Things to Come, Lesson 3, The Rapture of the Church, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
If you go to our Grace Bible Church web site and choose the "We Believe" tab you will find what is known as this churchís Statement of Faith.
A statement of faith is normally a brief summary of the core beliefs of a particular faith or group.
We have put this statement on our web site because it gives to the visitor a quick summary of that which he or she would expect to hear from the preaching and teaching of our pastors and teachers.
Our Statement of Faith reads this way:
OUR STATEMENT OF FAITH
"We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the inerrant Word of God, both the Old and New Testaments, in the original autographs; the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the Cross; His bodily resurrection from the tomb; His power to save corrupt mankind from sin; the new birth through regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the gift of eternal life by the grace of God; the pre-tribulational return of Christ in the air to rapture His Church and His pre-millennial return to earth in power and glory to rule and reign in righteousness for a thousand years."
There are many beliefs that we may hold that are not listed in this statement but the ones that are listed are the fundamental beliefs which the leadership of this church believes we can all adhere to.
One of these core beliefs that I want to talk about today is the belief in what is commonly called the Rapture of the Church.
The events of the Old Testament are far in the past, the first coming of Christ happened 2000 years ago.
But according to Godís plan that He has so clearly provided in His word, we know exactly what event is next to come on Godís calendar and that is the second coming of Christ.
Our statement of faith describes that second coming in two events, one being the pre-tribulational return of Christ for the purpose of retrieving His bride and body, the Church.
And the second part of His second coming is His pre-millennial return to earth in power and glory to rule and reign for a thousand years.
So the next major Biblical event in history is the first part of our Lordís Second coming, the Rapture of the Church.
And this event is most clearly presented in:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For 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: 17Then 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
By this passage it is clear that this event is connected with the coming of the Lord.
Although the word "rapture" is not used in this passage this event is called the Rapture of the Church.
The word Rapture comes from the words "caught up" used in I Thessalonians 4:17.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds.
The Greek word from which "caught up" comes is the word harpazo which means to "to seize upon by force", "to snatch up."
In Latin this Greek word is "Rapturo" from which our English word Rapture comes.
Itís a kind of a round about way to describe this event from Greek to Latin to English but this is not uncommon for most words in the English Bible are translations of Greek or Hebrew.
And many English words are derived from Latin words as in the case of the word "rapture".
The King James translators could have chosen to use the English word "rapture" instead of "caught up" for that is an excellent translation of the Greek word "harpazo".
It then would have read: Then we which are alive and remain shall be raptured together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
We can see that the Rapture comes at a time not foretold for no man knoweth the day nor the hour.
But when Jesus calls his church out of this world we are told that three things occur.
The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command.
It is called a shout.
Second the voice of the archangel will be heard, and lastly the sound of the trumpet of God.
The shout is from the Lord.
It is a command to awake the dead in Christ and to call them forth from their graves.
The seed of this event was planted when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
In John 11:43 Jesus, cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Jesus Christ is the resurrection and only by his command will the dead come
Second, the voice of the archangel is heard.
Only one archangel is called by name in the Bible, specifically in Jude 1:9, and that is the Archangel Michael.
The Archangel Michael is identified in scripture in connection with the people of Israel.
He is mentioned in Daniel and Jude concerning his dealings with the people of Israel.
Daniel 12:1, And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
This voice of the Archangel seems to be directed at the children of Israel, for this is Michaelís jurisdiction.
It says that before that time of trouble Michael shall stand up and at this time of Rapture the time of trouble will follow.
So it seems the voice of the archangel may be Michaelís announcement to Israel that God now begins the final redemption of his chosen people spoken of by Daniel.
Other passages I believe verify this for passages in scripture verify the Rapture to take place before the time of trouble.
This is why our Statement of Faith calls the Rapture a: pre-tribulational return of Christ.
The trumpet call is again referred to in:
1 Corinthians 15:50-58, Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Here it is referred to as the last trump.
This simply means that this is the last call of God for his church.
This is the final call, this is the final act of salvation for his body, the church.
I have been saved, I am being saved, I will be saved.
This is the "I will be saved" of our spiritual journey.
It is used to call up the living saints at the time of the Rapture to be transformed together with the just-raised saints of the past.
It is a body transaction for In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
When Jesus Christ calls with a shout and the trumpet sounds, that corruptible body planted in the earth will come forth without corruption.
It will be a new body fitted for Godís kingdom.
Now the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 provides details as to who will be
included in the Rapture.
For it says in the last part of verse 16 and the first part of verse 17:
and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then 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.
As to the dead they are referred to as being in Christ.
This is a direct reference to those who are in his body.
These are those who have died after they have experienced the new birth, and who comprise Christís church.
This group does not include Old Testament saints.
The dead in Christ and those who are alive and remain are all believers of the church age, and therefore are referred to as "in Christ".
It does not exclude Jews who during the church age have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah.
They have not lost their identity as descendants of Israel but by faith in Christ they have become part of this body of believers.
And as Galatians 3:26-29 says, For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise.
I believe that Godís order of things places the Rapture before Jacobís time of trouble known as the Great Tribulation.
There are those who believe otherwise and all of those beliefs have to do with the timing of the Rapture.
There is a mid tribulation position which places the Rapture at the mid point of the seven year period.
There are those who hold to a post tribulation Rapture who say that Christ will catch up the church at the end of the tribulation.
In this view how do they deal with the time necessary for the judgment seat of Christ, and the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The post tribulation view does not account for many events that must take place with regard to the church.
There are those who believe that Christ will Rapture the church just before the Battle of Armageddon.
This is called a Pre-Wrath Rapture.
Then there is even a belief in multiple Raptures where Christ only receives those who are ready.
And of course much of Christendom does not believe in a Rapture for they do not believe in a literal kingdom on earth.
But I believe that the strongest Biblical evidence is in favor of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position.
One of the greatest evidences is the command to be ready and in this command the inference is an immanency of the Lordís coming.
The Bible instills in us that Christ could come at any moment.
Specifically Godís Word says that Christ will come to call for His bride and take her to be with Him in His Fatherís house.
This expectancy is what God expects his body, the church, to have.
That is why there are so many admonitions in Scripture to watch, be ready, and to look for Christ to come at any moment.
Placing the Rapture at any point other than before the Tribulation destroys the immediate, "coming at-any-time" verses in Scripture.
The other Tribulation views have Christians looking for the Antichrist and the events of the Tribulation, instead of for Christ.
Why would someone be at the ready for an event if they knew other events were
to precede it?
Paul taught of this event as imminent referring to Christís coming as a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
The pre-Tribulation position is the best from this point of view.
If the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation, we can truly expect it "any day."
If it is delayed to the middle or end of the Tribulation, we could not honestly have that expectation now.
Another great piece of evidence for the pre-tribulation position concerns what Christís body is to avoid.
Remember Godís care of Noah before wrath came upon the earth.
Remember Godís care of Lot before the fire and brimstone fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
The belief that the church will be delivered from the Tribulation is based in part on the Biblical pattern that when God pours out His wrath He always gives opportunity for the righteous to escape for the righteous are not listed in Godís appointment book of wrath.
Here are some of the passages which indicate that believers of this Church Age will not be left to suffer the outpouring of God's wrath:
Luke 21:36, Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
1 Thessalonians 1:10, And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9, For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 Peter 2:6-9, And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
In the message to the Church of Philadelphia, that faithful church which had not denied Christís name, God said:
Revelation 3:10, Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Another piece of evidence for a pre-tribulation Rapture is found in:
II Thessalonians 2:1-8, From the New American Standard Version, Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy (falling away from the faith) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
So we see in this passage that Antichrist will not be revealed until he who now restrains is taken out of the way.