** This post is part one in a series of three articles studying the rapture. **
It was during our home Bible Study this last Sunday that I was teaching on the mysteries of God and we were looking at 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. It was then that I decided that I wanted to share this with you. Today we'll be discussing Paul's words describing how that we should have confidence and comfort in the knowledge that Christ will return for us.
1 Thessalonians 4:13, "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." Paul is writing here and he tells us not to be ignorant of some things. It's amazing to me just how ignorant of the things of God, we as Christians are. In these few verses, Paul is going to teach us some things regarding the dead in Christ and what we call the Rapture. Yes I know the term "Rapture" is never used in the Word of God. The term "Rapture" is just the name given to the gathering together of the Church at the end of the Church age. Notice that Paul tells us not to sorrow as those without hope. Do you know what the Bible means by that word "hope?" When the word hope is used in the Bible it means confidence which comes by faith. Romans 15:13 "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Hope means confidence! When you read the above verse, replace the word hope with confidence. It reads like this, 'Now the God of [confidence] fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in [confidence], through the power of the Holy Ghost.' In today's English, the word "hope" means just the opposite, it means to have no confidence and merely wishing or hoping. In today's English a verse like Romans 15:13 would have no power to it. Lets look back at 1 Thessalonians 4:13, "...even as others which have no hope" or confidence. If we have confidence in our salvation, then there is no reason to sorrow over the death of a believer.
1 Thessalonians 4:14 "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Lets look at Romans 10:9-10 for a moment: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." There is no salvation without a risen Saviour! A person can't get saved without believing that Christ is risen from the dead. Those which sleep in Jesus believed in his resurection during their lifetime and Christ will bring them with Him when He comes for His Church.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 "For 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. For 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:" This is the rapture and not the return of Christ. When Christ returns to the earth, every eye shall see Him. Revelation 1:7 says "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him..." Read more about Christ's return in Revelation 19.
Back to our passage in 1 Thessalonians, notice that "the dead in Christ shall rise first." Remember in verse 14 the term was "sleep in Jesus" now we read "the dead in Christ." What's the difference between these two terms? The term "sleep in Jesus" refers to the souls of those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. The "dead in Christ" refers to the bodies of those same folks. Let me explain this: When you place your trust in Christ, a spiritual circumcision takes place. Colossians 2:11 says, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ..." Did you see that? At the moment of salvation, this old flesh is separated from the soul. Paul teaches us that sin dwells in the body, but we've been circumcised from that old body of sin. Now at the time of death the body is separated from the soul. The body goes into the ground and the soul goes onto heaven. Verse 14 said that "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Verse 16 says "the dead in Christ shall rise first." The souls are returning with Christ from heaven to be reunited with the bodies which are rising from the grave. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 says "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." Paul tells the Church in Corinth that the rapture is a mystery. He goes on further to say that "we shall all be changed." Why? because this body of sin can't go to heaven. It has to be changed before the soul can be reunited with it. The body is changed to a body that is "incorruptible." It takes place in a twinkling of an eye.
Let me take just a brief moment to explain the difference between the terms "trump" and "trumpet". We should all know what a trumpet is, a musical instrument. The Bible has several references to trumpets. Revelation talks about trumpet sounds as well as trumpet judgments. The term "trump" is the sound that the trumpet makes. Its important that we not get the two confused. When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, "at the last trump" he is not referring to the last trumpet call in Revelation, but to the last sound that this particular trumpet makes, this is the trumpet which is sounded in Revelation 4:1.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 "Then 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." In the twinkling of an eye, the dead in Christ will rise from their graves, be reunited with their souls and immediately following we will rise and be changed from mortal to immortal. And so shall we ever be with the Lord! Now I don't know about you but the thought of spending eternity with Christ excites me.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." It just amazes me that Paul tells us at the end of this chapter to comfort on another with these words. I've heard numerous messages preached on end times prophecy, the return of Christ and the rapture and every one of those messages were designed to scare Christians. Yet Paul tells us to comfort one anther with these words. The truth is that the believer is to find comfort in the scriptures that deal with Christ's return. God even promises a special crown or reward to those who look to Christ's return. 2 Timothy 4:8 says, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
Paul's writing this passage of scripture so that we can have confidence and comfort in the fact that we're going to spend all of eternity with the Lord. If you don't have this confidence click HERE to learn more about salvation.,
This is part 1 in a series. Click HERE for part 2 (The Day Of The Lord).