1 Thess 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Sunday we looked at one of the most interesting events talked about in Scripture, the Rapture. Paul gives us a great word picture in this passage about who will be involved and how it will happen. He also gives us some clues as to when it is going to happen as well. In the post I want to look at the participants and the plan of the Rapture and then finish up by looking at when it is going to happen.
Paul talks about those who are asleep and those who are alive. The term asleep is often used in scripture to refer to those who have died and are with Christ. It is important to note that it always refers to the physical body and never to the soul. When we die we go to the presence of Jesus and wait for His return. When Jesus does in fact return for His church the dead in Christ will rise first. But wait a second I thought the dead are already with Christ. That is true but we are with Him only in Spirit and when He returns our dead bodies will rise from the grave and be rejoined with their souls and be made new (1 Cor 15:51). This sparked a question among many in our church about what to do with the body when someone dies. Is it okay to cremate? The answer is yes because God is able to recreate our bodies no matter what physical state they are in after death. If God created man out of dust He can recreate us out of it as well.
The next group that Paul mentions are those who are alive. When Christ returns on a cloud those who remain on Earth will be caught up (or Raptured) with Him. The term “caught up” is where get the word rapture from. It comes from the Latin word “Rapto” which means to seize. The more correct word should be the Greek word “harpazzo” which means to carry away quickly. Christians will just disappear from earth when Christ comes. 1 Cor 15:52 says it will be in the twinkling of an eye.
When Christ comes He will descend on a cloud and there will be a shout, a voice, and trumpets call. While the rapture will be mysterious it won’t be in secret. First we will be able to see Jesus coming on a cloud and everyone at the same time will know that He is coming. First there will be a cry, or a shout. This will probably come from the angels and it will be in the form of a battle cry. If you assume that there are more than 500 million angles in heaven everyone, everywhere will be able to hear this. Next there will be the voice of an Archangel announcing His return. While scripture doesn’t say who it is we can guess that it will be Michael. Finally there will be the sound of a trumpet. This will be an announcement to gather the church just like a trumpet was used to called the troops to battle. Once this happens we will ascend to the clouds and be gathered with Christ where we will be with Him forever.
There has been a lot of speculation as to when this is going to happen. Many have predicted a date. OUr response as a church should be to ignore them. Even Jesus while He was on earth did not know that day or hour, only His Father does (Matt 24:36). That said we can look at scripture and figure out if it is going to come before the Tribulation or during. Once key that is given in this passage is that the Thessalonians were afraid that they had missed the rapture and where in the Day of the Lord because of all the suffering they were going through. If they thought that they were going to go through the Tribulation then they would be rejoicing at this but instead they are afraid that they have missed it. This leads to the though that Paul told them that they were going to be raptured before the Tribulation.
As a Calvary Chapel we believe in what they call the Pre-Tribulation rapture. That is that Christ is going to come for His church before a seven year period of judgment. In the book of Revelation there is no mention of the church during this period of time. That also leads us to believe that Christ has come for the church. We are looking forward to that day and the Return of Jesus Christ.