By Pastor Doug Cox
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica to clear up confusion about the coming of the Lord (the Rapture) and those who had already died. Here are his words. “But 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
So, we are to comfort one another with these words. That means there must be good news embedded in these verses and there is for those who belonged to Christ and followed Him before their death. Their spirit and soul are with Jesus. Since the Resurrection of Jesus every believer who has died with faith in Christ have been carried by the angels into the Presence of the Lord. Wow! Paul made it clear in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he was “…confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
To be comforted it helps to understand there are two separate comings of the Lord, in the near future. There is the Rapture of the church which is a private event between the Lord Jesus and those who have put their trust in Him for salvation. The spirit and soul of those who have already died are already with Him. When He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, He will descend in the clouds with them in tow and their bodies will rise to the clouds to be united with their spirit and soul. Then those who are alive and remain on the earth shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and, we shall always be with the Lord. Wow, that is comforting!
From there, the rest of the world will await His public return. At His public return He will be coming with clouds, but according to Revelation 1:7 “every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Notice the contrasts. At the rapture, the church will encounter the Lord after being caught up into the clouds. It will be a mystery to the world about where everyone has gone. Following that event, another event will happen on earth at the Mount of Olives and every eye shall see Him. They will mourn because they realize they were wrong for rejecting Jesus and God’s Word.
There is no time to procrastinate. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 says “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.” Consider what you can’t do in less than a second, in the twinkling of an eye. You can’t repent. You can’t apologize or make things right. That’s why it is important to be Rapture ready now. That makes Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6:2 so important for us all today. “…Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.”
In closing consider these powerful instructions from the Holy Bible, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)