Rapture

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For 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. 17 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 we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Outline

1. Importance of this doctrine

2. The Basis of our Resurrection

3. Possible Sequence of Events

4. Scenes in Heaven

1.0 The Importance of this Doctrine

4:13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
We have to be informed about this truth because of its significant implications:
New perspective on future life
New perspective on current Life
New perspective on death. We won’t grieve without hope. The pagan world was at a loss for comfort at death.

2.0 The Basis of our Resurrection

4:14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
We have hope for the resurrection because of the resurrection of Christ. 1 Cor 15:17-20

 

3.0 Possible Sequence of Events

 

3.1 Righteous died “in Jesus”

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
The word sleep is a common synonym for death. Matt. 27:52; 2 Pet. 3:4. The English term “cemetery” is derived from this Greek word.

 

3.2 Righteous still living

4:15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Paul uses “we” probably just an editorial use (cf. Heb. 10:26), or because he thought, as did every generation of Christians, that Jesus would come in his lifetime.
But life will be continuing as normal completely oblivious to what is about to happen.

 

3.3 The Rapture

4:16 For 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.
We don’t know who is involved in these sounds – There is a shout, a voice, and a trumpet blast. The question remains how many heavenly persons are related to these three parallel events. Regardless of the exact details, heaven is prepared for this event—it has been scheduled to happen.

 

a. The Descent –The Greek text emphasizes Jesus’ personal return instead of a surrogate (cf. John 5:25–28).
Jesus will leave the Father’s presence a second time to retrieve the family of faith (cf. John 14:2-3)

 

b. A Shout
The word usually is an order or a signal given to subordinates.
It could be probably from the Lord. – a command to the dead to arise. John 5:25, 28, 29
It may be a command from Jesus to his entourage to proceed (2 Thess 1:7), or from the archangel commanding the other angels or an announcement (like the trumpet, cf. Rev 1:10)

 

c. Voice of an Archangel
There is the involvement of angels in the rapture. Mark 8:38; 13:26–27. Although Daniel 10:13 implies several angels, there are only two named angels.
Michael is called an archangel (Jude 9; cf. Dan 10:13; 12:1), and Gabriel is an angel who “stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19).
An angelic entourage will accompany Jesus. The archangel functions either as the herald proclaiming the remarkable news, or calls the angelic army to advance with the coming Lord.

 

d. Trumpet Blast
A trumpet was not really used as a musical instrument, rather it was a very important means of communication in the OT, used for religious and military events (cf. Exod. 19:16; Isa. 27:13; Joel 2:1; Zech. 9:14; 1 Cor. 15:52).

Bottom line: The combination of the 3 events depict a grand fanfare. No one will be able to miss the event. No one will fail to realize that something remarkable is about to occur.

 

3.4 Righteous Dead resurrect first

4:16 For 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.
Where does the dead go between their death and resurrection day? This verse implies that they will remain in the grave (cf. Matt. 27:52–53). Though we are not completely clear about the state of believers between death and Resurrection Day, the New Testament does speak of conscious, but limited fellowship, even now. Eg. Story of rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16:19–31. Also, Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23
However, 2 Cor 5:8 implies that they are with the Lord. The solution may be in postulating a disembodied state. The physical body remains in the grave, the life force goes to be with the Lord. There are many unanswered questions here. The Bible does not provide a clear teaching passage on this subject.

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Jesus will bring the righteous dead with him! Their bodies will rise up and unite with their souls

The state of the dead who rise to meet the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 15:35–49; 2 Cor 5:1–9).

 

3.5 Righteous Living meet them

4:17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
The concept of “rapture” originates from this verb – “be caught up”. It implies a forceful “snatching away” (cf. John 6:15; 10:12, 28–29).
This experience of being “caught up” was seen in the life of Philip (Acts 8:39), and Paul (2 Cor 12:2–4)

Believers are going to meet the Lord in the air. In the New Testament, the air was seen as the realm of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2) and Greeks thought the lower air (atmosphere) was unclean and, therefore, the domain of unclean spirits. Believers will be reunited with their Lord in the midst of Satan’s kingdom to show its complete overthrow.
Jesus at his ascension (Acts 1:9), told his disciples that the Son of Man will “come in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26), and those going out to meet him “in the air” as he descended from heaven to earth would encounter him “in the clouds.”

There will be a transformation of our bodies. cf. 1 Cor 15:50–58; Phil 3:21

 

3.6 No separation

4:17 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 we will be with the Lord forever.

Paul’s terminology implies the eternal kingdom begins when Jesus returns. All of the other items of end-time events are simply not mentioned. There will be no more separation from other people by death or from the Lord.

There is no mention of non-Christian dead in these verses (cf. 2:16; 2 Thess 1:6–10). Likewise, there is no discussion of the resurrection body or of the manner in which the living are translated (cf. 1 Cor 15:35–54). Paul was comforting a grieving church and his message was that with the rapture, there will be unity from what death and time had divided.

 

4. Scenes in Heaven

 

4.1 Symbolic of the rapture Revelation 4:1

 

4.2 The Throne – Revelation 4

 

4.3 The Lamb – Revelation 5

 

Bibliography

D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995)
Robert James Utley, Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, vol. Volume 11, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 1997)

Further Reading

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