There will come a date in history when Jesus Christ will step into history once again, this time to first remove His church from Planet Earth to a prepared place. Seven years later He'll make an open public appearance in Jerusalem, with His Bride.
The true church Jesus has been personally building, living stone by living stone, for two thousand years, is also known in Scripture as "the Bride of Christ." Jesus will return suddenly to snatch away her away to safety from a lost and fallen world. This fact is clear from several passages in the New Testament. Only the actual date of the departure is uncertain. It will be an event largely unnoticed by the world, by those left behind.
And while they (the disciples of Jesus) looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)
Many followers of Jesus are unaware of all the Bible teaches regarding the ongoing personal involvement of Jesus Christ in His universe. In sovereign power and wisdom God retains His rule in every age of history. It is quite possible for some of us to be left behind. The departure of the church to be with Jesus does not signal God's abandonment of mankind.
To the contrary, Jesus will greatly intensify His involvement down on the planet after His church joins Him above. The number of true followers who know Jesus Christ personally, and are following Him, are a small fraction of those who say they are Christians. The real church is but a remnant in the professing church.
In Colossians and in Ephesians there are clear statements that God interacts with the world through the Church. Therefore, "As the church goes so goes the world."
“...according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
And He (God) put all things under His feet, and gave Him (Jesus) to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
“...For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:9-20)
There is also a false church--symbolized by a prostitute. The boundary between the true and the false is about spiritual adultery.
Who do you love the most? Jesus or another human being? Jesus or yourself?
James the Apostle wrote:
Adulteresses (moichalis, feminine). Do you not know that friendship with the world (philia) is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world (kosmos) makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:1-10)
God is a Person and you and I are persons if we have been born into the world as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We are free to serve one of two masters: Self or Jesus. All other options are illusory.
We have three enemies if we are true followers of Jesus Christ. They are the flesh, the world, and the devil.
“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “
And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
The short poetical book in the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon, provides a great litmus test for each of us as "lovers" of one kind or another.
I live in Silicon Valley, part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The current area population is about 7 million persons; the San Jose region at the South end houses about 1 million people today. Before the Gold Rush the entire area was sparsely populated. Over the three or four generations since the Gold Rush, the total number of persons born, raised, died, or still alive might number 2 million for San Jose alone?
How many people in the region knew Jesus personally while they were alive? How many now alive know Jesus today in this area? Ten percent of the total population knowing Jesus seems unreasonably high somehow? When I moved here to attend Stanford University in 1954, church attendance in these parts was only a few percent. Church attendance is not a good indicator you will say, and I agree. I have met thousands of followers of Jesus while living in this area in the past half-century. There are certainly many closet-Christians in this area who would never darken the door of a church building but who say they know Jesus in their daily lives. All things considered, are there 100,000 followers of Jesus now alive in greater San Jose? God knows those who are His. I believe God does not desire that anyone should stay lost, and I am certain He is very available to help anyone. There is plenty of evidence Jesus loves His enemies and is more than interested in bringing them into His family.
The total population of the world is about 7800 billion persons and only 5% are Americans! This will pose major problems for the raptured followers of Jesus -- for 2000 years of history, that is--we'll have to all get along togther in a city. What would the “faithful remnant” actually experience today if Jesus came for us in the Rapture today? We who were former prostitutes (of one kind or another) will need to be revirginized so we qualify to be part of the virgin Bride of Christ. We'll have to adjust to living in community with hundreds of millions of followers of Christ who have different cultural values than us, but men, women, and kids who know and love our Lord Jesus. We'll be living in a great orbiting city together!
We know from First Thessalonians 4 and First Corinthians 15, that the dead in Christ will be raised first and this will occur in history on the day called the Rapture.
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died previously) 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 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet 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 thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The events of the rapture will apparently take place very rapidly in time. “In the twinkling of an eye” in fact. Instantaneous as seen by an outside observer but subjectively drawn out for the participants who have a lot of adjusting to do.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58)
The Rapture locally, in my area, if it happened today would mean that a few hundred thousand fellow Christians, who died here and are buried here, will suddenly appear with new bodies on, alive and well as if they had never died. I (we) will not have much time to react because
“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 thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
The center of attraction on that day will be Jesus in Person: resplendent and triumphant. "We shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye...” I have pictured the Rapture as if it were only a local event occurring in the area where I live. In reality, it will actually be world-wide and global.
There is yet another fascinating aspect of the Rapture as an intersection of time and eternity.
Suppose I were to die today as a follower of Jesus expecting that I will be raised from the dead on the “Last Day?” Surprise! When I take my last breath and exit my old body, I expect to time travel to the Rapture “in a moment, in the twinkling of and eye.” I am now an old man, 88 years old, so my possible exit from this mortal life could happen any day. Of course I care very much about those I will leave behind when I exit.
It is not world events which concern me the most, it’s the brevity of my present life! Many people, including the Apostle Paul, have been given access to heaven for a short time. Those so privileged usually say they would prefer to have remained “up-yonder” instead of being sentenced to additional time on the planet.
“For we know that if our earthly house (okia), this tent (skenos) , is destroyed, we have a building (oikodomo) from God, a house (okia) not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation (oiketerion) which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)
A favorite passage of mine, for half a century, is the following:
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1-11) (See commentary, The Eightfold Way of Knowing God
There is no reason for anyone to doubt his or her final destiny in God’s vast universe. Jesus Christ, presently alive from the dead, is there for any and all.
The sequence of events on the Day of the Rapture (whether today or ten years from now) —- accompanied by the above transformations -— will likely include the following features.
A Radical Time Change
The Judgment Seat of Christ
A New Home
A New Community
The Excluded Ones
The Day of Man and the Day of the Lord
The Church at the End of the Age
The Concept of the Remnant
A Glorious Church
C.S. Lewis anticipated these eventualities in life when he wrote,
"God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right, but what is the good of saying you're on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else--something it never entered your head to conceive--comes crashing in; something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it's become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it." (Mere Christianity)
Suppose today is the actual day on God’s calendar when He has chosen to step into history to snatch out His special people, the group known as “the Bride of Christ?”
She (the Bride) is supposed to be ready and waiting. She is supposed to be chaste as well. Some few of us are ready and expecting Jesus, our Bridegroom, but many in our group are not.
How many men, women and children are part of this great class of the redeemed? I guess we may number perhaps 5 billion? Included are a small number of last minute add-ins amounting to perhaps a few hundred million. They will be alive on that day.
The Rapture, we are told, begins with the private arrival of Jesus to claim His Bride, the true church. For two thousand years Jesus has been quietly building this invisible entity--as He announced He would do early in His work.
Jesus remained single all his life and He did not take a wife even after He was raised from the dead. He had a grander plan to quietly accomplish in history. The calling out of a Bride for Jesus is but one small subset of grand events in history now being orchestrated by God.
The early followers of Jesus in Jerusalem lived at a great junction of history where many world-changing events happened in a few decades:
Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter (i.e., the effects of the message of Jesus spreading to gentiles). And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.
And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.
Known to God from eternity are all His works.' (Acts 15:6-18)
Looking back on history, the message of the Bible was entrusted to the Jews originally. God had intended (since Abraham, c.2000 BC) that that people should be a “light to the gentiles.” Israel’s failure to accomplish this did not thwart God’s desire that the whole world would know, understand, and receive the mercy, healing and love of Yahweh, through Yeshua.
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I (Paul) was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:19-23)
Jesus Himself did much more than teach and train disciples:
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-20)
Jumping ahead in history 2000 years plus,
“...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 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet 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 thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:11)
At the appointed time the Rapture takes place in history, Jesus will show up in a great unseen cloud (the Shekinah) bringing with Him every follower who ever knew Him, all newly raised from the dead. He’ll stop briefly enroute to pick us up, (i.e., we, the living members of the true church--on his way to His headquarters, New Jerusalem—(aka “heaven” in old nomenclature).
The Rapture is to be an event in history, in time. But She (the Bride) will not be missed down on the planet! Behind the scenes God will have transported (say) all five billion of us —each with some infrastructure—from earth to the orbiting satellite city, New Jerusalem.
When any follower of Jesus is killed or dies of natural causes, an unseen portal, or gate, opens for that person, so that he or she reaches New Jerusalem at the same “time” every other member of the Bride gets there! This means there must be a lot of “time tunnels” for God to manage! No matter, He created the entire universe, the seen and the unseen—it's at least ten dimensions, possibly more.
The next cosmic event scheduled at the immigration station of heaven is the Bema, or Judgment Seat of Christ.
By the way, a totally new physical body already in existence, is waiting for every time traveler en route to the rapture. The new body is evenly donned upon arrival or put on in transit. The new is way far better than the old! The Judgment Seat of Christ is a big deal!
“And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed and therefore I spoke,' we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:6)
In terms of technology-transfer from earth to heaven is concerned, human achievements are paltry at best. Bodies die but persons don’t. Everyone you have ever met is immortal. As created souls and spirits, we interact with one another and with the material world through our bodies. We worry about our bodies when they hurt and creak and groan (and die). Zillions of dollars per year gets spent each year on cosmetics, clothes, medicines and pills to keep us attractive and functional as long as possible. In the process the immortal majority functions of the inner man often languish.
Those who do not know Jesus personally are not yet eligible for heaven. The Bible cuts through all such illusions. But “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved!” (Romans 10)
"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
"All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." (from The Weight of Glory)
For those interested, Ray Stedman has many clarifying details on the rapture for us:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, 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, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 RSV)
Paul calls this "the coming of the Lord." Many people, including certain notable Bible scholars, are confused on this because they tend to regard the coming of the Lord as though it were a single event, an immediate and once-for-all appearing. But if we carefully study the Scriptures (and we will see evidence for this in a moment), the coming of the Lord is a series of events. This series has a dramatic beginning, as Paul describes here, with Jesus appearing to take his living and dead saints to be with him. And it has an even more dramatic ending when, as the Lord himself said, he would manifest himself to the entire world: "They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of glory with all his heavenly hosts," (Matthew 24:30, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27). That is a different event from the one here described. You cannot make those fit together. In between them is a period of time during which Jesus is present on the earth though not always visibly so.
That is what Scripture calls the "presence," which is the Greek word parousia. That is a better translation of this word "coming." When Scripture talks about the coming of the Lord, it sometimes looks at the beginning of that series, sometimes it looks at the end of it, and sometimes, as in the book of Revelation, it is looking at what is going on between the two ends. We must train ourselves to think in those terms. The parousia of Jesus is a series of events.
Daniel, the Old Testament prophet, says that it is a week of years long, i.e. seven years in duration. One event is at the beginning; another event is at the end; and in between the Lord will be present on the earth behind the scenes, as it were, very much as he was in the days after his resurrection. For forty days Jesus was here on earth. He appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem and in Galilee. People heard reports that he was around, but nobody could find him except when he chose to be seen. That is the same condition that will prevail on earth during this time of the coming of the Lord, the "presence" of Jesus. If we understand that, it will help us greatly to comprehend what is described here.
This is all suggested by the three sounds which the apostle connects with this initial appearing of Jesus. It is the Lord himself who will come. That always warms my heart. He is not going to send Michael, the archangel, or Gabriel, or Moroni, or anyone else. He is coming himself. "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a cry of command." Who is that cry addressed to? These three sounds affect different groups. Scripture gives the answer to this. Jesus himself had said in John 5, "The hour is coming and now is ..." (Observe the blending of time and eternity there. It is coming in time; it now is in eternity.) "The hour is coming and now is when all those that are in the grave shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and shall come forth," (John 5:25). Jesus had stood before the tomb of Lazarus and cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43), and to the amazement of the crowd the dead man appeared in the doorway of the tomb, still wrapped in his grave clothes. He heard the voice of the Son of God, and he came forth. As many of the commentators have pointed out, if Jesus had not said "Lazarus," he would have emptied the graveyard! But the hour is coming when all the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and come forth! That is what Paul is talking about here. The cry of command is addressed to the dead, to those in the tombs who had fallen asleep in Jesus.
The second sound is the archangel's call. The only angel in the Bible called an archangel is Michael. Though Gabriel is a great angel he is not called an archangel in the Scripture. In the first two verses of Daniel 12 we read that an angel said to Daniel, "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people," (Daniel 12:1 RSV). "Your people" means Israel; Michael is always connected with Israel. Michael shall stand up, and then there shall be a resurrection. Those who are in the tombs will come forth, Daniel was told. Also, the living nation of Israel will be summoned to a new relationship with God. Details of this event concern the 144,000 Israelites, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, who are described in the seventh and fourteenth chapters of Revelation. These will be called into a new relationship with Jesus, to follow him wherever he goes on earth during the time of his presence. He is invisible to the world, but visible to them. That all begins when Jesus returns for his church and the archangel calls Israel into a new relationship with the Lord.
The third sound is the great trumpet call such as was heard at Mt. Sinai when the Law was given. Then the trumpet sounded so loudly that the people cried out to Moses, "Stop it! We cannot stand it." I do not think the world will hear this call; only those to whom it is addressed will hear it. Paul identifies those in First Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter. There, he says, "Behold I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep (i.e. not all believers will go to heaven by death) but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump," (1 Corinthians 15:51-52a RSV). Some church nurseries, referring to babies, post that verse on the door: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed!" But this verse is especially addressed to living saints. "We shall not all sleep." We are not all going to die. Paul includes himself in that. He felt he would be part of it. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." That is the important thing. "We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." When that trumpet sound reaches the ears of living believers, although it will be inaudible to the world, they will be changed and caught up to be with the Lord.
The fifth thing to note, then, is the comfort that this is intended to bring.
Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18 RSV)
The comforting hope is that we shall all be together as the great family of God and forever be with the Lord. That covers everything the church does from then on. Whatever it is, it is done with the Lord. As I have suggested, the Lord will actually remain on earth, behind the scenes, directing the events described in the dramatic portrayal of the book of Revelation. The church will be with him, invisibly participating in directing the course of the Great Tribulation, but not going through it because they are no longer living on earth but are transformed saints affecting the events on earth. The critical point which the apostle stresses is that we shall see Jesus face to face. That has always been a source of great comfort to believers through the centuries.
At Christmas I received a beautiful painting of a mountain and lake scene in Glacier Park, Montana. I have stood by that lake and looked at that mountain, and the painting brought back to me the majesty and beauty of that scene. I remember thinking to myself, "I wish I could live here and look at this every morning." Last year I stood on the edge of a cliff in Mendocino County, looking out over the great breakers of the Pacific that were dashing up one hundred feet or more into the air. It was a scene of awesome power. I thought, how great it would be to live here all the time. But if creation makes us turn on with anticipation, what will it be like to behold the Creator face to face? If we tingle at the shadow, what will it be to see the Substance himself? If we revel in nature's masterpieces, what will it mean to be face to face with the Artist himself?
Since we live in a day of incredible Bible illiteracy, relevant passages from the Bible have been quoted in full. First Corinthians Chapter 15 is also highly relevant. Here it is:
“Moreover, brethren, I (Paul) declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
“For I (Paul) am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till 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 evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject 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.
“Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
“All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
“However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15)
Ray Stedman excellent commentary on the above, in six parts.
Additional Reading for Extra CreditConnecting the Dots
February 8, 2018. Edited by AL 8/17/19. June 6, 2020.