Resurrection Of The Dead And Th
Timing Of The Rapture – 2 of 5
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD AND THE RAPTURE
In I Thessalonians 4:14-17 we find recorded one of the most frequently quoted passages concerning the Rapture. We shall begin with this passage as we discuss a fourth path that shows the timing of the Rapture. There we read:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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 shalll rise first: 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.
The first truth that we would look at in this passage is the fact that the Rapture will be a simultaneous event with the resurrection of our bodies. God indicates that at His coming He will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. Elsewhere (II Corinthians 5:8) God teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When Christians die, because they were given their resurrected souls at the time of their salvation, in their souls they can go to be with Christ. In this condition they live and reign with Him in Heaven.
But at Christ’s return all these who have died, that is, who have fallen asleep, and who have been living with Christ in Heaven, will come with Him, as I Thessalonians 4:14 teaches. Then the graves are to be opened and the bodies of those who have died will be resurrected. At the same time the believers sho have not died are given their resurrected bodies. Immediately following this, the resurrected bodies from the graves, together with the believers who have not died but who have instantaneously been given their new bodies, are caught up in the air to be with the Lord forever. Only the unsaved will still remain on the earth to face the wrath of God, which will be poured out upon them because of their sins.
But now we want to look more closely at the fact of these resurrected bodies. For the Bible teaches elsewhere the precise time when these bodies will be resurrected. And since, as we have just seen, the Rapture is simultaneous with the resurrection of the bodies of the believers, the determination of the time of the resurrection of the bodies of the believers will also give us the timetable of the Rapture.
In John 6 Jesus declares four times that the resurrection of believers’ bodies would occur the last day.
John 6:39 — And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
John 6:40 — And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:44 — No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:54 — Whoso eatheth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
The phrase “the last day” is quite significant. It is found only eight times in the whole Bible. Since God chooses words very carefully, we know this phrase has been selected to signify important truth.
Let us look at this phrase for a moment. Four times it is used in John 6 as we have already seen. The other four references are as follows:
John 11:24 — Martha saith unto Him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
John 12:48 — He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
John 7:37 — In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.”
Neh. 8:18 — Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days: and on eighth day was a solemn assembly unto the manner.
Quickly we see that in John 11:24 God is showing us that Martha understood clearly the truth that is offered in the four verses of John 6. The resurrection of believers is the last day.
From John 12:48, the sixth verse named above, we discover that the last day is Judgment Day. It is then that God will have all the unsaved give account of their sins and remove them into Hell to pay for their sins. Thus we see that the resurrection of believers, which also is to occur the last day, is simultaneous with Judgment Day. And since we saw from I Thessalonians 4:14-17 that the resurrection of our bodies is simultaneous with the Rapture, we can therefore know from these verses that the Rapture is simultaneous with Judgment Day.
Before we look at the remaining two references to the “last day,” let us continue our thinking a bit longer on John 12:48. If Judgment Day is the last day, then the resurrection of the unsaved must also be the last day. For Revelation 20:13 indicates that the sea gave up the dead, and death and Hades gave up the dead, and all were judged and cast into the lake of fire. But if this is so, then the resurrection of unbelievers is the last day. Then there must be one general resurrection of both the saved and unsaved on the last day. Under no circumstance are we to understand that the believers are resurrected at one time and the wicked another.
Clearly this is precisely what the Bible teaches. In John 5:28-29 we read that “The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth.” In other words, everyone will be resurrected at the moment of Christ’s return. There will be no one left in the grave. In I Thessalonians 4:17 we read that the believers will hear the shout of the command. John 5:28,29 shows, however, that the unbelievers too will hear that shout. For there our Lord declares, “all that are in the graves shall hear His voice.”
John 5:29 does add that there are two destinations for these who come forth from the tombs. Those who have done good, that is, those who have had their sins covered by Christ’s righteousness, will be resurrected to life. But those who have done evil, that is, the unsaved who have not had their sins covered, will be resurrected to damnation in judgment.
As we have compared these Scriptures which speak of the “last day” with I Thessalonians 4:14-17 and John 5:28,29, we have discovered that the Bible is clearly teaching that the Rapture, the resurrection of believers, the resurrection of unbelievers, and Judgment Day are simultaneous events at the end of time. Isn’t it marvelous how all these verses fit together so perfectly?
We have looked at siw of the eight verses in the Bible which are the phrase “last day.” The remaining two are:
John 7:37 — In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”
Neh. 8:18 — Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly according unto the manner.
We should also look at these to make certain that we are checking everything that relates to the phrase “last day.” These two remaining references are both related to the Feast of Tabernacles. The fact is, both speak of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
But what does the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles have to do with the Rapture or Judgment Day? We shall see that it is intimately involved with these subjects.
Let us first look at the nature of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was a feast commemorating two events. First, it looked back upon the sojournings of Israel in the wilderness, and secondly it was the time of the completion of the harvest.
In Leviticus 23:42,43 we read:
Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations my know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
These verses teach that it was a feast that looked back on the wilderness sojourn of Israel. But now they have entered the promised land, the land of rest. So, too, believers today are living in the wilderness of this world. When Christ comes, our rest in Him will be complete. We are strangers and pilgrims now; but when we receive our resurrected bodies we will be forever with Christ (I Thessalonians 4:17). Therefore, we can see how this Feast identifies with Christ’s return. For it is then we receive our resurrected bodies. It is then our salvation is complete. It is then our wilderness sojourn is ended.
The second reason for the Feast of Tabernacles was the celebration of the end of the harvest.
In Exodus 23:16 we read:
and the feast of the ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field.
This is a surprising verse, for it speaks of the Feast of Ingathering, which is the same as the Feast of Tabernacles, as the end of the year. But the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated during the seventh month (Leviticus 23:39). And the seventh month is many months from the end of the year. Yet God speaks of it as the “end” or “going out” of the year.
When we see how intimately this feast is related to the end of time, we can see why God speaks of it as the end of the year. Jesus speaks in Matthew 13 of His return at the harvest time (Matthew 13:30 and 39).
Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Since the Fest of Tabernacles is celebrating the harvest, relating it to the end of the year, and since Christ speaks of the end of the world as a harvest time, we can see a beautiful relationship which exists between the Feast of Tabernacles and the end of the world. No wonder then that the phrase “last day” is found in connection with the resurrection of believers, Judgment Day, and the Feast of Tabernacles. We can make a chart to show these relationships:
Feast of Tabernacles End of World
End of year End of time Harvest time for crops Harvest time for mankind End of wilderness sojourn End of wilderness sojourn for believers Last day (Exodus 23:16) Last day (John 12:48, John 6:39,40)
No wonder then that in Nehemiah 8:18 and in John 7:37 God used the phrase “last day” in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles.
Before we leave the Feast of Tabernacles, one other important fact should be noted which links the Feast og Tabernacles to the last day or the end of time. In the Old Testament there were three times during the year when all the men were required to appear before the Lord as recorded in Exodus 23:14-17:
Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto Me in the year. Thou shalt keep a feast of unleavened bread: (Thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt; and none shall appear before Me empty:) and the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labors, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field. Three times in the year all they males shall appear before the Lord God.
The first feast was the Feast of Unleavened Bread that began with, and was identified with, the Passover. This feast began in the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month (Leviticus 23:5) and continued for seven days after the fifteenth day (Leviticus 23:6, Deuteronomy 16:1-3) It was the day that anticipated the shedding of Christ’s blood as Passover Lamb that would take away the sins of the world.
The second was the Feast of Harvest or the “Firstfruits” or “Feast of Weeks.” This feast was observed seven full weeks from the morrow after the Sabbath that is, the Sabbath that occurred during the Passover week (Leviticus 23:15,16 and Deuteronomy 16:9). Because this feast day was fifty days after the Passover, it was also called Pentecost. It was a day that anticipated the spiritual harvest that would begin as a result of Christ going to the cross.
The third feast as which the males had to appear before the Lord was the Feast of Tabernacles, which was preceded by the Day of Atonement (the tenth day of the seventh month). The Feast of Tabernacles continued from the fifteenth day for eight days of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:27,34,39). It was a feast day, as we shall see, that anticipated the completion of the spiritural harvest that would result because God provided salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The awe-inspiring fact that now faces us is that, while these feast days anticipated and pointed to the historical accomplishment of the atonement, on the very same days the nation of Israel was celebrating these feasts God brought to pass the spiritual reality to which these days pointed. For it was on the Passover in A.D. 33, while the Jews were keeping the Passover, that Jesus hung on the cross as the Passover Lamb.
And it was on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the Old Testament Feast of Weeks, that the Holy Spirit was poured out, and the harvesting of souls began. It was at that time that the firstfruits of the harvest were seen–3000 from eighteen nations were saved (Acts 2).
So we see that two of the three most important feasts, those specifically emphasized as times when the Jewish men must come to Jerusalem, were the literal times when God’s program of redemption was being carried out. The Jewish Passover was celebrated the very day Christ, the Passover Lamb, was slain. The Jewish Feast of firstfruits, Pentecost, was observed the very day that God poured out His Holy Spirit, and the firsfruits of the spiritual harvest were seen.
But that leaves one remaining feast day, the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering. Surely the Bible is suggesting that Christ will return in literal fulfillment of this feast, even as there was literal identification wtih the other two important feasts.
No wonder then that God uses the phrase “last day” in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles is identified with Christ’s return, just as the resurrection of our bodies is, or Judgment Day is.
We see, therefore, that in all eight places where the phrase “last day” is found in the Bible, it is pointing to the end of time. It is pointing to the end of this earth’s existence, when Christ returns in Judgment.
Returning now to I Thessalonians 4:14-17, we have seen that the Rapture is simultaneous with the resurrection of believers. From John 6 we saw that the resurrection of believers is the last day. From John 12 and from the “last day” references to the Feast of Tabernacles, we have seen that the “last day” is Judgment Day. Moreover, we saw that these truths agree precisely with the statement of John 5:28,29, which speaks of one general resurrection at Christ’s return.
We have thus seen that I Thessalonians 4, when looked at in the light of John 6 and the other passages which tell us when the resurrection of believers will occur, ties the Rapture to a simultaneous time with Judgment Day and the end of time. Thus, this fourth path we have followed agrees precisely with the three we examined earlier.
Continued in RAP3.TXT