First Thessalonians 017 – Comfort One Another (part 2)

First Thessalonians 017 – Comfort One Another (part 2)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 5, 2023 • First Thessalonians


First Thessalonians 017 – Comfort One Another (part 2)

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 • Dr.  Andy Woods • March 5, 2023


Let’s open up in a word of prayer and we’ll get started.  Father, we’re grateful for Your Word and Your truth.  We’re grateful for the fact that You change not.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And the principles of Your Word do not change.  And we so desperately need them in a changing world and in a changing society.  So I do pray, Father, that as we attempt to teach Your Word today and as we take communion together, enjoy the fellowship lunch together, I pray for the illuminating ministry of the Spirit whereby we can understand not just the things of God, but the deeper things of God.  And so in preparation for that ministry, we’re just going to take a few moments of silence, Lord, to do personal business with You by way of confession of sins, not to restore our position, but we can break fellowship from time to time.  And when that happens, we really can’t receive everything that You have for us in a church service like this.  So in preparation for receiving the Word, we’re just going to take a few moments of silence before You.

We’re thankful, Lord, for Your provision for us in all areas.  And we ask that from start to finish that Your name would be lifted up and glorified today at Sugar Land Bible Church.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said amen.


All right, well if you can locate for me the book of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and we are continuing our verse-by-verse teaching through the book of 1 Thessalonians.  Paul, as we have studied in the first three chapters, is sort of looking backward, if you will, to personal experiences that he had had with the Thessalonians.  And the reason he has to do that is he’s bringing to remembrance his ministry when he was there.

And he’s had to sort of refute three charges that have been brought against him.  The unbelieving Jews that drove Paul out of Thessalonica then began to turn on the Thessalonian Christians and they began to sort of try to separate Paul from those baby Christians, and they made a lot of, in the process, these unbelieving Jews, a lot of personal ad hominem attacks against Paul and his ministry.

So Paul responds to that and the reason he does that is he knows Chapters 4 and 5 are coming, whereby he’s going to now offer practical correction to the Thessalonians.  You can’t correct people when you don’t have any credibility.  So Paul has to restore his credibility, which had suffered through defamation and slander and libel.  And now that he’s dealt with that, he’s in a position to correct them.

So that’s the switch in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 when he says, “Finally, brethren.”  He’s moving away from personal experience, looking backward, now to practical exhortation, looking forward.  So he has dealt with, oh my goodness, some heavy subjects right at the beginning there of the practical section.

Sexual immorality, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Laziness amongst the brethren, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

He’s given sort of a general generic command concerning proper Christian conduct, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

A negative command to abstain from sexual immorality, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

And then a positive command to pursue brotherly love, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, and actually has tied that into economics.  Because when you’re self-sufficient economically, you’re in a position to help your brother and not be kind of a person that’s always budding into their life, needing something from them.  So we’ve seen all that fleshed out, Verses 9 through 12.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 – Eschatology

And then you get to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, and he’s dealing with the subject of eschatology.  This is the section of the Thessalonian books that most people know a lot about.  For whatever reason, they don’t know much about anything that we’ve talked about thus far, but they know a lot about this section.  But it’s all important, amen.

So we come now, and we actually studied this the last time we were together, the famous rapture passage.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, so let me read this real quick.  He says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. Then we who are alive and remain will 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Now one of the things that’s sort of unique as you go through the Thessalonian book, First Thessalonians, is every chapter, the second bullet point down there, ends with a reference to the return of Christ, every chapter.  So that’s obviously a dominant subject on Paul’s mind early in his ministry as he writes this book.

Rapture of the Church – What happens to those who have died?

And here we are at the end of Chapter 4, and not only do we have a reference to the return of Christ, but we have probably in all of the Bible the fullest treatment or explanation of the rapture of the church, how the church age will end.

In fact, you probably don’t have as extended of a treatment of this doctrine anywhere else in the Bible.  Paul, as we’ve explained, had already taught them about eschatology, or the subject of the end times.  This was not new material to them.  In fact, he will say in 2 Thessalonians 2:5, in a chapter where he lays out the whole chronology of the future seven-year tribulation period, he says, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”

So, what you discover is this is not fresh material on the end times.  Now, it is for us as the reader.  I mean, we’re just picking up on the conversation, you know, sort of halfway through.  But actually, Paul had explained to them the end times.  He had explained to them the rapture of the church.  This is not first-time information to them.

What was first time information to them was how the rapture applies to their deceased loved ones in Christ.  That was the issue.  Paul had taught them the rapture.  He had been forced out of Thessalonica, ultimately into Corinth.  And people in their flock had died.  Maybe it was martyrdom from persecution from the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica.  Maybe it was death due to natural causes.  And they were really concerned about this because they had heard about the rapture.

They wanted to know, wait a minute, the guy that led me to Christ just died.  My grandmother and grandfather just died who loved Jesus.  The guy who taught my Sunday school class just died.  And Paul, you’ve taught us about the rapture, but is the rapture going to have any influence on the person that I love in Christ that just died?

Dead in Christ Rise First

And once you understand the question, then you understand the explanation.  Paul says, in fact it will, because the rapture, when it happens, will begin with the dead in Christ.

The dead in Christ will rise first.  In other words, those Christians who are now in the presence of the Lord via death, as I understand it, will be placed in resurrected bodies first and start to descend.  Paul says if this event happens in our lifetime, and I’ll show you later on today that Paul actually thought that.  He actually thought this was going to happen in his lifetime.

He says those of us that remain, the leftovers in other words, people on the earth that are Christians, are going to be placed in resurrected bodies and caught up second.  So you’ve got group A descending, group B ascending.

We’re going to, Verse 17, meet together, not on the earth but in the air.  So this is an event where Jesus never comes to the earth.  And there’s going to be this giant reunion in the sky.  And so Paul says you’re actually going to see your deceased loved ones again in Christ at the point of the rapture.

It’s like a giant family reunion.  It’s like going to a reunion, whether it’s a school reunion, a family reunion, and suddenly you see a bunch of people that you haven’t seen for a long time.  It won’t be like your high school reunion though, where everybody looks worse.  It’ll be like everybody looks like they’re supposed to look.  Everybody looks great.  It’s the body, same body, but the sin and its consequences have been pulled out of it.  It’s the body as God intended it, and there’s this giant reunion in the sky.

So Paul says when you have a situation in your church, like we’ve had here, probably about six or so deaths, five or six deaths, some of those, that number I’m saying five or six, not because I’m insensitive, but some of those are related to more personal family, friend members between people that my wife and myself know.  Just a lot of people have died recently.

Don’t grieve as those who have no hope.

When you’re in those type of memorial services, you shouldn’t grieve as if you’re never going to see them again.  It’s interesting Paul never says don’t grieve.  I don’t know why people think you shouldn’t grieve at a memorial service.  Well, of course you should.

Paul’s only point is don’t grieve as those who have no hope.  Don’t grieve as if you’ll never ever see that person again.  Because if you’re in Christ and they’re in Christ, you’re going to see them again in this giant reunion at the point of the rapture.

We do not want you to be uninformed.

So why does Paul have to explain all of this to them?  Because you look at verse 13 and he says we do not want you to be uninformed.  So, you know, just go home and read your Bible.  Why doesn’t Paul say that?  Well, there is no Bible yet.

Here’s Paul’s order of letters.  The only book that he had written thus far before 1 Thessalonians is the book of Galatians.  The only other New Testament books possibly in circulation at the time were Matthew, James, Galatians, and even those books.  We don’t really have a lot of knowledge concerning whether they actually, you know, translations of them, transmissions of them, made their way into Thessalonica.

So they literally had no way to get an answer to this question other than through the lips of the Apostle Paul, who was a conduit of divine revelation.  So there’s no seminary for them to go to, there’s no Bible colleges for them to go to, there’s no New Testament to look it up, there’s no Logos programs, there’s no Bible indexes, there’s no study Bibles, there’s nothing.

That’s why Paul says you’re uninformed.  You don’t have the information yet.  And if they don’t get an answer from Paul, they can’t get an answer.  And so that’s why Paul unfolds this doctrine of the rapture.  He really unfolds it not to start a theological fight, which is very, very sad because this doctrine has caused more fighting within Christendom than any other single thing I can think of probably over the last 200 years.

And yet it was far from Paul’s mind to start a fight.  His point was to, as a pastor, as an apostle, as a theologian, was to comfort the Thessalonians who were grieving over their deceased loved ones in Christ, and will I ever see them again?  So that’s why he concludes this whole paragraph by saying, “Comfort one another with these words.”

So that is contextually why this paragraph is here.  But now, and we’ve covered that actually the last time we were together, since this is the biggie in terms of the rapture, 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 I wanted to pause and make, and I’m not sure if I can get through all these today, but I’ll do my best, five general comments about the rapture.

Five General Comments about the rapture

And I kind of find it interesting that the Lord had us in this passage right before our prophecy conference last week.  You say, “Well, gee, Andy, you sure time things real well.” And I’ll be honest with you, I’m not smart enough to time things like that.  I think it’s the providence of God that as we’re just moving through Thessalonians, verse by verse, it just so happens that we’re in the key rapture passage on the eve of our prophecy conference.  So all of this is going to fit very nicely with some of the presentations that we had here last weekend.

So here’s the first of the five comments.

No. 1 – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is not the first mention of the Rapture

Number one, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the fullest treatment of the rapture in the New Testament, but it is not the first time that the doctrine of the rapture has ever been mentioned.

The very first mention of the rapture is by Jesus prior to his death in the Upper Room.  This is your very first rapture passage.  He said there, ““Do not let your heart be troubled; …”.  As he’s speaking to his 11 hand-picked disciples, Judas having already left the Upper Room in Chapter 13.  ““Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.””  (John 14:1-4)

Now that’s the first time that the rapture is ever mentioned.  Arno Gaebelein, commenting on that passage, says this, “But here in John 14 the Lord gives a new and unique revelation; He speaks of something which no prophet had promised, or even could promise.  Where is it written that this Messiah would come and instead of gathering His saints into an earthly Jerusalem, would take them to the Father’s house, to the very place where He is?  It is something new.[1]

So every other reference in the Bible up to John 14 portrays the coming of Jesus as Him physically returning to planet Earth.  His feet literally touch down on planet Earth, they literally touch the Mount of Olives, and He will rule the world with a rod of iron from Jerusalem.  John tells us in the book of Revelation that that reign will last a thousand years.

That’s always how the coming of Christ is portrayed until you get to John 14.  But when you get to John 14, he talks about something completely and totally different.  He doesn’t talk about gathering them to an earthly Jerusalem.  He talks about gathering them to His Father’s house.  The father’s house is in heaven.  The so-called Lord’s Prayer.  Our Father, Who art in heaven.  And He’s dealing with a phase of His coming that is really completely different than everything that’s been disclosed thus far.

And so what we believe is he is revealing here for the very first time a different phase of His coming.  The coming of Jesus is, we believe, divided into two parts.

In Phase A, the rapture, John 14:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, He comes not to the earth but to receive His church in the air.  And then seven years of tribulation will pass while we are with the Lord for seven years in the Father’s house experiencing a lot of different things like the bema seat judgment of rewards being one of many things we will experience during that time.

But then at the end of that seven-year time period he says, “Okay, it’s time now to go back to the earth and establish My rule.” And he returns, us with Him, back to planet earth.  His feet touch planet earth and He begins his 1,000-year reign with a rod of iron.  And there you are as a Christian ruling and reigning alongside of Him.  Not because he needs our help, by the way, but He gives us delegated authority.

And it’s at that time you finally figure out, we finally figure out, “Oh my goodness, everything that’s happened in my life, trials, tribulations, etc., were designed to prepare me for this authority that I am now wielding.”

Just like everything that happened in Joseph’s life between age 17 and age 30 was designed to prepare him for his role of being in second in command over all of the land of Egypt.

So this is the logic as to why we divide the rapture or the coming of Christ into two phases.

Louis Sperry Chafer says this, he says, “The Upper Room Discourse, in which the above passage is found, is the seed-plot of that form of doctrine which is later developed in the Epistles. It is not strange, therefore, that the Apostle Paul takes up this great theme for further elucidation.”[2]

And what you need to understand is in the Upper Room discourse, John 13-17, what is happening is Jesus knows the day of Pentecost is around the corner when the church is going to be birthed and it needs teaching.  It needs doctrine.  Everything related to teaching and doctrine up to that point in time related to the nation of Israel.

But now we’re entering a season where the nation of Israel is being temporarily set aside when God is raising up a new man called the church consisting of everyone who has trusted in Christ for personal salvation.  Everyone that is trusting in the Messiah that the nation of Israel rejected in the first century.

And it’s going to be a new man.  It’s going to be a new spiritual body.  It’s going to be a new spiritual organism, and it needs teaching and doctrine.  And Jesus starts to convey that doctrine in the Upper Room.  He just does it in kind of microscopic seed form doctrine.  He plants the seeds.

And He is anticipating that the Spirit is going to take the Apostles, who were all here to hear this doctrine that Jesus is unfolding, other than Paul who was converted late, Acts Chapter 9, but the rest of them were all here, there, to hear this.  And Jesus anticipates that the Spirit, post-Pentecost, is going to take them and they’re going to write what’s called the Epistles, which are designed to amplify the seed plot truths given in the Upper Room.

So, and I have taught this before in our rapture series, we did an extended teaching, three weeks[3], I think, on John 14:1-4, and when we were doing that I showed you all of the doctrines that Jesus is revealing in the Upper Room that the apostles are going to develop in the epistles.

The epistles are the writings of the apostles, right?  The epistles are not the wives of the apostles as some say, but they’re the letters of the apostles.  So all of the epistles are is amplification of the Upper Room.

And Jesus reveals the whole picture of the church in the Upper Room, and one of the things He talks about is how the church is going to end.  The church age will not go on forever.  It’s going to end with an event, and that event is the rapture.  That’s what Jesus is explaining in John 14:1-14.  And right on cue, Paul the apostle takes that identical truth and amplifies it, gives it more color, gives it more description, I guess we could say, in his ministry to the Thessalonians.

So one of the things the late Mennonite commentator J.B. Smith in his commentary on Revelation said is he said, “Notice the parallels between John 14:1-4 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.”  He says there’s a conceptual parallel.

Chart Parallels between John 14:1-4 and 1 Thess 4:13-18[4]

John 14:1 mentions trouble, Paul mentions sorrow, 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Both verse 1 and verse 14 of the two passages mention believe.  Both mention believe in God, believe in me.  It’s just Paul says believe in Jesus, believe in God.

Both passages say I told you.  It’s just Paul says I say to you.

Both passages, verse 3 and verse 15, talk about the coming again of Jesus.  It’s just Paul says the coming of the Lord.

Both passages talk about receive you.  I’m coming back to receive you.  Paul just says you’re going to be caught up, verse 17.

Receive to who?  To myself.  Verse 3, Paul just says to meet the Lord.

And both passages conclude that you’re going to be forever with the Lord.  Because at that point you’re no longer engaged, but you’re married.  And where the husband goes, the wife goes.  So wherever He goes, you’re going to go.  So if He goes to the Father’s house for seven years, that’s where you go.

If He comes back to the earth at the end of the seven years to rule and reign, then you come with Him.  Because he is the husband at that point, and we are the wife.

And both passages say whether Jesus, you’re going to be where I am, or Paul, you’re going to be forever with the Lord.

So what Paul is doing in 1 Thessalonians 4 is he’s just amplifying what Jesus already talked about in the Upper Room.  And it was this Mennonite commentator, J.B.  Smith, that actually, I think, is one of the first to draw our attention to this.

Smith says, “The words or phrases [between the two passages – John 14, 1 Thessalonians 4] are almost an exact parallel. They follow one another in both passages in exactly the same order. Only the righteous are dealt with in each case. There is not a single irregularity in the progression of words from first to last. Either column takes the believer from the troubles of earth to the glories of heaven.”[5]

Now Smith said, “You know what?  Let’s do the same exercise, not with Paul and 1 Thessalonians 4, but with Revelation 19.” Revelation 19 is not a rapture passage.  It’s a second Advent passage.  It’s Jesus returning to the earth at the end of the seven years.  And Smith said, “Gosh, if John 14:1-4 fits so well with 1 Thessalonians 4, let’s see if it fits with Revelation 19.”

And it’s at that point, he says, “Hence it is impossible that one sentence or even one phrase can be alike in the two lists…And finally not one word in the two lists is used in the same relation or connection…It would be difficult if not impossible to find elsewhere any two important passages of Scripture that are so diverse in the words employed and so opposite in their implications. . . . We believe the comparison of the words of these two passages . . . describe different events.”[6]

Translation, John 14:1-4 fits perfectly with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 but it doesn’t fit at all with Revelation 19.

So Jesus in John 14 is not talking about the second advent of Christ at the end of the seven-year tribulation period.  He’s revealing a different phase of His coming for the church that the Apostle Paul amplifies.  Now once you understand this, you understand exactly what Paul is saying in 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

He says, “For this [explaining the rapture] we say to you [the Thessalonians] by the word of the Lord, …”  Well what word of the Lord?  I mean, most people think the word of the Lord is the word that Paul was given by God.  And that’s a possibility, but it’s also very possible, and I think it’s very probable, that the word of the Lord is the word that Jesus spoke some time back in John 14:1-4.

In other words, what Paul is explaining here is, “Look, I’m not making stuff up, folks.  I mean, this rapture thing, which is going to end the earthly mission of the church, is a very real doctrine.  It doesn’t originate with me.  All I’m doing is telling you what all the disciples were present to hear in the Upper Room.”

Now, how did Paul know about this when he wasn’t in the Upper Room?  Well, oral tradition could have educated him.  Paul did spend some time with the Lord in the desert, remember, after his conversion.  Jesus could have reminded him or told him about that truth in the Upper Room at that point.

But when Paul says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” Paul is saying, “I’m not making it up.  This is exactly what Jesus himself talked about in the Upper Room.”

So 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is not the first time the rapture doctrine is mentioned.  Jesus is the first to unfold the doctrine.  Jesus just reveals the doctrine sort of in black and white.  Paul says, “Here’s what watching the movie in color is like.” He’s just adding details to a structure that Jesus already erected in John 14.

No. 2 – The word “rapture” comes from the Latin

The second of five general comments about the rapture is the word “rapture” comes from the Latin.  Because people are running around saying this and it’s so, this argument has been so refuted, I’m just shocked people keep saying it.

And when people tell me this, it tells me that they’ve given very little attention to this.  Because this has been refuted over and over again.  As they say the word, you know, they try to debunk our view and they say, “Well the word ‘rapture’ is not even found in the Bible.” Has anybody ever heard someone say that?

I mean they say this over and over again.  How can you guys believe in this pre-trib rapture when the word ‘rapture’ is not even found in the Bible?  Well the answer is the word ‘rapture’ doesn’t come from the Koine Greek.  It comes from the Latin Vulgate.  The Latin Vulgate translated into English.

The Greek, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, is the word ‘harpazo’.  “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up …”.  That’s ‘harpazo’.  It means to be seized or caught up by force.

And that can’t be the second Advent, because in the second Advent, at the end of the 70th week of Daniel, Jesus is not going up, or we’re not going up to meet Jesus.  Rather, He is coming down, and we’re coming down with Him.

So to me, a lot of this is people really don’t understand the difference between up and down.  Revelation 19 is down.  1 Thessalonians 4 is we’re caught up.  Those are two different ideas, aren’t they?

Interesting, from this Greek word “harpazo” we get the English word “harpoon”, where you can spear something, a sea animal or whatever, and yank it to yourself.  That’s in essence what the rapture is for those that are alive and remain on the earth at the time.  So if this event were to happen this afternoon, I can’t guarantee that of course, but if it were to happen this afternoon, we will be yanked off the earth.  Harpazo.  Caught up.

So harpazo means to be seized or caught up by force.  That’s the Greek.  Now, there came a man named Jerome.  Jerome, very early on in church history, created what’s called the Latin Vulgate because Rome had come to power for a while, as you know, and Latin became the common language of the people and he wanted to put the Bible in the language of the common people.  So he translated it from the Greek to the Latin.

In fact, Vulgate, you get the word vulgar, as in common or earthly speech.  He wanted to create a translation that was common.  And so when Jerome got to this word “harpazo,” he translated it with a Latin word that looks very similar to the English word “rapture.” In fact, someone sent me this.  There it is in Latin.  Are you guys up to speed on your Latin?  Not me, but you see the word that’s used there.  Boy, it sure looks like the word “rapture.”[7]

And so when the English translations finally came along, beginning with Tyndale and later the King James Version, etc., etc., when they got to that particular Latin word, they just put it into the English word “rapture.”  So when people say, “Well, the word ‘rapture’ is not found anywhere in the Bible,” I usually say, “Well, let’s break out your Latin Vulgate translation, and I’ll show you where it is.”  And that usually ends the conversation.

I mean, frankly, I do not understand this mindset where you have to see the word in the Bible to believe it, when the concept is there.  Whether the word is there or not, the concept of being caught off the earth is clearly there.

I mean, do you believe in the Trinity?  I hope so.  It’s a biblical doctrine.  Well, show me the word “Trinity” in the Bible.  Give me a verse that uses the word “Trinity.” The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible.  Well, why do we use the word “Trinity”?  Because we have to have some kind of way to take complicated subjects and condense them, or else we’d all be talking and sort of roundabout, you know, what are called circumlocutions, I guess.

It’s every industry has its terminology.  You know, you get into the medical industry, “hand me the scalpel” or whatever, I don’t know if that’s a medical term.  Give me a medical term, some of you medical people out there.  DNA.

You’re in surgery and you say, “hand me this device over here.” I mean, you don’t have time to sit and explain what it is.  You have to have a term to describe it, or the surgery is not going to go very well.

I mean, auto mechanics, watch the way auto mechanics work.  They’ve got all these terms that I don’t get.  Ignition, carburetor, I mean the only term I know is air conditioning, and car keys, you know, other than that.  But they have all these terms that they use.  Well, they have to have terms, or they couldn’t fix anything because they’d all be explaining everything seven times over.

So the word Trinity is used because you can’t, when you mention the Trinity, you can’t go through the whole doctrine.  Yes, there’s one God, but He has, you know, He has three personalities, and each personality is unique in its own personality, but They share in the same essence of deity.  Oh, shut up.  Just use the word Trinity.  So the word Trinity is not in the Bible yet, we all believe it.  Because the concept is there.

It’s the same with the word rapture.  I don’t have to see the word, you know, in the scripture to know that it’s there because the concept is there.  And every industry uses terms like this, or we’d all be speaking in kind of these roundabout circumlocutions.

So the word rapture, it’s true, it’s not found in the Bible, but it does come from the Latin, as I’ve tried to explain.

No. 3 – The Rapture is distinct from the Second Advent

The third general comment is the rapture, and we’ve already hinted at this, is distinct from the second Advent.  Those are two different concepts.  There’s the second coming of Christ, but it’s got two phases.  Phase A and Phase B.  Phase A, the rapture.  Phase B, the bodily return of Christ to the earth at the end of the tribulation period.

Now that shouldn’t bother you because when you go through the Old Testament, you don’t see the rapture concept per se, but you can sort of start to figure out that there must be two comings of Jesus.  First coming and second coming.  Why would you start to figure that out?  Because you can’t harmonize all of the data concerning the manifestation of the Son of God.

Isaiah 53 talks about Him coming as a suffering servant.  Isaiah 9:6-7 talks about Him coming to rule and reign.  You say, “Well, which is it?  Is He coming to rule and reign or is He coming as a suffering servant?” This is why the prophets themselves, 1 Peter 1, I think it is, talks about this, had a difficult time understanding their own prophecies.  Because the Holy Spirit would give them a vision of a suffering Messiah and then the Holy Spirit to the same writer would give them a vision of a ruling and reigning Messiah.

And poor Isaiah and whoever was saying, well which is it?  Is He going to suffer and die or is He going to rule and reign?  In fact some of the rabbis prior to the coming of Christ said, well there’s going to be two Messiahs.  Ben Joseph they would call him, the one that suffers, and Ben David they would call the other one, the one who rules and reigns.  Why were they thinking that way?  Because the coming of the messiah is portrayed so differently.

But hindsight is 20/20 right?  Living this side of the cross we can figure it out.  Oh Isaiah 53 that’s the first coming.  Oh Isaiah 9, 6, and 7 that’s the second coming.  So we have an advantage that Isaiah didn’t have when he was trying to understand his own prophecies.  This is why in Daniel 12 when the angel has given to Daniel the final vision, Daniel says in Daniel 12:4, 8-9 he says I heard but I wanted to understand.  And the angel says go your way.  Many will go to and fro and knowledge will increase.  In other words, it’s not for you to understand it.  It’s for you to write it down.

But there’s going to arise a generation where hindsight is 20/20 where they’re going to be able to figure it out, what parts refer to the first coming, what parts refer to the second coming.  And so clearly if there are two phases of the manifestation of the Son of God, first coming, second coming, then it’s really not too much of a leap to say, “Okay, let’s focus just on the second coming for a moment.”

And there may be, there could be two phases to the second coming.  Why in the world would there be two phases to the second coming?  Because the second coming is described so differently in different Biblical passages in the New Testament.  So there must be a Phase A where he comes to rescue the church, and then there must be a PHASE B where he comes back to establish His kingdom through the nation of Israel.

I mean, if two phases can exist related to the overall manifestation of the Son of God, then if we focus just on the Second Coming, it’s really not that far-fetched to say there must be two phases to the Second Coming.  And the reason we believe that is there are passages that do not fit together.

You can use the ram, jam, and cram method all you want and try to jam it all together, and a lot of Christendom does that.  It’s called the allegorical method of interpretation, where you’re being told, “Oh, you just take it too literally.”  Just jam it all together at the end.

Well, the Bible doesn’t do that.  The more you become interested in specifics, the more you become interested in details, the more you see that there are obviously two phases to the return of Christ.  Well, why worry about details and specifics?  Well, here’s the answer.  Because all of the prophecies that Jesus already fulfilled happen specifically and literally.  I mean, Micah says He’s going to be born in Bethlehem of Ephrathah.  Not Bethlehem in Galilee, different Bethlehem, but Bethlehem of Ephrathah, near Jerusalem.  Where was He born?  Las Vegas or somewhere?  I mean, He was born exactly where Micah said He’d be born.

So the Bible has a track record of specific fulfillments.  And then when we look at the prophecies yet to come, we have to say those must be specific too.  Because the Holy Spirit is not going to switch horses in midstream.

And the more you look at the specifics, the more you see that the rapture and the second advent cannot be describing the same event.  Now, there are many prophecy teachers that have lists that go into 50 and 100 differences and more.  I’m not going to do that to you.

Chart – Rapture Distinct from Second Advent

Here’s just 10.  And don’t panic because there’s only, there we go, there’s not a part two to that either.

So in the rapture, he comes in the air.  His feet never touch the earth (1 Thess 4:16).  Second coming, he comes to the earth (Zech 14:4).

In the rapture, He comes for His saints (1 Thess 4:15-17).  In the second coming, He comes with His saints (Rev 19:14).

The rapture is a blessing (1 Thess 4:18).  That’s why Paul said, “Comfort one another with these words.”  The second coming for people that are living on the earth at the time, most of whom, it will not be a blessing.  Because He’s coming back with violence (Rev 19:15), a sharp sword protrudes from His mouth, the blood flows as high as the horse’s bridles for 200 miles.  Oh, comfort one another with these words.  It doesn’t fit.  See that?

The rapture affects only believers (1 Thess 4:16).  The only people that will participate in it when it happens are church-age believers.  The second coming affects believers and unbelievers (Rev 19:15).  He does come back to rescue believing Israel, but He also comes back to execute violent judgment on unbelievers.

The rapture is going to be invisible (1 Thess 4:16), and what I mean by that is the only people that will participate in it will be members of the church, church-age believers.  It’s not something that everyone on planet Earth will be even aware of.  The only way they’re going to be aware of it is they’re going to have to come up with some kind of explanation concerning all the missing people.  It’s visible in that sense.  But when the trumpet sounds, it’s not something that’s going over all the Earth.  It’s something only for the church-age believer.  But when the second coming happens, second advent, the whole world is going to see it (Rev 1:7).

The rapture is announced only by an archangel (1 Thess 4:16).  But the second coming will involve myriads of angels (Jude 14).  The angels are coming back, we’re coming back, to administer Christ’s kingdom.

When the rapture happens, that’s when the church-age believer receives their resurrected body (1 Cor 15: 51).  So the rapture is a reunion and a resurrection.  That’s why Paul includes it in the discussion of resurrection.  But the second coming, as far as I know, there is no immediate resurrection.

The rapture is a rescue operation for the church (1 Thess 1:10).  The second coming is a rescue operation for Israel (Matt 23:37-39), who will have gone through the tribulation period and be converted, a third of them will be converted at the end of the tribulation period.  Satan, having been pushed out of heaven permanently at the midpoint, is trying to destroy that remnant through the beast and the false prophet, the beast or the Antichrist, who I think is actually going to be possessed by Satan himself.  So those folks are going to need a rescue, and they get it at the end of the seven years.

That’s why He says in Matthew 24:13 ““But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”  And the Calvinists have come along and destroyed that verse, and made it sound like, “Boy, if you don’t endure in good works to the end of your Christian life, you’re not going to heaven.”  Perseverance of the saints, because after all, the Bible says, “He who endures until the end will be saved.”

Well, where did you find that verse?  Oh, I found it in Matthew 24:13.  Okay, what’s Matthew 24 talking about?  The tribulation period in the Jews that the Antichrist is trying to kill.  So you’ve got to make it to the end of the seven years to be rescued by Jesus in His second advent.

Oh, so that verse has nothing to do with the perseverance of the saints?  Absolutely nothing.  You know, I don’t mean to call people out, but John MacArthur is so frustrating here because when you read his Matthew commentary, it’s so good as he’s going through the verses, verse by verse, and then he gets to Verse 13 and it’s like he just completely loses his mind.  And he leaves the context, and he gives you this long interjection about Calvinism and the perseverance of the saints.  And then when he finishes that verse, it’s like sanity returns to him and he gets back to verse 14 and he does a great job finishing the chapter.

And so what he has done is he’s found a verse that supports his theology out of context, and he’s given a lot of commentary in Matthew 24 that doesn’t belong.  You say, “Well, why don’t you recommend the material of John MacArthur?  It’s so good on many points.” And it is.  But thrown into it is constant nonsense like this.  And if you are not trained to discern truth from error, you’re confused your whole Christian life.

The MacArthur Study Bible is filled with things like this.  Absolutely filled with it.  And so it’s very difficult for me to say, “Hey, everybody go out and get the John MacArthur Study Bible.”  Everybody go out and get John MacArthur’s latest book.  Because although I’ll agree with so much of it, when he gets to this issue of Calvinism and perseverance of the saints, he completely manipulates the Bible.  So that’s not going to make me a lot of friends, is it?

So when you get to Matthew 23:37-39, you see that this is a prophecy about the second advent.  Jesus is coming back in the second advent to rescue Israel.  That’s why He says at the end of Matthew 23, ““Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [sounds Jewish doesn’t it] who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather you …:  Now that’s not the Rapture.  The rapture is vertical.  This is a horizontal gathering.  “…  How  often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. …”  This is a reference to what He wanted to do for Israel in His first coming.  “ … Behold, your house [temple] is being left to you desolate!”

And I’m so glad the verses don’t end there because He tells Jerusalem, context, right Verse 37 Jerusalem.  Don’t try to understand Verse 39 independent of Verse 37.  Because Verse 37 comes before Verse 39.  You guys agree with me on that.  I mean, this is really esoteric stuff, right?  Verse 37 comes before Verse 39.  So whatever I’m doing with Verse 39 has to be done in light of Verse 37.

“For I say to you, [who’s the you?  Verse 37, Jerusalem.] from now on you will not see Me until, [you should underline until if you’re an underliner.] until you, [who’s the you?  Israel.]  “Until you say, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Olivier Melnick when he was here could give you the Hebrew translation.  I’m not good enough to do that.  But that’s Psalm 118:26.

In other words, I am not coming back for the nation of Israel until you acknowledge Me as your Messiah.  That’s what he’s saying, and then the second advent will happen.  And they’re going to need rescuing because the satanically indwelt antichrist is trying to massacre these people.

Now that’s not a rapture passage, that’s a second advent passage.

Rapture, rescue for the church.  Second advent, rescue operation for the nation of Israel. 

I appreciated very much this quote from Finnis Jennings Dake, Dake’s Bible, or rather his book about the second coming of Jesus.  I’m not recommending or endorsing everything Dake ever said or did, but I think here he’s got it right.  He says, “I could never reconcile the conflicting statements – that there should be seven years of tribulation and the reign of Antichrist before the coming of Christ, and yet it could happen ‘tonight.’  What these teachers should have said was that the rapture and the Second Advent were two distinct, unrelated events, and that whereas the rapture could take place ‘tonight,’ the Second Advent could not take place until after the Tribulation and the last seven years of this age which would include the reign of Antichrist.”[8]

And what he’s reacting here to is preachers that would say, “Jesus can come back tonight.”  But then he’d turn around and read passages like Matthew 23:39 which indicate that he can’t come back tonight, because Israel has to be converted first.

So preacher, which is it?  Is He coming back tonight or could come back tonight or is there going to be seven years of tribulation period first?  He says the whole issue is solved once you figure out that the second coming of Christ is divided into two.  Rapture first, second Advent second, separated by a time period of at least seven years.

Dake goes on and he says, “It is still truth to teach that the rapture could take place at any moment. The Second Advent, however, cannot take place until after the Tribulation and the reign of Antichrist. In fact, all the prophecies of Mt. 24-25; Mk. 13; Lk. 21:1-11, 25-33; 2 Thess. 2; 1 Thess. 5; Rev. 4:1-19:10 must be fulfilled in detail before the Second Advent of Christ and after the rapture.”[9]

So if you’re going to give a sermon on Jesus can come back in the next split second, you better use the right passage.  Because if you don’t use the right passage, your people are going to go home and read the passage and say, well that preacher obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Because that’s not what the passage says.  It doesn’t say Jesus can come back tonight.  What it says is seven years of hell on earth have to transpire before Jesus can come back.

But if the preacher used the right passage, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Titus 2:13, and said, “Jesus can come back tonight,” then your people are not going to think you’re crazy and you don’t know what you’re talking about, because you’re using the right text to teach the right sermon.  There are a lot of sermons that I hear in modern-day evangelicalism, and I say, “You know, that is a great sermon, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible passage that the sermon allegedly came from.”  Great sermon, wrong text.

And when you preach a great sermon from the wrong passage, what you just did, because your people are going to go home, we would hope, and study your content, they’re going to say, “That guy doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.  He’s making stuff up.”

And I think Christianity has enough black eyes, don’t you think, without us adding to the list by discrediting ourselves, by teaching about the rapture of the church from a passage that’s dealing with the second advent of Christ.

That’s what Finnis Jennings Dake is talking about in this particular book.  So look at that.  Five points, I say, “No problem.  I’m going to get through these easily.  We only made it through point three.”

But the first three is that the rapture, when Paul mentions it, that’s not the first time the doctrine ever came about.  The rapture is not Paul’s doctrine.  The rapture is Jesus’ doctrine that Paul explained.

Number two, the argument that the rapture is not, the Word is not found in the Bible doesn’t work because the Word comes from the Latin translation.

Number three, the rapture is completely separate, separated from the second Advent.

And when we get to point five, I’ll show you clear evidence why you will not experience one millimeter of the tribulation period.  Your life now may be very difficult, but this is as worse as it gets.  You will not go one nanosecond into the seven years.  And we’ll talk about that next time.

Father, we’re grateful for Your Word, Your truth, particularly as we think in the last days.  So we need to understand last days’ texts and passages.  We need to be able to handle them correctly, help us, equip us to do that.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said amen.  Happy intermission.


[1] Arno C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of John, 268.

[2] Chafer, Systematic Theology, 1:111

[3] See The Rapture Sermon Series:  The Rapture 012 – John 14:1-4, Pt. 1; The Rapture 013 – John 14:1-4, Pt. 2; The Rapture 014 – John 14:1-4, Pt. 3

[4] J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation, 311-13

[5] A Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1961), pp. 312-13.

[6] A Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1961), pp. 312.

[7] “Deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Christo in aëra, et sic semper cum Domino erimus.” (Andrew Curtis and Isaiah Hoogendyk, The Lexham Latin-English Interlinear Vulgate (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 1 Th 4:17.)

[8] What the Bible Says About the Second Coming of Jesus (Lawrenceville, GA: Armor Books, 2003), 171.

[9] What the Bible Says About the Second Coming of Jesus (Lawrenceville, GA: Armor Books, 2003), 171.