruption must put on incorruption.”
John 11:25b: “He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
1 Thessalonians 14:16c: “And the dead in Christ shall rise first.”
Romans 8:11a: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you…”
Corruption is in the habitat of the grave, where the body returns to the dust of which it was made. Jesus was raised before corruption would begin after three days, as John 11:39 tells us. We should consider whether Jesus would have suffered corruption at all, having never sinned in His mortal body, but that body was then loaded with the sins of the whole world—past, present, and future! 1 John 2:2 says it plainly: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
Look now at the mortal persons who are changed as the bodies of corruption will be, from mortal to immortality, passing over death:
1 Corinthians 15:53b: “And this mortal must put on immortality.”
John 11:26: “And whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
1 Thessalonians 4:17: “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.”
Romans 8:11b: “He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
It comes down to this: If one is saying there is no such thing as a Rapture, a snatching away of those who belong to the Lord before the seven-year reign of the Antichrist, he must deny the validity of what Jesus said and what Paul further explained in his prophetic disclosures. It defies the certain claim advanced by 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Of course, one can say that those things could happen just before the Second Coming, but the chronology of Scripture has them after Revelation 3 and encased in that invitation in chapter 4: “Come up here!”
God is not the author of confusion, so how could He confuse such an important revelation of His future plan? Therefore, I must reject the concept that this Rapture is coming just before the time of the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. For one reason, the marriage supper of the Lamb must fit in there first. Another is the placing of John 14:2-3 “preparation of places for His believers” and their occupation of them. Of course, the scenario in Revelation 4 should be enough to convince anyone of the Rapture’s timing.
This transformation in the “twinkling of an eye” is not a new creation of theological intrigue, for Job, some 1,900 years before Christ, made this declaration in Job 19:26: “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (KJV). (Restoration and Resurrection.)
The trail through the dust looks like this: “The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).
As Jesus said, “You must be born again,” and Paul concluded, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And so it is!
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