“…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”1st Thessalonians 1.10
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”1st Thessalonians 4.16
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”1st Thessalonians 4.17
The Rapture of the Church (John 11, 14, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 1, 4) – the How
Although the word ‘rapture‘ is not found in the NT, the concept conveyed by the word certainly is. The word ‘rapture‘ refers to the statement of Paul, ‘then we which are alive and remain shall be caught-up together with them’ (1 Thess 4.17).
The events of John 11 provide an illustration of what will take place at the rapture. Note verse 25,
‘I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die’.
The Lord identifies two groups of individuals. There are those who have believed in Him and have died, He says of them, ‘yet shall he live’. In the chapter, Lazarus is a picture of such. These are the dead in Christ in 1 Thess 4.16. Then there are those who are alive and believe in Him; the Lord says that such ‘will never die’. The two sisters illustrate this group which answers to we which are ‘alive and remain’ (1 Thess 4.17).
Observe the setting of John 11. The Lord is absent from Bethany. In His absence one of His disciples, Lazarus becomes sick and dies, leaving his grieving sisters. When the Lord comes again to Bethany (after two days 11.6) he finds Lazarus asleep, and two living sisters. He raises Lazarus from the dead and re-unites him to Mary and Martha. This is what happens in 1 Thess 4, when He comes to the air.
There are three key passages relating to the events of the rapture, 1 Corinth 15, I Thess 4 and John 14. There is a clear progression of truth in these passages.
- In 1 Corinth 15, the dead are raised and with a spiritual body (15.44) and the living are changed (15.51-53), but we remain on the Earth.
- In 1 Thess 4, the Lord returns to the air (not the Earth), the dead in Christ are raised (as in 1 Corinth 15) and together with living believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. I Thess 4 takes us from the Earth to the air.
- Finally, John 14.3-4. We do not remain indefinitely in the air, that is not our destination, the Father’s house is. In John 14.3 the Lord returns to take us to the place prepared in the Father’s house.
Let us consider these three passages in order…
In 1 Corinth 15, Paul addresses the question, what will characterise the resurrection body of the believer. He teaches us that it will be
- Incorruptible (verse 42)
- Glorious (verse 43)
- Powerful (verse 43)
- Spiritual (verse 44)
We are not to be stumbled by the word ‘spiritual’. The body has substance, but now
expresses the life of the spirit – this is the focus, in contrast to our present natural or
soulish body which expresses the life of the soul.
The second matter addressed by Paul relates to the necessary change to the living.
This is the content of verses 50-53. We summarise the teaching under the following
· The necessity of the change (verse 51)
· The mystery of the change (verse 52)
· The rapidity of the change (verse 52)
· The occasion of the change (verse 52)
· The nature of the change (verses 53-54)
The context of 1 Thess 4 must be observed. In 2.12, Paul has charged the Thessalonians to walk worthy of God who had called them to His kingdom and glory. In 1 Thess 4.13, Paul wants to encourage the saints regarding those believers who are ‘asleep’. They are not to sorrow as those with no hope; they have a hope! What hope? The prospect of sharing in the coming kingdom and glory. But how will the saints who have died participate in this event? Just as God raised Christ from the dead, so with these sleeping ones, and He will bring them in when He brings in Jesus again into this world. Paul’s teaching of the rapture instructs us as to how this comes to pass.
Verses 15-18 is a direct revelation from the Lord. The basic message is that the living are not at an advantage over the saints who are asleep, ‘we which are alive shall not prevent (go before) them which are asleep’. We summarise the teaching as follows:
· The Lord’s personal return (v16) The Lord Himself
· Place of His return (from heaven, in the air) (v16, 17)
· The sounds of His return
(a) A shout- which raises the dead (John 5v28, John 11v43)
(b) Voice of the archangel (Jude 9, Rev 12v7, Dan 10v13, 12v1) – ensures safe passage of saints through the domain of the enemy (Eph 2v2, 6v12)
(c) Trump of God – the summons of the saints to the air – (Num 10v1-10, Rev 4v1)
· The reunion at His return – together (verse 17) -no partial rapture: it is the dead in Christ and ‘the living and remaining ones’
· The meeting at His return to meet the Lord in the air (verse 17)
· The encouragement of His return (verse 18)
Finally, John 14 tells of our destination, the Father’s house (see John 2v16, Lk 15, Ezk 40-42), The Lord tells of many abodes already in the Father’s house – occupied by the varied ranks of angels, principalities, powers etc. We know of cherubim, seraphim and elders who all have a defined place in the presence of God. The Lord returned to heaven to prepare for us ‘a place‘. Paul describes this in Eph 1v4 as ‘before Him in love’, in Col 1v12 ‘in the light‘ and Jude references this in Jude 24, ‘before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy’. Our Lord’s return, for which He longs (John 17v24), is to take us to our eternal destination.
In the light of such blessed truth, may our hearts exclaim…
“Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”Revelation 22:20
Ministry by Andrew de Ville, 8th May 2022