The resurrections and the rapture

In the Old Testament it is clearly taught that there will be a resurrection of both the good and the bad.

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Daniel 12:2

Revelation 20:4,5 reveals that these were two separate resurrections.  It also tells us when they will take place.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.

The first resurrection, of those who are good, will take place after the tribulation and before Christ begins his 1000 year reign on earth. The second resurrection, of those who are evil, will take place after the 1000 year reign.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 Paul said,

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

This event is called the rapture and many people believe this will take place before the tribulation. But how can this view be reconciled with the statement in Revelation 20 that the first resurrection will be after the tribulation?

Just before his crucifixion, in John 16:12,13, Jesus told his disciples that when the Holy Spirit came he would reveal new truths to them.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

In Ephesians 3:3-6 Paul tells of a new truth that had been revealed to him by the Spirit in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise.

The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Paul refers to this revelation as a mystery, something which had not been revealed before. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 he speaks of another mystery,

Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

Since the two resurrections had been revealed to the prophets this event cannot be one of them and must take place at a different time from either one.  In fact, it shouldn’t be called a resurrection at all because it also includes the transformation of the bodies of living believers and the removal of all believers from the earth.

The church has some unique characteristics that aren’t shared by God’s people in any other age. We are the only ones who have been baptized by the Holy Spirit to be made into one body and who have the Spirit living in us. The way in which we will end our time on earth is also unique. The entire church, both those alive and those who have died, will be removed from the earth and God will then go back to working through the nation of Israel, as he has done in the past. The two resurrections spoken of by Jesus and by the Old Testament prophets are only for all those who are not part of the church.

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Posted on November 20, 2011, in Bible study, prophecy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The resurrections and the rapture.

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