The previous post helped us to understand the myriad of ideas people attempt to use to debunk the rapture. Though it was not exhaustive, hopefully, it provided enough of an impetus for your own study. We also discussed some parts of the Olivet Discourse and Jesus’ teaching.
Let’s now explore how it will happen.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
I find that verse self-explanatory. It serves to stand by itself. There are other references that may bring some light to what is here.
The first point is the use of familiar military practices. Paul uses these as they would be familiar to Romans who understood the chain of command.
The Lord Himself Will Descend.
First, Jesus leaves His current place. Where is His current place?
To answer that, we are going to use the book of Hebrews. This book speaks to Jesus as being better than the rudiments of the law given to Israel in every way.
God, who at various times and in diverse ways spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the world. He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of Himself, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He was made so much better than the angels as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.Hebrews 1:1–4 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Did you catch the location there?
Let’s move forward.
Previously when He said, “You did not desire sacrifices and offerings. You have had no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin,” which are offered in accordance with the law, then He said, “See, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.Hebrews 10:8–10 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
In speaking about Jesus as High Priest and performing all of His work. The law served as a teacher, instructing in types and shadows yet pointing right to Jesus. It is the old covenant with its sacrifices and offerings that is complete in Jesus. It served its purpose by instruction. Jesus removes it to establish the better way.
But every priest stands daily ministering and repetitively offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He has been waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool. For by one offering He has forever perfected those who are sanctified.Hebrews 10:11–14 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
He offered one sacrifice for sins forever. Then the Bible says something profound… He sat down. The significance of that is important on its own. The work of the High Priest was never finished until then. For our purposes, the location of where Jesus sat down is important. It is at the right hand of the Father. That is where He is.
Jesus announced the fact to those who tried Him.
From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.Luke 22:69 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This is exactly how Mark closes his Gospel.
After the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God.Mark 16:19 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Paul also provides a witness to attest to His ministry now.
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes, who is risen, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.Romans 8:34 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
There are some other references. I will leave those for you to discover.
It is an important idea to grasp. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. There is also a significance to Him leaving that place that is revealed earlier. Look at the account of Stephen right before he is stoned. What is the significance of Jesus standing?
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”Acts 7:54–56 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Jesus is no longer seated. It is thought that Stephen seeing Jesus standing is the precursor to His return.
Personally, it is my belief that Jesus is fulfilling His promise to every believer to come and receive them to Himself. I understand that may be conjecture, but it is the promise with which we began this journey, as discussed earlier.
Jesus is going to leave His current place at the right hand of the Father.
With a Shout.
The Greek word used here is keleuma. It is a summons to carry out a procedure sort of like a battle cry. It is a military term. Paul is using the very familiar practices of the Roman army as a pictorial lesson in the sequence. Jesus, the Lord of Hosts leaves His abode and gives a command. This is much like the commander leaving his tent and shouting a command to a subcommander.
With the Voice of the Archangel.
The sub-commander repeats the command.
The Greek word used here archaggelos (archangel) is used twice in the New Testament. Both times it is preceded by a definitive article denoting the presence of a title. The second occurrence is here, and we are given a name to identify the archangel.
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil in a dispute about the body of Moses, did not dare to pronounce upon him a railing judgment. But he said, “The Lord rebuke you!”Jude 9 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Some of Michael’s duties are given to us in Scripture. One of those is as the guardian of Israelis.
“And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people. And there shall be 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, everyone who shall be found written in the book.Daniel 12:1 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
It is Michael who serves as the subcommander here.
With the Trumpet Call of God.
This is the Greek salpinx, or trumpet call of God. As continuing the military theme, this word is also used as war trumpet. It is the bugler that transmits the command to the troops with the trumpet.
If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for the battle?1 Corinthians 14:8 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Paul referenced that word elsewhere. This shows the clear sounds a bugler must make to ensure the command is transmitted clearly to be understood. In the context of that verse, Paul is speaking about the use of tongues and the clarity, the idea is the distinction in the sounds made. This trumpet will be clear.
I also want to provide some other references as to what this may be. The first is in Hebrews. It is important and lends itself to our discussion. Hebrews 12 will reference first-born, a term that has significance in the rapture.
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and storm, and to the sound of a trumpet and to a voice speaking words, such that those who heard them begged that the word not be spoken to them anymore.Hebrews 12:18–19 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This references the giving of the law to Israel at Mount Sinai in the Exodus (Exodus 18.) The account tells of how the trumpet sounds became louder and louder. The people feared approaching God. The writer of Hebrews uses this as an antitype to another mountain, Mount Zion. He calls it the city of the Living God, New Jerusalem. Specific language references the innumerable company of angels, and to the church of the firstborn. That is us, Spirit-baptized believers.
In part 2, we discussed the end of the earthly ministry of the church. Revelation 4 was briefly discussed. After Jesus finishes His letters to the seven churches, John is caught up to heaven and the word church is absent from the rest of the book until the very end.
After this I looked. And there was an open door in heaven. The first voice I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit. And there was a throne set in heaven with One sitting on the throne!Revelation 4:1–2 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
John heard a voice like a trumpet. That is the same Greek word salpinx. Though this was a voice like a trumpet and not just a trumpet call.
The important thing is John heard the command, come up here. Immediately John was in the sprit and in the presence of God. John’s experience serves as a type of Rapture. He is called up and immediately in the presence of the Lord.
The Dead in Christ Will Rise First
This is the concern of the Thessalonians. They knew of the rapture but had questions of those who preceded them in death not benefiting from the rapture.
But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and arose again, so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who are asleep.1 Thessalonians 4:13–15 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Those who are asleep in Jesus, rise first. These church saints benefit before the alive believers can benefit.
We Who Are Alive and Remain Shall be Caught up Together with Them in the Clouds to Meet the Lord in the Air.
The Spirit-baptized church saints are caught up together with the previously asleep church saints that are resurrected. We meet the Lord in the air together. Jesus never sets foot on the earth. He comes in the clouds; we meet Him in the clouds.
All of this happens very fast. Just as John was caught up and immediately in the presence of God, so shall the rapture be.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.1 Corinthians 15:52 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
As Paul wrote of the rapture in a later epistle, he shows some of the same sequential order. There is a trumpet sound, the dead are resurrected first, then those alive are raised.
Just as previously stated, this event will be as the angels described in Acts 1.
They said, “Men of Galilee, why stand looking toward heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you to heaven, will come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”Acts 1:11 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Acts 1 gives a description of exactly how Jesus left the saints and would be the model for Him to come in like manner to the saints.
When He had spoken these things, while they looked, He was taken up. And a cloud received Him from their sight.Acts 1:9 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
We Shall be Forever with the Lord.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven; to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than that of Abel.Hebrews 12:22–24 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
I love that description of who we are in Jesus. It is immovable and forever.
Comfort One Another with These Words.
The Thessalonians were told to comfort one another. They were assured. None of the church saints who preceded them in death would miss out on the rapture. They would all benefit. And the sequence would occur in the blink of an eye.
There is a sequential order of the rapture that is revealed. Those alive are changed immediately. But not before those who are dead in Christ. All of these happen because Jesus rose as Firstfruits. Firstfruits that benefit His body, the church.
There is also a sequence of end-times events that are revealed here and elsewhere. It is fitting that we understand the church had a beginning and it will have an end. The rapture fits in as one of the pieces to understanding. The coming Kingdom is a Jewish kingdom that we fit in because of the Messiah Jesus Christ.
But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came by man, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward, those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end when He will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For He “has put all things under His feet.” But when He says, “all things are put under Him,” it is revealed that He, who has put all things under Him, is the exception. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.1 Corinthians 15:20–28 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This serves as a witness to another greater sequence of events. The end of the ministry of the church at the rapture. Yet that is not the end but the seeming beginning of it. The end is yet in the future when He will deliver the Kingdom to God. That doesn’t occur until He reigns. And He reigns until all enemies are under His feet.
Next, we will explore the idea of the mystery of the rapture.