by Pete Garcia
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord (John 14:1-3), 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. 1st Thess. 4:15-18 (author emphasis added for clarification)
Picking up where we left off last week, when Jesus returns for His Church, (since Paul writes his letters for Christian believers) He does not come back as a lowly, helpless infant, swaddled in a manger. Rather, Jesus descends with a victorious shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. He gathers all of the Church unto Himself in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52). First, He brings back those whom had already died (these are reunited with their resurrected bodies), and then those who are still alive when this happens (these are translated from mortality into immortality).
Some might ask why God would bring back those who have already died just to put them back into their physical bodies.
- After that first Pentecost (Acts 2) and prior to the Rapture, any believer who dies, immediately goes to heaven as a spirit, while their bodies remain here on earth in the grave to decompose. Paul addressed this and likened it to being naked (2 Cor. 5:1-8), and both he and Peter likened our current bodies as being tents (2 Peter 1:13-15).
- We were never destined to roam eternity as disembodied spirits. We will have physical, glorified bodies (Romans 8:23) that can eat, be felt, and exist where God does. Our physical state then will be far better than what we currently have, as John discusses here (1 John 3:1-3). Think about it this way…you will still be you, but the perfect, flawless version God had always intended.
Nevertheless, if you are of the Post-Trib persuasion, you are likely to refer back to something Jesus stated in the Olivet Discourse as being the same event as 1 Thess 4:13-18, and thus, do not see this as a Pre-Tribulation event. So let us contrast the what and how of the scenario Jesus describes in Matthew 24:31, to that of 1Thessalonians 4.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:31
In 1 Thessalonians 4, describes Jesus coming alone, only accompanied by a SHOUT, the VOICE of the archangel, and the TRUMPET of God. In Matthew’s scenario, only the trumpet is mentioned and Jesus SENDS the angels to gather His elect from the four winds, and from all over heaven. So are these the same event then?
A simple comparison of the two passages reveal some noticeable differences, namely, that these events are executed differently. Where is the shout? Where is the voice of the archangel? Why does Jesus gather everyone to Himself in 1 Thess., but has His angels go and gather His elect in Matthew’s account? Where is the mention of resurrection and translation in Matthew’s account? Again, these are not my opinions, just pointing out what the text states and does not state. Thus, we must conclude, as Jack used to say, things that are different, are not the same. And since these are not the same event, let us review Paul’s account and why it is a unique.
The Jewish Wedding-the archetype
In Paul’s description, Jesus does not have the angels gather His Bride, for He gathers them Himself at merely a command (the shout). Building upon that premise, why does Jesus gather His Church to Himself, by Himself? The only logical explanation is in tying it back to the concept of the Jewish wedding (ref. John 14:1-3). Would/does a Jewish groom send his servants to gather his bride for him…or would he do it himself? Clearly, the groom would go himself. What is the cry? Behold, the Bridegroom is coming! The cry is not, behold, the servants of the bridegroom is coming! If Jesus refers to Himself as the Bridegroom, then who is the bride? (Matt. 9:15, 25:1, 10)
It is the Church (ekklesia)
- Responsibility: Jesus stated in Matthew 16 that He would build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18-19). Therefore, we read that Jesus sets His ownership over this new body of believers. Not only that, but He claims responsibility over this new organization that He will personally be involved with overseeing. We see that clearly in Revelation 1-3 where Jesus is walking amongst the churches, He is in our midst, and He knows our deeds.
- Mystery: In the context of the New Testament, the concept of the church was that it was a mystery (something unknown or revealed) until it was given to the Apostle Paul to reveal it (Eph. 5:32). The bride is the joining of Jew and Gentile, into a new class of people, who make up the multi-membered, singular body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-14, Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:18).
- Silence: The church (ekklesia) is mentioned 19 times from Revelation 1 through chapter 3, but then not again until chapter 22. Not only do we not see their name mentioned anywhere after Rev. 3:22, (which is an argument from silence), but simply reinforces the fact that we get zero guidance from the Apostles elsewhere in the NT on how to navigate through the Tribulation. If the church were destined to go through it, then we should have received instruction on how to survive the Antichrist, Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl judgments.
- Role: The bride will not enter into that final week of years (any part of it), because we have no function or purpose in it. Daniel 9:24 and Jeremiah 30:7-11 state who and what the 70th Week is for. That is why there are Two Witnesses and the 144,000 Sealed Jewish male virgins (Rev. 7, 11). Not only that, but the church did not exist in the previous 69 weeks of years (all 483 years), why would we exist in the 70th?
- Overcome: Christ promised His church that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, yet by the fifth Seal Judgment, we already hear the cry of the martyrs. We read how the Antichrist is given authority to overcome the believers in Rev. 13:7, and over every tribe, tongue, and nation. If the Church (ekklesia) were the same believers as found inside the Tribulation-proper, how could Matthew 16:18-19 be true? God is not the author of confusion. So if the Bible does not give the church clear guidance on how to endure the most terrible period of human history, then it must mean that we are not destined to enter into it ( 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9, 1 Cor. 14:33, Rev. 3:10).
- Persecution: Some will point to believers today who are being persecuted as evidence that we will go into the Tribulation. Yet, this persecution is not worldwide. In addition, Christian’s have always been persecuted to one degree or another. Persecution is not the evaluation criteria we have to use to determine whether we enter into Daniel’s 70th Week. That is like trying to gauge and pinpoint which apostasy 2 Thess. 2:3 is speaking too, because there are just too many. That is not the case inside the Tribulation. God lets loose the restraints, and the world entire is overcome by the Antichrist. Thus, we can conclude that those, whom Revelation 6 and 13 speak of, are believers, but not the Bride.
- Intent: Paul states that he was tasked with presenting the church as a chaste virgin to the Lord (2 Cor. 11:2). I do not pretend to understand how this all works out, but the symbolism is of the church as a prized possession (Matt. 13:45-46) seems fitting. The symbolism of marriage then is used for our understanding. Just as a husband and wife become one-flesh in marriage, so too is our binding to Christ represented by the institution of marriage (Gen. 2:24, Col. 1:18, Eph. 5:23). Christ died for us, and shed His blood so that we (who are redeemed by grace through faith) could be reconciled back unto God, having been made perfect by the Son. Thus, the concept of the one-flesh is described through the lens of a Jewish wedding.
Contrasted with John 14:1-3 are the foolish virgins of Matthew 25 who are left out of the wedding. These represent the unbelieving, who remain left behind (or left out) to experience the horrors of the 70th Week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27).
The shout-the Command
The three times the New Testament records Jesus shouting, notice what happens in each instance-
- By perfect faith, one man, Lazarus, was resurrected from the dead (John 11:43)
- By perfect obedience, many dead saints were resurrected when their tombs are opened at Christ’s death (Matt. 27:50-52)
- By perfect love, millions will be resurrected at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Christ’s verbal command are powerful enough to raise the dead, because Christ, having been died and resurrected, holds the keys to death and hell and is singularly able to command death to obey His voice (Rev. 1:18).
The voice of the archangel
Daniel 10:21, 12:1, Jude 1:9, and Revelation 12:7 all refer to a powerful Archangel named Michael. In Daniel 12:1, Daniel was told…At that time, Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.
At what time?
Well, it only makes sense to see Michael stand guard over Israel when the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit filled Church) is removed from the earth.
Who are the sons of your people?
Daniel’s people were the Jews, so Michael stands watch over the nation of Israel at the time of the Rapture…hence his mention in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
It is my belief, that when God the Father instructs His Son Jesus to go collect His bride the Church, that this signals Michael to stand up and begin actively engaging on Israel’s behalf. Since Scripture has mentioned that there are fallen angels who hold their demonic sway over physical locations here on this planet (i.e., the prince of Persia and Grecia), there are also angelic ones.
Michael the Archangel, who is arguably the most powerful angel, thus stands guard over Israel. Seeing as how the battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) likely takes place in the aftermath of the chaos the Rapture, Israel will immediately become the sole target of Satan’s wrath. Scriptures does not say what Michael has been up to these past 2,000 years, but seeing how the Church has been empowered by God the Holy Spirit, Michael’s role as enforcer was likely not necessary until the Rapture.
This is just some holy speculation on my part, but at the Rapture, as the Church goes up, Michael’s announcement that is shouted from the Heavens, could be to the nation Israel that Daniel’s 70th week is about to begin. Or, it could be as Clarence Larkin has suggested that similar to when Michael and Satan contended over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9)…a command is given to the heavenly armies to keep the enemy at bay while the Rapture transpires. According to Paul, Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-3) and as would be the case, we would be transitioning right through the heart of enemy territory.
The trumpet of God
In Leviticus 23:23-25, Moses is explaining the Feast of Trumpets, which would begin on the first day of the seventh month. The first three feasts (in the spring) were literally fulfilled by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fourth spring feast (Shavuot-feast of Weeks or Pentecost), was fulfilled by the supernatural giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Some wonder how Jesus Himself fulfilled this, but if you read John 14:15-18, we see that Christ petitions the Father to send the HS at His departure. We further read in John 15:26-27 that Christ sends the Holy Spirit and again in John 16:7-15, that the Holy Spirit will glorify Christ, guide the believers into all truth, and convict the world for its sins). This is how I believe the Feast of Shavuot has already been fulfilled.
Furthermore, if you look at the division of fulfillment, we see that the four spring feasts were fulfilled in rather rapid succession. Then, you have a long wait over the summer until the fall feasts can occur. Since then, we have been waiting two-thousand years for Christ to return. Therefore, if the foreshadowing remains constant, we could anticipate a fall rapture (whenever that finally happens). Again, the Church is not intrinsically tied to any particular feast, however, it would not be surprising if it did transpire on or near a Feast of Trumpets (September).
The first trump was blown by God in Exodus 19:12-20, and it gathered the Israelites together at Mt. Sinai for the first time as a nation. When our Trumpet blasts (the second time-i.e., the last trump), it will gather the entire church (dead and alive) together in the air for the first time as a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). That last trump will not only signal it’s time for the Church age to come to an end, but also that we are moving out of this world, assembling in the sky, for the purpose of entering into our eternal Sabbath, which is found in Christ Jesus.
Next week Part III.