The Rapture of the Church Part 2
Part Four - The Rapture of the Church, Part Two
The Rapture of the Church is clearly presented in 1 Thes. 4:13-18. In this account, Jesus descends from Heaven, however, it should be noted that He remains in the air. He does not come to earth at this point. This is supported by the statement that all the believers who are living “shall be caught up together with them (resurrected believers) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes. 4:17; Phil. 3:14; 2 Thes. 2:1). At this great event three things are accomplished.
1) The dead bodies of the souls Jesus brings with Him are reconstituted and joined to their souls (resurrected) which are in the air (v. 14-17).
2) Those believers who are alive will be caught up (aka – raptured) with them in air (v.17; 1 Cor. 15:51-57).
3) All believers are glorified in the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:35-57; 1 Jn. 3:2)
This event speaks of only the resurrection and rapture of the Church Saints. It does not encompass Saints from any other period of human history nor does it include the unsaved. Scripture bears this out in the following ways.
1) The context of this passage is written to those in the Church limiting the scope of the participants in this event.
2) The martyrs of the Tribulation are resurrected after the Tribulation. Please note that in Rev. 19:1-10, just prior to the Lord Coming to earth to destroy the army of the Antichrist and establish His 1000 year Kingdom (Rev. 19:11-21), the church is in heaven. The fact they are in heaven indicates that the Rapture must have taken place at an earlier time. After defeating the Antichrist and chaining Satan for a 1000 years in the Abyss (Rev. 19:20-20:3), the Lord resurrects the tribulational martyrs (Rev. 20:4) so they might reign with Christ for a 1000 years. We know they are tribulational martyrs for they are identified as those “who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.”
3) The Old Testament Saints are also resurrected at a different time from the Resurrection and Rapture of the Church. According to Daniel 12:1-3, the Resurrection of the Old Testament Saints will take place after the Tribulation. Note he says that many will arise after “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1 NKJV). This period of unparalleled trouble is identified by Jesus (Matt. 24:15-22) with the time of the Antichrist abomination of desolation spoken by Daniel – Matt. 24:15).
4) The Resurrection of unbelievers takes place at a later time than the resurrection of the Church Age, Old Testament, and Tribulational Saints. The timing of the resurrection of the unbeliever is 1000 years after the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs. There are several Scriptures that lead to this conclusion.
a. John 5:24-20: in speaking of the resurrection Jesus indicates that the resurrection will be a two stage event. First there will be the resurrection unto life and then there will be a resurrection unto condemnation. Jesus does not give the exact time frame of these stages however it is later revealed in the writings of the apostles
b. 1 Cor. 11:20-28: Paul indicates the first stage of the resurrection, the resurrection onto life takes place first (v.23). He is speaking here of the “order” of the resurrections (v. 23). He follows this in verse 24-28 by giving us the time of the second resurrection, the resurrection unto condemnation. It takes place after the first resurrection and a period of time in which the Lord accomplishes several things.
i. He turns over the Kingdom to the Father (24)
ii. He puts an end to all rule and authority (24)
iii. He finishes His reign in which He has put all enemies under His feet (25)
Paul does give us the exact length of time it will take for Jesus to do this but it is a period that does separate the First Resurrection from the Second Resurrection.
c. Rev. 20:4-6: John answers the question of the period between the two resurrections. He writes that it will be a period of 1000 years. Please note the underlined sections of what John writes:
Rev. 20:4-6, “And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” NKJV
It is clear that for Jesus to accomplished what Paul declared (1 Cor. 15:24-28) will take a period of 1000 years. Therefore, there will be a 1000 year separation between the close of the first resurrection and the start of the second resurrection.
There are several other arguments that can be made from the teaching of the Scriptures that indicate that the Church will be raptured prior to a 7 year Tribulation. Let me summarize a few of them.
1) The Tribulation is the final seven years of Daniel’s prophecy given in Dan. 9:24-27. It is God’s completion of His work of redeeming Israel back to Himself. The Church was given over to the Gentiles for two purposes. The first, to temporarily carry out the work of God originally assigned to Israel (Acts 28:23-29) and secondly, to create a jealousy within the hearts of the Jewish people in order to draw them back to God (Rom. 11:13-15). With the Church’s purpose complete and God is once again ready to deal directly with Israel through the last 7 years of Daniel’s prophecy (the Tribulation - Dan. 9:27), the Church will be taken to Heaven.
2) The Tribulation is called by God a period of His wrath upon the world (Jer. 10:10; Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; Rev. 14:9-10). The wrath of God is different from the chastisement of God. The chastisement of God is God inflicting suffering out of love to bring His Saints back to fellowship with Him. The wrath of God is pure punishment for sin and unrighteousness and has no redeeming quality whether it is inflicted in this world or in the eternal lake of fire which is to come (Eph. 2:1-3; 5:6). It is a principle in Scripture that God never inflicts His wrath upon His Saints. A couple of good examples of this are seen in the case of Lot and his family being spared from the destruction of Sodom and in the case of Noah and his family being spared from the destruction of the Flood.
Since the Tribulation is the wrath of God upon the world, God will deliver His Saints out of this world so that they do not suffer God’s wrath. Note the following two passages which are found in 1& 2 Thessalonians. These Epistles are centered around the Rapture and Resurrection of the Church (1 Thes. 4:13-18).
1Th 1:10, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” NKJV
1Th 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” NKJV
3) The absence of the Church in the Tribulation: The account of what takes place during the Tribulation is recorded in Rev. 4:2-19. It should be noted that in John’s description of this period, never is the Church mentioned on earth. The only reference to the Church is Rev. 19:6-10 where the church is seen in Heaven just prior to the Lord’s Coming to destroy the Antichrist and his armies and to set up His Kingdom.
4) The analogy of the Bride and the Bridegroom: the church being the bride and Christ the Bridegroom (Rev. 18:23; 19:7; 21:9; Eph. 5:22-32) – Espousal (2 Cor. 2:11), call of the groom and trip to groom’s father’s home (1 Thes. 4:13-18; Rev. 4:1), Consummation, seclusion of the bride and feasting for 7 days (Rev. 7-10), journey to couples’ new home (Rev. 19-20)
The Scriptures speak clearly of the Resurrection and Rapture of the Church if one is willing to understand them in their literal and normal grammatical sense. Those who choose to pull passages out of context or allegorize 2nd Coming prophesies will probably not accept what I have written. This is not because of a lack of clarity in the Scriptures but a preconceived bias when approaching the Bible.