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Rapture – The End of the Church Age
1 Thessalonians 4
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #21
August 19, 2014
"Father, we are so very grateful we have this time to come together to study Your Word, to bring prayer requests before You, to focus upon individual needs within the congregation as well as for our nation. Father, we pray for wisdom for our leaders; we pray for wisdom for the leaders in different realms. From the realms of the churches, the realms of other organizations, as well as realms within the city, county, state politics, and Father, especially wisdom for those who can have an impact on quelling the violence in Missouri and on bringing a focus upon the truth, and for people who would be responsive to truth and let cool heads prevail. Father, we pray that in this situation as well as others that there may be opportunities to make the gospel clear for the only hope for this nation is for people to get their focus upon the Word of God and upon the gospel of grace and the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Father, we pray that you would challenge each of us to be more alert to the fact that we have opportunities every day to make an impact for the gospel. To talk to somebody, to mention something, to say something, to make a comment that you can use in order to bring peoples' focus back to the Word of God and eternal truth. Father, we pray that You will challenge us tonight as we go forward in our study of dispensations and come to a better understanding of how our spiritual life plays a role in the angelic conflict and then on into the future in terms of the rapture and the Tribulation. We pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."
XV. Dispensation of the Church continued
K. The End of the Church Age
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Thessalonians 4. We won't get there for a few minutes, but in the last two or three lessons, maybe four, we have been going through the church age and we have been looking through the characteristics of the church age and the distinctives of the church age; and that that stands out as most distinctive in the church age is the presence of the Holy Spirit in a distinct way from how He was involved in the Old Testament (OT) and how He will be involved under the New Covenant in the millennial kingdom. During the church age we saw from Romans 6:3-4 that in the church age it is the baptism by the Holy Spirit that distinguishes the individual believer in the church age from believers of all other generations. We are baptized by the Spirit at the incident of salvation. That never happened before the day of Pentecost in AD 33 and it will never happen again after the rapture.
Now there is some disagreement among some dispensationalists about that, but I will show you that this is the case because that which marks the distinctiveness, the most focused distinctive of the church age is that baptism by the Holy Spirit. So if the church is raptured before the tribulation then there will not be a baptism of the Holy Spirit for tribulation saints. It goes back to a different modus operandi for their spiritual life. So we have this distinctive. It is similar, but it is not as great as the role the Holy Spirit will play in the millennial kingdom. We will come back to some of those passages when we get there. Now as we have gone through each of these different eras let's just go through this chart once again. I think I've gotten fixed what didn't work last week.
Slide 3: Biblical Dispensations
We are going to start off in the OT. We had two ages; an age and a dispensation are distinct. An age may include several dispensations because God shifts how He administers human history within those ages. The ages are marked off by distinctions within certain people; for example, from the creation until the call of Abraham everyone on the earth was a Gentile. Everyone on earth was treated by God the same and God was working in and through the entire human race. But with the failure at the tower of Babel, God shifted gears and began to work through one individual and his descendents and that was Abraham and his descendents through Isaac and Jacob. Now Abraham had eight sons. There is only one that is the line of the seed and that is Isaac. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, only one is the line of the seed. So it is through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that we have Israel. So we have the Age of Israel that extends up to the Cross. Now in the first dispensation we call it Perfect Environment. Older dispensationalists called it Innocence and there is nothing wrong with that term because it is a judicial term and it means without guilt; and there was no guilt in the Garden (of Eden). So it was a dispensation of innocence. It was a perfect environment. The covenant that governed God's relationship with man was the Edenic Covenant or the Creation Covenant as I have called it in the slide, Genesis 1:28-30.
The second category is Responsibility, then they were to fulfill that covenant by being obedient, by filling the earth, by subduing the earth and they failed by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then we have the divine judgment, which was spiritual death. This brings in the next dispensation, which is the dispensation of Conscience. It is governed by the Adamic Covenant, which is a modification of the Creation Covenant. The Adamic Covenant is spelled out in Genesis 3:14-19. The responsibility is the animal sacrifice, substitutionary sacrifice, blood sacrifice, a death to pay for sin in a substitutionary way. It is not a permanent solution; it is only a temporary solution until the final victory by the Seed of the woman.
Then we have the dominance of evil and wickedness on the human race. We have the influx of fallen angels who seek to destroy the genetic purity of the human race. God brings judgment through the Noahic flood. At the end of the Flood there is a new covenant. This is the covenant with Noah. It establishes human government that is to oversee the governing of the human race to establish righteousness on the earth. Man is told to fill the earth but again he fails to do that. He organizes himself at the tower of Babel to assert his authority against God. God brings judgment, the confusion of languages.
Then God calls out Abraham. He gives Abraham a new covenant. The responsibility is for him and his descendents to stay a distinct people from the other Gentiles. They fail to do that and they are on the verge of total assimilation by Genesis 34. So God has them removed down to Egypt where they enter into slavery, but this is to protect them. And during their time under Egyptian bondage they grow from approximately seventy people to somewhere between two and a half to three million people as God oversees their population growth and their safety.
God redeems them as a nation from slavery, brings them to Mt. Sinai, gives them a new covenant. This is the only temporary covenant; this is the Mosaic Covenant. Their responsibility is to obey the Law. They fail to obey the Law again and again, so they are taken out under divine discipline and scattered throughout the nations. It is after a portion of them are returned that God sends the Messiah in fulfillment of promises and prophecies in the OT. He is a new revelation. He is the LOGOS of God. He is the very incarnation of God. In terms of the human race there is a new responsibility. They are to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They are to accept the Messiah. Instead they reject the Messiah, although may tens of thousands accepted Him, most did not. The result was judgment at the Cross and ultimately the fifth cycle of discipline in AD 70.
That brought in the new Church Age. The New Covenant is applied but it is not initiated. It does not begin. The New Covenant is yet future. The New Covenant is with the house of Judah and the house of Israel. There are just blessings from the New Covenant during the church age. The issue in the church age is the gospel, faith alone in Christ alone. Most will reject Christ. The end will come. The judgment that comes is the Tribulation. This follows the rapture of the church and then some time after the rapture of the church we have the Tribulation seven year period, also known as the time of Jacob's wrath and the time of Daniel's 70th week.
That is our chart to this point. We need to understand all those different dimensions, but that helps us understand things. So the last part in talking about the Church Age is I want to relate the church age to the angelic conflict. The church age is related to the angelic conflict in numerous passages in the Epistles. And this is important because it tells us that we as church age believers have a very important and distinct role to play in terms of our spiritual life during this dispensation. Angels are watching us. They learn from us. We have a testimony before the angels. As they observe how we respond to the grace of God and how we live our Christian life in obedience to God.
Slide 4: 1 Corinthians 4:9
In 1 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul is defending his apostleship to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were a messed up group of Christians. They were as disobedient and as arrogant and as licentious and as profligate as any group of Christians at any time in history. They were believers. Paul calls them "saints." So behavior is never an accurate guide to a person's justification. We are justified not because of who we are or what we have done. We are justified because of who God is and what Christ has done on the Cross. In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul is defending his apostleship because one of the things that they did in their rebelliousness was to impugn and assault and malign his apostolic authority. So at the conclusion of that he says in 1 Corinthians 4:9, "For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death." His point is really that in terms of human viewpoint, in terms of the wisdom of the Greeks the apostles are not special. They would never make anybody's list of the top five hundred popular people in the world. They would never show up positively on any of the entertainment shows on television. Nobody would want to be around them. They usually didn't have much. Some of them had a little more, some had less, some had wives and families. Paul did not. But in terms of the world's thinking in terms of success they didn't measure up very much.
In this same section, 1 Corinthians 4:2 Paul says, what matters to God is that a steward is found faithful (trustworthy). That is the issue. It is not how many people they get saved; it is not how many people come to their church, the size of the church, the size of the Sunday school, or any of the other barometers that modern churches use to measure success. God's measure of success is that a man is found faithful. So Paul goes on from there and he says that God has exhibited us apostles last of all as men condemned to death "because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men," 1 Corinthians 4:9. There is our role as believers. We are watched by human beings and we are watched by angels.
Slide 5: 1 Corinthians 6:3
Eventually we have a distinct role in relation to angels. In 1 Corinthians 6:3 Paul is again castigating these carnal Corinthians because they are taking each other to court over irrelevant issues. They are creating a spectacle before the carnal Corinthians and they are being more carnal. They are out-sinning the Corinthians and making the Corinthians blush. And so Paul again writes to them and he says don't you know that we shall judge angels in the future, in the millennial kingdom we will be in a position as believers to judge or to rule over the angels. We have been made a little lower than the angels now to be promoted over them in the millennial kingdom. We are learning things today that are beyond their experience and it is from the wisdom of the Word of God, the wisdom of that which is taught in the Word, the wisdom of Bible doctrine that will give us that ability to wisely judge the angels in the future; not now but in the future. So Paul says, "don't you know." This is important, you are in preparation. You are in training because your future role is to judge over the angels. "How much more," he says, "should we judge matters in this life?" His argument in this passage is that when believers fall out, and they will, that they should be going to other believers to help them resolve their conflicts and to restore peace and to reconcile. But obviously, when Christians are operating on carnality then we have no one to go to.
Later on in a passage that has been interpreted, misinterpreted, and ripped apart in many ways, 1 Corinthians 11, Paul talks about the fact that there are different roles assigned by God to men, males, and to females. God has made male souls different from female souls and God has distinct roles. It doesn't mean that one is better than the other or one is metaphysically or ontologically superior to the other and one is less equal than another, but that there are roles. And in this discussion he (Paul) is talking about the fact that the women ought to have their head covered and I believe in the context he is talking about hairstyles; that there are specific hairstyles that distinguish women from men and that women are to wear their hair in a way that reflects femininity and men are to wear their hair in a way that reflects masculinity.
Slide 6: 1 Corinthians 11:10
The Greeks had all kinds of sexual perversions and cross-dressing was one of them. And so you would have men who were a little gender confused and they would be very proud of the LGBT law that Houston is trying to pass. And so they were dressing like women. I go through the whole thing in the 1 Corinthians series. And so a part of this was that the woman's hair was a sign of her submission to the authority of her husband and that she wasn't going to wear it like a man, indicating that she was the one who would be in authority or as we say in an English idiom, "wearing the pants in the family." Of course now women wear pants as much as men do, so it doesn't have the force that it once did. But that is what this passage is talking about. And without getting into all of those issues, the conclusion that Paul has here is important. He says, "Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels," 1 Corinthians 11:10.
Now what was the original angelic sin? A violation of God's authority; Satan rebelled against the authority of God. So one of the things that the angels are learning from you, blank (put your name there), is how to respect authority. Think about that. The angels are watching you to learn how to respect authority and that is what this is talking about. Now there is a lot of debate in the passage about what the sign of authority is. There are some who think it is a hat; this was a common interpretation for many centuries. This is why in some churches the custom is for women always to wear hats. That is not our custom. That is not our background. We understood that this was the issue. It is because of the angels. Sometimes some churches do not let women wear hats because they think that the hats will block the vision of other people. I don't know about that. I think the hats are very attractive on women, but it has nothing to do with this passage. This passage is about dressing in a manner that reflects submission to the wife's authority that is the husband.
Slide 7: 1 Timothy 3:16
Another passage dealing with this is in 1 Timothy 3:16 "And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness." There is that word again. "Godliness" is the Greek word EUSEBEIA, which is sometimes translated "piety." I find that words like "godliness" and "piety" and "holiness" are words that have been used so much in Christianity that they have lost their real meaning. The idea of EUSEBEIA is somewhat captured if we think about the word "godliness" in its old English connotation. "Godliness" – that suffix of "-liness" means likeness. It means to be like God. If you think about the fact that we have been called by God and He is working to conform us to the image of Christ that is "God-likeness"; when the character of Christ is displayed in us through the fruit of the Spirit that is being "God-like." So the shortcut to this definition is that "godliness" means the spiritual life. So he says "great is the mystery" that is the kind of spiritual life in the church age was not revealed in the OT. It was a mystery. It was a previously unrevealed doctrine. It is now revealed in the New Testament (NT) because it is based on walking by the Spirit. Nobody else in human history had ever had that opportunity before. So he goes on to say "great is the mystery of godliness" and of course that is grounded in the character of Christ, so the next few lines focus upon the person of Christ. "He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld (seen) by angels," that is the line I am looking at. Christ was watched by the angels. We are in Christ; we are united with Him, so the conclusion is that we too are watched by the angels as well.
Slide 8: 1 Timothy 5:21
Paul gives a charge to his young protégée, Timothy. You were young in that culture before you were forty. After that you were a little bit older, but Timothy wasn't a 19-, 20-, or 25- or 30-year-old kid. He was probably in his late 30s at this time and had a measure of maturity behind him. So Paul says, "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels …" He is treating the witness to what is going on in the local church as something that is quite serious. So he is giving this charge to Timothy that it is being witnessed to by the angels.
Slide 9: 1 Peter 1:12
Then in 1 Peter 1: 12, "It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves," in terms of OT saints, "but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things into which angels long to look." So you are learning things from the teaching of God's Word that angels are learning as well; that this was not the way God dealt with the angels in eternity past. They didn't have these lessons in Scripture. They didn't learn about God's grace in the same way so they learned in the dynamic of the pastor teaching the Word of God and the individual believer learning the Word of God and applying the Word of God. There is a whole dynamic there that the angels are watching and they are learning and this is part of their education. So one of the reasons things happen to you and things happen to me that give us opportunities to trust the Lord is so that God can teach the angels about His grace and about His character.
Now as we wrap this up I want to go through about thirteen things that are lessons that we learn in relation to the angelic conflict:
Slide 10: Lessons From the Church Age in the Angelic Conflict
1. God's right to rule.
God's authority to rule over his creation because that was the challenge of Satan; he wanted to be like God. He wanted to carve out a part of the creation at that time, part of the angels, and to rule over them. And his idea must have been that he could do it better than God could do it. What God is showing in human history is that no one could do it better than He can do it. No one can even come close. That the more autonomy Satan has, the more disaster and chaos ensues. This is why one of the lessons under the Tribulation period is Satan is given almost total free reign and everything just turns to absolute disaster.
2. God has the right to be the sole object of worship.
He is not going to share the throne with anybody. He is not going to give anyone else an option. He has the right to be the sole object of worship and He doesn't allow anyone to compete with Him.
3. The supremacy of God's essence over all creation.
God is supreme. He is the creator of the angels. He is the creator of human beings. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them and He must therefore be honored and obeyed.
4. The importance of authority orientation.
This is emphasized and I pointed out earlier in the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:10, but it goes back to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, when Satan rebelled against God. He disobeyed God's authority. It happened in the Garden of Eden. That was the test. The issue in the Garden of Eden with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn't that something would happen physically to man that he would physically die, but that if he disobeyed God, an act that violated God's authority, then it would not only change his metaphysical condition, he would die spiritually and be separated from God, but it would reverberate through all of the universe. I mean that is just something for us to contemplate; that Adam's act of disobedience, just eating that piece of fruit, changed the dynamics of the physical universe. It had an impact on animals; it had an impact on the laws of physics; it had an impact on many, many, many things and all of that is because of disobedience. So God is teaching the importance of complete and total obedience to His authority.
5. The supremacy of dependence on Him and the futility of independence from Him.
Even if it is the least little thing; when we think we can go our way it will have tragic unintended consequences. So we need to be dependent upon Him. The word for that is "trust." The word for that is "faith"; that is the faith-rest drill. We need to depend on Him and trust His Word.
6. God is absolutely just in sending Satan to the lake of fire.
God is not being cruel and mean to His creatures. God is not being unfair. God is being absolutely just because it is that single act of Lucifer's rebellion against God that brought about all of this horror in human history. It brought about all this sickness, all the disease, all of warfare, all of the divorce, all of the crises of poverty and everything else that we can think of is all the result of Satan's decision. And we have to understand that; that it is so horrible that it is worthy of eternal condemnation.
7. God's right as the Creator to be the object of His creatures' love.
We are to love Him unconditionally and totally. He is to be the object of love and when we learn what that is all about, then in turn that allows us to love others for His love and the pattern of His love is what helps us to understand what love is; otherwise, we are just basing it on emotion, on sentiment, on what we feel, what others feel, what others do.
8. The importance of grace orientation and how it functions.
We have to emphasize grace. Let me make a point here. Earlier, I have been thinking about this ever since I've gone back through these notes and gone back through and thought about this. Among dispensationalists we have the tradition of calling the present age the Church Age. There are others who call it the age of grace, emphasizing grace. But grace has been operative all the way through history. Ever since Adam's fall grace has been operative. I think a better term might be the age of the Holy Spirit, but the millennial kingdom even better than that. So I am not so sure I like calling the church age the age of grace because it implies there is something distinctive there and I am not sure that that is it. All through human history we are learning about grace orientation. We saw a great lesson on grace orientation in the life of Abraham. We will see soon great lessons in grace orientation in the life of Samuel and in the life of Saul and in the life of David as we go forward in 1 Samuel when we finish our studies on Romans on Thursday night. But what we learn in the angelic conflict is the importance of grace orientation and how it functions. God is demonstrating His grace toward us day after day.
9. In the angelic conflict we see God's absolute and exclusive right to be obeyed as well as His absolute and exclusive right to judge His creatures.
That there is no other judge who is omniscient; there is no other judge who is absolutely righteous. God is absolutely righteous and it is correlative to His absolute knowledge. Only someone who is truly omniscient can be truly righteous in His judgments, because He knows all the facts and knows the issues. So God alone has the right to be obeyed because of His nature, because of His character.
10. We also learn in the angelic conflict why the creature cannot live apart from the Creator. The creature must be exclusively dependent upon the Creator. That takes us back to point #5, which states "the supremacy of dependence on Him and the futility of independence from Him."
11. We learn why Satan should not be allowed to rule his own domain as an independent creature, because it would just cause collapse.
This is why everything ultimately leads to Satan being given almost unrestricted authority during the tribulation period and then we see in the millennial kingdom that during that period he is off the planet; he is not messing with anybody at all. We see the horrors of the sin nature displayed. There will still be a huge segment of the population during the millennial kingdom that will rebel against God. This is why the Messiah has to rule with a rod of iron during the millennial kingdom. Because there are so many unbelievers and eventually when Satan is released they will willingly and rapidly flock to his banner. Enormous numbers! Thousands upon thousands; hundreds of thousands will flock to his banner and leave and follow his revolt against God and finally Gog and Magog revolution and God will destroy them with fire from heaven.
12. The honor and glory for the creature only comes from honor and glory of the Creator.
The only way in which we are truly glorified; the only way which we have any lasting honor is as a result of being totally submissive to God and totally dependent upon Him and totally obedient. That is the only way we can ever have any lasting honor and glory; otherwise, all glory and honor is fleeting. It is here today and gone tomorrow, but only that honor that is connected to the Lord Jesus Christ will last.
13. The importance of loyal humble servanthood to the Creator as well as demonstrating all of the character qualities that is necessary in a creature to rule and reign with Christ.
This is emphasized again and again in the angelic conflict. Only by being a loyal humble servant to God can we have any success and in that we demonstrate the character of Jesus Christ.
Alright, that brings us to the end of the church age dispensation. It is a good time to take a little break to see if anybody has any questions, if any questions came in.
Question: I am wondering if the fact that women were to have their heads covered, wasn't representative of the fact that in the culture at the time... prostitutes would show their 'availability' by having their heads uncovered.
Answer: He is asking a question getting off into the issue related to the head covering and relating to a cultural issue. When Paul deals with authority in terms of the role of the men and women he never ties it to a cultural issue. He never does. In that passage he goes back to Creation and what he is indicating there is that there is a distinction. The point that I am making and the only thing that I want to get into here is that Paul is demonstrating that whatever that symbol is, whether it is a hat or hair or whatever it is, the reason that it has to be there is because of the angels, because it is signifying authority. The only point I am making here is that we need to recognize that our, and it is not just women, men are under the various authorities as well as children, everyone has authorities over them. How we respond to authority is being watched by the angels.
Now we are going to shift gears.
Slide 14: Why I Believe in the Pre-Trib Rapture
What ends the Church Age? Now I believe what ends the Church Age is the rapture of the church. And so what I want to cover now is some reasons why I believe in a Pre-Trib rapture. Now the term Pre-Tribulation means before the Tribulation. There are other terms that are used in this discussion, one is Post-Tribulation. These are people who believe that the rapture occurs after the Tribulation. After the seven years of Daniel's 70th week; and that it is after the Tribulation that Jesus will return. And as it were, as Jesus is descending from heaven to the earth to defeat the enemies of Israel at the campaign of Armageddon, he has a nanosecond or two where He pauses on the way down and all of those who are alive in Christ are caught up to be with Him and the dead in Christ as well. They rise first and then the rest of us come up instantly afterward; that that is the end of the Tribulation. The basic problem with that, and I will demonstrate this in another way as we get into things, is that if every believer alive and dead is raptured at the end of the Tribulation. Then one second later there is not a single believer in a mortal body on the earth, which means there are no believers who will survive in the Tribulation in mortal bodies to go into the millennial kingdom and to repopulate the earth.
It is very clear from Revelation 20 that there are people who populate the earth during the millennial kingdom who have children with sin natures who will not believe in Jesus as the Messiah and will revolt against Him following Satan in that revolt at the end of the millennial kingdom. So that means there has to be some people who are believers who survive the Tribulation and go into the millennial kingdom with mortal bodies to marry and to propagate and to build a mortal population upon the earth. But if everyone alive who is a believer is raptured as Jesus is coming down gets their new resurrection body then no one is left to have a mortal body. It is rationally unacceptable. So that is actually one of my arguments for why I believe in the Pre-Trib rapture, but we will focus more on scriptural arguments as we go through this.
A couple of questions we need to address:
WHAT is the Rapture?
WHEN is the Rapture?
Slide 16: WHAT is the Rapture?
You probably won't get to the second question tonight, but we are going to take some time to understand what the Bible teaches about the rapture in the first part. So the first question is What exactly is the rapture?
Slide 17: The Rapture is …
Now I am going to give you a definition for the rapture that may be a little different for some of you than some of the things you have heard in the past. That is because I have a reputation for clarity and precision. So we are going to make this clear and precise because I have been nailed on this wrongly before.
The rapture is the translation of all living believers from the earth at the end of the Church Age immediately following the resurrection of all dead Church Age believers; the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation begins.
You see if you look at the text in 1 Thessalonians 4, where we have the rapture passage. The term "Rapture" is a Latin word that was used to translate the Greek word HARPAZO and HARPAZO is the word that refers to "caught up together." That is how it is translated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. So we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." That is resurrection; that is not rapture. 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "Then," a nanosecond later, "we who are alive and remain will be raptured with them in the clouds." That is where the word rapture comes from. It is that word HARPAZO. HARPAZO only applies to those who are alive and remain. So technically, based on the grammar and the use of the verb, only those who are alive and remain are described as being "snatched up," which is what HARPAZO means. But if you want to continue to think that the rapture includes both feel free. That is just not the verb that is applied to the dead believers. They are resurrected. So I have tried to be rigorously precise in this definition that the rapture is the translation of the living believers from the earth at the end of the church age and that immediately follows the resurrection of all dead church age believers; and that the rapture occurs prior to or before the Tribulation begins.
Slide 18: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Now the key passage, the central passage, everyone goes to; there are other strong passages, but this is the central passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I have put the whole passage up here on the screen. It will be difficult for you to see, but sometimes it is important to put the whole section up there, and we want to read it. Paul says, "But we do not want you to be ignorant (uninformed), brethren." I have always wondered where the punctuation was in his mind. Is he saying I don't want you to be ignorant, brethren; or is he saying I don't want you to be ignorant brethren? I am not sure. Sometimes it is important where you place the commas, as Sandy always tries to help me with.
"I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep; lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him." Notice the involvement of God in this action at the rapture. "God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus." As we will see "sleep in Jesus" is a euphemism that is used consistently in Scripture to describe believers who have died physically. It is not talking about soul sleep. It is simply talking about the fact that they have died physically, just a euphemism; their soul is with the Lord; their immaterial soul and spirit is with the Lord and their physical body is in the grave until this event. Paul says, "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord." Now that is important as well because he is saying that this was what Jesus taught as well. So the question you ought to ask is what? When did Jesus teach this? Okay, we will see that in a little while. "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord," so he is not simply saying that God told me and now I am telling you. He is not just using that as just an expression for inspiration. He is saying that this was indicated by teaching from Jesus.
"But 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 by no means precede those who have fallen asleep." Apparently the Thessalonians were afraid that somehow those who were alive when Jesus got back would get to heaven a long time before those who died would get to heaven. It is important because this indicates that Paul taught them some things about prophecy and eschatology. Guess what? He was only in Thessalonica for about two to three months. So that means that contrary to a lot of arrogant believers in this life today who say, oh, we don't need to worry about future things. People just debate and divide over those things all the time. We just need to focus on living the Christian life. Well the Apostle Paul must have thought that these things were so important that if he only had three months to teach somebody this is part of what he would teach them.
We live in a world today due to post-modernism where people don't want distinctions. They don't want people coming to certain conclusions on things because epistemologically we can't really know. If you've bought into the modern world's thinking then you have these subtle influences that you can't really know certain things. That is why they continue to debate some things or many things. Okay, we are told in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord Himself," speaking of Jesus, distinguishing Jesus from God who is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:14. "The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first," resurrection, the same verb used earlier when it talks about we believe that Jesus died and rose again. "The dead in Christ will rise first." Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them"; so it shows that it is very close together.
We don't get the dynamics until we get into 1 Corinthians 15 where we are told that it is in the blink of an eye. Some have said that that is a 64th of a second. We are not going to be able to tell the difference. We are not going to say 1-2-3-okay now I can go up. It is just going to be so fast that humanly speaking we couldn't tell the difference. "The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout"; that "shout" I believe is part of or simultaneous with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ immediately go up, "then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up with them in the clouds" that is important. We meet the Lord "in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." The comfort is not in feelings; the comfort is in knowing truth.
Slide 19: RAPTURE VOCABULARY, 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Now we need to look at rapture vocabulary. I always love to have a little fun with the animations here. It is HARPAZO. We are "caught up." HARPAZO is the key word here, "to be caught up." It means "to seize upon with force" or "to snatch up." It sometimes been used with what a thief does when he picks your pocket. He snatches something. It is unexpected and it is quick; and it is used here in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Every now and then you will see somebody say you know the rapture is not mentioned in the Bible. Well the word "rapture" comes from the Latin word rapto. The Latin verb rapto translates the Greek word HARPAZO in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. So when Jerome translated 1 Thessalonians 4:17 into Latin he used the Latin word rapto, which is where we get the word "rapture." So yes, the word "rapture" is used in the Bible. It is a biblical word.
Slides 20-21: 2 Thessalonians 2:1
Now another word that we see in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, "Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him." Now the word here used for "gathering together" is the Greek word EPISUNAGOGE, "gathering together" or "assembly." SUNAGOGE, what do you think that word means? Synagogue; it means an assembly. It is a synonym for the Greek word ECCLESIA. We are gathered together; there is an assembly in the clouds. So in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Paul says, "Now we request you, brethren." Who is the "we"? The "we" is, he is talking about himself and the apostles, probably Timothy and Silas were with Him. Then he says, "we request you, brethren", the Thessalonians, "with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our" that would be Paul and his apostolic entourage and those Thessalonian believers, "our gathering together to Him." So this is definitely talking about the rapture of the church.
Slides 22-23: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
"Behold, I tell you a mystery" Paul says, "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." A long time ago somebody said that is a sign that should go over the nursery. "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." So this is describing the rapture of the church and the word that is used here is the Greek word ALLASSO, which means "to change," "to transform," "to exchange." So we who are alive we have an exchange of this mortal flesh; that is the context of 1 Corinthians 15, whether it is dead and corrupt or not there is an exchange of this mortal corrupt body for incorruptible flesh.
Slides 24-25: John 14:3
Now another key verse is John 14:3. This is where Jesus clearly taught the rapture in John 14:1-3. In fact, the three strongest passages for the rapture are John 14:1-3, which you might not at first glance think of as a rapture passage, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus says in John 14:3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself." Where is Jesus? Where did Jesus go at the ascension? Preview of coming attractions. Where does Jesus go at the ascension? He goes to the right hand of the Father in heaven. So He is going to prepare a place where? In heaven and He is going to take us where He is, in heaven. But if you believe in a Post-Trib rapture then when Jesus is coming down, He is descending at the end of the Tribulation at the Second Coming, believers will go up with Him to the clouds, but they don't go to heaven. They just come back to the earth and then they establish the kingdom in a Post-Trib premillennial viewpoint. Now if you are amillennial you've got other problems and other issues. But Jesus is saying here that He is going to prepare a place for us that we are going to go to. Next time we'll probably get to understanding what that place is and that it is a temporary abode. He uses the word here, PARALAMBANO, which means "to take to" or "to receive to oneself."
Slides 26-27: Titus 2:13
Another passage is from Paul in Titus 2:13 where Paul says, "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." And this is an important passage because it tells us that as believers what we are looking for next isn't the antichrist; it is Jesus Christ. What we are looking for next isn't the Tribulation; it isn't the appearance of the great harlot; it isn't the seal judgments. The next thing we are looking for is "the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." That is the next thing to happen. The word that he uses here for appearance is the word EPIPHANEIA, meaning "a manifestation" or "an appearance" in Titus 2:13.
Slides 28-29: Philippians 3:11
Paul states simply, "in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead." But he doesn't use the normal word for "resurrection," which is ANASTASIS. He adds a prefix to it EXANASTASIS, which means "out of the resurrection of the dead." That indicates a group that is separate and distinct from those who are simply resurrected. OT saints will be resurrected. Tribulation saints will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation period. This distinguishes this resurrection from the other resurrections. So he says, "in order that I may attain to the "rapture." That is what he is talking about here, that EXANASTASIS, "that he may attain to the resurrection from the dead", which indicates that by this point Paul probably began to think that he might not survive and go up alive at the rapture because he calls it an "exit resurrection" from the dead.
Slides 30-31: 1 Thessalonians 1:10
"And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come." The key word there is "delivers us," which is the Greek word RHUOMAI, meaning "to draw something to oneself," "to rescue by a forcible act," or "to deliver." Sometimes it is a synonym for salvation, but it means usually a deliverance from a physical catastrophe. The physical catastrophe in that context is "the wrath to come," which is a term which is sometimes uses, not always, but it is sometimes used for the Tribulation period.
Slides 32-33: 1 Peter 1:13
"Therefore, grid your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." The word that is used there for the revelation of Jesus Christ is APOKALUPSIS, meaning "an uncovering," "laying something bare," "to reveal something or a revelation" in 1 Peter 1:13
Slides 34-35: James 5:7-8
In James 5:7, "Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord." Now in context he is talking to brethren who are church age believers. The term we are going t see here used for the "coming of the Lord" is the word PAROUSIA; and PAROUSIA is not a technical term for the rapture. It is used here for the rapture, but in other places it refers to the Second Coming. So it is not a technical term for the rapture.
Slide 36: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15
This brings us to a study on 1 Thessalonians 4, which I want to look at next time, which will be six key verses for the rapture. What are the key passages we go to? And the first one is going to be our anchor passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and then we will go on from there looking at each one of these passages in just a little more detail.
"Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening, to think about the rapture not as the way to escape and avoid problems that we might have in this life, for the Scripture is very clear that man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. And we will always experience tribulation, that is with a lowercase 't', in this life, adversity, difficulties, challenges. It is not until we are face-to-face with You and freed from our sin nature and from living in this cosmic system that we will be freed from adversity. But the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, that which is described as Daniel's 70th week, is a time of such horror that it is not a place for the bride of Christ. Therefore, we will be removed before that happens for its purpose has nothing to do with us. We will not be purified in the Tribulation; we will be purified at the Bema Seat of the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that we might be prepared in good works the Scripture says, living our life to serve and to glorify You and we pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."