THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS
This is when believers who have died and are in heaven will receive resurrected and glorified bodies while those believers who are living at the time of the rapture will experience this change without first dying:
“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”(I Cor. 15: 50-58).
Here we are told that our physical bodies must be changed before we enter God’s kingdom. Paul is about to unveil a “mystery” to us. A mystery here does not mean something hard to figure out, but rather a truth not fully revealed until now. Here we are told not all believers are going to die before this change takes place and that it can happen at any time, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”, instantaneously.
The rapture will bring about the completion of the believer’s salvation. The Bible presents two aspects of salvation. The believer in Christ is saved now: “It is by grace you HAVE been saved” (Eph. 2:5). The believer in Christ is saved NOW. He is no longer under condemnation and has become a child of God.
The Bible also presents a future aspect of salvation. This refers to the completion of salvation when our bodies are glorified. The believer has now been saved from the PENALTY of sin. This is referred to as the “firstfruits” of salvation. This is the present aspect of salvation. But there is a future aspect of salvation when we will be saved from the PRESENCE or EFFECTS of sin. This is presented in Rom. 8:22-23: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODIES”.
While believers are saved spiritually we still live in fallen bodies. While our redeemed spirits are connected to Christ, our present bodies are still connected to Adam and the fall. The word “firstfruits” means that we have received some of the benefits of salvation but more is to follow.
As the new birth is the impartation of eternal life to our spirits, the rapture and resurrection is the transformation of our bodies. We are told in Rom. 8:19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be REVEALED. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”.
Here we are told that all creation waits in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed, or made known or obvious. All believers are now the sons of God but it is not known or obvious now. All creation waits for the glorification of the sons of God because this is the first step to the lifting of the curse from the whole creation.
While the believer is saved spiritually he groans within his fallen body for the completing of his salvation—his glorified, sinless, ageless, deathless body; a body that is designed for his redeemed spirit and renewed creation, and that can stand in the presence of God. The believer’s glorification is put on hold until we have finished our calling in this present life of bringing others into the kingdom.
The time of the rapture is unknown except for the fact that it is imminent. It can happen at any time. When Christ rose from the dead He began the order of the first resurrection (I Cor. 15:20). The “First resurrection” refers to believers, while the resurrection of the unsaved will occur a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment seen in revelation 20: 11-15.
1 Cor. 15: 20-24 tells us: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father”.
Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “firstfruits” because those who believe in Him will follow Him in their own resurrected bodies that will be patterned after His resurrection. All believers will take part in this, the First Resurrection. All the unsaved will take part in the Second Resurrection, which will take place after the Millennium, when the unsaved are cast into the Lake of Fire. These two resurrections will encompass all mankind. Everyone will appear in one of these two resurrections.
Those who are IN Christ are destined to be LIKE Christ in His resurrection body. This is referred to in I John 3:2: “Dear friends, now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. When Christ comes in the rapture, He will bring with Him the souls of those in heaven who have died “in Christ”. He will stop in the air and these souls will continue down and enter into their bodies that are in the graves, the Lord will then give the command to rise and their bodies will rise from the graves, then they, and the believers who have not died, will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Their first sight of Christ will change their bodies to be like His glorious resurrected body:
“The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we ever be with the Lord. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (I Thess. 4: 16-18).
Here in 4:16 we are told that the Lord will descend from heaven and He will bring with Him the souls those believers who have died with Him. The Lord will stop His descent in the air, while those saved souls with Him will continue to descend and will enter their bodies that are in the graves.
Then the Lord Jesus will give a “shout” of command which corresponds to the “loud voice” of Jesus in John 11:43 when the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead: “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!” This is a foreshadowing of the great day when Jesus will call each believer by name to meet Him in the air. The “voice of the Archangel” is that of Michael, who will give the cry of triumph over the host of fallen angels who have sought to hinder the children of God. The trumpet call of God refers to a military command that awakens soldiers to arise and move on. We are to move on to eternal realms with Him.
Continuing in verse 16, “The dead in Christ will rise first”. Their bodies shall rise up from the graves and stand on the earth with the living saints. In verse 17, both groups, those who have risen from their graves, and those living will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, where we will be with Him forever.
Everyone who shares in this great event will have heard the voice of the Son of God twice. Jesus said in John 5:25: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”. Here the Lord is referring to a spiritual resurrection when the spiritually dead will be given eternal life. Then in John 5:28-29, the Lord goes on to refer to the physical resurrection: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out . . .”.
All those who have heard the voice of the Lord calling them from darkness to light will one day hear His command to receive their glorified body. Today they have eternal life in their spirits. But their spirits still dwell in fallen bodies, but in due time God will remedy this.
Paul refers to this in II Cor. 4: 6-7. In verse 6 he writes , “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Here Paul refers to eternal life that every believer possesses. He goes on in verse 7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”.
Here we are told that believers have the treasure of eternal life in frail, fallen bodies (jars of clay) so He gets the glory. But the day is appointed when God will change these bodies to be fitting vessels for the treasure of eternal life.
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling is the assurance of the believer’s future glorification: “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).
In I Cor. 15:42-49 a description of the resurrection body is given in great detail.
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven”.
Here our dead bodies are likened to seed sown in the ground. It is sown or buried perishable, rotting, but it will be raised imperishable, not subject to decay, but eternal. It is sown in dishonor, food for worms, but it will be raised in glory, free from the defects of the curse and the fall and glorious like Christ’s resurrection body. It is sown in weakness, nothing is weaker than a dead body, it will be raised in power, not subject to death, disease, weakness, or weariness. It is sown a natural body, part of this fallen world, it will be raised a spiritual body, sinless and not part of this fallen world, and not subject to physical or natural laws.
Verses 45-50 contrast Adam with Christ, and those who are “in Adam” and those who are “In Christ”. Here Christ is called the “last Adam” because as the first Adam is the head of the old, fallen creation, Christ is the head of God’s new creation. Adam became a living soul, but through sin his life principle, which was passed on to his descendants, became corrupted and earthly and part of the fallen earthly system. But Christ is a life-giving spirit. Those who belong to Him receive His life through the new birth and are a new heavenly creation.
The first Adam is the head of the fallen race of the earth, “earthy” and all his descendants are also earthy, belonging to the present world system under condemnation. But Christ is the head of the new redeemed “heavenly” creation, and all who belong to Him are also heavenly, belonging to the new creation. But while believers are born again spiritually because of their living connection to Christ; they still possess fallen bodies that are still connected to Adam. So verse 49 tells us that as we have born the image of the fallen race in our physical bodies, we shall bear the image of Christ physically when our bodies are transformed at the rapture.
Verse 50 explains that this physical body must be changed in order to have part in the kingdom of God. Believers have been changed spiritually and at death their spirits go immediately to heaven but their bodies must await a change to make them fit for heaven.
Verse 51 tells us that not all believers will sleep or die (believers bodies are said to be asleep rather than dead because they will be awakened at the rapture). The generation of believers living at the time of the rapture will not die, but will be changed along with those who have died.
Verse 52 tells us that this change will take place instantaneously. The “twinkling of an eye” is the time it takes between seeing Jesus and recognizing Him. When a relative or close friend comes to your house and you open the door and see him you recognize him immediately, although it really took time between seeing him and recognizing him, but the time is so small as to be instantaneous. When we first see Him and recognize Him we will be transformed into His image.
Verse 53 tells us that those believers whose bodies are perishable while in the grave will be clothed with imperishable bodies; while the living believers who are mortal and subject to decay will receive immortal bodies. Then we are told in verses 54-55 that then death will forever be swallowed up in victory.
Then in verse 56-57 we are told how and why this will happen. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
The cause of death is sin: “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin”(Rom. 5: 12).
The power of sin is the law: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for anyone who believes” (Rom. 10: 4).
Another passage of Scripture dealing with the rapture is I Thess. 5: 1-10.
In I Thess. 4:13-18 Paul deals with the rapture itself and what would happen to those believers who have died. Now Paul would deal with the tribulation and its relation to the coming of the Rapture: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness, so then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thess. 5: 1-10).
Here in verse 1 Paul tells them that there is no need to write to them when the Day of the Lord, or the tribulation, will take place. For they know perfectly well that no one knows the time for it will come as a thief in the night (verse 2). It will be a time when sudden destruction will come upon “them”, the unsaved (verse 3).
But believers are not in darkness that that day should overtake them. Believers are children of light and of the day, in contrast to “them” in verse 3, who are of the night and of darkness (verses 4-5). Eph. 5:8 reminds believers, “for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, live as children of light”. Believers were at one time in darkness, but by faith in Christ they are now light in the Lord”.
The world, in Adam, is in darkness and in the night. It is the time when people get drunk and sleep. It is fitting that unbelievers do these things because they are of the night and the tribulation will overtake them. It is a day of darkness for the children of the night. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Joel. 2:1-2).
However, believers are children of the day. People do not normally get drunk and sleep in the day, and believers should not imitate the unsaved (verse 7). They are stupefied by either sleep or drunkenness and unaware of their danger. 6.
God did not appoint believers to suffer wrath. The context here is referring to the wrath of the tribulation. But God has appointed believers to salvation at the rapture (verses 9-10), before the tribulation and darkness overtakes the children of darkness. Christ died for us so that whether we are “awake” (living) or “sleep” (dead), refers to the living and the dead who will be raptured together.
We are told that on the night before Jesus was crucified, Judas went out from them into the night to betray the Lord and Jesus tells the rest of His disciples that they would all abandon Him, and Peter would deny Him three times that very night. But instead of thinking about Himself, the Lord’s concern was for His disciples.
In John 14:1-3 He says to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am”
Here in verses 2-3 Jesus uses the words of an oriental wedding to describe His relationship with His Bride, the Church.
The steps of an oriental wedding were:
1.Engagement. The Bridegroom was engaged to the bride by paying a Dowry.
I Cor. 6:20 says concerning believers, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
- Preparation for the marriage. The bridegroom would give a ring to his bride as a guarantee of marriage. It was a sign that she belonged to him alone. Eph. 4:30 says concerning believers, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are SEALED for the day of redemption”. The seal is God’s sign of ownership. The bride would continue to live with her parents and the bridegroom would go to his father’s house to add on rooms for his bride’s coming.
In II Cor. 11: 2 Paul says of those he won to Christ, “I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy. I promised you to one Husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him”.
- The marriage. When a place in the father’s house was prepared, the father of the bridegroom would say to his son: “Son, go get your bride!” Then the bridegroom would come for his bride and take her home to the father’s house.
First Jesus loved us. Then He paid the dowry on the cross. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18). The sign of this engagement is the Holy Spirit given to the believer as a “deposit” or “guarantee” of marriage. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory” (Eph.1: 13-14).
After His resurrection the Lord returned to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us. Believers do not each have their own mansion in heaven. The truth is far more precious, there is only one mansion—the Father’s house, in which Jesus is preparing rooms for His children.
When these rooms in the Father’s house are prepared, the Lord will return to receive His loved ones in the rapture and take them to the Father’s house. After the rapture of believers the tribulation will take place on earth while believers will be appear before the Judgment of Christ to receive rewards for service. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, but rewards are for service done for Christ after being saved. Paul sums up the teaching on the rapture in light of our appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ for rewards:
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15: 58).
Prophecy in the Bible is not given to satisfy curiosity but to motivate us to live holy lives of service and devotion for God. Note how the following exhortations are connected with the Lord’s coming for believers:
Col. 3:1-4: “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”.
Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and purify for Himself those that are His very own, eager to do what is good”.
I Thess. 3:12-13: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone one else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God the Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all His holy ones”
These passages teach that the truth of the Lord’s coming for His own should motivate us to be heavenly minded and separate ourselves from the things of this world. We are to be unyielding in our faithfulness to God, and encourage other believers to do the same. We are to be zealous of good works and be prepared at all times to witness to others and win them to Christ.
Believers are not of this world but part of the new creation, but we are left here among the old creation to represent the new. Believers are IN this world, but not OF
This world. In John 17:14-18, we are allowed to eavesdrop on the prayer of Jesus to the Father on behalf of those who belong to Him: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
So we see that believers are not OF this world, even as Jesus is not of this world. Jesus is the Head of the new creation and believers are “in Christ” and therefore members of the new creation. But we are left in this world as ambassadors for Christ to represent the kingdom of God. When God calls His ambassadors home at the rapture, He will declare war on this world.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).